In this report, our first for 2014, the reader will find links and article extracts for a selection of some of the very best resources to have been published online, focusing on the topic of regime change, along with an extended essay on Imperialism and Democracy. Here we address the current cases of Venezuela and Ukraine, and the legacies of regime change played out currently in Libya and Afghanistan, along with a review of the history of recent regime change in Haiti.
This report is for the first quarter of 2014.
This and previous issues have been archived on a dedicated site—please see: ENCIRCLING EMPIRE.
“Every time we’re about to isolate and reduce the violence, Mr. Kerry comes out with a declaration and immediately the street protests are activated. Mr. Kerry, we denounce to the whole world, you encourage the violence in Venezuela….We denounce you as a murderer of the Venezuelan people.”–Venezuela’s Foreign Minister, Elias Jaua
“Ukraine. Bosnia. Venezuela. Tear gas. Masks. Water cannons. Ours is an age of riots and rebellions, of radical self-creation in the heady streets: Spain’s indignados, the Occupy movement, Mexico’s Yo Soy 132, and of course the Arab Spring. We are understandably excited when we see people in the streets, and our pulse may even rise at the sight of masks, broken glass and flames, because for so long such images have represented the shards of the old world through which we can catch the perceptible glint of the new. Recent protests in Venezuela against the government of Chávez successor Nicolás Maduro might therefore seem to be simply the latest act in an upsurge of world-historic proportions. Not so fast….”–George Ciccariello-Maher
“Just because there’s people in the streets doesn’t mean they’re on our side. We live in the era of the protester, and violent protest has become a media spectacle par excellence. In the wake of Tahrir and Occupy, we have somehow been conditioned to automatically feel sympathy for all men and women taking to the streets and facing down lines of riot police”–Jerome Roos
“One indication of an orchestrated campaign has been the frenzied activity by opposition youth on Twitter, which seems to be substituting for the once vociferous but now calmer private sector media that could traditionally be relied upon to galvanise international attention. Despite claims that social media ‘democratises’ the media, it is clear that in Venezuela it has had the opposite effect, exacerbating the trend towards disinformation and misrepresentation, with overseas media groups and bloggers reproducing – without verification – opposition claims and images of student injuries allegedly caused by police brutality and attacks by government supporters. In its reporting, the Guardian newspaper cited tweets by opposition activists claiming pro-government gangs had been let loose on protestors. No evidence to substantiate this extremely serious allegation was provided. It also reported on the arrest of 30 students on 12th February, following serious disorder, including barricade building, tire burning and Molotov cocktail attacks, as if it were an egregious assault on human rights”–Julia Buxton
“Not standing idly by,” lest thought begins and debate matures:
“The West needs to show that it cannot and will not stand idly by while Ukraine — or indeed other former member states of the USSR — are sliced apart to appease the political and ethnic aspirations of Moscow”–Gulf News editorial
“To deal with the crisis in Ukraine and respond to Russia’s provocation, I have asked our House committee Chairmen to develop plans to assist the government of Ukraine, put pressure on Russia, and reassure allies throughout the world that the United States will not stand idly by in the face of such aggression…”–Eric Cantor, US House Majority Leader
“Sitting idle, without at least looking at options, is a mistake for NATO and would itself constitute a signal to Putin — one that he would welcome.”–Admiral James Stavridis
“The United States has too much at stake to stand idly by. Venezuela is the fourth-largest supplier of oil to America…”–Tampa Bay Times editorial
“America should not stand idly as Venezuela’s government tramples on the Inter-American Democratic Charter…”–Marco Rubio, US Senator for Florida
” ‘We cannot stand idly by while democracy and due process are trampled on in our own hemisphere,’ [Ileana] Ros-Lehtinen [Miami Republican] said Tuesday on the House floor. The U.S. and other countries have a ‘moral responsibility’ to support peaceful student protests…”–Miami Herald
“I can’t imagine the international community and the United Nations stand idly by if Colonel Qaddafi continues attacking his people, systematically…”–Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO
“we cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people that there will be no mercy”–US President Barack Obama
There is only one adversary to the U.S., and that is always Adolf Hitler:
“Now if this sounds familiar, it’s what Hitler did back in the ’30s…”–Hilary Clinton on Vladimir Putin and Crimea
“we learned from Hitler at Munich that success only feeds the appetite of aggression”–US President Lyndon Johnson on North Vietnam
“…is aggression as surely as Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Poland 50 years ago was aggression.”–US Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, on Panama‘s Manuel Noriega and his alleged drug trafficking
“I’ve had good friends who experienced Germany in the 1930s go there and come back and say, ‘I’ve visited many communist countries, but Nicaragua doesn’t feel like that. It feels like Nazi Germany’.”–US Secretary of State George Shultz on Nicaragua
“a little Hitler“–US President George H.W. Bush on Saddam Hussein
“What if someone had listened to Winston Churchill and stood up to Adolf Hitler earlier?”–US President Bill Clinton on Slobodan Milosevic
“one of these junior-league Hitler types”–US Vice President Al Gore on Slobodan Milosevic
Democracy or Sovereignty…or whatever:
Sovereignty First: “We cannot and will not allow the integrity and sovereignty of the country of Ukraine to be violated…”–US Secretary of State John Kerry on Ukraine, after backing a coup against a democratically elected government
Sovereignty Last: “…paragraph 2 suggests, incorrectly, that an alleged need to maintain order and respect the principle of non-interference takes priority over the commitments of all OAS member states to promote and protect human rights and democracy…”–US representative to the OAS, on its Declaration of Solidarity with Venezuela
Empire reaches its frightening limits…
Rafael Correa, President of Ecuador: “Since the printing press was invented, press freedom has been at the will of the owner of the printing press.”
In Brief–Noteworthy Essays:
35 countries where the U.S. has supported fascists, drug lords and terrorists, by Nicolas J.S. Davies.
America’s Advancing Empire: Putsch, Pillage and Duplicity, by James Petras
The Hypocrisy of Human Rights Watch, by Keane Bhatt
Latest Human Rights Watch Report: 30 Lies about Venezuela, by Tamara Pearson
A dirty little secret of US foreign policy on Crimea: there’s not much we can do: What the hell are the pundits and experts even arguing about? They’re arguing in circles around Obama’s very limited options, by Michael Cohen
ANALYSIS: IMPERIALISM AND DEMOCRACY
It sometimes seems as if the political leadership of the US does not know what it is saying, given the incessant contradictions, disingenuous assertions, and utter hypocrisy. Either they assume their audiences to be replete with fools and illiterates, or they are prisoners of their own ideological-cultural constructs and are incapable of self-recognition, or the language is meant only to convey whatever is expedient, that is, as a mask of true intentions. To some extent, all of these reasons can coexist.
First, given its own dominant position of power, and the influence of US media (and their overseas clones), US spokespersons such as John Kerry are able to control the terms of debate–this is especially the case when Kerry, and his media replicants, impose the totally false choice between “sovereignty” and “democracy,” or between “sovereignty” and “human rights”. It is a false choice, conceptually and logically, for the following reasons. (1) There can be no “rights” as such without citizenship. (2) There can be no citizenship without the state. (3) There can be no effective state without sovereignty. (4) There can be no sovereignty under imperialism. For John Kerry to assert that concerns for “democracy” and “human rights” effectively trump sovereignty, is to construct an illogical choice, at the very least, or a political argument without international agreement for certain. There can be no real democracy if the local political system is under foreign control or ultimately directed by foreign influence–foreign control either invalidates local decision-making or renders it redundant. So democracy cannot trump sovereignty, because there can be no democracy without sovereignty. Similarly, there can be no practical, effective, meaningful, or realizable rights (whether civil, political, economic, social, etc.) when the state is rendered immaterial, irrelevant, or an extension of foreign interests. While practice adds complexity to what we conceptualize, it is still a testament to the success of US propaganda operations that not even the logic of its assertions is routinely questioned. The most cheerful gloss that one could put on such popularized misrecognition is that it implicitly entertains the idea that there are universal human rights because there is a universal government, which is that of the US (not that any of us outside the US get to choose it), and that it bestows recognition of such rights and acts to enforce them, for the benefit of all of us.
David Harvey explained the crux of the matter in another way:
“However much we might wish rights to be universal, it is the state that has to enforce them. If political power is not willing, then notions of rights remain empty. Rights are, therefore, derivative of and conditional upon citizenship. The territoriality of jurisdiction then becomes an issue.” (A Brief History of Neoliberalism, Oxford University Press, p. 180)
Thus aside from the common mistake of disconnecting sovereignty and rights (especially when self-determination is itself posited as a universal right by the UN), another common mistake is to assume that a choice is to be made between lesser and greater evils, that is, that foreign intervention may be the lesser evil compared to the perpetuation of a local dictatorship. However, there is the fact that “lesser evil” is a purely ideological ascription deployed for the benefit of certain states’ public representation. In addition, in the context where one of the parties in question happens to be the world’s leading imperialist power, the idea that a global dictatorship is somehow the “lesser evil” when compared to a local dictatorship is simply specious reasoning. In addition, this assumes that we can agree on what constitutes a dictatorship, a term of abuse that has been abundantly abused.
Second, it’s not obvious that the US State Department believes that its global audience consists of intellectually active, questioning, critical individuals–or it would not offer up so many trite, cloying banalities. Like its peers in the advertising industry, the State Department is banking on the fact that at least some, perhaps many people will in fact accept its assertions at face value–and for that, there is some significant evidence.
Third, when Secretary of State John Kerry can, astoundingly, make such a statement about Russia and Crimea–“You just don’t invade another country on phony pretext in order to assert your interests. This is an act of aggression that is completely trumped up in terms of its pretext. It’s really 19th century behaviour in the 21st century” (source) having declared in October 2002 his support for Bush to invade Iraq–or when Vice President Joe Biden states on a visit to Chile, “the situation in Venezuela reminds me of previous eras, when strongmen governed through violence and oppression; and human rights, hyperinflation, scarcity, and grinding poverty wrought havoc on the people of the hemisphere” (source), while forgetting that the US was the one that either installed or fully supported the dictators that governed, then one has to wonder about the consciousness of such individuals, let alone conscience. Are they really so blazingly dumb, to make such patently hypocritical statements? Are there so many coconut trees growing in Washington DC that it’s possible they have been struck on the head by a falling nut, and suffer permanent amnesia? Are they hoping that we will not question their assertions? Or do they genuinely believe in what they say? If you were Pierre Bourdieu, you would answer in the affirmative only to the last question. The reason a Kerry or a Biden does not recognize his own hypocrisy is that he is fully conditioned to project onto others what he denies about himself. This is the classic imperial mentality illuminated by Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and related back to the ideologues of the new imperialism by David McNally (see “Imperial Narcissism: Michael Ignatieff’s Apologies for Empire” in Colin Mooers, Ed., The New Imperialists, pp. 87-110, Oxford: OneWorld, 2006).
Fourth, to the extent that there is any conscious inkling that one’s statements simply do not square with widely recognized historical fact, there must be at least some sense that one cannot speak plainly. For example, Kerry would lose his job immediately if instead of the statement above, he stated what he at least implicitly thought: “We are Americans. You’re job is to obey us. Just sit down, shut up, and watch us rule your world.” What matters is what is expedient, not what is logically consistent or factually tenable. Only this way can a John Kerry continually carp that Viktor Yanukovych, a democratically elected president whose overthrow the US supported, should “respect the will of the people,” and then denounce the same will of the people when it comes to a referendum in Crimea. Now the increasingly popular refrain among the Washington elite–misappropriating a line from leftist critiques of liberal democracy–is that democracy goes beyond “just the ballot box”. It certainly does, especially when by democracy all the US ever really meant is compliant regimes that are ready to uphold the interests of the US elites, for the US elites.
The ideologues espousing interventionism as democratization will, however, emphasize the ballot box when that is a congenial goalpost. Repetition by the head of the UN Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), that casts Libya as “transitioning to democracy“, reveals fundamentally Eurocentric assumptions as contained within neoliberal practice. Libya was already a democracy, a social and economic democracy that struggled to develop grass roots democracy. NATO and its local allies destroyed that, putting in its place…nothing but total chaos, and little more than a vision of democracy crafted after Western pretenses. The assumption, as always, is that there is only one democracy, and that is the multi-party parliamentary democracy prevalent in the West, and that allows the maximum points of access to US penetration and manipulation, while inculcating the notion of politics as competition.
The interventionist process not only mobilizes certain rhetorical tropes in an effort to disarm public opinion–tropes of the kinds listed above–but it also constructs an opportunistic version of “the people” of the country targeted for regime change. As in the cases of Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela, typically what US and/or EU/NATO interventionists do is to focus on a small section of a population, that which is aligned with US and/or EU interests, and then magnify and homogenize that section as “the people”. Hence the US intervened in Libya because “the people” called for help. Once the US/EU magnify such a section as “the people” they then use that as a magnifying lens in another way: to burn the rest of the society. Regime change is always a destructive process that visits pain and suffering on large numbers of “the people”. Regime change almost invariably introduces prolonged chaos. Social relations within the target society become weaponized. The political system is forcibly reengineered to favour neoliberal priorities. And thus once again we witness what global capitalist “order” really looks like, which is a nihilistic vandalism committed to enhance the lives and reputations of imperial narcissists.
As some of the articles that follow highlight, we also have to get over our own voyeuristic, vicarious, protest fetishism here in the west. This refers to our automatic romanticization of all protests occurring in states that our political class has identified as rivals or enemies (even while we quickly vilify protesters in our countries and spectate cheerfully as they suffer from our own security forces’ repression). In other cases, it involves instantaneous enthusiasm for any protest movement in nations we imagine to suffer from a special cultural pathology (i.e. Muslim-ruled states). It’s also possible that in some instances what we witness is a long-distance projection of our own longing for change, which we are too apathetic to bring about in our own countries. Whatever the case may be, the knee-jerk response to quickly fawn over foreign protesters–regardless of their class origins or political intentions–produces highly distorted and outright false understandings of what is happening in diverse and very complex cases around the world.
Finally, on a separate issue, one might note the tendency among some defenders of the Venezuelan revolution to engage in very well-intentioned rebuttals of mainstream media falsehoods about the alleged shortcomings or outright lack of democracy in Venezuela, especially in terms of press freedom, elections, etc., without questioning the terms of the debate. Without rejecting these efforts in the least, it is also important to recognize that what we risk reinforcing and entrenching liberal democracy as the ultimate standard by which to measure “freedom” in any given society, regardless of the inappropriateness of this model. Then, in order to seem fair, reasonable, and balanced, we sometimes concede, “yes, the Venezuelan authorities could do better”–as if the prime allegiance ought to be in maintaining liberal forms that we ourselves fail to uphold in our own societies. Given that we in the west live in increasingly authoritarian, post-liberal systems, it’s also ironic that we should expect others to uphold our model for us. The larger discussion that is pushed into the margins as a result of this constant cycle of liberal rebuttal and defense is that of envisioning different forms of democracy and political expression that do not privilege political parties and media owned by wealthy elites. Another of the larger discussions that is thereby avoided as well is whether Bolivarian socialism can really achieve its ultimate aims while continuing to concede, compromise and develop new contradictions by this increasingly difficult attempt to maintain a mixed economy and liberal democratic institutions that were never devised for the oppressed to challenge and take back power from oligarchies. Clearly, neither the upper classes, nor their US backers, have any interest in maintaining a liberal democracy either, not when they cannot have total sway over the society. At this point, we have to discuss questions such as: Whose purposes are served by the maintenance of western-derived, elitist ideas of liberal democracy? What are we defending, and against whom/what are we defending it?
Key articles and extracts for the regime-change cases featured in this report
The video that says it all, “Pray for Venezuela”:
One of the outstanding features about the declared regime change ambitions of the US and the elite classes of Venezuela, has been the outpouring of solidarity with the government of Venezuela from across Latin America and the Caribbean, to an extent that is nearly unanimous and reaches as far as the chambers of the traditionally US-controlled Organization of American States:
In relation to the recent events in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the Permanent Council hereby declares:
Its condolences to and solidarity with the victims and their family members, the people, and the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and its hope that the investigations can be brought to a swift and just conclusion.
Its respect for the principle of nonintervention in the domestic affairs of states and its commitment to the protection of democratic institutions and the rule of law, in accordance with the OAS Charter and international law.
Its emphatic rejection of all forms of violence and intolerance, while calling on all sectors for peace, calm, and respect for human rights and fundamental liberties, including the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, freedom of movement, health, and education.
Its appreciation, full support, and encouragement for the initiatives and the efforts of the democratically-elected Government of Venezuela and all political, economic, and social sectors to continue to move forward with the process of national dialogue towards political and social reconciliation, in the framework of full respect by all democratic actors for the constitutional guarantees of all.
For its part,
The Council on Hemispheric Affairs Applauds OAS Solidarity with Venezula, by Larry Birns, COHA Director; Frederick B. Mills, COHA Senior Research Fellow and Professor of Philosophy at Bowie State University; Ronn Pineo, COHA Senior Analyst and Chair of the Department of History, Towson University, COHA, March 8, 2014:
‘The OAS declaration represents yet another failure for U.S. diplomacy in the region. As COHA Director Larry Birns has observed, “since the coup in Honduras in 2009, Washington has actually moved to the right on Latin America policy. Not even conservative governments, with the exception of a predictable satrapy in Panama, want to see a small but resourceful minority engineer regime change in the region.” As the OAS action has made plain, the U.S. is increasingly isolated in the region. The OAS has joined the other hemispheric organizations in a rather stunning verdict. The United States is increasingly ignored because its views and policies stand in opposition to those who would support independent and authentic democracies that advance social and economic justice.’
In addition to the OAS, the Venezuelan government enjoyed statements of solidarity from UNASUR and MERCOSUR, along with CELAC and ALBA. From further away, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) also expressed its support for the Venezuelan revolution. This starkly contradicts the dominant narrative in the US media, that Latin America has remained silent. Far from silence, the solidarity expressed for Venezuela has been loud and clear for anyone willing to hear, especially as it has echoed around almost all of Latin America and the Caribbean. This ability to listen, or even just to hear, seems beyond the Wall Street Journal (“Venezuela Crackdown Meets Silence in Latin America“), the New York Times (“Response From Latin American Leaders on Venezuelan Unrest Is Muted“), and Jackson Diehl, editor at the Washington Post (“Venezuela, the uprising no one is noticing“). There are none so deaf as those who refuse to hear–one has to pity those readers who rely on such media for their information about the world.
Of course the dominant US media have, as many times before, turned out to be the best friends of Venezuelan right wing putschists–in this regard, see:
‘…the views and opinions of the vast majority of Venezuelans continue to go largely unreported, as coverage focuses on those of the – generally well-off and ‘on message’ – international diaspora. A few weeks ago, I read comments by such an ’exile’ to the effect that “Chavez hates the people, he hates anyone with money. He is trying to stop the dams from producing electricity so that rich people can’t have televisions and things. In Caracas they only have 4 hours of electricity per day”. To which I pointed out that I had just come back from ten days in Venezuela, and experienced a single power cut of about 20 minutes. Another time, I found myself sharing a Caracas cable car with an English-speaking Venezuelan. She and her partner began talking to me and to my Irish friend about lightbulbs: “you know anything about Venezuela, about Chavez? He’s a communist, you know? He’s trying to destroy the country. He’s trying to force everybody to have energy-saving lightbulbs…but this isn’t Cuba”. After five minutes, my friend felt compelled to point out they used energy-saving lightbulbs in Ireland, too, and that he didn’t feel particularly oppressed by them.’
And see especially the following article for a much needed corrective analysis:
‘US Secretary of State John Kerry recently called on the Venezuelan government to end the “terror campaign against its own citizens.” Kerry’s words are just the latest in US and mainstream media efforts to portray the month-long protests in Venezuela as peaceful popular demonstrations against an authoritarian regime that has resorted to repression to quell the uprisings. As a result, the Venezuelan government, as Kerry’s statement illustrates, is being blamed for most of the 28 deaths that have occurred. But is this portrayal accurate? A closer look at the reality on the ground paints a very different picture. From the beginning, the protesters have been armed, have conducted widespread arson and have been intent on achieving the unconstitutional overthrow of a democratically-elected government. The protests in Venezuela have primarily occurred in middle and upper class neighborhoods in seven cities across the country. Most of these neighborhoods are governed by opposition mayors who support the protesters. In fact, protests of any sort have only occurred in 18 of the country’s 335 municipalities during the past month….’
US media have served as consistent advocates of reactionary regime change in Venezuela, in support of US policy:
‘Over the ten year period, from 2000-2010, US agencies, including the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and its Office for Transition Initiatives (OTI), set up in Caracas in 2002, channeled more than $100 million dollars to opposition groups in Venezuela. The overall objective was regime change….
‘Ironically, international media has been portraying these protestors as peaceful victims of state repression. Even celebrities, such as Cher and Paris Hilton have been drawn into a false hysteria, calling for freedom for Venezuelans from a “brutal dictatorship”. The reality is quite different. While there is no doubt that a significant number of protestors in the larger marches that have taken place have demonstrated peacefully their legitimate concerns, the driving force behind those protests is a violent plan to overthrow a democratic government. Lopez, who has publicly stated his pride for his role in the April 2002 coup against Hugo Chavez, continues to call on his supporters to rally against the Venezuelan “dictatorship”.
‘The slant of the Venezuelan private media and the international media on what is happening in Venezuela is clear: The government is responsible for the violence. In the first place government-ordered gunmen are shooting at pacific demonstrators and the violence generated by the opposition is just a response to the brutality of police and military forces. But there is considerable evidence that shows that the violence, including that of unidentified motorcyclists against the demonstrators, is being carried out by the opposition. Consider the following:…’
In a comparatively minor attempt to “balance” foreign media coverage from an overly sympathetic treatment of Venezuela’s right wing, middle and upper-class protesters, The Guardian published some items such as this:
Venezuela protests: the other side of the story: We hear from Venezuelans who did not take part in the recent anti-government demonstrations for their take on what’s happening in the country, The Guardian, February 27, 2014
There were also some attempts to get foreign media to correct the falsehoods they were publishing, which arose from their over-reliance on opposition sources of dubious or no credibility:
‘Today’s op-ed, “Rash Repression in Venezuela,” contained at least one glaring factual error. Its author Francisco Toro wrote that opposition leader Henrique Capriles’ Saturday speech remained largely unheard, “because government pressure ensured that no broadcast media carried coverage of the event.” In fact, both Globovisión and Venevisión, the two largest private media outlets, provided coverage of the event. Toro is also the author of a viral piece at the blog he co-founded, Caracas Chronicles, titled, “The Game Changed in Venezuela Last Night—and the International Media Is Asleep At the Switch.” In it, he outlined a purported “tropical pogrom” and a paramilitary shooting spree that took place throughout the night of February 19. His post accused the Times and other news outlets of complicity in an “international blackout” regarding the supposed “pogrom.” However, as any examination of protest-related homicides over the past two weeks shows, there were no deaths recorded on the day or night of the 19th…’
‘…In short, New York Times coverage of Venezuela is feeding into the widespread misconception that the Venezuelan government is repressing peaceful majority-supported protest. The reality, however, is that Venezuelans are facing a small, violent, and determined opposition sector, where the vast majority of the population (over 80% according to most independent polls) and even most opposition leaders oppose these protests.
‘We recall that the New York Times editors shamefully supported the military coup of 2002, before retreating and recanting after the coup was defeated by a mass uprising of the Venezuelan working people. Then, as now, the Times coverage echoes and reflects that of the US government. It is rarely mentioned in any of the coverage of Venezuela over the years that Washington has an extensive program — funded by a bipartisan US Congress — of open and covert aid and support to the Venezuelan opposition.’
Venezuela is not Ukraine: Venezuela’s struggle is widely misrepresented in western media. This is a classic conflict between right and left, rich and poor, by Mark Weisbrot, The Guardian, March 4, 2014:
‘One of the most important forces that has encouraged this extreme polarization has been the US government. It is true that other left governments that have implemented progressive economic changes have also been politically polarized: Bolivia, Ecuador, and Argentina for example. And there have been violent right-wing destabilization efforts in Bolivia and Ecuador. But Washington has been more committed to “regime change” in Venezuela than anywhere else in South America – not surprisingly, given that it is sitting on the largest oil reserves in the world. And that has always given opposition politicians a strong incentive to not work within the democratic system.
‘Venezuela is not Ukraine, where opposition leaders could be seen publicly collaborating with US officials in their efforts to topple the government, and pay no obvious price for it. Of course, US support has helped Venezuela’s opposition with funding: one can find about $90m in US funding to Venezuela since 2000, just looking through US government documents available on the web, including $5m in the current federal budget…’
The alternative analyses that have been critical of the protests have been numerous and especially illuminating. The following is just a selection of those that have been circulated:
‘Before any reconciliation is possible in Venezuela, both the Venezuelan opposition and the United States government must first recognize the democratic credentials of the Maduro government. For the past 15 years, the Venezuelan people have been engaged in an unprecedented democratic experiment: unhappy with corrupt, two-party democracy, they have opted instead to build a different sort of democracy from below. They have established local participatory councils and grassroots organizations of students, women, Afro- and indigenous Venezuelans, workers’ cooperatives and self-managed factories, each allowing for a more direct management of local affairs. When you combine this deepening of participatory democracy with the frequent and repeated election of Chávez and Chavistas in what are recognized to be free and fair elections, a truly unique and inspiring picture comes into view….’
‘…The elite who had previously controlled the country refused to accept the democratic majority and tried to oust Chavez in a coup backed by Washington in April 2002. When that attempt failed, other tactics were employed, including economic sabotage and a recall referendum, which Chavez won a landslide 58 percent to 42 percent victory in 2004. Nearly a decade later, with Chavez’s socialist party still in power, the polarization continues, as does the opposition’s refusal to recognize the legitimacy of the majority. While current protests in Venezuela reflect discontent with inflation, consumer product shortages and a high crime rate, those driving the street marches have a specific goal: regime change….’
‘We’d have to start by looking at the origins of that mistrust, and remember that current leaders of the opposition, such as Henrique Capriles and Leopoldo López, played an active role in the 2002 short-lived coup against democratically elected President Hugo Chávez. Many in the opposition also support elite and right-wing factions, which over the decades, tortured, imprisoned and repressed those who fought for the rights of the poor. Twenty-five years ago, that right-wing faction was responsible for the death of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people who were protesting price increases and privatization measures. The Venezuelan private media also played an active role in that coup, and have continued to be in open opposition to the government….’
‘Just as in 2002, radicals have forgotten that the people they must convince are Venezuelan voters, not international opinion. There can be no short cut to replacing a movement and government that is genuinely popular. Attempting to induce regime overthrow is unnecessary when the option of a recall referendum is available, and it is irresponsible when the outcome of violent change will only be a cycle of violent revenge. Finally, journalists have yet to learn that authoritative reporting requires fact-based accounts, not recycled and unchecked tweets from Twitter – a mechanism that can be used to promote delusion as well as democracy.’
#LaSalida? Venezuela at a Crossroads: The protests this week have far more to do with returning economic and political elites to power than with their downfall, by George Ciccariello-Maher, February 22, 2014:
‘Ukraine. Bosnia. Venezuela.
Tear gas. Masks. Water cannons.
Ours is an age of riots and rebellions, of radical self-creation in the heady streets: Spain’s indignados, the Occupy movement, Mexico’s Yo Soy 132, and of course the Arab Spring. We are understandably excited when we see people in the streets, and our pulse may even rise at the sight of masks, broken glass and flames, because for so long such images have represented the shards of the old world through which we can catch the perceptible glint of the new. Recent protests in Venezuela against the government of Chávez successor Nicolás Maduro might therefore seem to be simply the latest act in an upsurge of world-historic proportions.
Not so fast.
Despite hashtags like #SOSVenezuela and #PrayForVenezuela and retweets from @Cher and @Madonna, these protests have far more to do with returning economic and political elites to power than with their downfall….’
‘1. Just because there’s people in the streets doesn’t mean they’re on our side. We live in the era of the protester, and violent protest has become a media spectacle par excellence. In the wake of Tahrir and Occupy, we have somehow been conditioned to automatically feel sympathy for all men and women taking to the streets and facing down lines of riot police. Now there’s a YouTube clip floating around the web of a Venezuelan girl with an obnoxious upper-class American accent recounting the story of Venezuela’s heroic student uprising against an “illegitimate government”. At first sight, the video — which garnered over 2 million views so far — seems to neatly fit the narrative of the global uprisings. But anyone with even the slightest inkling to do some fact-checking or background research will quickly discover that the protests in Venezuela are nothing like Occupy or the Chilean student movement. You wouldn’t sympathize with a nationalist insurrection in Kiev or a royalist rebellion in Thailand. So why side with the US-funded right-wing opposition in Venezuela?…
2. The protests in Venezuela are orchestrated by the right-wing oligarchy….
3. Venezuela’s opposition receives active support from the United States….
4. The democratic credentials of Maduro’s government are not in question….
5. The right-wing opposition is itself thoroughly anti-democratic….
6. The 2014 protests are a replay of the run-up to the 2002 coup….
7. The media is the problem….
8. A Challenge to the Hegemony of Neoliberalism and the US….’
Academics have also rallied to the defense of Venezuela, especially against US intervention and US media misrepresentations:
‘We write to you out of concern over what is happening in Venezuela, and urge you to stand by democratic institutions and the rule of law there….By supporting the opposition’s attempt to reverse the results of democratic elections, the U.S. government is helping push the country towards more instability and violence. Sadly, the U.S. government has a history of similar actions with regard to Venezuela, including its support for the military coup of April 2002….We are troubled to note that so far the U.S. government has taken the most aggressive and partisan stance of any country in the hemisphere regarding the recent violence. While Latin American nations and organizations such as the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) have expressed concern about the opposition’s destabilization tactics, the U.S. State Department has made statements that will only encourage the most radical, violent sectors of the opposition to continue on their current path.’
‘The U.S. media, echoing the sentiments of the U.S. government, is openly encouraging violent regime change in Venezuela. An emblematic story from yesterday was aired in what is considered a “liberal” media source, National Public Radio (NPR). In short, this piece featured claims of Venezuela at the precipice of “economic collapse,” and spoke in glowing terms of the opposition’s hopes for a “coup” to overthrow President Maduro. This type of reporting is not only irresponsible, but it is deeply misinformed.’
‘These are carefully worded statements, like the White House statement on the coup in Honduras, that communicate their position without putting the U.S. government in the position of saying that they support a military coup in Honduras or a strategy of “regime change” in Venezuela, but making it clear to their allies and adversaries that they actually do.’
‘Venezuela’s latest round of violent protests appears to fit a pattern and represents the tug-and-pull nature of the country’s divided opposition. Several times over the past 15 years since the late, former president Hugo Chávez took office in 1999, the political opposition has launched violent protests aimed at forcing the current president out of office. Most notably, such protests were a part of the April 2002 coup that temporarily deposed Chávez and then accompanied the 2002/2003 oil strike. In February of 2004, a particularly radical sector of the opposition unleashed the “Guarimba”: violent riots by small groups who paralyzed much of the east of Caracas for several days with the declared goal of creating a state of chaos. As CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot has explained, then — as now — the strategy is clear: a sector of the opposition seeks to overturn the results of democratic elections…’
‘This is the general blueprint used for essentially the same brand of regime change in Libya adapted for Venezuela. Particulars between the two countries may be different but this general strategy of U.S. imperialism is the same. Imperialism uses hidden hands to instigate incidents in countries that take anti-imperialist stands. Then it uses its media and official spokespersons to make things look to the rest of the world as if they are other than they are, demonizing the actual victims.’
On the circulation of phony photographs by the Venezuelan opposition in attempts to outright lie about “repression” from the government, using photos from protests around the world–anywhere, it seems, except from Venezuela itself. This was useful for fueling false reports in major western media, while helping to convince some “social media” users, from Anyonymous, to Cher, Madonna, John Cusack and Kevn Spacey, that all of this was true and that what we have in Venezuela is–irony of ironies–a “fascist” government.
In connection with the latter item, also see examples of fake Venezuela repression photos on Manipulación de fotos de Venezuela, by Luigino Bracci Roa, Rebelión.
‘…statements about nearly all TV “controlled or allied with the government” are quite clearly false. The state TV can sing the praises of Maduro all day long, but the private media is reaching several times as many people with an opposite bias in their coverage.’
The Coup Last Time: Venezuela and the Imperial Script, 2004 Edition, by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, CounterPunch, February 21-23, 2014: This essay was written during the ill-fated 2004 campaign to recall Hugo Chavez.
‘…The imperial script calls for a human rights organization to start braying about irregularities by their intended victim. And yes, here’s José Miguel Vivanco of Human Rights Watch. We last met him in CounterPunch helping to ease a $1.7 billion US aid package for Colombia’s military apparatus. This time he’s holding a press conference in Caracas, hollering about the brazen way Chávez is trying to expand membership of Venezuela’s Supreme Court, the same way FDR did, and for the same reason: that the Venezuelan court has been effectively packed the other way for decades, with judicial flunkies of the rich. We don’t recall Vivanco holding too many press conferences to protest that perennial iniquity….The NED has helped fund the opposition to Chávez to the tune of more than $1 million a year. Among the recipients are organizations whose leaders actually supported the April 2002 coup-they signed the decree that overthrew the elected president and vice president and abolished the country’s democratic institutions, including the Constitution, Supreme Court and National Assembly. The coup was thwarted only because millions of Venezuelans rallied for Chávez….’
‘…The United States is centrally involved. It oversaw the removal of Yanukovich, and its neocons are desperately trying to develop an excuse for war with the Russians. Neocon former presidential candidate John McCain visited Ukraine and addressed the demonstrations in Kiev. As did Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs in the US state department. Nuland is most famous for her recently leaked phone conversation about micromanaging regime change in Ukraine, in which she declared ‘fuck the EU.’ Her husband is neocon Robert Kagan, who was co-founder of the Project for the New American Century, the ideological parent of the Bush/Blair war on Iraq….’
The 11-minute conversation was posted on YouTube – it is the second time in a month that telephone calls between western diplomats discussing Ukraine have been bugged. In the call, [Estonian foreign minister Urmas] Paet said he had been told snipers responsible for killing police and civilians in Kiev last month were protest movement provocateurs rather than supporters of then-president Viktor Yanukovych. Ashton responds: “I didn’t know … Gosh.”
The leak came a day after the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, said the snipers may have been opposition provocateurs.’
A commitment to some form of democracy used to be enough for a nation to gain entrance to Canada’s most-favoured club. During the Cold War, the rap against Communist countries, from the old Soviet Union to Cuba, was their failure to allow free elections. Conversely, countries that permitted even an imperfect democratic process were treated as friends….But today, it seems, democracy is not sufficient. Egypt was a classic case, where an imperfect but democratically elected government was overthrown in a military putsch. Canada, as Harper made clear in his most recent trip to the Middle East, sides with the putschists. Now, the battleground is Ukraine where an elected government is facing off against street protesters, some of whom use violence. Strangely enough, Canada is siding with the protesters. In fact, Ottawa announced this week that it is sending first aid kits to the rioters.
I doubt that Canada would have been pleased if Ukraine had offered similar aid to those who, in 2010, took to the streets of Toronto to protest the G20. In that instance, Canadian authorities had no patience with any protesters who used violence to get close to where the G20 leaders were meeting.
Who’s Who in Ukraine’s New “Semi-fascist” Government: Meet the People the U.S. and EU are Supporting. By Brian Becker, Global Research, March 08, 2014:
The U.S. and European Union countries played a key role in the overthrow of the elected government in the Ukraine headed by Victor Yanukovych and the Party of Regions. Listening to the politicians in Washington or watching the corporate media, it would be easy to believe that the coup in the Ukraine has ushered in new era of democracy for the people of that country. Nothing could be further from the truth. The new, self-appointed government in Kiev is a coalition between right-wing and outright fascist forces, and the line between the two is often difficult to discern. Moreover, it is the fascist forces, particularly the Svoboda party and the Right Sector, who are in the ascendancy, as evidenced by the fact that they have been given key government positions in charge of the military and other core elements of the state apparatus.
“Democratization” and Anti-Semitism in Ukraine: When Neo-Nazi Symbols become “The New Normal”. By Julie Lévesque, Global Research, March 06, 2014
The IMF has a special plan for Ukraine:
‘An International Monetary Fund mission visiting Ukraine has urged the government to raise gas prices for domestic consumers and introduce a flexible exchange rate for the national currency, the hryvnia, a Fund official said on Thursday. Jerome Vacher, the IMF’s resident representative in Kyiv, told a ratings conference that these were among recommendations made by a Fund team which has just ended a 10-day trip to the ex-Soviet republic. “Measures included a flexible exchange rate, strengthening of the banking system, fiscal adjustment, reform of the energy sector (and) substantial improvement of the business environment,” Vacher told the annual Fitch ratings conference. He made clear that by energy reform the IMF meant raising the tariffs for domestic consumers of gas – both industry and households – something long opposed by the government….’
“The large loss-making energy sector needs to be reformed. The low retail tariffs (covering only a small fraction of economic costs) generate quasi-fiscal losses, balance of payment weaknesses, underinvestment in domestic production, and governance problems. As a priority measure, we advise a significant upfront increase in gas and heating tariffs for households and adoption of a schedule for further increases until cost recovery is reached. To mitigate the effect of tariff adjustment on the less affluent, we recommend scaling up targeted social assistance programs that would cover up to 40 percent of the population.”
Finally, a very rare commentary to ever be found in the Canadian mainstream media, as right wing and exclusively controlled by private corporations as they are:
‘It’s a narrative that’s growing in popularity in the West: Vladimir Putin as a 21st-century Adolf Hitler, an unhinged dictator bent on collecting lost Russian lands. It was floated first on CNN last week, where former Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili – who fought and lost a war with Russia six years ago over a place called South Ossetia – compared Mr. Putin’s stealth takeover of the Crimean Peninsula to the Nazi annexation of Sudetenland in 1938. The Canadian government has since embraced the storyline, with Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird using the Sudetenland comparison while denouncing Russian military moves in the Ukraine. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made similar remarks, and former U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton told a fundraiser in California: “If this sounds familiar, it’s what Hitler did back in the ’30s.”…’
In the case of Libya, we are looking at some of the many egregious effects of regime change, the first of which has been the destruction of a viable state. Just in the last days we learned,
‘The ousting of Libya’s prime minister, who fled to Europe this week, has triggered fighting between eastern and western regions that threatens to divide the country. Ali Zeidan, a popular figure with western diplomats, was sacked by the Islamist-led congress on Tuesday after failing to prevent a North Korean tanker loading oil from a port controlled by rebels in the eastern region of Cyrenaica. Fearing arrest following his dismissal, Zeidan made a late-night escape from Tripoli aboard a private jet, leaving behind a fractured government and a country in turmoil, fighting over its rich oil resources.’
Libya’s highest political authority, the General National Congress (GNC), having failed for the fourth time on Sunday to produce a no-confidence vote on the government of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, finally ousted him on Tuesday and replaced Zeidan with Defense Minister Abdallah Al-Thnini….The bloc, led by Abdel-Wahab Al-Qaid, brother of Al-Qaeda leader Abu Yahya Al-Libi, opposes the recommendation calling for direct presidential elections and insists, instead, that the president should be elected indirectly by parliament. This would give them the power to dominate that position just as they currently dominate the GNC….Political violence has remained as rife as ever since the overthrow of regime. According to recently revealed statistics, last month alone 58 assassinations were recorded in three cities: Benghazi and Derna to the east, and Sirte in the centre of the country. That makes for an average of one high profile murder a day in Libya. The opening days of March brought more bloodshed. In Benghazi alone there were 12 assassinations….Since it first undertook its duties in September 2012, the GNC has been attacked or stormed more than 250 times….’
The above was preceded by the obvious loss of any semblance of legitimacy for the new governing authorities, with little more than 14.7% of eligible voters turning out for recent elections. Despite the oft repeated claim that Libyans showed enthusiasm for the general elections of 2012, even then the actual turnout of eligible voters was less than 50%–typical of Western voter turnouts which we characterize as a sign of “apathy”. Given what was supposed to be a massive rejection of the “dictatorship” of the “Gaddafi regime”, and a new found love for “democracy”, the numbers to sustain such conclusions have never been there. In addition, the CIA-backed General, Khalifa Hifter, announced a call for a military coup in Libya, which failed to be heeded, but certainly exemplified some of the binding ties that continue to manipulate events on the ground. With reference to Hifter (Haftar), see:
Libya’s new parliament, the General National Congress, was also stormed by protesters yet again recently, in opposition to its unilateral extension of its own term. Examples of the falling apart of the imagine path of electoral salvation for Libya are these:
‘Meanwhile, former Libyan commander Major General Khalifa Hifter released a video calling on all Libyans to rise against the GNC. Hifter, who played a major role in the revolution that ended Gaddafi’s rule, is currently wanted by military investigators for announcing a coup d’etat and calling for the appointment as head of state of the chief of the Supreme Council of the Judiciary, Ali Mawloud Hafiza. The announcement proved false. Soon after that call, the Libyan public prosecutor lifted immunity from Hafiza, so as to investigate allegations that his actions in office “exceeded” his lawful powers.’
‘While billions of US dollars have been spent, not a single infrastructure project has been completed, let alone started. When the revolt against Gadhafi began in February 2011, the entire country was a huge building site, with tens of building cranes dotting skylines across Libya. Today, however, nothing is moving, and oil production, the country’s main source of hard currency, has dropped to a quarter of what it used to be and almost half its pumping capacity….Since NATO-supported rebels overthrew Moammar Gadhafi in October 2011, following eight months of bloody civil war, the country has been ungovernable thanks to the hundreds of armed militias formed by criminals and former rebels that roam the streets, terrorizing the nation and challenging the weak central government. It is thus not surprising that nearly two-thirds of Libya’s eligible voters did not bother to register for the current elections.’
‘Dozens of armed rioters stormed into the Libyan Parliament in Tripoli on Sunday, setting fire to the grounds, looting furniture and wounding a prominent lawmaker in a spasm of anger at the clotted and chaotic transition after the ouster of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. Less than two weeks after a vote to elect an assembly charged with writing a new constitution, the bedlam at Parliament dampened hopes of renewed momentum for the transition, or even of a break from the violence. Security guards outside the building encouraged the rioters, witnesses said, and looters running amok suspended the symbolic white chair of the parliamentary leader from a lamppost. Later, they set the chair on fire….’
The disenchantment with what the UN and some western leaders insist on calling a “democratic transition” in Libya, is very palpable in the following report on the work of a new youth movement in Libya, one that particularly rejects attempts at “de-Gaddafication” (the purging of all in the society who had ties with government led by Gaddafi):
“[It was also agreed to] replace the political isolation law with the judiciary, because the political isolation law has excluded a large number of Libyans. We are not calling for exclusion, but rather for the rule of law. [The movement agreed to] announce that the Muslim Brotherhood is a banned group, given its bad practices, its dominance over power and support for armed groups that include murderers and criminals. [It was agreed to] conduct an investigation by formal judicial bodies in all of the crimes committed following the February Revolution and to hold accountable the criminals involved in the murders and thefts, in order to prevent them from gaining any legitimacy.”
“We want the political isolation law to be replaced with judicial decisions, to prevent the parties from exploiting it,” Sharif stressed, explaining to Azzaman that “in an attempt to activate these goals, we have met with representatives of some political parties. However, we have found that these parties are trying to use us in achieving their goals in their conflict with the other parties. Based on that, we have agreed not to bring any party into this movement, in order to keep it a popular movement, provided that coordination takes place with the official military institution alone.”
“The Libyan revolution can be divided into two phases. The first phase is when it began in Benghazi and Eastern Libya, and when there were no political movements or Western agendas behind it. While eastern Libya was completely freed on April 20, 2011, for me, March 19, 2011, is the end of the Libyan Revolution. It was on this date that French and British troops, as well as armed groups, intervened when [leader Moammar] Gadhafi’s forces entered Benghazi. This is when the popular Libyan revolution ended and the international war began, as the United States, Britain, Qatar and the Gulf states intervened. Then, the Libyan state disintegrated, and these parties intervened to protect their interests, not to protect civilians.”
Attempts to “celebrate” the “new Libya” are far past their expiry date. One of the effects of regime change in this case has been the persistence of some mass media institutions in the west to continue justifying the perverse outcomes of western intervention as an “improvement,” but even here we are seeing a slow withdrawal. No longer a “brutal dictator,” Gaddafi has become in some of these western media merely a “quirky, one-man ruler,” or a “veteran strongman” (which makes him sound as a venerable champion of the WWF):
‘A neatly packaged TV report was aired on the BBC on February 20, showing cheerful Libyans lining up to elect a 60-member assembly that will be entrusted to draft the country’s constitution. But the reality on the ground shows that such an endeavour is doomed to fail. Libya’s state institutions are crumbling and violence is spreading. Another vote in an unpopular election will change little on the ground. Even though there was much violence reported, a massive boycott of the elections took place to the extent where some Arab media completely ignored the vote….Libyans are growing disenchanted by the current status quo….Libya’s bedlam however is not a result of some intrinsic tendency to shun order. Libyans, like people all over the world, seek security and stability in their lives. However, other parties, Arab and western, are keen to ensure that the ‘new Libya’ is consistent with their own interests, even if such interests are obtained at the expense of millions of Libyans….’
‘The erosion of trust in Libyan institutions threatens to derail the looming process of drafting the first constitution in decades. Elections to nominate a 60-person committee tasked with writing the document were due as The Economist went to press. Yet barely a third of the 3.4m Libyans entitled to vote have registered, compared to 2.7m in the first post-revolutionary polls. Declining enthusiasm reflects growing disgust with the authorities’ failure to govern.
‘Urgent tasks have gone unaddressed, from deteriorating security and infrastructure to an economy hit hard by a months-old blockade of oil ports by armed federalists in the restive eastern region where much of Libya’s oil is produced. Exports of crude, the economy’s lifeline, have plunged to barely a tenth of normal levels, forcing the government to rely on foreign savings. Libya’s second city, Benghazi, has been hit by frequent bombings, the latest targeting the Boy Scouts headquarters. Armed robberies and kidnappings have left Libyans in the capital jittery, too.
‘Meanwhile, the prickly question of who did what—both during Qaddafi’s 42 years in power and in the 2011 revolution—subtly poisons public life….’
While claiming a new found sobriety about regime change in Libya, NPR, an organ whose narratives are increasingly indistinguishable from those of the State Department, insists on not seeing Libya as a “failed state” (that term of abuse is reserved for enemies and targets of impending “humanitarian” intervention) but rather as an “emerging state”, which means little except as a statement of self-congratulatory wishful thinking. This is compounded by NPR playing around with the “best estimates” of how many were killed during NATO’s war. Nonetheless, some grudging, quiet admissions can be found here:
‘The country has now morphed into the Wild West. The NATO bombing campaign — billed as an urgent human rights intervention — quickly revealed itself to be a campaign aimed at regime change that has had far-reaching consequences.’
Without endorsing everything Patrick Cockburn writes about Muammar Gaddafi (a softer yet still largely verbatim rehash of what western journalists typically/dutifully say), there are some important points in this report:
‘A striking feature of events in Libya in the past week is how little interest is being shown by leaders and countries which enthusiastically went to war in 2011 in the supposed interests of the Libyan people. President Obama has since spoken proudly of his role in preventing a “massacre” in Benghazi at that time. But when the militiamen, whose victory Nato had assured, opened fire on a demonstration against their presence in Tripoli in November last year, killing at least 42 protesters and firing at children with anti-aircraft machine guns, there was scarcely a squeak of protest from Washington, London or Paris….Western and regional governments share responsibility for much that has happened in Libya, but so too should the media. The Libyan uprising was reported as a simple-minded clash between good and evil. Gaddafi and his regime were demonised and his opponents treated with a naïve lack of scepticism and enquiry. The foreign media have dealt with the subsequent collapse of the Libyan state since 2011 mostly by ignoring it, though politicians have stopped referring to Libya as an exemplar of successful foreign intervention.’
Meanwhile, the ongoing violence between militias has in fact increased in several parts of Libya, including the south where the war between two tribes, one “accused” of being “Gaddafi loyalists” resulted in the deaths of dozens of individuals in the period for which news reports were available:
Then there were reports of pro-Gaddafi militias taking an air base in the south as well, in connection with the fighting referred to in the stories above:
‘A group of “Qaddafists” were reported to have seized Tamenhint Air-base (30 kilometers east of Sabha) on January 18, relinquishing it after sorties by Libyan jet-fighters on January 19 to redeploy “with a large convoy” on the road between Sabha and Barak Shati, according to a Zintani mediator (Libya Herald, January 19). According to the spokesman for the Libyan defense ministry, the occupiers were Qaddafi supporters (al-Arabiya, January 18). After the Qaddafists left, the base was occupied by Tubu troops of the Murzuk Military Council, though these withdrew on January 20 before the arrival of the Misrata militia, allowing the Qaddafists to reoccupy the facility. Defense Ministry spokesman Abdul-Raziq al-Shabahi said: “The situation in the south … opened a chance for some criminals … loyal to the Gaddafi regime to exploit this and to attack the Tamahind air force base” (Reuters, January 20). Libyan government sources claim the violence in the south is being orchestrated by Saadi Qaddafi, a son of the late dictator who has taken refuge in neighboring Niger. Other pro-Qaddafi elements were said to have taken to the streets in Ajilat, waving green flags and carrying portraits of the late dictator. The Zintan militia was called in when local authorities were unable to contain the demonstrations and five alleged Qaddafi supporters supposedly on their way to Ajilat were killed in nearby Sabratha. Though authorities claimed to have arrested seven Qaddafists, they refused to release any information about the suspects (Libya Herald, January 22).’
Also referring to the resurgence of allegedly pro-Gaddafi militias, a state of emergency was declared, as reported in this article by an otherwise questionable media outlet:
‘Libya’s General National Congress (GNC) declared a state of emergency in the country on Saturday, following fresh clashes that erupted in the south when a gunmen group seized a military base, an official said according to Agence France-Presse….’
On the topic of rights gained as a result of the overthrow of Gaddafi’s government, it is well near impossible to make even the start of a convincing argument on that account. One of the glaring differences of post-Gaddafi Libya has been the persecution of religious minorities. Here we learn of the situation of Libyan Christians:
‘…before the revolution, Christians were granted religious freedom, but with the change of power, they have been arbitrarily arrested, attacked, killed and forced by the Islamist groups to convert to Islam. In September, two Christians were killed in the Derna District of northeastern Libya after they refused forced conversion. St. Mark’s Coptic Church in Benghazi was attacked twice in 2013, according to the Barnabas Fund, a British charity supporting Christians in Muslim-majority countries….’
Also on the subject of rights allegedly gained from the overthrow of Libya’s government in 2011, the violent persecution of the media has reached heights never seen before, with reports such as these becoming a regular feature of the “new Libya,” a censorship by force of arms:
‘Gunmen fired rocket-propelled grenades at a Libyan television channel in Tripoli early on Wednesday after storming the building, forcing out workers and damaging equipment, journalists at the channel said. The attack just after midnight was on the Al-Aseema television linked to Mahmoud Jibril, the former civil war-time prime minister who later formed the National Forces Alliance movement to oppose an Islamist party in the country’s interim congress. “They forced employees in the night shift to leave, and they burned the place, then they hit the building with RPGs and fled,” a senior journalist at the station said, asking not to be identified because of security. Al Aseema has been broadcasting critical statements about the extension the General National Congress, or GNC, Libya’s interim parliament whose initial mandate ended on February 7…’
Not satisfied with the “progress” achieved from regime change, the UN Mission to Libya (UNSMIL) has, unsurprisingly, sought and received an extension to its mandate:
‘In the resolution adopted today, the 15-member Council wrote that as an immediate priority, the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) would ensure the success of the democratic transition process in the country, which has been under way since the toppling of Muammar al-Qadhafi three years ago. This includes promoting, facilitating and providing technical advice, as well as assisting a single, inclusive and transparent national dialogue, and the drafting of a new constitution. The Council “reiterates the need for the transition period to be underpinned by a commitment to democratic processes and institutions,” the members wrote, specifying good governance, rule of law, national reconciliation and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.’
Even the US government hardly seems to be satisfied with the results it has achieved by bombing Libya, which seems to be an admission of failure on the US’ own terms:
‘More than three years after the end of Moammar Gadhafi’s rule, Libyan still poses a threat to U.S. national interests, President Obama said. Obama issued an executive order Thursday saying the situation in Libya “continues to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States”.’
Meanwhile, Libya in becoming an oil importer, is witnessing the further shut down of its oil industry:
Libya oil output dives after key field shut: Oil output drops to 230,000 barrels a day as the el-Sharara field is forced to close down due to security conditions, Al Jazeera English, February 23, 2014:
‘Libya’s oil production has fallen to 230,000 barrels a day….The drop is the latest blow to the oil-rich but strife-hit North African nation, where the oil sector accounts for 70 percent of GDP, 95 percent of state revenues and as much as 98 percent of exports. Production stood at around 1.4 million bpd until the middle of 2013 when the protests began to break out at the country’s major ports in the east….’
President Hamid Karzai took part in a very revealing interview with the Washington Post, confirming much of what the severest critics of the war in Afghanistan have long been saying, and personally lambasting the US–here is some of what he had to say:
“The relationship has been at a low point for a long time, at least since 2007, as far as Afghanistan is concerned and the Afghan president is concerned. It began to deteriorate with the civilian casualties and the neglectful attitude toward my complaints about it. In 2007, we had the most serious incident of civilian casualties in Herat province of Afghanistan, when things turned very difficult between us, and since then it has not recovered.
“Of course, there other issues as well, secondary to civilian casualties. The private security firms, the parallel government structures, the contracts given to people, to individuals, causing corruption. And, of course, in a deeper way, reflecting a deeper lack of agreement between us, the way the so-called war on terror was fought. The sanctuaries were left alone outside Afghanistan and Pakistan, but the civilian villages were attacked. So when I say civilian casualties and when I say the incorrect strategy, the attack on the Afghan villages, that is exactly the crux of the difficulties.”
“The American president has said they are not here for Afghanistan. So it’s not the American blood shed for the Afghanistan or the American resources spent for Afghanistan. If you go to President Obama’s speeches, he repeatedly says that he’s here for the sake of American interests, for the safety of America, for the security of America — that they are here in Afghanistan helping Afghanistan in order to help America. Therefore, it’s not for us — it’s for a cause that America holds dear.
“And in order to help that cause — the American cause of security and prosperity — the United States came here in 2001 to Afghanistan, and the Afghan people received them with open arms. And we succeeded initially. So it’s not for us — it’s for the U.S. security and for the Western interests.”
“If you pay attention to the statements of U.S. officials and leaders, they say ‘America’s war, America’s war,’ they never say Afghanistan’s war. So the purpose was American, and for that American purpose, or larger Western purpose, they came to Afghanistan. We the Afghans found common ground in that purpose.”
“When the U.S. insisted on having the freedom to go and launch operations [as a condition of the agreement over a post-2014 troop presence], I said ‘Why — why do you need to go after Afghan villages after you have the BSA?’ This was one of the most serious issues in discussing the BSA.
“They said [the reason would be] if there is al-Qaeda. I asked, ‘What do you mean by al- Qaeda? Do you mean a large number of people, of individuals, of groups?’ They said probably less than 100. Actually, our national security adviser told us they were actually talking about a number of people between 35 to 40, 45. So if that’s the number, then they’re no threat to us or to the United States.
“I would not say that they are defeated, because I don’t even know if they exist. So it’s an area that I’m not well informed about. So al-Qaeda to me is more a myth than a reality. They have no headquarters, they have no — I can’t talk about the defeat of something that I don’t see. If they are real, I hope they are defeated, and we will work together to defeat them, if that’s true — if they’re there.”
“How can it [the war] be ours when a U.S. plane bombs a truck carrying a family? Would you do that in America? Would you shoot a family into total destruction in America in the name of fighting a terrorist in an American village? Would the U.S. Army do the same in America?”
“To the American people, give them my best wishes and my gratitude. To the U.S. government, give them my anger, my extreme anger.”
Anthropologist Anila Daulatzai did research on the “Ethnography of Widowhood and Care in Kabul” for her PhD at Johns Hopkins, and dhe is currently writing a book War and What Remains: Everyday Life in Contemporary Kabul, Afghanistan. In an interview given to Meena Menon she spoke on the lives of Afghans disrupted by serial wars, occupations, and foreign-funded, agenda-driven aid programs:
‘In October 2001, when bombs started dropping, the military also dropped aid packages. Humanitarianism as a concept died during that mash-up between aid and the military. The military builds schools so they look like humanitarians. Meanwhile, humanitarian organisations were more interested in keeping the donor money flowing than serving the Afghan people, though there were some exceptions. I came to realise to what extent neo-liberal agendas are part of the aid industry, and thus also of the reconstruction of Afghanistan….
‘Serial war created suspicion — everyone is suspicious of everyone. Many activists were tempted by attractive international salaries, and work according to the agenda of the occupation. I don’t blame them, but there is no indigenous Afghan feminist movement any more. Similar with the few academics (Afghans and otherwise), anthropologists are working for the U.S. state, and others, as policymakers. The money is certainly lucrative but Afghanistan lost its scholars, and there is little to no effort to produce more. It certainly is overwhelming. Liberal humanitarianism exists in the form of Fulbright scholarships to talented Afghans and supports study in the U.S., yet it creates more neo-liberal policy bureaucrats. They will not be Afghan intellectuals, they will be neo-liberal bureaucrats….
‘When the U.S. symbolically leaves, any violence will be termed “civil war.” I don’t agree with the term “civil war” as applied to Afghanistan (for the 1990s, or as used now for post-2014), as the term fails to capture the international culpability and the role of foreign powers in arming and funding their strategic partners in Afghanistan.’
Is Afghanistan really impossible to conquer? By William Dalrymple, BBC News, March 8, 2014:
Both the Russians and the Americans thought they could walk in, set up a friendly government and be out within a year. Both nations got bogged down in a long and costly war of attrition that in the end both chose to walk away from. The Soviet war was more bloody – it left 1.5 million dead compared to an estimated 100,000 casualties this time around, but this current war has been far more expensive. The Soviets spent only $2bn (£1.2bn) a year in Afghanistan while the US has already spent more than $700bn (£418bn). Moreover this time arguably less has been gained. Twenty-five years ago the Soviets withdrew leaving a relatively stable pro-Soviet regime in place – Najibullah’s government collapsed only when the Soviets cut off supplies of weapons a full four years later. But 13 years after the West went in to Afghanistan to destroy al-Qaeda and oust the Taliban, America and its Allies find themselves about to withdraw with neither objective wholly achieved.
Right under the noses of our great, western humanitarian militarists, a famine epidemic has swept Afghanistan, despite the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on the occupation:
This was just the start of a series of obviously pained writings by western reporters that finally have begun to acknowledge how badly Afghans have suffered precisely as result of western intervention and occupation:
‘The United Nations released figures last week showing that cases of severe malnutrition have increased by 50 per cent or more since 2012. “In 2001, it was even worse, but this is the worst I’ve seen since then,” the head of the malnutrition ward at a major Kabul hospital told reporters. Also last week, Afghanistan’s human-rights commission reported a 25-per-cent increase in cases of violence against women between March and September, amid conditions that approach those of the Taliban years.
‘For too many years, supporters of the extended war have misled the public with inflated claims. In 2011, military leaders boasted that average Afghan life expectancy had improved by 20 years over the decade. In fact, CIA figures show that it fell from 46.2 years in 2001 to 45 years in 2011. Life expectancy rose somewhat during the next three years – but, as some observers have noted, not much more than it rose during the worst Taliban years.
‘In terms of human development, Afghanistan rose above the awful figures of the Taliban years during the initial 2001-02 campaign – then barely budged. Politically, the country’s near future appears certain to involve the Taliban, with all that entails. A new large-scale study has found that Afghans, after experiencing acts of war, overwhelmingly choose to shift their allegiances to the Taliban over NATO forces, and not vice versa. This, along with recent polls, suggests Afghans increasingly favour the Taliban over NATO and its own chosen regime….’
Also speaking of the crushing failure of the US and NATO to achieve any of their ambitious agenda for Afghanistan, we see this:
‘As the war in Afghanistan winds to a close, the architects of the campaign face a decidedly one-sided battle with history. At the moment, they’re losing and losing badly, as Washington is plumbing new depths of pessimism about the outlook for the nation that President George W. Bush and his team once vowed to transform. There’s no talk of “victory,” or how the U.S. should spend its share of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, or how to use the peace dividend from a world made safe from Al Qaeda. Instead, the discussion has boiled down to a debate over whether the future will bring a quick implosion or a slow-motion collapse — and whose fault it would be.’
‘Eleven years ago this weekend Canada organized an international gathering to discuss overthrowing Haiti’s elected government. The conference was reported in a major magazine at the time, but since the coup actually happened the dominant media has refused to investigate or even mention the meeting. On Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, 2003, Jean Chrétien’s Liberal government organized the “Ottawa Initiative on Haiti” to discuss that country’s future. No Haitian officials were invited to this assembly where high-level US, Canadian and French officials decided that Haiti’s elected president “must go”, the dreaded army should be recreated and that the country would be put under a Kosovo-like UN trusteeship. Thirteen months after the Ottawa Initiative meeting President Aristide and most other elected officials were pushed out and a quasi UN trusteeship had begun. Since that time the Haitian National Police has been heavily militarized and steps have been taken towards recreating the military….’
‘On February 29, 2004 the US, France and Canada overthrew Haiti’s elected government. The foreign military intervention led to an unmitigated human rights disaster. In the three weeks after the coup at least 1,000 bodies were buried in a mass grave by the State Morgue in Port-au-Prince, a fact acknowledged by Lieutenant-Colonel Jim Davis, Commander of Canadian Forces in Haiti, during a July 29, 2004, media teleconference call. In the year and a half after the coup, investigations by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, the University of Miami, Harvard University and the National Lawyers Guild all found significant evidence of persecution directed at Aristide’s Lavalas movement.’
‘But the most shocking aspect of the intervention was the role played by purportedly progressive non-governmental organizations. A slew of NGOs received tens of millions of dollars from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to advance Ottawa’s anti-democratic policy in Haiti. A few months prior to the February 29, 2004 coup that overthrew Aristide for the second time, Montreal-based Rights & Democracy (R&D), which was widely viewed as an NGO even though it was created by an act of Parliament, released a report that described Haiti’s pro-coup Group of 184 as “grassroots” and a “promising civil society movement.” The truth is that the Group of 184 was spawned and funded by the International Republican Institute (funded by the U.S. government) and headed by Haiti’s leading sweatshop owner, Andy Apaid. Apaid had been active in right-wing Haitian politics for many years and, like former Group of 184 spokesperson Charles Henry Baker, is white….Montréal-based Alternatives, one of Québec’s most left-leaning NGOs, also parroted the neoconservative narrative about Haiti….’