2015: Just Another Year for Empire

This year saw so little published on this site, that presenting our “top 10 articles” would nearly exhaust everything we produced. Instead, we decided to produce a list of our top recommended online articles for the year, as written by others.

canadainafricaFirst, however, the big book publication of the year has to be Canada in Africa: 300 Years of Aid and Exploitation by Yves Engler. Engler diligently documents Canadian participation in the slave trade, the “Scramble for Africa,” and its historic support for European colonial projects. His book exposes Canada’s opposition to anti-colonial movements, its support for apartheid South Africa, and its role in overthrowing leaders of Africa independence such as Patrice Lumumba and Kwame Nkrumah. More recently, Canada has pressured African nations to follow neoliberal economic measures and has played a part in the violence that has afflicted Somalia, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Engler’s numerous online pieces and public presentations across Canada relating to the book, also belie the common Canadian myth of benevolence, neutrality, and mere peace-keeping.

While this review is not devoted to media reports, surely the award for the most understated news event of the year goes to the US invasion of Syria. Indeed, the mainstream media in North America and Europe did not even deem it worth mentioning that sending troops into another nation’s sovereign territory, uninvited and in support of armed insurgents who aim to overthrow that nation’s government, is the most serious act of aggression under international law. Compare this to Russia not sending its troops into Ukraine, and then judge how Western politicians and media acolytes routinely speak of “Russian aggression”. The non-existent invasion is apparently worse than the actual one.

Canada in Africa

Top 10 things you didn’t know about Canada in Africa”
By Yves Engler, YvesEngler.com, August 17, 2015
One sample: “9. Canada trained the army command that overthrew Ghanaian independence leader Kwame Nkrumah and Canada’s high commissioner privately celebrated the coup”.

Romeo Dallaire in Rwanda: The Myth Continues”
By Yves Engler. Dissident Voice, December 28, 2015
Extract: “the distortion of the Rwandan tragedy continues to have political impacts today. It has given ideological cover to dictator Paul Kagame’s repeated invasions of the Congo and domestic repression. In addition, this foreign policy myth has been used to justify foreign military intervention as is the case with the current political crisis in Burundi. The myth of Dallaire in Rwanda is also cited to rationalize the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, when, in fact the true story illustrates the inevitable duplicitousness of foreign interventions”.

Harper’s violation of international law in Libya”
By Yves Engler, Rabble.ca, August 28, 2015
Extract: “Since the start of the Canadian election campaign a series of posts have detailed the Harper Conservatives repeated abuse of power…But the widely disseminated list omitted what may be the Conservatives’ most flagrant – and far-reaching –lawbreaking. In 2011 Ottawa defied UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR) 1970 and 1973, which were passed amidst the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi’s four-decade rule in Libya. In direct contravention of these legally binding resolutions, Canadian troops were on the ground in the North African country….”

Africa: Canada’s Military Footprint in Africa”
By Yves Engler, AllAfrica, September 8, 2015
Extract: “Unlike the US or France, Canada is not a leading military force in Africa. But Ottawa exerts influence through a variety of means including training initiatives. Canadian Forces have trained hundreds of African soldiers at the Canadian Army Doctrine and Training Centre in Kingston Ontario and Lester B. Pearson Centre in Nova Scotia. Canadian forces have also directed or participated in a slew of officer training initiatives, running courses in Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Mali among other places. In recent years Ottawa has funded and staffed various military training centres across the continent…”

Anthropology and Empire

From New Directions in Anthropological Research for 2015:

The Foundations of Colonial Anthropology”
By Émile St-Pierre, October 21, 2015

The Importance of Context in Goody’s Expansive Moment
By Aaron Barcant, October 21, 2015

“Patterson on Anthropology in the Postwar Era: How Research is Directed by and Serves the State”
By Tristan Biehn, November 12, 2015

The Search for Social Order at Home and Abroad”
By Kyle McLoughlin, November 12, 2015

“ ‘Anthropology As A War Weapon’: The Instrumentalization of Anthropological Knowledge During WWII”
By Catherine Ashley Dumont, November 25, 2015

Keeping the Home Fires Burning: Anthropology Goes to the White House”
By Tom MacDonald, November 25, 2015

“The ‘noble war’ narrative and the problem with focusing on personal moral choices”
By Guillaume T. Boily, December 5, 2015

Humanitarian Imperialism

Humanitarian Intervention and The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) as an Instrument, Extension and Continuation of Neo-Colonialism and Post-Modern Imperialism: The Libyan Case (2011)”
By Paul Alexander Haegeman, edited by Joaquin Flores, Center for Syncretic Studies, May 2, 2015
Extract: “I will be drawing on Aspects of International Law and International Relations to frame the position that the Libyan intervention was an exercise in Imperial real-politik legitimized by an enfeebled United Nations, one that added another notch to the already questionable legitimacy of the authority of the United Nations when speaking on behalf of an abstract “international community”. Issues pertaining to peace and security, sovereignty and self-determination, decolonization and post-colonialism, etc., being uncomfortable bed-fellows with a declared right to intervene on behalf of a people whose state apparatuses has failed to ensure their civil liberties and human rights, provides damning evidence through the disparity between state practice and rhetoric of an instrumentalized form of human rights protection. More specifically I will be looking at the origins of International Law and its relationship with Imperialism and Colonization, opining that the concept of R2P (RtoP) was likely to have been developed as a foreign policy tool for the Great Powers to provide them with a veneer of legitimacy in international law, shrouding Acts of Aggression and for by-passing the violation of the principle of the non-use of force.”

Quick to the Rescue: Humanitarian Intervention in Libya”
Clotilde Asangna, e-IR, November 9, 2015
Extract: “While humanitarian aims have been cited as the ultimate purpose of the intervention, I argue that the decision-making process that guided resolution 1973 was based on national interests, realpolitik calculations, geo-strategic considerations and domestic politics. These reasons while plausible, do not quite justify the morality of the mission….”

Terror Inc. and the War on Libya”
By Mark Taliano, Global Research, January 26, 2015
Extract: “ ‘Human rights’ or ‘democracy’ have nothing to do with current wars of conquest except that these words are used as cover to hide institutionalized mass murder and theft. In fact, human rights and democracy are usually the first casualties of any invasion. The ‘West’, however, understands the value of these words to sell wars which invariably destroy ‘non-compliant’ secular governments in favour of divisive fundamentalist regimes”.

The War on Syria: Foreign intervention has only worsened the situation in Syria”
By Patrick Higgins, Jacobin, August 27, 2015
Extract: “But far too often the demand to “do something” sidesteps what has already been done — there is a foundational assumption that the ruin and bloodshed of this terrible war have been produced by inaction. Take as an example Nader Hashemi and Danny Postel, heads of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver. Their edited collection, The Syria Dilemma, hopes to present an “array of contending perspectives [reflecting] the profound dilemma that Syria confronts us with.” What perspectives have they set into contention with one another? Most are united by a call for some projection of American power. Familiar interventionist tropes are presented. Responsibility to Protect (R2P) receives frequent mention. The book cites the Bosnia example at least eight times, along with mentions of Rwanda….”

“A Response to the ‘Cruise Missile Left’”
By Patrick Higgins, CounterPunch, September 4, 2015
Extract: “Few things elicit outrage in the United States more than the suggestion that the overseas horrors flooding its news media were actually caused by the United States. I learned this lesson again over the previous week, after publishing an article in Jacobin Magazine arguing that the Syrian “crisis” is not an accident, but rather the result of deliberate US policy aimed at destroying the country. Unhappy with the possibility that they are complicit in, rather than mere concerned spectators of, the horrors unfolding overseas, several writers took to their respective publications and blogs to denounce me. I find the reactions to my piece, undergirded by a touching faith in the honesty and the relative goodness of the US empire, both instructive and symptomatic….”

The Role of Proxy Terror”
By Donny Diggins, Cats, Not War, August 22, 2015
Extract: “With on the one hand common images of Syrian ruin, blood, and death, and on the other hand images of inspiring chants and graffiti, have come demands for moral performance rather than political analysis, a shaming discourse set on preventing anti-imperialist movements from doing what they are intended to do—that is, from opposing imperialist aggression, and in the case of Syria, opposing wider war. But at the center of moral performance is, more often than not, moral idiocy, a response to social pressures premised on the assumption that sound morality is the product of shared grief and literal reaction….”

The Problem With Human Rights Organizations”
By Neve Gordon & Nicola Perugini, CounterPunch, June 30, 2015
Extract: “We do not assume, as many human rights practitioners and scholars do, that more human rights necessarily lead to more emancipation. Indeed, the assumption that people would believe in human rights if only they better understood human rights work is misguided. Human rights can, and often do, enhance domination. This issue becomes particularly urgent when NGOs that purport to criticize abuse align themselves with the very powers they investigate and criticize”.

The dark side of human rights: Using ‘human rights’ and international law to legitimate violence”
By Azeezah Kanji, Rabble.ca, August 13, 2015
Extract: “If human rights and international law have been ineffective in challenging the structural underpinnings of settler colonialism, they have also been employed by Israel to strengthen these same structures. Israel claims adherence to international law in its colonial project, in order to promote its onslaughts of fatal violence as legal, legitimate, and ethical….”

The European Crisis”
By Michael Walzer, Dissent, September 11, 2015
We do not endorse the author’s opinion, which is an argument for recolonization.
Extract: “I have a utopian solution, which is also politically incorrect. There are countries in the world today that ought to be, for a time, not-independent and not-sovereign. What the world needs, and what the UN might provide if it were the organization it was meant to be: a new trusteeship system for countries that are temporarily unable to govern themselves. The old mandate system of the League of Nations was not a great success, but it did not produce, and perhaps it prevented, disasters like the ones we are helplessly watching today. For the last decade and a half, Kosovo has been a kind of NATO trust—again, not a glorious example, for refugees are still fleeing, but at least the killing has stopped. So perhaps it isn’t crazy to suggest that Libya and Syria ought to be UN trusteeships, with some coalition of countries, different in each case, taking responsibility for maintaining law and order and providing basic services to the population—under strict UN supervision. I hesitate to suggest the countries that might serve as trustees, since I wouldn’t want to vouch for any country’s trustworthiness. But great virtue isn’t necessary, only a readiness to stop the killing, get rid of the killers, and provide enough stability for the citizens of the war-ravaged countries to begin rebuilding. That has to be their work.”

The Official Rwanda Story Unravels”
By Andy Piascik, CounterPunch, July 15, 2015
Extract: “For two decades, Western elites have spun a tale of how Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame heroically ended the 1994 genocide in that country. That narrative has persisted despite the fact that a great deal of evidence shows that Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) did much of the killing and has committed extraordinary levels of violence in neighboring Congo since invading that country not long after seizing power. The recent BBC telecast of ‘Rwanda: The Untold Story’ indicates that the truth about Kagame may finally be penetrating the mainstream. ‘Rwanda: The Untold Story’ presents much information that contradicts the official narrative, specifically that the dramatic escalation in violence began not in April 1994 but in October 1990 when the RPF invaded from its outposts in Uganda; that RPF forces killed tens of thousands of people in the 42-month period from the invasion to April 1994; and that the RPF is responsible for the deaths of several hundred thousand more Rwandans during the three month period of bloodshed in 1994”.

“Mythology, Barrel Bombs, and Human Rights Watch”
By Paul Larudee, CounterPunch, July 21, 2015
Extract: “To read Human Rights Watch and the western mainstream media, the Syrian government army is inflicting massive casualties upon the Syrian civilian population, most especially through the use of “barrel bombs”. Thousands of bombs have been dropped, inflicting thousands of casualties. But wait a minute. Doesn’t that imply one casualty per bomb?”

About Those Chlorine Gas Attacks in Syria”
By Rick Sterling, CounterPunch, April 3, 2015
Extract: “We have a strange situation where ‘human rights’ groups are demanding foreign intervention in Syria via a ‘No Fly Zone’ while military leaders are expressing caution saying ‘hold on…do you realize that’s an act of war?’ The humanitarian interventionists may feel righteous in their cause, but they should be held accountable when it leads to disaster and tragedy as we saw in Libya. After decades of wars and occupation based on deception, exaggeration and outright lies, it’s past time to demand proof of accusations and to be skeptical regarding any call for military action”.

Love For Libya: 2011-2015”
By the Editor, Media Lens, March 18, 2015
Extract: “Then [in 2011], the media lens hovered obsessively over every Libyan government crime – indeed, over every alleged and even predicted crime – in an effort to justify a Nato ‘intervention’ that was supported by most media and 557 British MPs, with just 13 opposed. ‘We have to do something’, we were told. The results are summed up by the single fact that ‘about 1.8 million Libyans – nearly a third of the country’s population – have fled to Tunisia’. Civilians have been ‘driven away by random shelling and shooting, as well as shortages of cash, electricity and fuel’, with conditions ‘only worsening’…”

Economic Imperialism & US Financial Hegemony

The Global Currency Wars”
By Jack Rasmus, CounterPunch, March 13, 2015
Extract: “Capitalists have begun fighting over a smaller export economic pie. That fight has set in motion global currency wars, and a crash of interest rates into negative territory as well, the consequences of which may prove highly risky and are yet unknown. Finally, the resort to economic sanctions as a inter-capitalist competitive measure, while taking the apparent form of a political event, in fact also represents a shift to a more risky long term form of inter-capitalist competition between entire macro-regions of the global capitalist economy”.

China’s Bank & Waning USA Hegemony”
By Jack Rasmus, TeleSur, March 28, 2015
Extract: “Two events occurred last week that mark a further phase in the waning of US global economic hegemony: China introduced its own Economic Development Bank, the ‘Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank’ (AIIB); the IMF simultaneously announced it will decide in May to include the Chinese currency as a global reserve-trading currency alongside the dollar, pound, and euro—an almost certainly ‘done deal’ as well”.

Military Imperialism

NATO is Building Up for War”
By Brian Cloughley, CounterPunch, April 3, 2015
Extract: “In spite of the horror of NATO’s Libyan catastrophe one does have to have a quiet smile about Ivo H. Daalder and James G Stavridis whose deeply researched analysis in the journal Foreign Affairs in 2012 was titled ‘NATO’s Victory in Libya.’ These sages declared that “NATO’s operation in Libya has rightly been hailed as a model intervention . . . NATO’s involvement in Libya demonstrated that the alliance remains an essential source of stability . . . NATO may not be able to replicate its success in Libya in another decade. NATO members must therefore use the Chicago summit to strengthen the alliance by ensuring that the burden sharing that worked so well in Libya — and continues in Afghanistan today — becomes the rule, not the exception.”

Imperialist Powers Prepare Another Military Intervention in Libya”
By Jean Shaoul, Global Research, August 5, 2015
Extract: “A joint US-European mission to Libya involving soldiers from six countries is being hatched under the pretext of combating Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and with the aim of establishing a pliant pro-Western government and ‘stabilising’ the country”.

Worse Than Benghazi: Benghazi is a sideshow. Hillary Clinton’s real scandal is her role in pushing the war against Libya”
By David Mizner, Jacobin, July 17, 2015
Extract: “…it indicts those who bought and hawked the humanitarian case — a group that includes scores of prominent liberals and leftists. Consistent with their collective quiet on Libya since 2011, liberal-left pundits and media outlets have mostly ignored the recent news except to object to the Right’s attacks on Clinton. For loyal Democrats and liberal ironists, including many who supported the US war on Libya, ‘Benghazi’ is a joke about GOP obsession. For Libyans, Benghazi is a ravaged city in a ravaged country. Libya’s decimation was the inevitable result of the removal of its government, and the removal of its government was the express goal of the US-NATO war. To build support for the military offensive, American officials lied about the humanitarian threat posed by Qaddafi; to execute it, they empowered and armed an opposition coalition they knew was rife with al-Qaeda allies and other reactionary forces….”

Hillary Clinton’s Neocon Legacy: Coups, Dictators, Corruption, Chaos, Executions and Assassination”
By David William Pear, The Real News, July 13, 2015
Extract: “Hillary approved, participated, celebrated and laughed at the destruction of Libya, and the deaths and misery of its people. NATO and coalition planes flew over 14,000 bombing sorties, most of them against Tripoli, Misrata and Sirte (see map). There was no threat of genocide in Benghazi by Gaddafi, as Hillary claimed. It was another hoax for the U.S. to go to war. The illegal war on Libya was a blatant regime change cooked up in Washington by neocons like Hillary. The overthrow of Gaddafi did result in the genocide of black African foreign workers by racist Islamic fundamentalists, backed by NATO bombs and CIA boots on the ground. The real scandal of Benghazi that the main stream media either did not get or did not care about was the CIA presents in Libya. We now know that one mission the CIA had was to round up the treasure trove of Gaddafi’s weapons and ship them to Syria via Turkey”.

Abolish the Military: On Veterans Day, we should honor those killed and injured in past US wars by stopping future ones”
By Greg Shupak, Jacobin, November 11, 2015
Extract: “Despite its horrific record, some progressives persist in believing that the US military can be used to liberate women, build democracy, and protect human rights. NATO’s 2011 intervention in Libya is just another example of the misguided tendency to view the United States military as the armed wing of Amnesty International”.

The Wicked War on Syria: Hillary Clinton in Her Own Words”
By Rick Sterling, Dissident Voice, September 29, 2015
Extract: “How did we get to this point with half the Syrian population (almost 12 million) displaced and under-populated but huge areas of Syria now controlled by ISIS, Al Qaeda (Nusra) and other fanatical fundamentalist groups? Hillary Clinton’s 2014 book Hard Choices reveals important information about the first years of the Syrian conflict and how we got where we are today. Clinton’s account conveys the perception, priorities and bias at the top level of the Obama Administration…”

Military to Military”
By Seymour Hersh, London Review of Books, 38(1), 2016, pp. 11-14
Extract: “Barack Obama’s repeated insistence that Bashar al-Assad must leave office – and that there are ‘moderate’ rebel groups in Syria capable of defeating him – has in recent years provoked quiet dissent, and even overt opposition, among some of the most senior officers on the Pentagon’s Joint Staff. Their criticism has focused on what they see as the administration’s fixation on Assad’s primary ally, Vladimir Putin. In their view, Obama is captive to Cold War thinking about Russia and China, and hasn’t adjusted his stance on Syria to the fact both countries share Washington’s anxiety about the spread of terrorism in and beyond Syria; like Washington, they believe that Islamic State must be stopped”.

Former DIA Chief Michael Flynn Says Rise of Islamic State was ‘a willful decision’ and Defends Accuracy of 2012 Memo”
By Brad Hoff, Levant Report, August 6, 2015
Extract: “…former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Michael Flynn confirms to Mehdi Hasan that not only had he studied the DIA memo predicting the West’s backing of an Islamic State in Syria when it came across his desk in 2012, but even asserts that the White House’s sponsoring of radical jihadists (that would emerge as ISIL and Nusra) against the Syrian regime was ‘a willful decision.’ Amazingly, Flynn actually took issue with the way interviewer…posed the question—Flynn seemed to want to make it clear that the policies that led to the rise of ISIL were not merely the result of ignorance or looking the other way, but the result of conscious decision making…”

Cultural Imperialism

American Exceptionalism in the New Gilded Age”
By Paul Street, CounterPunch, April 10, 2015
Extract: “For me, observing the term’s habitual use by US political and media personalities and some intellectuals, the phrase has two basic and interrelated meanings when it is employed by those ‘leaders.’ The first such connotation holds that the United States is unique among world history’s great powers in the fundamentally benevolent, democratic, humanitarian, and non- and even anti-imperial intention and nature of its foreign policies – of its actions abroad”.

What the FIFA scandal really tells us – about the US”
By Simon Reich, The Conversation, June 1, 2015
Extract: “trust the Americans to inject themselves in such an unorthodox way into the nearest thing that the rest of the world has to a universal religion. While billions watched the annual cup finals in England, France and Spain over the weekend, the bigger stories in the US focused on fraud, corruption and the reelection of FIFA’s notorious 79-year-old president, Sepp Blatter….In the FIFA case, the US has decided to act as a sheriff and vowed ‘to end graft in FIFA.’ It has exercised its power well beyond its shores, in the posh confines of Zurich, Switzerland – demonstrating what the lawyers called ‘extraterritoriality.’ On the – let’s face it – relatively flimsy basis that money was moved through US banks, it had people arrested across the globe. And even when some returned to their home countries, it used local courts to press its demands for extradition – Jack Warner in Trinidad being one notable example”.

Russian Crackdown? Russian universities want to internationalize, but a broader campaign on foreign funding and influence isn’t helping”
By Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Ed, July 22, 2015
Extract: “Does a continuing crackdown on foreign influences in Russia threaten to interrupt the internationalization agendas of the country’s top universities? The recent removal of an American as vice rector of Lobachevsky State University of Nizhni Novgorod after the host of a state television show questioned why a Russian university would have an American in such a senior position has been widely viewed as chilling, as has a remark by Russian President Vladimir V. Putin describing foreign organizations offering scholarships as ‘vacuum cleaners’ sucking up and taking away talented Russian students….”

You’re watching Pentagon propaganda: ‘American Idol,’ ‘Ice Road Truckers’ and the truth about your favorite shows—A series of FOIA requests reveals just how wide-ranging the Defense Department’s influence in Hollywood really is”
By Zaid Jilani, Salon, Jul 31, 2015
Extract: “the military is virtually everywhere in our arts and entertainment looking for a way to promote its public relations agenda: The sheer scale of the Army and the Air Force’s involvement in TV shows, particularly reality TV shows, is the most remarkable thing about these files. ‘American Idol,’ ‘The X-Factor,’ ‘Masterchef,’ ‘Cupcake Wars,’ numerous Oprah Winfrey shows, ‘Ice Road Truckers,’ ‘Battlefield Priests,’ ‘America’s Got Talent,’ ‘Hawaii Five-O,’ lots of BBC, History Channel and National Geographic documentaries, ‘War Dogs,’ ‘Big Kitchens’ — the list is almost endless. Alongside these shows are blockbuster movies like Godzilla, Transformers, Aloha and Superman: Man of Steel”.

The destructive legacy of Arab liberals”
Joseph Massad, The Electronic Intifada, March 30, 2015
Extract: “Their emergence on the scene in the late 1950s and in the 1960s, before the war, was part of the American-sponsored ‘cultural Cold War,’ which financed intellectuals across the world for the anti-communist and anti-socialist liberal imperial crusade that also targeted anti-imperialist Third World nationalisms. This was part and parcel of the Eisenhower Doctrine, which the Americans inaugurated in 1957 to intervene militarily and in every other way in the Middle East to fend off Soviet influence….Many of these liberal Arab intellectuals were lackeys of US intelligence and they and their newspapers were financed by the US and Gulf regimes, especially the Saudis. They would exalt the virtues of the liberal West against Soviet and non-Soviet forms of communism and socialism and would attack Nasserist Arab nationalism”.

From Academia to Hackademia: Hamid Dabashi as Native Informer”
By Wahid Azal, CounterPunch, September 15, 2015
Extract: “Dabashi’s own 2012 publication The Arab Spring is a veritable testament to the sort of irresponsible, pie-in-the-sky, hypocritical naiveté of this particular subculture of establishment First World leftists entrenched inside the Western Academy with their muddled (and often totally incorrect) theorizing and deliberate misreadings: erroneous geopolitical theorizing and misreadings with consequences (due to how they form popular perceptions and consensus) which have played right into the hands of Empire and its agendas at every juncture time and again…”

With Enemies Like This, Imperialism Doesn’t Need Friends”
By Dan Glazebrook, CounterPunch, March 16, 2015
Extract: “Does Dabashi not understand that European ‘news’ outlets use such dehumanising terminology in order to demonise, not just the leaders, but the entire populations on which they rain their hellfire missiles? Does he have no compunction in his role as an echo chamber for colonial arrogance, lending a veneer of non-white credibility to imperial massacres?…But it is on Libya – subject to the bloodiest bombing campaign since the invasion of Iraq – that really belie Dabashi’s claims to be a ‘decolonial’ scholar”.