James Petras is Binghamton University, New York Professor Emeritus of Sociology. Besides his long and distinguished academic career, he's a noted figure on the left, a well-respected Latin American expert, and a longtime chronicler of the region' popular struggles. He's also a prolific author of hundreds of articles and dozens of books, most recently his new one titled, "Global Depression and Regional Wars" addressing America, Latin America and the Middle East.
Variety's famous October 30, 1929 headline is again relevant: "Wall Street Lays an Egg," or as economist Rick Wolff puts it: "Capitalism hit the fan" following a familiar pattern of boom and bust cycles punctuated by bubbles that always burst. Petras explains it this way:
"All the idols of capitalism over the past three decades have crashed. The assumptions and presumptions, paradigms and prognosis of indefinite progress under liberal free market capitalism have been tested and have failed. We are living the end of an entire epoch (and bearing witness to) the collapse of the US and world financial system."
Grim prospects are ahead:
— a world depression with one-fourth of the labor force unemployed;Today's global crisis reflects an unsustainable system - crisis-prone, unstable, anarchic, ungovernable, self-destructive, and eventually doomed to collapse. Its early death throes may now be audible - despite intense "psycho-babble" reengineering of facts to portray the current situation as a "failure of leadership....lack of understanding....willful ignorance of what markets need, (and) loss of confidence."
— global trade in free fall;
— a proliferation of bankruptcies with General Motors a metaphor for a decaying system;
— free-market capitalism in disrepute; and
— "planning, public ownership, nationalization(s and other) socialist alternatives have become almost respectable" because most sacred cow "truisms" and solutions have failed.
Samuel Boswell explained that "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." Perhaps "psycho-babble" is its equivalent for "capitalist ideologues, academics, (self-styled) experts, and financial page editorialists, all of whom use "shoddy economic arguments" to pump life into a bankrupt ideology - one based on:
— repeated boom and bust cycles;Today's crisis is systemic - "embedded in the contradiction between impoverished labor and concentrated capital" gone wild. "The current world depression is a product of the 'over-accumulation' process of the capitalist system in which the crash of the financial system was the 'detonator' but not the structural determinant: the exploitation of labor" that sooner or later bites back. The longer capital interests pillage state resources at their expense, the less tolerant they'll be for mass unemployment, homes and savings lost, grim futures, and the end of the American dream. Then, watch out.
— unsustainable growth to stay viable;
— direct foreign investment for the highest rates of return, producing a race to the bottom the result of some nations benefitting at the expense of others and all of them eventually losing out;
— technological advances for "greater social and political power;"
— pillaging countries, crushing labor, cutting wages, and limiting or ending social services;
— privatizing "public enterprises, land, resources and banks;" and
— reducing governments to servants of business with America the hub of the corporate universe.
The World Depression: A Class Analysis
"It is a well-known truism that those who caused (today's) crisis are also (the) greatest beneficiaries of government largesse." Rulers create crises. Workers pay for them.
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Since the early 1970s, capitalism went global at the expense of workers experiencing "a relative and absolute decline in (their) share of material income" and well-being. As business consolidated more power, it began "exercis(ing) near absolute control over the location and movements of capital" as well as the ability to exploit labor globally in newly industrialized countries like China, the Asian subcontinent, capitalist Russia, former Soviet republics, and undeveloped ones in Central America and elsewhere.
Huge profits came at the expense of growing inequality from wealth transfers to the rich. A race to the bottom cut wages and benefits, and lower living standards resulted from "the (permanent) conversion from high wage/high skill manufacturing jobs to lower-paid service" ones.
Financialization-caused speculative excesses were fueled by cheap credit and lax regulations. Bubbles resulted producing inevitable collapse. First felt "at the bottom of the speculative chain," they reached the biggest banks responsible for the crisis and major corporations as well - "all of which had been deeply engaged in leveraged buyouts and acquisitions" as well as other unsustainable excesses.
Depression indicators are everywhere, and the parallels to the early 1930s are ominous:
— business bankruptcies up 64% from a year earlier; household ones up 33%;
— according to the IMF, global banks must write down $4.1 trillion, two-thirds of which is yet to come; loss estimates will likely go higher given the state of world economies and enormity of their toxic asset portfolios -at yearend 2008, around $680 trillion, according to the Bank for International Settlements (BIS);
— worldwide financial assets have already plunged by over $50 trillion - the equivalent of annual global output;
— America's estimated 2009 budget deficit will be about 12.3% of GDP, a recklessly high ratio "that will ultimately ruin public finances;"
— world financial markets have plunged since peaking in mid to late 2007, and respected experts say the end of this cycle is far from over despite expected rallies they call bear traps;
— world trade has collapsed causing industrial output to plummet;
— direct foreign investment to "less developed capitalist countries....were predicted to shrink by 82% and credit flows by $30 billion USD;" and
— America's economy is experiencing its worst decline since the 1930s with GDP, exports, retail sales, construction activity, capital goods investment, and other indicators down sharply; the only one rising is unemployment - according to the Labor Department U-6 measure (including categories left out of the headlined lower U-3 figure), it's 16.5%; economist John Williams' reverse engineered data has it at nearly 21% and rising, and all other economic indicators much worse than official numbers.
The conclusion is clear - all "signs point to a deep and prolonged depression," worse still by current economic policies reflecting "the most drastic curtailment in public spending in American history," according to Michel Chossudovsky. It's a "War Budget (affecting) all major federal (programs except): 1. Defense and the Middle East War(s and whatever new ones are planned); 2. the Wall Street bank bailout, (and) 3. Interest payments (of around $500 billion annually) on a staggering (growing) public debt."
The toll is enormous. "Rising business inventories, declining investment, (business and household) bankruptcies, foreclosures, insolvent banks, massive accumulative losses, restricted access to credit, falling asset values, and a 20% reduction in household wealth (amounting to trillions of dollars) are the cause and consequence of the depression" that promises to be deep and protracted.
Globalization's toxic effects have exacerbated the crisis. Linked together under WTO rules and finance capital, what affects one nation affects all, directly or indirectly, to a greater or lesser degree. "At the same time, regions" were positioned differently so "the effects on them varied substantially."
Brazil is faring poorly due to "its high velocity fall in exports and industrial production (and) All indications are that negative growth will persist and deepen during the rest of 2009." President Lula's privatization and globalization policies exacerbated Brazil's crisis. Everything is down except skyrocketing unemployment as growing hundreds of thousands lose jobs.
Growing poverty is also evident, including "5 million impoverished landless rural workers and the 10 million families living on a one-dollar-a-day food-basket handout (as well as) tens of millions of minimum wage workers living on $250 a month."
As the crisis deepens, new investments have stalled. Private credit evaporated. Foreign investment plunged, consumer spending declined, and what's true for Brazil affects other regional economies, especially in Central America and the Caribbean. Being "highly 'integrated' with the US and world economy (they're) experiencing the full force" of its collapse, including rising poverty, crime, and "a potential for popular social upheavals against the incumbent right and center-left governments....The depression demonstrates with crystal clarity the pitfalls of imperial-centered globalization and the stark absence of any remedies for its collaborators in Latin America."
It also augurs change with hard times "spurring the return of the nation-state, as 'de-globalization' accelerates." It's for Latin America to refocus, declare globalization dead, and democratically generate wealth and employment broadly, not shift it upward to the usual recipients.
Eastern Europe and the Ex-communist Countries
These nations experienced hardline shock therapy full force - a destructive cocktail of deregulation, mass-privatizations, state enterprise closings, wage cuts and loss of benefits, wealth transfers to the rich, millions thrown out of work, repressive laws to contain resulting unrest, unrestricted access for foreign corporations to pillage local economies, and arranging their need for foreign investment and credit under terms they negotiate for their own benefit.
As a result, when Western economies crashed, so did Eastern European ones, leaving them dependent on the IMF and other international lending agencies "on onerous terms" favoring capital over people. The same pattern played out globally, including in America where the Fed and Treasury direct public wealth to the top, mainly the giant Wall Street banks that plundered the country and are free to keep doing it, given that Obama facilitates the process.
Asia: The End of the Illusions of De-coupling and Autonomous Growth
"The Great Depression of 2009 (hit) every economy in Asia," including Japan, China, India, and Tiger countries showing even the mighty aren't immune, given their dependency on export, financial and commodity markets. The global crisis left them vulnerable to lost trade followed by production cuts, bankruptcies, negative growth, mass-unemployment, and millions thrown overboard into deep poverty. Large public capital injections haven't been able to turn sick economies around.
Doing it requires measures not taken - shifting "capital back from private real estate, stock markets and overseas bond purchases (like US Treasuries)....to finance universal health care, education and pensions and the restoration of land to productive use rather than (to) real estate (and other) speculation." Instead strategies are based on "the usual capitalist solution" - aiding the privileged at the expense of all others in a part of the world where many countries have no safety net and those with them made big cutbacks. The human fallout is immense, much as in other parts of the world and America.
The Middle East: Depression and Regional Wars
Its crisis is rooted in Israel's belligerency and collapse of commodity prices, namely oil that recently made a modest recovery but may soon sink again given weak demand.
Large producers like the Saudis reap huge revenues even during hard times, then (re-cyle them) into large-scale finance, real estate and military purchases." US Treasuries also that finance our militarism, public debt, corporate takeovers, and speculative excesses creating bubbles, economic crises, and resulting global fallout.
Regional collapse "began with the frenzied commodity oil boom between 2004 - 2008 (that fueled) a construction and real estate boom - and the accumulation of debt and labor importation." Crisis followed with growing deficits replacing budget and trade surpluses. With lower oil prices producing less capital, prospects for near-term recovery remain dim, much like they do worldwide.
Israeli destabilization exacerbates the problem by "projecting its power and colonial ambitions throughout the region" - greatly reinforced by Washington's enormous support.
An Unprecedented Crisis
Its depth and severity have taken a toll on rich and developing countries alike and will for many years to come. As for America, the depression "takes place in the context of a de-industrialized economy, unprecedented public debt, multi-trillion dollar foreign debt and well over $800 billion dollars committed in military expenditures for several ongoing wars and occupations." These factors exacerbate the current situation, leaving it vulnerable to hard times ahead.
No previous crisis resembles it. Solutions adopted are counterproductive, the result being "the most rapid and widespread reduction of living standards and mass impoverishment in recent US history" - perhaps ever, as never before has so much been done for so few at the expense of throwing so many overboard.
The Failure to Address the Structural Basis of the Crisis
As explained above, Obama's economic measures will exacerbate, not improve (let alone reverse) current conditions. Instead of closing, nationalizing, or breaking up insolvent banks, he's looting the nation's Treasury to reward them for the crisis they caused and should be held criminally responsible. As important, recapitalizing them won't work. They'll need continued cash infusions, and resources wasted on them aren't available for real productive use. Thus, the economy will keep weakening, and millions more Americans will lose jobs, homes, savings and futures. So far, Obama has done virtually nothing to help them beyond rhetorically saying he cares.
The General Motors bankruptcy highlights capitalism's failure. It also augurs war on working Americans, about to be downgraded to lower pay, fewer benefits, and for growing numbers opportunities only in the military or unskilled, low-paying service jobs - if they can find them. Obama's economic agenda is turning America and other developed nations into Guatamala - so far with no uproar great enough to stop him. In addition, he's destroying, not creating, jobs because no public investment is allocated for it.
Instead, he's "channel(ling) billions toward the privately owned telecommunication, construction, environmental and energy corporations, where the bulk of the government funds go to salaries and bonuses for senior management and staff and provide profits to stock holders, while" mere crumbs go to wage earners.
Economic regeneration and reversing past failures are off the table. Rewarding corporate predators takes precedence along with stepped up imperial adventurism and the enormous sums it costs. Speculative excesses will continue. Budget deficits and the national debt have soared to stratospheric and unsustainable levels. Wealth disparities will persist and increase. Human deprivation will grow. Obama promised change. Instead, he's "totally committed to saving the capitalist class and the US empire" at the expense of ignored worker needs.
His failed agenda is highlighted by:
— today's economic structure "which once generated employment, profits and growth (but) no longer exists;"
— so-called "stimulus" benefits to Wall Street and other favored industries, not people where they'll do the most good; and
— what's directed to these sectors denies help to households that comprise 70% of GDP; "the only (way to) increas(e) demand and stimulat(e) recovery is to restore the purchasing power of working Americans."
Rebalancing the economy depends on stimulating demand through "direct state ownership and long-term, large-scale investment in the production of goods and social services." It also requires "Dismantling the entire financial speculative 'superstructure' " responsible for the current crisis and will cause future ones if allowed to keep operating.
Real productive investment and growth must replace destructive financialization - a fraud-laden casino operation generating great wealth for privileged bankers but few others. Other vital change requires:
— retraining FIRE sector and other employees for productive new jobs; and
— dismantling America's military empire; downsizing the Pentagon; slashing the defense budget, closing hundreds of global bases abroad and at home, and ending alliances with belligerent foreign powers; then redirecting those funds for productive use.
"Reversing domestic decay requires the end of empire and the construction of a democratic socialist republic." Today's America is fundamentally flawed, corrupted, unsustainable, and heading for demise if not reversed in time.
The Basic Priority of Public Policy: A Better Life for All
Egalitarianism defines it, something missing in America's roots, so it's high time it got there with little time to waste. Democratic socialism "is a means to a better material life (as reflected in) higher living standards, greater political freedom, social equality of conditions, and internal and external security." Successful socialist states effectively serve the majority of workers. They use internal resources for their own needs, not licensed for foreign predators to exploit them for profit unavailable for domestic use.
"Capitalism thrives on social inequalities." Socialism strives for equality, lessening poverty, providing essential services, and helping the most needy with subsidies and other benefits. Policies must include:
— "massive investment in quality housing, household appliances, public transport, environmental concerns and infrastructure;"
— economic diversification focusing on major investments in raw material industrialization, "producing quality goods of mass consumption....and in agriculture" - to efficiently address essential needs; and
— investment in education, health care, jobs creation, and other essential areas for public well-being.
Twenty-first century socialism must achieve "solidarity at home" with the general welfare as top priority. "Above all, socialism is about social equality - in income, schools and hospitals....between (and within) classes" and achieving it by "effectively re-distribut(ing) wealth and property to all workers, white and black, Indian farmer and urban worker, men and women, and young and old."
Bernard Madoff: Wall Street Swindler Strikes Powerful Blows for Social Justice
Consummate insider Madoff's clients represented a who's who of high net worth individuals and institutions, including banks, pension funds, universities, charities, insurers, other money managers, synagogues, his Palm Beach Country Club, and prominent figures like Thyssen family members, Senator Frank Lautenberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Liliane Bettencourt (called the world's wealthiest woman), and many others - over 4000 in all now poorer for the experience.
Until collapsing, he reputedly never had a losing year, a clear sign something was wrong, but as long as the good times lasted, who cared - including the SEC, advised of his Ponzi scheme but ignored it. The signals were obvious:
— "constant high returns;
— unmatched by any other broker;
— a lack of third party oversight;
— a backroom accounting firm physically incapable of auditing the multi-billion dollar operation;
— a broker-dealer operation directly under his thumb; and"
— an atmosphere of total secrecy.
Once exposed, it turned out that some of Wall Street's "biggest exploiters and smartest swindlers were completely 'taken' by one of their own....There is nothing worse for the ego of a respectable swindler than to be trumped" by an even bigger one and to have it go on for so long.
But consider the positive side, including:
— denting America's "Zionist funding of illegal Israeli colonial settlements in the Occupied Territories;"
— less for AIPAC to buy congressional influence;
— discrediting other speculative hedge fund operators;
— exposing the corrupted SEC that takes care of its own like all other so-called regulatory agencies - because they're run by officials from industries they regulate and return to them in high-paying jobs;
— Madoff having been a former Nasdaq chairman and NASD vice-chairman shows that stock exchange insiders ignore transgressions from one of their own because they have similar ones themselves to hide;
— less global inequality as mostly rich investors got taken;
— clear evidence that capital's golden rule is to produce more of it, even by fleecing other swindlers as well as close family members and friends;
— infamous slumlords, sweatshop owners, and predatory real estate moguls were had;
— anti-Semites were hurt - ones "who claim that there is a 'close-knit Jewish conspiracy to defraud Gentiles;' '
— "financial know-it-alls" also; and
— 51 major Jewish American organizations as well - receiving smaller contributions from their less well-healed supporters.
Madoff and others like him are "product(s) of a systemic imperative and (capitalism's) economic culture...." But give him credit. On his own, he "struck a bigger blow against global financial capital, Wall Street and the US Zionist Lobby/Israel First Agenda than the entire US and European Left combined over the past half century!" He "inadvertently rendered an historic service to popular justice by undermining some of the financial props of a class-ridden injustice system." Maybe he should receive a medal or at least a commemorative plaque.
The Election of the Greatest Con-Man in Recent History
On November 4, the nation exhaled. The Bush era ended and a new Obama one began. Celebratory exuberance followed this " 'historic moment,' a 'turning point' in American history," and why not. Forgetting past pledges made and broken, voters were mesmerized by promises of change, taxing the rich, ending the Iraq war and occupation, and delivering health care for all and other measures. Obama mania swept the country, but cooler heads saw other signals early on.
A "transformational presidency" wasn't to be nor was one planned. Throughout the campaign, "telltale signs of (Obama's) true orientation surfaced," including promising Zionists "more....than had ever been conceded by any previous US administration - inter alia, support for Israel's illegal annexation of greater East Jerusalem."
Once elected, Obama's transition team and key appointments included "political dregs who brought on the unending wars of the past two decades, and the economic policy makers responsible for the financial crash and the deepening recession afflicting tens of millions of Americans today and for the foreseeable future." Obama's election indeed marked a "historic moment in American history: the victory of the greatest con man and his accomplices and backers in recent history."
He promised peace but delivered war; trillions to corrupted bankers, not beneficial social change; millions of lost jobs, not new ones; handouts across the board to industry favorites, not vital help for the unemployed, homeless, impoverished, or states facing potential ruin.
"Obama, on a bigger stage, is the perfect incarnation of Melville's Confidence Man. He catches your eye while he picks your pocket. He gives thanks as he packs you off to fight wars in the Middle East...." He promises everything "while he empties your Social Security funds to bail out" Wall Street swindlers. "He appoints and praises the architects of collapsed pyramid schemes to high office while promising you that better days are ahead."
He promised change and delivered hell to tens of millions - the same agenda as George Bush and in some respects worse given the dire economy, no effort to fix it, expanded militarism, his first coup d'etat in Honduras, an attempted color revolution against Iran, destabilization mischief in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China, and recently introduced outlandish pro-corporate legislation and administration proposals, all harmful to millions of Americans.
He's surrounded by "a network of confidence people. They are a well-organized gang of prominent political operatives, money raisers, mass media hustlers, real estate moguls and academic pimps....joined and abetted by the elected officials and hacks of the Democratic Party." He represents privilege and disdain for working Americans. He's an avowed militarist, empire builder, and "unabashed Wall Street Firster," placing their agenda above all others.
Behind his smooth rhetoric, his agenda is firm and irreversible - an "abiding commitment to....military-driven empire building (and his Wall Street funders) even in the midst of a collapsing domestic economy and" growing deprivation for millions. How long they'll put up with it is the question.
Lessons from the Collapse of Wall Street
The fallout from today's economic collapse has been devastating. It includes:
— "The near bankruptcy of Social Security" as Treasury funds were looted for Wall Street bailouts;
— "The insecurity of private pension funds," the result of all of them having lost from 23 - 30% or more during the crisis;
— "The loss of a real economy manufacturing base" has transformed the country into a low wage and benefit service one, in many cases requiring few skills and no future; offshoring a "diversified manufacturing economy is the root cause of the collapse of the US financial system and the emerging long-term recession;" and
— Capital flight "from productive sectors to FIRE (and a) huge surge of (it) overseas" leaving the economy even more vulnerable.
Obama's domestic and foreign policies make economic recovery impossible, but "one thing is increasingly clear: his agenda is unsustainable; none of this can continue - whether the political and financial elite like it or not...The world's future is not safe in" the hands of the ruling oligarchy, and sooner or later an aroused public will assert itself. It's just a matter of time.
Latin America: Perspectives for Socialism in a Time of World Capitalist Recession/Depression
Economist Jack Rasmus calls the economic crisis an "epic recession," heading toward a full-blown depression. Petras calls it a "recession-depression (RD) because the negative growth of capitalism is a current ongoing process that is still in its opening phase," but moving in the same direction. Its unique features include:
— nearly all world economies are integrated under a common system - so-called free-market capitalism controlling production and world markets; as a result, they all sink or swim together to a greater or lesser degree;
— "The level of integration....is deeper and more widespread than ever before in history" so that good or bad times have a global effect;
— concentrated, centralized capital, especially in finance, reached unprecedented levels, heightening trouble in periods of hard times;
— the "size and extension of wage and salaried workers is qualitatively greater than any other period" in history;
— finance capitalism's dominance contributes to destructive boom and bust cycles;
— "Latin America's 'restructured' capitalist economy (anchored its growth) in agro-mineral exports," increasing its dependency "on overseas markets and diversified trading partners in Asia" like China;
— neoliberalism was strengthened in Latin America, and state policy was structured to "favor agro-mineral exporters and accommodate the poorest section through vast clientelistic 'poverty programs,' " and
— America's dominant finance capital led to:
(1) "de-capitalization of manufacturing;(2) the massive expansion of real estate speculation;(3) debt-financed consumer-based growth;(4) the stimulation of Asian manufacturing growth and exports; and(5) the boom in commodity production, exports and prices in Latin America."
Combined, the above factors fueled growth until 2007, followed by the subsequent collapse and deepening recession. America has been especially hard hit, and few prospects promise relief. All economic indicators point down, and households are so over-indebted they've been forced to curb their spending for the first time in decades. A combination of "Unemployment, bankruptcy, credit freeze, corporate losses and debt - a general depression - has devastated the domestic US economy" and spilled over into the rest of the world. Monetary and fiscal measures have been so misdirected they've failed.
All major banks are insolvent. Industry is flat on its back. Small and larger businesses are vulnerable to collapse. As economist Rick Wolff explains, "capitalism hit the fan." The entire system broke down and "no longer performs its most basic functions....to produce, lend, employ, consume, trade and house." Like other world regions, Latin America has been greatly impacted by weakened export markets, frozen credit, capital flight, and overall economic malaise.
All regional economies have felt the full brunt of the crisis - in terms of declining "trade, domestic production, investment, employment, state revenues and income. (As a result), bankruptcies will proliferate and state spending on social services will decline." Propping up banks and key businesses takes precedence. Public and private unemployment will thus grow. Wages and benefits will be cut. Latin America's "entire socio-economic class configuration (on which its growth model is based), is headed for a long-term, large scale transformation."
Trade unionists and social movements must act or lose relevance. With dominant business sectors needing state subsidies and debt relief, "workers, employees, small farmers and (common) businesspeople" are bearing the recession's brunt on their backs - through lower wages, reduced social services and state repression ready to crush resistance.
If trade unions aren't up to the task of bargaining for worker rights, "new forms of mass organizations of the semi-employed and unemployed workers will likely emerge" to do it in their place by applying direct action tactics - "paralyzing the roadways and transport networks, and occupying closed plants and public buildings," as in Argentina from 2000 - 2003.
Popular struggles "will be directed to conserve jobs, block mass layoffs and" occupy factories and enterprises. Greater state involvement may be demanded as recessionary effects deepen. During crisis-ridden times, renewed opportunities arise to advance social movements. With imperial capital power in decline and Washington struggling to preserve it, US-Latin American strains will grow.
The 1990 - 99 "Golden Age of Imperial Pillage" has passed. "Popular urban uprisings, massive rural movements, and the emergence of Indian-based takeovers of regional and local governments" replaced it - undermining America's influence and shifting the balance of power center-left even without "enforcing any fundamental changes in property or class relations."
From 2005 - 08, Washington focused on foreign wars and occupations, the Global War on Terror, and backing Israel's serial aggression. It freed Latin America "to pursue a more autonomous political agenda, including greater regional integrations...."
From 2008 to the present, grim economic times have prevailed. Regional exports, growth and reserves declined, but later than in America and Europe. Currently, however, Latin America is feeling the recession's full brunt that's sparing no country anywhere. A familiar regional pattern is repeating. Its "debt trap....awaits." It can't "sustain (or even stabilize its) growth...not in an ocean of depressed advanced capitalist countries" it depends on.
Capitalism and socialism are now weak. "The question becomes which side will be able to intervene, reorganize and recompose its forces to take advantage of the other." Recent mass mobilizations were in Argentina (1999 - 2003), "the Brazilian Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST - from 1985 - 2002, but in decline under Lula since 2003), and the Bolivian workers-peasant/Indian (2000, 2003 and 2005) urban insurrections."
Between 2000 - 2005, the most successful mobilizations occurred, followed by a relative decline from that time to the present as "fragmentation, dispersion and internal conflict among Leftist parties" limited their effectiveness. With "sectoral leadership" alone, and without independent financial and material resources, they're unable to exert power for social change.
As for relations with America, they're "profoundly influenced by political-economic-military contingencies, such as: war and peace, economic booms....recessions (and) crises, revolutions, uprisings and reactionary coups." Even so, all of Latin America, "from independent (Venezuela), autonomous competitive capitalist (Brazil), autonomous and critical (Bolivia), selective collaborator (Chile) to....imperial collaborators (Colombia, Mexico and Peru) operate within a capitalist economy and class system, in which market relations and the capitalist classes are still central players."
Obama's election changed nothing. He's as imperial as George Bush, but not without constraints. Given current conditions, Latin America is relegated to a "fifth level priority" after economic issues, military adventurism elsewhere, and other matters taking precedence. As a result, large-scale investments and loans won't be forthcoming. America's overreach weakens the region's ruling class and opens opportunities for the Left. It needs to focus on:
— "The central role that the domestic ruling class plays in sustaining the imperial edifice;"
— new alliances with European and Asian nations;
— the emergence of Brazil as a regional power and what effect it has on national and class struggles; and
— unifying "fragmented economic demands and (formulating them) into a socialist political program in the face of a (systemic) economic crisis and class-wide unemployment."
No easy solutions are apparent, but the "strategic advances of the Left in Latin America are found in its heritage of recent class victories over neo-liberalism, (America's current) weakness, and, above all, the deepening world recession." It's up to "conscious socialist political formations (to engage in popular) struggles capable of linking economic conditions to political action."
Part II continues Petras' analysis of the global depression, regional wars, and the decline of America's empire.
Part II continues Petras' analysis of the global depression, regional wars, and the decline of America's empire.
Obama's Latin American Policy
At all times under all administrations, policy, not rhetoric, defines priorities, and it's no different for Obama. With regards to Latin America and its people, he's been hostile and dismissive by:
— allocating half a billion dollars "in military and related aid" to aid the right wing Calderon regime and militarizing the US - Mexican border;
— on the pretext of fighting drugs trafficking and regional security, funding to Mexico and Colombia goes for military purposes; Colombia gets the most - billions under Plan Colombia; economic aid is ignored;
— beyond the timeline of Petras' book, Hugo Chavez and other regional leaders voiced concern over Washington's intention to supply Colombia with new weapons and technology, continued billions for the hardline "Uribe doctrine," and of greatest concern the plan to access seven new military bases - three airfields, two naval installations, and two army bases besides nine others currently stationing US forces all supplemented by the reactivated Fourth Fleet in April 2008;
— continuing US trade policies that have been devastating to regional farmers and peasants; likely new protectionist measures will hurt them more;
— practicing the same Bush anti-Latino immigrant policies with talk now about new legislation to harden them and establish a new bracero policy;
— targeting regional left of center regimes, including Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Cuba; the latter's long-standing embargo remains in place despite some relaxed travel and other restrictions; and
— maintaining a three-fold regional strategy:
(1) supporting hard right Colombian, Mexican and Peruvian regimes;
(2) aiming for more influence over centrist governments in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay; and
(3) "isolating and weakening leftists and populist governments" in Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua.
Overall, Obama is continuing the same Bush policies. Latin America remains a low priority, but military aid and an imperial agenda define it along with supporting the region's most hard right, repressive regimes. He also "talk(s) free markets while practicing protectionism," very typical of how America operates - one-way to benefit its corporate interests at the expense of its trading partners.
The current economic crisis added a new wrinkle. Obama is "absorbing most of the hemisphere's credit (for his) financial bailout," so regional exporters are hard-pressed to finance their operations. Capital repatriated to America's domestic market compounds the problem by extending and deepening Latin America's recession. "All the major countries in the region are headed toward negative growth (exacerbated by) double-digit unemployment, rising levels of poverty, and mass protests." They're vulnerable because of the "production and development strategies (they) adopted" with emphasis on "privatization of all key productive sectors."
Now in the face of their deepening crisis, center-left regimes (like in Brazil and Argentina) have made no or few provisions for unemployed workers, peasants, public employees and small business. Instead, (in pursuit of new markets and investors) "bankers, export elites and multi-national corporations" are favored as in America.
However, Venezuela's center-left regime pursued an alternate strategy, including nationalizing key sectors, protecting vital social ones like food, and expanding agrarian reform to increase production. Chavez vows to maintain social services and is practicing Keynesian policies to do it - large-scale public investments combined with subsidizing the most needy. Still, Venezuela's dependence on oil revenues makes it vulnerable to declining prices, something very much in play today that threatens social stability along with high inflation and "mal-distribution of income, property and power."
Overall throughout the continent, "Mass protests, general strikes, and other forms of social unrest are beginning to manifest themselves." America will try to capitalize on them to maintain dominance over its "back yard."
Addressing Economic Needs Via Electoral Processes: The Case of Venezuela
Democratic political processes require:
— "Free and equal competition for political office;
— access to the means of communication; and
— competing ideas and freedom to speak and act without physical or psychological coercion."
In contrast, authoritarian and faux democratic regimes:
— control the mass media, access to it, and one-sidedly support free-market dominance to the exclusion of alternative systems;
— let monied interests control the process through unrestricted spending for favored candidates to the detriment of others, especially independent ones that are entirely shut out;
— exert state repression and vote-rigging to deny opposition candidates an equal chance;
— accept foreign financing for regime favorites, and
— allow other hard line tactics and embedded systems to make democratic governance impossible.
The mass media play a crucial role. Their power influences public opinion, supports favored candidates, and it's no different in Venezuela than elsewhere. Yet Hugo Chavez and his party won impressive victories in every presidential, congressional and municipal election since 1998 by promising and delivering social changes - real ones for essential needs that lifted millions of out of poverty by using the nation's resources to help them.
In recent years, other Latin American electoral systems have also been democratized as neoliberal practices receded, popular mass movements arose, and "oligarchic uprisings" for authoritarian rule were defeated. Venezuela represents the most impressive example.
Prior to Chavez' election, the country had oligarchic rule for 40 years under two parties competing (like Republicans and Democrats) "to represent the petrol-rentier oligarchy, powerful importers, and the real estate-financial speculative elite." Both parties "pillaged the public treasury" until Chavez won office in December 1998 and reformed the system. He survived the Washington-backed April 2002 coup, the later in the year-early 2003 oil management lockout, the August 2004 recall election, and remains the most popular political figure in the country.
It's prospered under his leadership, and Venezuelans have benefitted by policies delivering beneficial social change. Chavez deepened the nation's democracy through:
— elected community councils;
— encouraging, promoting and financing "a vast array of neighborhood cooperatives, peasant organizations and trade unions;
— "weakening....linkages between the oligarchic political and economic elites" and reducing authoritarian power over civil society;
— establishing publicly financed television and community radio stations to challenge the corporate media's control of information;
— supporting free expression, including by his fiercest opponents; and
— conducting free, fair, and open democratic elections that shame America's rigged ones favoring a corrupted two-party oligarchy.
Today, the pro-Chavez United Socialist Party of Venezuela ((PSUV) enjoys overwhelming support as evidenced in the November 2008 election when it won 72% of state governorships and 58% of the popular vote.
In February 2009, Venezuelans passed a constitutional amendment permitting an incumbent president and government officials to run for office without term limits. In other words, to let people vote their officials in or out, not party bosses in back rooms. Over the past decade, it shows in Venezuela:
— media choices are more diverse;
— more social classes than ever exist at state and local levels;
— the electoral process is free, fair and open as judged by independent observers;
— campaigns and procedures are less corrupt, violent and unable to be manipulated by the powerful;
— citizen participation is widespread and impressive; and
— governance under Chavez has lessened inequalities and encouraged the citizenry to participate in their democracy.
Obstacles nonetheless remain, principally "in the continuation of vast concentrations of oligarchic wealth and ownership of strategic banking, mass media, real estate, agricultural lands, distribution networks and the manufacturing sectors." As a result, "vast social inequalities" exist, though less extreme than before 1999.
Chavez's most pressing task is to "formulate a comprehensive socio-economic strategic plan to confront the global collapse of capitalism," especially in light of lower oil prices and demand. Advancing his social agenda depends on it.
Masters of Defeat: Retreating Empire and Bellicose Bluster
Despite America's imperial and diplomatic defeats, militarism under Obama continues to serve the usual constituencies that benefit, while at the same time unmet human needs are ignored and disdained. As the economic crisis deepens, reckless national resource amounts are diverted to powerful corporate interests and to maintaining America's imperial footprint globally in spite of clear failures with Iraq as Exhibit A.
Over six years of war and occupation left "enormous military casualties and over a half a trillion in economic losses, without securing any political, military or natural resource gains."
Iran is Exhibit B. Despite Israeli-Washington efforts to isolate the country, in October 2008, Shell Oil and the Austrian energy company OMV sponsored a Teheran conference promoting "gas export opportunities and potentials of the Islamic Republic of Iran." After losing out on tens of billions in potential oil revenues, Big Oil may have decided that "economic-centered empire building" is preferable to the military kind. Shell's move perhaps is an overture for what's to come if the Obama- Netanyahu axis doesn't intervene militarily to stop it.
Afghanistan and Pakistan are Exhibits C and D with US forces targeting them both in a futile effort to secure control and extend America's South Asia influence. After nearly eight years of conflict and occupation, Taliban forces are now resurgent, and stepped up efforts to defeat them will likely prove as unsuccessful as previous campaigns. Yet vast sums are wasted trying while vital domestic needs go begging.
America's one-sided Israeli support is equally futile and "has led to a sharp decline (of) US influence in the region" as well as enormous Arab street opposition that promises one day to explode. It's also been bad for business. "Zionist-Israeli usurpation of US Middle East policy has led to strategic losses of investments, markets, profits and partnerships for the entire multi-national oil and gas industry" as well as other global economic losses.
Washington is also losing out in Latin America where its influence is waning. For business, it amounts to hundreds of billions in lost trade and investments as global competitors like China have profited at America's expense. Washington's belligerency has a price, and its fallout is also felt at home.
Besides its declining competitiveness, America's economic strength has weakened. Conditions at home are in disarray, and "the financial system is disconnected from the real economy and on the verge of collapse...." It's only a matter of time before it rubs off on Obama and he's blamed for it, as well he should be, given the destructiveness of his economic policies.
In lieu of progressive alternatives, administration extremists seek confrontation with Russia, China and Iran as well as Latin American states like Venezuela. These nations and others show more resistance, and most states prefer cooperative economic growth over futile military conflict - a lesson Washington and Israel have yet to learn, and they're paying for it.
The Obama Regime, The Zionist Power Configuration and Regional Wars
Obama's Israel-Firster officials and 51 influential Zionists organizations define America's counterproductive Middle East belligerency - an agenda destined to fail, yet it persists despite urgent domestic needs left unaddressed. Edward Said once said that in a matter of hours, the Israeli Lobby could marshal the entire Senate to come together for Israel on virtually anything - even policies counterproductive to America's best interests.
In addition, outliers in both Houses of Congress are purged, appointments with dubious Israeli loyalties are blocked, and regional belligerency is the preferred option over diplomacy because Israel expects it with regards to Iraq under Saddam, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Gazans under Hamas - targeted by slow-motion genocide that continue with Washington's approval but couldn't persist without it, or Israel's illegal West Bank settlements either.
For decades, and especially since 9/11, Muslims and Arabs have been ferociously targeted by vicious propaganda and military aggression. Obama is following the same agenda, in Afghanistan with stepped up efforts.
America's pro-Israeli media as well as influential business, academic and other figures support open-ended militarism and all policies benefitting Israel regardless of their destructiveness. As a result, the US is in terminal decline with nothing in evidence to stop it.
Israeli Middle East Supremacy from Gaza to Tehran: Imperial Overstretch?
Iran poses no regional threat nor has it for the past 200 years. Yet Israel targets it for removal as its sole remaining rival, so perhaps Operation Cast Lead was preparatory target practice. Washington appears supportive, given Obama saying at the July G 8 meeting that "we're not going to just wait indefinitely and allow (Iran to develop a) nuclear weapon." European and Arab states may not object. Israeli influence demands it. The major media is in tow, and extremist US elements want regime change at any cost, even a devastating holocaust if nuclear weapons are used against underground Iranian sites.
For decades, Israel has been a serial aggressor and threat to the region. It's used "repeated threats and aerial and ground assaults on neighboring countries....to assert (unchallenged) regional supremacy." Washington's support under Republicans and Democrats permits it in spite of huge risks of uncontrollable fallout.
"The election of the ultra-militarist Binyamin Netanyahu promises (stepped up) Israeli plans for a massive assault on Iran," regardless of its foolhardiness. The Israeli prime minister calls the Islamic Republic the "terrorist mother base (and) that Israel cannot accept an Iranian terror base (Gaza) next to its major cities." So far, belligerency is on hold, but perhaps preparations are underway, given Obama's G 8 remark and Joe Biden's earlier one about America not intervening to stop a "preemptive" attack. The New York Times quoted him saying:
"Look, we cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do when they make a determination - if they make a determination - that they're existentially threatened and their survival is threatened by another country."
Iran plans no conflict and poses no threat to Israel or the region. An Israeli and/or American attack will openly defy international law that permits defensive measures only until the Security Council acts. Yet naked aggression is possible with the Obama administration "openly threaten(ing) war if Iran does not accept unilateral disarmament with intrusive inspection of its strategic (nuclear) installations, allowing Israel and the US a unique opportunity for pinpointing vital targets for their first wave of attack" if one comes.
Retaliation is Iran's only deterrent, including against America in Iraq. Yet "Israel's military success in Gaza (against a defenseless civilian population) has created an irrational triumphalist war fever among all of its leaders and their" American Zionist supporters. If it comes, "major military and political retaliatory action (will respond) throughout the Middle East" inflicting enormous economic losses," including disruption of regional oil operations.
Opposition efforts, however, are building to stop it, including Israeli war crimes investigations, the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, and growing number of Jews worldwide no longer willing to tolerate a destructive Zionist ideology that violates Judaism's basic tenets. Unfortunately, Israel may have to be shocked militarily before the lesson is learned. If so, Arabs and Jews alike may pay dearly as a result.
The Politics of An Israeli Extermination Campaign: Backers, Apologists and Arms Suppliers
Well before Operation Cast Lead, Israeli historian Ilan Pappe explained that Israel has conducted state-sponsored genocide against Palestinians for decades and intensively in Gaza. In March 1998, international law expert Francis Boyle proposed that "the Provisional Government of (Palestine) and its President institute legal proceedings against Israel before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague for violating the" Genocide Convention - an "undeniable fact to the entire world," according to Boyle.
Petras explained that "Israel's totalitarian vision is driven by the vision and practice of a permanent (Zionist-driven) purge of Arab Palestine....an ethno-racist ideology....enforced and pursued by its organized backers in the United States." Operation Cast Lead was the latest example - a pre-planned mass-murder/scortched earth campaign to turn Gaza to rubble and its population to the edge of despair, deepening further from the horrors of a medieval siege that's starving people to death. Washington lets Israel:
— "commit what leading United Nations and international human rights experts (call) 'crimes against humanity' with total impunity;"
— get "an unlimited supply of the most technologically advanced and destructive weapons (and license to) use them without limit on a civilian population" in violation of international and US laws; and
— avoid UN sanctions and condemnations because America vetoes them in the Security Council.
Israel's chokehold on policy is key - from grassroots America to the major media, business, academia, the clergy, key professions, both Houses of Congress and every administration, Republican or Democrat. Influential figures voicing opposition assures they're targeted, intimidated, blackmailed, smeared, pressured and removed from positions of authority.
The major media support and trumpet the most outrageous Israeli crimes. Presidents of the 51 Major American Jewish Organizations (PMAJO) back them with "the Big Lie" and disseminate it through their Daily Alert propaganda organ, a tactic "reminiscent of totalitarian regimes."
Major Jewish religious organizations are also involved, spewing hate instead of core Judaic principles. On January 3, 2009, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism defended Israel's Gaza reign of terror saying:
"Every congregation should issue a statement supporting Israel. Solicit statements from elected officials at the city, state or provincial, or federal levels. Solicit statements from local religious, ethnic and other prominent personalities...."
It added "talking points," propaganda, and support for the most egregious crimes of war and against humanity - justifying mass murder of civilian men, women, children and infants, Arab lives that don't matter if killing them helps Jews.
Enough is enough. Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions are essential until Israel complies with international law and the universal principles of human rights. Nothing less is tolerable in the interest of justice, a sovereign Palestinian state, and enforceable peace. Israel must be condemned, isolated, and held accountable for its grievous crimes. All support should be withheld. A battle of ideas must be waged to counter vicious dominant media lies. Israel must be denounced as a serial aggressor, a rogue state, a scourge to the region and humanity, and a violator of core Judaic dogma. America's complicity must also be outed.
And Zionism must be exposed as the enemy of Jews - extremist, corrosive, hateful, repugnant, indefensible, a dagger in the heart of its host, essential to expunge to save it.
Iranian Elections: The "Stolen Elections" Hoax
On June 12, Iran held presidential elections. Four candidates participated, but only two contended seriously. Final results showed incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with a 62.63% majority with second place finisher Mir Hossein Mousavi a distant 33.75%. At once street protests erupted with claims of electoral fraud. Yet a May 11 - 20 independent poll sponsored by two US organizations (the Center for Public Opinion and the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation) showed Ahmadinejad way ahead enough to win overwhelmingly. Washington and the major media cried foul.
All elections "in which the White House has a significant stake, where" pro-US candidates are defeated, are "denounced as illegitimate by the entire political and mass media elite" with no evidence offered as proof. PMAJO demanded harsher sanctions and further isolation of the Islamic Republic.
"Western leaders rejected the results because they 'knew' that their reformist candidate could not lose." They portrayed Mousavi as a "voice of moderation" despite his hardline record as prime minister in the 1980s, and his support from Iran's ruling elite, urban middle class, as well as youths and students favoring better relations with America. In contrast, Ahmadinejad has widespread support among the urban and rural poor for providing vital social services that Mousavi disdains.
Western propaganda predicted a landslide Mousavi victory in spite of convincing evidence of Ahmadinejad's popularity. Is it surprising that he won? A Mousavi victory was clearly unexpected, especially as an independent candidate who became politically active again after a 20 year hiatus and only campaigned in Iran's major cities. Ahmadinejad, in contrast, made over 60 nationwide trips in less than three months. It paid off.
Post-election, the Los Angeles Times published a photo of a huge pro-Ahmadinejad crowd cheering the re-elected president - a far larger assemblage than any demonstration opposing him. It's not hard imagining why. Most Iranians are low income workers who rely on essential social services. It's no surprise that they fear losing them under a leader saying he'll cut them.
"The scale of the opposition's electoral deficit should tell us how out of touch it is with its own people's vital concerns:" real needs like food subsidies, housing, security, jobs, and more. Ahmadinejad promised to keep addressing them. Mousavi wants closer ties to the West and the usual free-market "reforms" that include lower wages, fewer benefits, privatized state enterprises, and less attentiveness to public needs in the interest of greater corporate profits.
What's ahead now is "open to debate." On June 26, USA Today reported that:
"The Obama administration is moving forward to fund groups that support Iranian dissidents, records and interviews show, continuing a program" begun under George Bush.
Brent Scowcroft told Al Jazeera television that "of course" Washington "has agents working inside Iran," and it's well-known that Congress, for years, has directed millions of dollars for regime change, thus far without success.
Extremists in the Obama administration cite a stolen election and want "preemptive war (because) no negotiations are possible with an 'illegitimate" government...." While abhorring violence and supporting the "aspirations of the Iranian people to be achieved through peaceful means" and free expression, "no EU leader (except France's Sarkozy) has questioned the outcome of the voting."
Along with US hard-liners, Netanyahu is "the wild card," and it's up for grabs whether his bellicose stance signals conflict. If it comes, it'll be Washington's war as well, a disastrous one for the region and beyond, and further proof of America's terminal decline. Perhaps Israel's as well. Whether cooler heads can prevent it remains to be seen.
The New Agro-Industrial Neo-Colonialism: Two, Three, Many Mass Revolts
"Colonial style empire building is making a huge comeback, and most of the colonialists are latecomers" to the game - "newly emerging neo-colonial economic powers (ENEP)....seizing control of vast tracts of fertile lands from poor" African, Asian and Latin American countries.
Landless peasants and rural workers are being exploited, "repressed, assassinated or jailed (and forced) into disease-ridden urban slums." Agribusiness imperialism is to blame:
— over half of Madagascar's arable land has been leased to South Korea's Daewoo Logistics for 70 - 90 years to grow maize and palm oil for export;
— millions of fertile Cambodian hectares are being taken; and
— other seizures are happening elsewhere.
"Three blocs" are behind them:
— rich Arab oil states
— "newly-emerging imperial countries of Asia and Israel;" and
— US and European interests, including Wall Street speculators.
Key nations involved include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, China, Korea, Japan, Israel, America, and various European countries. Their modus operandi include "political and financial mechanisms," coup d'etats, destabilization, bribes and more to ally with neoliberal collaborators in an imperial land grab. Once in place, extreme exploitation occurs, including repression, impoverishment, and displacement to produce crops for export. Peasants become serfs for $1 - 2 dollars a day. Agribusiness reaps huge profits and get footholds for new investments.
The World Bank is heavily involved directing $1.4 billion for takeovers of "underutilized lands." Deep polarization is the result - between wealthy investors and speculators on one side v. "hundreds of millions of starving, landless, dispossessed peasants" in numerous countries around the world.
The process is in its early stages with what's coming to include takeovers of "transport systems, infrastructure and credit systems...." An elite few outside the country will profit hugely. Internal collaborators will get rich. Local middle class elements are shrinking, and the vast majority of poor and dispossessed workers and peasants will lose the most as they always do. Today's global economic crisis hits them hardest. Their only recourse is mass uprisings, but military crackdowns will likely follow.
Yet Petras believes new agribusiness empires "may be short-lived" - replaced by "a new wave of rural-based national liberation movements and ferocious competition between new and old imperial states fighting over increasingly scarce financial and economic resources." And it may happen "with or without change in the US or Europe."
Regional Wars and Western Progressive Opinion: Commiserate with the Victims; Condemn Those Who Resist!
In spite of signs of public restiveness over imperial wars and entrenched Israeli interests, a new American president was elected promising war, not peace, continued occupation of Iraq, threats against Iran, full support for Israeli aggression, and stepped up militarism against Afghanistan and perhaps elsewhere - besides his unconscionable amount of damage at home after seven months in office.
Nonetheless, prominent US and European progressive intellectuals (PPIs) support Obama based on rhetoric alone, not policies, given that he's not George Bush. Yet they "refuse to apply the 'lesser evil' (standard) in support of (the democratically-elected) Hamas" government or Hezbollah in Lebanon. They support them "as victims but condemn them as fighters who challenge their executioners" by acting in their own self-defense.
They support self-determination in principle, but reject mass popular movements struggling against imperial Israel and America for freedom. The "lesser evil Democrats and European Social Democrats and Center-Left politicians have a far worse record than the Taliban, Hezbollah, Hamas and Sadrist forces." They're also mindless about how better off Iraqis, Afghans, Lebanese and others were before US-EU imperial marauders subjugated them to wars and repressive occupations.
The historical record is clear. For over 300 years, Western imperialism "destroyed and undermined far more lives and livelihoods in far more countries over a greater time span than even the worst of the post colonial regimes." Choosing Obama as a "lesser evil," amounts to calling the worst of past sins acceptable.
Obama's Animal Farm: Bigger, Bloodier Wars Equal Peace and Justice
Afghanistan is bloodier than ever with General Stanley McChrystal in charge, a man Petras calls a "notorious psychopath" and with good reason. He's a hired gun, an assassin, a man known for committing war crime atrocities as head of the Pentagon's infamous Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) - established in 1980 and comprised of the Army's Delta Force and Navy Seals, de facto death squads assigned to commit "extrajudicial assassinations, systematic torture, bombing of civilian communities and search and destroy missions."
McChrystal represents the worst of them. "He is the very embodiment of the brutality and gore that accompanies military-driven empire building." His contempt for human life shows in not distinguishing between "civilian and military oppositions, between activists and their sympathizers, and the armed resistance."
Under Bush-Cheney, he was directly involved in torturing political prisoners and suspects as well as reigning terror over areas under his command. Obama gave him carte blanche to expand the Afghan war with more troops, funding, stepped up counterinsurgency, targeted killings, and frequent drone and other attacks against Afghan and neighboring Pakistan targets. He's charged with wiping out local social networks and community leaders, comprising support for armed resisters.
Obama's Afghan campaign is part of his military-driven empire building campaign that includes permanent occupation of Iraq, subversion and perhaps conflict with Iran, full support for Israeli belligerency, and continuing the worst of the Bush administration's torture practices.
With McChrystal his South Asian point man, military terrorism and wars without end define his strategy. Many thousands more civilians will die and be displaced as US onslaughts uproots entire communities and destroy everything in their path. Orwell might have called Obama's agenda: "Bigger and bloodier wars equal peace and justice," the more carnage the better.
Obama's Foreign Policy Failures
In order of importance, they are:
— no G-20 agreement for a joint economic stimulus - one based on "reconstituting the power of finance capital" at the expense of creating new jobs and restoring economic health;
— NATO countries refusing more troops for expanded war in Afghanistan and adjacent Pakistan heading America toward the same fate as Soviet forces in the 1980s, 19th century British ones, and other imperial nations failing to understand Afghans' determination to be free; today, Obama doesn't realize that NATO countries want no part of that caldron, nor will they alienate their people trying and jeopardize their own power in the process; further, in times of crisis, scare resources are vitally needed at home, a lesson America has yet to learn, but it will;
— Latin American countries' unwillingness to have closer political and diplomatic ties to America because of "the continued exclusion of Cuba and isolation of Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador;" also the harmful effects of repatriating financial resources from the region; Obama's finance-centered agenda offers nothing so Latin American leaders reject it; the US's financial collapse has had major regional repercussions that assure long-term consequences affecting future relations; in addition, Obama's "commitment to military-centered empire building" further alienates regional states that are urgently seeking new markets, credits and investments to heal their sick economies; it's bringing Asian and Latin states closer to the detriment of America, seen as a less reliable trading partner and a very unfair one;
— continuing futile and counterproductive efforts to isolate and pressure Iran to end its legal commercial nuclear program through tightened economic sanctions; disingenuous rhetoric about "turn(ing) a new page" belies hardline tactics to destabilize its leadership for regime change, by whatever means it takes and regardless of the consequences; European and other states take strong exception resulting in America losing out economically;
— applying similar pressure to North Korea, a nation seeking rapprochement for years, only to have sitting US administrations rebuff them, choosing confrontation over stability on the peninsula and risking war, potentially with nuclear weapons much like with Iran;
— sacrificing Palestinian sovereignty in support of imperial Israel as evidenced by his Israel-Firster-ridden administration and willingness to bow to most every Israeli demand; Obama's subservience and impotence aren't "lost on the entire world, especially the Arab" one that's heard and seen it all before and expects nothing but empty rhetoric from Washington;
— Pakistan's unwillingness to undertake greater military aggression against its autonomous Northwest provinces and territories adjacent to Afghanistan; military attacks have displaced over two million people and hugely destabilized Pakistani cities and towns; the nation's commanders may have had enough because they fear a revolt in their ranks; and
— "securing a stable pro-US regime in Iraq" and pacifying the country under American control have so far been unsuccessful.
In less than seven months in office, failures have produced fiascos and disasters while economic conditions continue to decay. Sooner or later there are consequences. Pursuing imperial aggression "in a time of economic depression is self-destructive, self-isolating and doomed to failure." Using vitally needed resources for conquests and occupations, slaughtering hundreds of thousands doing it, forcing millions into permanent displacement, and ignoring essential homeland needs removes any possible doubt about America's moral credibility. It also begs the question of how much longer people will tolerate it and what next when they won't.
Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on Republic Broadcasting.org Monday - Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.
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