The article quotes the former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Tibor Nagy saying “We’d really, really not like to see a Chinese facility” on the Atlantic, and discusses “American concern about China’s global expansionism and its pursuit of a permanent military presence on waters the U.S. considers home turf.”
The Quincy Institute’s Trita Parsi has discussed the irony of WSJ yelling about China’s “global expansionism” over a potential military base in Equatorial Guinea without applying that label to the US, when the US has hundreds of times the number of foreign military bases as China. Antiwar’s Daniel Larison wrote an article back in December eviscerating the ridiculous claim that a military base some six thousand nautical miles from the US coastline could be reasonably framed as any kind of threat to the American people.
But what really jumps out is the insane way the US political/media class routinely talks about virtually every location on this planet as though it is a territory of the United States.
The following are the remarks, as prepared for delivery, by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on the floor of the U.S. Senate on Thursday, February 10, 2022 as he called for diplomatic efforts to deescalate the crisis over Ukraine:
M. President, I rise to address the looming crisis in Ukraine.
As I speak today, Europe, for the first time in almost 80 years, is faced with the threat of a major invasion. A large nation threatens a smaller, less powerful neighbor, surrounding it on three sides with tens of thousands of troops, tanks and artillery.
My friends, as we have painfully learned, wars have unintended consequences. They rarely turn out the way the planners and experts tell us they will. Just ask the officials who provided rosy scenarios for the wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, only to be proven horribly wrong. Just ask the mothers of the soldiers who were killed or wounded in action during those wars. Just ask the millions of civilians who became “collateral damage.”
The war in Vietnam cost us 59,000 American deaths and many others who came home wounded in body and spirit. In fact, a whole generation was devastated by that war. The casualties in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia are almost incalculable.
In Afghanistan, what began as a response to those who attacked us on September 11, 2001, eventually became a twenty year-long, $2 trillion war in which over 3500 Americans were killed along with tens of thousands Afghan civilians. George W. Bush claimed in 2003 that the United States had “put the Taliban out of business forever.” Sadly, as we all know, the Taliban is in power right now.
The war in Iraq—which was sold to the American people by stoking fear of a “mushroom cloud” from Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction—led to the deaths of some 4,500 U.S. troops, and the wounding—physical and emotional—of tens of thousands of others. It led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, the displacement of over 5 million people, and regional destabilization whose consequences the world continues to grapple with today.
The military intervention in Vietnam started slowly, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began much more quickly, but what they all share is that the foreign policy establishment insisted that they were necessary. That there was no alternative to escalation and war.
Well, it turns out that they were wrong. And millions of innocent people paid the price.
That is why we must do everything possible to find a diplomatic resolution to prevent what would be an enormously destructive war in Ukraine.
No one knows exactly what the human costs of such a war would be. There are estimates, however, that there could be over 50,000 civilian casualties in Ukraine, and millions of refugees flooding neighboring countries as they flee what could be the worst European conflict since World War II.
In addition, of course, there would be many thousands of deaths within the Ukrainian and Russian militaries. There is also the possibility that this “regional” war could escalate to other parts of Europe. What might happen then is even more horrifying.
But that’s not all. The sanctions against Russia that would be imposed as a consequence of its actions, and Russia’s threatened response to those sanctions, could result in massive economic upheaval—with impacts on energy, banking, food, and the day to day needs of ordinary people throughout the entire world. It is likely that Russians will not be the only people suffering from sanctions. They would be felt in Europe. They would be felt here in the United States, and around the world.
And, by the way, any hope of international cooperation to address the existential threat of global climate change and future pandemics would suffer a major setback.
M. President, we should be absolutely clear about who is most responsible for this looming crisis: Russian President Vladimir Putin. Having already seized parts of Ukraine in 2014, Putin now threatens to take over the entire country and destroy Ukrainian democracy. There should be no disagreement that this is unacceptable. In my view, we must unequivocally support the sovereignty of Ukraine and make clear that the international community will impose severe consequences on Putin and his fellow oligarchs if he does not change course.
With that said, M. President, I am extremely concerned when I hear the familiar drumbeats in Washington, the bellicose rhetoric that gets amplified before every war, demanding that we must “show strength,” “get tough” and not engage in “appeasement.” A simplistic refusal to recognize the complex roots of the tensions in the region undermines the ability of negotiators to reach a peaceful resolution.
I know it is not very popular in Washington to consider the perspectives of our adversaries, but I think it is important in formulating good policy.
I think it is helpful to consider this: One of the precipitating factors of this crisis, at least from Russia’s perspective, is the prospect of an enhanced security relationship between Ukraine and the United States and Western Europe, including what Russia sees as the threat of Ukraine joining the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance (NATO), a military alliance originally created in 1949 to confront the Soviet Union.
It is good to know some history. When Ukraine became independent after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Russian leaders made clear their concerns about the prospect of former Soviet states becoming part of NATO and positioning hostile military forces along Russia’s border. U.S. officials recognized these concerns as legitimate at the time.
One of those officials was William Perry, who served as Defense Secretary under President Bill Clinton. In a 2017 interview, Perry said and I quote, “In the last few years, most of the blame can be pointed at the actions that Putin has taken. But in the early years I have to say that the United States deserves much of the blame… “Our first action that really set us off in a bad direction was when NATO started to expand, bringing in eastern European nations, some of them bordering Russia.”
Another U.S. official who acknowledged these concerns is former U.S. diplomat Bill Burns, who is now head of the CIA in the Biden administration. In his memoir, Burns quotes a memo he wrote while serving as counselor for political affairs at the US embassy in Moscow in 1995, and I quote: “Hostility to early NATO expansion is almost universally felt across the domestic political spectrum here.”
Over ten years later, in 2008, Burns wrote in a memo to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and I quote “Ukrainian entry into NATO is the brightest of all redlines for the Russian elite (not just Putin)… In more than two and a half years of conversations with key Russian players… I have yet to find anyone who views Ukraine in NATO as anything other than a direct challenge to Russian interests.”
So again: these concerns were not just invented out of thin air by Putin.
Clearly, invasion by Russia is not an answer; neither is intransigence by NATO. It is important to recognize, for example, that Finland, one of the most developed and democratic countries in the world, borders Russia and has chosen not to be a member of NATO. Sweden and Austria are other examples of extremely prosperous and democratic countries that have made the same choice.
M. President, Vladimir Putin may be a liar and a demagogue, but it is hypocritical for the United States to insist that we do not accept the principle of “spheres of influence.” For the last 200 years our country has operated under the Monroe Doctrine, embracing the premise that as the dominant power in the Western Hemisphere, the United States has the right to intervene against any country that might threaten our alleged interests. Under this doctrine we have undermined and overthrown at least a dozen governments. In 1962 we came to the brink of nuclear war with the Soviet Union in response to the placement of Soviet missiles in Cuba, 90 miles from our shore, which the Kennedy Administration saw as an unacceptable threat to our national security.
And the Monroe Doctrine is not ancient history. As recently as 2018 Donald Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, called the Monroe Doctrine “as relevant today as it was the day it was written.” In 2019, former Trump National Security Advisor John Bolton declared “the Monroe Doctrine is alive and well.”
To put it simply, even if Russia was not ruled by a corrupt authoritarian leader like Vladimir Putin, Russia, like the United States, would still have an interest in the security policies of its neighbors. Does anyone really believe that the United States would not have something to say if, for example, Mexico was to form a military alliance with a U.S. adversary?
Countries should be free to make their own foreign policy choices, but making those choices wisely requires a serious consideration of the costs and benefits. The fact is that the U.S. and Ukraine entering into a deeper security relationship is likely to have some very serious costs—for both countries.
M. President, I believe that we must vigorously support the ongoing diplomatic efforts to deescalate this crisis. I believe we must reaffirm Ukrainian independence and sovereignty. And we must make clear to Putin and his gang of oligarchs that they will face major consequences should he continue down the current path.
My friends, we must never forget the horrors that a war in the region would cause and must work hard to achieve a realistic and mutually agreeable resolution—one that is acceptable to Ukraine, Russia, the United States and our European allies—and that prevents what could be the worst European war in over 75 years.
That is not weakness. That is not appeasement. Bringing people together to resolve conflicts non-violently is strength, and it is the right thing to do.
The first “high-value detainee” at Guantánamo military prison was approved for transfer a day before the detention camp marked the 20th anniversary of confining prisoners in the “war on terrorism.”
According to lawyers from Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) who represented him, Guled Hassan Duran was captured in Djibouti in March 2004. The CIA renditioned him to a secret prison site, where he was tortured and abused prior to his transfer to Guantánamo in 2006. He was designated by President Barack Obama’s review task force for indefinite detention, even though he was not charged with a crime.
Duran is a citizen of Somalia with “prior residence in Germany and Sweden.” Congress prohibited the United States government from transferring any Guantánamo prisoners to Libya, Somalia, Syria, or Yemen in 2015. Because he cannot return to Somalia, it could be several years before he is released to a country willing to accept him.
Thirty-nine prisoners remain indefinitely detained at Guantánamo. They have been in confinement for the past 15-to-20 years without charge or trial.
The withdrawal of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan in 2021 gives the U.S. government even less of a justification for keeping the prison open. However, President Joe Biden’s administration has displayed little to no political will to close Guantánamo once and for all.
Or to put it another way, Biden has not demonstrated that his administration will make sure he finishes a job he started when he was part of the Obama administration in 2009 and they formally pledged to close Guantánamo.
The US Senate has passed its National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) military spending bill for the fiscal year of 2022, setting the budget at an astronomical $778 billion by a vote of 89 to 10. The bill has already been passed by the House, now requiring only the president’s signature. An amendment to cease facilitating Saudi Arabia’s atrocities in Yemen was stripped from the bill.
“The most controversial parts of the 2,100-page military spending bill were negotiated behind closed doors and passed the House mere hours after it was made public, meaning members of Congress couldn’t possibly have read the whole thing before casting their votes,” reads a Politico article on the bill’s passage by Lindsay Koshgarian, William Barber II and Liz Theoharis.
The US military had a budget of $14 billion for its scaled-down Afghanistan operations in the fiscal year of 2021, down from $17 billion in 2020. If the US military budget behaved normally, you’d expect it to come down by at least $14 billion in 2022 following the withdrawal of US troops and official end of the war in Afghanistan. Instead, this new $778 billion total budget is a five percent increase from the previous year.
“Months after US President Joe Biden’s administration pulled the last American troops out of Afghanistan as part of his promise to end the country’s ‘forever wars’, the United States Congress approved a $777.7bn defence budget, a five percent increase from last year,” Al Jazeera reports.
“For the last 20 years, we heard that the terrorist threat justified an ever-expanding budget for the Pentagon,” Win Without War executive director Stephen Miles told Al Jazeera. “As the war in Afghanistan has ended and attention has shifted towards China, we’re now hearing that that threat justifies it.”
At a CNN town hall event Thursday evening, President Joe Biden revealed that he is considering using National Guard troops to ease the bottleneck at Southern California ports. In response to questioning from moderator Anderson Cooper, Biden said the plans potentially include having soldiers drive trucks from the ports to warehouses and distribution centers.
This would mean the militarization of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which handle 40 percent of US imports. It would be a direct state attack on longshoremen, truck drivers and warehouse workers, with soldiers serving essentially as scabs operating in behalf of the private owners of the ports, trucking firms, shipping companies and major retailers such as Walmart. It could also directly impact rail workers.
Biden admitted the existence of such planning in the context of a discussion of supply chain disruptions, labor shortages, rising inflation and demands by workers for wage increases. While posturing as a friend of the working man, Biden expressed in his statements on the National Guard the increasingly desperate and hostile attitude of the American ruling class to the emergence of the biggest strike movement in the US in decades, which is assuming the form of a rebellion against the pro-corporate trade unions.
“Millions of jobs are unfilled, businesses are struggling to meet demand. Is there anything you can do to either encourage people to go back to work or make jobs more attractive that they want to go back to work?” Cooper asked.
In response, Biden acknowledged the hesitancy of workers to return to work under conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic and concerns for their health and that of their loved ones, as well as their disgust with poverty wages. “Wait a minute, do I want to go back to that $7-an-hour job?” Biden said in relation to the difficulty employers are having hiring workers.
He then raised the labor shortage in connection with the “significant supply chain problem.” He noted that “in the Obama-Biden administration, all of American business” operated on the basis of the “just in time” system, which saved time and money and boosted profits. That has broken down under the impact of the global pandemic crisis.
Biden boasted of his meeting earlier this month with private port, shipping, trucking, rail and retail executives, as well as top officials from the AFL-CIO, International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), and Teamsters, who agreed to impose a 24/7 schedule at the LA and Long Beach ports. This is of a piece with the universal drive of corporations to impose back-breaking work schedules, with 12-hour days and virtually no days off, to maintain production and profits under conditions of a raging and deadly pandemic.
“Freedom is not free,” goes the old bumper sticker slogan, commonly accompanied by an image of a flag or soldiers or some other bullshit.
Freedom is not free, the saying goes, because military personnel are out there laying their lives on the line fighting for your right to do as you’re told and toil away at a meaningless job making some rich asshole even richer.
Freedom is not free, because we’re all just so much freer after murdering families on the other side of the planet for corporate profits and geostrategic domination.
Freedom is not free, because we’re all so much freer after teenagers get thrown into the gears of the imperial war machine to provide a good quarterly statement for Raytheon shareholders.
Freedom is not free, because this thing we’re calling “freedom” has been paid for with the blood, lives and limbs of millions of innocents throughout the Global South.
Freedom is not free. That’s why the only people doing as they please in our world are wealthy oligarchs.
Freedom is not free. And unless you’re wealthy enough or psychopathic enough there’s no way you’ll ever find a way to pay the price.
Freedom is not free. That’s why you don’t have any.
Since the Israeli/Palestinian ceasefire began this week, the Biden administration’s refrain has been that Israelis and Palestinians should have “equal measures of security, peace, and dignity,” but not a word about equal rights.
The administration’s silence on Palestinian rights is an affirmation of the Israel’s apartheid policies, which deny Palestinians equal citizenship, restrict their movement, and dispossess them of their homes and land.
We demand that the U.S. cease all military aid to Israel until it respects the human rights of Palestinians. The cutoff of US military aid to Israel is the leading demand on the U.S. of the Palestinian National BDS Committee, which has broad support in Palestinian civil society.
Biden’s Unconditional Support for Israel
The cease fire came despite the Biden administration, not because of it. Biden’s UN Ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, gave Israel the greenlight to continue bombing Gaza three times by repeatedly blocking UN Security Council resolutions calling for a ceasefire.
Biden’s unconditional support for Israel’s expansionist colonial policies was underscored in the first weeks of his administration by his decision to affirm Trump’s move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the Israeli-occupied territory of Jerusalem prior to a negotiated solution to the Arab/Israeli conflict.
Biden’s unconditional support for Israeli policies was reaffirmed when he approved the sale of $735 million in precision-guided weapons to Israel in the middle of the recent Israeli/Gaza war.
Israeli Repression Continues Despite Ceasefire
The ceasefire came as we approached the anniversary of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of the police, an event that sparked the global Black Lives Matter uprising against police brutality. Now the world is outraged by Israel’s militarized policing of Palestinians.
Even as the ceasefire between Israel and Gaza was beginning, militarized Israeli police continued to wage a campaign of fear and intimidation against Palestinians inside Israel’s own borders.
Israeli authorities continue the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, one of the precipitating causes of the Israel/Gaza war. At Friday prayers last week, Israeli security forces again used stun grenades and rubber bullets against Palestinian worshippers outside the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem where earlier attacks on worshippers helped provoke the war.
Israeli security is now making mass arrests of Palestinians in Israel who took part in protests and defended their neighbourhoods from assaults by right-wing Israelis. Israeli Arabs face new police checkpoints and spying by plain clothes cops, while police stand by and allow racist anti-Arab gangs of Israelis to assault Palestinians. Israeli police have used violence and nighttime raids against Palestinians in mixed cities like Haifa, Jaffa, and Lod, where there has been unprecedented inter-ethnic violence between Israeli Jews and Arabs in recent weeks.
What is striking about Palestinian resistance in this recent conflict is the degree of solidarity among Palestinians across Gaza, Israel, and the West Bank. In protest against the Israeli campaign in Gaza, Palestinians staged a broadly-supported general strike on May 18 across Israel and the occupied territories. The Israel Builders Association said that only 150 of the 65,000 Palestinian construction workers showed up for work.
In the United States we must demonstrate our solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for human rights by demanding an end to U.S. taxpayer-funded aid to the Israeli military. Since World War Two, Israel has been the largest overall recipient of US foreign aid. In 2016 President Obama signed a $38 billion 10-year military aid package. U.S. tax dollars are helping Israel to develop one of the most advanced militaries in the world and to purchase sophisticated military equipment from the United States.
We urge participation in the National March for Palestine in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, May 29, from 3:00 to 8:00 pm. The march is called by a broad coalition of pro-Palestinian organizations who are have initiated a new campagin to #SanctionIsrael.
It was around noon and I was texting a friend about who-knows-what when I added, almost as an afterthought: “tho they seem to be invading the Capitol at the mo.” I wasn’t faintly as blasé as that may sound on January 6th, especially when it became ever clearer who “they” were and what they were doing. Five people would die due to that assault on the Capitol building, including a police officer, and two more would commit suicide in the wake of the event. One hundred forty police would be wounded (lost eye, heart attack, cracked ribs, smashed spinal disks, concussions) and the collateral damage would be hard even to tote up.
Shortly after the mass killing in Georgia—including six Asian women—earlier this week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken denounced the violence, saying it “has no place in America or anywhere.” Blinken made the comments during his first major overseas trip to Asia with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, where Blinken warned China that the United States will push back against its “coercion and aggression,” and Austin cautioned North Korea that the United States was ready to “fight tonight.”
Yet such hawkish rhetoric against China—which was initially spread by Donald Trump and other Republicans around the coronavirus—has directly contributed to rising anti-Asian violence across the country. In fact, it’s reflective of a long history of US foreign policy in Asia centered on domination and violence, fueled by racism. Belittling and dehumanizing Asians has helped justify endless wars and the expansion of US militarism. And this has deadly consequences for Asians and Asian Americans, especially women.
Anti-Asian violence through US foreign policy has manifested in the wars that have killedmillions, torn families apart, and led to massive displacement; in the nuclear tests and chemical weapons storage that resulted in environmental contamination in Okinawa, Guam, and the Marshall Islands; in the widespread use of napalm and Agent Orange in Vietnam, Laos, and Korea; in the US military bases that have destroyed villages and entire communities; in the violence perpetrated by US soldiers on Asian women’s bodies; and in the imposition of sanctions that result in economic, social, and physical harms to everyday people.