It is with great sadness that I announce my good friend, Louis Proyect, has died. He had a serious illness for some time. He died peacefully in his sleep on August 25. I will miss him greatly, and I assume you will as well. Louis was a voracious reader, and almost every day, he posted links to articles from a wide variety of sources on multiple subjects, from politics and economics to music and philosophy to physics and ecology. I am sure we have all learned a great deal from his posts. He did much in his life, through his efforts in Nicaragua and South Africa, for example, and with his voluminous writing, to push radical transformation forward. He allied himself with leftists around the world. He seemed to know just about everybody. Those who knew him personally know that he was a good human being, always willing to help a friend, no matter where in the world that person happened to be. He and his wife Mine showed me and my partner many kindnesses over the years. Goodbye, Louis. You will live on in our hearts and in our efforts to change the world.
Manuel García, Jr. (in response):
I first became aware of Louis N. Proyect in 2003, when I began writing for Swans (Gilles d’Aymery’s internet magazine), where Louis was an established presence. Over the 18 years since then we have had many exchanges (all over the internet, sadly; and all good, happily), and I learned a great deal from him. I was even able to teach him some things, mainly about science. We were both native New Yorkers, and he was very much the archetypical kind of good-hearted prickly exterior quick witted wise ass Jew that I had grown up surrounded by (and especially with one cherished college professor who hailed from Brooklyn). He had that refreshing “what’s it to ya'” attitude that doesn’t seem to cut it so well west of the Hudson River; but which can be so essential to cut through the crap when you really need to solve a problem (and my secret weapon out here in Californicate). On 10 July 2021, I read the ‘comic book’ style biography of Louis that he had posted (in several parts) on his blog, and wrote to tell him how redolent it was of the times and scenes I had grown up through. By then I had reached a point in my life where I told people outright if I appreciated them, because I didn’t want to accumulate more regrets. And I told Louis that in our exchanges on July 10 and then again in our exchanges on July 17, my last personal e-mail contact/exchange with him. Louis appreciated my gesture and said so. After that I could see from his blog that he was trying to get as much done as he could, as the phenomenon we all knew as Louis Proyect. I’ve lost a brother, older, and often “pesado,” but dearly loved. What I liked most about Louis was that he never let ideology confine his moral sense — his heart; his primal motivation was his deep moral sense of solidarity with all human beings, and his fiery outrage at the injustice of the sufferings of the humble, the weak, the exploited, the “salt of the earth.” He was a mensch.
He was absolutely correct on Syria — and Libya — neither of which the comfy doctrinaire ‘left’ herd have been able to face up to yet. Louis was a Light Saber of Truth.
“One of the all-too-few voices on the left who challenged the lies of campists and the brutal dictators they shill for. A fierce and passionate defender of the Syrian people. He will be sorely missed.”
’The Trojan Women,’ a play was Euripides, was first performed in Athens 2,436 years ago at the height of the disastrous Peloponnesian War. It is considered a commentary on the capture of the Aegean island of Melos and the subsequent slaughter of its men and the enslavement of its women by the Athenians earlier that year, 415 BCE.
This play focuses on four women awaiting their fates after the fall of Troy (~1,200 BCE, in northwest Turkey near the Dardanelles): Hecuba (the wife of the slain king, Priam), Cassandra (the beautiful virginal daughter of Priam and Hecuba, who was blessed and then cursed by a lustful Apollo, with having a gift of prophesy none would listen to), Andromache (the wife of the great Trojan hero, Hector, who was slain by Achilles), and Helen (the Achaean queen and wife of King Menelaus of Sparta, who ran off with Paris to Troy, and which elopement was the purported cause for the Achaeans’s war against Troy).
The three Trojan women would all be made concubines and slaves by the Achaeans (mainland Greeks), and Helen returned to Menelaus. Because the Greeks wanted to ensure there would be no surviving male heir to the Trojan throne, they took Astyanax, the infant son of Hector and Andromache and the grandson of Priam and Hecuba, up to the high parapet of Troy and tossed him down to his death on the rocks below.
In 5th and 4th Century BCE Athens, the playwrights were known as poets and called teachers, and in ’The Trojan Woman’ Euripides was desperately and dramatically striving to teach the Athenians that the horrors of the Peloponnesian War were destroying the soul of their society, and that they should find ways of extricating their city-state from the war. His vehicle to convey that larger message to the Athenians was this dramatization of the final days in the death of the Trojan city-state eight centuries earlier (if in fact it was a single real historical event), as told in Greek myths recounted by legendary poets like Homer and his many forgotten colleagues.
’Stateless’, an Australian 6-part television series that was launched in 2020, is about a refugee and ‘illegal immigrant’ detention center, and strikes me as being similar to ‘The Trojan Woman’ as a societal teaching drama. It is both a searing depiction full of human and political insights about the current refugee crisis in Australia, as well as a close analogy for similar tragic realities along the US-Mexican border, in Libya and southern Italy, in Syria and the Greek Islands; and in other places where minorities and disfavored ‘others’ live precariously without stable statehood and are internally displaced or incarcerated, as in Syria, ‘Kurdistan’, Palestine, and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The writers of ’Stateless’, Elise McCredie and Belinda Chayko have done a magnificent job. The directors, Emma Freeman and Jocelyn Moorhouse have made an absorbing and compelling visual work (https://www.netflix.com/title/81206211).
How many refugees are there around the world? The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR (https://www.unhcr.org/figures-at-a-glance.html) states that: “At least 82.4 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes. Among them are nearly 26.4 million refugees, around half of whom are under the age of 18. There are also millions of stateless people, who have been denied a nationality and lack access to basic rights such as education, health care, employment and freedom of movement. At [this] time 1 in every 95 people on earth has fled their home as a result of conflict or persecution.”
We must add that the deleterious effects of climate change — crop failures and lack of drinking water from extended droughts, and the loss of land, housing and employment due to violent weather and flooding — has also spurred refugee streams.
Those refugee streams flow out of the tropical and sub-tropical latitudes: from Africa northward across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, up from Central America and Mexico and across the Caribbean Sea to North America, southward from Eastern Asia to Australia, and from the arid interior of the Middle East westward toward the Mediterranean Sea and Europe.
Americans, Europeans and Australians see these refugee streams as incoming waves of impoverished humanity comprised of dark-skinned people with cultures, mind frames and languages vastly different from their own, and thus a threat to American, European and Australian prosperity, and their existing ethnic balances, if too large an influx. We must realize that these refugee streams course back up along the gradients of wealth leading from the Global South to the Global North (and Australia), propelled by the pent up pressure of economic disparity created by over half a millennium of conquest and imperialism with over three centuries of slavery, by the White people of the north: the Europeans and the descendants of their American and other colonists.
The Australian television series ’Stateless’ is composed of a weave of four sub-plots, each about a person caught up in and then piteously twisted to the breaking point by the day-to-day reality of escalating crisis in the asylum-seeker Braxton Detention Center. All these stories are based on actual case histories. Threatened men and women become refugees and are driven to acts of desperation, they are victimized, families are torn apart, some eventually find sanctuary while many others languish indefinitely or perish. Low-level workers in the host countries looking to hang onto paychecks are shoved by higher level bureaucrats and policy-makers to go in and do the dirty work of “keeping a lid on” and also “making it look good for the public.” And the sanctimonious of all stripes on the outside are more often than not “virtue signaling” for their own ego boosts, than having any useful empathy for all the individuals mired in the toxic tangle of “the system.”
One story in ‘Stateless’ is based on the real case of Cornelia Rau, an Australian woman citizen who was emotionally disturbed at the time and who was inadvertently — and unlawfully — incarcerated by the Australian government’s Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA), and held for 10 months during 2004-2005 under the country’s mandatory detention policy for refugees, until Cornelia was traced to Braxton by a relative, and correctly identified and released to a hospital.
Another sub-plot focuses on an Afghani family fleeing the Taliban, being cheated and robbed by criminal human traffickers in Pakistan, being separated while attempting to make the perilous sea voyage to Australia in rickety boats, with the survivors eventually finding each other at Braxton. But the effort of the Afghani father to gain entry visas for his surviving family proves to be a very heartbreaking and essentially impossible effort. Despite some commendable humanitarian impulses by Australian workers tasked with maintaining the day-to-day operations of the center, and of some right-minded procedures embedded in the immigration policy, that policy is nevertheless largely fueled by a great deal of officially mandated bigotry and prejudice.
The conflict between offering a welcoming humanitarian response to the desperation of the trapped refugees terrified of being deported back to certain death, and the politically motivated mandates from the central government to maintain this bureaucratic structure for continuing exclusion, and without arousing public attention to it, is personified by the story of the woman appointed as the new director of the center. She is emotionally torn apart by the inherent cruelty of the job, and her political expendability to the remote higher-ups.
The last of the four sub-plots in ‘Stateless’ centers on a local rural freelance mechanic who seeks to leave precarity behind and support his young family with a steady paycheck earned working as a ‘prison’ guard at the detention center — though he is instructed that it is a refugee center and not a prison since its residents, despite having no freedom of motion, have not been placed there for the commission of crimes. This individual is a good-hearted fellow who quickly comes under unrelenting strain because of his repulsion at the cruelty toward unruly refugees by a sadistic guard, and because of the numerous requirements for him to perform rough enforcement actions on people exhibiting outbursts of anger, fear and madness. Both the emotional and physical traumas sustained in doing his job while trying to thread the needle between the frayed edges of UNHCR compassionate supervision of a precarious population, and the barbed razor sharp edges of bureaucratically enforced nationalism, nearly deaden his heart and rip apart his family.
Each of the four sub-plots in ‘Stateless’ is populated with many supporting characters who enrich the presentation, and the entire ensemble presents the full spectrum of human experiences that take place in the turbulent focal point of mixing-nonmixing between Australian society and Asian refugees at the Braxton Detention Center.
The ultimate solution to the world’s refugee crisis is so far out of view: ending all wars to establish a lasting world peace, and ensuring intelligent economic development up to decent standards everywhere so that people can remain in their countries with their families experiencing physical and economic security and good health down through the generations. Achieving these conditions would obviate the need for anyone to become a refugee and seek foreign asylum.
Yes, this is idealistic (naïvely so?, impossibly?), like wanting equitable worldwide cooperation to stop anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions so as to tamp down the acceleration of global warming. But neither of these ideals is intrinsically impossible to actualize, and that is why the continuation of the refugee and climate crises are such tragedies: they are fundamentally unnecessary sorrows, open and festering wounds on the body of humanity.
What we have today is a compounded system of exploitation through tiered victimhood, a system commanded by über capitalists and nationalistic warlords living luxuriant lives, and served by hierarchical cascades of lower level petty boss bureaucrats, their functionaries, and in turn their laborers and armed enforcers. This system is so abhorrent that Nature itself has abandoned us, and is trying to burn us off the land and wash us away into the seas and oceans we have thoughtlessly poisoned with our wastes. An added cruelty to this accelerating rejection of humanity by Nature is that those who are suffering now, and first, and will suffer the most from the increasing hostility of Earth’s climatic conditions to human life are the people of the Global South (the Third World), the regions from which today’s refugee streams emerge, the poorest of Earth’s people, those who lead the most precarious lives, and those who contributed the least to the creation of the global climate crisis.
Coda: a Meditation on ’Stateless’
Must I have a stone heart to preserve a sane mind in a world of pure suffering I am luckily insulated from — for now? How does one combat compassion fatigue and empathy burnout? Does one sink into survivor’s guilt for blamelessly being born lucky?; for living in a bubble of comfort, freedom and justice that is much rarer than one had previously imagined?; and that seems to be diminishing by national policy out of view of its lucky inhabitants confident in their unawareness? But of those lucky people who do become aware, how do they survive and stay human without deadening their souls? We have become a race of monomaniacal blind cyclopses raging about our freedoms because we cannot conceive of anything beyond our own frustrated infantile selfishness. Becoming aware of the sufferings of others is the first step in the very long journey of personal redemption. That journey has many perils, and no one completes it unscathed.
Syria is at the center of a geo-political vortex of conflict that has suctioned the petroleum-fueled ambitions of the three international powers of our day — the United States, Russia and China — into an interlaced complex of bitter regional wars within the oil-rich highly fragmented and excessively inequitable Islamic and Israeli Middle East.
The Syrian Civil War broke out on 15 March 2011 as one of the numerous Arab Spring revolts and revolutions of that year. The initially peaceful and nonviolent demonstrations by the Syrian people against oppression by the state and in favor of democracy were brutally suppressed by the Al-Assad regime and thus engendered a violent defensive reaction. The ensuing Syrian Civil War quickly devolved into a power vacuum within which swirled a chaotic and inhuman multi-party scramble for political control through armed conflict.
The Shia-based affinity between the Alawite-centered Al-Assad family dictatorship in Syria with the Hezbollah Political Party in Lebanon and with the Iranian theocracy bonded these last two into arrangements and intrigues of military assistance to the Al-Assad regime.
The Sunni-based oil-rich Gulf States, which are aligned with the Washington Consensus, pursued their ideological and regional ambitions by supplying military aid to sub-state factions and terrorist groups combatting the Shia-allied forces in Syria. Israel and Turkey each also continued to pursue their own regional ambitions with a similar perspective relative to Syria.
In September 2015 the Russian government, under the direction of Vladimir Putin, intervened massively in the Syrian Civil War, conducting airstrikes and other military operations for the defense of its long time client, the Al-Assad regime, thus boosting it to a military victory in its civil war, which has been and continues to be a humanitarian catastrophe for the Syrian people. Syria hosts one of the three Russian foreign military bases outside the confines of the former Soviet Union and the former East Bloc (out of a total of 21 military bases outside of Russia proper).
That Syrian-hosted Russian military presence is actually sited at two bases: a naval facility in Tartus, and the Khmeimim Air Base. From its Syrian military base complex, Russia can project military power westward from the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, northward to Turkey and beyond that to the Black Sea and Crimea, eastward into the Levant, and southward into Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula.
Russia’s purpose in maintaining such wide-ranging possibilities of power projection from its Syrian bases are diplomatic, they are not preparations for invasive war. They are what in the animal world is known as a threat display, a broadcast signal — mainly directed at the Washington Consensus — saying: do not think to attack our nation because we can reach far out to claw your eyes out, and rip open your petrol-carrying veins. Russian history easily justifies such a defensive posture.
What all three world powers understand is that their degree of control of world affairs rests on the extent of their control over the world’s fossil fuel commerce. The national ambitions of lesser states are easily throttled by the squeezing of the control hands wrapped around the petroleum arteries of world economics. Japan launched its Pacific War of 1941-1945 because of just this fear, sparked by the U.S. embargo of petroleum to Japan on 26 July 1941 in response to Japan’s 1937 invasion of China and its ensuing Sino-Japanese War, which then merged into World War II as one of its theaters of conflict.
Radiating out of this collective understanding of world power are: Washington’s lavish patronage and protection of the Gulf States in its orbit, Russia’s zeal at piping its abundant geological hydrocarbon bounty to Europe, and China’s unquenchable thirst for Iranian, Central Asian, and any other petroleum to help fuel the continuing expansion of the world’s largest national-regional economy.
And Syria is the stinging nettle at the center of this turbulent geo-political swirl.
With malicious desperation during its multi-faceted war against the aspirations of the Syrian people, and against the infiltrating sub-state and ideologically fanatical militias seeking control of the Syrian state, as well as against militias acting as proxy forces of foreign intervention (sometimes the same for these last two), the Al-Assad regime deployed chemical weapons on many occasions: chlorine and sarin gas aerial bombs and artillery shells. “The deadliest attacks were the August 2013 sarin attack in Ghouta (killing between 281 and 1,729 people) and the April 2017 sarin attack in Khan Shaykhun (killing at least 89 people)… The most common agent used was chlorine, with sarin and sulphur mustard also reported.” 
In prior decades from the 1970s, Syria had built up an arsenal of chemical weapons, with the technological help of Russia and Egypt, as its weapons-of-mass-destruction shield against external threats to the continuation of the Al-Assad regime as the Syrian state. This Syrian chemical “doomsday machine” was intended as its ultimate defense against Israeli aggression, in the same way that the nuclear powers present their arsenals of nuclear-tipped rockets as shields against existential threats to their national sovereignty. 
The worldwide abhorrence against the use of chemical weapons acted as a diplomatic pressure against this tactic by the Al-Assad regime domestically, and was also used as an excuse by the Washington Consensus to justify its various forms of demi-covert intervention in the Syrian Civil War. There has been much propaganda, anti-propaganda, dissimulation, lying and cover-up associated with the reality of chemical warfare in Syria, the slants and biases in the reporting and commentary of which depend on the ideological allegiances of their sources, every faction trying to muddy the waters of public perception in its favor.
In 2013, under intense international pressure against its chemical warfare and fearing a Libya-style NATO intervention, the Al-Assad regime with Russian encouragement acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention. It agreed to eliminate its arsenal of chemical weapons under the supervision (and protection) of Russia. But the complete elimination of that arsenal did not occur, as witnessed by subsequent chemical attacks by the forces of the Syrian regime.
In 2014, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Fact Finding Mission in Syria concluded that the use of chlorine was systematic and widespread. The following year, the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (OPCW-UN JIM) was established to identify the perpetrators of chemical attacks in Syria. The OPCW-UN JIM blamed the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad for the sarin attack in Khan Shaykhun, as well as three chlorine attacks. They also concluded ISIL militants used sulphur mustard. According to the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, the Syrian government carried out 33 chemical attacks between 2013 and September 2018. A further six attacks were documented by the Commission, but the perpetrators were not sufficiently identified. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), 85 confirmed chemical attacks occurred between 21 August 2013 and 25 February 2018, and the Syrian government was responsible for the majority of the attacks. HRW said the actual number of attacks was likely higher than 85. According to a Global Public Policy Institute study, at least 336 attacks have occurred. The report said 98% of these attacks were carried out by Assad’s forces and 2% by ISIL. 
In October 2019, former OPCW employee Brendan Whelan acted as a whistleblower codenamed ‘Alex’, teaming “up with Wikileaks, to expose what appeared to be a major scandal with global implications – the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), had ‘doctored’ a report in order to fabricate a chlorine attack in Syria when no such event had actually occurred… [Brendan Whelan] had been part of the team that investigated the chemical attack in the Syrian town of Douma on April 7, 2018 in which at least 41 civilians were killed. This was done, insinuated ‘Alex’, in order to frame the Syrian government and justify the missile strikes launched by the US, UK and France against forces loyal to the government of Bashar al-Assad in the days following the attack on the town of Douma in April 2018.” 
Russian state media and the Assad regime seized upon these leaks to claim that the chemical attack was staged and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had been hijacked by Western nations and was no longer fit for its intended purpose.
“A draft version of a letter seen by Bellingcat and not publicly released by either ‘Alex’, Wikileaks or any of the journalists who have covered the so-called scandal, proves that a chemical attack did occur. It shows that any notion of a cover-up at the OPCW is false and confirms that the organisation acted exactly as it was mandated to. Further, it also reveals that at a diplomatic level behind closed doors, the Russian and Syrian governments have both agreed with the conclusions of the OPCW report. Yet in public – and with the help of a number of Western journalists and academics – Russia has launched a widespread and concerted effort to undermine both the OPCW and the conclusions of its report on Douma.” 
The unreleased letter referred to above (the relevant portions of which can be seen in ) was drafted by several members of the OPCW in June 2019 and then sent by the director general of the organisation, Fernando Arias, in reply to a letter from Whelan where he claimed there was no evidence of chlorine being used as a weapon in Douma, and traces of chlorine that were found were not consistent with the release of chlorine gas. In his reply Arias explains why Whelan’s assumptions are wrong – he simply wasn’t aware of the latest scientific techniques used by the OPCW because they were developed after Whelan had left the organisation. It was these techniques that allowed the OPCW to conclude chlorine gas had been released in the building in which the Syrian civilians died.
Arias wrote: “Your letter further refers to 2,4,6-trichlorophenol as being used erroneously as an indicator of chlorine exposure, and you rightly point out that this chemical can be present for a variety of reasons that do not require chlorine gas exposure. However, there were additional chlorine-containing chemicals found in samples taken from Douma, and in particular, chlorinated pinene compounds that have been shown to form in certain types of wood that have been exposed to chlorine gas. One of the Designated Laboratories that analysed samples after you completed your tenure has developed methods of analysing wood exposed to chlorine gas that can distinguish between different types of wood in the signatures of chlorinated compounds produced. This laboratory’s analysis of wood samples taken from Douma indicated that the wood indeed had been exposed to chlorine gas.” 
In short, the OPCW did exactly as mandated and established that a chemical weapon had been used at Douma; the OPCW had not falsified evidence nor fabricated a fictitious (false flag) chemical attack.
Arias also wrote that: “I would further like to point out that the conclusion of the final Douma report is not in question. No State Party has questioned the conclusion that there are reasonable grounds to believe that a toxic chemical was used as a weapon in Douma. This includes the Syrian Arab Republic and the Russian Federation, which in recent weeks have each sent us comments and questions on the final Douma report in notes verbale in which they themselves have indicated their agreement with the conclusion of the final report. These notes verbale, as well as our replies to them, have been made available to State Parties.” 
A July/August 2021 news brief by the Arms Control Association states:
“An investigation into 77 allegations of chemical weapons use by Syria has concluded that chemical weapons were likely or definitely used in 17 cases, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) reported to the UN Security Council on June 3 …
“OPCW Director-General Fernando Arias announced that the world’s chemical weapons watchdog will be addressing new issues during future consultations with Syria, including ‘the presence of a new chemical weapons agent found in samples collected in large storage containers in September 2020.’ He said that the organization had notified Syria of its intention to conduct on-site inspections and requested visas for its expert team, but never received a response…
“That is not the first time that Syria has declined to cooperate. In April 2020, the OPCW Executive Council demanded further information regarding three alleged chemical weapons attacks that took place in 2017. Syria declined, and in response, the organization in April suspended Syria’s ‘rights and privileges,’ marking the first time that the OPCW had taken such action since its formation in 1997…
“Russia has consistently defended Syria and criticized the OPCW and its investigators. In response to Arias’ report, Russia’s UN ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, accused the OPCW of exclusively using information ‘from biased sources opposed to the Syrian government’ and of relying on ‘pseudo witnesses,’ according to media reports. He also claimed the OPCW ‘was established illegitimately’ and that therefore it is unfair to expect Syria to comply with its regulations. Russia joined 14 other states, including China, in voting against the measure to restrict Syria’s rights within the multilateral organization…
“Despite Syria’s accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention in 2013 under heavy international pressure, questions remain about the validity of the country’s chemical weapons declarations. Arias reported that one of the deadliest attacks took place in 2017, three years after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad declared that the destruction of the country’s chemical weapons program was complete.” 
So as of mid 2021: the Al-Assad regime remains in control of the Syrian state; there is no convincing evidence that its entire stockpile of chemical weapons has been destroyed and that it no longer has a chemical weapons production capability; there is no guarantee that Syrian military forces will never again deploy chemical weapons against Syrians opposed to the Al-Assad regime; Russian military forces in Syria, along with Russia’s diplomatic clout internationally, continue to protect the Al-Assad regime, as well as maintain Russian foreign-based military power in Syria.
Over the ten years and four months of the Syrian Civil War (so far) over 606,000 people have been killed, 6.7 million Syrians are internally displaced, and 6.6 million Syrians are refugees. The pre-war population of the Syrian Arab Republic was estimated to be 22 million. 
The elimination worldwide of both chemical and nuclear weapons from military arsenals — and threat display diplomacy — remain as yet unfulfilled dreams for a more peaceful and secure world.
Climate change action would kill imperialism, and that is why we can’t have it in America.
American political power is based on fossil fuels, and the US military is the engine that consumes those fuels to produce that power. So long as there is an American political elite that craves lucrative personal prestige and the ability to dominate internationally, the US economy will be fossil-fueled capitalism that maintains the military colossus that enables and protects those elite ambitions.
US military-enabled imperial power is of two varieties:
first: the hard power that overtly invades and seeks to control territory to impose American capitalist domination, as for example capturing pipeline routes south through Afghanistan and Pakistan – away from China – out of Central Asian oil fields; the guarding of sea lanes crucial for petroleum transport west, as at Suez and the Strait of Hormuz, and east to Japan, Korea and Australia (if they behave); and the securing of scarce metal ore and rare earth deposits in Afghanistan and Africa (for elements used in solid state electronics); and
second: the soft power of buying compliance to US hegemony from client states by gifting them with arms sales that enable them to exercise their own mini-imperialistic ambitions, as with Israel’s threat-projection in the Levant that is consistent with US aims of regional control, and Zionism’s own manifest destiny colonialist mania of persecuting the occupied Palestinians and shrinking their reservations; and with arms sales to Saudi Arabia enabling its genocidal war against Yemen, and giving the U.S. leverage to induce the opulent Saudi royalty to keep oil production high and oil prices low on the world market, so as to grease Western capitalism and also undercut the revenue streams supporting Venezuelan socialism and Iranian economic development.
Because of the fracking (oil shale) boom of the last two decades, the U.S. now produces as much oil as Saudi Arabia and is energy independent as a fossil fueled economy, but hegemonic ambition compels it to seek global control of petroleum distribution because to control the flow of oil around the globe is to throttle the imperial ambitions and economic development plans of all others.
American imperialism, mediated by its military, is intrinsically fossil fueled. It is impossible to power the trucks, tanks, gun-carriages, helicopters, airplanes, missiles, drones, ships and submarines of the US military with solar and wind power; only fossil fuels will do. Nuclear power – also based on a fossil fuel, fissile uranium – is used to propel particularly large destruction-projection platforms, specifically missile-carrying submarines and aircraft carriers. Military vehicles require high energy-density fuels, to provide a high amount of energy at a high rate of delivery from relatively small volumes of fuel-matter, in order to propel them quickly (and inefficiently) despite the weight of their armaments.
“Green” forms of energy – solar, wind, hydroelectric – are intrinsically of low energy-density; they are spread out over large areas from which they are collected rather slowly, rather than being chemically concentrated into relatively compact masses, like coal, petroleum, natural gas and fissile uranium, which can be ignited to release their stored energy explosively.
Local sources of “green” electrical energy can power civilian infrastructure almost anywhere, because solar, wind and even hydro power are widely available around the globe. All that is required is investment in and installation of appropriate energy collection technology, and a local area distribution network for electrical power. Green energy is intrinsically a socialist form of powering civilization, because the energy to be used locally can be collected locally, which frustrates the capitalist impulse to monopolize narrowly-defined sites of high energy-density fuel deposits – like coal and uranium mines, and oil and gas wells – and tightly confined electrical generation plants that meter out their electrical power through a web of long distance transmission lines.
The United States can only address the existential threat of global climate change by disavowing the imperialistic and self-aggrandizing ambitions of its political and corporate elite. That means deflating American militarism and its vast war industries complex by abandoning capitalism, which is exclusionary (privatized, extractive) fossil-fueled and speculation-dominated economics, and transforming the US economy to nationally and rationally planned green energy socialism: people over profits, an equalizing domestic solidarity over classist international gamesmanship.
Transforming the American political economy to green energy socialism would be very good for the American people, but it would be the death of American fossil-fueled capitalism, and thus of America’s rulers’ ambitions and privileges.
What we know today is that America’s political and corporate elite would rather see humanity end within a century than disavow its imperialistic and self-aggrandizing ambitions. Their obsession is to rule to the bitter end, a bitter end hastened by their obsession to remain in control. America does not have a robust permanent national commitment to contain, ameliorate and possibly reverse climate change and ecological deterioration because that would necessarily require the overthrow of Imperial America’s capitalist elite and its classist and racist mentality.
The revolution necessary to overthrow American capitalism and enable a national response to the climate change crisis would first require an amazing degree of popular consensus, psychological and intellectual maturity, moral courage, popular solidarity and personal commitment throughout the public, to sustain it through whatever struggle would be necessary to overpower its ruling capitalist paradigm.
Will this ever be possible?, or would any popular American eco-socialist uprising be snuffed out as pitilessly as was the Syrian Revolution? Regardless, is CO2-propelled climate change now so far advanced that it is beyond any human ability to stop? No one can really say.
We are each left with a choice between: defeatist acquiescence to capitalist-dominated climapocalypse, or the dignity of rebellious aspiration and activism for green socialism, regardless of whether or not it will ever be realized politically, and even if it is now precluded by Nature’s implacable geophysical forces that humanity’s blind self-absorption has set into karmic motion.
Kill for Peace, Bomb for Justice, Behead for Nookie
Whenever you want to do something cruel, blame the necessity of it on God: Like the Allah-blamed wannabe caliphate of female sex slavery between Syria and Iraq, even between Arabia and Afghanistan; and the blue-eyed Christ-blamed same in Bible-thumping America.
Right now there is a contest between superpowers, mini-superpowers, micro-superpowers, and proxy wannabe powers to see who can kill the most Muslim civilians from Yemen through Palestine, Syria through Afghanistan, and even out to Burma, but mostly in the Levant.
Just yesterday (14 April 2018) Trump’s America threw in over $200M of ante-in poker chips (i.e., 112 Tomahawk cruise missiles bombing in) to the Syria gaming table of the Levant poker game, in league with returning players England and France, and all three are now mixing it up with new player China and always-in players: Israel, Syria, Russia, Iran, Turkey, shadow-player Arabia, and the usual regional proxy penny-ante bit players.
America must bomb the Syrian military because it kills masses of trapped innocent unarmed civilians, with poison gas and aerial bombs, and we want it to stop. America must not bomb the Israeli military because it kills masses of trapped innocent unarmed civilians, with hails of bullets and aerial bombs, and “we” don’t want it to stop. Nuance is important here, for statesmen-like conscience-free immorality.
Imagine if the Syrian and Israeli ghetto-blasting militaries could 69 their injustices for justice: The Syrian military poison-gas missile-bombing the Israeli military to distract it from killing Palestinian civilians, and the Israeli military retaliating by jet fighter airplane fire-bombing the Syrian military to stop it from killing Syrian civilians, who along with the Palestinians during the welcomed confusion would break out of their respective corralled ghettos to stampede free across the land from the Jordan and Euphrates to the sea, inundating the rabid remnants of the Syrian, Israeli, and Levant-stationed Iranian, Russian, etc., militaries biting each other’s asses in a range war of attrition, as a tsunami of popular revolution sweeping the land clean of authoritarian fundamentalism and imperial capitalism’s Sodom and Gomorrah colonies and Fort Apache military bases.
Such a World War 2-and-Three-Quarters could be a good reality if it didn’t result in a power vacuum that sucked back in new hordes of political opportunists crazed to kill for piece, bomb for “justice” and behead for nookie. To prevent that, we would need a whole series of simultaneous tsunami wave-trains of popular socialist revolution sweeping lands clean worldwide, to bust us all free of capitalism’s ghettos and eradicate the neo-feudalism of stifling authoritarian fundamentalism. That would be World War 3, a long shot last hope for popular liberation that would be increasingly beautiful as it was decreasingly bloody. Nuance is unnecessary for popularly obvious conscience-rooted compassionate morality.
By the broadest definitions of “military bases” and “abroad,” Russia has 15 foreign military bases:
11 are located in “near distant” territory that was part of the U.S.S.R. until 1991, when the U.S.S.R. was dissolved;
4 are in distant foreign lands (2 active in Syria, 1 active in Vietnam, 1 inactive in Cuba);
the above total to 15; and also:
7 are active on now rented “near distant” foreign lands;
3 are now inactive on “near distant” foreign lands;
1 is active on formerly “near distant” foreign land now reincorporated into Russia (Crimea);
3 are active in distant foreign lands (2 in Syria, 1 in Vietnam);
1 is inactive in a distant foreign land (Cuba);
the last five types total to 15.
Notice that the 3 active distant foreign bases are:
– the large naval facility on the Syrian (Mediterranean) coast, at Tartus, and the nearby Khmeimim air base;
– the signals intelligence ‘spy’ post near the Golan Heights (for monitoring communications by Syrian rebel groups and the Israeli Defense Forces), which was overrun by the Free Syrian Army rebels in October 2014 (at least two other Russian intelligence centers are now assumed to be located inside Syria);
– the large naval and air force base at Cam Ranh Bay, in Vietnam.
Clearly, Russia’s only distant (not in former USSR territory) foreign military base near the Atlantic Ocean is its naval and air force facilities on the coast of Syria. Its only other distant foreign military base is on the coast of Vietnam, and thus by the South China Sea (and Pacific Ocean).
The United States has about 800 foreign military bases in about 70 countries; and many encircling Russian in the countries now liberated from the former U.S.S.R.
So, it is easy to see that a major priority (perhaps the top priority) of Russian foreign policy would be to ensure the maintenance and security of its three distant foreign military bases, in particular its two large naval and air force bases, in Syria and Vietnam; and most particularly its coastal Syrian base complex. The Russian naval base in Syria is at a focal point between the Levant, Southern Europe and North Africa.
While Russia has a major military presence in Southeast Asia, with its base at Cam Ranh Bay, it also has a second point from which to project military power into the Pacific region (and globally by submarines): its military facilities in Vladivostok (Eastern Siberia, by the Northwest Pacific, Russia’s eastern flank). But its sole ‘distant’ foreign base on its western flank is its base (naval base and associated air force base) in Syria.
Given the above (my estimation of Russian foreign policy and military priorities) what can we deduce about Russian government preferences regarding possible American (US) regimes? In 2016 the US election was narrowed to three potential candidates: Donald Trump (for the Republicans), and either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders (for the Democrats).
From the Russian perspective, Hillary Clinton as US president was most likely to start covert and overt military actions against Russian interests, a.k.a. war with Syria. That same Russian estimation of potential American foreign policies under either a President Donald Trump or President Bernie Sanders would rate the likelihood of anti-Russian (and anti-Syrian) warlike activity by the U.S. as significantly lower. So, naturally they would prefer Trump or Bernie as the US president after 2016.
Since it was obvious that the Democratic machine and entrenched bipartisan neoliberal capitalist cabal would thwart the Sanders campaign and strongly favor Hillary Clinton, Russian political analysts saw Trump as their American candidate of choice. Thus Russian propaganda and agit-prop aimed at the U.S.A. during 2016 was designed to damage the public image of Hillary Clinton (not hard to do), boost the public image of Donald Trump (not easy to do, but a fascinating challenge to clever and patriotic Russian political gamers), and to launch anti-Hillary barbs couched as rabidly pro-Sanders social media messages, which were disguised to appear as authentic expressions by Sanders’ supporters.
Trump’s vanity bristles at the idea that Russian CIA-like covert election tampering could have had any positive effect in gaining him the presidency (by disaffecting potential Hillary voters), so he angrily dismisses the idea of “Russian interference.”
Hillary’s vanity is publicly outraged by the idea that her coronation as the “first female US president” could have been derailed by “Russian interference,“ and she is no doubt ‘privately’ grateful to the Russians for providing her with another excuse to cover for her cupidity, corruption and incompetence, which put off many possible Hillary voters, and which reality was the second most important cause of her Electoral College failing grade and Trump’s success there. The most important cause of Trump’s Electoral College success, of course, was his genuine appeal to white supremacy, anti-female sexism, crony capitalism and latent fascism. These last four factors also have some appeal with the Putin Regime in Russia.
We leave it to Robert Mueller (Special Counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections) to ascertain the facts, but it seems fairly clear why Donald Trump and the Republican Party dislike and try to hobble the Mueller probe, and why the machine Democrats have been so strident in wanting it to continue and expand into a coup d’état by administrative procedures.
A second and more likely to be successful alternative for the Democrats to replace Trump (and many of his enabling Republicans) is by winning elections; but that would require allowing Bernie Sanders to lead the party and set its agenda. So, that’s forbidden: party over country.
After WW2 (1945) the Allies occupied Germany till 1949, when both the Federal Republic (West Germany) and the Democratic Republic (East Germany) were set up as a result of the breakdown of cooperation between the NATO powers and the Soviet Union (Stalin). The Allied occupiers oversaw the running of Germany (in four major sectors: British, French, Russian, US), and the de-nazification programs, and war crimes trials. Allied troops remained in West Germany until 1955, their numbers being reduced over time, and after that mainly US troops remained in US (a.k.a. NATO) bases (till today).
The US (Allied) occupation of Japan after WW2 lasted from 1945 to 1952. The U.S. governance of occupied Japan transformed the entire form of government (to a parliamentary democracy), and in conjunction with other Allies (British, Indian, French, Australian, Nationalist Chinese, Philippine) war crimes tribunals (of Japanese militarists) were held in Manila. The U.S. kept bases in Japan (to this day), and as the Korean War had started in 1950, the U.S. pumped huge amounts of money into Japan as its platform from which to launch attacks on the Korean peninsula, which US spending kick-started the rapid growth of the Japanese economy.
Germany (West, until 1990 when it reunified with East) and Japan were thus tied economically and militarily to the US-led world capitalist system (the “First World”). There was never a post 1945 Nazi insurgency, nor a post 1945 Imperialist Japanese insurgency, nor a spawning of such international “terrorist” groups.
The NATO (“Allied”) occupation of Libya lasted only 11 days, occurring between Gaddafi’s death on 20 October 2011, and 31 October 2011. During the Libyan Civil War, the Gaddafi regime relied mainly on mercenary troops (largely Sahelian Africans, but also Western mercenaries and technicians), and Gaddafi was bent on mass murder of the pro-democracy Arab Spring inspired activists who opposed his regime, which opposition was favored by most of the Libyan population. [This paragraph has been revised, as prompted by Robert Pearsall in a comment, below.]
The new Libyan government had asked the NATO-UN forces to stay till the end of 2011 (two months), to help it stabilize the country. But, the NATO powers did not wish to invest the time, money and troops/people-power (with the possibilities of some casualties) for that purpose. The broken Libya of today, with mass trafficking of African refugees (by today’s “Barbary Pirates”) towards Mediterranean Europe; and Islamist militia-terrorist bases and training camps, is the result.
What the NATO powers did regarding Libya is equivalent to an unwise patient with an infection who stops taking his full course of prescribed antibiotics after three days, when he’s feeling “good,” instead of the full week or two, and the infection is not eradicated but comes back and is worse because it has mutated to become resistant to the original antibiotics it was suppressed with.
The idea of R2P, “responsibility to protect,” is correct; those with the power (military might) to prevent a dictator from enacting a mass atrocity crime should do so as an act of solidarity with all of humanity, otherwise they share in the guilt of the atrocity as a sin of omission. But, in committing to such action one should do it right, completely, not on the cheap. The goal is not simply the downfall of a dictator and mass murderer, but the transformation of and unity with a whole population. Selfishness is not a good long-term defense. As “Kambei Shimada” said in Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai”: “This is the nature of war: by protecting others, you save yourself.”
Chris Hedges hosted the political writers Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton on his television program (yesterday, on the RT network/channel) for a discussion of the Syrian War, and its many current harmful impacts, as well as its possible grave future consequences for the Middle East, Europe, the United States, and the world. (That episode of Chris Hedges’ program is linked near the bottom.)
My reaction to that program follows.
The problem, as presented so compellingly by Chris Hedges, Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton, is of such large scope that it is difficult to see how any one nation – even the United States – could act alone to “solve it” (forever).
However, the recommendation that the U.S. stop funding destabilization groups in the Middle East (and everywhere), and that the U.S. “pull back” from or “pull out” of the Middle East, would be a very, very helpful step for the reduction of suffering in that region: for example reducing the incidence of wars and the displacements causing huge refugee streams. Such a change in US policy would also benefit the American people by freeing public money now absorbed by covert and overt militarism, to be used instead for much more domestic socialism (like Medicare-for-all, and free college for all).
However, even were such a change in US Middle East policy to occur, there would still be many evils in the region:
– authoritarian and oppressive regimes continuing to hurt the people under them,
– the export of Wahhabism from Saudi Arabia and Qatar,
– the regional Sunni-Shia proxy wars (basically, Saudi Arabia vs. Iran),
– the war by Israel against the Palestinians (who include Muslims and Christians),
– Israel’s agitation against Syria (for regime change, and to keep the Golan Heights),
– Israel’s agitation against Iran (which helps prop up Hezbollah in Lebanon),
– Israel’s agitation includes its own covert and overt military actions, as well as lobbying for the United States to make war against Israel’s designated enemies.
As an engineer without expertise on the Middle Eastern affairs, I have believed since 1973 that the best long-term plan for the U.S. to insulate itself from Middle Eastern turmoil would have been to use the U.S.’s vast fossil fuel resources (and even the nuclear ones) as a stop-gap energy source to power the building of a national solar (“green”) energy collection and distribution system.
That national green energy system would be made of many local solar energy networks interconnected into regional systems, which in turn would be interconnected into a national system. The local power sources would include:
– direct solar-collection to electrical-output arrays (solar panels),
– solar heat collection for boilers that power steam turbines cranking electric generators,
– river hydroelectric (the dams we already have),
– ocean-tidal hydroelectric,
– land-based wind-electric,
– offshore wind-electric,
– a few sites for solar-powered desalination for potable water,
– and solar-powered hydrogen recovery from water for H2-O2 fuel-cell propulsion for civilian aircraft, and road and rail transit.
Given real energy independence, the Unites States could stop funding and supporting Saudi Arabia and Israel (arming them to the teeth so extravagantly). I realize that defunding Israel would be harder to do regardless of circumstances, because of the metastasis of the Israel Lobby within the US body politic. But, if the U.S. could shut off its massive dollar streams currently paying for Middle East petroleum (and bribes to Egypt and Jordan to not annoy expansionist Israel), then many of the Middle East oppressor regimes would be weakened and likely overthrown by more popular and democratic alternatives, and the U.S. would be immune from blackmail by oil embargoes.
Also, a green national energy system for the U.S., replacing the 19th and 20th century fossil and fissile fuel system still in use, would offer a long term, sustainable and low-(no?)-pollution energy-flow for domestic consumption: it would not accelerate climate change.
Obviously, myopic greed such as by fossil and fissile fuel companies opposes such a strategy as they prefer to make private capital gains by extractive exploitation of Nature, and by setting off “pipeline wars” at public expense. The green energy vision and strategy described here is at its core socialist (it is best for the US commons), and it is also internationalist without being belligerent and interventionist, because by sharing such green energy technology internationally the U.S. would help boost the standard of living globally: the human development index (HDI) would increase everywhere, and poverty would decrease everywhere.
Interestingly now in the Middle East, Russia is playing a protective role with regard to its client, the al-Assad regime in Syria, in a mirror-image of the US protection of Zionist-Likud Israel, from the threat of UN Security Council resolutions and international interventions. Will China soon follow the US and now Russian examples and express its power by finding a wayward foreign pet to protect from world opprobrium? Will the Obama Administration or any of its successors follow the example of that apt student of American foreign policy, Vladimir Putin, and lead its Israeli client to nuclear and chemical and biological weapons disarmament under the protective cover of American military might and UN Security Council veto power?
It is so easy to imagine a more wonderful world.
There are many questions about U.S., Russian, Iranian, Israeli, Arab League, European, and world (UN General Assembly) competitive interests in Syria, and preferences regarding the outcome of the Syrian Civil War. I kept my focus narrow (chemical disarmament) in my article because I am not able to give a “complete theory” about all the international complications related to the Syrian Civil War (the “greater” game if you will).
I do believe the fear about chemical weapons spreading is real and widespread, which is why “antagonists” like the U.S. and Russia can so readily agree (3 days!) on a process to quickly remove them from Syria (at least the government stockpile, at first).
Though limited in scope, the mere fact of such new cooperation — instead of a U.S.-led air war in Syria — is clearly a positive development. This positive development gives a little bit of encouragement to the hopeful fantasy that maybe the U.S., Russia, and Iran (the new Iranian government and Obama have exchanged letters, Obama disclosed on TV), and others, might move beyond just cooperating on Syrian chemical disarmament, to negotiating rather than shooting out their differences on Syria, and the region.
My purpose in writing about the Syrian Civil War is to help make this last suggestion explicit (chemical disarmament as the nucleus of wider political settlements). I realize my opinion does not go very far, but even so I have the opportunity, and the effort seems worthwhile. Since it is very rare for people (especially “important” ones) to acknowledge the sources of “their” ideas, we really can never know if some of our suggestions in our little corner of the blogosphere have had useful impact or not. But, unless they are available publicly, there is no chance. So we send them off, like messages in bottles cast out to sea. Who knows? Even if we never see it, maybe somebody will get rescued as a result.
War drums beat for US/NATO intervention (air war) in Syria, supposedly to punish the Bashar al-Assad regime (the government) over the use of chemical weapons, blamed on it instead of rebel forces.
Were hundreds of Syrian civilians killed with chemical weapons in a government attack out of desperation, or by a surreptitious rebel attack as a provocation? Gwynne Dyer’s op-ed states the reality of the situation in Syria very clearly (link below).
My article though “old” is still useful to show what is theoretically possible as a minimally violent resolution of the Syrian Civil War that is based around the destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles (link below also).
But, such a resolution is not realistically possible because none of the numerous combatants nor their rich and powerful sponsors really care about the global public health, safety and security concerns regarding chemical weapons, nor the regional issues of establishing non-authoritarian (democratic or non-dictatorial) governments and regional peace. They each want power, absolutely.
The political power sought (or trying to be maintained) in Syria is that which can be exercised by wealth, and the richest form of wealth for buying power is materially tied to the earth as petroleum: fossil fuel economics.
Syria is a conflict between two combines:
— the Sunni Persian Gulf oil kingdoms and NATO capitalism, who support rebel forces that include al-Qaeda militias (can we call these Wahhabi militants?), and
— a loosely connected Shiite regional bloc of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, the Alawite centered Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, probably the sympathies (and more?) of the Iraqi Shiite dominated government, the full involvement of Iran, and the diplomatic (and perhaps other technical) support of Russia and China.
The control of fossil fuel resources is the major super-power or geo-political obsession of our time. Global warming and climate change be damned, it’s all about hydrocarbon-based chemical energy providing industrial-strength economic and military power, and that being turned to political advantage internationally, ultimately, I think, out of pure ego. Gorillas thump their chests as warnings and displays of power, we (in the form of our governing elites) do this.
The combines at war in Syria have rival schemes for piping Central Asian oil wealth:
— Iranian and Iraqi oil could be piped west through Syria to the Mediterranean, to feed (addict?) the hungry NATO market, and potentially northeast from Iran through a cooperative Afghanistan directly to China.
— A US-favored route for extracted Central Asian oil would be south (from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan) through Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Arabian Sea, where this oil would be loaded onto tankers to join the shipping traffic from the Arabian Peninsula.
— Another US-favored route involves its NATO partner Turkey: pipelines west from Central Asia across or around the Caspian Sea north of Iran, across Azerbaijan and Georgia, west across Turkey, and from there to Europe.
— Pipelines from Asiatic Russia could transport oil west, through Belarus and Ukraine (assuming cooperation) to Europe, or veer south to the Black Sea, and then be transferred to tankers which would have to pass through the Turkish-controlled choke point of the Bosphorus (the Bosphorus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles strait together form the Turkish Straits). A pipeline from Caucasian Russia (east of Turkey) south through Georgia and Azerbaijan (assuming cooperation) or, further east, across the Caspian Sea could connect to pipelines radiating out of Iran.
For its deep-pocket foreign sponsors, the Syrian Civil War is a local and visible flash-point in their much larger and often quiet and discrete global oil chess game.