Forty years since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan

A genocidal war that lead to the creation of Al Qaeda

This month marks the fortieth anniversary of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, which led to a brutal neocolonialist war and the creation of Al Qaeda.

The Soviets invaded Afghanistan on December 24 1979 in defence of a fledgling satellite regime in Kabul. After the 1978 pro-Soviet coup, a disastrous land reform programme and secular modernisation measures drew mass opposition from the traditional Muslim countryside. The ensuing decade of repression spelt the death and disappearance of 50-100,000 people. Villagers would often be massacred outright, while 000s more were tortured and executed by the communist regime1.

On July 3 1979, US President Jimmy Carter authorised the CIA to provide $500,000 to the Mujahideen (as the armed resistance to the regime was known). Though the intelligence consensus was that Moscow would not intervene even if the regime collapsed, national security advisor Zbniew Brzezinski advised Carter that in his estimation this fund “was going to induce a Soviet military intervention”2. Sure enough, six months after Carter’s decision, the Soviets invaded.

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Brzezinski (left) and President Carter (right)

The next ten years spelt genocide for the Afghan people: the Red Army and its proxies subjected entire provinces to depopulation programmes. In 1987, a Fallujah-type campaign in Kandahar reduced the city’s population by 87.5%. Indiscriminate bombing of the population, including the use of chemical weapons, was designed to neutralise and isolate popular support for the resistance3. By the war’s end, 1-2 million Afghan civilians had perished.

Operation Cyclone

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President Reagan with Mujahideen leaders in the White House

The biggest covert operation since the Second World War, the CIA’s Operation Cyclone armed, trained and funded the Mujahideen with the assistance of the Gulf states and the British and Pakistani intelligence services4. At the border with Pakistan, to whose pursuit of nuclear weapons the White House turned a blind eye, Brzezinski rallied the Mujahideen: “…your cause is right”, he told them, “and God is on your side”. A similar performance was given by Britain’s Margaret Thatcher, while Carter’s successor Ronald Reagan personally welcomed Mujahideen leaders to the White House for a photo-op. They were, he said, “the moral equivalents of our founding fathers”.

The most enduring Cyclone myth is that, like many a later foe of the United States, Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden was directly supported by the CIA. In fact Cyclone only involved the 250,000-odd Mujahideen, not the 2000-odd non-Afghan volunteers, known as the Afghan Arabs, from across the Muslim world4.

Nonetheless, had the Russians not invaded, there’d have been no Afghan Arabs, and hence no bin Laden. And Carter’s fund, to quote Brzezinski, “knowingly increased the probability that they (Russians) would invade (Afghanistan)”2.

Blowback’

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Lower Manhattan on September 11 2001

When asked in 1997 if he regretted the blowback of global jihadism from Carter’s original 0.5m dollar fund for the Mujahideen, Brzezinski replied: “Regret what? That…was a great idea. It had the effect of drawing the Soviets into the Afghan trap, and you want me to regret it?…What’s more important to world history: a few stirred up Moslems, or the collapse of communism?”2. Three years later, Al Qaeda struck the twin towers.

The Afghan people have since endured another brutal foreign occupation, this time by the Western imperialists. And like so many former invaders of the ‘graveyard of empires’, the combined might of the world’s most powerful armies have yet to subdue this proud nation.

Citations

1. UN Conflict Mapping Report 1978-2005 as cited by https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/death-list-published-families-of-disappeared-end-a-30-year-wait-for-news/

2. Bruce Riedel; William Blum

3.

4. See Steve Coll, “Ghost Wars”; 911myths.com; for Britain’s role, see Mark Curtis, “Secret Affairs”

Thirtieth Anniversary of the US Invasion of Panama

This month marks the thirtieth anniversary of the US invasion of Panama. Costing 000s of lives, it was a flagrant act of criminal aggression that signalled Washington’s ‘unipolar moment’.

The fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 signified the collapse of the Soviet Union, leaving the United States as the world’s sole superpower. Meanwhile, President Bush I was known as a wimp on foreign policy. Washington needed to put the world on notice, and massage Bush I’s ego. An easy target, Panama was defenceless and already occupied by eighteen US bases.

The official bogeyman was Manuel Noriega, who had upset Washington recently by losing enthusiasm over assisting Washington’s Contra war. But his crimes, most of them committed while on Bush I’s (while CIA director) payroll, became the official pretext. Meanwhile limited control of the strategic Panama Canal was to be transferred to Panama in 1990. In 2000, it would be completely under Panamanian control. Washington would have none of this.

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Then CIA Director George H.W. Bush with employee Manuel Noriega

“Provocations against the Panamanian people by United States military troops were very frequent in Panama,” said Sabrina Virgo, National Labor Organizer, who was in Panama before the invasion. She said the provocations were intended “to create an international incident (to justify invading)“1.

Apocalypse Now

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Panama’s 9/11: the destruction of El Chorrillo

Beginning at dawn, the initial twelve hours of the invasion saw the equivalent of one major bomb blast every two minutes. According to eyewitnesses, neighbourhoods packed with women and children were deliberately attacked. 2-5000 innocent civilians, many of them deliberately shot and bombed by America’s brave marines, would perish.

“The North Americans began burning down El Chorillo at about 6:30 in the morning”, recounted an eyewitness.  “..They would burn a house, and then move to another and begin the process all over again. They burned from one street to the next. They coordinated the burning through walkie-talkies”1.

“People were crushed by tanks”, writes Matt Peppe, “captured Panamanians were executed on the street, and bodies were piled together and burned. Survivors were reportedly hired to fill mass graves for $6 per body“.

Rogue State

The United Nations General Assembly voted 75 to 20 with 40 abstentions, condemning Washington’s act of aggression. The U.S., Britain and France vetoed the resolution. The Organisation of American States (OAS) followed suite, with only the US voting against, decrying the rest of the world’s “narrow concern over ‘nonintervention’”.

A diplomat told the Los Angeles Times that he was “100% certain” of Noriega’s location, “but when I called, SouthCom (the U.S. Southern military command) said it had other priorities”. The razing of El Chorillo ensued.

The majority of Americans were enraptured by President Bush’s invasion. True, the horrific “collateral damage” was never shown on their TV screens, but then such carnage is easily inferable when you send 20,000 troops into a tiny urban country. The US had just committed the supreme crime for which the Nazis were hanged at Nuremberg, and US citizens – like the Good Germans who backed Hitler – were fine with it.

  1. The Panama Deception (Youtube); Central Americans Human Rights Commission investigation http://www.skepticfiles.org/socialis/pan_hr.htm

Top Five Worst US-Supported Dictators

With friends like these, who needs democracy?

1. Suharto

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Between 1965-6, Indonesian dictator Suharto carried out mass anti-“communist”pogroms that cost over a million Indonesian lives, mostly landless peasants. The CIA had a ‘kill list’ of some 5000 PKR leaders, ticking off their names as they were murdered. The American press welcomed what had happened. While accurately describing the horrific slaughter, Time Magazine insisted that it was “the West’s best news for years in Asia”. The New York Times called the bloodbath “a gleam of light in Asia”.

With Suharto’s nationalist predecessor Sukarno finally out of the way, capitalism was restored to the former Dutch colony: Western corporations and the IMF & World Bank swept in, literally redesigning Indonesia’s economy at a conference held in Switzerland.

In 1975, US President Ford gave a green light for Suharto to invade the small neighbour of East Timor. By the occupation’s end in 1999, 25-33% (125,000-200,000) of Timorese had been extinguished under the genocidal military occupation. When the Indonesians started running out of arms in 1978, the Carter administration began an annual $200 million arms flow to Suharto. In the 1980s, Reagan escalated the arms sales. Four years after the 1991 Dili massacre, Clinton proposed the sale of twenty F-15s to “our kind of guy” Suharto, continuing his predecessor Bush I’s illegal training of Indonesia’s Red Berets, behind some of the worst Timor atrocities.

2. Saddam Hussein

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Originally a Soviet client, Saddam Hussein was courted by the West following his aggression against post-revolutionary Iran in 1979, leading to a ten-year conflict that killed 1m+ on both sides. Hussein was armed to the teeth by the US, Britain, France and other Western countries.

His WMD components came from American, British and German firms. When 20,000 Kurds were gassed to death by Iraqi forces at Halabja, US President Reagan blamed the Iranians. When the Kurds rose up against Saddam following the Gulf War, Washington supported the tyrant again, reasoning that there was no opposition to replace him that “the free world” favoured.

At the height of friendly Iraq-US relations, Hussein wiped out 300,000 people in the Al-Anfal campaign. In addition to bogus WMDs, this was used to justify the 2003 invasion, long after the campaign had finished.

3. Shah of Iran

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Installed by a 1953 CIA coup that ousted Iran’s secular democratic government after it threatened to nationalise the country’s oil in accordance with popular aspirations, Pahveli ran a corrupt family dynasty while his CIA/Mossad-trained “SAVAK” police ran torture chambers and death squads. By 1975, Amnesty International described Iran as having “the highest rate of death penalties in the world…and a history of torture which is beyond belief”.

His opponents were sodomised by cattle prods and made to sit on hot grills, or in the electric chair; others were raped, pissed on, had their nails torn out, and subjected to near-drownings and mock executions. In 1979, US President Jimmy “human rights” Carter praised the Shah for transforming Iran into “an island of stability”. Months later, he was overthrow by the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

4. Rios Montt

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After seizing power in Guatemala through a military coup in March 1982, the Christian televangelist launched a savage counterinsurgency campaign that soon became wholesale genocide of tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans in the northwest highlands.

Five months into the slaughter, US President Ronald Reagan warmly greeted Montt and praised him as “a man of great personal integrity and commitment”, while decrying the “bum rap” he was receiving from Amnesty International and other human rights groups reporting his massacres. Reagan’s spin doctor Elliot Abrams, currently Trump’s coup manager for Venezuela, rationalised and whitewashed this Indian holocaust.

In 2013, Montt was finally tried for crimes against humanity and genocide.

5. Batista

imageAfter presiding over 20,000 deaths, the US-backed thug was overthrown by Fidel Castro’s revolution in 1959. During his brutal reign, Cuba became a playground for the American mafia while 40% of the economy was controlled by U.S. corporations. Castro’s reversal of this colonial relationship by nationalising US assets led to Cuba’s seemingly endless punishment by Uncle Sam.

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The Disgraceful Arrest of Julian Assange

See my book on the New Cold War https://www.amazon.com/Eurasian-Tinderbox-Buildup-against-Russia-ebook/dp/B076VVH3CR/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1?keywords=eurasian+tinderbox&qid=1554844133&s=gateway&sr=8-1-fkmrnull

The UK has no sovereignty! The UK must resist!

These were the words shouted by Wikileaks’ Julian Assange while being dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy by British police on Thursday. The cowardly Ecuadorian government invited the cops in to arrest him and take him away, betraying seven years of refuge they had provided him.

Assange’s fear that the British would extradite him to the US (directly or via Sweden) were he to set foot out of the embassy has been vindicated. A UN body classed him as a political refugee and he has received the support of millions around the world for his courageous exposure of Western imperialist machinations and atrocities.

Whatever Assange’s faults, the moral contrast between himself and his persecutors could not be more stark at this point. All those involved in his arrest and extradition to the US are debased cowards who unconscionably prostitute themselves to Washington. Where indeed is the UK’s sovereignty?

This event is a disgrace in modern legal history, and demonstrates multiple things. One, that elite politicians are amoral, unprincipled cowards who are willing to “kill any number of people to stay in power”, to quote Daniel Elsberg, the first modern Assange who exposed the lies that led to and dragged on the genocidal Vietnam war.

The judge branded Assange, a seven-year political refugee whose physical and mental health has clearly deteriorated for the crime of journalism, a “narcissist” driven by “selfish interests”. This “judge” is a coward.

Chelsea Manning refused to testify against her fellow cyber-insurgent, landing her in prison. Resistance of the kind she embodies entails the courage and conviction that her and Assange’s persecutors will never understand.

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Chelsea Manning, Assange’s accomplice in cyber-op against US empire

Whatever Assange’s fate, he has made a massive contribution to the struggle for information, journalism and the right to know. Even if most Westerners are content not to know how much blood is shed in their name in far-off brown countries.

Assange’s arrest sets a dangerous precedent that highlights elite contempt for democracy and the subversive nature of journalism. May its practitioners persevere!

The West and Islam

Both imperialism AND religion behind Western mideast policy

The Ancient Roots of Zionism

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Although the return of the Jews to the Promised Land did not become an active struggle until the late nineteenth century (and even then had the support of only a minority of world Jewry[]), it has always been part-and-parcel of Judeo-Christian belief: in the Bible, God commands the Israelites to seize the land of Canaan (i.e. Palestine) through the depopulation and resettlement of its indigenous “heathen” population (Deut. 7:1-3):

When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites,Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you—  and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroythem totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy.

Later on, God sends the Jews into exile for their “sins”, while predicting that the Messiah will one day come and lead them back to the Holy Land.

Thus, unless David Ben Gurion was the Messiah, the creation of Israel in 1948 seems to be a little premature. Nonetheless, the Zionist conquest of Palestine remains a matter of doctrine in the Judea-Christian tradition. Attempts to distinguish between the Judeo-Christian tradition and Zionism are thus fundamentally flawed.

Outside of the Jewish historical record, we find “zionism” reflected in centuries of Western Christendom. In 1649 for example, Amsterdam-based Ebenezer and Joanna Cartwright petitioned Oliver Cromwell to readmit Jews into England and to help transport them to Palestine. Similarly, Denmark’s Holger Paulli wrote to William III of England and Dauphin of France urging them to return the Jews to Palestine2.

Other early Christian Zionists include Michael Servetus and Francis Kett, theologians Isaac de La Peyrere and Thomas Brightman, Sir Henry Finch, Joseph Eyre, American theologian Increase Mather, Isaac Newton and theologian John Milton. Even France’s Napoleon Bonaparte delved into a bit of early zionism3:

During his invasion of Egypt and Palestine (1798-99), and anticipating the capture of Jerusalem (something that did not happen), Napoleon prepared a Proclamation promising the Holy Land to the Jews, whom he characterised as “the rightful heirs of Palestine”.

The notion of Jewish restoration in Palestine was thus already widely circulated among Western Christians long before the formal Jewish Zionist movement emerged in the 19th century: the “divine promise” prophesied in the Old Testament.

The Creation of the State of Israel

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Lord Shaftesbury

In 1839, Lord Shaftesbury delivered the first proposal by a British politician to return the Jews to the “Holy Land”. The following year, he forwarded his proposal to Europe’s Protestant monarchs in a memorandum1. After getting a British vice-consul and bishopric set up in Jerusalem, Shaftesbury co-founded the Palestine Exploration Fund. Balfourproject.org describes this pioneer of early Zionism1:

As both a committed Christian and a loyal Englishman, Shaftesbury argued for a Jewish return to Palestine because of what he saw as the political and economic advantages to England and because he believed that it was God’s will. He saw the conversion of the Jews as a means of bringing the whole world to faith before Christ returned.

Britain backed the Zionist project not only for strategic reasons3, but also because of rampant Christian Zionism among its key statesmen4. To quote Geoffrey Alderman in the Jewish Chronicle 8/11/12:

The Balfour Declaration was born out of religious sentiment. Arthur Balfour was a Christian mystic who believed that the Almighty had chosen him to be an instrument of the Divine Will, the purpose of which was to restore the Jews to their ancient homeland — perhaps as a precursor to the Second Coming of the Messiah. The Declaration was thus intended to assist in the fulfilment of biblical prophecy. This appealed to Lloyd George, whose private immorality did not prevent him from believing in the prophecies of a Bible he knew inside out.

Such fanaticism was by no means confined to Balfour. To quote Noam Chomsky5:

Christian Zionism is a very significant force. It goes back way before Jewish Zionism. It was an elite phenomenon. Lord Balfour, Lloyd George, Woodrow Wilson, Harry Truman read the Bible every morning. It says there, “God promised the land to the Jews.”…[It] is part of the demographic base of the Republican Party – extremely anti-Semitic, but pro-Israel…

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“Today the crusades have ended”. Britain’s General Allenby upon conquering Jerusalem

The majority of the British cabinet at the time was steeped in Calvinist evangelicalism6. Balfour’s mother, sister of thrice Prime Minister Lord Salisbury, gave her son daily Bible lessons and distributed Gospel tracts at the local railway station7.

Prime Minister Lloyd George, who oversaw the Zionist project, also had an evangelical upbringing. In 1925, he informed the Jewish Historical Society how his education had steeped him in Jewish history, boasting that he could name “all the kings of Israel”. Scott Anderson describes Mark Sykes’ motive for backing the Zionist project3:

A devout Catholic, he regarded a return of the ancient tribe of Israel to the Holy Land as a way to correct a nearly two-thousand-year-old wrong. That view had taken on new passion and urgency with the massacres of the Armenians. To Sykes, in that ongoing atrocity, the Ottoman Empire had proven it could never be trusted to protect its religious minority populations. At war’s end, the Christian and Jewish Holy Land of Palestine would be taken from it, and the failure of the Crusades made right.

Modern Day Crusades

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When Bush II used the term ‘crusade’ after 9/11, many claimed it was just a badly chosen word. But was it really poorly chosen? His administration was packed with Zionists. John Ashcroft attacked Islam after 9/11 while Italy’s Berlusconi characterised the ‘war on terror’ as a war between Western and Islamic civilisations.

Wesley Clark, bizarrely as an argument against Sam Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” thesis and for a peaceful resolution of “differences”, said the following during his 13/5/02 commencement speech at Seton Hall University:

…[others] recognize a civil war within Islam itself…we must influence the struggle where we can, by supporting greater attention to the secular structures in the Islamic world, and by encouraging our own American Islamic community to speak out in support of America’s democratic values.

As of 2005, 40% of the U.S. military were evangelical Christians, including 60% of chaplains. Military Ministry alone has converted thousands of troops, approved by Fort Sam Houston’s top commanders. Fort Jackson, meanwhile, is literally run by evangelical commanders. According to one senior military official cited by the Pentagon’s IG report (7/07): “Campus Crusade for Christ had become so embedded in the Pentagon’s day-to-day operations that he viewed the organization as a “quasi federal entity””8.

Drew Miller states9:

Evangelicalism wasn’t always this prevalent in the military. In fact, through World War II, religion was not a major source of contention at all…That changed with the Cold War. Suddenly, communism and godlessly were inexorably linked, meaning any good American soldier should declare devotion to a god, and preferably the Christian one…

  1. Balfourproject.org
  2. Graetz, Heinrich; Lowy, Bella (December 2009). Bella Lowy (ed.), History of the Jews, Vol. V (in Six Volumes): From the Chmielnicki Persecution of the Jews in Poland (1648 C.E.) to the Period of Emancipation in Central Europe (C. 1870 C.E.) (Cosimo, Inc. 2009), pages 176–7
  3. “With the advent of steam navigation in 1840, the Near East became very important along the route to India as steam ships required frequent reloading and the British ships used the Mediterranean-Red Sea route with transhipment at Suez rather than the long Cape route. In view of all this, British involvement in the Jewish question was no longer a matter of political option but of political necessity”Zionism: a racist and anti-Semitic ideology Lalkar.org; “By the Entente’s coming out in strong support of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, [Mark] Sykes believed, it would inevitably turn the opinion of international Jewry toward its side. In turn, the advocacy of American Jews – a small but powerful constituency – might finally provide the spur for bringing the United States into the war”. Scott Anderson, Lawrence in Arabia (Atlantic Books: London 2014), pages 229-30
  4. Tom Segev, One Palestine Complete (), page 33
  5. Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappe, On Palestine (Penguin Books 2015), pages 61 and 83
  6. Donald M. Lewis, The Origins of Christian Zionism: Lord Shaftesbury And Evangelical Support For A Jewish Homeland (Cambridge University Press 2014), page 329
  7. ibid. 4
  8. Jason Leopold, Military Evangelism Deeper, Wider Than First Thought truth-out.org 21/12/07
  9. Drew Miller, Inside the Military’s Campaign to Make Its Soldiers Christian mic.com 4/9/13

After reporter’s assassination, Saudis continue to kill children with US/UK-sold bombs

In March 2015, Saudi Arabia launched an attack on Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world, to stamp out a Shiite insurgency (‘Houthis’) that threatened to advance Iranian influence in the strategic energy-rich region at the expense of Western-Saudi hegemony. The result has been a humanitarian catastrophe killing thousands and threatening millions with famine. Saudi warplanes have bombed countless civilian targets from factories and markets to hospitals and villages.

US Assistant Secretary John Kerry soon confirmed US support for the war, including “intelligence sharing, targeting assistance, and advisory and logistical support for strikes against Houthi targets”. Riyadh’s command and control centre includes both American and British military trainers/advisers with access to target lists, though they are said to not be directly involved in selecting targets.

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Catastrophe: Saudi-led war has killed thousands, threatens millions with famine

The UN soon reported 2300 civilian deaths due to airstrikes alone. The following month, Obama pushed for a series of arms deals with the Saudis worth $115b. Apparently, his previous $60b arms deal with the medieval monarchy, the biggest in US history with its 154 F-15s and Apaches, was insufficient in satisfying the Kingdom’s bloodlust. Ditto Britain’s delivery of 500lb Paveway IVs a couple months earlier…

Following the Saudi bombing of a wedding that killed nearly 50, a PR-conscious Washington was forced to back off from most of the proposal due to pressure from human rights groups. A billion-dollar deal, however, did go ahead. On his visit to the Great Democracy, the Four Seasons literally laid out a (blood?) red carpet for the King and his royal entourage.

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Deal in blood: Six months into Yemen slaughter, a billion dollar arms deal

Wsws.org comments on the tacit AQ-US alliance throughout this period and ongoing, a hardly surprising fact given Washington’s covert CIA activities in Libya and Syria:

…The only areas which have escaped coalition airstrikes are those parts of the country controlled by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which has proven itself an effective ally of the US in the effort to defeat the Houthis. US drone strikes continue to target individual AQAP leaders, but their fighters have been free to move throughout the country unmolested.

As for Trump, he followed up his $15b arms sale last October with a $110b series of deals plus an optional $350b extra over the next ten years. This all seems to be hoopla, but Trump has made his point: he, like his ‘liberal’ predecessor, is proud to serve his country…by helping to kill children.

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“This is peanuts for you”: Prince Salman and President Trump

UK arms sales, meanwhile, have increased fivefold since the Saudi war began. In May, the Daily Telegraph cited Saudi military sources as saying that, of the 100 warplanes it is using round-the-clock, “about 50 percent are British-made Tornados and Eurofighters that have been sold to the Saudis over the past 30 years…”.

In defiance of UN Security Council Resolution 2286, the British government is immunising the Saudis by allowing them to conduct their own war crimes investigations. On October 13, it disclosed that Saudi Arabia had used five different UK bombs and missiles in Yemen.

Since its creation by Britain, Saudi Arabia has functioned as the chief pillar of Western power in the strategic oil-rich Middle East. As such, merely “dropping the Saudis” is insufficient. All the Gulf dictators are brutal and repressive, and they all serve as “stabilizers” for foreign investments in the region. The broader necessity, in whose context a struggle against the Saudi monarchy resides, is to drop the Anglo capitalist-imperialist order.

Sources

Johnpilger.com

Chomsky.info

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/uk-british-weapons-arms-sales-saudi-arabia-yemen-war-increase-500-civilians-war-crimes-export-a8042871.html

The Long War on Central America

The story behind America’s immigration issues today

…150 Contras attacked two villages in the southern province of Rio San Juan with 88-mm mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, killing six children and six adults and injuring 30 others. Even cooperatives of religious pacifists who refused to bear arms were destroyed… In El Salvador too, the army attacks cooperatives, killing, raping and abducting members[1].

These were the killing fields of Central America. Throughout the 1980s, the Reagan administration armed, trained and funded terrorist death squads worthy of ISIS:

Many top Salvadoran, Honduran and Guatemalan army officers were trained at the School of the Americas in Panama, and then after 1984, Fort Benning in Georgia… The 15,000-men contra army – employing kidnapping, torture, rape and murder – targeted health clinics, schools, agricultural cooperatives, bridges and power stations (i.e. State Department-authorised ‘soft targets’[1]).

…Similar atrocities occurred in neighbouring El Salvador, where US-trained troops stabbed, decapitated, raped and machine-gunned 767 civilians in the village of El Mozote in late 1981, including 358 children under age thirteen. Congress ended up funding almost $6 billion to this tiny country, making it the largest recipient of US foreign aid per capita in the world. Wealthy landlords were running the right-wing death squads and murdered thousands of suspected leftists. The death toll from the war reached 70,000[2].

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The contras: America’s terrorists

In 1988, an Amnesty report accused Reagan’s El Salvadoran death squads of “killing and mutilating victims in the most macabre way…[bodies] mutilated, decapitated, dismembered, strangled or showing marks of torture…or rape”. Women were publicly hung from trees by their hair, their breasts cut off and faces painted red.

Two years earlier, the US had dismissed a World Court ruling against its “unlawful use of force” against Nicaragua, quickly vetoing a pair of subsequent UN resolutions to the same effect and providing an extra $100m in military aid to the contras in 1987[1].

Of the 20-30,000 civilians who ultimately perished in the Nicaraguan conflict, the contras were responsible for the vast majority[2]. Among the victims were six Jesuit intellectuals and archbishop Oscar Romero, “the voice of the voiceless” whose radical liberation theology favoured the empowerment of the poor: a threat to US finance capital.

The US war on Central America began long before Reagan. In 1823, the Monroe Doctrine asserting America’s divine right to singularly control the hemisphere. The first to challenge this was Augusto Sandino’s poorly-armed guerrilla insurgency against the US invasion of Nicaragua, launched in 1912 to defend its conservative puppet Adolfo Diaz against a Liberal revolt, secure US monopoly over canal construction and open the country up to international banking[3].

Sandino favoured the unification of all of Central America. “Nicaragua shall not be the patrimony of Imperialists”, he proudly declared. “I will fight for my cause as long as my heart beats”.

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Anastasio Somoza (left) and Augusto Sandino (right)

The outbreak of the Great Depression forced the US to withdraw its troops from Nicaragua in 1933 but, the following year, head of the US-commanded National Guard Anastasio Somoza ordered Sandino’s assassination and seized power in an eventual coup d’état.

For the next 44 years, Somoza ran a mafia-like dynasty that controlled whole swathes of industry and almost half the country’s arable land. Somoza’s opponents were often dumped alive into a live volcano from his US-supplied helicopters. The Carter administration sponsored a $65m IMF loan for Somoza even as he bombed his own people[3].

A month before his overthrow by the 1979 Sandinista revolution, a member of his National Guard shot dead American reporter Bill Stuart live on camera, cementing US antiwar opposition that forced Reagan to resort to clandestine terror: Somoza’s national guard regrouped in neighbouring Honduras with CIA funds, arms and training before launching a ferocious campaign to undermine the revolution’s remarkable social reforms.

During the 1980s, the Reagan administration also armed, trained and funded the Guatemalan army as it conducted a brutal genocide of some 100,000 indigenous Mayan peasants. The general responsible, finally sentenced in the Hague a few years ago, was welcomed to the White House by fellow born-again evangelical Reagan, who called him “a man of great personal integrity”[2]. According to documents seen by the late investigative reporter Robert Parry, Washington had full knowledge of the subsequent native Indian genocide, yet continued to give him aid[4].

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In 1989, Reagan’s successor and former CIA chief George Bush Sr. launched an invasion of Panama to secure US control of the strategic Panama Canal, indiscriminately killing thousands of civilians[5] and leading to the capture and sentencing of one of his ex-employees, Manuel Noriega, for crimes mostly committed while on the CIA payroll[1].

Washington’s long war on Central America continues today in different forms. In 1994, the Clinton administration passed NAFTA, a profit bonanza for US corporations and Wall Street while a disaster for Mexican agriculture unable to withstand the competition. Earlier that year, Clinton had the border militarized via Operation Gatekeeper, clearly anticipating – notes Chomsky – the exodus from Mexico that NAFTA would generate[1].

In 2009, the Obama administration engineered a coup against the elected government of Honduras. Since then, US “anti-drug” operations constitute an occupying force echoing previous US occupations of the island: the victims of a helicopter attack on a boat of Mothers Day celebrants included two pregnant women, one of them a single mother of six, and apparently no traffickers. Such helicopters are piloted by Guatemalan mercenaries on the US payroll.

Criminal violence related to the drug war in Central America is skyrocketing. Homicides are way up. There is massive deforestation, driven in many places by the demand for biofuels; intensified corporate mining, including open-pit mining, is poisoning water supplies. Political repression is likewise on the rise, in places like Honduras’s Aguán Valley and in Guatemala’s Polochic Valley. The old Cold War alliance between death squads and a landed class seems to be back in operation, albeit updated: “death squads” are now legal security companies, often staffed with veterans from global hot spots, including former paramilitaries from Colombia, while landlords now receive funding from international development agencies to convert their fields into biofuel plantations to supply the United States with its energy needs[1].

Today’s atrocious policy at the US-Mexico border is the latest chapter in this long war on Central Americans and Mexicans. Mexican protesters called Obama the “deporter-in-chief”: he warehoused and deported 2.7 million, more than any US president before him. Under Obama, they were systematically beaten, tortured and raped by CBF agents. In one case, hungry babies were deprived of milk, while others vomited from repeatedly receiving contaminated meat and milk[6].

His successor Donald Trump has accelerated this savage policy, including the now suspended (due to public outrage) family separation policy that violated the US-ratified Genocide Convention.

US-NATO wars this century helped create the conditions of “Europe’s” refugee/migrant crisis. Reagan, Clinton and Obama’s policies have had a similar contribution to the flight of Central Americans and Mexicans to North America.

Trump’s proposed wall epitomises the mentality of imperial self-entitlement that discards history and refuses to acknowledge responsibility. Such an attitude of blind arrogance brought down the Roman empire. History does not bode well for Donald Trump’s campaign slogan!

  1. Chomsky.info
  2. Oliver Stone, The Untold History of the United States (PBS Mini Series)
  3. Nicaragua (freely viewable at johnpilger.com)
  4. consortiumnews.com
  5. The Panama Deception
  6. ACLU report 05/18