Interview with David Graeber on Democracy in America

By Lynn Parramore, a senior editor at Alternet. Cross posted from Alternet

We think we know what democracy is. But do we? Anthropologist David Graeber burst into national consciousness in 2011 with the Occupy movement he helped to spark. The author of Debt: The First 5,000 Years has written a daring book about democracy in America: its origins, its opponents, and its chances of happening today given the stranglehold of the wealthy on our economic and political systems. Part reflection on Occupy Wall Street, the first major stirring of democratic spirit in the living memory of many, and part journey through the questions and tensions surrounding an admittedly difficult concept, Graeber’s The Democracy Project: A History, A Crisis, A Movement is a welcome inquiry from an intriguing public intellectual. In the following interview, he discusses some of the major themes of the book.

Lynn Parramore: How has the Occupy movement illustrated and shaped your notion of democracy? What changes sparked by Occupy can be seen now in our political and economic systems?

David Graeber: I was first introduced to new forms of radical democracy in the global justice movement back in 2000, and that certainly transformed my own sense of political possibility. Most of us who were involved at the time felt we had finally come up with a powerful revolutionary formula: to begin to create institutions that could exist in a free society (that is, one that wasn’t based on systematic violence or the threat of violence to create order), to juxtapose that to the profoundly undemocratic structures of power that currently exist… Of course then came 911 and the war on terror, and the terms of engagement for American social movements changed dramatically. We felt we were nipped in the bud.

Finally, in 2011, a new generation of young activists — helped out, certainly, by people like me from the last time around, but actually surprisingly few — managed to pull it off, briefly, on a mass scale. I think it’s thrown open an almost kaleidoscopic sense of possibility, from alternative banking systems and mutual aid projects to communal assemblies as a potential form of self-governance. We have no idea yet where it all might lead if the democratic culture we’re trying to build really does take root. The main thing Occupy did was to throw open the imagination, to get us to start thinking on a scale and grandeur appropriate to the times.

LP: You note that democracy was contested during America’s founding. Who were the proponents of democracy and how did they manifest their views?

DG: Actually, there were almost none. In the writings of the patriots and leaders of the revolution, word «democracy» was used almost interchangeably with «anarchy» or even «mob rule.» Everyone opposed it. By democracy, they meant, either rule through popular assemblies like in ancient Greece — which they saw a little during the big mobilizations they called out during the revolution — or by extension, any system where ordinary people held the power of governance themselves. So it wasn’t really contested among the political classes. They were uniformly opposed to it. You just have to read the opening remarks of the constitutional convention of 1789: it begins, ‘we have a problem. There’s far too much democracy in this country. State constitutions cannot contain it. We need to set up something stronger.’

Still, it seems that ordinary people would use it sometimes, almost for shock value, the way some people in the 19th century started calling themselves anarchists, or in the 20th, queer. It’s very hard to reconstruct the history. For me, the most revealing record we have is a letter by one Gouverneur Morris, whose family basically owned the Bronx, describing his reaction at witnessing a mass meeting he and the other pro-independence politicians had called out in New York in 1774 to discuss a tax boycott — it ended up in a long debate over whether the new country should have a «democratic» constitution — the ordinary tradesmen and mechanics who attended seem to have actually used the word, and seem to have argued for it using all the classic allusions the gentry were used to employing. «The mob,» he wrote, «begin to think and reason!» He was horrified. We could try banning schoolteachers, he said, but that would never work. So he decided he wasn’t for independence after all.

There were a few radical writers like Tom Paine who did use the word «democracy» from early on, but the first official use was by Jefferson and Madison when they founded the «Democratic Republican» party — which is clearly just some sort of PR trick, since Jefferson himself never uses the word «democracy» at all in his own writings. But the person who really transformed the language was Andrew Jackson. He ran as a «democrat» and it was so effective that over the course of the 1830s, everyone started calling themselves that. So basically the Republican system that was set up to contain democracy itself got renamed «Democracy.»

LP: You describe something called the «democratic unconscious» as a kind of shadow political idea that has been present in America since the beginning. What is it and why has it been associated with violence and criminality?

DG: Well, when you say «associated» I think you have to ask, by whom? I think if you want to look at the ethos of individualism, egalitarianism, of democratic improvisation that does seem to mark the American spirit from early on, you have to got back to the very first settlers. It’s quite interesting. At first, the settlers called themselves Englishmen, Dutch, or Frenchmen, it was the Indians they referred to as «Americans.» They only really started calling themselves «Americans» when they started acting more like Indians. You see the Puritan fathers complaining about this all the time, how fathers are abandoning «severity» and acting like Indians, not beating their wives and children, talking back to their betters… And then of course there’s the presence of the frontier itself, and all the places just outside state control, where people often from very different backgrounds met and had to make something up in a hurry. I call them spaces of democratic improvisation. At first there were a lot of these, any many in surprising places. Some have suggested that one of the earliest really democratic institutions were pirate ships. Pirate captains mostly couldn’t give commands except during chase or battle; otherwise everything was decided by majority vote. But of course one can well imagine how the educated gentry viewed such spaces.

LP: Why is the financialization of capitalism such a powerful anti-democratic force? Is any kind of capitalism compatible with democracy?

DG: I suppose it depends on how you define either term. In the book, I make the argument that, if we see «democracy» as an ideal, a form of collective problem-solving rather than a battle of conflicting interests, then you can’t really reconcile that with vast inequalities of wealth. The founders were actually pretty perceptive on this — though their conclusion was that since they wanted to maintain vast inequalities of wealth, they didn’t like democracy.

As for financialization, well, we tend to talk about that as if it’s all very abstract. More and more profits are derived not from making or selling anything, but pure speculation, as if these Wall Street types have figured out a way to whisk wealth into being simply by saying that it’s there. In fact what it really means is that financial interests collude with government — which they’ve basically completely bought out, at this point — to enforce policies that reduce more and more Americans into debt. The reason it’s so anti-democratic is that it changes the role of government itself, which is increasingly becoming merely the legal cover and muscle behind debt and rent extraction, for a very small group of the super-wealthy who play by a completely different set of rules. This in turn changes ordinary Americans’ basic perceptions of their relation to government and other key institutions of our society. Most people no longer see themselves as «middle class» precisely because they no longer feel those basic institutions are ultimately on their side.

LP: Obama has just proposed to cut Social Security and Medicare as part of his budget. How does this action reflect your view of the people’s will and its reflection in our political system?

DG: Well, clearly, it demonstrates that what people actually want has almost no bearing on what elected officials do. If it did we’d have single payer, which was supported by something like two thirds of the US public. In fact it wasn’t even considered. Now, all this is quite in keeping with the fact that government is becoming a mere extension of financial interests but what fascinates me is the compliance of the educated classes, and what pass for opinion-makers in this country. No one seems to see any of this as particularly scandalous. The media in particular seem to have abandoned any notion that «democracy» has anything to do with popular will; they see it as an institutional structure, a system of checks and balances, operating through laws — so if properly constituted authorities just change the laws, making most forms of bribery legal, for example, by relabeling it «lobbying» — then that’s not a threat to democracy, that somehow is democracy at work. This is why I think going back to that original history is so important.

LP: You make the intriguing statement that in order to break out of the money and politics trap, the left ought to take its cue from the populist right. What do we need to understand from them?

DG: Mainly that people resent being told they’re selfish greedy bastards who care only about material self-interest. Progressives always ask why working-class people tend to vote Republican even though it’s so obviously economically disadvantageous. I think the reason is that the Democrats aren’t much better, but the Republicans at least tell them that they’re noble. They are good people willing to undergo austerity for the good of their grandchildren. They are patriots. They are people of faith. The Democrats say «well, we think you’re basically in it for yourselves, everyone is. So are we. So we don’t have to give you very much, we’ll keep most of the goodies for the professional elites and Wall Street types who fund us — but you should go along anyway because a little is better than nothing.» I think right-wing populists hate the «liberal elite» more than economic elites because they’ve grabbed all the jobs where you get paid to do something that isn’t just for the money — the pursuit of art, or truth, or charity — and all they can do if they want to do something bigger than themselves and still get paid is join the army.

The one thing that really impressed me about Occupy was how so many of those who got involved, or even more of those who supported it from afar, were in the caring and helping professions. Which is not a huge percentage of our workforce: teachers, social service providers, medical workers… And that’s what they were saying too «if you want to do a job where you do good in the world, where you take care of others, they’ll put you in so much debt you won’t even be able to take care of your own family.» We need to start from that and think about what work is and why people do it, what an economy is even for, and the fact that a society that punishes people for trying to be decent human beings is profoundly inhuman.

LP: You favor consensus democracy with collective deliberation and equal participation. How can that operate at a large scale? What’s wrong with majority voting with rights?

DG: Majority voting tends to encourage maximizing the differences between people, rather than encouraging compromise, creative synthesis, seeking common ground, which is what consensus is designed to do. Majority voting also invariably needs some sort of coercive mechanisms of enforcement. Don’t get me wrong, nobody’s talking about absolute consensus, like they used to do, where just one person can block everything and there’s nothing you can do about it. Consensus is just a way to change proposals around until you get something the maximum number agree on, rather than our system, say, where practically 48-49 percent of voters each time always ends up crushed and defeated. And yes, when you get up to a larger scale, you can’t just rely on assemblies or spokescouncils. It does make sense to decentralize as much as possible. Consensus only works if you don’t have to ask for it unless you really have to. But as for scaling up: there are any number of possibilities.

One I’ve been studying up on of late is sortition. Through much of Western history, it never occurred to anyone that elections had anything to do with democracy — they were considered aristocratic. The democratic way of choosing officials, if you had to do it, was lottery. Give people basic tests for sanity and competence and then let anyone who wants to throw in their name have an equal shot. I mean, how can we do much worse than a lot of the people we have now? Sortition would be more like jury duty, except non-compulsory. But there are all sorts of other possibilities.

LP: Is democracy possible in America? If so, what might it look like?

DG: It’s possible anywhere. But it would take enormous changes in our economic and political assumptions. Myself, I’m less interested in mapping out a constitution for a truly democratic society than creating the institutions by which people can collectively decide for themselves what it might look like. The one resource in the world that’s absolutely not scarce at all is smart, creative, people with ideas we’d never have thought of. Solutions are out there. The problem is 99 percent of those people spend most of their lives being told to shut up.

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War in Mali: USAFRICOM Targets China

F. William Engdahl  Part I: Africa’s New Thirty Years’ War?

F. William Engdahl-bigMali at first glance seems a most unlikely place for the NATO powers, led by a neo-colonialist French government of Socialist President Francois Hollande (and quietly backed to the hilt by the Obama Administration), to launch what is being called by some a new Thirty Years’ War Against Terrorism.

Mali, with a population of some 12 million, and a landmass three and a half times the size of Germany, is a land-locked largely Saharan Desert country in the center of western Africa, bordered by Algeria to its north, Mauritania to its west, Senegal, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Niger to its southern part.

People I know who have spent time there before the recent US-led efforts at destabilization called it one of the most peaceful and beautiful places on earth, the home of Timbuktu. Its people are some ninety percent Muslim of varying persuasions. It has a rural subsistence agriculture and adult illiteracy of nearly 50%. Yet this country is suddenly the center of a new global “war on terror.”

On January 20 Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron announced his country’s curious resolve to dedicate itself to deal with “the terrorism threat” in Mali and north Africa. Cameron declared, “It will require a response that is about years, even decades, rather than months, and it requires a response that…has an absolutely iron resolve…” [1] Britain in its colonial heyday never had a stake in Mali. Until it won independence in 1960, Mali was a French colony.

On January 11, after more than a year of behind-the-scenes pressure on the neighboring Algeria to get them entangled in an invasion of its neighbor Mali, Hollande decided to make a direct French military intervention with US backing. His government launched air strikes in the rebel-held north of Mali against a fanatical Salafist band of jihadist cutthroats calling itself Al-Qaeda in the Islamic-Mahgreb (AQIM).

The pretext for the seemingly swift French action was a military move by a tiny group of Islamic Jihadists of the Tuareg people, Asnar Dine, affiliated with the larger AQIM. On January 10 Asnar Dine – backed by other Islamist groups – attacked the southern town of Konna. That marked the first time since the Tuareg rebellion in early 2012 that Jihadist rebels moved out of traditional Tuareg territory in the northern desert to spread Islamic law to the south of Mali.

As French journalist Thierry Meyssan noted, French forces were remarkably well prepared: “The transitional President, Dioncounda Traore, declared a state of emergency and called to France for help. Paris intervened within hours to prevent the fall of the capital, Bamako. Far-sightedly, the Elysée had already pre-positioned in Mali troops from the 1st Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment (“the Colonials”) and the 13th Parachute Dragoon Regiment, helicopters from the COS (Special Operations Command), three Mirage 2000D’s, two Mirage F-1’s, three C135’s, a C130 Hercules and a C160 Transall.” [2] What a convenient coincidence.

By January 21 US Air Force transport planes began delivering hundreds of French elite soldiers and military equipment to Mali, ostensibly to roll back what we were told was an out-of-control terrorist advance south towards the Mali capital. [3] French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told media the number of its ‘boots on the ground’ in Mali had reached 2,000, adding that “around 4,000 troops will be mobilized for this operation,” in Mali and outside bases. [4]

But there are strong indications the French agenda in Mali is anything but humanitarian. In a France 5 TV interview, Le Drian carelessly admitted, “The goal is the total reconquest of Mali. We will not leave any pockets.” And President Francois Hollande said French troops would remain in the region long enough “to defeat terrorism.” The United States, Canada, Britain, Belgium, Germany and Denmark have all said they would support the French operation against Mali. [5]

Mali itself, like much of Africa is rich in raw materials. It has large reserves of gold, uranium and most recently, though western oil companies try to hide it, of oil, lots of oil. The French preferred to ignore Mali’s vast resources, keeping it a poor subsistence agriculture country. Under the deposed democratically-elected President Amadou Toumani Toure, for the first time the government initiated a systematic mapping of the vast wealth under its soil.

According to Mamadou Igor Diarra, previous mining minister, Malian soil contains copper, uranium, phosphate, bauxite, gems and in particular, a large percentage of gold in addition to oil and gas. Thus, Mali is one of the countries in the world with the most raw materials.

With its gold mining, the country is already one of the leading exploiters directly behind South Africa and Ghana. [6] Two thirds of France’s electricity is from nuclear power and sources of new uranium are essential. Presently, France draws significant uranium imports from neighboring Niger.

Now the picture gets a little complex.

According to usually reliable former US military experts with direct familiarity with the region, speaking on condition of anonymity, US and NATO Special Forces actually trained the same “terrorist” bands now justifying a neo-colonial US-backed invasion of Mali by France. The major question is why would Washington and Paris train the terrorists they are now acting to destroy in a “war on terror?” Were they really surprised at the lack of NATO loyalty from their trainees? And what is behind AFRICOM’s American-backed French takeover of Mali?

 Part II: AFRICOM and ‘Victoria’s Secrets’

The truth about what is really going on in Mali and with AFRICOM and NATO countries, especially France is a little bit like a geopolitical “Victoria’s Secret”—what you think you see is definitely not what you will get.

We are being told repeatedly in recent months that something supposedly calling itself Al Qaeda—the organization officially charged by the US Government as responsible for pulverizing three towers of the World Trade Center and blowing a gaping hole in the side of the Pentagon on September 11, 2001—has regrouped.

According to the popular media account and statements of various NATO member country government officials, the original group of the late Osama bin Laden, holed up we are supposed to believe somewhere in the caves of Tora Bora in Afghanistan, has apparently adopted a modern business model and is handing out Al Qaeda official franchises in a style something like a ‘McDonalds of Terrorism,’ from Al Qaeda in Iraq to Libyan Islamic Fighting Group in Libya and now Al-Qaeda-in-the Islamic-Maghreb.

I’ve even heard reports that a new Al Qaeda “official” franchise has just been given, bizarre as it sounds, to something called DRCCAQ or Democratic Republic of Congo Christian (sic) Al Qaeda. [7] Now that’s a stretch which reminds one of an equally bizarre sect called Jews for Jesus created back in the hippie days of the Vietnam War era. Can it be that the architects of all these murky groups have so little imagination?

If we are to believe the official story, the group being blamed in Mali for most all the trouble is Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM for short). The murky AQIM itself is actually a product of several behind-the-scenes workings. Originally it was based in Algeria across the border from Mali and called itself the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC according to its French name).

In 2006 Al Qaeda’s head guru in absence of Osama bin Laden, Egyptian jihadist Ayman al-Zawahiri, publicly announced the granting to the Algerian GSPC the Al Qaeda franchise. The name was changed to Al-Qaeda-in-the Islamic-Mahgreb and Algerian counter-terror operations pushed them in the past two years over the desert border into northern Mali.

AQIM reportedly is little more than a well-armed criminal band that gets its money from running South American cocaine from Africa into Europe, or from arms dealing and human trafficking. [8]

A year later, in 2007, the enterprising al-Zawahiri added another building block to his Al Qaeda chain of thugs when he officially announced the merger between the Libyan LIFG and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb (AQIM).

The LIFG or Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, was formed by a Libyan-born jihadist named Abdelhakim Belhaj. Belhaj was trained by the CIA as part of the US-financed Mujahideen in Afghanistan during the 1980s alongside another CIA trainee then named Osama bin Laden. In essence, as the journalist Pepe Escobar notes, “for all practical purposes, since then, LIFG/AQIM have been one and the same – and Belhaj was/is its emir.” [9]

That becomes even more interesting when we find that Belhaj’s men – who, as Escobar writes, were at the forefront of a militia of Berbers from the mountains southwest of Tripoli, the so-called Tripoli Brigade—were trained in secret for two months by US Special Forces. [10]

LIFG played a key role in the US and French-backed toppling of Libya’s Qaddafi, turning Libya today into what one observer describes as the “world’s largest open air arms bazaar.”

Those arms are reportedly flooding from Benghazi to Mali and other various hotspot targets of destabilization, including, according to what was suggested at the recent US Senate Foreign Relations testimony of outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, by the boatload from Libya to Turkey where they were being channeled into the various foreign terrorist insurgents sent into Syria to fuel the destruction of Syria. [11]

Now what does this unusual conglomerate globalized terror organization, LIFG-GPSC-AQIM intend in Mali and beyond, and how does that suit AFRICOM and French aims?

 Part III: Curious Mali Coup and AQIM terror—exquisite timing

Events in the formerly peaceful, democratic Mali began to get very strange on March 22, 2012 when Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure was ousted and driven into exile in a military coup one month before a scheduled presidential election. Toure had earlier instituted a multi-party democratic system.

The putsch leader, Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo, received military training in the US, at Fort Benning, Georgia and the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia according to AFRICOM’s spokesman. [12] Sanogo claimed the military coup was necessary because Toure’s government was not doing enough to quell Tuareg unrest in northern Mali.

As Meyssan points out, the March 2012 military coup against Toure was suspicious in every regard. A previously unheard-of group called CNRDRE (in English: National Commitee for the Recovery of Democracy and the Restoration of the State) overthrew Touré and declared intention to restore Mali law and order in the north.

“This resulted in great confusion,” Meyssan goes on, “since the putschists were incapable of explaining how their actions would improve the situation. The overthrow of the President was even stranger since a presidential election was to be held five weeks later and the outgoing President was not running for office. The CNRDRE is composed of officers who were trained in the United States.

They halted the election process and handed power to one of their candidates, who happened to be the Francophile Dioncounda Traore. This sleight of hand was legalized by the CEDEAO (or in English, ECOWAS—Economic Community of West African States), whose President is none other than Alassane Ouattara, who was placed in power in the Ivory Coast by the French army a year earlier.” [13]

Alassane Ouattara, educated in economics in the US, is a former senior IMF official who in 2011 forced out his Ivory Coast presidential rival with French military assistance. He owes his job not to “the New York Times,” but to French Special Forces. [14]

At the time of the military coup, the unrest in question was from an ethnic tribe, Tuareg, a secular, nomadic group of pastoral cattle-herding people who demanded independence from Mali in early 2012.

The Tuareg Rebellion was reportedly armed and financed by France who repatriated Tuaregs who had been fighting in Libya for the purpose of splitting the north of Mali along Algeria’s border, from the rest of the country and declaring Sharia law. It only lasted from January to April 2012, at which time the nomadic Tuareg fighters rode off to their nomad haunts in the central Sahara and borders of the Sahel, a vast borderless desert area between Libya and Algeria, Mali and Niger. That left the Algerian-Libyan LIFG/Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and their associates in the Jihadist Asnar Dine to carry out the dirty work for Paris. [15]

In their 2012 battle for independence from Mali, the Tuareg had made an unholy alliance with the Jihadist AQIM. Both groups, briefly joined together with Asnar Dine, another islamist organization led by Iyad Ag Ghaly. Asnar Dine is believed to have ties to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb which is led by Ag Ghaly’s cousin, Hamada Ag Hama. Ansar Dine wants the imposition of strict Sharia law across Mali.

The three main groups briefly joined forces the moment Mali was plunged into chaos following the March 2012 military coup. The coup leader was Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo, who received military training at the Marine Corps camp at Quantico, Virginia and Special Forces training at Fort Benning, Georgia in the US.

In a bizarre play of events, despite the claim the coup was driven by the civilian government’s failure to contain the rebellion in the north, the Malian military lost control of the regional capitals of Kidal, Gao, and Timbuktu within ten days of Sanogo’s assuming office. Reuters describe the farcical coup as “a spectacular own-goal.” [16]

The violation of Mali’s constitution by the military was used to trigger severe sanctions against the central military government. Mali was suspended from membership in the African Union; the World Bank and African Development Bank have suspended aid. The US has cut half of the $140 million in aid that it sends each year, all of which created chaos in Mali and made it virtually impossible for the government to respond to the growing loss of territory in the north to Salafists.

 Part IV: Terror-Anti-Terror

What then ensued is like a page ripped out of the insurgency-counter-insurgency textbook of Britain’s Brigadier Frank E. Kitson during the 1950s British Mau Mau operations in Kenya. The Jihadist insurgency in the North and the simultaneous military coup in the capital led to a situation in which Mali was immediately isolated and massively punished with economic sanctions.

Acting with indecent haste, the US and French-controlled regional 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) demanded the coup leaders restore civilian rule. On March 26, the US cut off all military aid to the impoverished country, ensuring maximum chaos just as the Jihadists made their major push south.

Then at a meeting April 2 in Dakar, Senegal, ECOWAS members closed their countries’ borders with land-locked Mali and imposed severe sanctions, including cutting off access to the regional bank, raising the possibility that Mali will soon be unable to pay for essential supplies, including gasoline.

The same military that “trains” the terrorists also trains the “anti-terrorists.” This seems a bizarre contradiction in policy only when we fail to grasp the essence of US and British-developed methods of irregular warfare employed actively since the early 1950’s.

The method was originally termed Low Intensity Warfare by the British Army officer who developed and refined the method for control of subject areas in Malaysia, Kenya during the Mau Mau 1950’s freedom struggles and later for the British Army in Northern Ireland. Low intensity warfare as he termed it in a book by that name, [17] involves use of deception, of infiltration of double-agents, provocateurs, and use of defectors into legitimate popular movements such as those struggles for colonial independence after 1945.

The method is sometimes referred to as “Gang/Counter-Gang.” The essence is that the orchestrating intelligence agency or military occupying force, whether the British Army in Kenya or the CIA in Afghanistan, de facto controls the actions of both sides in an internal conflict, creating small civil wars or gang wars to the aim of dividing the overall legitimate movement and creating the pretext for outside military force in what the US now has deceptively renamed as “Peace-Keeping Operations” or PKO. [18]

In his advanced course on American Military Intervention Since Vietnam, Grant Hammond of the US Air War College refers openly to Low Intensity Conflict aka Peace Keeping Operations as “war by another name.” [19]

We begin to see the bloody footprints of a not-so-well-disguised French recolonisation of former French Africa, this time using Al-Qaeda terror as the springboard to direct military presence for the first time in more than half a century. French troops will likely stay on to help Mali in a “peace keeping operation.” The US is fully backing France as AFRICOM’s “cat’s paw.” And Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and its spinoffs make the whole NATO military intervention possible.

Washington claimed to have been caught blind-sided by the military coup. According to press reports, a confidential internal review completed July 2012 by the Pentagon’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) concluded that the coup had unfolded too fast for American intelligence analysts to detect any clear warning signs.

“The coup in Mali progressed very rapidly and with very little warning,” said AFRICOM spokesman, Col. Tom Davis. “The spark that ignited it occurred within their junior military ranks, who ultimately overthrew the government, not at the senior leadership level where warning signs might have been more easily noticed.” [20]

That view is strongly disputed. In an off-the-record interview with The New York Times, one Special Operations Forces officer disagreed, saying, “This has been brewing for five years. The analysts got complacent in their assumptions and did not see the big changes and the impacts of them, like the big weaponry coming out of Libya and the different, more Islamic fighters who came back.” [21]

More accurate it seems, AFRICOM had been “brewing” the crisis for five years since it began operations in late 2007. Mali for the Pentagon is but the next building block in the militarization of all of Africa by AFRICOM using proxy forces like France to do the dirty work. The Mali intervention using France upfront is but one building block in a project for the total militarization of Africa whose prime goal is not capturing strategic resources like oil, gas, uranium, gold or iron ore.

The strategic target is China and the rapidly growing Chinese business presence across Africa over the past decade. The goal of AFRICOM is to push China out of Africa or at least to irreparably cripple her independent access to those African resources. An economically independent China, so goes thinking in various Pentagon offices or Washington neo-conservative think-tanks, can be a politically independent China. God forbid! So they believe.

Part V: AFRICOM Agenda in Mali: Target China

The Mali operation is but the tip of a huge African iceberg. AFRICOM, the Pentagon’s US Africa Command was signed into existence by President George W. Bush in late 2007. Its prime purpose was to counter the dramatically growing Chinese economic and political influence across Africa.

Alarm bells went off in Washington in October 2006 when the Chinese President hosted an historic Beijing summit, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which brought nearly fifty African heads of state and ministers to the Chinese capital.

In 2008, ahead of a twelve-day eight-nation tour of Africa—the third such journey since he took office in 2003—Chinese President Hu Jintao announced a three-year, $3 billion program in preferential loans and expanded aid for Africa. These funds came on top of the $3 billion in loans and $2 billion in export credits that Hu announced earlier.

Trade between China and African countries exploded in the ensuing four years as French and US influence over the “Dark Continent” waned. China’s trade with Africa reached $166 billion in 2011, according to Chinese statistics, and African exports to China – primarily resources to fuel Chinese industries – rose to $93 billion from $5.6 billion over the past decade. In July 2012 China offered African countries $20 billion in loans over the next three years, double the amount pledged in the previous three-year period. [22]

For Washington, making AFRICOM operational as soon as possible was an urgent geopolitical priority. It began operation on October 1, 2008 from headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. Since the Bush-Cheney Administration signed the directive creating AFRICOM in February 2007, it has been a direct response to China’s successful African economic diplomacy.

AFRICOM defines its mission as follows: “Africa Command has administrative responsibility for US military support to US government policy in Africa, to include military-to-military relationships with 53 African nations.” They admit working closely with US Embassies and State Department across Africa, an unusual admission which also includes with USAID:

“US Africa Command provides personnel and logistical support to State Department-funded activities. Command personnel work closely with US embassies in Africa to coordinate training programs to improve African nations’ security capacity.” [23]

Speaking to the International Peace Operations Association in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 27, 2008 General Kip Ward, Commander of AFRICOM defined the command’s mission as, “in concert with other US government agencies and international partners, [to conduct] sustained security engagements through military-to-military programs, military-sponsored activities, and other military operations as directed to promote a stable and secure African environment in support of US foreign policy.” [24]

Various Washington sources state openly, AFRICOM was created to counter the growing presence of China in Africa, and China’s increasing success, to secure long-term economic agreements for raw materials from Africa in exchange for Chinese aid and production sharing agreements and royalties.

By informed accounts, the Chinese have been far shrewder. Instead of offering savage IMF-dictated austerity and economic chaos as the West has, China is offering large credits, soft loans to build roads and schools in order to create good will.

Dr. J. Peter Pham, a leading Washington insider and an advisor of the US State and Defense Departments, states openly that among the aims of the new AFRICOM, is the objective of, “protecting access to hydrocarbons and other strategic resources which Africa has in abundance … a task which includes ensuring against the vulnerability of those natural riches and ensuring that no other interested third parties, such as China, India, Japan, or Russia, obtain monopolies or preferential treatment.”

In testimony before the US Congress supporting creation of AFRICOM in 2007, Pham, who is closely associated with the neo-conservative think-tank, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, stated:

This natural wealth makes Africa an inviting target for the attentions of the People’s Republic of China, whose dynamic economy, averaging 9 percent growth per annum over the last two decades, has an almost insatiable thirst for oil as well as a need for other natural resources to sustain it. China is currently importing approximately 2.6 million barrels of crude per day, about half of its consumption;…roughly a third of its imports come from African sources…perhaps no other foreign region rivals Africa as the object of Beijing’s sustained strategic interest in recent years…

… many analysts expect that Africa—especially the states along its oil-rich western coastline—will increasingly becoming a theatre for strategic competition between the United States and its only real near-peer competitor on the global stage, China, as both countries seek to expand their influence and secure access to resources. [25]

To counter the growing Chinese influence across Africa Washington has enlisted the economically weak and politically desperate French with promises of supporting a French revival of its former African colonial empire in one form or another.

The strategy, as becomes clear in the wake of the French-US use of Al Qaeda terrorists to bring down Ghaddafi in Libya and now to wreak havoc across the Sahara from Mali, is to foster ethnic wars and sectarian hatred between Berbers, Arabs, and others in North Africa—divide and rule.

It appears they have even co-opted an earlier French blueprint for direct control. In a groundbreaking analysis, Canadian geopolitical analyst and sociologist, Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya writes, “The map used by Washington for combating terrorism under the Pan-Sahel Initiative says a lot.

The range or area of activity for the terrorists, within the borders of Algeria, Libya, Niger, Chad, Mali, and Mauritania according to Washington’s designation, is very similar to the boundaries or borders of the colonial territorial entity which France attempted to sustain in Africa in 1957.

Paris had planned to prop up this African entity in the western central Sahara as a French department (province) directly tied to France, along with coastal Algeria.” [26]

The French called it the Common Organization of the Saharan Regions (Organisation commune des regions sahariennes, OCRS). It comprised the inner boundaries of the Sahel and Saharan countries of Mali, Niger, Chad, and Algeria. Paris used it to control the resource-rich countries for French exploitation of such raw materials as oil, gas, and uranium.

French map of Sahara in 1958 compared with USAFRICOM Pan-Sahal Initiative map (below) of terror threat in Sahara today. 

JPEG - 51 kbHe adds that Washington clearly had this energy-rich and resource-rich area in mind when it drew the areas of Africa that need to be “cleansed” of alleged terrorist cells and gangs. At least now AFRICOM had “a plan” for its new African strategy. The French Institute of Foreign Relations (Institut français des relations internationals, IFRI) openly discussed this tie between the terrorists and energy-rich areas in a March 2011 report. [27]

The map used by Washington for combating terrorism under the Pentagon Pan-Sahel Initiative shows an area of activity for the terrorists, inside Algeria, Libya, Niger, Chad, Mali, and Mauritania according to Washington’s designation. The Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative (TSCTI) was begun by the Pentagon in 2005.

Mali, Chad, Mauritania, and Niger were now joined by Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco, Senegal, Nigeria, and Tunisia in a ring of military cooperation with the Pentagon. The Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative was transferred to the command of AFRICOM on October 1, 2008. [28]

The Pentagon map is remarkably similar to the boundaries or borders of the colonial territorial entity which France attempted to sustain in Africa in 1957. Paris had planned to prop up this African entity in the western central Sahara as a French department (province) directly tied to France, along with coastal Algeria—the Common Organization of the Saharan Regions (Organisation commune des regions sahariennes, OCRS).

It comprised the inner boundaries of the Sahel and Saharan countries of Mali, Niger, Chad, and Algeria. The plans were foiled during the Cold War by the Algerian and other African countries’ independence wars against French colonial rule, France’s “Vietnam.” France was forced to dissolve the OCRS in 1962, because of Algerian independence and the anti-colonial mood in Africa. [29] The neo-colonial ambitions in Paris however, did not vanish.

The French make no secret of their alarm over growing Chinese influence in former French Africa. French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici stated in Abidjan last December that French companies must go on the offensive and fight the growing influence of rival China for a stake in Africa’s increasingly competitive markets. “It’s evident that China is more and more present in Africa…(French) companies that have the means must go on the offensive. They must be more present on the ground. They have to fight,” Moscovici stated during a trip to Ivory Coast. [30]

Clearly Paris had in mind a military offensive to back the economic offensive he foresaw for French companies in Africa.

Mr. F. William Engdahl, Global Research via The 4th Media 

Related article:

Kidnapping and Release of Mali Opposition Leader Mariko an additional Chapter of Modo-Colonialism in Africa

Is France preparing Elections in Mali ? Presidential Candidate, SADI Secretary General, Dr. Oumar Mariko, Kidnapped

Notes

[1] James Kirkup, David Cameron: North African terror fight will take decades, The Telegraph, London, 20 January 2013.
[2] Thierry Meyssan, Mali: One war can hide another, Voltaire Network, 23 January 2013.
[3] Staff Sgt. Nathanael Callon United States Air Forces in Europe/Air Forces Africa Public Affairs, US planes deliver French troops to Mali, AFNS, January 25, 2013.
[4] S. Alambaigi, French Defense Minister: 2000 boots on ground in Mali, 19 January 2013.
[5] Freya Petersen,France aiming for ’total reconquest’ of Mali, French foreign minister says, January 20, 2013.
[6] Christian v. Hiller, Mali’s hidden Treasures, April 12, 2012, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
[7] Sources include private discussion with retired US military active in Africa.
[8] William Thornberry and Jaclyn Levy, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, CSIS, September 2011, Case Study No. 4.
[9] Pepe EscobarHow al-Qaeda got to rule in Tripoli, Asia Times Online, August 30, 2011.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Jason Howerton, Rand Paul Grills Clinton at Benghazi Hearing: ‘Had I Been President…I Would Have Relieved You of Your Post,http://www.theblaze.com/, Jan. 23, 2013.
[12] Craig Whitlock, Leader of Mali military coup trained in U.S., March 24, 2012, The Washington Post.
[13] Thierry Meyssan, op. cit.
[14] AFP, [Ivory Coast’s ex-President Gbagbo ‘arrested in Abidjan’ by French forces leading Ouattara troops, April 11th, 2011.
[15] Thierry Meyssan, op. cit.
[16] Cheick Dioura and Adama Diarra, Mali Rebels Assault Gao, Northern Garrison, The Huffington Post, Reuters.
[17] Frank E. Kitson, Low Intensity Operations: Subversion, Insurgency and Peacekeeping, London, 1971, Faber and Faber.
[18] C.M. Olsson and E.P. Guittet, Counter Insurgency, Low Intensity Conflict and Peace Operations: A Genealogy of the Transformations of Warfare, March 5, 2005 paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association.
[19] Grant T. Hammond, Low-intensity Conflict: War by another name, London, Small Wars and Insurgencies, Vol.1, Issue 3, December 1990, pp. 226-238.
[20] Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality, US Hands Off Mali An Analysis of the Recent Events in the Republic of Mali,. MRzine, May 2, 2012.
[21] Adam Nossiter, Eric Schmitt, Mark Mazzetti, French Strikes in Mali Supplant Caution of US, The New York Times, January 13, 2013.
[22] Joe Bavier, French firms must fight China for stake in Africa—Moscovici,, Reuters, December 1, 2012.
[23] AFRICOM, US Africa Command Fact Sheet, September 2, 2010.
[24] Ibid.
[25] F. William Engdahl, NATO’s War on Libya is Directed against China: AFRICOM and the Threat to China’s National Energy Security, September 26, 2011.
[26] Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya and Julien Teil, America’s Conquest of Africa: The Roles of France and Israel, GlobalResearch, October 06, 2011.
[27] Ibid.
[28] Ibid.
[29] Ibid.
[30] Joe Bavier, Op. cit.

Linked from: http://nsnbc.me/2013/02/13/war-in-mali-usafricom-targets-china/

German Journalist: West-led Armed Opposition in Syria will Fail

German Journalist: West-led Armed Opposition in Syria will Fail

TEHRAN (FNA)- German journalist and magazine editor Manuel Ochsenreiter believes that the Western powers along with the regional countries are backing and financing terrorists and insurgents in Syria, because each of them have certain interests linked to the disintegration of the Syrian government and the removal from power of President Bashar Assad. 

He also says that these countries are supporting such dangerous groups as Al-Qaeda to destabilize Syria and fight the Syrian army at the expense of the lives of innocent Syrian citizens whose only crime is supporting their government.

“These groups like Al-Qaeda, but also other armed militias that have infiltrated Syria during the course of the past year now fight the proxy war of the big powers. For Ankara, Riyadh, Washington or Doha it is much more convenient and also cheaper to use (or abuse) those insurgents instead of having a conventional war against Damascus. You have always a supply of men and arms. You just have to pay and to give support by means of intelligence, logistics and training,” said Ochsenreiter in an interview with Fars News Agency.

Manuel Ochsenreiter is the chief editor of the German monthly magazine ZUERST and contributes to other journals and magazines in Germany, as well. He spent a few weeks in Syria last year and dispatched special reports of the Battle of Damascus and other developments in the war-hit country.

What follows is the text of Fars News Agency’s interview with Ochsenreiter with whom we have talked about the situation in Syria, the connection between the Free Syrian Army and the foreign powers and the prospects of unrests in the country.

Q: You have just been to Syria and witnessed the situation on the ground in the crisis-hit country. Why do you think such countries as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are supporting, funding and equipping the insurgents who are intent on disintegrating the Syrian government and removing from power President Bashar al-Assad?

A: I was in Damascus in July 2012 when the so called “Battle of Damascus” raged. Western mass media claimed that the Syrian capital was besieged by tens of thousands of “FSA” fighters and that the city would fall soon. Nothing was true about those reports. There were terrorist activities in some suburbs, but not something like a “siege” or a real “battle”. Terrorist fighters were infiltrating the suburbs and some parts of the city and shooting civilians and Syrian security forces. I was with the Syrian army in the neighborhood of Al-Midan where still some “FSA” men were fighting against the army, and I saw fallen “FSA” fighters of non-Syrian origin on the streets.

It is not a secret that the Syrian Arab Republic plays today a sort of “disturbing role” (for certain Arab regimes) in the region. Damascus is an important ally for the much bigger disturbing state in the region, the Islamic Republic of Iran. For Saudi Arabia and other Sunni monarchies, the so called “Arab Spring” was the big chance to gain a lot of influence by supporting the radical Sunni groups in all the states where these protests against the governments took place (Tunisia, Libya and Egypt). They tried the same plot in Syria but it did not work with peaceful means, so they financed and armed militia and paid mercenaries.

Turkey has its own geopolitical agenda in the region. The “neo-Ottoman dream” is about to become a sort of state reason. It is all about influence in the region and becoming a leading power. Turkey as well as Saudi Arabia and the other Persian Gulf states are partners of the West (Turkey is NATO-member as we all know) and the West is also strongly against Tehran. So you see, in Syria, the common interests of the West and the Sunni monarchies come together. Syria, the secular state ruled by an Alawite president and a close ally of Russia does not fit in this type of “New Middle East” plan.

Q: There are rumors that Al-Qaeda has been involved in the conflict in Syria and that some of the high-ranking members of the cult have been directing attacks on civilian areas as well as the army bases. It was even reported that the brother of Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Al-Qaeda commander in Syria was just arrested in Daraa city. What’s your viewpoint about the collaboration of Al-Qaeda with the terrorists and insurgents? In what ways does Al-Qaeda benefit from unrest and instability in Syria?

A: These are not just rumors. Groups related to Al-Qaeda have admitted to fighting together with the FSA a “Jihad” against the Syrian government; what means in reality to kidnap and kill civilians, security forces and religious authorities and to place bombs in civilian areas.

These groups like Al-Qaeda, but also other armed militias that have infiltrated Syria during the course of the past year now fight the proxy war of the big powers. For Ankara, Riyadh, Washington or Doha it is much more convenient and also cheaper to use (or abuse) those insurgents instead of having a conventional war against Damascus. You have always a supply of men and arms. You just have to pay and to give support by means of intelligence, logistics and training. These groups like al-Qaeda themselves follow completely different ideological agendas. Maybe they even oppose their financers. For example, for the authorities of al-Qaeda, the West is the “useful idiot” by making them strong; while the Western officials similarly think that the al-Qaeda fighters are the “useful idiots.” What comes out at the end is what we have witnessed in countries like Afghanistan, where the West supported radical Sunni militias against the Soviet occupation.

At least we should not forget to mention another important point: insurgents generally do not respect any law in war. They are criminals by definition. They kill, torture, and terrorize the population. Even the worst organized regular army has some instruments and mechanisms to persuade war criminals in their own rows. There are fixed standards on how to treat prisoners of war, how to save the lives and goods of the civilians and how to keep the war outside civilian areas. But none of these mechanisms exist in the groups like the al-Qaeda-linked militias. They are the “bulldozers” of war, and the countries that support those militia gangs keep their “innocence”.

Q: It was on the news that Saudi Arabia has dispatched to Syria a large number of dangerous criminals, including murderers and prisoners sentenced to death to take part in terrorist activities against the supporters of President Assad and even ordinary citizens. We have seen on the TV channels footages of Sudanese, Yemeni and Saudi criminals beheading the Syrian people and committing other atrocities. What’s your take on that?

A: In the military hospital of Damascus where I visited and interviewed horribly injured Syrian soldiers, a young officer told me, “We fight against the whole world.” And these soldiers told me about insurgents who even do not speak the Arabic language. Terrorists from the Caucasus are right now in Syria as well as Sudanese, North Africans, Pakistanis and Afghans.

The strategy of using criminals as insurgents is not very new. In almost all the wars in the past, convicted criminals played a role. For Saudi Arabia, this has a practical benefit. They get rid of their hardcore criminals somewhere far away, the “enemy” civil population in Syria is horrified by the news that brutal murderers and rapists are on the way to their homes, and this might be also a reason that criminals are fighters without any lobby. Nobody in Saudi Arabia cares when they are killed or captured by the Syrian army. No diplomat will try to set them free. So we cannot really wonder when we see now the results of the Syrian civilians and soldiers being brutally massacred, beheaded and tortured.

Q: What do you think about President Assad’s speech on Sunday? The opposition figures swiftly reacted to it and said that it included nothing new. British Foreign Secretary also accused President Assad of killing his own people and called his speech hypocritical. This is while President Assad promised reforms in the political structure of the country and called for a public referendum and the formation of parliament in his speech. What’s your viewpoint on that?

A: In my opinion, President Assad said what had to be said in this situation. I would not count so much on the reaction of the so-called “opposition” and western politicians. Most probably their declarations were already typed before Assad began his speech. When it comes to hypocrisy, the Western politicians are the real experts. They claim that they want a regime change in Syria for civil and human rights, yet at the same time they support the absolute backward monarchy of Saudi Arabia. So why should we listen to their words?

The Syrian President will be measured by the promises he made in his speech on Sunday. I personally know a lot of Syrians who were very critical of their government before the crisis. I would have considered them as “opposition”. They criticized especially the corruption in Syria. Since the war broke out they began to support their government and their army in the fight against the foreign terrorists. Those supporters expect that when the crisis is over, the Syrian government will keep its promises.

Q: The United States has spared no effort to bring together and unite the different opposition fractions and opponents of President Assad, especially in the Doha conference and the Friends of Syria conference in Paris, but it failed to link the Salafist and Jihadi groups to the coalition forces and there seems to be a growing rift among the different opposition groups. What do you think in this regard? Has the United States succeeded in realizing this goal?

A: “Friends of Syria”, with whose existence Syria does not need enemies anymore seem to be very chaotic in their policies. Within this construct of “FSA”, so many different groups and fractions are fighting and it’s extremely hard to bring them together because they will start fighting against each other as soon as the common enemy is out of their sight. Of course it is almost impossible to bring Salafi groups together with civil rights activists because they have a completely different understanding of how a society should be built.

The western powers try to put all these groups together in one frontline; they try to force them to some western democratic games with each other. But at the end, and this seems clear, the brutal guys with the biggest guns will become the leading people and not the well-spoken, sophisticated writers and philosophers who Washington, Paris and London recommend for the leading position. So the US has already failed and any western project to “organize” the “armed opposition” in Syria has to fail. Why? Because those “opposition” fighters have nothing to do with people inside Syria who may have some criticism toward their government and now support their army against the insurgents and terrorists.

Q: What’s your viewpoint regarding Israel’s role in the fomentation of unrest in Syria? It’s said that Israeli arms and ammunitions have been seen in the hands of the terrorists and insurgents. What efforts has Israel made in order to break up Syria as an integral part of the resistance front?

A: Syria is really an old player in the resistance front against Israel, and a well-known supporter of the Lebanese Hezbollah, and the former “homeland” of high-ranking Hamas officials in Damascus like Khalid Mashaal as well as other Palestinian resistance groups and as already mentioned a close ally of Iran. Syria might have been seen by Israel as the key country of the resistance. The strategy might have been that, when Syria falls, the resistance might also fall.

Meanwhile, the strategic situation has changed. Syria refuses to fall and defends itself while radical foreign mercenaries infiltrate Israel’s neighborhood from almost all borders. Maybe Tel Aviv tries to support some of the groups with arms and intelligence, and as you said, it’s already reported that Israeli weapons were captured in Syria by the security forces.

From the Israeli point of view, the Syrian Arab Republic is an enemy; an enemy with a regular army and with a clear structure and hierarchy. You can make a ceasefire agreement and rely on the other side. But what happens when Syria becomes a failed state? With whom shall they talk then? Who to negotiate with? The negotiations of the Syrian government about a ceasefire with the so called “FSA” show that this cannot be successful as almost every armed militia acts on its own. So in case of a failed state there will be lots of different warlords with their militias. The vacuum of power in the center of the Middle East will be filled by the guys with the biggest guns. Tel Aviv might then make expensive agreements with 99% of the militia leaders, but at least one percent will fire rockets at Israel and send insurgents.

Interview by Kourosh Ziabari 

Manuel Ochsenreiter is the Editor in Chief of the German monthly magazine ZUERST!

Assange and the Attack on the Republic of Ecuador


By Nicola di Cora Modigliani – August 18, 2012

http://sergiodicorimodiglianji.blogspot.it

Important Note: Re-edited in English from Google translation by Sandhya Jain.

Today we talk of geo-politics and the freedom of information. But what is happening today technically (i.e. politically) began on 12 December 2008, though some say September of that year, but it took four years for the shock waves to reach Europe and America.

The issue relates to Julian Assange, Wikileaks, and the Republic of Ecuador. Mind you, it was assumed in the entire American continent, Australia, and Europe that the world was the same as ten years ago. But the world does not work that way anymore.

In Italy, no one was told of the fight growing between Brazil and the United Nations, badly managed by Christine Lagarde who heads the International Monetary Fund, whereby Italy was officially relegated from the eighth largest to the ninth largest economy in the world. It was overtaken by Brazil. So at the next G8, Italy will not be invited, but Brazil will. So we had the decision to abolish the G8 and G10 becoming the new standard.

Europe, with England and Germany at the helm, simply cannot accept the “Keynesian” triumph of South America. In essence the western guideline remains: “Let them stay home and remain grateful that we let them survive like the Africans. Otherwise one by one they will all end like Gadaffi.”

This is the warning in a nutshell So, quietly, South America has in the last 40 days sent three powerful messages; the last and most important was on August 3, and it was televised live from the New York office of the International Monetary Fund. Now for some facts.

On 15 June 2012, Julian Assange understands that for him it’s over. He knows that he will be arrested in Stockholm, picked up at the airport, not by police forces of His Majesty the King of Sweden, but by two officers of the CIA and a US diplomat, using specific formal agreements between the two nations to claim that Assange “actively intervened” in the NATO conflict in Iraq while the war was in progress. He will then be taken directly to the US, to the state of Texas, and subjected to criminal prosecution for terrorist activities. There will be a demand for the death penalty based on the provisions of the Patriot Act.

So Assange consults with his group, and at 9 a.m. on 19 June, enters the Embassy of Ecuador. His team opens negotiations with British agents in London, with the Swedes in Stockholm, and American diplomats in Rio de Janeiro. They agree to let the Olympics pass, after which he can quietly go to South America, ‘just do not talk about it.’ But somehow they don’t trust the Anglo-Americans and rightly so. So they carry out two masterstrokes on 3 August and 4 August.

On 3 August 2012, 16 months ahead of schedule, Argentina President, Cristina Kirchner, arrives at the headquarters of the IMF in Manhattan, accompanied by finance minister and foreign minister of Ecuador, Patino, representing ‘Alba’ (Labour Alianza Bolivariana America), the economic union between Latin America and the Caribbean.

On that occasion, Kirchner hands a cheque of €12 billion to the IMF (whose loan was due on 31 December 2013). She announces that with this instalment, Argentina has shown itself to be solvent, to be a responsible nation, trusted and reliable for anyone who wants to invest money. Argentina in 2003 went in default of $112 billion, but refused to seek cancellation of the debt; it declared bankruptcy and sought 10 years to return the money, including interest.

For 10 years, Argentina fought IMF’s attempts to impose restrictive measures of economic austerity. It opted for a different path, in line with Keynesianism, and based on financing infrastructure, research, innovation, instead of cutting expenditure. And it recovered. And it paid off the last instalment of the IMF loan 16 months in advance. It thus proved once more that the ideas of the IMF and World Bank on economic ideas are noxious and wrong headed. TINA (“There is no alternative”) is a lie forced upon the majority of the world’s population by the oligarchic elites.

Fifteen minutes after making the payment, Kirchner lodges a formal complaint against the US and UK to the World Trade Organization, on the basis of files made available by Wikileaks, that is, Assange.

Argentina, having settled the debts, now wants damages; with compound interest. It’s a fight between Kirchner and Lagarde. Thanks to Assange, as his team has the transcripts of several conversations in different governments of the globe, involving the US, Britain, France, Italy, Germany, the Vatican, where money is the master: Osama Bin Laden has been sent to the attic and replaced as the arch villain by John Maynard Keynes in the minds of the financial hegemons.

Assange has become public enemy number one of the great powers since he has gained the classified records of these long conversations about how to cripple the economies of South America, how to take away their energy resources and prevent their recovery; how to prevent their governments from pushing through Keynesian economic plans instead of applying the dictates of the IMF, whose sole purpose is to pursue a neo-colonialist policy principally for the benefit of Spain, Italy and Germany, with British capital.

Most files have already been published on the internet. Those and others were handed over by Assange in Britain to the Ecuadorian ambassador there.

On August 3 in New York, Ecuador became the first nation in the Americas and only nation in the Western world since 1948, to apply the concept of “immoral debt” or the political and technical refusal to pay foreign debts because they were made by previous governments through corruption, in violation of constitutional laws and requirements.

On 12 December 2008, Rafael Correa the new president of Ecuador (whose GDP is around 50 billion euros, or 30 times less than Italy’s) announced on television that he had decided to cancel the national debt considering it illegal, because it violated the constitution to oppress the people. Today in Ecuador, the new constitutional principle is that what is right for the community is legitimate.

Amount of debt: € 11 billion. The IMF literally expunged Ecuador from the list of civilized nations. “The country is isolated,” declared Dominique Strauss-Kahn, then IMF Director General.

The very next day, Hugo Chavez announced that Venezuela would contribute free oil and gas to Ecuador for ten years. Four hours later, President Lula announced that Brazil would give 100 tons/day of wheat, rice, soy and fruit free to feed the population, for a long as the nation takes to recover. In the evening, Argentina announced it would give 3% of its beef production free to Ecuador to ensure adequate protein for the population. The next morning, in Bolivia, Evo Morales announced the legalization of cocaine for domestic production and collection, and free coca leaves to Ecuador with a loan of 5 billion interest-free, repayable in ten years in 120 instalments.

Two days later, Ecuador denounced the United Fruit Company and Del Monte & Associates for “slavery and crimes against humanity”, nationalized the agricultural industry in bananas (Ecuador is the world’s biggest banana exporter) and launched a national organic label.

Ten days later, Bavarian Green of Schleswig Holstein, Conad in Italy, and Denmark, and Haagen Daaz were prepared to sign contracts with the new entity on the basis of “fair trade”. On 20 December 2008, taking note of the protest of the United Fruit Company, President George Bush (still in office until 17 Jan 2009), denounced the ‘criminal decision’ of Ecuador and called for its expulsion from the United Nations.

Bush said that the US was even ready for a ‘military option to safeguard US interests.’ The next morning, the powerful New York law firm of Goldberg & Goldberg submitted that there was a legal precedent for Ecuador’s action. Six hours later, the US gave up and called on the international community to challenge the legitimacy of the concept of “immoral debt”.

The United Fruit Company has a record in systematic political corruption; it was ordered to pay damages of $ 6 billion.

Interestingly, the legal precedent was dated 4 Jan 2003, and signed by George Bush. Yep. This happened in Iraq, which at that time was’technically’ an American possession since it was occupied by US forces and the interim government was not yet recognized by the UN. Saddam Hussein had left debts of 250 billion euros (40 billion euros against Italy, thanks to the transactions concluded Tareq Aziz, deputy to Hussein and an ally of Vatican’s Opus Dei), which the US erased by applying the concept of “immoral debt”, thus creating the recent historical precedent.

New York lawyers for the government of Ecuador offered Washington a choice: either accept and be silent, or if you challenge the decision of Ecuador then also cancel yours for Iraq and get the US Treasury to immediately pay the €250 billion, including compound interest for four years. Obama, not yet in office but already elected, asks Bush to throw in the towel. The New York lawyers are paid by the Brazilian government.

Rafael Correa, Ecuador’s president-elect, is not a farmer like Morales, or trade unionist like Lula, or a military officer like Chavez, he comes from an upper class family and is an intellectual. He is a graduate in economics and economic planning from Harvard, and self-described as a “Christian socialist”. His first official act was to freeze all bank accounts of the Church’s IOR in Quito’s banks and divert the amount into a social welfare program for the economically disadvantaged.

He put on trial the entire political class of the previous government, most of whom were sent to jail, with average sentences of 10 years, confiscated their property and nationalized it and and redistributed it in ecological agricultural cooperatives. Correa sent a letter to Pope Ratzinger in which he called himself “always the humble servant of Your Enlightened Holiness” and in which he officially bade the Vatican send to Ecuador only “clerics gifted with deep spirituality and eager to serve the needy, avoiding profiteers who would incur the rigor of human laws”.

Today, the new South America says no to colonialism and slavery of the European and US multinationals. For 400 years, ever since Europeans discovered bananas rich in potassium, Ecuadorians have lived in poverty, exploitation, destitution, while for hundreds of years a group of brutal oligarchs got rich at their expense. It is no longer the case. And it never will be again. The example of Ecuador is alive and can be replicated in any African or Asian, or European, nation in the world.

But the decisive blow to the system was a bombshell made public on 4 Aug 2012, when Julian Assange assigned the Spanish judge Garzón, the public enemy number one of organised crime, the most ferocious enemy of Silvio Berlusconi, and absolutely the most dangerous enemy of the global banking system, to defend him.

The Spanish judge has 35 years experience and has been responsible for the prosecution of the most important cases of his country for the past 25 years. He is an expert in ‘media and finance,’ and rose to international prominence in 1993 after Interpol issued a warrant on his behalf against Silvio Berlusconi and Fedele Confalonieri (Berlusconi’s right hand man) regarding transactions involving Telecinco, Pentafilm, Fininvest, Reteitalia and La Cinq.

From this it came out that the Pentafilm (Berlusconi and Cecchi Gori members, namely PD and PDL together) bought at $100 the rights of a film that it sold to Columbia Pictures for $500 to Telecinco that sold them at $1000 to an Italian network which then ultimately sold for $2000 to Rai, and so on a total of 142 times. The same film.

That is, the Rai (or us) paid the rights to a film 20 times the value of the market and bought it three times, so that all parties were taken care of. When it came to the crux of the matter, Berlusconi was prime minister, and so Garzón was stopped by the European Union. He got a half victory. Heclosed the Telecinco and sent its Spanish executives to jail.In 2003 the battle re-opened, with Berlusconi’s new front Mediaset. Garzón was always there.

In 2006, the Italian government at the time (Prodi & co.) helped Berlusconi to escape conviction. In 2004, Garzon opened a dossier against Pope Wojtyla and against the management of the IOR in Spain and Argentina, in relation to funding and support from the Vatican to the military juntas of Pinochet and Videla in South America.

In 2010 Garzón resigned under pressure from the Spanish Government, but before he retired, he opened a law firm dedicated exclusively to international ‘media & finance’ in The Hague, The Netherlands. And now as official legal eagle to Assange, judge Garzón has access to 145,000 files still in possession of Julian Assange that have not been made public. He has already made it known that his office is prepared to denounce several Western heads of state to the court of civil rights in The Hague. The charge will be ‘crimes against humanity, crimes against the dignity of the person.’

The battle is therefore open. It is going to be decisive for the future of freedom in the network [internet]. In the US, they make no secret of the fact that they want him dead. So do the British. But they are having trouble because Assange has taken steps to bring about a global group that deals with counter-information (real, not the Italian one). Its members are anonymous. They do not have an identified site. They simply enter the data, news, information and events. Besides, who wants to know where to look and who wants to understand? When the temperature rises, everything comes to the surface.

The British Empire has lost its composure and wants to seize Assange who has access to direct source material. And the mere fact of releasing it in public turns the tables on those who rule, and reminds the people that we are caught in an invisible war. The rulers do not know how to stop the dissemination of information about what is happening in the world.

There are people who risk their lives by the mere act of uploading information from some anonymous Internet location in Canberra, Bogota or Saint Tropez. Wikileaks should not be read as gossip. It is not. Its anonymous team deserves our respect.

We can no longer say tomorrow, “but we did not know”. Whoever wants to know today, is well served. Just try.

Philhellenism and Reality – Pedro Olalla

 

Photograph: Dimitris Vlaikos

PEDRO OLALLA – Philhellenism and Reality

The world of the Spanish writer, Hellenist, translator, photographer and film-maker Pedro Olalla, is a world of stark, epic contrasts. Today’s conjuncture appears as a threat of total loss: of civilization, of democracy, of ethics, of the mind. And Olalla goes against it, with impassioned language, written and spoken, and Hellenism as his focus. One of the high points of this resistance was in October 2011, when he placed on the Internet a 15-minute video entitled Palabras desde Atenas – Words from Athens, (press cc for English subtitles), in which he spoke of the problem of the “crisis” in Greece, seen from an international viewpoint. The scenario he describes appears nightmarish: that, in historical terms, those who control economic power in the world have appropriated ever more sectors of the political power through the creation and exploitation of “debt”; that they are doing this with the connivance of our governments and the absence of an organized response on the part of citizens; that what is presented as a “crisis” is in fact an organized economic attack, and what is presented as “debt” is the meticulously planned product of subjugation, a sequel to colonialism and perpetuating the same violence. The list of consequences is long: tax increases, salary cuts, sackings, ransacking of the health system and social gains, “third-world-ization” of the labour market, privatization of public services, with exploitation of national resources passing into the hands of foreign investors. In the past all this may perhaps have sounded like windy rhetoric. Now we see it becoming a tangible reality all around us, and for many it is already a living nightmare. Last Sunday (20th May) Pedro Olalla was in Aegina as a speaker at the function on Philhellenism at the Museum of Folk Art that had been organized by the Active Citizens’ Association, and we had the opportunity for a person-to-person talk with him, covering the whole agenda. In perfect Greek, of course.

How did you develop your obvious love for our country?

My province is the human sciences, so for me Greece was always on the horizon: as food for thought and as a reference point. I started coming and going in 1984, and this was when the “recognition” came, in the ancient sense: encountering on the spot the elements I had detected within myself, seeking them out and revaluing them in contact with the Greece of the real world. It was a fascinating process, to which I kept returning again and again. In 1994 when I left Spain in search of new experiences and stimuli I travelled around Greece with the intention of staying one or two years and finally I decided to enter into a give-and-take relationship that has proved very creative and keeps me here to this day.

When did the euphoria of recognition give way to anxiety for the future, not only of Greece but of the planet?

The point of departure was the decision by the immediate entourage of George Papandreou to put us into the INF. We had seen again and again what that means, in different parts of the world. That was when I began to monitor the fortunes of Greece, with some anxiety, but with just as much anxiety for Spain, where there are even more objective criteria for it to be subjected to such a “plan for salvation”. Quite apart from the huge public and private debt, the sky-high levels of unemployment and the generalized corruption, the most conspicuous peculiarity of Spain is the gigantic construction-industry bubble: thanks to its collaboration with the political class, the building sector was for years acquiring excessively great weight in the economy and, now that the bubble has burst, it has left behind it a distinctive “brick crisis”, which translates among other things into thousands of instances of fixed property falling into the hands of the banks and an insane wave of evictions: by 2015 it is estimated that there will have been 500,000 evictions, meaning 500,000 families on the street. The second is the unique administrative structure: the system of self-managing regions has brought into existence a huge state and a huge political class: seventeen parliaments apart from the central parliament, and a legion of tax offices. And the third is that at this moment we have in government a party that is aligned with the world-views of the neo-liberal hard core in Europe.

What is it that you fear most?

What frightens me most is the disorientation of my fellow-citizens. This is what I fear – the inertia of the many. In the recent history of the democratic polity, politics has been devalued: it has become a private affair, whereby some networks of self-interest condemn entire peoples to destitution, with the complicity of their governments, and for the purposes of profit-making. And really able people don’t get involved. This is a cancer in the body of democracy, for democracy is by definition a polity grounded in the virtue of citizens, and without that element it has no foundations. Democracy presupposes a “demos”, a people that is free and responsible, with a consciousness of its own self-respect and determined to exercise it. Where is that “demos” to be found today?

What Democracy are we talking about?

About the democracy we have to construct. Democracy isn’t an unquestioned reality. It is a desideratum, a work in progress. And in the times we are living in, all the world’s democracies remain very flawed.

What do you hope for?

I hope that before we reach the situation where the peoples are so naked, so destitute, that they no longer have the strength to resist, but will be ready to do anything for a mess of pottage….that people will get up out of their armchairs and resist this arbitrary power. The solution is to be found in the generalization of resistance and participation. The European citizen: Spanish, French, Italian, must stand by the side of the Hellene, because if he does not do so, he (she) will be the next victim. I also have hopes for the Internet. At the moment it has the capacity to function as the Agora of the Demos, to articulate a discourse and create linkage.

As far as political developments here are concerned, do you have anything to say?

I think that in the last two years for the Greek people there have been two stolen referenda: one of them that would have allowed people to decide whether or not they wished to surrender to a bailout scheme that would seriously mortgage their present and their future and oblige them to take out one of the biggest loans in human history (a decision taken by the Papandreou government without even securing the full consent of parliament) and the other to choose a new government – democratically – after the resignation of Papandreou, a right that was forfeited in favour of having an executive government designed to facilitate the tasks of the “rescuers”, headed by Loukas Papademos.

At this moment, the greatest defeat at the last elections was that those disagreeing with the logic of the Memoranda did not succeed in coming together in a united front based on a lowest common denominator and instead went to the elections divided. Pragmatically, and despite whatever differences I might have with them, I would today give my vote to SYRIZA, because it is the only grouping in the position to secure a large enough proportion of the vote to act and for a change of course. Already a great commotion has been caused in Europe by our election result, and a change of course is very important both for Greece and for Europe, which has not yet succeeded in constituting itself around a progressive vision, of democracy and solidarity. In my opinion if the Greeks of today succeed in overturning the scenarios of blackmail and robbery to which the people and the country are being subjected in these days, and passing that message on to Europe, this corner of the world undoubtedly make another great contribution to the progress of humanity.

P.S. (An answer from Pedro Olalla to the intervention made by citizen G. Tsatiris at the function in the Museum of Folk Art, with his assertion that today’s Philhellene movements, such as the movement We are All Greeks, are folkloric in content, lacking in courage, and comprised of lumpen elements.)

I would like to say that today the most securely entrenched lumpen are in the establishment. It is very negative to see these mobilizations as something marginal and insignificant, whatever imperfections they may have in their mode of functioning. The community must become more radical and progressive in its attitudes, and personally I maintain that the concept of present-day Hellenism may be hazy, but Philhellenism in the best sense has never been folkloric, or a kind of literary divertimento. It is an engaged stance that asserts the Human, in the name of Greece’s cultural heritage. Historically speaking, I think that without the Philhellenic stance, there would be no Hellenism, and without Hellenism, there would of course be no Hellas.

Victoria Trapali