Friday, March 28, 2014

Maidan: Occupy on Steroids

While the Right Sector threatens the Ukrainian government it brought to power for killing one of their own, others in Maidan Square are planting vegetables. (Who knew the climate at that latitude would allow it in March?)
Along with the green shoots shown on RT, this is the first real indication the outside world has that not all the demonstrators who brought down a corrupt but democra-tically elected government are wing nuts.  Among those planning to remain in he square until they are satisfied that Ukraine has an honest government are perhaps more ‘Occupiers’ than we thought.  

As long as Tea Partiers fail to agree that the community owes solidarity to its members I will be leery of lumping them together with Occupiers. However it is becoming increasingly clear from rumblings around the world - and even in Muslim nations such as Turkey and Tunisia - that the decentralization meme is spreading: the realization that people have to take charge of their lives, not as individuals pitted against other individuals, but as communities.

The shadow of Fascism that has been lengthening across Europe will not be erased by armies in the service of capital, since capital is complicit in its rise.  But it may not be entirely unreasonable to hope that it could be obliterated by individuals thinking for themselves  - and hence truly free - working together.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Obama in Chocolate Factory Earning his Keep

Yesterday I happened onto France 24 just as it was airing President Obama’s speech to a select group of Belgian students  in the presence of the king and queen and government officials at the Palais des Beaux-Arts, a fancy theatre.  He started by saying: ‘What’s not to like in a country famous for its chocolate and beer?”
It was the old Obama, the one we loved and admired when he ran for his first term, the Obama of Dreams from my Father, a brilliant intellectual who knows where the major capitals are - yet caring, and funny.  You could tell he was happy to once again be in front of a young audience that could respond to his message with enthusiasm.  It was a message that glossed over centuries of strife to emphasize the noble documents they spawned but did not always follow, giving rise to the most powerful military alliance the world has ever known.

Here in the capital of EuroNatoLand, he lectured the next generation of leaders about the meaning of freedom and democracy, and the need to defend those values lest they be taken away by - essentially - the same country their parents were taught to fear all during the Cold War.

But the only enemy tanks Belgium and the rest of Western Europe have known were not Russian, but German, and every European youth has been taught what that meant. And because of that history, European youth is largely pacifist (unless you count the resentment, among the lower classes, of Muslim immigrants).  

Of course this lengthy speech was not broadcast in the United States, but you can read it here  and still catch the French debate that followed online at (The French channel also documented the enormous number of security vehicles and personnel accompanying the president on the American taxpayers’ dime, conjuring up a Hollywood  rendition of Cleopatra’s trip to Rome.)

Here are some of the more outrageous claims the President made, perhaps thinking that Europeans are as ignorant as Americans of world events: 

“We did not claim or annex Iraq’s territory. We did not grab its resources for our own gain (sic). Instead, we ended our war and left Iraq to its people in a fully sovereign Iraqi state that can make decisions about its own future.“ Never mind that Al Qaeda was not inIraq before we invaded, while now it controls parts of the country, together with parts of Syria.

“NATO only intervened after the people of Kosovo were systematically brutalized and killed for years.” NATO bombed Serbia without a UN mandate, while Obama accuses Russia of not getting UN permission to hold a referendum in Crimea.

“We are confronted with the belief among some that bigger nations can bully smaller ones to get their way — that recycled maxim that might somehow makes right.” Give a Professor of Constitutional Law a little chocolate and beer and he’ll say anything to earn his keep.  

Obama ended his speech by linking individual and national responsibility in a magisterial sweep from respecting gay rights to being strong in the face of conflict and corruption, calling for freedom to triumph over tyranny, ‘for that is what forever stirs in the human heart.”

Such an ending could not fail to stir enthusiastic applause.  But I could find no mention of the speech today in either the Belgian or French press.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Rise and Fall of American Exceptionalism

A few months ago, Vladimir Putin wrote an Oped in the New York Times questioning America’s claim to excep-tionalism. In fact, he was saying out loud what leaders all over the world were increasingly muttering under their breath. One of the reasons why the Russian President could permit himself to retaliate for a century of Russia bashing by the West is his relationship with Europe, gain-ed not by sending tanks across the continent (which is in fact a peninsula of Eurasia), but through close economic ties built up after the fall of the Soviet Union. 
Europe is an exercise in Other toleration among a hundred different peoples in a relatively small area. While seeing itself as superior to other nations and civilizations, it is acutely aware of being part of the wider world, whose center of gravity is moving toward the BRICS countries led by Russia and China.
In a fundamental difference, America’s notion of Otherness has always implied rejection. The Pilgrim’s leader, John Winthrop told them that ‘the eyes of the world’ would be upon Christ’s ‘city on a hill’, hence their behavior must be above reproach - or ‘exceptional’. They saw toleration as a moral failing and exiled individual religious dissidents from their colonies. The subsequent overthrow of British sovereignty signaled an enduring suspicion of both government and foreigners: in 1798, the first of several legislative acts codified that exceptional American trait with the four Aliens and Seditions Acts targeting Americans suspected of sympathy for a foreign power.  

For almost three hundred years, two oceans kept the United States isolated from the give and take between neighbors on other continents. America remained alone and proud of it, interacting with other nations only to ensure that they served our needs, bought our products and agreed with our definition of freedom.

As I outlined in my 1989 book Une autre Europe, un autre Monde, published in France with a grant from the Centre National du Livre, there is a fundamental difference be-tween American and European definitions of democracy stemming from their diverging views of freedom. The American Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of Human Rights lay down the same legal protections, but the young nation’s pursuit of happiness left mutual responsibility out in the cold, in contrast to the Jacobin proclamation of ‘liberty, equality, fraternity’. 

That motto swept across the globe and eventually led much of Europe and the Third World to build welfare states. In America, however suspicion of both government and foreigners endured: the notion of equal opportunity spawned by the natural wealth available to all foreclosed any notion of community responsibility for individual well-being. As government became a tool of capital, the drive to the West fostered entrepreneurship, while the less daring became ‘wage earners’. The progressive move-ment that came into its own with the fight against slavery was a victim of that trajectory. In 1917, Congress renewed its drive against all things foreign with another Sedition Act, and in 1918 it passed the Espionage and Aliens Act, which contradicted the Declaration of Independence’s assertion that: 

<blockquote>“Whenever any Form of Government be-comes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. </blockquote>

The media’s loss of independence contributed powerfully to this development. The New York Times’ nineteenth century definition of purpose was beyond reproach ( 

<blockquote> We shall be Conservative, in all cases where we think Conservatism essential to the public good;—and we shall be Radical in everything which may seem to us to require radical treatment and radical reform. We do not believe that everything in Society is either exactly right or exactly wrong;—what is good we desire to preserve and improve;—what is evil, to exterminate, or reform. </blockquote>

However, as advertising chipped away at lofty ideals, journalists were tamed to serve corporate needs. In the nineteen thirties, President Roosevelt was a member of the upper class, but like Lenin, Mao and later the Castro brothers, he knew that robber capitalism was leaving too many people out in the cold. The corporate-owned press obediently conflated his New Deal with socialism, and socialism with ‘foreign’, strengthening right-wing resis-tance to progressive ideas. 

In 1938, that resistance led Congress to create the infamous House un-American Activities Committee, unleashing what became known as a ‘witch hunt’ against suspected Communists, with Senator McCarthy doing likewise in the Senate. The ideological crime of leftists was enhanced by the conviction that they were ‘beholden to a foreign power’. Uncritically reported by the media, ter-rifying machinations lead to hundreds of ruined careers and several suicides. Sixty years later, legislation that deprives children of illegal immigrants born in the United States of citizenship, flouting centuries of Roman law known as jus sol, descends directly from the fear of Others and in particular foreigners that has held sway since the days of the Pilgrims. (Openly murderous organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan, formed after the Civil War endure to this day, inspiring skinheads and Neo-Nazis.)

Information about the wider world has virtually disappear-ed from the media, and criticisms of that lack continue to be answered with finality that ‘the American public is not interested in foreign affairs’. The rest of the world knows that fascism unabashedly serves the few, while socialism is at least intended to serve the many, but America’s lapdog press deliberately confounds these two ideologies and condemns a religion that requires a daily act of charity.

The legal sidelining of our two hundred year old egalitarian constitution, amended only twenty-seven times, began with a 19th century Supreme Court clerk’s stroke of the pen that granted corporations the advantages of personhood. Money and perks have always been used to make government responsive to certain interests, but in no other country has this practice been codified. American enemies of solidarity recently shut down the government for two weeks in their efforts to kill Obamacare, as a world univer-sally committed to free healthcare looked on in astonishment, and religious conflicts exacerbated by a lack of equity spread across the globe.

The paranoia that defines the United States could have faded during the rebellious sixties, but the flamboyant raiments of the counter-culture’s political message only succeeded in fanning the flames until it was ‘born again’ under the neo-conservatives. Finally, we got Wall Street Wizards who divided us into consumers and debtors, as they bankrolled the plundering of the world’s wealth. In contrast to the rest of the world, America relies on volunteers for services that should be met by society as a whole, while right wing propaganda fosters a lazy attitude among government employees, reinforcing the impression that it is wasteful. We are only ‘citizens’ when we vote, and if needed services are not profitable, ‘we’ don’t get them, because they cost ‘tax-payers’ too much. The media blackout has been carried to such an extreme that Ameri-cans are oblivious to the fact that the world is marching on without them. 

Watch Putin’s English language channel ( for a few days and you will realize that capitalist Russia, far from throwing the solidarity baby out with the Communist bath water, sees itself as a social democracy (albeit with a less developed civil society than Western models), convinced that the community must protect its individual members from want (to use Franklin Roosevelt’s famous but long forgotten phrase). In a supreme irony, it is Russia that now defends the principles enshrined by Washington in the United Nations Charter. They are modeled on revolutionary France’s Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen which specifies that: 

<blockquote>Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circum-stances beyond his control.</blockquote>

RT systematically takes the side of the Third World against the IMF’s ‘structural adjustments’. President Putin simultaneously promotes family values and encourages modernization and in the federation’s Islamic republics while condemning mindless consumption. Putting past squabbles aside, Russia has joined with China in a formidable opposition to America’s agenda of globalization powered by a me-society.  

In contrast, although individualism reigns supreme, the notion of each person’s intrinsic worth, based on his conscience, which I call internal authority, is ignored in the land of the free. Not only have we eliminated the indivi-dual’s say in how her money is spent, we have accepted the idea that we cannot afford solidarity to ourselves. Enchanted by cinematography, which makes the most unlikely fantasies seem real, and distracted by so-called reality-tv, Americans have abandoned most of their internal authority to the daily spin intended to save them from the big bad world of solidarity. 

It took two aggressive wars for whistleblowers such as Jullian Assange, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden to appear. However, in a sign of the times, while Vietnam war resisters found refuge in Canada, today their safe-havens are Moscow and Berlin, both capitals of former enemies. Calling these heroes traitors, refusing to recognize that no country has achieved a fair distribution of wealth without government involvement, the United States continues to issue orders from its imaginary City Upon a Hill. But the world is no longer listening: while recognizing capitalism’s claim to creativity, most of its inhabitants want an end to state violence, meaningful steps to save the planet from global warming and broad-based solidarity. The leaders seen as most committed to this agenda will win their backing.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Pro-Assad Syrian Resident from California Speaks

The U.S. is not so much pursuing a new Cold War with Russia, as trying to destabilize it militarily from both near and far: in Syria and in Ukraine.  After OpedNews contributor Lilly Martin, a California born, medical professional married to a Syrian who has raised two children in that country commented on one of my articles, I asked her to describe the Syrian tragedy from inside.  Pay particular attention to the last paragraph of her assessment, about Syria’s long-standing policy known as ‘resistance’, which is never mentioned by Western media: 

“You asked me about my assessment of the current President of Syria. Prior to the crisis, Assad’s general approval rating was maybe 75%.After the crisis began, and it became apparent that it was a foreign engineered ‘regime change’ project, and not anything real, or grassroots, his approval went up slightly, let’s say 80%.

As of today, based on what I hear from friends, relatives, neighbors and various contacts I have across Syria, it is about 80%.  I work helping the refugees from Aleppo, so I hear their stories as well, which are from a different community than where I live in Latakia. (Ed note: Latakia is the border area with Turkey largely inhabited by Alawites.)

My assessment is supported by an identical statement of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Aleppo, who  in 2011 was in Paris on church business and stopped in at  the FRANCE 24, the English language  TV channel that is very anti-Assad.  It toes the line of France, and the Holland policy of support for the rebels.

This innocent cleric stated what he saw and felt, but the TV presenter almost  flipped!  She shouted, “But this is not what we are hearing from Syria at all!”  He replied, “Well, I can’t tell you anything but the truth.”  His true statement did not line up with her assumption that every-one in Syria hated him.  Not so.

I have been here 21 years, I lived under his father’s leadership, and watched the new President come to office in 2000.  When his first term finished in 2007 I thought he might start a ‘new’ election process, but he didn’t.  Now in 2014, May 7th, Syria will have the very first free election based on voters, and not the one party system, as before.  There are now 30 registered legal parties, one of which is lead by a woman.  The campaign is just beginning, the candidates have been requested to submit their names, and also sign up for campaign funds.  The election is open to any Syrian age 18 and over, no pre-registering required, no party affiliation required, you can be  independent of any party, and you can vote for any party.

The elementary schools have already begun a program in which the children participate in ‘play’ votes, in order to teach kids the value of voting, because they will be the next generation of voters.  This is all brand new here!  Before, it was one party, the members voted, then a general referendum public vote was done to accept the party’s candidate.

The new constitution was drafted and passed about 2 years ago.  It abolished the one party system.  Article #3 was controversial, because it demands the President be Muslim. Many people wanted NO religion mentioned, because for 40 years there has been a secular form of government here, but even the Socialists and Communists who were on the drafting com-mittee said that socially the Syrians are not ready for a change on that point, and in the end, even the Christian community accepted it.  Maybe one day they will amend it. 

I feel that if the ‘revolution’ in Syria, which began March 2011, had been truly a grass roots uprising of the actual Syrian people, living in Syria,  the regime change could have happened in 3-6 months.  But, from the outset it was so clear that it lacked the local, homegrown sup-port of residents on the ground.  It was always a foreign and  ex-patriate affair, funded and supported by various Gulf and Western countries for various reasons, none of which was freedom or democracy. I hope that the election can go forward in peace and order and the Syrian people can have their voices heard.  

I know they want a leader who will be strong and will continue a policy of resistance. This is  another huge factor because the West doesn’t understand that Syria’s policy of resistance is not sectarian. The vast majority of Syrians, regardless of religion or sect, support resisting the Israeli occupation.  After all, it is the brutal occupation of Palestine which is the real cancer of the Middle East.

Best regards,
Lilly Martin, Latakia, Syria"

P.S. Lilly posts regularly on her Facebook page ‘Syria is My Home’.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Of Governments and Mobs

As the Europeans dither over which sanctions they could apply to Russia that would not hurt them more, a two-pronged question: In an age of growing mass literacy and electronic communica-tion, what kinds of governments stand the best chance of being effective - and hence, durable - and is the expression ‘mob rule’ justified?
The Western press has had a field day since the Sochi Olympics, depicting the Russian President as a megalo-maniac jock whose word is law, while complaining in the same breath that the American President cannot get anything done. Given the unprecedented dangers the world has concocted for itself, it would seem that any sane, rational person would be more interested in how the presidents of nuclear armed nations use their power, than in how much power they have.  

Americans are told that leaders must be ‘democratically elected’, with ‘checks and balances’ on their power.  Yet given the myriad ways big business has to make Presi-dents do its bidding, checks and balances is now but a pious invocation: real power lies not with elected officials, but with their financiers.  

How else to explain that President Obama admits to ordering the assassination of American citizens, while allowing purveyors of consumer goods to learn our most intimate wants and needs?  Or the fact that though he’s a professor of constitutional law, he disregards the laws that bar him from supporting rulers who gain power by force - as in Egypt or Ukraine.

And yet I’m sure there are days when Obama envies Putin his legislators’ obedience: 

“I need a vote on the possible use of force in Ukraine.” 


Personally, I prefer a president who easily gets an authori-zation to use force because his legislators are well-edu-cated and know what’s happening in the larger world, but only uses that authorization as a real last resort, to one who uses force first and justifies it to a largely ignorant Congress later - or not.  I’d rather have a president who offers to negotiate with the European Union and the U.S. over the Ukraine (as Putin did early on), than one who sends his minions to deliver cookies and CIA arms to achieve what is commonly referred to as ‘mob rule’ - except when they are ‘our’ mob.

The term ‘mob rule’ has been in wide use, I believe, since shortly after the Constitution was adopted, inspired by the storming of the Bastille during the contemporaneous French Revolution, and reinforced a century and a half later by newsreels of the storming of the Winter Palace during the 1917 Russian Revolution. The American system of ‘checks and balances’ has been so successfully contrasted to the idea of wild-eyed club-wielding men destroying fine furniture that the press freely associates demonstrations with ‘mob rule’, invariably opposing them to the ‘democratic’ way of achieving change through the ballot box. It mindlessly parrots the vocabulary used by the political class, especially the derogatory expressions with which it designates those over whom power weighs most heavily. 

This leads to the two issues, which in fact is really one: the relationship of power to the people - or the other way around.  The most significant element in any discussion of  power today is the exponentially growing number of people on the planet, which makes it almost impossible for any regime to govern satisfactorily. Populations now have to be ‘managed’; and the more they resist being managed, the tighter the controlling screws are turned, via high-tech bureaucracies, militarily-armed police and spying on a scale never seen before. This could be called the Rousseau aspect of governance, that of bringing man from a ‘state of nature’ to ‘civilization’, and it is sometimes accused of leading to totalitarianism.

The other kind of relationship between power and the people could be referred to as the idealistic one that began with Locke, which privileges the individual and has led to the ‘me’ culture and ‘shop til you drop’. Starting in the seventeenth century, the West gave itself increasingly representative governments, until the twin phenomena of exponential population growth and full enfranchisement threatened their efficacy.  The population of the United States was two and a half million when the first Congress convened, and is three hundred and seventeen million today, while the number of representatives went from fewer than one hundred to four hundred and thirty-five. With proportional representation, population growth inevitably leads to unwieldy debating institutions increa-singly exposed to influence peddling.  Payments ranging from stuffed envelops to the creation of PACS, combined with an obedient press adjust mass voter attitudes accor-dingly.

It’s no surprise, that over two hundred plus years, the liberal democracy in which the will of the people is carried out by its representatives gradually withered away. Not, as Marx hoped, because government is superfluous, but under the assault of complexity and money. But at last, thanks to electronic media, ‘the people’, ever more informed about what their rulers are doing, increasingly resist the combination of brutality and spying that has kept them in line. 

In a world whose bloated population makes governance almost impossible, events such as the ouster of Egyptian Pre-sident Mohammed Morsi, Brazil’s general strike, Greece’s debacle, the Gezi Park sit-in or drone attacks, have blurred frontiers and led to a growing rejection of a consumer society that increasingly imposes austerity for the many. Realizing that representative democracy need not be the only game in town, people in many parts of the world, both developed and not, increasingly come to the realization that they can and must take their destinies into their own hands, inventing other ways of life based on a cooperation that begins in the streets and squares where peaceful protests are organized. 

Some groups are libertarians that reject government regulation in the name of absolute individual freedom, while others are closer to philosophical anarchism, whose basic principle is responsibility for one’s self as well as the community. In the current repressive context, both groups are forced to rely on mass events to get their message across, but very few of these feature ‘mobs’. The Ukrainian coup made clear what ‘mobs’ look like - and how quickly they can turn against those who would use them for their own ends, as Right Sector demands weapons and threatens to blow up pipelines.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Ukraine via The Chicago School

Some American commentators close to the Obama administration are touting the coup in Kiev as a successful tit for tat for Russia’s obstruction of U.S. war plans against Syria and its broader plans for world order. However, the Europeans, who get a lot of their gas from Russia, are split over joining ‘a coalition of the willing’. At the NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels on Feb. 26, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen insisted that a solution could be found through cooperation with Moscow. She was echoed by the German business community.
In contrast, as reported Feb. 26 by the European Policy Centre in Brussels, British neoconservative policy advisor Amanda Paul demanded the EU adopt a tougher line against Putin.  The conservative daily Die Zeit agreed,  noting that “although reason, caution and compromise are good virtues, Europe have to learn power politics. We believe that the world is rational, with lots of compromise and consideration. In reality, Man is not a moral animal, but an animal of power.”
It is no coincidence that this quote should come from the German business community, for it expresses an ideology that is deeply rooted in that country, and which has gained significant influence, albeit under the radar, in the U.S., although it constituted the philosophical basis of the Nazi state.
To make this point I will turn to a surprising source: British former diplomate Alastair Crooke’s 2009 book ‘Resistance: The Essence of the Islamist Revolution’.  Unlike NY Times bestsellers that deal with Islam, it introduces the reader to analyses of Western ideology by Islamist scholars, revealing knowledge ignored by most American college graduates.
During the Vietnam War, the well-known conservative philosopher Alan Bloom accused liberalism of undermining American values and in particular patriotism. He claimed that one of liberalism’s founders, John Locke, who influenced both the French and American revolutions, extended Hobbes’ ideas about liberal government, rights, the ‘self-aware Self’ and innate human goodness.  Bloom and other Chicago School philosophers and economists, starting with Leo Strauss, were convinced that liberalism had thus led to nihilism, a ‘defining modern disorder’ that discourages citizens from sacrificing themselves for the State. The idea of nihilism had been laid out by Heidegger and Nietzsche, and led to the path taken by Nazi Germany. It was elaborated by their disciple, Carl Schmitt, who was none other than Leo Strauss’s friend and mentor. 
The ‘Chicago School’, as it is widely know, is presented as being concerned strictly with economics, it’s best-known representative being Milton Friedman.  In fact, it has been a major player in the development of the overall Neo-Con-servative philosophy. From here I will simply cut and paste a slighted edited version of Crooke’s analysis of Neo-Conservatism’s philosophical background as it appears starting on page 248  of  “RESISTANCE”:
The Chicago School and the Essence of Power
Carl Schmitt was born the son of a small businessman in Westphalia in 1888. He studied law in Berlin, Munich and Strasbourg and became Professor of Law at Berlin University. He joined the Nazi party, and with Hermann Goring's assistance, was appointed Chief Jurist. His legal arguments for dictatorship were seen to justify the 'Fuhrer' state.” (Here is the precursor of the Unitary Presidency!) “Schmitt presented himself as anti-Semitic; but despite his expressed views, the Nazis did not trust him: he was denounced as an opportunist and Catholic pretender. He lost his position as Chief Jurist, but retained his profes-sorship. After the war and a period of internment he con-tinued to exercise wide influence - receiving a continuous flow of visitors seeking out his ideas on the failings of liberalism and its incompatibility with democracy.

It was through (Schmitt’s) critique of liberalism, and his redefinition of the nature of power and politics, that Strauss' ideas had their influence: Schmitt and Leo Strauss were life-long friends. Schmitt supported Strauss for a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship, and Strauss remained an ardent admirer and scholar, who taught his works - many of which were translated and published by Chicago University Press and circulated among Strauss's so-called 'Chicago School' followers.6 It was only in one important respect that their paths had diverged: Strauss, a Jew, left Germany for the US; and Schmitt, a devout Catholic, joined the Nazi party in 1933.

Schmitt's Political Theology, published in 1922, derived its title from his assertion that all significant concepts of the modern theory of the state are no more than secularized ideas originating from religious themes, an argument we too have made in earlier chapters. In other words, Schmitt argued that political theory traditionally has looked at the state and sovereignty through the same prism that theology views God - that is from ethical principles.

From this starting point evolved his Concept of the Political, published in 1932, in which he argued that this approach had been misconceived: politics was totally different from theology. Moral philosophers and theologians may be preoccupied with justice and equity, but politics has nothing to do with making the world fairer or more just - that is the task of moralists and theologians. Politics for Schmitt concerns power and survival, and nothing more.

Distinguished from the jostling of party politics, the 'true' political represents the essence of power - it is power's identity. While churches are predominant in religion, or society is predominant in economics, the state is predominant in politics.

It was an attempt to define exactly what politics is: the political is the most intense and extreme antagonism, Schmitt wrote. War is the most violent form that politics takes, but even short of war, politics still requires that you treat your opposition as antagonist to everything in which you believe. It's not personal, you do not have to hate him, but you have to be prepared to destroy him if necessary. Schmitt challenged liberals to admit that politics was literally a 'matter of life and death'.

Here we have a clear explanation for what Washington’s consistent policy of designating every country that does not toe its line as ‘enemy’, its regime to be ‘changed’. Indeed, according to Crooke:

“This distinction had to be taken to the limit, to the point of life or death, which is to say that the enemy is whomsoever is, in an especially intense way, something different and alien. Such an enemy need not even be of a different nationality: as long as the conflict is potentially intense enough to become a violent one between political entities, the actual substance of enmity may be anything.
This deliberate dichotomy between power and moral or theological objectives reflected Schmitt's belief that libera-lism's basis in human rights and a preoccupation with self cannot provide a reasonable justification for sacrificing oneself for the state - in other words, the Vietnam protesters were acting exactly as Schmitt would have expected in the circumstances.”

While Crooke is referring to events of half a century ago, his description of Schmitt’s philosophy, so influential in the American university that has been the incubator of neo-conservatism, also illuminates what is going on today in Ukraine: the Right Sector which idolizes Stepan Bandera, who fought with the Nazis, appears as a bunch of thugs, but the are what Carl Schmitt’s philosophy calls for: nationalist fanatics who will not hesitate to sacrifice themselves for the state as they cut down its enemies.

At best we can surmise that the new Ukrainian govern-ment under-estimated its ability to manipulate its ultra-right friends. But I’m inclined to believe that the decision to use these people could only be taken by politicians who share their basic philosophy. Israel’s support for the putsch in Kiev shows that the new fascism differs only from the old one in not being anti-Semitic. And Yarosh and his buddies don’t need to know that to be useful.

The fact that they are ‘tolerated’ by Washington doesn’t mean that Obama doesn’t know what is going on. Nor is their unconditional demand for arms an aberration; it flows from their philosophy, which was first outlined by University of Chicago (sic) Professor Leo Strauss’s friend and mentor, Carl Schmitt. 

On February 4th, wrote in an interview of Dmitro Yarosh, leader of Right Sector:

“For the past two decades, he has been waiting and preparing for the start of the “national revolution,” and now that he finds himself at the head of its armed division, he does not seem ready to let it pass peacefully away, at least not on anyone else’s terms. “People have gotten in touch with us from around the country, saying, ‘Guys, don’t let us down. Take us to victory, to independence, if the other leaders are incapable of that,’” Yarosh says. “So if the time has come for an active struggle, I am ready to carry it to the end. I am not afraid of that responsibility. I see no reason to hide my face.” 
Washington didn’t lift a finger to save Yanukovich.  But if  it has to save the new government from its armed Neo-Nazi allies, that could lead to full-blown war, as Professor Stephen Cohen said this morning a propos the Crimea on ‘Meet the Press’.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Pusillanimous Europe

It’s hard to know which is worse: a Europe that is still caught in a Cold war stance between the bear and the eagle, or a Europe that allows itself to drift into Fascism, as if World War II had never happened.  Notwithstanding the strength of its economy, Europe is in this position because it never took its place among the other four Eurasian giants: Russia, India, China and the Muslim world, preferring a less challenging role as Washington's junior partner.

Catherine Ashton’s lack of surprise and horror upon hearing that the government she helped put in place had hired snipers to fire upon both protesters and police reveals the true nature of the West’s campaign to detach Ukraine from Russia: F. William Engdhal’s “Full Spectrum Dominance” is not just about ruling the world; it’s about adopting fascist methods to do so.

During the Cold War, Europe was cowed into supporting the United States by constant warnings of Soviet tanks about rolling across the Danubian plain- or at the very least Europe’s ‘Finlandization’: a peaceful takeover by economic means.  After the fall of the Soviet Union, the EU breathed a sigh of relief and signed up for Russian gas.  Now it has to choose between being warm and becoming part of real war Fascism.  

The conflict is still between the left and the right, even if the labels are not exactly the same. Ukrainian demonstrators who pulled down statues of Lenin may have been fighting yesterday’s battle, but I suspect they also reject the socialist ethos that informs many of Putin’s orientations - including the reluctance to use force in Crimea and his request for a special session of the Security Council to discuss the crisis in Ukraine.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Ukraine's Ultra-Right Deconstructed

The current volatile situation in Ukraine demands clarity with respect to the main forces that brought it about.  The MSM invariably dismisses any suggestion that these right-wing organizations have an unsavory past. And yet, we’re not talking about a bunch of skinheads eager for action who have taken Adolf Hitler as their inspiration; these men have kept alive a hundred year Ukrainian independence movement that allied itself with the Third Reich, with whose worldview it shared.
The new Interior Minister of the Ukrainian government is Dmytro Yarosh, leader of the Right Sector.  Here are some excerpts from a review he gave during the Maidan to Mustafa Nayyem and Oksana Kovalenko, two Ukrainian journalists:

"I’m the founder and leader of the all-Ukrainian organization Stepan Bandera Trident since 1994, holding various positions from commander to chief inspector. Trident is like an order of knights, propagandizing Stepan Bandera’s Ukrainian nationalist ideology, promoting patriotism among Ukrainian youth, and defending the honor and dignity of the Ukrainian nation by all means available. It created Right Sector to coordinate the actions of various revolutionary groups. 
Training takes place at camps throughout Ukraine: Besides military training, we organize events aimed at the de-communization and decolonization of Ukraine.”
Do you coordinate your activities with opposition forces?
“Aside from Self Defense (Samooborona), which we formally belong to with over 1,500 people, for the most part, we have no relations with them because they don’t recognize us.”
Who was this Ukrainian hero, Stepan Bandera? Quoting from Wikipedia:
“Stepan Bandera joined Ukrainian nationalist organizations as a youth. The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) was created in 1929 in Western Ukraine (which at the time was part of Poland).  Bandera became head of the national executive in Galicia in 1933, and expanded its network in Western Ukraine against both Poland and the Soviet Union.  He was arrested in Lviv in 1934, accused of plotting to assassinate the Polish minister of internal affairs. He was convicted of terrorism but his death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, and he was freed in 1939, either by Ukrainians, Poles] or Germans, moving to German-occupied Krakow.
In 1940, the OUN split into two factions. The Melnyk faction (OUN-M), preached a more conservative approach to nation-building, while the Bandera faction (OUN-B) supported a revolutionary approach and sought German military support. In November 1939 about 800 Ukrainian nationalists began training in German military camps, and Bandera tried twice to send directives to Lviv to prepare an uprising.  
OUN-B recruited in Western Ukraine through ‘Mobile Groups’ totaling about 7,000. The intermittently close relationships between Bandera, the OUN and Nazi Germany have been described by historians as "ambivalent, tactical and opportunistic, with both sides trying to exploit the other unsuccessfully.” OUN received 2.5 million marks for subversive activities inside the USSR and Gestapo and Abwehr officials protected its followers.
With the arrival of Nazi troops in Ukraine, on June 30, 1941, Bandera and the OUN-B declared an independent Ukrainian State, stating that it would "work closely with the National-Socialist Greater Germany, under the leadership of its leader Adolf Hitler which is forming a new order in Europe and the world and is helping the Ukrainian People to free itself from Moscovite occupation." 
In 1941 relations between Nazi Germany and the OUN-B soured, Bandera and the Ukrainian president, Yaroslav Stetsko, were arrested and taken to Berlin.  The ambivalent nature of the Nazi/Bandera relationship was illustrated by the fact that after a brief say in a concen-tration camp the Ukrainians were returned to Berlin, where they organized terrorist and intelligence activities behind Soviet lines, with air-lifted arms and equipment.
Unlike other nationalist movements in Austria, Russia, Poland and Romania, Ukrainian nationalism saw Russians and Poles as the chief enemy, with Jews playing only a secondary role. However, under the influence of the anti-Semitic climate in Eastern and Central Europe, it claimed that the Soviet Union diverted Ukrainian discontent away from Communism by exploiting anti-Jewish sentiment. In May 1941 the Bandera leadership actively supported the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union and the western Ukraine. Under a Minority Policy it ordered: “Russians, Poles, Jews who are hostile to us must be exterminated: deport them to their own lands and destroy their intelligentsia in positions of power ... Jews must be isolated, removed from government positions in order to prevent sabotage; those deemed indispensable may only work with an overseer... Jewish assimilation is not possible." A militia was to “help remove the Jews and protect the population”. Leaflets called for the "destruction of Russians, Poles, Hungarians and Jewry”, and in 1941-1942, OUN members took part in anti-Jewish actions.
By then German intelligence concluded that Ukrainian nationalists were indifferent to the plight of the Jews and would opportunistically either kill them or help them. However, ‘token Jews’ took part in Bandera's underground movement and according to a Berlin security report in 1942,  some, probably doctors or skilled workers, were provided with forged passports, especially when Bandera was in conflict with the Germans, when the leadership urged its members to "liquidate signs of harmful foreign influence, particularly the German racist concepts and practices." 
So much for the twentieth century.  Several upheavals later, in October 2007, the city of Lviv established the Stepan Bandera Prize and erected a statue that triggered a debate about his role. (Two previously erected statues having been sabotaged, the current one is guarded 24/7.)  In 2009 his 100th birthday was celebrated in several Ukrainian cities and a Bandera postal stamp was issued. This year, his 105th birthday was celebrated by a torchlight procession of 15,000 people in the centre of Kiev and thousands more rallied near his statue in Lviv.The march was supported by the Svoboda party and members of Yulia Timoshenko’s Fatherland party.
IA region by region Ukrainian survey of attitudes towards Bandera’s OUN conducted in 2009 produced very mixed results, with ‘very positive’ ranging from 37% in Western Ukraine  to 1% in Eastern Ukraine.
Against this background, it should come as no surprise that the government concocted by Victoria Nuland should have obediently awarded six major ministries to the Banderist Svoboda Party, naming as Secretary of Security and National Defense co-founder Andriy Parubiy, whose masked Right Sector thugs battled riot police in Maidan, organized snipers and bomb throwers. In the interview quoted above, Yarosh, now Parubiy’s deputy and responsible for internal security, revealed that Right Sector members trained for the uprising for more than two years. The other Svoboda ministers include Oleksandr Sych, a parliamentarian best known for his attempts to ban abortions in Ukraine, including after rape, as deputy prime minister for economic affairs. Svoboda also got Education, Ecology and Agriculture while Oleh Makhnitsky was named prosecutor-general.
I will spare my readers a list of the various far-right groups that are increasingly active in Europe, but those who dismiss events in Ukraine as being on the periphery need to be aware that in response to anti-racism Mulsiim patrols, ultra-right groups in London are organizing anti-Muslim patrols, affirming Britain for the British.  Not entirely unrelatedly, a Ukrainian-born former soldier in the Israel Defense Forces led about 40 fighters, including several fellow IDF veterans — in violent clashes with government forces in the Maidan.  
For those who are confused as to who is on which side of what, the key is this: globalization is being imposed by increasingly fascistic methods, cutting across what had until now been recognizably different national and religious groups.  Vladimir Putin will resist that threat, which cost 20,000,000 lives in World War II, when Bandera was on the other side.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The New Fascism: Coopting the Nationalist Meme for Globalist Ends

I posted this article on Oped News and Firedoglake on February 25th, but apparently forgot to post it here.  In the six days since, events in Ukraine and London have made it even more relevant: the U.S. and the E.U. have recognized a government in Ukraine that came to power by ousting the democratically elected president, and whose security apparatus is led by a Fascist allied with Chechen separatists. Meanwhile, right-wing Britons have mounted anti-Muslim patrols in London in response to Muslim patrols whose aim is to protect their people against racism.
We think of Fascism as a passing phenomenon that was vanquished in the Second World War, leaving us to cope with the equally dangerous threat of Communism. Alas, we must put that illusion to rest, for only by realizing that fascism never died can we make sense of today’s news.  
I had begun to suspect this last summer when it became clear that the United States was supporting ‘pro-capitalist’ Islamists ( The crisis in Greece added another brick to my as yet small edifice: why was Germany making out inordinately well from bailing out that country?  Following on Wikileaks revelations about private security firms such as Blackwater, whose techniques recall those of Stormtroopers, Edward Snowden’s leaks exposed the electronic tracking of the world’s communications that make the Gestapo (and Stasi) look like amateurs.

But it is with the Ukrainian ‘revolution’ that we have the  most blatant proof that globalization and fascism go hand in hand.  Europeans wonder how Bruxelles can afford to bail out a non-member of the Union when Spain, Portugal and Greece are still mired in 20-50% unemployment.  The answer discloses a painful reality: Western governance is not about striving for the best possible life for the most people, but about securing Louis XIV lifestyles for the global elite.

Seen in that light, the determination to draw Ukraine into the EU (first as a long-term guest) is about enrolling its citizens’ delusions of (European) grandeur in the NATO effort to prevent Russia from posing a serious threat to U.S.-led globalization.  It’s as if the West had had to take a detour on its path to global, fascist domination to deal with the Soviet Union, and is now picking up where it left off after defeating its competitor on that path, Nazi Germany. A few left-wing Europeans are warning of fascism again threatening the Old Continent, but as in the United States, their voices are drowned out by those of officialdom.

The specter of socialism that gave rise to Fascism and its challenge to the ‘democratic’ West’s cornering of markets is greater now than it was in 1940, and it is compounded by the irruption on the world stage of radical Islam. Not that of Sunni Al Qaeda, but of revolutionary Shi’ism, which extends in various forms from Iran, through the Shi’ite-led Iraqi government, to Syria under the Ba’ath Party and into Lebanon with Hezbollah, and Gaza under a Sunni Hamas that is closely allied with Shi’a political ideology.  

The influence of Marxism on Shi’ite revolutionary theoreticians, carefully kept from the Western public, is laid out in great detail in Alastair Crooke’s 2009 book Resistance: the Essence of the Islamist Revolution (Pluto Press) which should be required reading for anyone seeking to understand today’s world.

Crooke makes clear that notwithstanding the Iranian regime’s co-optation by conservative clerics, its initial inspiration was revolutionary.  It was not about ‘power to the people’ (or the Soviets), but it was about avoiding great disparities of wealth, combined with respect for even the poorest citizens.  According to Crooke, the Qu’uran “presents ‘giving’ as a redistributive mechanism to prevent excessive disparity in wealth....It is conducive to a sense of ‘detachment’ from worldly possessions among the well-to-do; and prevents accumulations of wealth leading to monopolies and the domination of others..... part of a wider purpose demanding that economic activity be viewed as one component in a human condition that is an integral part of a wider ‘being’ that encompasses the world in which we live”.

Seen in this light, revolutionary Islam (as opposed to Sunni-inspired radical conservative Islam) mirrors the aspirations of progressives striving to achieve redis-tribution of wealth and maintain the Earth as a human habitat. And this in turn explains the resurrection of Fascism, which is concerned only with power and profit. 

The crisis in Ukraine (and Venezuela, and Syria) shows that it is relatively easy for a powerful alliance to manipulate popular discontent with any regime (whether more or less justified), to serve its own ends. You could say that the ultimate achievement of twenty-first century fascism, as opposed to its cruder predecessor, has been to usurp the people’s ultimate weapon - revolution - for ends which have nothing to do with popular aspirations.