- Part II continues Petras' analysis of the global depression,
regional wars, and the decline of America's empire.
- Obama's Latin American Policy
- At all times under all administrations, policy, not rhetoric,
defines priorities, and it's no different for Obama. With regards to Latin
America and its people, he's been hostile and dismissive by:
- -- allocating half a billion dollars "in military
and related aid" to aid the right wing Calderon regime and militarizing
the US - Mexican border;
- -- on the pretext of fighting drugs trafficking and regional
security, funding to Mexico and Colombia goes for military purposes; Colombia
gets the most - billions under Plan Colombia; economic aid is ignored;
- -- beyond the timeline of Petras' book, Hugo Chavez and
other regional leaders voiced concern over Washington's intention to supply
Colombia with new weapons and technology, continued billions for the hardline
"Uribe doctrine," and of greatest concern the plan to access
seven new military bases - three airfields, two naval installations, and
two army bases besides nine others currently stationing US forces all supplemented
by the reactivated Fourth Fleet in April 2008;
- -- continuing US trade policies that have been devastating
to regional farmers and peasants; likely new protectionist measures will
hurt them more;
- -- practicing the same Bush anti-Latino immigrant policies
with talk now about new legislation to harden them and establish a new
- -- targeting regional left of center regimes, including
Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Cuba; the latter's long-standing
embargo remains in place despite some relaxed travel and other restrictions;
- -- maintaining a three-fold regional strategy:
- (1) supporting hard right Colombian, Mexican and Peruvian
- (2) aiming for more influence over centrist governments
in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay; and
- (3) "isolating and weakening leftists and populist
governments" in Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua.
- Overall, Obama is continuing the same Bush policies.
Latin America remains a low priority, but military aid and an imperial
agenda define it along with supporting the region's most hard right, repressive
regimes. He also "talk(s) free markets while practicing protectionism,"
very typical of how America operates - one-way to benefit its corporate
interests at the expense of its trading partners.
- The current economic crisis added a new wrinkle. Obama
is "absorbing most of the hemisphere's credit (for his) financial
bailout," so regional exporters are hard-pressed to finance their
operations. Capital repatriated to America's domestic market compounds
the problem by extending and deepening Latin America's recession. "All
the major countries in the region are headed toward negative growth (exacerbated
by) double-digit unemployment, rising levels of poverty, and mass protests."
They're vulnerable because of the "production and development strategies
(they) adopted" with emphasis on "privatization of all key productive
- Now in the face of their deepening crisis, center-left
regimes (like in Brazil and Argentina) have made no or few provisions for
unemployed workers, peasants, public employees and small business. Instead,
(in pursuit of new markets and investors) "bankers, export elites
and multi-national corporations" are favored as in America.
- However, Venezuela's center-left regime pursued an alternate
strategy, including nationalizing key sectors, protecting vital social
ones like food, and expanding agrarian reform to increase production. Chavez
vows to maintain social services and is practicing Keynesian policies to
do it - large-scale public investments combined with subsidizing the most
needy. Still, Venezuela's dependence on oil revenues makes it vulnerable
to declining prices, something very much in play today that threatens social
stability along with high inflation and "mal-distribution of income,
property and power."
- Overall throughout the continent, "Mass protests,
general strikes, and other forms of social unrest are beginning to manifest
themselves." America will try to capitalize on them to maintain dominance
over its "back yard."
- Addressing Economic Needs Via Electoral Processes: The
Case of Venezuela
- Democratic political processes require:
- -- "Free and equal competition for political office;
- -- access to the means of communication; and
- -- competing ideas and freedom to speak and act without
physical or psychological coercion."
- In contrast, authoritarian and faux democratic regimes:
- -- control the mass media, access to it, and one-sidedly
support free-market dominance to the exclusion of alternative systems;
- -- let monied interests control the process through unrestricted
spending for favored candidates to the detriment of others, especially
independent ones that are entirely shut out;
- -- exert state repression and vote-rigging to deny opposition
candidates an equal chance;
- -- accept foreign financing for regime favorites, and
- -- allow other hard line tactics and embedded systems
to make democratic governance impossible.
- The mass media play a crucial role. Their power influences
public opinion, supports favored candidates, and it's no different in Venezuela
than elsewhere. Yet Hugo Chavez and his party won impressive victories
in every presidential, congressional and municipal election since 1998
by promising and delivering social changes - real ones for essential needs
that lifted millions of out of poverty by using the nation's resources
to help them.
- In recent years, other Latin American electoral systems
have also been democratized as neoliberal practices receded, popular mass
movements arose, and "oligarchic uprisings" for authoritarian
rule were defeated. Venezuela represents the most impressive example.
- Prior to Chavez' election, the country had oligarchic
rule for 40 years under two parties competing (like Republicans and Democrats)
"to represent the petrol-rentier oligarchy, powerful importers, and
the real estate-financial speculative elite." Both parties "pillaged
the public treasury" until Chavez won office in December 1998 and
reformed the system. He survived the Washington-backed April 2002 coup,
the later in the year-early 2003 oil management lockout, the August 2004
recall election, and remains the most popular political figure in the country.
- It's prospered under his leadership, and Venezuelans
have benefitted by policies delivering beneficial social change. Chavez
deepened the nation's democracy through:
- -- elected community councils;
- -- encouraging, promoting and financing "a vast
array of neighborhood cooperatives, peasant organizations and trade unions;
- -- "weakening....linkages between the oligarchic
political and economic elites" and reducing authoritarian power over
- -- establishing publicly financed television and community
radio stations to challenge the corporate media's control of information;
- -- supporting free expression, including by his fiercest
- -- conducting free, fair, and open democratic elections
that shame America's rigged ones favoring a corrupted two-party oligarchy.
- Today, the pro-Chavez United Socialist Party of Venezuela
((PSUV) enjoys overwhelming support as evidenced in the November 2008 election
when it won 72% of state governorships and 58% of the popular vote.
- In February 2009, Venezuelans passed a constitutional
amendment permitting an incumbent president and government officials to
run for office without term limits. In other words, to let people vote
their officials in or out, not party bosses in back rooms. Over the past
decade, it shows in Venezuela:
- -- media choices are more diverse;
- -- more social classes than ever exist at state and local
- -- the electoral process is free, fair and open as judged
by independent observers;
- -- campaigns and procedures are less corrupt, violent
and unable to be manipulated by the powerful;
- -- citizen participation is widespread and impressive;
- -- governance under Chavez has lessened inequalities
and encouraged the citizenry to participate in their democracy.
- Obstacles nonetheless remain, principally "in the
continuation of vast concentrations of oligarchic wealth and ownership
of strategic banking, mass media, real estate, agricultural lands, distribution
networks and the manufacturing sectors." As a result, "vast social
inequalities" exist, though less extreme than before 1999.
- Chavez's most pressing task is to "formulate a comprehensive
socio-economic strategic plan to confront the global collapse of capitalism,"
especially in light of lower oil prices and demand. Advancing his social
agenda depends on it.
- Masters of Defeat: Retreating Empire and Bellicose Bluster
- Despite America's imperial and diplomatic defeats, militarism
under Obama continues to serve the usual constituencies that benefit, while
at the same time unmet human needs are ignored and disdained. As the economic
crisis deepens, reckless national resource amounts are diverted to powerful
corporate interests and to maintaining America's imperial footprint globally
in spite of clear failures with Iraq as Exhibit A.
- Over six years of war and occupation left "enormous
military casualties and over a half a trillion in economic losses, without
securing any political, military or natural resource gains."
- Iran is Exhibit B. Despite Israeli-Washington efforts
to isolate the country, in October 2008, Shell Oil and the Austrian energy
company OMV sponsored a Teheran conference promoting "gas export opportunities
and potentials of the Islamic Republic of Iran." After losing out
on tens of billions in potential oil revenues, Big Oil may have decided
that "economic-centered empire building" is preferable to the
military kind. Shell's move perhaps is an overture for what's to come if
the Obama- Netanyahu axis doesn't intervene militarily to stop it.
- Afghanistan and Pakistan are Exhibits C and D with US
forces targeting them both in a futile effort to secure control and extend
America's South Asia influence. After nearly eight years of conflict and
occupation, Taliban forces are now resurgent, and stepped up efforts to
defeat them will likely prove as unsuccessful as previous campaigns. Yet
vast sums are wasted trying while vital domestic needs go begging.
- America's one-sided Israeli support is equally futile
and "has led to a sharp decline (of) US influence in the region"
as well as enormous Arab street opposition that promises one day to explode.
It's also been bad for business. "Zionist-Israeli usurpation of US
Middle East policy has led to strategic losses of investments, markets,
profits and partnerships for the entire multi-national oil and gas industry"
as well as other global economic losses.
- Washington is also losing out in Latin America where
its influence is waning. For business, it amounts to hundreds of billions
in lost trade and investments as global competitors like China have profited
at America's expense. Washington's belligerency has a price, and its fallout
is also felt at home.
- Besides its declining competitiveness, America's economic
strength has weakened. Conditions at home are in disarray, and "the
financial system is disconnected from the real economy and on the verge
of collapse...." It's only a matter of time before it rubs off on
Obama and he's blamed for it, as well he should be, given the destructiveness
of his economic policies.
- In lieu of progressive alternatives, administration extremists
seek confrontation with Russia, China and Iran as well as Latin American
states like Venezuela. These nations and others show more resistance, and
most states prefer cooperative economic growth over futile military conflict
- a lesson Washington and Israel have yet to learn, and they're paying
- The Obama Regime, The Zionist Power Configuration and
- Obama's Israel-Firster officials and 51 influential Zionists
organizations define America's counterproductive Middle East belligerency
- an agenda destined to fail, yet it persists despite urgent domestic needs
left unaddressed. Edward Said once said that in a matter of hours, the
Israeli Lobby could marshal the entire Senate to come together for Israel
on virtually anything - even policies counterproductive to America's best
- In addition, outliers in both Houses of Congress are
purged, appointments with dubious Israeli loyalties are blocked, and regional
belligerency is the preferred option over diplomacy because Israel expects
it with regards to Iraq under Saddam, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon
and Gazans under Hamas - targeted by slow-motion genocide that continue
with Washington's approval but couldn't persist without it, or Israel's
illegal West Bank settlements either.
- For decades, and especially since 9/11, Muslims and Arabs
have been ferociously targeted by vicious propaganda and military aggression.
Obama is following the same agenda, in Afghanistan with stepped up efforts.
- America's pro-Israeli media as well as influential business,
academic and other figures support open-ended militarism and all policies
benefitting Israel regardless of their destructiveness. As a result, the
US is in terminal decline with nothing in evidence to stop it.
- Israeli Middle East Supremacy from Gaza to Tehran: Imperial
- Iran poses no regional threat nor has it for the past
200 years. Yet Israel targets it for removal as its sole remaining rival,
so perhaps Operation Cast Lead was preparatory target practice. Washington
appears supportive, given Obama saying at the July G 8 meeting that "we're
not going to just wait indefinitely and allow (Iran to develop a) nuclear
weapon." European and Arab states may not object. Israeli influence
demands it. The major media is in tow, and extremist US elements want regime
change at any cost, even a devastating holocaust if nuclear weapons are
used against underground Iranian sites.
- For decades, Israel has been a serial aggressor and threat
to the region. It's used "repeated threats and aerial and ground assaults
on neighboring countries....to assert (unchallenged) regional supremacy."
Washington's support under Republicans and Democrats permits it in spite
of huge risks of uncontrollable fallout.
- "The election of the ultra-militarist Binyamin Netanyahu
promises (stepped up) Israeli plans for a massive assault on Iran,"
regardless of its foolhardiness. The Israeli prime minister calls the Islamic
Republic the "terrorist mother base (and) that Israel cannot accept
an Iranian terror base (Gaza) next to its major cities." So far, belligerency
is on hold, but perhaps preparations are underway, given Obama's G 8 remark
and Joe Biden's earlier one about America not intervening to stop a "preemptive"
attack. The New York Times quoted him saying:
- "Look, we cannot dictate to another sovereign nation
what they can and cannot do when they make a determination - if they make
a determination - that they're existentially threatened and their survival
is threatened by another country."
- Iran plans no conflict and poses no threat to Israel
or the region. An Israeli and/or American attack will openly defy international
law that permits defensive measures only until the Security Council acts.
Yet naked aggression is possible with the Obama administration "openly
threaten(ing) war if Iran does not accept unilateral disarmament with intrusive
inspection of its strategic (nuclear) installations, allowing Israel and
the US a unique opportunity for pinpointing vital targets for their first
wave of attack" if one comes.
- Retaliation is Iran's only deterrent, including against
America in Iraq. Yet "Israel's military success in Gaza (against a
defenseless civilian population) has created an irrational triumphalist
war fever among all of its leaders and their" American Zionist supporters.
If it comes, "major military and political retaliatory action (will
respond) throughout the Middle East" inflicting enormous economic
losses," including disruption of regional oil operations.
- Opposition efforts, however, are building to stop it,
including Israeli war crimes investigations, the global Boycott, Divestment
and Sanctions Movement, and growing number of Jews worldwide no longer
willing to tolerate a destructive Zionist ideology that violates Judaism's
basic tenets. Unfortunately, Israel may have to be shocked militarily before
the lesson is learned. If so, Arabs and Jews alike may pay dearly as a
- The Politics of An Israeli Extermination Campaign: Backers,
Apologists and Arms Suppliers
- Well before Operation Cast Lead, Israeli historian Ilan
Pappe explained that Israel has conducted state-sponsored genocide against
Palestinians for decades and intensively in Gaza. In March 1998, international
law expert Francis Boyle proposed that "the Provisional Government
of (Palestine) and its President institute legal proceedings against Israel
before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague for violating
the" Genocide Convention - an "undeniable fact to the entire
world," according to Boyle.
- Petras explained that "Israel's totalitarian vision
is driven by the vision and practice of a permanent (Zionist-driven) purge
of Arab Palestine....an ethno-racist ideology....enforced and pursued by
its organized backers in the United States." Operation Cast Lead was
the latest example - a pre-planned mass-murder/scortched earth campaign
to turn Gaza to rubble and its population to the edge of despair, deepening
further from the horrors of a medieval siege that's starving people to
death. Washington lets Israel:
- -- "commit what leading United Nations and international
human rights experts (call) 'crimes against humanity' with total impunity;"
- -- get "an unlimited supply of the most technologically
advanced and destructive weapons (and license to) use them without limit
on a civilian population" in violation of international and US laws;
- -- avoid UN sanctions and condemnations because America
vetoes them in the Security Council.
- Israel's chokehold on policy is key - from grassroots
America to the major media, business, academia, the clergy, key professions,
both Houses of Congress and every administration, Republican or Democrat.
Influential figures voicing opposition assures they're targeted, intimidated,
blackmailed, smeared, pressured and removed from positions of authority.
- The major media support and trumpet the most outrageous
Israeli crimes. Presidents of the 51 Major American Jewish Organizations
(PMAJO) back them with "the Big Lie" and disseminate it through
their Daily Alert propaganda organ, a tactic "reminiscent of totalitarian
- Major Jewish religious organizations are also involved,
spewing hate instead of core Judaic principles. On January 3, 2009, the
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism defended Israel's Gaza reign of
- "Every congregation should issue a statement supporting
Israel. Solicit statements from elected officials at the city, state or
provincial, or federal levels. Solicit statements from local religious,
ethnic and other prominent personalities...."
- It added "talking points," propaganda, and
support for the most egregious crimes of war and against humanity - justifying
mass murder of civilian men, women, children and infants, Arab lives that
don't matter if killing them helps Jews.
- Enough is enough. Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions
are essential until Israel complies with international law and the universal
principles of human rights. Nothing less is tolerable in the interest of
justice, a sovereign Palestinian state, and enforceable peace. Israel must
be condemned, isolated, and held accountable for its grievous crimes. All
support should be withheld. A battle of ideas must be waged to counter
vicious dominant media lies. Israel must be denounced as a serial aggressor,
a rogue state, a scourge to the region and humanity, and a violator of
core Judaic dogma. America's complicity must also be outed.
- And Zionism must be exposed as the enemy of Jews - extremist,
corrosive, hateful, repugnant, indefensible, a dagger in the heart of its
host, essential to expunge to save it.
- Iranian Elections: The "Stolen Elections" Hoax
- On June 12, Iran held presidential elections. Four candidates
participated, but only two contended seriously. Final results showed incumbent
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with a 62.63% majority with second place finisher Mir
Hossein Mousavi a distant 33.75%. At once street protests erupted with
claims of electoral fraud. Yet a May 11 - 20 independent poll sponsored
by two US organizations (the Center for Public Opinion and the American
Strategy Program at the New America Foundation) showed Ahmadinejad way
ahead enough to win overwhelmingly. Washington and the major media cried
- All elections "in which the White House has a significant
stake, where" pro-US candidates are defeated, are "denounced
as illegitimate by the entire political and mass media elite" with
no evidence offered as proof. PMAJO demanded harsher sanctions and further
isolation of the Islamic Republic.
- "Western leaders rejected the results because they
'knew' that their reformist candidate could not lose." They portrayed
Mousavi as a "voice of moderation" despite his hardline record
as prime minister in the 1980s, and his support from Iran's ruling elite,
urban middle class, as well as youths and students favoring better relations
with America. In contrast, Ahmadinejad has widespread support among the
urban and rural poor for providing vital social services that Mousavi disdains.
- Western propaganda predicted a landslide Mousavi victory
in spite of convincing evidence of Ahmadinejad's popularity. Is it surprising
that he won? A Mousavi victory was clearly unexpected, especially as an
independent candidate who became politically active again after a 20 year
hiatus and only campaigned in Iran's major cities. Ahmadinejad, in contrast,
made over 60 nationwide trips in less than three months. It paid off.
- Post-election, the Los Angeles Times published a photo
of a huge pro-Ahmadinejad crowd cheering the re-elected president - a far
larger assemblage than any demonstration opposing him. It's not hard imagining
why. Most Iranians are low income workers who rely on essential social
services. It's no surprise that they fear losing them under a leader saying
he'll cut them.
- "The scale of the opposition's electoral deficit
should tell us how out of touch it is with its own people's vital concerns:"
real needs like food subsidies, housing, security, jobs, and more. Ahmadinejad
promised to keep addressing them. Mousavi wants closer ties to the West
and the usual free-market "reforms" that include lower wages,
fewer benefits, privatized state enterprises, and less attentiveness to
public needs in the interest of greater corporate profits.
- What's ahead now is "open to debate." On June
26, USA Today reported that:
- "The Obama administration is moving forward to fund
groups that support Iranian dissidents, records and interviews show, continuing
a program" begun under George Bush.
- Brent Scowcroft told Al Jazeera television that "of
course" Washington "has agents working inside Iran," and
it's well-known that Congress, for years, has directed millions of dollars
for regime change, thus far without success.
- Extremists in the Obama administration cite a stolen
election and want "preemptive war (because) no negotiations are possible
with an 'illegitimate" government...." While abhorring violence
and supporting the "aspirations of the Iranian people to be achieved
through peaceful means" and free expression, "no EU leader (except
France's Sarkozy) has questioned the outcome of the voting."
- Along with US hard-liners, Netanyahu is "the wild
card," and it's up for grabs whether his bellicose stance signals
conflict. If it comes, it'll be Washington's war as well, a disastrous
one for the region and beyond, and further proof of America's terminal
decline. Perhaps Israel's as well. Whether cooler heads can prevent it
remains to be seen.
- The New Agro-Industrial Neo-Colonialism: Two, Three,
Many Mass Revolts
- "Colonial style empire building is making a huge
comeback, and most of the colonialists are latecomers" to the game
- "newly emerging neo-colonial economic powers (ENEP)....seizing control
of vast tracts of fertile lands from poor" African, Asian and Latin
- Landless peasants and rural workers are being exploited,
"repressed, assassinated or jailed (and forced) into disease-ridden
urban slums." Agribusiness imperialism is to blame:
- -- over half of Madagascar's arable land has been leased
to South Korea's Daewoo Logistics for 70 - 90 years to grow maize and palm
oil for export;
- -- millions of fertile Cambodian hectares are being taken;
- -- other seizures are happening elsewhere.
- "Three blocs" are behind them:
- -- rich Arab oil states
- -- "newly-emerging imperial countries of Asia and
- -- US and European interests, including Wall Street speculators.
- Key nations involved include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, China,
Korea, Japan, Israel, America, and various European countries. Their modus
operandi include "political and financial mechanisms," coup d'etats,
destabilization, bribes and more to ally with neoliberal collaborators
in an imperial land grab. Once in place, extreme exploitation occurs, including
repression, impoverishment, and displacement to produce crops for export.
Peasants become serfs for $1 - 2 dollars a day. Agribusiness reaps huge
profits and get footholds for new investments.
- The World Bank is heavily involved directing $1.4 billion
for takeovers of "underutilized lands." Deep polarization is
the result - between wealthy investors and speculators on one side v. "hundreds
of millions of starving, landless, dispossessed peasants" in numerous
countries around the world.
- The process is in its early stages with what's coming
to include takeovers of "transport systems, infrastructure and credit
systems...." An elite few outside the country will profit hugely.
Internal collaborators will get rich. Local middle class elements are shrinking,
and the vast majority of poor and dispossessed workers and peasants will
lose the most as they always do. Today's global economic crisis hits them
hardest. Their only recourse is mass uprisings, but military crackdowns
will likely follow.
- Yet Petras believes new agribusiness empires "may
be short-lived" - replaced by "a new wave of rural-based national
liberation movements and ferocious competition between new and old imperial
states fighting over increasingly scarce financial and economic resources."
And it may happen "with or without change in the US or Europe."
- Regional Wars and Western Progressive Opinion: Commiserate
with the Victims; Condemn Those Who Resist!
- In spite of signs of public restiveness over imperial
wars and entrenched Israeli interests, a new American president was elected
promising war, not peace, continued occupation of Iraq, threats against
Iran, full support for Israeli aggression, and stepped up militarism against
Afghanistan and perhaps elsewhere - besides his unconscionable amount of
damage at home after seven months in office.
- Nonetheless, prominent US and European progressive intellectuals
(PPIs) support Obama based on rhetoric alone, not policies, given that
he's not George Bush. Yet they "refuse to apply the 'lesser evil'
(standard) in support of (the democratically-elected) Hamas" government
or Hezbollah in Lebanon. They support them "as victims but condemn
them as fighters who challenge their executioners" by acting in their
- They support self-determination in principle, but reject
mass popular movements struggling against imperial Israel and America for
freedom. The "lesser evil Democrats and European Social Democrats
and Center-Left politicians have a far worse record than the Taliban, Hezbollah,
Hamas and Sadrist forces." They're also mindless about how better
off Iraqis, Afghans, Lebanese and others were before US-EU imperial marauders
subjugated them to wars and repressive occupations.
- The historical record is clear. For over 300 years, Western
imperialism "destroyed and undermined far more lives and livelihoods
in far more countries over a greater time span than even the worst of the
post colonial regimes." Choosing Obama as a "lesser evil,"
amounts to calling the worst of past sins acceptable.
- Obama's Animal Farm: Bigger, Bloodier Wars Equal Peace
- Afghanistan is bloodier than ever with General Stanley
McChrystal in charge, a man Petras calls a "notorious psychopath"
and with good reason. He's a hired gun, an assassin, a man known for committing
war crime atrocities as head of the Pentagon's infamous Joint Special Operations
Command (JSOC) - established in 1980 and comprised of the Army's Delta
Force and Navy Seals, de facto death squads assigned to commit "extrajudicial
assassinations, systematic torture, bombing of civilian communities and
search and destroy missions."
- McChrystal represents the worst of them. "He is
the very embodiment of the brutality and gore that accompanies military-driven
empire building." His contempt for human life shows in not distinguishing
between "civilian and military oppositions, between activists and
their sympathizers, and the armed resistance."
- Under Bush-Cheney, he was directly involved in torturing
political prisoners and suspects as well as reigning terror over areas
under his command. Obama gave him carte blanche to expand the Afghan war
with more troops, funding, stepped up counterinsurgency, targeted killings,
and frequent drone and other attacks against Afghan and neighboring Pakistan
targets. He's charged with wiping out local social networks and community
leaders, comprising support for armed resisters.
- Obama's Afghan campaign is part of his military-driven
empire building campaign that includes permanent occupation of Iraq, subversion
and perhaps conflict with Iran, full support for Israeli belligerency,
and continuing the worst of the Bush administration's torture practices.