Saturday, 19 August 2017

So Much For Anti-Fascism

Our actions, including those of Spain, created the entity that has attacked Barcelona.

The Syrian Arab Army is at war with that entity, and not without success.

Yet we are at war with the Syrian Arab Army.

So much for anti-Fascism, in Syria as in Ukraine.

On which note, if "the Nazis were left-wing because", oh, who the hell cares, then why is it the neocons who still support them in Ukraine, and why is it the Alt-Right who wave their flag on the streets of Virginia?

All Power To The People

A couple of emails have asked why I was "hostile" to Pakistan.

But I am a strong proponent of the deportation of Altaf Hussain to stand trial in that country.

The supporters of the present Government of India have murderous intent towards me as a friend of the Dalits and as a proponent of self-determination as, on balance, the best solution to the dispute in Kashmir.

And I see a strong case for Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as the Subcontinent's greatest statesman since independence.

The circumstances of his overthrow and murder, however, serve only to illustrate my point that Britain supported the creation of Pakistan in order to ensure British and then American military bases in a highly strategic area by means of a state defined only by Islam, so that any apparent departure from a hardline Islamist identity had to be put down by the Army with strong British and American support.

For all its imperfections, for 50 years the strongest voice for an alternative vision of Pakistan has been that of the Pakistan People's Party.

Moreover, the proposed and emerging economic corridor from Gwadar and Karachi to Kashgar places Pakistan at the heart of the One Belt One Road initiative, which is one of the most exciting developments of the twenty-first century.

India, on the other hand, refuses to have anything to do with it.

I am not "hostile" to India, either, by the way. But the supporters of its present Government are extremely hostile to me, a fact in which I take great pride.

Is Trump Now At War With Trumpism?

Freddy Gray, who once had the dubious pleasure of being my editor, writes:

Ding dong Steve Bannon is gone – and all the liberal world order is cock-a-hoop.

As Democrat congressman Tim Ryan said, ‘Good. He had no business being there to begin with.’ Or as Nita Lowey, D-N.Y. put it, ‘Steve Bannon should have never been a White House official.’ 

Maybe it is a good thing that Steve Bannon, an apocalyptic thinker better suited to Breitbart and Talk Radio agitation than real power, is gone. 

And yet and yet – in the craziness that is Trumpland, Bannon was the closest thing to a coherent strategic thinker in the White House. Who is there now? 

Bannon had principles – mad ones, perhaps – but a thought-through worldview. I’m not convinced anybody else in the White House does. 

Bannon reportedly kept a list to remind the President of his campaign pledges on immigration, Obamacare and battling the global elites. 

His departure now raises the question: what’s happened to Trumpism? Is Trump now at war with Trumpism? 

And if Trump doesn’t have the movement that put him in power, what does he have? 

Bannon’s departure has been expected for some time. 

In fact, given that he appears to have been sidelined in early April, following the US bombing of the Assad regime in Syria and his departure from the national security council, it’s remarkable that he has lasted as long as he did. 

He and Trump’s alliance was always a marriage of convenience. 

Bannon dresses like a slob; Trump cares a lot about matters sartorial. 

Bannon’s differences with the dapper son-in-law Jared Kushner have been well-reported – although it’s worth noting that the two men were actually quite close before and after the election. 

But Bannon’s influence over the administration has dwindled in the last few months. 

It was well-known that he was behind a lot of the leaks which have so annoyed Trump. 

Bannon was crucial to winning Trump the election, but in power his ability to impress Trump has decreased.

Bannon’s extraordinary interview with American Prospect earlier this week, in which he essentially dismissed Trump’s North Korean policy as a crazy distraction from the great economic war with China, suggested he knew his time was nearly up. 

The generals – John Kelly, H R McMaster, and James Mattis – appear to be controlling things. 

The generals can do message discipline, and present a sense of order in an otherwise chaotic administration. 

But should we comforted by that? 

Or is this just another sign that the Trump administration – the government of the most powerful country in the world, remember – has no idea what it is doing?

The Story of Charlottesville Was Written in Blood in The Ukraine

Ajamu Baraka writes:

What is the character of racist right-wing politics today?

Is it the crazed white supremacist who plows into an anti-fascist demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, or can it also be the assurance by Lindsay Graham that an attack against North Korea would result in thousands of lives lost…. but those lives will be “over there”? 

What about the recent unanimous resolution by both Houses of Congress in support of Israel and criticism of the United Nations for its alleged anti-Israeli bias? 

Would that qualify as racist and right-wing, since it appears that the ongoing suffering of the Palestinians is of no concern? 

And what about the vote by the U.S. House of Representatives to go even beyond the obscene proposal of the Trump administration to increase the military budget by $54 billion dollars and instead add a whopping $74 billion to the Pentagon budget?

What I find interesting about the current discussion around what many are referring to as the emboldening of the radical white supremacist right is how easy it is to mobilize opposition against the crude and overt white supremacists we saw in Charlottesville. 

So easy, in fact, that it’s really a distraction from the more difficult and dangerous work that needs to be done to confront the real right-wing power brokers. 

The white supremacy that some of us see as more insidious is not reflected in the simple, stereotypical images of the angry, Nazi-saluting alt-righter or even Donald Trump.

Instead, it is the normalized and thus invisible white supremacist ideology inculcated into cultural and educational institutions and the policies that stem from those ideas.

That process doesn’t just produce the storm troopers of the armed and crazed radical right but also such covert true believers as Robert Ruben from Goldman Sachs, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Tony Blair and Nancy Pelosi — “decent” individuals who have never questioned for a moment the superiority of Western civilization, who believe completely in the White West’s right and responsibility to determine which nations should have sovereignty and who should be the leaders of “lesser” nations.

And who believe that there is no alternative to the wonders of global capitalism even if it means that billions of human beings are consigned permanently to what Fanon called the “zone of non-being.”

This is the white supremacy that I am concerned with.

And while I recognize the danger of the violent right-wing movement, I am more concerned with the right-wing policies that are being enacted into law and policy by both Democrats and Republicans at every level of government.

More than two years ago I wrote that:

“The brutal repression and dehumanization witnessed across Europe in the 1930s has not found generalized expression in the U.S. and Europe, at least not yet.

“Nevertheless, large sectors of the U.S. and European left appear to be unable to recognize that the U.S./NATO/EU axis that is committed to maintaining the hegemony of Western capital is resulting in dangerous collaborations with rightist forces both inside and outside of governments.”

The impetus of that article was to critique the inherent danger of the Obama administration’s cynical manipulation of right-wing elements in Ukraine to overthrow the democratically elected government of Viktor Yanukovych.

Not only was it dangerous and predictably disastrous for the Ukrainian people, but because U.S. support for a neo-fascist movement in Ukraine took place within a context in which the political right was gaining legitimacy and strength across Europe.

The political impact of the right gaining power in the Ukraine could not be isolated from the growing power of the right elsewhere.

Which meant that the Obama Admiration’s selfish, short-term objective to undermine Russia in the Ukraine had the effect of empowering the right and shifting the balance of forces toward the right throughout Europe.

But because Obama was incorrectly seen as a liberal, he was able to avoid most criticism of his policies in the Ukraine, in Europe and domestically.

In fact, liberals and the left both in the U.S. and in Europe generally [quite a word here; that would be disputed from Counterfire to the Morning Star, and from Jeremy Corbyn to George Galloway] supported his Ukraine policies.

However, playing footsie with right-wing elements in the Ukraine and underestimating the growing power of the right has resulted in powerful and dangerous right-wing movements on both sides of the Atlantic who have effectively exploited endemic white racism and the contradictions of neoliberal capitalist globalization. 

The ascendancy of Donald Trump cannot be decontextualized from the racial, class and gender politics of this moment here and abroad.

The alt-right that showed up in Charlottesville this past weekend was mimicking the tactics of the frontline neo-fascist soldiers who orchestrated the coup in the Ukraine, yet everyone is saying this is a result of Trump.

The objective fact is that the U.S. has become a dangerous right-wing society as a result of a steady shift to the right over the past four decades.

The idea that Trump’s election somehow “created” the right cannot be taken seriously and cannot be reduced to the crude expressions of the alt-right.

The structures of white power, that is the structures and institutions that provide the material base for Euro-American white supremacy and its ideological reproduction, should be the focus of radical opposition.

But the capitalist order and its institutions — the World Trade Organization, IMF, World Bank, and global Westernized higher education that serves as the material basis for hegemonic white supremacist power – escape critical scrutiny because popular attention is directed against a David Duke and a Donald Trump.

Trump and the alt-right have become useful diversions for white supremacist liberals and leftists who would rather fight against those superficial caricatures of racism than engage in more difficult ideological work involving real self-sacrifice — purging themselves of all racial sentimentality associated with the mythology of the place of white people, white civilization and whiteness in the world in order to pursue a course for justice that will result in the loss of white material privilege.

Looking at white supremacy from this wider-angle lens, it is clear that support for the Israeli state, war on North Korea, mass black and brown incarceration, a grotesque military budget, urban gentrification, the subversion of Venezuela, the state war on black and brown people of all genders, and the war on reproductive rights [no, the African-American male is the victim of a triple genocide in the womb, on the streets, and on the battlefield, while the eradication of non-white people is fundamental to global population control] are among the many manifestations of an entrenched right-wing ideology that cannot be conveniently and opportunistically reduced to Trump and the Republicans.

And when we understand that white supremacy is not just what is in someone’s head but is also a global structure with ongoing, devastating impacts on the people of the world, we will understand better why some of us have said that in order for the world to live, the 525-year-old white supremacist Pan-European, colonial/capitalist patriarchy must die. 

Your choice will be clear: Either you join us as gravediggers or you surrender to class and racial privilege and join the cross-class white united front.

The alt-right is waiting, and they are taking recruits from the left who are tired of “identity politics.”

Friday, 18 August 2017

Third World America

As Tim Stanley tweets, "The White House is now dominated by the military and the President's family."

The American Republic has become one of those countries. Bluntly, a Third World country.

Under the party called Republican.

The party of Abraham Lincoln, for all his faults, yet which cannot bring itself to disavow the symbols of the Confederacy.

The symbols, not so much of slavery, as of treason against the Republic.

"Keep A Bit of India"

So said Churchill.

But it was the Attlee Government that did it. To put it politely, that Government's foreign policy record was rarely as admirable as its record in domestic policy.

The Muslim League initially opposed independence altogether, and it was duly cultivated by the same British authorities that had directly created the Muslim Brotherhood in order to oppose Egyptian independence.

The Brotherhood has enjoyed good Foreign Office contacts ever since, and for most of the period since 1947 Britain has at least broadly sided with Pakistan.

After all, the British military top brass had enthusiastically supported the creation of Pakistan as a seat for British military bases, and not least for new airbases, in strategically the most important part of the Subcontinent, right where the Great Game had been played out in the nineteenth century.

Pakistan was the first state ever to have been founded specifically for the sake of Islam, and it was hoped that it would become the focus of global Muslim allegiance and aspiration, all the while within the British Commonwealth and retaining the British monarch as Head of State.

Pakistan retained the monarchy longer than India, so that, in her time, the Queen has been Queen of Pakistan, having sworn at her Coronation to govern its people (and, indeed, those of apartheid South Africa) "according to their respective laws and customs".

The scholars at Deoband had opposed Partition, arguing that the idea of a "Muslim nation" in India was contrary to the universal mission of Islam.

But Partition severed the Deobandi madrasas in Pakistan from the influence of Deoband itself, making them prey to the Pakistani Army in its role of reinforcing the most hardline definition of the country's Islamic identity in order to keep the feud with India going, and thus consolidate the power of the Army.

That suited the Americans in the Afghanistan of the 1980s and 1990s, just as it had suited the British in earlier times, and just as it had suited them both when the Thatcher Government and the Reagan Administration had enthusiastically supported the regime of General Zia-ul-Haq.

We know the rest. Or, if you don't, then you should.

Meanwhile, 70 years after Partition, the "Muslim nation" is divided almost equally among three countries.

Bengal was not even mentioned in the acronym that gave rise of the name of Pakistan, but East Bengal had to be included initially on the balance of populations.

No one ever expected all of India's Muslims to move to Pakistan. Indeed, that would have been impossible to manage.

Neither of those things, however, was at all germane to Britain's motivation in supporting its creation.

"Only In America Do We Celebrate Treason"

Only in America do we celebrate treason. 

The Confederate States of America – and those who governed and fought for it – were in open rebellion against the United States in order to preserve slavery. 

This is not a matter of debate. It is historic fact. 

What has been debated this week, though, is what to do with the memorials celebrating these white supremacist traitors. 

Neo-Nazis and white nationalists marched through Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee, leading to the death of a young woman. 

On Sunday night, a group of activists in Durham, North Carolina took it into their own hands and tore a statue down. 

On Monday, President Trump posited a rhetorical question to the country: if we tear down statues of Lee, will we next tear down statues of Presidents Washington and Jefferson? 

That seems unlikely, even though recasting the context in which we talk of Washington and Jefferson is long overdue. 

Both owned slaves and both were avowed white supremacists. 

But a general who waged open war against the United States? 

That one seems fairly straightforward. We shouldn’t commemorate him at all. 

Thousands of these statues litter the southern landscape from Virginia to Texas, reminding everyone who passes that the south once thought it was perfectly acceptable to buy and sell human beings based on the colour of their skin. 

Those who support retaining the statues insist that they are a necessary part of history, a reminder of an ugly period in our past.

Removing them, they contend, would be tantamount to ignoring or rewriting that history. 

This argument holds no water, though. 

Germany remembers everything the Nazis did without erecting statues to Erwin Rommel. 

Nazi paraphernalia and iconography, when displayed, is done so in museums where historians can provide context to the atrocities committed by Hitler’s regime.

Concentration camps are considered sacred ground, where reverence for those who perished is incumbent upon anyone who visits. 

In America we have weddings on plantations. 

We celebrate the antebellum south as though it was some chivalrous, charming, sophisticated culture instead of acknowledging it for what it was – a brutal slave-holding fiefdom where violence was all that kept its majority black population from rebelling. 

We have to grapple with this history, but statues celebrating Confederate generals or eulogising the “brave boys in grey” don’t do this. 

In fact, the majority of these statues were erected between 1920 and 1970, at a time when the freed black population was being brutally oppressed under Jim Crow laws and the Civil Rights Movement sought to change that. 

They were meant to be reminders of just whose country this was. 

That’s the history these statues truly represent, not some Gone with the Wind fantasy that never existed. 

If we want to commemorate this history accurately, then, the statues must fall. 

Put them in a museum where historians can provide context and information about what they represent, why they were erected, and what really happened. 

In their place, erect memorials to the slaves who were tortured and died throughout the south. 

Turn plantations into sacred spaces where Americans can learn about the brutality of slavery, not have a jaunty day out at a slave owner’s mansion. 

Build statues to Abigail Adams, who advocated abolition and women’s suffrage long before it was in vogue. 

Commemorate the union soldiers who died to preserve the union. 

These are the people we should memorialise in our civic religion – not a bunch of racist traitors. 

There’s a difference between celebrating history and learning from it. 

The Confederacy and slave holders generally speaking don’t deserve our reverence. 

Their world is not our world, and thank God for it, because brave women and men defeated them. 

Clinging to these statues says as much about us in 2017 as it does about the people they honour or the folks who erected them.

Those who defend these statues now must reckon with which they’re truly doing – preserving an historic record or celebrating white supremacy.

Antisemites For Israel

Giles Fraser writes: 

My mother-in-law has just arrived from Israel for her summer holiday.

First she coos over her grandchild. Then we sit on the floor and unwrap the beautiful pots and cups that she has made for us. 

We chat about how things are in Tel Aviv – the people, the weather, new restaurants. Soon enough we turn to politics. 

Here the mood changes. Great place, Israel. Terrible politics. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu staged a rally of his supporters last week.

In the face of mounting accusations of corruption, he hit back at the media and the liberal elite who he says want to unseat him. 

Such are the similarities between Netanyahu and Donald Trump, it is hard to know who is copying whom. 

Netanyahu deliberately plays up the connection. 

Which is why events in Charlottesville, and Trump’s half-hearted condemnations of US fascism, have given Israel’s PM a political headache. 

Condemn Trump and he risks alienating his political soulmate. Not condemn Trump and he looks like being soft on neo-nazism. 

Most Israeli politicians got it right. 

Reacting to Trump’s “there are two sides to every story” line, Yair Lapid insisted

“There are no two sides. When neo-Nazis march in Charlottesville with antisemitic slogans against Jews and for white supremacy, the denouncement is unequivocal.”

But Netanyahu took three days to come up with a condemnation of neo-nazism, slipped out in an English-language tweet. 

Should it really have been so difficult for an Israeli PM to condemn nazism?

A problem for the Israeli right is that there are quite a few, especially on the outer fringes of rightwing politics in the US, who don’t much care for Jews, but purport to admire and support Israel because of its commitment to maintaining a particular racial majority within its borders. 

Speaking on Israel’s Channel 2 News on Wednesday, the alt-right’s Richard Spencer, one of the leaders of the Charlottesville rally, gave an astonishing example of this “antisemites for Israel” philosophy. 

“Jews are vastly over-represented in what you would call ‘the establishment’ and white people are being dispossessed from this country,” he said of the US.

Yet he continued: 

“An Israeli citizen, someone who has a sense of nationhood and peoplehood, and the history and experience of the Jewish people, you should respect someone like me who has analogue feelings about whites. 

“You could say I am a white Zionist – in the sense that I care about my people, I want us to have a secure homeland for us and ourselves. Just like you want a secure homeland in Israel.” 

This is staggering stuff. 

Richard Spencer is the man who chanted “Heil Trump” during a Washington rally. 

His followers responded with the Nazi salute. 

Praise from a man mired in the worst sort of antisemitism should prompt soul-searching on the right of Israel’s political establishment. 

These are not admirers that they should want. 

More shocking, some concede that Spencer and his like have reason to find common cause with some of Israel’s outer political fringes.

As the former PM Ehud Barak said of Charlottesville: 

“You can’t say you don’t see things here that bear a certain similarity – when you look at the Lehava demonstrations or La Familia activity, or the ranting against journalists covering Netanyahu investigations.”

Lehava is an acronym of the Hebrew for “Prevention of Assimilation in the Holy Land”. 

It is especially against mixed marriages (like mine) between Israeli Jews and non-Jews. 

And it also wants to rid Israel of Christianity.

La Familia are fans of the Beitar Jerusalem football team. 

A few months ago I went to see them playing an Israeli Arab team from Galilee, Bnei Sakhnin – though the Sakhnin fans were not allowed into the ground. 

My remedial Hebrew was not enough to make out what they were singing to the rows of empty seats opposite.

“We are going to burn your village down,” was how my friend translated it.

Barak is right, the parallels with Charlottesville are sometimes difficult to avoid. 

And the problem everywhere with these outer fringes is that they are getting less and less outer. 

Frightening, isn’t it?

Organised Forgetting

The splendid Matthew Franklin Cooper writes:

This war over Confederate statuary is in fact a war over symbols that themselves do not stand up to scrutiny. The defenders of Confederate statuary sadly continue to play-act as defenders of Southern ‘tradition’, ‘roots’, ‘heritage’, ‘pride’.

It is on this basis that they appeal to elements like the right-wing protesters that met at C-ville this past weekend.

Meanwhile, the boosters of removal, such as Black Lives Matter, continue to pretend that the war was solely a contest between progress and slavery, humanity and racism.

The thing is, the entire war over Confederate symbolism, is two separate movements of organised forgetting

This organised forgetting has absolutely nothing to do either with defending real traditions, or with advancing true racial equity. 

It has everything to do with two competing idealisations of what the American experiment ought to have been. 

Because the devil’s often in the details, reality sadly gets short shrift between these two. 

Allow me to present two or three very inconvenient facts about the geopolitics and ‘big principles’ behind the Civil War. 

The first inconvenient fact is that the Confederate cause was sustained overwhelmingly by British guns, and thus by the largest imperialistic military-industrial apparatus of the day – and that at the behest of Britain’s Liberal Party, whose leadership (Palmerston and Gladstone) were enthusiastic supporters of the Confederacy, for wholly mercenary œconomistic reasons. 

The British material support for the Confederacy was based on the entirely natural presupposition that, with the war’s close, the American South would provide raw materials for British industry and British capital. 

The American South was poised to become a willing outpost of what was, at that point in history, the most ‘progressive’ liberal-internationalist maritime empire the world had ever seen.

Among the Tories of the day, among whom interest in the Civil War overall was much less pronounced, Benjamin Disraeli was far more circumspect and opposed any intervention (military or œconomic) in the American Civil War; and while Lord Salisbury did support the South in private, he thought nonetheless that the Liberal commitment of materiel (let alone British naval power) was foolish.

It might be somewhat simplistic to say that the mercantile, business-loving Whigs favoured pro-Confederate intervention, while the landowning, genteel Tories favoured non-intervention – but from an investigation of the secondary literature, that isn’t a bad overall characterisation of the British political landscape between 1861 and 1865.

The second inconvenient fact is that the Union’s best friend in Europe during the Civil War was not a force for democracy or radicalism or ‘progress’ at all, but indeed the last true autocracy there: the Imperial Russia of Tsar Aleksandr II. 

The reasons for this support and show of friendship for the Union from Russia were grounded, not in ideology, but instead in geopolitics and classical realism

Lincoln had stood for the principle of state sovereignty over the Polish question while the Western European powers howled for ‘humanitarian intervention’. 

Tsar Aleksandr II, by sending a fleet to defend San Francisco from Confederate raiders, was returning the favour: supporting the principle of state sovereignty whilst thwarting British and French designs in the Western Hemisphere. 

True, Lincoln’s intention to emancipate the slaves appealed to the Slavophil sensibility and to Aleksandr’s ‘reformist-autocratic’ personality. 

But it’s hard to tell whether these concerns were ever placed on the front burner, so to speak. 

Geopolitics was complicated even back then.

Now, let’s talk about Lincoln himself.

Time was when I considered Lincoln an overrated president, but the more I read about him, the more respect I have for him.

Partizans of Confederate honour – particularly those adhering to an idealistic libertarian œconomic philosophy that historically had nothing to do with conservatism – tend to characterise Lincoln as a ‘tyrant’, or else a ‘despot’ or an ‘emperor’. 

But ‘tyrant’ is the word of choice that gets plastered all over the place among the Lost Cause partizans, whether at Lew Rockwell’s site or the Ludwig von Mises Institute elsewhere

But it’s common for liberal idealists of the centre-left as well to label anyone who dissents from neoliberal œconomic or geopolitical ‘consensus’, particularly from a realist view determined by genuine national interest, as an ‘authoritarian’. 

Why should we be surprised to hear the same from the liberal idealists of the right, about a leader who dissented from the liberal free-trade empire of the day? 

That’s reason enough to give Lincoln a second view.

A more balanced, realist and (I dare say) High Tory understanding of Lincoln would look much more like by the last generation’s dean of conservative foreign-policy realism in America, Hans Morgenthau:

Statesmen, especially under contemporary conditions, may well make a habit of presenting their foreign policies in terms of their philosophic and political sympathies in order to gain popular support for them. 

Yet they will distinguish with Lincoln between their “official duty”, which is to think and act in terms of the national interest, and their “personal wish”, which is to see their own moral values and political principles realized throughout the world. 

Political realism does not require, nor does it condone, indifference to political ideals and moral principles, but it requires indeed a sharp distinction between the desirable and the possible—between what is desirable everywhere and at all times and what is possible under the concrete circumstances of time and place.

The partizans of Confederate statuary claim that removing the statues is tantamount to erasing history.

I would argue that they’re already doing a bang-up job of that on their own, without any help from BLM or the Antifas or anyone else – and they’re doing it by creating glib narratives that seek to link up the money-driven aims of the Confederacy with grander causes.

But – whether in Britain or in Russia – the forces of the Old Right wanted nothing to do with the Confederacy, which they rightly saw as an ideological experiment every bit as suspect as the Revolution which had preceded it.

Wise Patience and Astute Diplomacy

When it comes to Korea, Americans are reliving the past without understanding it.

In 1994, the United States and its ally South Korea had reached an impasse with the North Korean leadership headed by the current leader’s father, Kim Jong-il. Tensions reached such a pitch that the Korean Peninsula seemed perilously close to war.

It was somewhat unexpected at the time because the previous few years had produced a positive dialog on the peninsula.

Indeed, in 1992 an agreement was signed aimed at denuclearizing the peninsula, and all manner of cooperative efforts were envisioned between the South and the North—from economic cooperation to limited reconciliation of long-simmering grievances among those who had family members living on both sides of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), the area separating the two Koreas after the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War.

As if such progress were simply too much for North Korea to handle, it all came into serious question when intelligence sources began reporting efforts by the North to reprocess plutonium produced by its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon.

A nuclear weapon seemed the logical objective. It is important to note here that North Korea was at the time a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), foreswearing by treaty ever building such a weapon. 

Thus such actions seemed particularly perfidious.

Such apparent perfidy could not go unheeded by the United States, and the peninsula was plunged into crisis. 

Confronting that crisis on the U.S. side was a team with exquisite diplomatic and military skills—secretary of state Warren Christopher, secretary of defense William Perry, and chief negotiator Robert Gallucci, former assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs.

Eschewing war as a viable alternative but never vocally foreswearing it, U.S. diplomats began negotiations with North Korea. 

With the full participation of U.S. ally South Korea, on October 21, 1994, the negotiators reached what became known as the Agreed Framework (AF) between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea [North Korea]. 

It was a simple bargain: if North Korea ceased reprocessing plutonium, a consortium led by the United States would provide Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) in sufficient quantities to make up for the loss in electricity caused by the shutdown of the plutonium reactor and, for the long-term, would begin building less dangerous Light Water Reactors (LWRs) to replace North Korea’s plutonium reactor. 

Further, the AF envisioned an eventual restoration of diplomatic relations between the agreeing powers, the establishment of consular offices in the two capitals, and generally much-improved relations. 

It also called on North Korea to abide by the NPT, its additional safeguards agreement, and basically to cease any attempt to build a nuclear weapon. 

As with the nuclear agreement with Iran today, key members of the U.S. Congress—a Congress turned Republican in that “year of Newt Gingrich”—strongly opposed any rapprochement with North Korea.

They immediately began to undermine the AF. As Ambassador Steven Bosworth, first head of the consortium, said at the time: “The Agreed Framework was a political orphan within two weeks after its signature.” 

There were—and are today with respect to Iran—various reasons for these undermining actions. 

First, a few members of Congress genuinely believed North Korea could not be trusted, that it was a threat to the United States, and that therefore its regime should be eliminated. 

Outspoken individuals such as the fiery neoconservative John Bolton shouted support for these members, just as Mr. Bolton does today with respect to Iran. 

Second, quite a few members—mostly Republicans but with a scattering of Democrats, just like with Iran today—wanted to protect America’s imperial reach. 

That is to say, they saw—not unreasonably—that the U.S. military presence on the Korean Peninsula gave America a dramatic advantage should it ever find itself in a Northeast Asian confrontation. 

These members did not want to see a unified Korea, one that might ask the United States to leave the peninsula.

Their aim seemed to be to keep North Korea alive and threatening.

Third, it seems fair to speculate that some members feared a loss of personal political power.

In other words, they were beholden to defense contractors for massive donations, and to protect their cozy relationships with these companies they may have felt a need to foster ongoing animosities with potentially threatening countries. 

North Korea was readily available, as Iran is also today. 

Finally, some Republicans saw political benefit in undermining the Democrat in the White House, President Clinton, by opposing the AF. 

Similarly, some congressional Republicans today seem particularly hostile to the nuclear agreement with Iran because it was achieved by President Obama. 

Whatever the intricacies underlying this congressional opposition, by the late 1990s the United States was not living up to its side of the AF. 

There also emerged a dilatory process of financial support by consortium members, which angered North Korea. 

The fuel oil under the HFO program was delivered late and in serial amounts rather than in quantities and at times tacitly agreed. 

Construction of the concrete foundations for the first two LWRs was behind schedule. 

Though other consortium members (South Korea, Japan, Australia, and the European Atomic Energy Community) generally were providing the appropriate funding (though tardily), the U.S. was not. 

We’ll probably never know whether the North Koreans decided on a hedging strategy before the AF was inked or if they only decided to construct an alternative path to a nuclear weapon after they saw the tardy financial process, experienced the U.S. reneging on elements of the bargain, and read in U.S. newspapers strong statements opposed to the AF by congressional Republicans and their media mouthpieces.

It’s an important question, but one CIA analyst told me in 2002 that it likely would never be answered. 

While some inside and outside the U.S. intelligence community insist they know the Koreans never intended to live up to the agreement, I have been able to study the intelligence data thoroughly, and there is no definitive evidence one way or the other. 

Moreover, some experts thought the leadership in Pyongyang, having witnessed what they could get by relinquishing a plutonium program, thought they could repeat the process with an HEU program and gain even more. 

These experts thought that what the North Koreans deeply desired was a more or less normal relationship with Washington, and Pyongyang calculated that such a process of blackmail was the surest way to achieve it. 

Today, it appears that process of blackmail now includes nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, the final steps perhaps in a very dangerous game.

In any event, in the early 2000s the North Koreans were detected enriching uranium. This is the second path to a nuclear weapon, highly-enriched uranium (HEU). 

When Assistant Secretary of State Jim Kelly went to Pyongyang in October 2002, essentially to confront the North Koreans over their secret HEU program, he got a surprise.

His North Korean counterpart, First Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Kang Sok-ju, admitted to the program—almost as if it were an expected development, given the U.S. tardiness in fulfilling its part of the AF and the Bush administration’s nearly two-year delay in resuming substantive talks with the North or even continuing the warming relations fostered by the previous Clinton administration where there had even been talk of high-level dialog between Pyongyang and Washington and an eventual exchange of ambassadors.

But the admission by North Korea to a secret alternative path to a bomb killed all diplomacy instantly, despite the fact the North Koreans denied that Sok-ju had made the admission to Kelly (four years later, in an effort to resume positive diplomacy, Washington backed away from long-held assertions that North Korea had an active clandestine program to enrich uranium at the time).

What eventually resulted, however, was not war but a resumption of negotiations by the George W. Bush administration under what became known as the Six-Party Talks, bringing in all interested parties.

In addition to the United States and North and South Korea, the participants included Russia, Japan, and China. China in particular was judged by the U.S. as having special leverage over North Korea. 

These talks lasted for several years but proved unavailing.

As a result, North Korea became not only a nuclear power, testing its new weapons several times, but also deeply involved in ballistic missile testing and nuclear weapon miniaturization—the two principal developments needed to produce a nuclear-tipped ICBM.

This is where we are today—with several added dimensions:

First, President Trump seems willing to match word-for-word—and perhaps action-for-action—the bellicose and ultimately desperate North Koreans.

Such bombast, unbecoming of a man in charge of the most powerful military instrument on earth, is made the more reprehensible by the reality that North Korea, a much less powerful yet rational state, cannot accept any significant negative change in the balance of power on the peninsula.

Second, Trump is surrounded by officials with little or no experience on matters involving North Korea, and this has deepened the dangers inherent in the current U.S.-North Korean crisis.

He has not even put a U.S. ambassador in Seoul, a considerable affront to that key ally.

Third, the president has compelled others to try to backfill his vacuous policy.

Some, such as Secretary of State Tillerson, insist negotiations are still possible, even desired.

Others, including Defense Secretary Mattis, seek to give some strategic shape to Trump’s bellicosity.

Then there is South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham’s unwise statement: “If thousands die, they’re going to die over there. They’re not going to die here [in the United States]”.

Graham seems to imply that any war will be on the Korean Peninsula and not in America, so Americans need not worry.

This is an insult to South Korea.

Moreover, there are nearly 200,000 American citizens living and working in South Korea, most of them in Seoul, where the war’s worst ravages will be felt.

Thus Graham’s remark was utterly wrong as it related to the safety of American citizens.

Finally, the nature of the situation on the peninsula is completely misunderstood.

Since 1953, we have had 64 consecutive years of peace in an inherently volatile and complex region. 

The reason: periodic talking and diplomacy. 

Were we to do such talking and conduct such diplomacy today, what might be the game plan?

First, we need to put ourselves in our enemy’s shoes.

By doing that we would understand what the North Koreans are after—namely, the preservation of their regime.

Second, we must determine what makes North Korean leaders so desperate about their capacity to fulfill that goal? 

That too is not hard to answer: the military power of the United States, power that has been used to unseat Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi and in the attempt to unseat Bashar al-Assad. 

Recently, President Trump even threatened Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro with a possible U.S. military intervention in that country. 

Third, what can the U.S. do to begin to alleviate that North Korean angst about U.S. military power to the extent that they might reciprocate positively?

Here the answer could be any number of actions.

Stop military maneuvers in such a provocative manner (we did this before when we cancelled the huge exercise called Team Spirit).

Stop the more egregiously threatening overflights of the peninsula by U.S. warplanes and limit the close runs along the peninsula by ships of the U.S. Seventh Fleet.

Perhaps we could even suggest less provocative military moves from such locations as Guam and Okinawa.

Fourth, what might we ask from the North in exchange for such U.S. moves? 

That too is fairly clear: stop testing ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. 

There should be serious discussions on which nation should move first, U.S. or North Korea—or should such actions perhaps occur near-simultaneously? 

What could we do to sweeten the deal? 

Provide the more substantive things we said we would provide under the AF such as closer relations, economic assistance, embassy openings, sanctions relief, and assistance with the North’s electrical power grid, which is obsolete and falling apart. 

Neoconservative figures such as John Bolton will scream that we are dealing with criminals, with devils, and should be ashamed of ourselves. 

This is nonsense. 

At various points in U.S. history we have dealt with “devils” such as those who ran the Soviet Union and the Chinese Comintern. 

No one—certainly not a U.S. president, let alone a U.S. senator—should be willing to trade the hundreds of thousands of casualties that will result from a war on the Korean Peninsula for regime change in Pyongyang. 

In fact, any president should be willing to negotiate with any leader to prevent such an outcome so long as the resulting situation is manageable, and this one with North Korea is very much so, as history has well-demonstrated. 

Deterrence works. 

North Korea could build nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles for the next fifty years and still not catch up to the U.S. nuclear arsenal. 

Were North Korea to fire a nuclear-tipped missile at the U.S., Pyongyang would disappear from the face of the earth. 

Kim Jong-un and all his generals undoubtedly know this. 

Moreover, those who say we should fear the sale of nuclear material to other states or to terrorist groups don’t understand the development of nuclear explosion forensics since the revelations of the A.Q. Khan network. 

The quality of such forensics is excellent today and any nuclear explosion’s ultimate provenance would be 60-90 percent determinable.

No American president could fail to act given such surety, even at the lower end. 

Potential sellers of such weapons know that. 

To sell a weapon to another state or a terrorist group is a certain death warrant for the seller if the buyer uses the weapon on the U.S. or its allies—and probably on anyone else as well. 

That also represents deterrence. 

If there is any credibility to the recent reporting that elements in Ukraine, deprived of the dollars from Moscow for their ballistic missile engine work, sold such technology to North Korea and thus helped them overcome some of their missile challenges, we need to be more aware of these potentialities and provide the sort of economic and financial support that eliminates such perverse incentives. 

Or, as with the manner in which we dealt with some elements of the A.Q. Khan network, we need to ferret out such enterprises, criminalize, and eliminate them. 

At the same time, we need to stop the international swagger that translates into feelings of being threatened in other nations.

Trillions of dollars spent on combating terrorists who have the likelihood of a lightning strike to kill one of us is absurd, as is holding up the specter of North Korea and Iran as existential threats. 

As one of my lifelong South Korean friends said recently, “This Kim [Kim Jong-un] is the last of the Kim dynasty. The generals will replace him when he is gone, and we can deal with the generals.” 

That’s probably right. 

In a few years, perhaps a generation at the longest, the two Koreas could be unified and a peaceful, democratic nation of some 75 million people would result. 

All that is required is wise patience and astute diplomacy.

Lawrence Wilkerson is Visiting Professor of Government and Public Policy at the College of William and Mary. He was chief of staff to secretary of state Colin Powell from 2002-05, with a portfolio that included North Korea; special assistant to Powell as an Army colonel when Powell was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989-93), where he also watched over the Korean Peninsula; deputy director and director of the USMC War College (1993-97,) where he made military visits to Korea—including in 1994 at the height of the crisis there—and he served in the US Army’s Korea forces on the peninsula.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Every Past and Future Achievement

Any two human beings, no matter how divergent their ethnicity, can produce a child. Provided that one of them is a man, and the other is a woman.

All human beings belong, not only to a single species, but to a single subspecies, with less biological difference between any two than there is between a Labrador and a dachshund. The differences that there are, have been changing constantly ever since they first began to emerge, since they have not always been there.

But the difference between the two sexes has always been there, and it is written into the chromosomes of every cell of the body, no matter how the tissue may or may not be cut up.

On the first of these realisations depends every past and future achievement of the anti-racist movement. On the second depends every past and future achievement of the women's movement.

There must be no compromise on either as a matter of political principle. There actually can be no compromise on either as a matter of scientific fact.

Yes, there are people who want to shut me up.

Learn Direct, Indeed

Apprentices and trainees ought to enjoy everything that was enjoyed by their peers in Further and Higher Education, and vice versa.

Public ownership, national and municipal, ought to set the training standards for the private sector to match.

A-levels, as well as GCSEs and so on, ought all to be examined both by coursework and by final exam, with each candidate awarded his or her lower of those marks.

And we either charge fees, even if they are deferred, at every level of Higher Education, or we fund the whole of it, all the way up to doctoral level, at whatever age one might be in a position to enter it or to return to it.

Yes, there are people who want to shut me up.

Party Planner

Someone in a position to have an impact needs to put up a list of all Labour members of both Houses of Parliament, together with Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell and David Miliband.

Seven days from now, it should be said, this list will be published again, but in two parts.

One part will list those who have informed us that they will not be joining any new party, nor advocating support for it.

The other will list those who have imparted no such information.

Once the new party is up and running, which way will the Leadership of Durham County Council jump?

That Leadership is Labour in only the most nominal sense, with so little connection to the wider Labour Movement that it has probably never heard the term.

But it is also greedy and venal, and most unlikely ever to risk the loss of its privileges on a point of principle.

I could pay for my legal representation several times over if I had a thousand pounds for everyone who has told me, "Oh, well, that's the County Council for you," or words to that effect.

A very high proportion of those people have been lifelong members of the Labour Party in County Durham.

There is a shoulder-shrugging acceptance that Durham County Council is, has always been, and will always be by far the most corrupt local authority in Britain, and quite probably the most corrupt local authority in the world.

When it comes to the people who control it, then trying to have their political and journalistic critics unjustly sent to prison, not to mention far worse than that, is just how they behave. It is just what they do. It is just what they are. "Oh, well, that's the County Council for you."

On the upside, it is inconceivable that 10 out of 12 people assembled at random from among the inhabitants of County Durham would ever convict anyone of anything on the say-so of the hated Council, even were there any evidence against me, which there is not.

There is something almost admirable about being able to get out of bed and appear in public while knowing oneself to be quite that despised.

But then, that is just a nice way of saying that the people who run Durham County Council are psychopaths.

In which case, once the new party is up and running, which way will they jump?

Yes, there are people who want to shut me up.

In Order To Invite

What a disappointment Theresa May has been.

Not very long ago at all, hers was a programme of workers' and consumers' representation in corporate governance, of shareholders' control over executive pay, of restrictions on pay differentials within companies, of an investment-based Industrial Strategy and infrastructure programme, of greatly increased housebuilding, of action against tax avoidance, of a ban on public contracts for tax-avoiding companies, of a cap on energy prices, of banning or greatly restricting foreign takeovers, of a ban on unpaid internships, and of an inquiry into Orgreave.

Every point of which she had only ever adopted because Jeremy Corbyn was there. But even so. Oh, well, if you want any of those things, then you are just going to have to vote for him after all.

May could only have got this programme through with the votes of Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the SDLP (which had MPs at the time), the UUP (likewise), Caroline Lucas, Sylvia Hermon, and the DUP on certain points.

But she could have got it through. And it still needs to happen. Labour, in particular, still needs to find ways of proposing each of these measures in order to invite all MPs to vote on them.

My political background is on Lanchester Parish Council, and also around the old Derwentside District Council, which was run by an unofficial, but highly successful, coalition between the sensible wing of the local Labour Party, well to the left of the local government Leadership that we now have, and a body of Independents who were, I suppose, mostly Tories of a fairly generic sort.

No one party or caucus holds the majority of what are now the unitary County Council seats here in North West Durham. Those seats' occupants range across Labour, the Lib Dems, two Groups of Independents, and an Independent Independent who was in fact the Labour Leader of Derwentside District Council for decades.

So it is genuinely lost on me how some people find cross-party co-operation impossible, or even regrettable, and specifically how they claim that that attitude makes them left-wing. Left-wing to what effect, exactly? That is before we even begin about those who seem to pride themselves on their inability to take so much as a cup of tea with their political opponents.

They have obviously never been to North West Durham. They have obviously never been to Derwentside, where it was the Labour Right that took that view, a faction now very close to the similarly minded Leadership at County Hall. And they have obviously never been to Lanchester.

Yes, there are people who want to shut me up.

Comings and Goings

It turns out that EU nationals will have exactly the same ease of entry to the United Kingdom after withdrawal from the European Union (and believe in that when you see it) as they have now.

Not quite that form of words has been used today. But that is clearly what the preferred form of words means.

After all, any other meaning would require the introduction of identity cards. By David Davis. Who has resigned from Parliament in the past over civil liberties.

Then again, did the vote to Leave have anything to do with the logically absurd desire for an unrestricted flow of goods, services and capital, but a greatly restricted flow of people?

Leave won in the wrong places for that to have been so.

Rather, the referendum result was the demand for a reversion to the British economic order that obtained before accession to the EU.

That is to say, before New Labour and before Thatcherism, both of which happened after that accession.

It is time for a Government that has ever really wanted to withdraw from the EU, and which has any coherent idea either how to do it or why to wish to do it.

It is time for a Prime Minister has ever really wanted to withdraw from the EU, and who has any coherent idea either how to do it or why to wish to do it.

It is time for Jeremy Corbyn.

Yes, there are people who want to shut me up.

As Those Who Will Not Sea

When it comes to relations with the United Kingdom, then whatever the Irish Republic wants, the United States has always wanted it to have, and the same is also now true of the European Union.

Therefore, since the Irish Republic wants there to be a sea border, the US wants there to be a sea border, and the EU wants there to be a sea border.

So there is going to be a sea border, behind which a United Ireland, or at least a British withdrawal from Northern Ireland, will be inevitable.

The American Republic's relationship with the Irish Republic is even more special than its relationship with Saudi Arabia or with Israel.

Those are at least partially strategic, and thus potentially open to modification.

But the Irish Republic is not even officially an American ally at all. It does not need to be. Uniquely in the world, what it has with America is unconditional.

So there is going to be a sea border, behind which a United Ireland, or at least a British withdrawal from Northern Ireland, will be inevitable.

Yes, there are people who want to shut me up.

The Issue Is Not Slavery, But Treason

There are many statues of slave-owners and slave-traders in Britain.

But unless I am very much mistaken, there is none of either George Washington or Thomas Jefferson. Nor is any park in this country named after either of them.

The issue is not slavery, but treason.

By all means, let notable examples of the sculptor's art be displayed in museums, even if they do depict Robert E. Lee.

But it is astonishing that such a statue ever stood in the public square of a part of the American Republic, or that any park there was ever named either after him or after Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson.

The issue is not slavery, but treason.

Yes, there are people who want to shut me up.

The Real Taboo

It is not race or immigration. Nor is it Islam.

We have talked about race and immigration in this country for as long I can remember. For the last 15 years, at least, we have talked about almost nothing but race, immigration, and Islam.

Pakistani taxi drivers have lately joined Catholic priests as the only people who can expect any media disapproval if they have sex with 13 and 14-year-olds, and sometimes with children even younger than that.

Even in the case of teachers, that disapproval is extended only if the perpetrators are male and the victims are female.

Sex between men and teenage boys, especially, is otherwise the stuff of acclaimed television drama and of the novels of a National Treasure.

Sex between women and teenage boys is treated as a joke even when it goes to court, as it almost never does.

From Rotherham to Newcastle, this is not about "Pakis" (a word that Sarah Champion as good as used) or what have you, but about middle-class white neglect of working-class white girls.

Apologies "for any offence caused" are always worthless. And Labour continues to extend its whip to its very own Anne Marie Morris. Why are avowed anti-racists prepared to take that whip while Champion is in receipt of it?

The point is not race. Nor is it Islam. It is class.

And the taboo is not against mentioning race. Nor is the taboo against mentioning Islam. The taboo is against mentioning class.

The 11 or 12-year-old daughter, indeed the daughter several years older than that, of a Councillor, a social worker or a Police Officer would not be allowed by such figures to stay out all night with older men.

But the attitude of those white stalwarts to these white girls was, "You came from the gutter, anyway." 

This was, and throughout the country tonight it still will be, an internal white thing. And that thing is class.

He may not thank me for saying this, but if I were George Galloway, then I would be preparing to contest the Rotherham by-election.

Yes, there are people who want to shut me up.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The Beam In Our Own Woodpile

Has a member of either House of the United States Congress been recorded within the last two months using the n-word?

The test of the sincerity and credibility of avowed anti-racists in our own House of Commons, and not least in their condemnation of the events at Charlottesville, will be whether or not they table and pass a motion to expel Anne Marie Morris from that House when next it reassembles.

Fly Emirates?

And people wonder why I do not want to re-join the Labour Party.

It would never take me, anyway. But even so.

All this, and Blair has been trying to raise funds for a new party. Raise them from the UAE, perhaps?

What does he have to do in order to be expelled from Labour? That is not a rhetorical question.

At Issue

If politicians with children really do care more about the future, then you should vote for Jeremy Corbyn rather than for Theresa May.

But the whole thesis is drivel.

Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair and David Cameron all had children.

Still The Eldest Daughter

Today is a public holiday in France, because, in his famous Vow, Louis XIII consecrated France to Our Lady on the Feast of her Assumption.

Assumpta est Maria in cælum!

Gaude, Maria Virgo, cunctas hæreses sola interemisti in universo mundo!