The Anti-Empire Report #160

September 24th, 2018


Max Boot PHOTO/World Socialist Web Site

William Blum takes on the Washington Post again, in the person of columnist Max Boot, formerly of the Wall Street Journal

Dear Mr. Boot,

You write: “Every administration since Franklin D. Roosevelt’s has tried to improve relations with Moscow.”

I stopped. Frozen. Can the man be serious? Yes, he is. God help us. I’ve published 5 books which give the lie to that statement, detailing all the foreign governments the US has overthrown, or tried to, because they were too friendly with Moscow, or were themselves too communist or too socialist, or simply too liberal. China, France, Italy, Greece, Korea, Albania, Iran, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Haiti, British Guiana, Iraq, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Congo, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Ghana, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia, Australia, Portugal, East Timor, Angola, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Philippines, Grenada, Suriname, Libya, Panama … I’m only up to 1989 … God help us … Read my books …

William Blum

Reply from Mr. Boot:

How does your email contradict my statement? I didn’t say the US hadn’t tried to oppose the Soviet Union and Communism. I said that every president had also tried to improve relations with Moscow.

Reply from Mr. Blum:

So, overthrowing governments and assassinating their leaders because they’re friendly to the Soviet Union is not a contradiction to trying to improve relations with the Soviet Union. Interesting. The CIA also connived to get Soviet diplomats expelled from various countries and did various things to block Soviet international financial transactions, etc., etc. All signs of trying to improve relations with Moscow? Silly me for not thinking of that. I’ll have to revise my books.

================== No reply received =====================

The above is one example of how conservatives rationalized their being Cold Warriors -– The United States always meant well. No matter how bad their foreign interventions may have looked, America’s heart was always in the right place. The current US secretary of Defense, James Mattis, recently stated: “We are the good guys. We’re not the perfect guys, but we are the good guys. And so we’re doing what we can.”

Russian interference in US election – The new Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction

The Washington Post has a regular “fact checker”, Glenn Kessler, who checks the accuracy of statements made by politicians and other public figures. On September 3 he announced that President Trump’s first 592 days in office had produced 4,713 false or misleading claims; that’s about 8 per day.

The article included a list of the types of claims, including the investigation into “Russian interference in the 2016 election” and whether people in the Trump campaign were in any way connected to it. Kessler believes they were. “All told, more than 200 times the president has made claims suggesting the Russia probe is made up, a hoax or a fraud.”

The “fact checker” needs to be fact-checked. He takes it as gospel that Russia consciously and purposefully interfered in the election, but like all the many other commentators offers no evidence. It’s conceivable that evidence of such has actually been presented and I was in a coma that day. (Would I remember that I was in a coma? Probably only if someone told me. So far no one has told me that I was in a coma.)

Keep in mind that a statement from the CIA that Russia interfered in the election does not count as evidence. It’s merely a statement.

Keep in mind that a statement from the FBI that Russia interfered in the election does not count as evidence. It’s merely a statement.

Keep in mind that a statement from the NSA that Russia interfered in the election does not count as evidence. It’s merely a statement.

Keep in mind that a statement from a dozen other US intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the election does not count as evidence. It’s merely a statement.

Here’s James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence: “To me it stretches credulity to think that the Russians didn’t have profound impact” on the outcome of the election. Clearly if the man had any evidence to substantiate his statement he would have provided it at the time. He did not provide any. So all we get is another statement.

There are not many government bureaucrats who would publicly contradict the CIA, the FBI and the NSA on an important intelligence matter. How impressed would you be if a dozen Russian intelligence agencies all declared that Russia did not interfere in any way in the US 2016 election?

Moreover, keep in mind that numerous notices and advertisements posted to Facebook and other social media calling for the election of Trump and/or the defeat of Clinton do not count as evidence of Russian interference in the election even if some or most of the postings were seemingly made by Russians. Countless other notices and advertisements called for the election of Clinton and/or the defeat of Trump.

Moreover, many of these social-media postings (which members of Congress and the media like to make so much of) were posted well before the candidates were chosen, or even after the election took place.

So what do we make of all this? Well, it’s been pointed out that most of these postings were to so-called “click-bait” Internet sites that earn payments based on their volume of traffic. I have not come across any other explanation of the huge number of electoral postings during 2014-2017.

And forget about Trump aides like Paul Manafort and his partner Rick Gates, who’ve been charged with various financial crimes such as money laundering, tax and bank fraud, failure to register as a lobbyist, and more; in part the charges involve Ukraine – But NOTHING to do with Russian interference in the 2016 US election, although their cases have undoubtedly fed that story.

The idea of Russian interference in the US election has been repeated so many times in so many places that it’s now taken as unquestioned history. Guardian reporter Luke Harding has a book out called “Collusion: Secret meetings, dirty money, and how Russia helped Donald Trump win”, which reinforces this myth, and wouldn’t be worth mentioning except that Harding was interviewed by that rare breed, a skeptical journalist, Aaron Maté. Harding repeats one anti-Russian cliché after another, but Maté refuses to allow him to get away with any of it. It’s indeed refreshing. Have a look.

Even if you assumed that all the charges made about “Russian interfering in the elections” were true, and put them all together, they still wouldn’t have a fraction of the impact on the 2016 elections as did Republicans in several states by disenfranchising likely Democratic voters (blacks, poor, students, people in largely Democratic districts), by purging state voting lists.

Noam Chomsky has pointed out that Israeli intervention in US elections “vastly overwhelms” anything Russia has done. Israeli leader Netanyahu goes directly to speak to Congress without even consulting the president.

The United States joined a grand alliance with the forces of the communist Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin in World War II, but Washington can’t even talk civilly now with capitalist Russia. When your goal is world domination any country that stands in the way of that is an enemy. American conservatives in particular have a most difficult time shaking this mind-set. Here’s the prominent conservative host of National Public Radio (NPR), Cokie Roberts, bemoaning Trump’s supposed desire to develop friendly relations with Russia, saying: “This country has had a consistent policy for 70 years towards the Soviet Union and Russia, and Trump is trying to undo that.”

If Trump were to establish good relations with Russia the lack of a European enemy would also leave NATO (= the US) even more obviously unnecessary.

Then we have the Skripal poisoning case allegedly carried out by Russia in the UK: There are just two things missing to support this allegation: 1) any verifiable evidence, AT ALL, and 2) any plausible motive for the Russian government to have carried out such a crime. But stay tuned, the Brits may yet find Vladimir Putin’s passport at the scene of the crime.

Lest we forget. One of Washington’s greatest crimes

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Report: How your personal income taxes were spent in 2017

September 24th, 2018


Our analysis found that the average taxpayer put in 29 working days in 2017 to pay Pentagon contractors.

Tax Day is April 17, 2018. Americans will file their tax returns for all income received in 2017. Want to know what your taxes pay for, and who pays what?

Check out our Tax Day 2018 resources:

Get your personalized tax receipt, or see an average for your state.
Read our “Seven Tax Facts for 2018”.
Don’t like your tax receipt? Make your own federal spending choices.
Tweet or share graphics from our Social Media Toolkit.

Check out our Tax Day notes and sources.

Some Key Findings:

The receipts are in and we found that corporations contributed to just 9 percent of federal revenue through income taxes, while individuals contributed 48 percent. Our analysis shows individuals and states just how much of that money is going to the military, the environment, education, and healthcare.

On the Pentagon & Military

The average taxpayer contributed $240 to Lockheed Martin through the Department of Defense. That’s more than twice as much as the $112 taxpayers contributed to child nutrition programs including school breakfast and lunch.

The average taxpayer paid $190 for all diplomacy and foreign aid, compared to eighteen times as much – $4,328 – for the Pentagon and military.

The average taxpayer put in 29 working days in 2017 to pay Pentagon contractors. That’s eleven cents out of every tax dollar going to the Pentagon’s corporate contractors.

While nearly 24 cents of every tax dollar supports the Pentagon and military, just five cents goes to our troops in the form of pay and other benefits (excluding health care).

On Energy & the Environment

The average taxpayer contributed just $39 for the Environmental Protection Agency, which has been threatened with a 35% (or $2.9 billion) budget cut under President Trump’s proposed 2019 budget.

On Education

The average taxpayer contributed just $580 to education, including K-12 education, higher education, and vocational training.

On Income Support

Taxpayers contributed $426 for income support programs for veterans.
The average taxpayer contributed just $80 in 2017 to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, better known as welfare.

On Health Care

Taxpayers contributed an average of $3,533 for Medicaid and Medicare, providing insurance for 1 in 3 Americans.

On Government

The average American paid $79 for the Internal Revenue Service, the equivalent of a 0.5% service charge for income tax collection.

Institute for Public Studies for more

Fifty years since the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia: Part one

September 24th, 2018


Soviet tanks in Czechoslovakia in 1968

Fifty years ago, o n the night of August 20-21, 1968, some 165,000 soldiers and 4,600 tanks from four Warsaw Pact states—the Soviet Union, Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria—accompanied by military advisors from East Germany invaded Czechoslovakia.

Establishment of a deformed workers’ state in Czechoslovakia

The invasion and occupation of Czechoslovakia sent shock waves throughout the world. Aimed at suppressing a growing popular movement of workers and youth during the so-called “Prague Spring,” it discredited the Stalinist regimes, which were falsely equated with socialism, in the eyes of millions around the world.

Along with the mass general strike in France a few months earlier, the invasion of Czechoslovakia was a defining event of that period. It set into motion political and social developments that were to shape this part of the world for decades to come.

This series will review the origins of the crisis of 1968, its dynamic, and the role that Pabloism played in enabling the Stalinist bureaucracy to oppress working class opposition to its rule.

Czechoslovakia was one of a series of deformed workers’ states established in 1948 in Eastern and Southeastern Europe. The country had been partitioned in 1938 in the infamous “Munich agreement,” which the imperialist powers agreed to after Hitler’s invasion of northwestern Czechoslovakia and annexation of the so-called “Sudetenland.” Most of what is now the Czech Republic was annexed to the Nazi Reich. The so-called “Slovak Republic” was ruled by a far-right bourgeois regime that joined the Nazi effort to exterminate the Jewish population and wage a war of annihilation against the Soviet Union.

By the time the Red Army liberated Czechoslovakia in 1945, the country had lost about 3.7 percent of its total population in the war. This was considerably less than in neighboring Poland or the Soviet Union, but it was significantly greater than in most Western European countries that had been occupied by the Nazis.

Of the pre-war Jewish community of about 255,000 people, only between 40,000 and 50,000 survived. Over 90 percent of the 8,000 Sinti and Roma who had lived in the Czech lands were murdered. In the most infamous act of terror by the Nazi regime in Czechoslovakia, the SS torched the entire village of Lidice following the assassination of SS leader Reinhard Heydrich by members of the Czechoslovak resistance movement. Hundreds of people, including many children, were murdered or put into concentration camps.

An estimated 25,000 Czechoslovak communists who resisted the fascists were murdered. Tens of thousands of workers were forced into slave labor by the Nazi regime. Many more were wounded or displaced. The total material losses from the war were estimated at $4 billion.

In contrast to many other Eastern European countries, where the working class was decimated by the Nazis’ brutal war of annihilation, Czechoslovakia, whose economy in both the Czech lands and Slovakia had been put almost entirely at the disposal of the Nazi war economy, experienced considerable industrial growth during the war. By 1945, the industrial working class was more numerous than ever before.

Meanwhile, the Munich betrayal of 1938 and the war had totally discredited both capitalism and bourgeois democracy. As historian Kevin McDermott has noted, “…there was a widespread belief that right-wing parties and their ‘bourgeois’ leaders had collaborated with the Germans under the occupation.” [1] In short, anti-capitalist and pro-Soviet sentiment was overwhelming.

World Socialist Web Site for more

Weekend Edition

September 21st, 2018

Lifesavers or angels of death?

September 21st, 2018


Amal Umer PHOTO/Beenish Umer/Dawn

heavy traffic
two daughters and parents
red light
a knock on the window

window rolls down
a gun was pointed
cell phone snatched
bag handed over

police saw bandits –
a rare rarity –
police vs bandits fire fight
one bandit escaped; one got killed

a heavy assault rifle AK-47
a gift from the US/Saudi/Pakistan war against the Soviet Union

but crossfire had another victim too
10-year-old Amal

her Mom’s cell phone she was using was bloodied
car rushed to the National Medical Centre (NMC)

emergency staff didn’t do much
doctor present was playing statue

ordered to go to another hospital
time was the critical factor

more critical was the availability of an ambulance

Aman Foundation would send one –
provided a bed was confirmed at JPMC or AKUH*

lifesavers became life takers
Amal was no more

though she did reach JPMC but for medico-legal process
was placed next to the bandit killed by police!

life is strange; death is even more strange

Amal was the victim of a police bullet
which police admitted after a few days

B. R. Gowani can be reached at

*Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre; Aga Khan University Hospital, Karachi, Pakistan.

Is religion a universal in human culture or an academic invention?

September 21st, 2018


Amhara prayer book, Ethiopia, late 17th century. PHOTO/Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

If anything seems self-evident in human culture, it’s the widespread presence of religion. People do ‘religious’ stuff all the time; a commitment to gods, myths and rituals has been present in all societies. These practices and beliefs are diverse, to be sure, from Aztec human sacrifice to Christian baptism, but they appear to share a common essence. So what could compel the late Jonathan Zittell Smith, arguably the most influential scholar of religion of the past half-century, to declare in his book Imagining Religion: From Babylon to Jonestown (1982) that ‘religion is solely the creation of the scholar’s study’, and that it has ‘no independent existence apart from the academy’?

Smith wanted to dislodge the assumption that the phenomenon of religion needs no definition. He showed that things appearing to us as religious says less about the ideas and practices themselves than it does about the framing concepts that we bring to their interpretation. Far from a universal phenomenon with a distinctive essence, the category of ‘religion’ emerges only through second-order acts of classification and comparison.

When Smith entered the field in the late 1960s, the academic study of religion was still quite young. In the United States, the discipline had been significantly shaped by the Romanian historian of religions Mircea Eliade, who, from 1957 until his death in 1986, taught at the University of Chicago Divinity School. There, Eliade trained a generation of scholars in the approach to religious studies that he had already developed in Europe.

What characterised religion, for Eliade, was ‘the sacred’ – the ultimate source of all reality. Simply put, the sacred was ‘the opposite of the profane’. Yet the sacred could ‘irrupt’ into profane existence in a number of predictable ways across archaic cultures and histories. Sky and earth deities were ubiquitous, for example; the Sun and Moon served as representations of rational power and cyclicality; certain stones were regarded as sacred; and water was seen as a source of potentiality and regeneration.

Eliade also developed the concepts of ‘sacred time’ and ‘sacred space’. According to Eliade, archaic man, or Homo religiosus, always told stories of what the gods did ‘in the beginning’. They consecrated time through repetitions of these cosmogonic myths, and dedicated sacred spaces according to their relationship to the ‘symbolism of the Centre’. This included the ‘sacred mountain’ or axis mundi – the archetypal point of intersection between the sacred and the profane – but also holy cities, palaces and temples. The exact myths, rituals and places were culturally and historically specific, of course, but Eliade saw them as examples of a universal pattern.

Aeon for more

Neanderthals, Denisovians and modern humans

September 21st, 2018


IMAGE/Just Science

Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past by David Reich, Oxford, 368 pp.

A scientific revolution is underway in the way we investigate and understand the past. The extraction and analysis of ancient DNA from human skeletal remains, the field in which David Reich is a leading researcher, is a technical advance that eclipses the advent of radiocarbon dating in the 1950s, and is already transforming our knowledge, not only of human biological evolution, but also of human history and culture.

The potential value of genetic insights into the past became clear in 1987 when Allan Wilson and his colleagues at Berkeley sampled mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) – a mere 0.0005 per cent of the genome, inherited solely from mother to daughter – from living populations and analysed it to show that Homo sapiens, rather than having a multi-regional origin, evolved in Africa 200,000 years ago or later, then dispersed throughout the world, displacing existing populations. Seizing the moment, the geneticist Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza produced The History and Geography of Human Genes (1994), in which he sought to synthesise archaeology, history, linguistics and genetics to tell the story of human migration and describe the way the world’s populations became established. Reich thinks this was a visionary work but flawed, not just because of the paucity of genetic evidence available at the time but also because Cavalli-Sforza didn’t sufficiently appreciate the sheer complexity of past population movements. These could only be revealed by ancient, not modern, DNA.

It was Svante Pääbo and his colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig who developed much of the technology for extracting DNA from ancient skeletal remains. Pääbo’s group were primarily concerned with the Neanderthals. At first they focused on extracting mtDNA, partly because its relative abundance increased the chances of successful extraction, and partly because of the frequency of mutations in this part of the genome, all the better to establish the point of separation of the Neanderthals from the modern human lineage. The problem with mtDNA is that since it tracks just a single female lineage, it provides only an extremely narrow window through which to view the past: the evidence is incomplete, and potentially misleading. The real prize was to extract the complete Neanderthal genome. By 2007, armed with dramatically increased computing power and bones containing organic material with well-preserved DNA, Pääbo was in a position to begin developing a method for whole-genome extraction. He brought together an international team, which included David Reich.

London Review of Books for more

What can Noam Chomsky’s co-author teach us in the age of Trump?

September 20th, 2018


Edward S. Herman PHOTO/Independent

Ed Herman’s media criticism remains as vital today as ever.

The story goes that Einstein’s theory of relativity began with a simple question: What if a person could sit on a beam of light? A single inquiry led to an entire field of study, and perhaps the world’s most famous scientific breakthrough.

The late Ed Herman’s questions were less playful. They were about war and death, lies and power politics, but they too created entire areas of study. If properly considered, they can even guide us through the perilous age in which we’re living.

Herman is best known for co-authoring Noam Chomsky’s iconic Manufacturing Consent, which explores how U.S. corporate media operates as a system of disinformation. Written during the Cold War, the book challenged readers who understood propaganda to be a tool of the Soviet Union. How could a diverse industry without official censors to monitor what it published or aired, that was neither owned nor controlled by the state, be used for social control? Quite easily, as it turns out.

The world offers an almost infinite array of events that can be covered, and media institutions must decide what’s most relevant to their audiences. In other words, they operate as an information filter. But how do they provide their viewers, listeners and readers with the best possible understanding of the world? Ideally, these institutions produce the kind of coverage necessary to make informed decisions about public policy. In reality, Chomsky and Herman discovered, they serve the interests of the rich and powerful.

In their propaganda model, the pair identified five distinct filters: Media ownership, which is concentrated in the hands of a few spectacularly wealthy corporations; ideology, specifically anti-communism, which “helps mobilize the populace against… anybody advocating policies that threaten property interests or support accommodation with Communist states and radicalism”; advertising, or the selling of audiences to advertisers, which can lead to any number of distortions and misconceptions; official sourcing, which often leads to self-censorship as media outlets become dependent on their access to members of the government; and finally organized flak, which allows lobbies to lean on journalists and outlets who deviate from the status quo.

Manufacturing Consent remains as vital today as it was when it first published in 1988. Anti-communism continues to dominate our discourse, even in the absence of a Soviet Union or communist China, while several prominent media personalities have made their careers decrying “leftist ideologues.” Media ownership has become even more exclusive, and the advertising model has overtaken the whole of society by way of Google and social media. Twitter mobs can be manufactured and mobilized; organized flak is now a matter of life and death.

Alter Net for more

Even Israeli officials are warning that Trump’s moves against Palestinians may backfire

September 20th, 2018


President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and his advisor Jared Kushner

Jared Kushner has yet to formally unveil his highly touted peace plan for resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict. But in the past weeks and months, its outlines have become increasingly clear. Recent moves by the United States to recognize Israel’s capital in Jerusalem and deprive Palestinians of refugee status have taken key issues off the table before any future peace negotiation even begins. The Trump administration has announced a steady stream of cuts in aid for Palestinians, including reported plans to stop all funding for the United National Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the agency which provides healthcare and schooling for Palestinian refugees, as well as cutting $200 million in economic aid to the West Bank and Gaza. These moves are helping clarify the Trump administration’s strategy for getting to peace in the region: imposing maximum pain on the Palestinians as a means of bullying them into submission.

But this strategy may backfire, including against a Netanyahu government that has enthusiastically supported Trump’s get-tough approach. Even former Israeli military officials have begun raising the alarm that the Trump administration’s punitive actions against the Palestinians, rather than bringing peace, are leading the region toward a new era of conflict. In an article this week in Ha’aretz, former Israeli Defense Forces spokesperson Peter Lerner criticized the administration’s attempts to “blackmail” the Palestinians, stating that such a strategy would lead to a power vacuum in the West Bank, warning that “hardballing the Palestinian into submission is likely to blow up on Israel’s doorstep.” Lerner’s warning echoes previous reports from Israeli military officials that funding cuts are likely to lead to a humanitarian crisis and further unrest in the occupied territories.

The Trump administration’s unapologetically anti-Palestinian posture, famously symbolized this May by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley walking out of a U.N. Security Council meeting to avoid even hearing a speech by the Palestinian envoy, is in many ways something new in the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict. While the United States has never been seen as a neutral arbiter on the conflict — famously characterized as “Israel’s lawyer” even by U.S. officials who have taken part in negotiations — the Trump administration’s actions have risen to a new level of overt hostility to Palestinian claims. Going back to the administrations of Woodrow Wilson and Harry Truman, successive U.S. presidents have shown a willingness to downplay the right of self-determination for the Arab people living in Palestine, while supporting Israeli expansion.

But experts say that even weighed against this shabby historical standard, the Trump administration’s approach is unique for its single-minded focus on satisfying short-term Israeli goals and political constituencies in the U.S., even at the cost of U.S. interests.

Intercept for more

Unpacking expropriation without compensation in South Africa

September 20th, 2018



After years of supporting a market-led land reform programme and not heeding criticisms of this policy, the African National Congress (ANC) leadership has adopted a radical policy of land expropriation without compensation, which would make it legal and within the constitutional bounds for the state to expropriate land in the public interest without compensation.

This radical thesis was adopted in the ANC’s 54th National Conference in December 2017 and subsequently most vehemently motioned in the National Assembly by the opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). The motion was passed with 241 parliamentarians in favour and 83 against the motion. Slight amendments were made by the ANC mainly that it should be the task of Parliament’s Constitutional Review Committee to review the property clause under Section 25 of the constitution and this committee would have until 30 August 2018 to complete this work.

Moreover, the ruling party has reiterated that the government would pursue the expropriation of land without compensation without endangering or destabilising agricultural production, ensuring food security is not compromised, and financial services, which hold nearly 70 percent of commercial farmers’ debts, are not negatively impacted. The motion does not immediately lead to expropriation without compensation, but appoints a committee that will review the constitution in line with the proposition for land expropriation without compensation.

Unfortunately, the motion in itself is indefinable, unclear on a way forward and in the absence of details opportunism has captured the debate reducing it to popular slogans that tug at the hearts of people who have been struggling for space to reproduce life and those who have eyed land reform as key site for historical justice.

The story of land dispossession in South Africa, as argued by Hendricks, Ntsebeza and Helliker can neither be understood nor resolved without addressing race, in so far as blackness still coincides and socially denotes poverty and is linked to an identity of landlessness and dispossession as opposed to an identity of property and wealth held by whites. The history of land dispossession itself dates back to the expansion of the Dutch colonial settlement in the Cape in 1652 through the Dutch East India Company with Jan Van Riebeeck at its helm. The imposition of early settler colonial rule was marked by Dutch land occupation and fierce resistance waged by the indigenous inhabitants of the Cape area, the Khoi San.

The 19th century is characterised by accelerated land dispossession and intense resistance waged by African people in response to their loss of land, livestock and political power. This period is also marked by the expansion of land dispossession and conquest to other parts of South Africa by the Dutch and British settlers. The “discovery” of minerals in parts of the country added to the rapid acceleration of land dispossession with the intention to force African people to become cheap labourers in newly established mines.

Pambazuka for more