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The West Marches East, Part 2: Georgia Starts a War, Russia Draws a Line
By: Andrew Gavin Marshall
Originally posted at The Hampton Institute
19 June 2014
In Part 1 of this series – ‘The West Marches East’ – I examined the circumstance that while Russia has received the majority of the blame for the more than six-month-crisis in Ukraine, these events did not take place in a vacuum, and, in fact, the Western powers and institutions – notably the United States, NATO and the European Union – have broke promises made at the end of the Cold War to expand NATO – a Western military alliance that was created in opposition to the Soviet Union – to Russia’s borders. Simultaneously, the European Union has expanded eastwards, bringing Eastern and Central European countries within its orbit and in adherence to its economic orthodoxy. Further, many NATO powers had worked together to promote ‘colour revolutions’ across much of Eastern Europe over the previous decade or so, helping to overthrow pro-Russian leaders and replace them with pro-Western leaders.
After nearly a quarter-century of Western expansion – militarily, politically, economically – to Russia’s borders, Russia has had enough. But Ukraine was not the first instance in which Russia has been provoked by the West into a response that the West subsequently declared as an act of imperial “aggression.” In 2008, the small Caucasus nation and former Soviet republic of Georgia started a war with Russia, leading to Russia’s invasion of the tiny country, effectively ending nearly two decades of NATO and Western expansion. This report examines the 2008 war in Georgia and the roles played by Russia and the NATO powers.
Setting the Stage
As documented in part 1, Georgia was – in 2003 – subjected to a NATO sponsored ‘Colour Revolution’ which removed the previous leader and replaced him with a pro-Western (and Western-educated) politician, Mikeil Saakashvili. In December of 2003, Georgian defense officials met with the U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to discuss enhancing military cooperation between the two countries. The US had sent roughly 60 military trainers to Georgia in 2002, but the Georgians had been lobbying for a US military base in their country.
Instead, the Pentagon decided to ” privatize its military presence in Georgia” through a security contractor, Cubic, which signed a three-year $15 million contract with the Pentagon to support the Georgian ministry of defense. The team from Cubic would engage in training and equipping the Georgian military, as well as protection for the oil pipeline that was to take oil from Baku, Azerbaijan, to Turkey through Georgia. Western diplomats suggested that the country could become a “forward operations area” for the US military, “similar to support structures in the Gulf.” In return for the program, Georgia agreed to send 500 soldiers to Iraq.
As the BBC reported in 2006, Georgia was discarding its ties with Moscow and instead, leading “westwards – towards NATO, and perhaps eventually the European Union.” US military instructors were in the country “to drive that change,” training Georgian soldiers to manage checkpoints in US-occupied Iraq. Georgia was largely uneasy with Russia due to the fact that Moscow provided – since the early 1990s – moral and material support to the country’s two breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. A Georgian corporal deployed in Iraq was quoted in the New York Times in 2007 saying, “As soldiers here [in Iraq], we help the American soldiers… Then America as a country will help our country.” This reflected the implicit thinking within Georgia up until the 2008 war.
In early April of 2008, U.S. President George W. Bush said he “strongly supported” Ukraine and Georgia’s bids to join NATO, despite the enormous objections from Russia, which would then see NATO powers located directly on its borders. Bush made the comments following a NATO meeting, where France, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg all opposed the U.S. position of fast-tracking Georgian and Ukrainian membership into NATO, seeing it as ” an unnecessary offense to Russia.” Shortly after Bush made his announcement, a former Russian armed forces chief of staff said that Russia would ” take military and other steps along its borders if ex-Soviet Ukraine and Georgia join NATO,” claiming that “such a move would pose a direct threat to its security and endanger the fragile balance of forces in Europe.”
Within Georgia and its separatist regions, which were home to Russian soldiers, tensions were increasingly flaring over the summer months of 2008. With both sides undertaking provocative measures, there was a growing awareness that war could break out. In July of 2008, following her visit to the Czech Republic where she signed an agreement to base part of a new U.S. missile defense system in the country, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice traveled to Georgia to meet with the country’s leadership. At that time, U.S. military forces in the region had begun joint exercises with soldiers from Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan. The exercises were taking place less than 100km from Russia’s border, with roughly 1,000 U.S. soldiers and an equal number of Georgian troops. As Rice arrived in Georgia, the Russian foreign ministry issued a statement accusing Georgia “of pushing the region towards war through actions openly supported by the United States.”
Then-Russian President Dmitri Medvedev later explained that as tensions escalated into July of 2008, he was in contact with his Georgian counterparts. However, following Secretary Rice’s July 2008 visit to Georgia, he claimed, “my Georgian colleague simply dropped all communication with us. He simply stopped talking to us, he stopped writing letters and making phone calls. It was apparent that he had new plans now. And those plans were implemented later.”
Indeed, as the New York Times noted, when Rice went to Georgia, she had two different goals, one private, and one public. Privately, she reportedly told the Georgians “not to get into a military conflict with Russia that Georgia could not win.” However, in public, standing alongside the Georgian president, Rice spoke defiantly against Russia and in support of Georgia and its “territorial integrity” in the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Standing next to the president, Rice declared that Russia “needs to be a part of resolving the problem… and not contributing to it.” The NYT claimed that these public statements of support for Georgia – and antagonism toward Russia – not to mention the fact that the US was engaging in large-scale military exercises with Georgians, expanding military installations all across Eastern Europe and providing Georgia with military advisers, had the combined effect of sending the small country “mixed messages ” about U.S. support for a war with Russia.
No doubt contributing to these ‘mixed messages’ was when – at the very same news conference with President Saakashvili – Rice was asked a question about a potential conflict with Iran, to which she replied that, “We will defend our interests and defend our allies… We take very, very strongly our obligations to defend our allies and no one should be confused of that.” Apparently, Georgia was a little confused.
When the Soviet Union collapsed and Georgia declared independence, the two regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia gained de facto independence in the early 1990s following conflict between the breakaway regions and the central state. Following this brief period of fighting, tensions were largely reduced, though Russian ‘peacekeepers’ were on the ground monitoring the fragile balance. That balance was upset when Saakashvili became president in 2004, making one of his pledges “national unification.” By 2008, when tensions were reaching a breaking point, there were over 2,000 American civilians in Georgia, according to the Pentagon, with over 130 U.S. military trainers and 30 Defense Department civilians.
Another facet to the increased tensions was the fact that Georgia was an important conduit for a major pipeline, bringing oil from Baku in Azerbaijan through Georgia and to the Turkish port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean. When the pipeline was completed in 2006, it was the second-longest pipeline in the world, and its construction and use was specifically designed to “bypass Russia, denying Moscow leverage over a key resource and a potential source of pressure.” As Jonathan Steele wrote in the Guardian, the resulting war was about more than pipeline politics, however, as it represented “an attempt, sponsored largely by the United States but eagerly subscribed to by several of its new ex-Soviet allies, to reduce every aspect of Russian influence throughout the region, whether it be economic, political, diplomatic or military.”
The Wall Street Journal reported that the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline was built by a consortium of major Western energy corporations, and was “the first pipeline on former Soviet territory that bypasse[d] Russia,” which “was strongly backed by the US as a way of loosening Moscow’s grip on the Caspian’s oil wealth.”
When War Broke Out
On August 7, 2008, war broke out. Georgia claimed that it was responding to an attack on the country by separatists in South Ossetia and Russian aggressors. However, independent military observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) who were deployed in the region refuted the Georgian government’s claim, and instead reported that, “Georgia’s inexperienced military attacked the isolated separatist [South Ossetian] capital of Tskhinvali on Aug. 7 with indiscriminate artillery and rocket fire, exposing civilians, Russian peacekeepers and unarmed monitors to harm.” While Georgian President Saakashvili presented the Georgian military actions as “defensive,” in response to separatist and Russian shelling of Georgian villages, the OSCE monitors were unable to confirm that such villages had been attacked, with no shelling heard in the villages prior to the Georgian bombardment of Tskhinvali. Two senior Western military officials who were stationed in Georgia, working with the Georgian military, told theNew York Times that, “whatever Russia’s behaviour or intentions for the enclave, once Georgia’s artillery or rockets struck Russian positions, conflict with Russia was all but inevitable.”
A year after the war, an EU-commissioned report which took nine months to compile concluded that despite much of the blame at the time of – and since – the war being directed at ‘Russian aggression,’ the conflict began “with a massive Georgian artillery attack.” The “damning indictment” of Georgia, however, blamed both Georgia and Russia for committing war crimes during the conflict, and noted that the conflict resulted from months and years of growing conflict. However, the report flatly stated: ” There was no ongoing armed attack by Russia before the start of the Georgian operation… Georgian claims of a large-scale presence of Russian armed forces in South Ossetia prior to the Georgian offensive could not be substantiated… It could also not be verified that Russia was on the verge of such a major attack.” However, Vladimir Putin stated in 2012 that Russia had drawn up plans to counter a Georgian attack as far back as 2006 and 2007, when he was president. Still, while the Russians were clearly aware – and preparing – for a war, it was ultimately Georgia that fired the first shots.
Months before the war broke out, according to documents and interviews obtained by the Financial Times, senior U.S. military officials and U.S. military contractors were inside Georgia training special forces commandos. The two contractors, MPRI and American Systems, both of which are based in Virginia, were responsible for training the Georgian special forces as part of a program run by the Pentagon. The Pentagon had previously hired MPRI to train the Croatian military in 1995, just prior to the Croatian military’s invasion of the ethnically-Serbian region of Krajina, “which led to the displacement of 200,000 refugees and was one of the worst incidents of ethnic cleansing in the Balkan wars.” MPRI, of course – in both cases – denied “any wrongdoing.” The first phase of the training in Georgia took place between January and April of 2008, and the second phase was due to begin on August 11, with the trainers arriving in Georgia on August 3, four days before the war broke out.
Just prior to the outbreak of war, as U.S. diplomatic cables showed, the U.S. Embassy in Georgia knew and reported about the fact that Georgian forces were concentrating their forces near South Ossetia, “either as part of a show of force or readiness, or both.” The U.S. ambassador reportedly told Georgian officials “to remain calm, not overreact, and to de-escalate the situation.” As the diplomatic cables from Georgia revealed, unlike in neighboring countries, U.S. diplomats in Georgia “relied heavily on the Saakashvili government’s accounts of its own behavior” and embraced the “Georgian versions of important and disputed events.” Whereas in other regional countries, U.S. diplomats would report to Washington on their “private misgivings” about their host countries’ claims, in Georgia, the Saakashvili government’s “versions of events were passed to Washington largely unchallenged.”
The five-day war between Russia and Georgia lasted from August 7 – 12, leading to a decisive Russian victory and a humiliating defeat for the US-puppet regime in Georgia. Months of ‘mixed messages’ and indecision and divisions within the Bush administration directly led to the conflict, inflaming internal confrontations within the Bush administration itself. A New York Times article tells this brief story based upon interviews with diplomats and senior officials in the US, EU, Russia and Georgia. Five months before Georgia started the war – in March of 2008 – President Saakashvili had gone to Washington to lobby for NATO membership at Congress, the State Department and the Pentagon. Bush promised the Georgian president ” to push hard for Georgia’s acceptance into NATO.”
In early April, President Bush flew to the Russian resort city of Sochi where he met with President Putin. Putin delivered Bush a message: “the push to offer Ukraine and Georgia NATO membership was crossing Russia’s ‘red lines’.” The United States, however, clearly underestimated Russia and Putin’s determination to adhere to those ‘red lines’. Meanwhile, Vice President Dick Cheney saw Georgia as a “model” for the administration’s “democracy promotion campaign,” and continued to push for selling Georgia more arms and military equipment “so that it could defend itself against possible Russian aggression.” Opposing Cheney were Secretary of State Rice, National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William J. Burns, who were arguing that ” such a sale would provoke Russia, which would see it as arrogant meddling in its turf.”
While the official line of the Bush administration after the war broke out was to blame Russia, quietly and internally, top U.S. officials noted that Georgia was largely to blame, and that U.S. officials had contributed to that process by sending confused messages. Indeed, as some administration officials reported, the Georgian military had created a “concept of operations” plan for a military operation in South Ossetia which “called for its army units to sweep across the region and rapidly establish such firm control that a Russian response could be pre-empted.” As early as January of 2008, Georgia’s Ministry of Defense laid out plans in a “strategic defense review” which “set out goals for the Georgian armed forces and refers specifically to the threat of conflict in the separatist regions.” U.S. officials had reportedly warned the Georgians that, ” the plan had little chance of success.”
Indeed, as the war was under way, debates were raging within the Bush administration regarding the possible US response. In particular, tensions started to erupt between Bush and Cheney, as Cheney’s office felt that when Bush had previously met Putin in April, his silent response to Putin’s warning “inadvertently gave Russia the all-clear to attack.” There was discussion within the administration (from Cheney’s side of the debate) of launching air strikes to halt the Russian invasion. After four days of talks with the National Security Council (NSC), George Bush “cut off the discussion,” siding with his somewhat more rational advisers, as there was “a clear sense around the table that any military steps could lead to a confrontation with Moscow.”
Putin had also spoken with Georgian president Saakashvili in February of 2008, where he warned the Georgian president: “You think you can trust the Americans, and they will rush to assist you?” Putin then reportedly claimed that, ” Nobody can be trusted! Except me.” Interestingly, in this respect, Putin happened to be correct.
European governments were not big fans of Saakashvili, either, seeing him as “an American-backed hothead who spelled trouble.” During the five-day war, French President Nicolas Sarkozy shuttled between Russia and Georgia attempting to negotiate a ceasefire. Sarkozy reportedly told the Georgians: “Where is Bush? Where are the Americans?… They are not coming to save you. No Europeans are coming, either. You are alone. If you don’t sign [the ceasefire], the Russian tanks will be here soon.”
The day after the war began, the Russians called an emergency session at the United Nations to find a resolution to the conflict. The Russian’s proposed a short, three-paragraph draft resolution calling on all parties to “renounce the use of force.” This phrase ran into opposition from the United States, France and Britain, who claimed the phrase was “unbalanced” because it “would have undermined Georgia’s ability to defend itself.” The US, British and French opposition to “renounce the use of force” led to a collapse of diplomatic attempts at the UN to end the fighting, according to the New York Times. When the French President eventually negotiated a ceasefire on August 12, at least one senior U.S. official (presumably Cheney) was reportedly ” appalled” by the ceasefire text.
Erosi Kitsmarishvili, a former Georgian diplomat and ambassador to Moscow (and confidante of President Saakashvili) caused controversy within Georgia when he testified at a parliamentary hearing in Georgia in November of 2008 that Georgian officials were responsible for starting the war. He said that he was told by Georgian officials in April of 2008 that they had “planned to start a war in Abkhazia,” saying that they “had received a green light from the United States government to do so.” However, he added, the officials later decided to start the war in South Ossetia instead, believing that ” United States officials had given their approval.” He discussed the July 2008 meeting between Georgian officials and Secretary of State Rice, saying, “Some people who attended the meeting between Condoleezza Rice and Saakashvili were saying that Condoleezza Rice gave them the green light for military action,” though U.S. and Georgian officials “categorically denied this information.”
When the war broke out, the United States military airlifted Georgian troops from Iraq back to Georgia to participate in the fighting against Russia. In the Pentagon, a 28-year-old junior staffer, Mark Simakovsky, “almost overnight… became a key policy adviser” to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and other top administration officials. Serving as the Pentagon’s country director for Georgia, he “used his expert knowledge and contacts throughout the government and in Georgia to quickly gather information about developments on the ground.” He was pivotal in shaping the Pentagon’s response to the crisis, including the coordination of airlifting 2,000 Georgian soldiers from Iraq back to Georgia.
Within a week of the Georgian war ending on August 12, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declared that the United States “would not push for Georgia to be allowed into NATO” during an upcoming emergency meeting of the NATO countries in Brussels, in what the New York Times reported as, “a tacit admission that America and its European allies lack the stomach for a military fight with Russia.”
However, NATO foreign ministers were expected to reaffirm that they would eventually like to see both Georgia and Ukraine join NATO, but not to fast-track the process through the Membership Action Plan (MAP), for which Georgia and the US had previously been lobbying. In November of 2008, Rice affirmed that the US was no longer attempting to fast-track Georgian and Ukrainian membership into NATO, largely due to opposition from France and Germany . In 2011, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev stated that if Russia hadn’t invaded Georgia in 2008, NATO would have expanded already to include Georgia as a member.
In late August, Russian commanders were reportedly “growing alarmed at the number of NATO warships sailing into the Black Sea.” The U.S. said it was delivering “humanitarian aid on military transport planes and ships,” though the Russians suspected that the Pentagon was shipping in weapons and military equipment “under the guise” of humanitarian assistance.
Weeks following Georgia’s defeat, officials at the White House, Pentagon and State Department were “examining what would be required to rebuild Georgia’s military.” The U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, stated during a news conference that Georgia was ” a very important country to us” and that the U.S. would continue to pursue a “military-to-military relationship.” Both Democrats and Republicans proclaimed their unyielding support for Georgia, as both the John McCain and Barack Obama presidential campaigns had “cultivated close ties” to President Saakashvili. John McCain’s wife and Senator Joe Biden (who would become Obama’s Vice President) had gone to visit Georgia in August of 2008, just following the end of the war.
In early September, President Bush promised $1 billion in ” humanitarian and economic assistance” to help rebuild the country following the war, making Georgia one of the largest recipients of U.S. foreign aid, after Israel, Egypt and Iraq. Comparatively, in the previous 17 years, the United States had provided a total of $1.8 billion in aid to the country. The European Union also pledged to contribute funds to Georgia, as did the International Monetary Fund (IMF), declaring its intention to provide the country with a $750 million loan.
In September of 2008, Vice President Dick Cheney flew to Georgia “to deliver a forceful American pledge to rebuild Georgia and its economy, to preserve its sovereignty and its territory and to bring it into the NATO alliance in defiance of Russia.” Cheney, who arrived in Georgia a day after the U.S. announced a $1 billion rescue package to help the country, then flew to Ukraine to deliver a similar message. Russia, meanwhile, was entrenching its control over the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, recognizing their independence from Georgia and keeping military units stationed within them.
Cheney’s visit, which began in Azerbaijan, then to Georgia and Ukraine, was orchestrated to confirm that the U.S. had “a deep and abiding interest” in the region, and notably in terms of ensuring that these and neighboring countries remained “free from a new era of Russian domination.” Cheney was the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Azerbaijan since it gained independence in 1991. Underscoring the importance of the BP-led pipeline transporting oil from Azerbaijan through Georgia to Turkey, Cheney’s first meetings in Azerbaijan were not with political officials, but with representatives from BP and Chevron.
In the last weeks of the Bush administration, Condoleezza Rice and the Georgian Minister of Foreign Affairs signed the U.S.-Georgian Charter on Strategic Partnership. This was followed up by the Obama administration, holding the first meeting of the Strategic Partnership Commission meeting in Washington on June 22, 2009, marking the launch of four bilateral working groups on “democracy, defense and security, economic, trade and energy issues, and people-to-people cultural exchanges.” The Strategic Partnership reflected U.S. commitment “to deepening Georgia’s integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions and enhancing security cooperation,” including eventual membership into NATO.
The Obama administration sent Vice President Joe Biden to Georgia in July of 2009, with Saakashvili lobbying for the U.S. to sell the country weapons, which Russia strongly opposed, considering the rearmament of Georgia to be ” more serious than whether Georgia enters NATO.”
In 2010, Georgia began a “serious push” to lobby the U.S. for “defensive weapons,” notably air defense and anti-tank systems. To help achieve this objective, Georgia spent roughly $1.5 million at four top Washington, D.C. lobbying firms over the course of the year. Meanwhile, Russia had been “intimidating” many of Georgia’s past arms suppliers, including Israel and other Eastern European nations, not to resume arms sales to the country.
In 2010, the United States also resumed its military training exercises in Georgia, which have continued in recent years, much to Russia’s displeasure. However, Saakashvili lost the 2012 elections and was replaced with a billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, who had made his fortune in Russia, leading to slightly improved relations with Putin. In 2013, Russia accused the U.S. of ” putting peace at risk” by holding joint military exercises in Georgia.
Bidzina Ivanishvili was the Georgian Prime Minister from 2012 to 2013, during which time Saakashvili was still president. As the Economist reported in October of 2013, weeks before the Georgian presidential elections to replace him, Saakashvili, who came to power through the U.S.-sponsored ‘Rose Revolution’ in 2003, had, in the following decade, “fought and lost a war with Russia, cracked down on the opposition, dominated the media, interfered with justice and monopolized power .” No wonder Cheney saw him as an ideal representation of America’s “democracy promotion” project.
The billionaire oligarch prime minister, Ivanishvili, Georgia’s richest man, had put his weight behind a presidential candidate, Giorgi Margvelashvili, who subsequently won the October 2013 elections. Under reforms implemented by Saakashvili, the role of president would become “largely ceremonial, with the bulk of power resting with the prime minister.” Ivanishvili proclaimed his intention to turn Georgia into a ” perfect European democracy.”
In May of 2014, months into the Ukrainian conflict, NATO announced its intentions to find ways of bringing Georgia ” even closer” to the military alliance. Just days earlier, both France and Germany “assured Georgia that a deal bringing it closer to the European Union would be sealed soon.”
Georgian officials were holding “extensive discussions” with US and German and other NATO members seeking ways to accelerate the country’s membership into NATO. Whereas previously, the US and NATO powers had decided to put Georgia’s NATO membership on the backburner, the conflict in Ukraine had changed the situation. Georgia’s Defense Minister stated: “Clearly, what’s happening in Ukraine impacts the thinking in Europe… Now it’s very different.” The Defense Minister went to Washington in May 2014 to visit with Vice President Biden and U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.
And so, in the more than ten years since Georgia’s U.S. and NATO-supported colour revolution, the West – particularly the United States – have increased Georgia’s military capabilities, armed and trained its forces, all the while aggravating Russia as NATO and Western military, political and economic influence spread ever-closer to its borders. This ultimately resulted in a war. Though, since then – and with the recent conflict in Ukraine – it is clear that rearming Georgia and further aggravating Russia is back on the agenda.
The hypocrisy and imperious expansionism of the West in Georgia is but a minor reflection of a similar process which has been taking place across much of Eastern Europe, and most especially in Ukraine. Thus, despite the never-ending proclamations of “Russian aggression,” it is once again the Western powers, NATO, the EU, the IMF and especially the United States that are the most to blame for the current conflict in Ukraine.
The 2008 war in Georgia had seemingly put an end – or a halt – on NATO’s eastward expansion. Russia had – after 18 years of NATO expansion – finally drawn a line in the sand over how much it was willing to put up with. It was clear, then, that a similar process with Ukraine, a much larger and more strategically significant country than Georgia, was sure to incur a military response from Russia. If anything, the only surprise is that Russia’s military response has been so minimal, comparatively speaking; at least, for the time being. But as this process continues in response to Ukraine’s crisis, and as NATO and the U.S. military, the EU and the IMF accelerate their advance eastward, future conflict is seemingly all but inevitable.
No doubt, when that conflict comes, we will once again hear the amnesic proclamations of “Russian aggression” and Western benevolence.
Andrew Gavin Marshall is a researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, chair of the Geopolitics Division of The Hampton Institute, research director for Occupy.com’s Global Power Project and the World of Resistance (WoR) Report, and hosts a weekly podcast show with BoilingFrogsPost.
The West Marches East, Part 1: The U.S.-NATO Strategy to Isolate Russia
By: Andrew Gavin Marshall
17 April 2014
Originally posted at The Hampton Institute
In early March of 2014, following Russia’s invasion of Crimea in Ukraine, the New York Times editorial board declared that Russian President Vladimir Putin had “stepped far outside the bounds of civilized behavior,” suggesting that Russia should be isolated politically and economically in the face of “continued aggression.”
John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State, lashed out at Russia’s ” incredible act of aggression,” stating that: “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on [a] completely trumped up pre-text.” Indeed, invading foreign nations on “trumped up pre-texts” is something only the United States and its allies are allowed to do, not Russia! What audacity!
Even Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, proclaimed Russia’s actions in Ukraine to be “aggressive, militaristic and imperialistic ,” threatening “the peace and stability of the world.” This is, of course, despite the fact that Russia’s invasion and occupation of Crimea took place without a single shot fired, and “faced no real opposition and has been greeted with joy by many citizens in the only region of Ukraine with a clear majority of ethnic Russians.”
Indeed, Russia can only be said to be an “aggressive” and “imperial” power so long as one accepts the unrelenting hypocrisy of U.S. and Western leaders. After all, it was not Russia that invaded and occupied Afghanistan and Iraq, killing millions. It is not Putin, but rather Barack Obama, who has waged a “global terror campaign,” compiling “kill lists” and using flying killer robots to bomb countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and even the Philippines, killing thousands of people around the world. It is not Putin, but rather, Barack Obama, who has been sending highly-trained killers into over 100 countries around the world at any given time, waging a “secret war” in most of the world’s nations. It was not Russia, but rather the United States, that has supported the creation of “death squads” in Iraq, contributing to the mass violence, civil war and genocide that resulted; or that has been destabilizing Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation, increasing the possibility of nuclear war.
All of these actions are considered to be a part of America’s strategy to secure ‘stability,’ to promote ‘peace’ and ‘democracy.’ It’s Russia that threatens “the peace and stability of the world,” not America or its NATO and Western allies. That is, of course, if you believe the verbal excretions from Western political leaders. The reality is that the West, with the United States as the uncontested global superpower, engages the rest of the world on the basis of ‘Mafia Principles’ of international relations: the United States is the global ‘Godfather’ of the Mafia crime family of Western industrial nations (the NATO powers). Countries like Russia and China are reasonably-sized crime families in their own right, but largely dependent upon the Godfather, with whom they both cooperate and compete for influence.
When the Mafia – and the Godfather – are disobeyed, whether by small nations (such as Iraq, Syria, Libya, et. al.), or by larger gangster states like China or Russia, the Godfather will seek to punish them. Disobedience cannot be tolerated. If a small country can defy the Godfather, then any country can. If a larger gangster state like Russia can defy the Godfather and get away with it, they might continue to challenge the authority of the Godfather.
For the U.S. and its NATO-capo Mafia allies, Ukraine and Russia have presented a complex challenge: how does one punish Russia and control Ukraine without pushing Russia too far outside the influence of the Mafia, itself? In other words, the West seeks to punish Russia for its “defiance” and “aggression,” but, if the West pushes too hard, it might find a Russia that pushes back even harder. That is, after all, how we got into this situation in the first place.
A little historical context helps elucidate the current clash of gangster states. Put aside the rhetoric of “democracy” and let’s deal with reality.
The Cold War Legacy
The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union between 1989 and 1991 witnessed the emergence of what was termed by President George H.W. Bush a ‘new world order’ in which the United States reigned as the world’s sole superpower, proclaiming ‘victory’ over the Soviet Union and ‘Communism’: the age of ‘free markets’ and ‘democracy’ was at hand.
The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 prompted the negotiated withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Eastern Europe. The ‘old order’ of Europe was at an end, and a new one “needed to be established quickly,” noted Mary Elise Sarotte in the New York Times. This ‘new order’ was to begin with “the rapid reunification of Germany.” Negotiations took place in 1990 between Soviet president Gorbachev, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, and President Bush’s Secretary of State, James A. Baker 3rd. The negotiations sought to have the Soviets remove their 380,000 troops from East Germany. In return, both James Baker and Helmut Kohl promised Gorbachev that the Western military alliance of NATO would not expand eastwards. West Germany’s foreign minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, promised Gorbachev that, ” NATO will not expand itself to the East.” Gorbachev agreed, though asked – and did not receive – the promise in writing, remaining a “gentlemen’s agreement.”
The U.S. Ambassador to the USSR from 1987 to 1991, John F. Matlock Jr., later noted that the end of the Cold War was not ‘won’ by the West, but was brought about “by negotiation to the advantage of both sides.” Yet, he noted, “the United States insisted on treating Russia as the loser .” The United States almost immediately violated the agreement established in 1990, and NATO began moving eastwards, much to the dismay of the Russians. The new Russian President, Boris Yeltsin, warned that NATO’s expansion to the East threatened a ‘cold peace’ and was a violation of the ” spirit of conversations ” that took place in February of 1990 between Soviet, West German and American leaders.
In 1990, President Bush’s National Security Strategy for the United States acknowledged that, “even as East-West tensions diminish, American strategic concerns remain,” noting that previous U.S. military interventions which were justified as a response to Soviet ‘threats’, were – in actuality – “in response to threats to U.S. interests that could not be laid at the Kremlin’s door,” and that, “the necessity to defend our interests will continue.” In other words, decades of justifications for war by the United States – blaming ‘Soviet imperialism’ and ‘Communism’ – were lies, and now that the Soviet Union no longer existed as a threat, American imperialism will still have to continue.
Former National Security Adviser – and arch-imperial strategist – Zbigniew Brzezinski noted in 1992 that the Cold War strategy of the United States in advocating “liberation” against the USSR and Communism (thus justifying military interventions all over the world), ” was a strategic sham, designed to a significant degree for domestic political reasons… the policy was basically rhetorical, at most tactical.”
The Pentagon drafted a strategy in 1992 for the United States to manage the post-Cold War world, where the primary mission of the U.S. was “to ensure that no rival superpower is allowed to emerge in Western Europe, Asia or the territories of the former Soviet Union.” As the New York Times noted, the document – largely drafted by Pentagon officials Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney – “makes the case fora world dominated by one superpower whose position can be perpetuated by constructive behavior and sufficient military might to deter any nation or group of nations from challenging American primacy.”
This strategy was further enshrined with the Clinton administration, whose National Security Adviser, Anthony Lake, articulated the ‘Clinton doctrine’ in 1993 when he stated that: “The successor to a doctrine of containment must be a strategy of enlargement – enlargement of the world’s free community of market democracies,” which “must combine our broad goals of fostering democracy and marketswith our more traditional geostrategic interests.”
Under Bill Clinton’s imperial presidency, the United States and NATO went to war against Serbia, ultimately tore Yugoslavia to pieces (itself representative of a ‘third way’ of organizing society, different than both the West and the USSR), and NATO commenced its Eastward expansion . In the late 1990s, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic entered the NATO alliance, and in 2004, seven former Soviet republics joined the alliance.
In 1991, roughly 80% of Russians had a ‘favorable’ view of the United States; by 1999, roughly 80% had an unfavorable view of America. Vladimir Putin, who was elected in 2000, initially followed a pro-Western strategy for Russia, supporting NATO’s invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, receiving only praise from President George W. Bush, who then proceeded to expand NATO further east .
The Color Revolutions
Throughout the 2000s, the United States and other NATO powers, allied with billionaires like George Soros and his foundations scattered throughout the world, worked together to fund and organize opposition groups in multiple countries across Eastern and Central Europe, promoting ‘democratic regime change’ which would ultimately bring to power more pro-Western leaders. It began in 2000 in Serbia with the removal of Slobodan Milosevic.
The United States had undertaken a $41 million “democracy-building campaign” in Serbia to remove Milosevic from power, which included funding polls, training thousands of opposition activists, which the Washington Post referred to as “the first poll-driven, focus group-tested revolution,” which was “a carefully researched strategy put together by Serbian democracy activists with the active assistance of Western advisers and pollsters.” Utilizing U.S.-government funded organizations aligned with major political parties, like the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) channeled money, assistance and training to activists (Michael Dobbs, Washington Post, 11 December 2000).
Mark Almond wrote in the Guardian in 2004 that, “throughout the 1980s, in the build-up to 1989’s velvet revolutions, a small army of volunteers – and, let’s be frank, spies – co-operated to promote what became People Power.” This was represented by “a network of interlocking foundations and charities [which] mushroomed to organize the logistics of transferring millions of dollars to dissidents.” The money itself ” came overwhelmingly from NATO states and covert allies such as ‘neutral’ Sweden,” as well as through the billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Foundation. Almond noted that these “modern market revolutionaries” would bring people into office “with the power to privatize.” Activists and populations are mobilized with “a multimedia vision of Euro-Atlantic prosperity by Western-funded ‘independent’ media to get them on the streets.” After successful Western-backed ‘revolutions’ comes the usual economic ‘shock therapy’ which brings with it “mass unemployment, rampant insider dealing, growth of organized crime, prostitution and soaring death rates.” Ah, democracy!
Following Serbia in 2000, the activists, Western ‘aid agencies’, foundations and funders moved their resources to the former Soviet republic of Georgia, where in 2003, the ‘Rose Revolution’ replaced the president with a more pro-Western (and Western-educated) leader, Mikheil Saakashvili, a protégé of George Soros, who played a significant role in funding so-called ‘pro-democracy’ groups in Georgia that the country has often been referred to as ‘Sorosistan’. In 2004, Ukraine became the next target of Western-backed ‘democratic’ regime change in what became known as the ‘Orange Revolution’. Russia viewed these ‘color revolutions’ as “U.S.-sponsored plots using local dupes to overthrow governments unfriendly to Washington and install American vassals.”
Mark MacKinnon, who was the Globe and Mail‘s Moscow bureau chief between 2002 and 2005, covered these Western-funded protests and has since written extensively on the subject of the ‘color revolutions.’ Reviewing a book of his on the subject, the Montreal Gazette noted that these so-called revolutions were not “spontaneous popular uprisings, but in fact were planned and financed either directly by American diplomats or through a collection of NGOs acting as fronts for the United States government,” and that while there was a great deal of dissatisfaction with the ruling, corrupt elites in each country, the ‘democratic opposition’ within these countries received their “marching orders and cash from American and European officials, whose intentions often had to do more with securing access to energy resources and pipeline routes than genuine interest in democracy.”
The ‘Orange Revolution’ in Ukraine in 2004 was – as Ian Traynor wrote in the Guardian – ” an American creation, a sophisticated and brilliantly conceived exercise in western branding and mass marketing,” with funding and organizing from the U.S. government, “deploying US consultancies, pollsters, diplomats, the two big American parties and US non-governmental organizations.”
In Ukraine, the contested elections which spurred the ‘Orange Revolution’ saw accusations of election fraud leveled against Viktor Yanukovich by his main opponent, Viktor Yuschenko. Despite claims of upholding democracy, Yuschenko had ties to the previous regime, having served as Prime Minister in the government of Leonid Kuchma, and with that, had close ties to the oligarchs who led and profited from the mass privatizations of the post-Soviet era. Yuschenko, however, “got the western nod, and floods of money poured into groups which support[ed] him.” As Jonathan Steele noted in the Guardian, “Ukraine has been turned into a geostrategic matter not by Moscow but by the US, which refuses to abandon its cold war policy of encircling Russia and seeking to pull every former Soviet republic to its side.”
As Mark McKinnon wrote in the Globe and Mail some years later, the uprisings in both Georgia and Ukraine “had many things in common, among them the fall of autocrats who ran semi-independent governments that deferred to Moscow when the chips were down,” as well as being “spurred by organizations that received funding from the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy,” reflecting a view held by Western governments that “promoting democracy” in places like the Middle East and Eastern Europe was in fact “a code word for supporting pro-Western politicians .” These Western-sponsored uprisings erupted alongside the ever-expanding march of NATO to Russia’s borders.
The following year – in 2005 – the Western-supported ‘colour revolutions’ hit the Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan in what was known as the ‘Tulip Revolution’. Once again, contested elections saw the mobilization of Western-backed civil society groups, “independent” media, and NGOs – drawing in the usual funding sources of the National Endowment for Democracy, the NDI, IRI, Freedom House, and George Soros, among others. The New York Times reported that the “democratically inspired revolution” western governments were praising began to look ” more like a garden-variety coup .” Efforts not only by the U.S., but also Britain, Norway and the Netherlands were pivotal in preparing the way for the 2005 uprising in Kyrgyzstan. The then-President of Kyrgyzstan blamed the West for the unrest experienced in his country.
The U.S. NGOs that sponsored the ‘color revolutions’ were run by former top government and national security officials, including Freedom House, which was chaired by former CIA Director James Woolsey, and other “pro-democracy” groups funding these revolts were led by figures such as Senator John McCain or Bill Clinton’s former National Security Adviser Anthony Lake, who had articulated the national security strategy of the Clinton administration as being one of “enlargement of the world’s free community of market democracies.” These organizations effectively act as an extension of the U.S. government apparatus, advancing U.S. imperial interests under the veneer of “pro-democracy” work and institutionalized in purportedly “non”-governmental groups.
By 2010, however, most of the gains of the ‘color revolutions’ that spread across Eastern Europe and Central Asia had taken several steps back. While the “political center of gravity was tilting towards the West,” noted Time Magazine in April of 2010, “now that tend has reversed,” with the pro-Western leadership of both Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan both having once again been replaced with leaders ” far friendlier to Russia.” The “good guys” that the West supported in these countries, “proved to be as power hungry and greedy as their predecessors, disregarding democratic principles… in order to cling to power, and exploiting American diplomatic and economic support as part of [an] effort to contain domestic and outside threats and win financial assistance.” Typical behavior for vassal states to any empire.
The ‘Enlargement’ of the European Union: An Empire of Economics
The process of European integration and growth of the European Union has – over the past three decades – been largely driven by powerful European corporate and financial interests, notably by the European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT), an influential group of roughly 50 of Europe’s top CEOs who lobby and work directly with Europe’s political elites to design the goals and methods of European integration and enlargement of the EU, advancing the EU to promote and institutionalize neoliberal economic reforms: austerity, privatizations, liberalization of markets and the destruction of labour power.
The enlargement of the European Union into Eastern Europe reflected a process of Eastern European nations having to implement neoliberal reforms in order to join the EU, including mass privatizations, deregulation, liberalization of markets and harsh austerity measures. The enlargement of the EU into Central and Eastern Europe advanced in 2004 and 2007, when new states were admitted into EU membership, including Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania.
These new EU members were hit hard by the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009, and subsequently forced to impose harsh austerity measures. They have been slower to ‘recover’ than other nations, increasingly having to deal with “political instability and mass unemployment and human suffering.” The exception to this is Poland, which did not implement austerity measures, which has left the Polish economy in a better position than the rest of the new EU members. The financial publication Forbeswarned in 2013 that “the prospect of endless economic stagnation in the newest EU members… will, sooner or later, bring extremely deleterious political consequences .”
In the words of a senior British diplomat, Robert Cooper, the European Union represents a type of “cooperative empire.” The expansion of the EU into Central and Eastern Europe brought increased corporate profits, with new investments and cheap labour to exploit. Further, the newer EU members were more explicitly pro-market than the older EU members that continued to promote a different social market economy than those promoted by the Americans and British. With these states joining the EU, noted the Financial Times in 2008, “the new member states have reinforced the ranks of the free marketeers and free traders,” as they increasingly “team up with northern states to vote for deregulation and liberalization of the market.”
The West Marches East
For the past quarter-century, Russia has stood and watched as the United States, NATO, and the European Union have advanced their borders and sphere of influence eastwards to Russia’s borders. As the West has marched East, Russia has consistently complained of encroachment and its views of this process as being a direct threat to Russia. The protests of the former superpower have largely gone ignored or dismissed. After all, in the view of the Americans, they “won” the Cold War, and therefore, Russia has no say in the post-Cold War global order being shaped by the West.
The West’s continued march East to Russia’s borders will continue to be examined in future parts of this series. For Russia, the problem is clear: the Godfather and its NATO-Mafia partners are ever-expanding to its borders, viewed (rightly so) as a threat to the Russian gangster state itself. Russia’s invasion of Crimea – much like its 2008 invasion of Georgia – are the first examples of Russia’s push back against the Western imperial expansion Eastwards. This, then, is not a case of “Russian aggression,” but rather, Russian reaction to the West’s ever-expanding imperialism and global aggression.
The West may think that it has domesticated and beaten down the bear, chained it up, make it dance and whip it into obedience. But every once in a while, the bear will take a swipe back at the one holding the whip. This is inevitable. And so long as the West continued with its current strategy, the reactions will only get worse in time.
Andrew Gavin Marshall is a 26-year old researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, chair of the Geopolitics Division of The Hampton Institute, research director for Occupy.com’s Global Power Project, and hosts a weekly podcast show with BoilingFrogsPost.
Welcome to the World Revolution in the Global Age of Rage
By: Andrew Gavin Marshall
I am currently writing a book on the global economic crisis and the global resistance, rebellious and revolutionary movements that have emerged in reaction to this crisis. Our world is in the midst of the greatest economic, social, and political crisis that humanity has ever collectively entered into. The scope is truly global in its context, and the effects are felt in every locality. The course of the global economic crisis is the direct and deliberate result of class warfare, waged by the political and economic elites against the people of the world. The objective is simple: all for them and none for you. At the moment, the crisis is particularly acute in Europe, as the European elites impose a coordinated strategy of class warfare against the people through “austerity” and “structural adjustment,” political euphemisms used to hide their true intention: poverty and exploitation.
The people of the world, however, are beginning to rise up, riot, resist, rebel and revolt. This brief article is an introduction to the protest movements and rebellions which have taken place around the world in the past few years against the entrenched systems and structures of power. This is but a small preview of the story that will be examined in my upcoming book. Please consider donating to The People’s Book Project in order to finance the completion of this volume.
Those who govern and rule over our world and its people have been aware of the structural and social changes which would result in bringing about social unrest and rebellion. In fact, they have been warning about the potential for such a circumstance of global revolutionary movements for a number of years. The elite are very worried, most especially at the prospect of revolutionary movements spreading beyond borders and the traditional confines of state structures. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s former National Security Adviser, co-founder with banker David Rockefeller of the Trilateral Commission, and an arch-elitist strategic thinker for the American empire, has been warning of what he terms the ‘Global Political Awakening’ as the central challenge for elites in a changing world.
In June of 2010, I published an article entitled, “The Global Political Awakening and the New World Order,” in which I examined this changing reality and in particular, the words of Zbigniew Brzezinski in identifying it. In December of 2008, Brzezinski published an article for the New York Times in which he wrote: “For the first time in history almost all of humanity is politically activated, politically conscious and politically interactive. Global activism is generating a surge in the quest for cultural respect and economic opportunity in a world scarred by memories of colonial or imperial domination.” This situation is made more precarious for elites as it takes place in a global transition in which the Atlantic powers – Western Europe and the United States – are experiencing a decline in their 500-year domination of the world. Brzezinski wrote that what is necessary to maintain control in this changing world is for the United States to spearhead “a collective effort for a more inclusive system of global management,” or in other words, more power for them. Brzezinski has suggested that, “the worldwide yearning for human dignity is the central challenge inherent in the phenomenon of global political awakening.” In 2005, Brzezinski wrote:
It is no overstatement to assert that now in the 21st century the population of much of the developing world is politically stirring and in many places seething with unrest. It is a population acutely conscious of social injustice to an unprecedented degree, and often resentful of its perceived lack of political dignity. The nearly universal access to radio, television and increasingly the Internet is creating a community of shared perceptions and envy that can be galvanized and channeled by demagogic political or religious passions. These energies transcend sovereign borders and pose a challenge both to existing states as well as to the existing global hierarchy, on top of which America still perches…
The youth of the Third World are particularly restless and resentful. The demographic revolution they embody is thus a political time-bomb, as well. With the exception of Europe, Japan and America, the rapidly expanding demographic bulge in the 25-year-old-and-under age bracket is creating a huge mass of impatient young people. Their minds have been stirred by sounds and images that emanate from afar and which intensify their disaffection with what is at hand. Their potential revolutionary spearhead is likely to emerge from among the scores of millions of students concentrated in the often intellectually dubious “tertiary level” educational institutions of developing countries… Typically originating from the socially insecure lower middle class and inflamed by a sense of social outrage, these millions of students are revolutionaries-in-waiting, already semi-mobilized in large congregations, connected by the Internet and pre-positioned for a replay on a larger scale of what transpired years earlier in Mexico City or in Tiananmen Square. Their physical energy and emotional frustration is just waiting to be triggered by a cause, or a faith, or a hatred.
Important to note is that Brzezinski has not simply been writing abstractly about this concept, but has been for years traveling to and speaking at various conferences and think tanks of national and international elites, who together form policy for the powerful nations of the world. Speaking to the elite American think tank, the Carnegie Council, Brzezinski warned of “the unprecedented global challenge arising out of the unique phenomenon of a truly massive global political awakening of mankind,” as we now live “in an age in which mankind writ large is becoming politically conscious and politically activated to an unprecedented degree, and it is this condition which is producing a great deal of international turmoil.” Brzezinski noted that much of the ‘awakening’ was being spurred on by America’s role in the world, and the reality of globalization (which America projects across the globe as the single global hegemon), and that this awakening “is beginning to create something altogether new: namely, some new ideological or doctrinal challenge which might fill the void created by the disappearance of communism.” He wrote that he sees “the beginnings, in writings and stirrings, of the making of a doctrine which combines anti-Americanism with anti-globalization, and the two could become a powerful force in a world that is very unequal and turbulent.”
In 2007, the British Ministry of Defence issued a report looking at global trends over the following three decades to better plan for the “future strategic context” of the British military. The report noted that: “The middle classes could become a revolutionary class, taking the role envisaged for the proletariat by Marx… The world’s middle classes might unite, using access to knowledge, resources and skills to shape transnational processes in their own class interest.” In my April 2010 article, “The Global Economic Crisis: Riots, Rebellion, and Revolution,” I quoted the official British Defence Ministry report, which read:
Absolute poverty and comparative disadvantage will fuel perceptions of injustice among those whose expectations are not met, increasing tension and instability, both within and between societies and resulting in expressions of violence such as disorder, criminality, terrorism and insurgency. They may also lead to the resurgence of not only anti-capitalist ideologies, possibly linked to religious, anarchist or nihilist movements, but also to populism and the revival of Marxism.
In December of 2008, the managing director of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn warned that the economic crisis could lead to “violent unrest on the streets.” He stated that if the elite were not able to instill an economic recovery by 2010, “then social unrest may happen in many countries – including advanced economies,” meaning the Western and industrialized world. In February of 2009, the head of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Pascal Lamy, warned that the economic crisis “could trigger political unrest equal to that seen during the 1930s.” In May of 2009, the president of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, stated that if the economic crisis did not come to an end, “there is a risk of a serious human and social crisis with very serious political implications.”
In early 2009, the top intelligence official in the United States, Dennis Blair, the Director of National Intelligence (who oversees all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies), stated that the global economic crisis had become the primary threat to America’s “security” (meaning domination). He told the Senate Intelligence Committee: “I’d like to begin with the global economic crisis, because it already looms as the most serious one in decades, if not centuries… Economic crises increase the risk of regime-threatening instability if they are prolonged for a one-or-two-year period… And instability can loosen the fragile hold that many developing countries have on law and order, which can spill out in dangerous ways into the international community.” He also noted that, “there could be a backlash against U.S. efforts to promote free markets because the crisis was triggered by the United States… We are generally held responsible for it.”
In December of 2008, police in Greece shot and killed a 15-year old student in Exarchia, a libertarian and anarchist stronghold in Athens. The murder resulted in thousands of protesters and riots erupting in the streets, in what the New York Times declared to be “the worst unrest in decades.” Triggered by the death of the young Greek student, the protests were the result of deeper, social and systemic issues, increasing poverty, economic stagnation and political corruption. Solidarity protests took place all over Europe, including Germany, France, and the U.K. But this was only a sample of what was to come over the following years.
In the early months of 2009, as the economic crisis was particularly blunt in the countries of Eastern Europe, with increased unemployment and inflation, the region was headed for a “spring of discontent,” as protests and riots took place in Lithuania, Bulgaria, and Latvia. In January of 2009, more than 10,000 people took to the streets in Latvia in one of the largest demonstrations since the end of Soviet rule. A demonstration of roughly 7,000 Lithuanians turned into a riot, and smaller clashes between police and protesters took place in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Hungary, while police in Iceland tear gassed a demonstration of roughly 2,000 people outside the parliament, leading to the resignation of the prime minister. The head of the IMF said that the economic crisis could cause more turmoil “almost everywhere,” adding: “The situation is really, really serious.” A mass strike took place in France, bringing hundreds of thousands of workers into the streets and pushing anti-capitalist activists and leaders to the front of a growing social movement.
May 1, 2009 – the labour activist day known as ‘May Day’ – saw protests and riots erupting across Europe, including Germany, Greece, Austria, Turkey and France. In Germany, banks were attacked by protesters, leading to many arrests; there were over 150,000 demonstrators in Ankara, Turkey; more than 10,000 people took to the streets in Madrid, Spain; thousands took to the streets in Italy and Russia and social unrest continued to spread through Eastern Europe. Results from a poll were released on early May 2009 reporting that in the United States, Italy, France, Spain, Britain and Germany, a majority of the populations felt that the economic crisis would lead to a rise in “political extremism.”
In April of 2009, the G20 met in London, and was met there with large protests, drawing tens of thousands of people into the streets. In London’s financial district, protesters smashed the windows of the Royal Bank of Scotland, which was the recipient of a massive government bailout during the early phases of the financial crisis. One man, Ian Tomlinson, dropped dead on the streets of London following an assault by a British police officer, who was later questioned under suspicion of manslaughter.
In November of 2011, a month of student protests and sit-ins erupted in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, triggered by budget cuts and tuition fees. The protests began in Austria, where students occupied the University of Vienna for over a month, quickly spreading to other cities and schools in Germany, where roughly 80,000 students took part in nationwide protests, with sit-ins taking place in 20 universities across the country, and the University of Basel in Switzerland was also occupied by students.
The small little island-country of Iceland has undergone what has been referred to as the “Kitchenware Revolution,” where the country had once been rated by the UN as the best country to live in as recently as 2007, and in late 2008, its banks collapsed and the government resigned amid the mass protests that took place. The banks were nationalized, Iceland got a new prime minister, a gay woman who brought into her cabinet a majority of women, fired bank CEOs; the constitution was re-written with significant citizen participation and the government took steps to write off debts and refused to bailout foreign investors. Now, the economy is doing much better, hence why no one is talking about Iceland in the media (woeful is power to the ‘tyranny’ of a good example). Iceland has even hired an ex-cop bounty hunter to track down and arrest the bankers that destroyed the country’s economy. As the debt burdens of a significant portion of the population of Iceland were eased, Iceland was projected in 2012 to have a faster growing economy than those in the euro area and the developed world. As reported by Bloomberg, the main difference between how Iceland has dealt with its massive economic crisis and how the rest of the ‘developed’ world has been dealing with it, is that Iceland “has put the needs of its population ahead of the markets at every turn.” Instead of rewarding bankers for causing the crisis, as we have done in Europe and North America, Icelanders have arrested them, and protected homeowners instead of evicting them.
As Greece came to dominate the news in early 2010, with talk of a bailout, protests began to erupt with more frequency in the small euro-zone country. In early May, a general strike was called in Greece against the austerity measures the government was imposing in order to get a bailout. Banks were set on fire, petrol bombs were thrown at riot police, who were pepper spraying, tear gassing, and beating protesters with batons, and three people died of suffocation in one of the bombed banks.
In May of 2010, British historian Simon Schama wrote an article for the Financial Times entitled, “The world teeters on the brink of a new age of rage,” in which he explained that historians “will tell you that there is often a time-lag between the onset of economic disaster and the accumulation of social fury.” In act one, he wrote, “the shock of a crisis initially triggers fearful disorientation” and a “rush for political saviours.” Act two witnesses “a dangerously alienated public” who “take stock of the brutal interruption of their rising expectations,” which leads to the grievance that someone “must have engineered the common misfortune,” which, I might add, is true (though Schama does not say so). To manage this situation, elites must engage in “damage-control” whereby perpetrators are brought to justice. Schama noted that, “the psychological impact of financial regulation is almost as critical as its institutional prophylactics,” or, in other words: the propaganda effect of so-called “financial regulation” on calming the angry plebs is as important (if not more so) as the financial regulations themselves. Thus, those who lobby against financial regulation, warned Scharma, “risk jeopardizing their own long-term interests.” If governments fail to “reassert the integrity of public stewardship,” then the public will come to perceive that “the perps and the new regime are cut from common cloth.” In the very least, wrote Scharma, elites attempting to implement austerity measures and other unpopular budget programs will need to “deliver a convincing story about the sharing of burdens,” for if they do not, it would “guarantee that a bad situation gets very ugly, very fast.”
As French President Nicolas Sarkozy began implementing austerity measures in France, particularly what is called “pension reform,” unions and supporters staged massive strikes in September of 2010, drawing up to three million people into the streets in over 230 demonstrations across the country. Soldiers armed with machine guns went on patrol at certain metro stations as government officials used the puffed up and conveniently-timed threat of a “terrorist attack” as being “high risk.” More strikes took place in October, with French students joining in the demonstrations, as students at roughly 400 high schools across the country built barricades of wheelie bins to prevent other students from attending classes, with reports of nearly 70% of French people supporting the strike. The reports of participants varied from the government figures of over 800,000 people to the union figures of 2-3 million people going out into the streets. The Wall Street Journal referred to the strikes as “an irrational answer” to Sarkozy’s “perfectly rational initiative” of reforms.
In November of 2010, Irish students in Dublin began protesting against university tuition increases, when peaceful sit-ins were met with violent riot police, and roughly 25,000 students took to the streets. This was the largest student protest in Ireland in a generation.
In Britain, where a new coalition government came to power – uniting the Conservatives (led by David Cameron, the Prime Minister) and the Liberal Democrats (led by Nick Clegg, Deputy PM) – tuition increases were announced, tripling the cost from 3 to 9,000 pounds. On November 10, as roughly 50,000 students took to the streets in London, the Conservative Party headquarters in central London had its windows smashed by students, who then entered the building and occupied it, even congregating up on the rooftop of the building. The police continued to ‘kettle’ protesters in the area, not allowing them to enter or leave a confined space, which of course results in violent reactions. Prime Minister David Cameron called the protest “unacceptable.” The Christian Science Monitor asked if British students were the “harbinger of future violence over austerity measures,” There were subsequent warnings that Britain was headed for a winter of unrest.
Tens of thousands again took to the streets in London in late November, including teenage students walking with university students, again erupting in riots, with the media putting in a great deal of focus on the role of young girls taking part in the protests and riots. The protests had taken place in several cities across the United Kingdom, largely peaceful save the ‘riot’ in London, and with students even occupying various schools, including Oxford. The student protests brought ‘class’ back into the political discourse. In November, several universities were occupied by students, including the School of Oriental and African Studies, UWE Bristol and Manchester Metropolitan. Several of the school occupations went for days or even weeks. Universities were then threatening to evict the students. The school occupations were the representation of a new potential grass-roots social movement building in the UK. Some commentators portrayed it as a “defining political moment for a generation.”
In early December of 2010, as the British Parliament voted in favour of the tripling of tuition, thousands of students protested outside, leading to violent confrontations with police, who stormed into crowds of students on horseback, firing tear gas, beating the youth with batons, as per usual. While the overtly aggressive tactics of police to ‘kettle’ protesters always creates violent reactions, David Cameron was able to thereafter portray the student reactions to police tactics as a “feral mob.” One student was twice pulled out from his wheelchair by police, and another student who was struck on the head with a baton was left with a brain injury. As the protests erupted into riots against the police into the night, one infamous incident included a moment where Prince Charles and his wife Camilla were attacked by rioters as their car drove through the crowd in what was called the “worst royal security breach in a generation,” as the royal couple were confronted directly by the angry plebs who attacked the Rolls-Royce and Camilla was even ‘prodded’ by a stick, as some protesters yelled, “off with their heads!” while others chanted, “Whose streets? Our streets!” As more student protests were set to take place in January of 2011, Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism command contacted university officials requesting “intelligence” as students increased their protest activities, as more occupations were expected to take place.
In December of 2010, a Spanish air traffic controller strike took place, grounding flights for 330,000 people and resulting in the government declaring a state of emergency, threatening the strikers with imprisonment if they did not return to work.
Part way through December, an uprising began in the North African country of Tunisia, and by January of 2011, the 23-year long dictatorship of a French and American-supported puppet, Ben Ali, had come to an end. This marked the first major spark of what has come to be known as the Arab Spring. Protests were simultaneously erupting in Algeria, Jordan, Egypt, Yemen, and elsewhere. In late January of 2011, I wrote an article entitled, “Are we witnessing the start of a global revolution?,” noting that the protests in North Africa were beginning to boil up in Egypt most especially. Egypt entered its modern revolutionary period, resulting in ending the rule of the long-time dictator, Hosni Mubarak, and though the military has been attempting to stem the struggle of the people, the revolutionary struggle continues to this day, and yet the Obama administration continues to give $1.3 billion in military aid to support the violent repression of the democratic uprising. The small Arab Gulf island of Bahrain (which is home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet) also experienced a large democratic uprising, which has been consistently and brutally crushed by the local monarchy and Saudi Arabia, with U.S. support, including the selling of arms to the dictatorship.
In early 2011, the British student protests joined forces with a wider anti-austerity social protest against the government. As protests continued over the following months all across the country, banks became a common target, noting the government’s efforts to spend taxpayer money to bailout corrupt banks and cut health, social services, welfare, pensions, and increase tuition. Several bank branches were occupied and others had protests – often very creatively imagined – organized outside closed bank branches. On March 26, roughly 500,000 protesters took to the streets of London against austerity measures. As late as July 2011, a student occupation of a school continued at Leeds.
Throughout 2011, protests in Greece picked up in size and rage. In February, roughly 100,000 people took to the streets in Athens against the government’s austerity measures, leading to clashes with riot police that lasted for three hours, with police using tear gas and flash bombs and some protesters reacting with rocks and petrol bombs. In June of 2011, Greece experienced major clashes between protesters and police, or what are often called “riots.” During a general strike in late June, police went to war against protesters assembled in central Athens. Protests continued throughout the summer and into the fall, and in November, roughly 50,000 Greeks took to the streets in Athens.
In March of 2011, as Portugal plunged forward into its own major crisis and closer to a European Union bailout, roughly 300,000 Portuguese took to the streets of Lisbon and other cities protesting against the government’s austerity measures. Driven by the youth, calling themselves Portugal’s “desperate generation,” in part inspired by the youth uprisings in North Africa, the Financial Times referred to it as “an unexpected protest movement that has tapped into some of Portugal’s deepest social grievances.”
The Portuguese protests in turn inspired the Spanish “Indignados” or 15-M movement (named after the 15th of May, when the protests began), as youth – the indignant ones – or the “lost generation,” occupied Madrid’s famous Puerta del Sol on May 15, 2011, protesting against high unemployment, the political establishment, and the government’s handling of the economic crisis. The authorities responded in the usual way: they attempted to ban the protests and then sent in riot police. Thousands of Spaniards – primarily youth – occupied the central square, setting up tents and building a small community engaging in debate, discussion and activism. In a massive protest in June of 2011, over 250,000 Spaniards took the streets in one of the largest protests in recent Spanish history. Over the summer, as the encampment was torn down, the Indignados refined their tactics, and began to engage in direct action by assembling outside homes and preventing evictions from taking place, having stopped over 200 evictions since May of 2011, creating organic vegetable gardens in empty spaces, supporting immigrant workers in poor communities, and creating “a new social climate.”
The Indignados spurred solidarity and similar protests across Europe, including Greece, Belgium, France, Germany, the U.K., and beyond. In fact, the protests even spread to Israel, where in July of 2011, thousands of young Israelis established tent cities in protest against the rising cost of living and decreasing social spending, establishing itself on Rothschild Boulevard, a wealthy avenue in Tel Aviv named after the exceedingly wealthy banking dynasty. The protest, organized through social media, quickly spread through other cities across Israel. In late July, over 150,000 Israelis took to the streets in 12 cities across the country in the largest demonstration the country had seen in decades, demonstrating against the “rising house prices and rents, low salaries, [and] the high cost of raising children and other social issues.” In early August, another protest drew 320,000 people into the streets, leading some commentators to state that the movement marked “a revolution from a generation we thought was unable to make a revolution.” In early September, roughly 430,000 Israelis took to the streets in the largest demonstration in Israeli history.
In May and June of 2011, a student movement began to erupt in Chile, fighting against the increased privatization of their school system and the debt-load that comes with it. The state – the remnants of the Pinochet dictatorship – responded in the usual fashion: state violence, mass arrests, attempting to make protesting illegal. In clashes between students and riot police that took place in August, students managed to occupy a television station demanding a live broadcast to express their demands, with the city of Santiago being converted into “a state of siege” against the students. The “Chilean Winter” – as it came to be known – expanded into a wider social movement, including labour and environmental and indigenous groups, and continues to this very day.
The Indignados further inspired the emergence of the Occupy Movement, which began with occupy Wall Street in New York City on 17 September of 2011, bringing the dialectic of the “99% versus the 1%” into the popular and political culture. The Occupy movement, which reflected the initial tactics of the Indignados in setting up tents to occupy public spaces, quickly spread across the United States, Canada, Europe, and far beyond. There were Occupy protests that took place as far away as South Africa, in dozens of cities across Canada, in countries and cities all across Latin America, in Israel, South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and in hundreds of cities across the United States.
On October 15, 2011, a day of global protests took place, inspired by the Arab Spring, the Indignados, and the Occupy movement, when over 950 cities in 82 countries around the world experienced a global day of action originally planned for by the Spanish Indignados as a European-wide day of protest. In Italy, over 400,000 took to the streets; in Spain there were over 350,000, roughly 50,000 in New York City, with over 100,000 in both Portugal and Chile.
The Occupy movement was subsequently met with violent police repression and evictions from the encampments. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was busy spying on various Occupy groups around the country, and reportedly was involved in coordinating the crack-downs and evictions against dozens of Occupy encampments, as was later confirmed by declassified documents showing White House involvement in the repression. The FBI has also undertaken a “war of entrapment” against Occupy groups, attempting to discredit the movement and frame its participants as potential terrorists. Following the example of tactical change in the Indignados, the Occupy groups began refurbishing foreclosed homes for the homeless, helping families reclaim their homes, disrupting home foreclosure auctions, and even take on local community issues, such as issues of racism through the group, Occupy the Hood.
In late November of 2011, a public sector workers’ strike took place in the U.K., with tens of thousands of people marching in the streets across the country, as roughly two-thirds of schools shut and thousands of hospital operations postponed, while unions estimated that up to two million people went on strike. The host of a popular British television show, Jeremy Clarkson, said in a live interview that the striking workers should be taken out and shot in front of their families.
In January of 2012, protests erupted in Romania against the government’s austerity measures, leading to violent clashes with police, exchanging tear gas and firebombs. As the month continued, the protests grew larger, demanding the ouster of the government. The Economist referred to it as Romania’s “Winter of Discontent.” In early February, the Romanian Prime Minister resigned in the face of the protests.
In February of 2012, a student strike began in the French-speaking Canadian province of Quebec against the provincial government’s plan to nearly double the cost of tuition, bringing hundreds of thousands of students into the streets, who were in turn met with consistent state repression and violence, in what became known as the ‘Maple Spring.’ Dealing with issues of debt, repression, and media propaganda, the Maple Spring presented an example for student organizing elsewhere in Canada and North America. The government of Quebec opposes organized students but works with organized crime – representing what can be called a ‘Mafiocracy’ – and even passed a law attempting to criminalize student demonstrations. The student movement received support and solidarity from around the world, including the Chilean student movement and even a group of nearly 150 Greek academics who proclaimed their support in the struggle against austerity for the “largest student strike in the history of North America.”
In the spring of 2012, Mexican students mobilized behind the Yo Soy 132 movement – or the “Mexican Spring” – struggling against media propaganda and the political establishment in the lead-up to national elections, and tens of thousands continued to march through the streets decrying the presidential elections as rigged and fraudulent. The Economist noted that Mexican students were beginning to “revolt.”
In May of 2012, both the Indignados and the Occupy Movement undertook a resurgence of their street activism, while the occupy protests in Seattle and Oakland resulting in violent clashes and police repression. The protests drew Occupy and labour groups closer together, and police also repressed a resurgent Occupy protest in London.
In one of the most interesting developments in recent months, we have witnessed the Spanish miners strike in the province of Asturias, having roughly 8,000 miners strike against planned austerity measures, resorting to constructing barricades and directly fighting riot police who arrived in their towns to crush the resistance of the workers. The miners have even been employing unique tactics, such as constructing make-shift missiles which they fire at the advancing forces of police repression. For all the tear gas, rubber bullets and batons being used by police to crush the strike, the miners remain resolved to continue their struggle against the state. Interestingly, it was in the very region of Asturias where miners rebelled against the right-wing Spanish government in 1934 in one of the major sparks of the Spanish Civil War which pitted socialists and anarchists against Franco and the fascists. After weeks of clashes with police in mining towns, the striking workers planned a march to Madrid to raise attention to the growing struggle. The miners arrived in Madrid in early July to cheering crowds, but were soon met with repressive police, resulting in clashes between the people and the servants of the state. As the Spanish government continued with deeper austerity measures, over one million people marched in the streets of over 80 cities across Spain, with violent clashes resulting between protesters and police in Madrid.
This brief look at the resistance, rebellious and revolutionary movements emerging and erupting around the world is by no means an exhaustive list, nor is it meant to be. It is merely a brief glimpse at the movements with which I intend to delve into detail in researching and writing about in my upcoming book, and to raise the question once again: Are we witnessing the start of a global revolution?
I would argue that, yes, indeed, we are. How long it takes, how it manifests and evolves, its failures and successes, the setbacks and leaps forward, and all the other details will be for posterity to acknowledge and examine. What is clear at present, however, is that no matter how much the media, governments and other institutions of power attempt to ignore, repress, divide and even destroy revolutionary social movements, they are increasingly evolving and emerging, in often surprising ways and with different triggering events and issues. There is, however, a commonality: where there is austerity in the world, where there is repression, where there is state, financial and corporate power taking all for themselves and leaving nothing for the rest, the rest are now rising up.
Welcome to the World Revolution.
Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project. He also hosts a weekly podcast show, “Empire, Power, and People,” on BoilingFrogsPost.com.
Please donate to The People’s Book Project to help this book come to completion.
A New World War for a New World Order
The Origins of World War III: Part 3
Global Research, December 17, 2009
This article is Part 3 in the Series, “The Origins of World War III.”
In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, I have analyzed US and NATO geopolitical strategy since the fall of the Soviet Union, in expanding the American empire and preventing the rise of new powers, containing Russia and China. This Part examines the implications of this strategy in recent years; following the emergence of a New Cold War, as well as analyzing the war in Georgia, the attempts and methods of regime change in Iran, the coup in Honduras, the expansion of the Afghan-Pakistan war theatre, and spread of conflict in Central Africa. These processes of a New Cold War and major regional wars and conflicts take the world closer to a New World War. Peace is only be possible if the tools and engines of empires are dismantled.
Eastern Europe: Forefront of the New Cold War
In 2002, the Guardian reported that, “The US military build-up in the former Soviet republics of central Asia is raising fears in Moscow that Washington is exploiting the Afghan war to establish a permanent, armed foothold in the region.” Further, “The swift construction of US military bases is also likely to ring alarm bells in Beijing.”
In 2004, it was reported that US strategy “is to position U.S. forces along an “arc of instability” that runs through the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, the Caucasus, Central Asia and southern Asia. It is in these parts of the world –generally poor, insular and unstable –that military planners see the major future threats to U.S. interests.”
In 2005, it was reported that talks had been going on between the US and Poland since 2002, along with various other countries, “over the possibility of setting up a European base to intercept long-range missiles.” It was further reported that, “such a base would not have been conceivable before Poland joined Nato in 1999.”
In November of 2007 it was reported that, “Russia threatened to site short-range nuclear missiles in a second location on the European Union’s border yesterday if the United States refuses to abandon plans to erect a missile defence shield.” A senior Russian “army general said that Iskander missiles could be deployed in Belarus if US proposals to place 10 interceptor missiles and a radar in Poland and the Czech Republic go ahead.” Putin “also threatened to retrain Russia’s nuclear arsenal on targets within Europe.” However, “Washington claims that the shield is aimed not at Russia but at states such as Iran which it accuses of seeking to develop nuclear weapons that could one day strike the West.”
This is a patently absurd claim, as in May 2009, Russian and American scientists released a report saying “that it would take Iran at least another six to eight years to produce a missile with enough range to reach Southern Europe and that only illicit foreign assistance or a concerted and highly visible, decade-long effort might produce the breakthroughs needed for a nuclear-tipped missile to threaten the United States.” Even in December of 2007, the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) released by all 16 US intelligence agencies reported that, “Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that the program remains frozen.”
Russia has concerns not only about missile interceptors in Poland, which it claims are aimed at Russia, but is also concerned about “an advanced missile-tracking radar that the Pentagon wants to place in the Czech Republic.” Further, in 2007, the Guardian reported that, “Russia is preparing its own military response to the US’s controversial plans to build a new missile defence system in eastern Europe, according to Kremlin officials, in a move likely to increase fears of a cold war-style arms race.” A Kremlin spokesman said of the Polish missile defenses and the Czech radar system, that, “We were extremely concerned and disappointed. We were never informed in advance about these plans. It brings tremendous change to the strategic balance in Europe, and to the world’s strategic stability.”
In May of 2008, it was reported that, “President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia and President Hu Jintao of China met … to conclude a deal on nuclear cooperation and together condemn American proposals for a missile shield in Europe. Both countries called the plan a setback to international trust that was likely to upset the balance of power.”
In July of 2008, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that it “will be forced to make a military response if the U.S.-Czech missile defense agreement is ratified,” and that, “we will be forced to react not with diplomatic, but with military-technical methods.” In August of 2008, the US and Poland reached a deal “to place an American missile defense base on Polish territory.” Russia responded by “saying that the move would worsen relations with the United States.” Russia further said “the US had shown that Russia was the true target of the defensive shield, as tension between the two powers continued to rise over the conflict in Georgia.” The Deputy Head of Russia’s general staff “warned that Poland was making itself a target for Russia’s military.”
It was further reported that, “General Anatoly Nogovitsyn said that any new US assets in Europe could come under Russian nuclear attack with his forces targeting ‘the allies of countries having nuclear weapons’,” and that, “Such targets are destroyed as a first priority.”
In April of 2009, Obama said, “that the U.S. missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland will go forward.” In May of 2009, Russia said that it “could deploy its latest Iskander missiles close to Poland if plans to install U.S. Patriots on Polish soil go ahead.” In July of 2009, Russian President Medvedev said that, “Russia will still deploy missiles near Poland if the US pushes ahead with a missile shield in Eastern Europe.”
Iran and the China-Russia Alliance
The Bush regime used hostile rhetoric against Iran, threatening possible war against the country. However, Iran will not be in any way similar to the military adventurism seen in Iraq. A war against Iran will bring China and Russia to war with the west. Chinese and Russian investments with Iran, both in terms of military cooperation as well as nuclear proliferation and energy ties, have driven the interests of Iran together with those of China and Russia.
In 2007, both Russia and China warned against any attack on Iran by the west. From 2004 onwards, China became Iran’s top oil export market, and Iran is China’s third largest supplier of oil, following Angola and Saudi Arabia. China and Iran signed a gas deal in 2008 worth 100 billion dollars. Further, “Beijing is helping Tehran to build dams, shipyards and many other projects. More than 100 Chinese state companies are operating in Iran to develop ports and airports in the major Iranian cities, mine-development projects and oil and gas infrastructures.” Also, “China, Iran and Russia maintain identical foreign policy positions regarding Taiwan and Chechnya,” which only further strengthens their alliance.
In August of 2008, a senior Iranian defense official warned that any attack against Iran would trigger a world war. In February of 2009, Iran and Russia announced that, “Iran and Russia are to boost military cooperation.” Russia has also been selling arms and advanced weapons systems to both Iran and Venezuela. In 2008, OPEC warned against an attack on Iran, saying that, “oil prices would see an ‘unlimited’ increase in the case of a military conflict involving Iran, because the group’s members would be unable to make up the lost production.”
In 2001, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was founded as a mutual security organization between the nations of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Its main focus is on Central Asian security matters, such as “terrorism, separatism and extremism.” Nations with Observer status in the SCO are India, Mongolia, Pakistan and Iran. The SCO also emphasizes economic ties between the nations, and serves as a counter to American hegemony in Central Asia.
In October of 2007, the SCO, headed by China, signed an agreement with the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), headed by Russia, in an effort to bolster and strengthen links in defense and security between the two major nations. The CSTO was formed in 2002 between Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan. In 2007, it was suggested that Iran could join the CSTO. In April of 2009, it was reported that the CSTO is building up its cooperation with Iran, acting as a counterweight to NATO. In February of 2009, following a summit, the CSTO had “produced an agreement to set up a joint rapid-reaction force intended to respond to the ‘broadest range of threats and challenges’.” The rapid-reaction force “will comprise large military units from five countries – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan,” and is seen as a force to rival NATO.
In April of 2009, Russia and China “announced plans for an intensified programme of military cooperation yesterday as part of a burgeoning ‘strategic partnership’,” and that, “As many as 25 joint manoeuvres will be staged this year in a demonstration of strengthening ties between Moscow and Beijing.” Further, “Russia and China staged their first joint war games in 2005 after resolving outstanding border disputes between them. However, Moscow views Beijing as a lucrative market for defence exports and has sold billions of dollars of weaponry to China since the collapse of the Soviet Union ended their Communist rivalry.” Important to note is that, “Both states have a keen interest in keeping the United States and Europe out of Central Asia as competition intensifies for access to the region’s enormous oil and gas reserves.”
In June of 2009, “China and Russia signed a series of new agreements to broaden their collaborations in trade, investment and mining, including the framework on $700 million loan between Export-Import Bank of China and Russian Bank of Foreign Trade.” Of great importance, “Memorandums on bilateral gas and coal cooperation are likely to lead the two countries’ energy links to cover all the main sectors, from coal, oil, electricity, gas to nuclear power.” The leaders of both nations said that they “hoped the two countries will also increase their joint projects in science and technology, agriculture, telecommunications and border trade.”
In April of 2009, China and Russia signed a major oil pipeline deal to supply China with Russian oil. In July of 2009, China and Russia underwent a week-long war game exercise of land and air forces, “designed to counter a hypothetical threat from Islamist extremists or ethnic separatists that both countries insist look increasingly realistic.” In particular, “both are driven by a growing sense of urgency stemming from what they see as a deteriorating security picture in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan.”
The Georgian War: Spreading Conflict in the Caucasus
After the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, Georgia’s northern province of South Ossetia declared independence but failed to be internationally recognized. South Ossetia as well as Georgia’s other largely autonomous province, Abkhazia, had traditionally been allied with Russia. There had been long-standing tensions between South Ossetia and Georgia and a shaky ceasefire.
On August 1, 2008, six people were killed in South Ossetia when fighting broke out between Georgian and South Ossetian forces. Both sides blamed each other for opening fire first, with Russian peacekeepers blaming Georgia and the Georgians blaming Russian peacekeepers.
On August 5, Russia announced that it would “defend its citizens living in the conflict zone” if a conflict were to erupt in Georgia, and the South Ossetian President said Georgia was “attempting to spark a full-scale war.” Further, South Ossetian children were being evacuated out of the conflict zone, an act that was “condemned” by Georgia, saying that the separatists were “using their youngsters as political propaganda.”
On August 7, a ceasefire was announced between Georgia and South Ossetia, with Russia acting as a mediator between the two. On the night of August 7, five hours after the declared ceasefire, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili began a military operation against the capital city of South Ossetia, Tskhinvali. The Georgian attack targeted hospitals, the university and left the city without food, water, electricity and gas.
Georgian forces surrounded the city and their troops and tanks continued to assault the civilian targets. On the 8th of August, Russia called for an end to the military offensive. Reportedly, 2,000 civilians were killed by this point in South Ossetia, so Russia sent troops into the area. Russian Prime Minister Putin referred to Georgian actions as “genocide” and Russia also reportedly bombed a Georgian town. Immediately, the US called for “an end to the Russian bombings.” The Georgian President called it an “unprovoked brutal Russian invasion.” Much of Tskhinvali was left in ruins after the Georgian offensive, with 34,000 South Ossetian refugees in Russia.
Georgia, which had 2,000 troops deployed in Iraq, announced on August 9th that they would be pulling 1,000 troops out of Iraq to be deployed into South Ossetia, with the US providing the transportation for Georgian troops to get back to Georgia. However, the Russian advance pushed the Georgian troops back, recapturing the city and damaging much of Georgia’s military infrastructure. The Russian troops also entered the other breakaway province of Abkhazia and even occupied the Georgian city of Gori.
On August 12, the Russians announced an end to their military operations in Georgia and on August 13th, the last remaining Georgian troops pulled out of South Ossetia.
However, there is much more to this story than simply a conflict between a small Central Asian nation and Russia. It is important to remember the role played by American NGOs in putting the Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili into power through the Rose Revolution in 2003 [See: Colour-Coded Revolutions and the Origins of World War III]. The US then developed closer ties with Georgia. Even before the Rose Revolution, in 2002, US military advisers were in Georgia in an effort to open up a “new front” in the war on terror, with Americans there to “train the Georgian army in how to counter militant activity.” Also in 2002, hundreds of US Green Berets and 200 Special Forces arrived in Georgia to train Georgian forces “for anti-terrorism and counterinsurgency operations.” Russia warned against US involvement in Georgia, saying that it could “complicate” the situation.
US and Georgian troops even conducted war games and military exercises together. In July of 2008, it was reported that 1,000 US troops in Georgia began a military training exercise with Georgian troops called “Immediate Response 2008.” The same report stated that “Georgia and the Pentagon [cooperated] closely.” The training exercise came amidst growing tensions between Russia and Georgia, while the US was simultaneously supporting Georgia’s bid to become a NATO member.
Further, 1,200 US servicemen and 800 Georgians were to train for three weeks at a military base near the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. The exercise was being run in cooperation with NATO and was preceded by a visit to Georgia by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, where she met with the President and stated that, “the future of Georgia is in NATO.”
However, these exercises and increased military cooperation between the US and Georgia did not go unnoticed by Russia, which simultaneously began military exercises on the other side of the Caucasus mountains, involving up to 8,000 Russian servicemen. Clearly, Russia itself was aware of the potential for a military conflict in the region.
When the conflict with Russia began, there were US military instructors in Georgia, and Russia’s envoy to NATO also accused NATO of encouraging Georgia to take the offensive against South Ossetia.
The US was not the only western nation to aid Georgia, as the unofficial NATO member, Israel, also played a part in arming Georgia. The Georgian tanks and artillery that captured the South Ossetian capital were aided by Israeli military advisers. Further, for up to a year leading up to the conflict, the Georgian President had commissioned upwards of 1,000 military advisers from private Israeli security firms to train the Georgian armed forces, as well as offer instruction on military intelligence and security. Georgia also purchased military equipment from Israel.
The War in Georgia was designed to escalate tensions between NATO and Russia, using the region as a means to create a wider conflict. However, Russia’s decision to end the combat operations quickly worked to its benefit and had the effect of diminishing the international tensions. The issue of NATO membership for Georgia is very important, because had it been a NATO member, the Russian attack on Georgia would have been viewed as an attack on all NATO members. The war in Afghanistan was launched by NATO on the premises of ‘an attack against one is an attack against all.’
It also was significant that there was a large pipeline deal in the works, with Georgia sitting in a key strategic position. Georgia lies between Russia and Turkey, between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea, and above Iran and Iraq. The significance of Georgia as a strategic outpost cannot be underestimated. This is true, particularly when it comes to pipelines.
The Baku Tblisi Ceyhan (BTC) Pipeline, the second largest pipeline in the world, travels from Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, through Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, to Ceyhan, a Mediterranean port city in Turkey. This pipeline creates a route that bypasses both Iran and Russia, to bring Caspian Basin oil resources “to the United States, Israel and Western European markets.” The US company Bechtel, was the main contractor for construction, procurement and engineering, while British Petroleum (BP), is the leading shareholder in the project. Israel gets much of its oil via Turkey through the BTC pipeline route, which likely played a large part in Israel’s support for Georgia in the conflict, as a continual standoff between the West and the East (Russia/China) takes place for control of the world’s resources.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, co-founder, with David Rockefeller, of the Trilateral Commission, and Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser who played a key role in the creation of the Afghan Mujahideen, which became known as Al-Qaeda, wrote an op-ed for Time Magazine at the outbreak of the Russia-Georgia conflict. Brzezinski, being a Cold War kingpin of geopolitical strategy, naturally blamed Russia for the conflict. However, he also revealed the true nature of the conflict.
He started by blaming Russia’s “invasion of Georgia” on its “imperial aims.” Brzezinski blamed much of this on the “intense nationalistic mood that now permeates Russia’s political elite.” Brzezinski went on to explain Georgia’s strategic significance; stating that, “an independent Georgia is critical to the international flow of oil,” since the BTC pipeline “provides the West access to the energy resources of central Asia.” Brzezinski warned Russia of being “ostracized internationally,” in particular its business elite, calling them “vulnerable” because “Russia’s powerful oligarchs have hundreds of billions of dollars in Western bank accounts,” which would be subject to a possible “freezing” by the West in the event of a “Cold War-style standoff.” Brzezinski’s op-ed essentially amounted to geopolitical extortion.
Regime Change in Iran
There was, for many years, a split in the administration of George W. Bush in regards to US policy towards Iran. On the one hand, there was the hardliner neoconservative element, led by Dick Cheney, with Rumsfeld in the Pentagon; who were long pushing for a military confrontation with Iran. On the other hand, there was Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State, who was pushing for a more diplomatic, or “soft” approach to Iran.
In February of 2006, Condoleezza Rice introduced a new Iran strategy to the Senate, “emphasizing the tools of so-called soft diplomacy. She called for ramping up funding to assist pro-democracy groups, public diplomacy initiatives, and cultural and education fellowships, in addition to expanding U.S.-funded radio, television, and Internet and satellite-based broadcasting, which are increasingly popular among younger Iranians.” She added that, “we are going to work to support the aspirations of the Iranian people for freedom in their country.” There were three main facets to the program: “Expanding independent radio and television”; “Funding pro-democracy groups,” which “would lift bans on U.S. financing of Iran-based nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), trade unions, human rights groups, and opposition candidates”; and “Boosting cultural and education fellowships and exchanges,” which “would help pay Iranian students and scholars to enroll in U.S. universities.”
This marked a significant change in U.S. foreign policy with Iran, which would have the effect of making Iran’s domestic situation “more intense,” or as one expert put it, “this is the thing that can undo this regime.” Another expert stated that if the strategy failed, “we will have wasted the money, but worse than that, helped discredit legitimate opposition groups as traitors who receive money from the enemy to undermine Iran ‘s national interest.”
In March of 2006, the Iraq Study Group was assembled as a group of high level diplomats and strategic elites to reexamine US policy toward Iraq, and more broadly, to Iran as well. It proposed a softer stance towards Iran, and one of its members, Robert Gates, former CIA director, left the Group in November of 2006 to replace Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense. Cheney had fought to keep his ally in the Pentagon, but had failed in not only that, but also in preventing Robert Gates from being his replacement.
In February of 2006, the Guardian reported that the Bush administration received “a seven-fold increase in funding to mount the biggest ever propaganda campaign against the Tehran government,” and quoted Secretary Rice as saying, “we will work to support the aspirations of the Iranian people for freedom and democracy in their country.” The “US is to increase funds to Iranian non-governmental bodies that promote democracy, human rights and trade unionism,” which started in 2005 for the first time since 1980, and that, “the US would seek to help build new dissident networks.”
In April of 2006, the Financial Times reported that, “The US and UK are working on a strategy to promote democratic change in Iran,” as “Democracy promotion is a rubric to get the Europeans behind a more robust policy without calling it regime change.” Christian Science Monitor reported that the goal of the strategy was “regime change from within,” in the form of “a pro-democracy revolution.”
In July of 2007, it was reported that the White House had “shifted back in favour of military action,” at the insistence of Cheney. Josh Bolton, former US Ambassador to the United Nations, said in May of 2007, that US strategy consisted of three options: the first was economic sanctions, the second was regime change, and the third was military action. Bolton elaborated that, “we’ve got to go with regime change by bolstering opposition groups and the like, because that’s the circumstance most likely for an Iranian government to decide that it’s safer not to pursue nuclear weapons than to continue to do so. And if all else fails, if the choice is between a nuclear-capable Iran and the use of force, then I think we need to look at the use of force.” Ultimately, the aim would be “to foment a popular revolution.”
In September of 2007, it was reported that the Bush administration was pushing the US on the warpath with Iran, as “Pentagon planners have developed a list of up to 2,000 bombing targets in Iran.” It was even reported that Secretary Rice was “prepared to settle her differences with Vice-President Dick Cheney and sanction military action.” It was reported that Rice and Cheney were working together to present a more unified front, finding a middle ground between Rice’s soft diplomacy, and Cheney’s preference to use “bunker-busting tactical nuclear weapons” against Iran.
That same year, in 2007, the United States launched covert operations against Iran. ABC broke the story, reporting that, “The CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert “black” operation to destabilize the Iranian government.” The President signed an order “that puts into motion a CIA plan that reportedly includes a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation of Iran’s currency and international financial transactions.” The approval of these covert operations marked a temporary move away from pursuing overt military action.
As the Telegraph reported in May of 2007, “Bush has signed an official document endorsing CIA plans for a propaganda and disinformation campaign intended to destabilise, and eventually topple, the theocratic rule of the mullahs.” As part of the plan, “the CIA [has] the right to collect intelligence on home soil, an area that is usually the preserve of the FBI, from the many Iranian exiles and emigrés within the US,” as “Iranians in America have links with their families at home, and they are a good two-way source of information.” Further, “The CIA will also be allowed to supply communications equipment which would enable opposition groups in Iran to work together and bypass internet censorship by the clerical regime.”
“Soft” power became the favoured policy for promoting regime change in Iran. David Denehy, a senior adviser to the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, was “charged with overseeing the distribution of millions of dollars to advance the cause of a more democratic Iran.” He was responsible for disbursing the $75 million that Ms. Rice asked the Senate for in February of 2006. The appropriations included “$36.1 million into existing television and radio programs beaming into Iran,” and “$10 million would pay for public diplomacy and exchange programs, including helping Iranians who hope to study in America,” and “$20 million would support the efforts of civil-society groups — media, legal and human rights nongovernmental organizations — both outside and inside Iran.” The administration was requesting an additional $75 million for 2008.
In 2008, award-winning journalist Seymour Hersh revealed in the New Yorker that in late 2007, Congress approved “a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources.” While the Cheney hard-liners in the Bush administration were long pushing for a direct military confrontation with Iran, the military had to be reigned in from being controlled by the neo-conservatives. Robert Gates, a former CIA director, had replaced Donald Rumsfeld as Defense Secretary, and while still saber rattling Iran, had to take a more strategic position, as many military leaders in the Pentagon felt “that bombing Iran is not a viable response to the nuclear-proliferation issue.”
The covert operations that were approved ran at a cost of approximately $400 million dollars, and “are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership. The covert activities involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations. They also include gathering intelligence about Iran’s suspected nuclear-weapons program.” The operations were to be expanded under both the CIA and JSOC (the Joint Special Operations Command). The focus was “on undermining Iran’s nuclear ambitions and trying to undermine the government through regime change,” of which a major facet was “working with opposition groups and passing money.” Hersh elaborated:
Included in the strategy was to use ethnic tensions to undermine the government; however, this strategy is flawed. Unlike Pakistan, Lebanon, and Iraq, Iran is a much older country, “like France and Germany—and its citizens are just as nationalistic. The U.S. is overestimating ethnic tension in Iran.” This turned out to be an important point in regards to the elections in the summer of 2009.
Flashback to 1953
To understand the nature of American and British “democracy promotion” in Iran, it is important to examine their historical practices regarding “democracy” in Iran. Specifically, the events of 1953 present a very important picture, in which the United States orchestrated its first foreign coup, with guidance and direction from the British, who had extensive oil interests in Iran. The first democratically elected government of Mohommad Mossadeq in 1951 announced the nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (later to be re-named British Petroleum), which had an exclusive monopoly on Iranian oil. This naturally angered the British, who, in 1952, convinced the CIA to help in a plot to overthrow Iran’s government.
The idea to topple the Iranian government was born in Britain, but it didn’t take much to convince the CIA to launch a joint operation with the SIS. Government documents were made public which revealed that CIA “officers orchestrating the Iran coup worked directly with royalist Iranian military officers, handpicked the prime minister’s replacement, sent a stream of envoys to bolster the shah’s courage, directed a campaign of bombings by Iranians posing as members of the Communist Party, and planted articles and editorial cartoons in newspapers.” The strategy was aimed at supporting an Iranian General and the Shah through CIA assets and financing, which would overthrow Mossadeq, “particularly if this combination should be able to get the largest mobs in the streets.”
The Shah was to play a pivotal role, as he was “to stand fast as the C.I.A. stirred up popular unrest and then, as the country lurched toward chaos, to issue royal decrees dismissing Dr. Mossadegh and appointing General Zahedi prime minister.” CIA operatives stoked pressure by pretending to be Iranian Communists, threatening Muslim leaders with “savage punishment if they opposed Mossadegh,” in an effort to stir anti-Communist and anti-Mossadeq sentiments in the religious community. The CIA even bombed the house of a prominent Muslim. Further, the CIA was advancing a major propaganda campaign, as a major newspaper owner was paid $45,000 to support the efforts. The CIA, once the coup was underway, used American media as propaganda, in an attempt to legitimize the coup plotters, as the CIA sent The Associated Press a news release saying that, “unofficial reports are current to the effect that leaders of the plot are armed with two decrees of the shah, one dismissing Mossadegh and the other appointing General Zahedi to replace him.” The CIA also disseminated this propaganda through Iranian media.
Following the beginning of the coup, which began on August 15, Mossadeq suspended the Parliament, which ultimately played “into the C.I.A.’s hands.” After having several plotters arrested, he let his guard down. Then the American Embassy planned a counterattack for August 19, specifically using religious forces. At this time, the Communist Party blamed “Anglo-American intrigue” for the coup. However, just as the CIA thought it was a failure, Iranian papers began publishing en masse the Shah’s decrees, and suddenly large pro-Shah crowds were building in the streets. An Iranian journalist who was an important CIA agent, “led a crowd toward Parliament, inciting people to set fire to the offices of a newspaper owned by Dr. Mossadegh’s foreign minister. Another Iranian C.I.A. agent led a crowd to sack the offices of pro-Tudeh papers.”
Then coup supporters in the military began to enter the streets, and soon “the crowds began to receive direct leadership from a few officers involved in the plot and some who had switched sides. Within an hour the central telegraph office fell, and telegrams were sent to the provinces urging a pro-shah uprising. After a brief shootout, police headquarters and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs fell as well.” Interestingly, according to the declassified documents, the CIA “hoped to plant articles in American newspapers saying Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi’s return resulted from a homegrown revolt against a Communist-leaning government,” but that ultimately, “its operatives had only limited success in manipulating American reporters.” The CIA planted stories in US media, such as one instance where the State Department planted a CIA study in Newsweek.
One of the key lessons the CIA learned in this operation, was that it “exposed the agency’s shortcomings in manipulating the American press.” The CIA even manipulated a reporter with the New York Times to disseminate propaganda. While Soviet media was proclaiming the US responsible for the coup, American mentions of this in the media dismissed these accusations outright, and never “examined such charges seriously.”
By the end of Operation Ajax, as the CIA coup was codenamed, “some 300 people had died in firefights in the streets of Tehran,” largely due to the CIA “provoking street violence.” The coup resulted in “more than two decades of dictatorship under the Shah, who relied heavily on US aid and arms.”
The West Sponsors Terrorists in Iran
In 2005, Scott Ritter, former UN weapons inspector, reported that, “the Mujahadeen el-Khalq, or MEK, an Iranian opposition group, once run by Saddam Hussein’s dreaded intelligence services,” was now working for the CIA in terror bombings inside Iran. In February of 2007, the Telegraph reported that, “America is secretly funding militant ethnic separatist groups in Iran in an attempt to pile pressure on the Islamic regime to give up its nuclear programme.”
The CIA operations “involve dealing with movements that resort to terrorist methods,” and the article noted that, “there has been a wave of unrest in ethnic minority border areas of Iran, with bombing and assassination campaigns against soldiers and government officials,” and interestingly, the CIA operations are focused on “helping opposition militias among the numerous ethnic minority groups clustered in Iran’s border regions.” A former State Department counter-terrorism agent was quoted as saying, “The latest attacks inside Iran fall in line with US efforts to supply and train Iran’s ethnic minorities to destabilise the Iranian regime.”
ABC News reported in April of 2007 that, “A Pakistani tribal militant group responsible for a series of deadly guerrilla raids inside Iran has been secretly encouraged and advised by American officials since 2005.” The group, named Jundullah, operates out of the Baluchistan province in Pakistan, on the boarder of Iran, and “has taken responsibility for the deaths and kidnappings of more than a dozen Iranian soldiers and officials.”
In 2008, Pakistan’s former Army Chief said that, “the US is supporting the outlawed Jundullah group to destabilize Iran,” and that, “the US is providing training facilities to Jundullah fighters–located in eastern areas of Iran–to create unrest in the area and affect the cordial ties between Iran and its neighbor Pakistan.”
The 2009 Election Protests
The events of 1953 presented a blueprint for the 2009 Iranian election protests, an attempted “soft revolution” in Iran, also drawing from the “colour revolutions” in the post-Soviet states of Eastern Europe [See: Colour-Coded Revolutions and the Origins of World War III]. It is the thesis of this author that the 2009 election riots in Iran were a covert US (and British) plot designed to orchestrate regime change in Iran. The aim was to put in place a US-friendly leader, and thus, exert political, economic and strategic hegemony over Iran. Following the stratagem of US-funded “colour revolutions” in the former Soviet bloc, but with heavy CIA influence, drawing parallels with the 1953 coup; the plot was ultimately unsuccessful.
While the 1953 coup revealed the failure of the CIA to greatly influence and manipulate US media, the 2009 riots revealed a great success in American media manipulation; however, ironically, it was the focus on this triumphant success that may have impeded the ultimate success of the plot. American popular perception of an illegitimate election and political oppression was enough to support regime change, but not to enact regime change. So, in a bitter irony for the US, the failure of the 1953 coup, became the success of the 2009 plot; while the success of the 1953 coup, became the failure of the 2009 plot. It just so happens that the success of the 1953 coup . . . was that it worked.
In November of 2008, Iranian media reported that, “the White House is making strenuous efforts to orchestrate a “Velvet Revolution” in Iran.” The former Iranian ambassador to the United Nations said that, “that Washington is conspiring to foment discord among Iranians in order to topple the Tehran government.”
Iranian media reported in April of 2009, two months prior to the Presidential elections, that Iran’s Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) had “uncovered a plot for a ‘soft overthrow’ of the country’s government,” and “accused the Netherlands of conspiring to foment a velvet revolution in the country by supporting the opposition through the media and different Internet sites.” In 2005, the Dutch parliament funded a 15 million euro “media polarization campaign” inside Iran, which was “Coupled with British assistance and secret US funding.”
In the lead-up to the elections, there were increasing attacks within Iran. Two weeks before the election, on May 28, 2009, in southeastern Iran, a Shi’a mosque bombing resulted in the deaths of 20 people. An Iranian official accused the United States of involvement in arming the terrorists, who committed the act in a Sunni area of Iran, a religious minority within the country. Jundullah, the terrorist organization armed and funded by the US through the CIA, claimed responsibility for the bombing. The following day, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s election campaign office was attacked by gunmen in the same city as the bombing, resulting in several injuries. These attacks, aimed at stirring up religious tensions, are reminiscent of the attacks carried out by the CIA in Iran in the 1953 coup.
The day before the election, on June 11, 2009, it was reported that the National Endowment for Democracy, the main institution behind the “colour revolutions” in Eastern Europe (covered in Part 2 of this series), had spent a lot of money that made it into the hands of pro-Mousavi groups inside Iran, as Mousavi was the Western favoured candidate in the Iranian elections. It was even reported that there was talk of a “green revolution” in Iran, as the Mousavi campaign was full of green scarves and banners at the rallies.
On June 10, 2009, two days before the election, a New York Times blog reported that there was concern among many Ahmadinejad supporters in Iran that they fear “that what they are witnessing is a local version of the Orange Revolution, which swept an opposition government into power in Ukraine.”
On June 12, 2009, the Iranian election took place. Immediately, the propaganda machine went into effect and the plan for a colour revolution in Iran was underway. Iran’s state run news agency reported that Ahmadinejad had won in a landslide victory of 69%. Immediately, his main rival and the American-favoured candidate, Moussavi, claimed that he had won and that there were voting “irregularities,” and was quoted as saying, “I am the absolute winner of the election by a very large margin.”
Immediately, Western governments denounced the election as a fraud, and protests began in the streets of Tehran, where young people clad in the green of the Mousavi campaign declared “Death to the Dictator” referring to Ahmadinejad. Mousavi encouraged the protests to continue, and in the second day of protests, young people “broke the windows of city buses on several streets in central Tehran. They burned banks, rubbish bins and piles of tyres used as flaming barricades. Riot police hit some of the protesters with batons while dozens of others holding shields and motorcycles stood guard nearby.” Western governments then openly declared their solidarity with the protests and denounced the Iranian government for repressing them.
Despite all the claims of vote fraud and irregularities, those taking this position offered no actual evidence to support it. As Politico reported on June 15, the people proclaiming fraud “ignore the fact that Ahmadinejad’s 62.6 percent of the vote in this year’s election is essentially the same as the 61.69 percent he received in the final count of the 2005 presidential election.” These people also conveniently ignore many popular perceptions within Iran, such as the fact that most Iranians saw Ahmadinejad as having won the televised debates and that he can also be viewed as a populist campaigner. Ahmadinejad has the support of a large amount of Iranians, “including the religiously pious, lower-income groups, civil servants and pensioners.”
Some “evidence” for fraud was highly circumstantial, in that it claimed that because Mousavi comes from an Azeri background, “he was guaranteed to win Iran’s Azeri-majority provinces,” and so, when Ahmadinejad won in these provinces, “fraud is the only possible explanation.” However, Ahmadinejad also speaks Azeri quite fluently, had formerly served as an official in two Azeri areas, and the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khameini, is also Azeri.
This also ignores the class based voting of Iranians. While the West tends to portray the Middle East and Africa through an Orientalist lens, viewing them as “the Other,” and often portraying the people of these regions as backwards or barbaric, reality is a far cry from Western perception. People in the Middle East, including in Iran, vote with concerns about the economy and social conditions in mind just as much as voters in the west do. Voting in the Middle East is not simply based upon religious or ethnic differences, there is more to consider, and any analysis that forgets this is flawed. Even the Financial Times was quoted as saying, “Change for the poor means food and jobs, not a relaxed dress code or mixed recreation,” and that, “Politics in Iran is a lot more about class war than religion.”
As James Petras wrote, “The only group, which consistently favored Mousavi, was the university students and graduates, business owners and the upper middle class.” These also happened to be the highly Westernized Iranians. The Iranians protesting in the “green revolution” were holding signs written in English, and were giving interviews to western media all in English. Many were western educated and raised. The Iranian diaspora in the west was also largely supportive of the “green revolution,” as they are the sons and daughters of those who had emigrated out of Iran following the 1979 Iranian Revolution. They are the children of the exiled Iranian capitalist class, and do not represent a fair assessment of the internal Iranian population. After all, the poor and the masses do not have the means to emigrate to the west. Naturally, many westernized youth in Iran have legitimate concerns and social issues with the present way of governance within Iran; however, the majority of Iranians are more concerned with their daily meals than Islamic dress codes.
As Petras further pointed out, “The ‘youth vote’, which the Western media praised as ‘pro-reformist’, was a clear minority of less than 30% but came from a highly privileged, vocal and largely English speaking group with a monopoly on the Western media.” Even the Washington Post reported on June 15, about a major Western poll conducted in Iran three weeks prior to the election, in which it “showed Ahmadinejad leading by a more than 2 to 1 margin — greater than his actual apparent margin of victory,” and the “scientific sampling from across all 30 of Iran’s provinces showed Ahmadinejad well ahead.”
The Washington Post article further pointed out that, “Much commentary has portrayed Iranian youth and the Internet as harbingers of change in this election. But our poll found that only a third of Iranians even have access to the Internet, while 18-to-24-year-olds comprised the strongest voting bloc for Ahmadinejad of all age groups.” Further, the only demographic where Mousavi was “leading or competitive with Ahmadinejad were university students and graduates, and the highest-income Iranians.” The article ended by saying that, “The fact may simply be that the reelection of President Ahmadinejad is what the Iranian people wanted.”
The Internet played a very large role in the international perception of the Iranian elections, as social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook were used to advance the aims of the “green revolution,” often giving it the name the “Twitter Revolution.” Remember that in 2007, “a CIA plan that reportedly includes a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation,” was put into effect, which were “intended to destabilise, and eventually topple, the theocratic rule of the mullahs.” As part of this, “The CIA will also be allowed to supply communications equipment which would enable opposition groups in Iran to work together and bypass internet censorship by the clerical regime.”
In the midst of the protests, the Iranian government cracked down on dissent, banning foreign reporters and blocking websites. As the Washington Times reported, “Well-developed Twitter lists showed a constant stream of situation updates and links to photos and videos, all of which painted a portrait of the developing turmoil. Digital photos and videos proliferated and were picked up and reported in countless external sources safe from the regime’s Net crackdown.” Naturally, all of this information came from the upper class Western students, who had access to this technology, which they were using in English.
On June 15, “a 27-year-old State Department official, Jared Cohen, e-mailed the social-networking site Twitter with an unusual request: delay scheduled maintenance of its global network, which would have cut off service while Iranians were using Twitter to swap information and inform the outside world about the mushrooming protests around Tehran.” Further, the New York Times reported that, “Mr. Cohen, a Stanford University graduate who is the youngest member of the State Department’s policy planning staff, has been working with Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and other services to harness their reach for diplomatic initiatives.”
It turned out only a small number of people in Iran actually used Twitter for organizational purposes; however, “Twitter did prove to be a crucial tool in the cat-and-mouse game between the opposition and the government over enlisting world opinion.” Twitter also took part in spreading disinformation during the protests, as the New York Times pointed out that, “some of the biggest errors on Twitter that were quickly repeated and amplified by bloggers: that three million protested in Tehran last weekend (more like a few hundred thousand); that the opposition candidate Mir Hussein Moussavi was under house arrest (he was being watched); that the president of the election monitoring committee declared the election invalid last Saturday (not so).”
On the 28th of June, the Iranian Intelligence Minister blamed western powers, specifically the United States and Britain, for the post-election protests and violence. Iran even arrested British embassy staff in Tehran. On July 3, the head of Iran’s Guardians Council said that, “British embassy staff would be put on trial for inciting violent protests.” Iran had arrested nine “British embassy employees it accused of playing a role in organising pro-democracy demonstrations,” but had released seven of them by July. However, one Embassy staff member had been accused of “a significant role” in the election riots.
Amidst all the British denials of any involvement, the Telegraph revealed in late July that two exiles, “Azadeh Assadi and Vahid Saderigh have been providing crucial support to opposition leaders in Tehran from their homes in London,” who “take their cue from Iran’s Green Movement which has been the rallying point for an unprecedented challenge to the leadership of the Islamic Republic.” They further organized the protests at the Iranian Embassy in London, which lasted for 31 days, longer than anywhere else.
Hossein Rassam, head of the security and political division of the British Embassy in Tehran, was arrested under suspicions that he played a key role in the protests “in providing guidance to diplomats and reporters of the British media.” Further, an Iranian-American scholar was arrested. In 2007, Iran arrested “Haleh Esfandiari, head of the Wilson Center’s Middle East program, and Kian Tajbakhsh, with links to the Soros institute, on suspicions of endangering the country’s national security.” They were released after three months detention.
Of great interest were the statements made my former high-level American strategic kingpins of the foreign policy establishment in the wake of the riots: among them, Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Brent Scowcroft. Former US National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, in an interview with Al-Jazeera shortly after the start of the protests, when asked if the US had intelligence agents on the ground in Iran, replied, without hesitation, “Of course we do.” The interviewer asked if they would help the protesters, to which Scowcroft replied, “They might be, who knows. But that’s a far cry from helping protesters against the combined might of the Revolutionary Guard, the militias, and so on, and the police, who are so far, completely unified.” He explained that he feels the “movement” for change is there in Iran, and that, “It’s going to change Iran, I think that is almost inevitable.”
Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Adviser in the Jimmy Carter administration, co-founder with David Rockefeller of the Trilateral Commission, and arch-hawk geopolitical strategist, was interviewed on CNN shortly after the protests began. When asked how the situation could be worked out to resemble Eastern Europe, as in, successful colour revolutions putting western puppets in power, Brzezinski responded, “Well, I think it will not work out the way Eastern Europe worked out, and hopefully it will not end the way Tiananmen Square ended. Eastern Europe became intensely pro-Western, pro-American, and so forth.” Further, he explained, “If there is a change of regime in Iran, there is a greater chance of accommodation, and I think that is to be fervently wished for. But that requires patience, intelligent manipulation, moral support, but no political interference.”
Henry Kissinger, former National Security Adviser and Secretary of State; was interviewed by BBC at the outbreak of the riots. He stated that, “Now if it turns out that it is not possible for a government to emerge in Iran that can deal with itself as a nation rather than as a cause, then we have a different situation. Then we may conclude that we must work for regime change in Iran from the outside.”
Clearly, there were extensive Western interests and involvement behind the Iranian “democracy” movement that resulted in the protests following the election. However, the ultimate goal of the attempted “colour revolution” failed, as it did not succeed in achieving regime change. Brzezinski’s strategy of “intelligent manipulation” ultimately failed, and so, as Henry Kissinger stated, “we may conclude that we must work for regime change in Iran from the outside.”
Latin America Is Not to Be Left Out: The Coup in Honduras
It is important to take a look at recent events in Latin America in an imperial context to understand how wide and vast American and NATO imperial strategy is. While the world’s eyes and media were fixated on events in Iran, another event was taking place in Latin America, which was conveniently ignored by international media.
On June 28, 2009, the Honduran military kidnapped the President of Honduras and flew him into exile. The official line was that the coup was prompted when Manuel Zelaya, the President of Honduras, was attempting to schedule a poll on holding a referendum about rewriting the constitution. The Supreme Court secretly issued an arrest warrant for Zelaya on June 26, “charging him with treason and abuse of power.” The military entered his house two days later, and put him on a military plane to Costa Rica, and the same day, the Honduran Congress voted to remove Zelaya and replace him with the Speaker of Congress Roberto Micheletti.
Zelaya happened to be a close ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, as well as Bolivian President Evo Morales; who represent the populist leaders of the new move to the left in Latin America, and pose a strong opposition force to the hegemony of US and Western interests in the region. Hugo Chavez alleged that the coup had the hands of the United States in it, and that the upper class in Honduras helped and “have turned Honduras into a ‘banana republic’, into a political, military and terror base for the North American empire.”
The New York Times reported that the Obama administration was “surprised” by the coup, “But they also said that they had been working for several weeks to try to head off a political crisis in Honduras as the confrontation between Mr. Zelaya and the military over his efforts to lift presidential term limits escalated.” Further, “The United States has long had strong ties to the Honduras military and helps train Honduran military forces.” It was further reported that Secretary of State Hilary Clinton visited Zelaya on June 2, and that the United States thought Zelaya’s plans for reforming the Constitution was a “bad idea.” The US Ambassador to Honduras had held discussions with military officials where “There was talk of how they might remove the president from office, how he could be arrested, on whose authority they could do that.”
As it turned out, the General in the Honduran Army who overthrew Zelaya “is a two-time graduate of the U.S. Army School of the Americas, an institution that has trained hundreds of coup leaders and human rights abusers in Latin America.” Past graduates have included Argentine Gen. Leopoldo Galtieri, Guatemalan dictator Gen. Efrain Rios Montt, “Panamanian dictators Gen. Omar Torrijos, who overthrew a civilian government in a 1968 coup, and Gen. Manuel Noriega, a five-time SOA graduate, who ruled the country and dealt in drugs while on the CIA payroll,” Ecuadoran dictator Gen. Guillermo Rodriguez, Bolivian dictators Gen. Hugo Banzer Suarez and Gen. Guido Vildoso Calderon, and Peruvian strongman Gen. Juan Velasco Alvarado.
As was reported the following day of the coup, over the previous ten years, “the United States has delivered $18.41 million in weapons and defense articles to Honduras through the foreign military sales program,” with Foreign Military Financing totaling $7.3 million between 2003 and today, and “International Military Education and Training funds in that same period came to $14.82 million.”
The Washington Post reported, two days following the coup, that when Clinton was asked if it was a US priority to see Zelaya reinstated, she responded, “We haven’t laid out any demands that we’re insisting on, because we’re working with others on behalf of our ultimate objectives.” Zelaya had fired Gen. Romeo Vasquez prior to the coup, and Air Force commander, Gen. Luis Javier Prince Suazo, along with many other military leaders resigned. Both Vasquez and Suazo were trained at the School of the Americas.
An article in the Guardian published a few days after the coup stated that, as countries around the world condemned the coup and called for the reinstatement of Zelaya, “Washington’s ambivalence has begun to raise suspicions about what the US government is really trying to accomplish in this situation.” One possibility for this is that “the Obama administration may want to extract concessions from Zelaya as part of a deal for his return to office.” Following the coup, oppression in Honduras was rampant: “political repression, the closing of TV and radio stations, the detention of journalists, detention and physical abuse of diplomats and what the Committee to Protect Journalists has called a “media blackout” have yet to draw a serious rebuke from Washington.” As the author astutely stated:
This harks back to 2002, when the United States had its hands involved in the attempted coup in Venezuela to oust President Hugo Chavez, which ultimately failed. In the months leading up to the attempted coup in April 2002, US officials held a series of meetings with “Venezuelan military officers and opposition activists.” Further, “a few weeks before the coup attempt, administration officials met Pedro Carmona, the business leader who took over the interim government after President Hugo Chavez was arrested.”
The Pentagon even “confirmed that the Venezuelan army’s chief of staff, General Lucas Romero Rincon, visited the Pentagon in December and met the assistant secretary of defence for western hemispheric affairs.” Further, when “Mr Carmona and other opposition leaders came to the US they met Otto Reich, the assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs.” Otto Reich was a veteran of the Reagan-era “dirty tricks” in Latin America, such as the contra operations, which involved the US funding drug-running terrorists and death squads, and Reich “was the head of the office of public diplomacy in the state department, which was later found to have been involved in covert pro-contra propaganda.”
The Observer reported that the coup attempt in 2002 “was closely tied to senior officials in the US government.” Among the officials involved, “Elliot Abrams, who gave a nod to the attempted Venezuelan coup, has a conviction for misleading Congress over the infamous Iran-Contra affair.” There was of course Otto Reich, who met with all the coup leaders in the months preceding the coup. Finally, there was John Negroponte, who was in 2002 “ambassador to the United Nations. He was Reagan’s ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985 when a US-trained death squad, Battalion 3-16, tortured and murdered scores of activists. A diplomatic source said Negroponte had been ‘informed that there might be some movement in Venezuela on Chavez’ at the beginning of the year.”
Two weeks following the coup in Honduras, Roberto Micheletti, the man who replaced Zelaya following the coup, showed up at the house of President Óscar Arias of Costa Rica, who was to mediate between the “interim government” and Zelaya. Micheletti however, was accompanied with an interesting cast of characters. He arrived with six advisers, among them, “an American public relations specialist who has done work for former President Bill Clinton and the American’s interpreter, and an official close to the talks said the team rarely made a move without consulting him.” International pressure for US sanctions on Honduras was building, however:
Clearly, whatever the end result, which has yet to be determined, the hand of the United States can be seen in the Honduran coup. The bias and ultimately the failure of the international media became quite evident as a result of the coup. While the global media, particularly the western corporate media, were devoting non-stop coverage to the Iranian elections, proclaiming fraud, while offering no evidence; a military coup ousting a democratically elected president and installing an oppressive dictatorship which immediately began its heavy handed repression received scant attention. The western media attacked an actual democratic process in action, while ignoring a military assault against democracy. Which story receives more coverage is determined by the interests involved: in Iran, the West wanted a new government, so the media pushed for one; in Honduras, the US wanted a new government, so the media turned a blind eye while they got one through non-democratic means.
The Afghanistan-Pakistan War Theatre
Within days of getting into office, President Obama authorized a missile strike in Pakistan, which killed several civilians. Obama continued with this strategy, after Bush, in July of 2008, “authorized the C.I.A. and the Joint Special Operations Command to make ground incursions into Pakistan.” This was to set the pace for US strategy in the region, particularly in relation to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In late March, Obama announced his plan for a new Afghanistan and Pakistan strategy, which are to be a combined strategy. As part of the strategy, known as the AfPak strategy, “More U.S. troops, civilian officials and money will be needed,” and “Obama pledged to tighten U.S. focus on Pakistan.” Further, Obama announced in late March that, “he would send 4,000 U.S. troops — beyond the additional 17,000 he authorized” in February, “to work as trainers and advisers to the Afghan army, and hundreds more civilian officials and diplomats to help improve governance and the country’s economy,” bringing the total number of US troops up to 60,000.
In May, a major event took place in military circles, as one of the few times in over 50 years an American wartime general was fired in the field. In May of 2009, Defense Secretary Robert Gates fired the top general in Afghanistan saying that what was needed was “fresh thinking” and “fresh eyes” on Afghanistan. Gates “recommended that President Obama replace McKiernan with a veteran Special Operations commander, Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal.” As the Washington Post reported, McKiernan, the general whom Gates fired, “was viewed as somewhat cautious and conventionally minded.” Could it be that McKiernan did not see the AfPak strategy as a viable option; that it went against “caution”?
His replacement, General McChrystal, was “the director of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff. From 2006 to August 2008, he was the forward commander of the U.S. military’s secretive Joint Special Operations Command, responsible for capturing or killing high-level leaders of the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq.” One expert summed up the new General as such: “McChrystal kills people.” One senior military official at the Pentagon asked; “what message are we sending when our high-value-target hunter is sent to lead in Afghanistan?”
However, there is another twist to this story. As Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Seymour Hersh revealed, Cheney created a special unit called the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which was to carry out high-level assassinations. This unit was kept a secret for many years, and Hersh referred to it as an “Executive assassination ring.” Hersh reported that they carried out many assassinations, “not just in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s in a lot of other countries, in the Middle East and in South Asia and North Africa and even central America.” The new General of the AfPak war theatre, Stanley McChrystal, used to run Cheney’s assassination squad.
At the end of November 2009, Obama announced a surge of an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, “bringing the total American force to about 100,000.” Further, in early December, it was reported that Obama “authorized an expansion of the C.I.A.’s drone program in Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas, officials said this week, to parallel the president’s decision, announced Tuesday, to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.”
Clearly, the Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy will only further inflame the region in conflict and turmoil. Expanding the Afghan war into Pakistan is akin to playing with matches around a stick of dynamite. Perhaps this was the clarity of the previous general, McKiernan, in seeing this strategic insanity, and thus, the reason for his removal. The destabilization of this region threatens all of the neighboring countries, including India, China, Russia, Turkey and Iran. The possibility of creating a much wider war in the region, and even between the great powers, is ever increasing.
Africa and AFRICOM
During the Cold War, Africa was an imperial battleground between the USSR and the US-NATO powers, with the ultimate goal being the control over strategic resource-rich areas. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia’s influence in Africa largely dissipated, and with that, came the neo-imperial struggle among the western powers for control over key strategic points. Now, the great battle in Africa is between the NATO powers, primarily the United States, and China, which has had exponential growth and influence on the continent.
The 1990s saw the Rwandan genocide as a key event in Africa, which was, in actuality, a struggle between France and the United States over the key strategic location of Rwanda. The World Bank and IMF laid the groundwork for conflict, creating the economic conditions that exacerbated colonial-era ethnic tensions. Meanwhile, the United States, through its proxy state of Uganda, funded military operations and trained the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which conducted military operations from Uganda into Rwanda. The Civil War waged from 1990-1993, with the US funding all sides of the conflict. In 1994, the RPF shot down the plane carrying the Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi, which sparked the genocide. Following the genocide, the US-trained puppet, Paul Kagame, became President of Rwanda.
Following these events, the US had two protectorates in Central Africa, Uganda and Rwanda, both of which bordered the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). This was the ultimate prize in the area. From both Rwanda and Uganda, military operations were funded and paramilitary forces were trained by the United States to venture into the DRC, which erupted in coups and Civil War. However, western, primarily American and Canadian corporations were plundering the resource-rich Congo, while millions of Congolese civilians died.
In April of 2001, Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney held a hearing on Western involvement in the plunder of Africa, in which she stated, “at the heart of Africa’s suffering is the West’s, and most notably the United States’, desire to access Africa’s diamonds, oil, natural gas, and other precious resources . . . the West, and most notably the United States, has set in motion a policy of oppression, destabilization and tempered, not by moral principle, but by a ruthless desire to enrich itself on Africa’s fabulous wealth.”
In the New World Order, Africa has not lost its significance as a geopolitical prize for the great powers. While the Middle East, save Iran, is largely under the influence of the United States and its NATO allies, Africa is the main battleground between the US and China. Imperialism in Africa goes under many names: the “War on Terror”, military assistance, economic aid, and “humanitarian intervention” to name a few.
U.S. Strategy in Africa
In 2005, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the main policy-planning group of the US elite, published a Task Force Report on US strategy in Africa called, More Than Humanitarianism: A Strategic U.S. Approach Toward Africa. In the report, it was stated that:
The report stated that, “The United States is facing intense competition for energy and other natural resources in Africa,” identifying India and primarily China as its main competitors “in the search for these resources and for both economic and political influence on the continent.” In particular, “China presents a particularly important challenge to U.S. interests.”
Further, “To compete more effectively with China, the United States must provide more encouragement and support to well-performing African states, develop innovative means for U.S. companies to compete, give high-level attention to Africa, and engage China on those practices that conflict with U.S. interests.”
In analyzing the threat China poses to the US in Africa, the report hypocritically and misleadingly states that one of its main concerns is that China uses “its seat on the UN Security Council to protect some of Africa’s most egregious regimes from international sanction, in particular Sudan and Zimbabwe.” This conveniently ignores the United States doing the same thing in regards to Israel, as well as its tacit, overt and covert support for brutal regimes across the world, not simply in Africa.
The report explained that much of China’s growing influence is due to its “soft loans,” meaning that Chinese loans to African countries do not come attached with “conditions” as in World Bank and IMF loans, which make them much more attractive to African countries. China is also heavily invested in the oil of Sudan, specifically in Darfur, which the West does not have access to.
In analyzing how the War on Terror had been brought to Africa, the report stated:
As the Guardian reported in June of 2005, “A new ‘scramble for Africa’ is taking place among the world’s big powers, who are tapping into the continent for its oil and diamonds.” A key facet of this is that “corporations from the US, France, Britain and China are competing to profit from the rulers of often chaotic and corrupt regimes.”
In May of 2006, the Washington Post reported that the US has been “secretly supporting secular warlords who have been waging fierce battles against Islamic groups for control of the capital, Mogadishu.”
In December of 2006, Ethiopia, heavily backed and supported by the US, invaded and occupied Somalia, ousting the Islamist government. The US support for the operations was based upon the claims of Somalia being a breeding ground for terrorists and Al-Qaeda. However, this was has now turned into an insurgency. Wired Magazine reported in December of 2008 that, “For several years the U.S. military has fought a covert war in Somalia, using gunships, drones and Special Forces to break up suspected terror networks – and enlisting Ethiopia’s aid in propping up a pro-U.S. “transitional” government.”
However, there is naturally more to this than fighting “terrorists.” Civil war has raged in Somalia since 1991, creating destabilization and political instability. The UN intervened between 1992 and 1995, and the US sent in Special Forces in 1993. As the Los Angeles Times revealed in 1993, “four major U.S. oil companies are quietly sitting on a prospective fortune in exclusive concessions to explore and exploit tens of millions of acres of the Somali countryside.” According to the article, “nearly two-thirds of Somalia was allocated to the American oil giants Conoco, Amoco, Chevron and Phillips in the final years before Somalia’s pro-U.S. President Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown and the nation plunged into chaos in January, 1991.”
The Ethiopian troops occupied Somalia for a couple years, and in January of 2009, the last Ethiopian troops left the capital city of Mogadishu. In 2007, the UN authorized an African Union (AU) peacekeeping mission in Somalia. In March of 2007, Ugandan military officials landed in Somalia. Essentially, what this has done is that the more overt Ethiopian occupation of Somalia has been replaced with a UN-mandated African Union occupation of the country, in which Ugandan troops make up the majority. Since Uganda is a proxy military state for the US in the region, the more overt US supported Ethiopian troops have been replaced by a more covert US-supported Ugandan contingent.
In 2007, Newsweek reported that, “America is quietly expanding its fight against terror on the African front. Two years ago the United States set up the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership with nine countries in central and western Africa. There is no permanent presence, but the hope is to generate support and suppress radicalism by both sharing U.S. weapons and tactics with friendly regimes and winning friends through a vast humanitarian program assembled by USAID, including well building and vocational training.” The Pentagon announced the formation of a new military strategic command called “Africom” (Africa Command), which “will integrate existing diplomatic, economic and humanitarian programs into a single strategic vision for Africa, bring more attention to long-ignored American intelligence-gathering and energy concerns on the continent, and elevate African interests to the same level of importance as those of Asia and the Middle East.”
The article gave brief mention to critics, saying that, “Not surprisingly, the establishment of a major American base in Africa is inspiring new criticism from European and African critics of U.S. imperial overreach.” Some claim it represents a “militarization of U.S. Africa policy,” which is not a stretch of imaginations, as the article pointed out, “the United States has identified the Sahel, a region stretching west from Eritrea across the broadest part of Africa, as the next critical zone in the War on Terror and started working with repressive governments in Chad and Algeria, among others, to further American interests there.”
As Newsweek further reported:
Africom is the new American military command designed to control Africa, which currently sits as an important neo-colonial battleground between the US and China. Africa still remains a major front in the imperialist adventures of the dominant powers of the New World Order. Its rich wealth in resources makes it an important strategic location for the world powers to seek hegemony over.
The continuation of the Cold War stances of the West versus the East remain and are exacerbated, in what can be referred to as a “New Cold War.” At the same time, global regional conflicts continue to be waged and expanded, be it in the Middle East, Central Africa or Central Asia, with coups and regime change being furthered in Eastern Europe, South America and across the globe. However, these two major global issues: regional wars and conflict and the New Cold War, are not separate, but inherently linked. An exacerbation of conflict, in any and all regions, will only serve to strengthen the political-strategic conflict between the US-NATO alliance and the Russia-China alliance.
All that is required for a new major world war is just one spark: whether it comes in the form of a war between Pakistan and India, or a military strike on Iran, in which case China and Russia would not sit idly by as they did with Iraq. A strike on Iran, particularly with nuclear missiles, as is proposed, would result in World War III. So why does strategy on the part of the US and NATO continue to push in this direction?
As George Orwell once wrote:
A New World War would be a global war waged by a global ruling class against the citizens of the world, with the aim of maintaining and reshaping hierarchical society to serve their own interests. It would indeed symbolize a New World War for a New World Order. In a globalized world, all conflict has global implications; the task at hand is whether the people can realize that war is not waged against a “distant” or “foreign” enemy, but against all people of the world.
Herman Goering, Hitler’s second in command, explained the concept of war when he was standing trial at the Nuremberg Trials for war crimes, when he stated, “Why, of course, the people don’t want war,” and that, “Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.” When Goering was corrected that in a democracy, “the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives,” Goering responded:
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