Saturday, January 25, 2020

HYBRID WARS AGAINST IRAN



Harry Targ

from https://heartlandradical.blogspot.com/2020/01/hybrid-warswhat-is-new-and-what-is-not.html


Iran has been a country of particular concern of the United States at least since the end of World War II. The US propped up the Shah (Mohammad Reza Pahlavi) at the outset of the war to protect US bases which were used to transfer war materials to the former Soviet Union. After Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, elected in 1951, nationalized Iran’s valuable oil resource, Great Britain, whose Anglo-Iranian Oil Company had “owned “ the oil, began to urge the US to overthrow the democratically elected Prime Minister, instill full power in the monarch, the Shah, and reprivatize Iranian oil. In 1953 the US Central Intelligence Agency launched a coup to overthrow the Prime Minister and to establish the Shah as Iran’s all-powerful dictator. His brutality and repression lasted for years until a mass-based worker and religious-led movement ousted him from power in 1979. In the aftermath of the ouster of the Shah, religious leaders consolidated their control of the state, the Shah fled to the United States for medical treatment, the new regime demanded his return to stand trial for his crimes, and Iranian students took 52 US embassy personnel hostage for 444 days.

The United States responses to the transformation of the Iranian regime included President Carter’s declaration of his “doctrine,” which proclaimed that instabilities in the Persian Gulf region were vital to US national security. The US began to fund Iraq in its eight-year bloody war against Iran, which led to 500,000 Iranians killed. The United States urged Israel to invade Lebanon, escalate attacks on Palestine, and in general tilted in opposition to Iran and its allies in the region. The US also increased the sale of technologically sophisticated arms to Saudi Arabia. Therefore in the 1980s, US policy in the Persian Gulf and Middle East regions was driven by the growing hostility of Iran to the United States (once a pillar of US support in the Persian Gulf), the continued need of Europe and Japan for Iranian oil, and Iran’s vital geographic location, particularly in terms of its potential control of the  flow of oil to Europe and Japan.  But, in addition, the Iranian people had violated a cardinal rule of US global hegemony. They had risen up against rule by an American puppet. Much like Cuba in the Western Hemisphere, Iranians declared that they no longer would abide by a leader chosen by the United States and not them. (In fact, in the Nixon Administration, the Shah’s regime was identified as the key “gendarme” state in the Persian Gulf, the local US police enforcer).

Ever since the hostage crisis of 1979, the United States has imposed economic sanctions of one sort or another on Iran. After the long years of damage to the Iranian economy and the people at large, the  Nuclear Treaty of 2015 (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), was negotiated by Iran, the United States, member countries of the European Union, and Security Council members, Russia and China.  Along with Iran’s promise to stop the production of potential nuclear material, signatories agreed to end the freezing of Iranian assets deposited in US and European banks, to eliminate various prohibitions on Western investment in the Iranian economy, and to remove trade restrictions.

Almost immediately after the sanctions were lifted in the aftermath of the Nuclear Treaty, the Iranian economy grew: a 12 percent growth in GDP in 2016 and an additional but modest 3.7 percent in 2017. However, in 2018 President Trump withdrew from the Nuclear Treaty and re-imposed crippling sanctions. As a result, the Iranian economy contracted by 4.8 percent in 2018 and in a BBC report projected a further decline of 9.5 percent in 2019.

Iran’s oil exports and hence production was hit particularly hard. The value of Iranian currency declined dramatically and inflation in the country rose, particularly for the price of food. (BBC News. “Six Charts That Show How Hard US Sanctions Have Hit Iran,” December 2, 2019). Sanctions reduced purchasing power, increased the cost of living for food and transportation, reduced access of Iranian students studying abroad to financial resources, and led to the reduction of public services. 

This is the story of hybrid war against Iran: along with military threats and attempts to isolate Iran diplomatically, make the people suffer and cause increased outrage at the material conditions of life. The hope is that the people will rise up and overthrow the regime in power (and, of course, instances of corruption and repression will magnify protest responses). The scenario has been repeated over and over: Guatemala and Iran in the early 1950s, Cuba since 1960, and  now Venezuela and Iran again. And make no mistake about it: economic sanctions are targeted against civilian populations and constitute a strategy of war against the people, motivating them to rise up against their governments.


Meanings of the Hybrid War Concept for the Peace Movement


We can deduce a variety of conclusions from the Law of Hybrid Wars.

First, twenty-first century imperialism is not solely or primarily about direct military confrontation such as wars and/or covert acts of terrorism against targeted nations.

Second, hegemonic powers, such as the United States, see coalitions of states as a threat to global dominance. This is true in Eurasia, the countries along the Silk Road, and in Latin America where a crippled Bolivarian Revolution survives.

Third, policymakers do not primarily act impulsively. They see a threat, which includes transnational cooperation and resistance. Strategists then identify weak links in threatened coalitions. They formulate multi-dimensional, stage-by-stage responses. And these responses involve economics, culture, sowing seeds of division, promoting demonic narratives about target states, and at the same time they leave “all options on the table,” which means traditional military action.

Finally, it behooves the peace movement to be cognizant of twenty-first century methods of imperialism. It must fashion strategies that clearly and compellingly identify and combat economic sanctions recognizing that they, indeed, are acts of war.



From End The War Coalition, Milwaukee, Jim Carpenter

 
"No war on Iran. U.S. out of Iran and Middle East. Bring war $$$ home to create good jobs, end poverty and transition to a green economy. End sanctions on Iran which are causing a humanitarian crises."



Congress will soon be  voting on legislation to prevent war with Iran. We expect the House to take votes next Thursday on Rep. Ro Khanna’s bill to defund an unauthorized war with Iran (H.R.5543, 89 cosponsors) and Rep. Barbara Lee’s bill to repeal the 2002 AUMF (H.R.2456, 104 cosponsors).  Both of these bills have picked up cosponsors in the last several days.






Sunday, January 12, 2020

HYBRID WARS:WHAT IS NEW AND WHAT IS NOT? AN UPDATE ABOUT IRAN

Harry Targ

On The Law of Hybrid Wars

Andrew Korybko, a Russian scholar/journalist, has written about a new concept, “hybrid wars,” with a long history in practice. The author refers to the Law of Hybrid War as “The grand objective behind every Hybrid War is to disrupt multipolar transnational connective projects through externally provoked identity conflicts (ethnic, religious, regional, political etc.) within a targeted transit state” (Andrew Korybko, “Hybrid Wars 1. The Law of Hybrid Warfare,” Oriental Review.org, 4/3.2016). His  concern was United States targeted efforts to undermine efforts by Russia to integrate with Eurasian states and the US desire to disrupt China’s “silk road” projects. It is clear that the concept refers also to efforts by imperial states, particularly the United States, to undermine any efforts by other countries to develop political and economic solidarity that might threaten regional or global hegemony. And Korybko added that ”Hybrid Wars are externally provoked asymmetrical conflicts predicated on sabotaging concrete geo-economic interests.”

The tactics of Hybrid War prioritize identifying strategic weaknesses in target states. These do not necessarily prioritize targeting roads, bridges, or power plants for destruction but rather economic, political, ethnic, or other vulnerabilities. Vulnerabilities may include ethnicity, religion, history, administrative boundaries, and socio-economic disparities. Using “soft power” the imperial state supports the introduction of seemingly neutral technologies or processes, such as the internet in the target country. New intrusions are supported by some Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) such as the Soros Foundation or the National Endowment for Democracy. NGOs claim to be motivated to facilitate political and economic development. As David Harvey has suggested NGO projects come with a frame of reference, a goal, and/or a conception of desirable economic or political paths the host country should take. From the Hybrid War perspective these intrusions are used to exacerbate the class, ethnic, and/or geopolitical tensions in the target state.

Most important for analysis is the argument raised by Korybko that a critical precondition for imposing hybrid war (and a critical tool of it) is the pressure brought by “globally recognized” sanctions. Early in the process of imperial intrusion, victimized states experience increased costs for importing critical commodities, food, energy etc., constraints imposed on exports, and denial of loan requests from international financial institutions. As political instability increases, targeted states are forced to spend more on security, thus sucking resources away from domestic needs. Thus, the Law of Hybrid War involves an imperial state deciding that transnational projects constitute a threat to its rule and assessing historic vulnerabilities of targeted states. Then the imperialists institute policies of intrusion on target states through technology, expansion of an NGO presence, and organizing a global sanctions regime against the targeted state. From a Hybrid War perspective, the imperial power hopes for such an exacerbation of tensions so that regime change will occur without the introduction of foreign troops.


https://orientalreview.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/AK-Hybrid-Wars-updated.pdf

Hybrid Wars Against Iran


Iran has been a country of particular concern of the United States at least since the end of World War II. The US propped up the Shah (Mohammad Reza Pahlavi) at the outset of the war to protect US bases which were used to transfer war materials to the former Soviet Union. After Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, elected in 1951, nationalized Iran’s valuable oil resource, Great Britain, whose Anglo-Iranian Oil Company had “owned “ the oil, began to urge the US to overthrow the democratically elected Prime Minister, instill full power in the monarch, the Shah, and reprivatize Iranian oil. In 1953 the US Central Intelligence Agency launched a coup to overthrow the Prime Minister and to establish the Shah as Iran’s all-powerful dictator. His brutality and repression lasted for years until a mass-based worker and religious-led movement ousted him from power in 1979. In the aftermath of the ouster of the Shah, religious leaders consolidated their control of the state, the Shah fled to the United States for medical treatment, the new regime demanded his return to stand trial for his crimes, and Iranian students took 52 US embassy personnel hostage for 444 days.

The United States responses to the transformation of the Iranian regime included President Carter’s declaration of his “doctrine,” which proclaimed that instabilities in the Persian Gulf region were vital to US national security. The US began to fund Iraq in its eight-year bloody war against Iran, which led to 500,000 Iranians killed. The United States urged Israel to invade Lebanon, escalate attacks on Palestine, and in general tilted in opposition to Iran and its allies in the region. The US also increased the sale of technologically sophisticated arms to Saudi Arabia. Therefore in the 1980s, US policy in the Persian Gulf and Middle East regions was driven by the growing hostility of Iran to the United States (once a pillar of US support in the Persian Gulf), the continued need of Europe and Japan for Iranian oil, and Iran’s vital geographic location, particularly in terms of its potential control of the  flow of oil to Europe and Japan.  But, in addition, the Iranian people had violated a cardinal rule of US global hegemony. They had risen up against rule by an American puppet. Much like Cuba in the Western Hemisphere, Iranians declared that they no longer would abide by a leader chosen by the United States and not them. (In fact, in the Nixon Administration, the Shah’s regime was identified as the key “gendarme” state in the Persian Gulf, the local US police enforcer).

Ever since the hostage crisis of 1979, the United States has imposed economic sanctions of one sort or another on Iran. After the long years of damage to the Iranian economy and the people at large, the  Nuclear Treaty of 2015 (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), was negotiated by Iran, the United States, member countries of the European Union, and Security Council members, Russia and China.  Along with Iran’s promise to stop the production of potential nuclear material, signatories agreed to end the freezing of Iranian assets deposited in US and European banks, to eliminate various prohibitions on Western investment in the Iranian economy, and to remove trade restrictions.

Almost immediately after the sanctions were lifted in the aftermath of the Nuclear Treaty, the Iranian economy grew: a 12 percent growth in GDP in 2016 and an additional but modest 3.7 percent in 2017. However, in 2018 President Trump withdrew from the Nuclear Treaty and re-imposed crippling sanctions. As a result, the Iranian economy contracted by 4.8 percent in 2018 and in a BBC report projected a further decline of 9.5 percent in 2019.

Iran’s oil exports and hence production was hit particularly hard. The value of Iranian currency declined dramatically and inflation in the country rose, particularly for the price of food. (BBC News. “Six Charts That Show How Hard US Sanctions Have Hit Iran,” December 2, 2019). Sanctions reduced purchasing power, increased the cost of living for food and transportation, reduced access of Iranian students studying abroad to financial resources, and led to the reduction of public services. 

This is the story of hybrid war against Iran: along with military threats and attempts to isolate Iran diplomatically, make the people suffer and cause increased outrage at the material conditions of life. The hope is that the people will rise up and overthrow the regime in power (and, of course, instances of corruption and repression will magnify protest responses). The scenario has been repeated over and over: Guatemala and Iran in the early 1950s, Cuba since 1960, and  now Venezuela and Iran again. And make no mistake about it: economic sanctions are targeted against civilian populations and constitute a strategy of war against the people, motivating them to rise up against their governments.


Meanings of the Hybrid War Concept for the Peace Movement


We can deduce a variety of conclusions from the Law of Hybrid Wars.

First, twenty-first century imperialism is not solely or primarily about direct military confrontation such as wars and/or covert acts of terrorism against targeted nations.

Second, hegemonic powers, such as the United States, see coalitions of states as a threat to global dominance. This is true in Eurasia, the countries along the Silk Road, and in Latin America where a crippled Bolivarian Revolution survives.

Third, policymakers do not primarily act impulsively. They see a threat, which includes transnational cooperation and resistance. Strategists then identify weak links in threatened coalitions. They formulate multi-dimensional, stage-by-stage responses. And these responses involve economics, culture, sowing seeds of division, promoting demonic narratives about target states, and at the same time they leave “all options on the table,” which means traditional military action.

Finally, it behooves the peace movement to be cognizant of twenty-first century methods of imperialism. It must fashion strategies that clearly and compellingly identify and combat economic sanctions recognizing that they, indeed, are acts of war.

 








Saturday, January 11, 2020

LIES AND WAR! 2020 EDITION

Harry Targ

Post-modernists talk about “discourses,” “narratives,” “tropes,” and verbal “deconstructions.” They should be commended for suggesting how words are used to mobilize, inspire, deceive, promote self-interest, and, too often, justify killing everywhere. Former Arkansas Senator, J. William Fulbright in describing how he was tricked by his old friend President Lyndon Baines Johnson to support a resolution authorizing escalating war in Vietnam said: “A lie is a lie. There is no other way to put it.”

The story can begin any time. As World War Two was ending, the Greek government constructed by Great Britain after the Nazis were defeated was engaged in an effort to crush a rebellion by activists who objected to their newly imposed rulers. The Greek rebels included former anti-fascists freedom fighters, some of whom were Communists or Socialists. The British, no longer able to support the repression of the Greek Left in what was a civil war, called on the Americans for help.

In February, 1947, Truman foreign policy advisers met to discuss what to do about the Greek civil war and the threat of “Communism” spreading along the Mediterranean. The Republican Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Arthur Vandenberg, attending the meeting. said he would support U.S. military and economic aid for the unpopular Greek government. But, he said, tell the President he better “scare hell out of the American people.”

One month later, President Truman gave his famous Truman Doctrine speech to the Congress and the American people. He warned the American people, who until that time still had positive feelings toward the Soviet people, that the United States and the “free world” were going to be engaged in a long-term struggle against the forces of “international communism.” The Truman Doctrine was not about nations and movements with different interests and ideologies but rather a global struggle between the forces of good threatened by the forces of evil.

United States administrations ever since have justified aggressive foreign policies by lying and distorting the realities behind complex international relationships. In addition, when a politician, a journalist, a scholar, or a whole peace movement criticizes targeting nations and movements as diabolical and security threats, these critics are charged with being weak, indecisive, cowardly, or, even worse, stalking horses for the vile enemy or enemies.

Campaigns of propaganda masquerading as truth have been a constant feature of international relations, particularly since World War Two. The reality of U.S. struggles against demonized enemies tells a sobering story. Deaths in wars and interventions in which the United States participated from 1945 until 1995 totaled about ten million people. These figures, extracted from the valuable research of Ruth Sivard, (World Military and Social Expenditures, 1996) do not include injuries and forced migrations of millions of people fleeing combat zones. Nor do these figures include the wasteful trillions of dollars of military expenditures and environmental damage resulting from a war system.

And since the dawn of the new century, the United States and its allies in NATO make arguments justifying war based upon a new round of lies and distortions. The Persian Gulf is a region where whole nations were constructed by colonial powers after World War One. After the next World War, the United States agreed to provide arms and protection to the Saudi monarchs in exchange for oil. The U.S. also identified client regimes and movements to support its interests in the region. They included the former Shah of Iran, the state of Israel, various so-called Islamic Fundamentalist groups including those fighting in Afghanistan, to leaders the U.S. once supported such as Saddam Hussein and Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq. In the twenty-first century, the stability of whole countries, Iraq and Libya for example, was destroyed by United States interventions costing many thousands of  deaths and injuries and many more people fleeing violence.

As The Real News analysis below suggests, the American people have been lied to concerning Vietnam, Iraq, Iran, and as history suggests, virtually every case of United States military intervention, covert operations and/or economic sanctions.


Getting back to Senator Vandenberg’s advice to President Truman (“scare hell out of the American people”) about how to gain support for moral/military crusades, leaders and media are warning about a new global terrorist threat and renewed threats from Russia, China, and Iran. The intensity of the selling jobs, the perpetual lies, are testament to the good sense of the American people who continue to say “no more wars.”    




Sunday, January 5, 2020

United States/Iranian Relations: Some History


background on united state/iranian Relations
Saturday, March 24, 2012

MEASURING TARGETS OF US IMPERIALISM: HISTORY, ECONOMICS, GEOPOLITICS, CULTURE AND IRAN

Harry Targ

U.S. Imperialism in the Beginning

Modern imperialism is intimately connected to the globalization of capitalism, the quest for enhanced military capabilities, geopolitical thinking, and ideologies of national and racial superiority. The rise of the United States empire occurred as the industrial revolution spread to North America after the civil war. Farmers began to produce agricultural surpluses requiring overseas customers, factories were built to produce iron, steel, textiles, and food products, railroads were constructed to traverse the North American continent, and financiers created large banks, trusts, and holding companies to parley agricultural and manufacturing profits into huge concentrations of cash.

Perhaps the benchmark of the U.S. emergence as an imperial power was the Spanish/Cuban/American war. The U.S. established its hegemony in the Western Hemisphere, replacing the Spanish and challenging the British, and became an Asian power, crushing rebellion and planting its military in the Philippines. The empire has grown, despite resistance, to this day. While U.S. expansion occurs wherever a vacuum of power exists, and an opportunity to formally or informally control a regime and/or territory, particular countries have had enduring salience for the U.S. Iran is such a country.

Scale of Significance for U.S. Imperialism

To help understand the attention U.S. policy-makers give some countries, it is possible to reflect on what is called here the Scale of Significance for U.S. Imperialism (SSUSI). The SSUSI has three interconnected dimensions that relate to the relative importance policy-makers give to some countries compared to others.

First, as an original motivation for expansion, economic interests are primary. Historically, United States policy has been driven by the need to secure customers for U.S. products, outlets for manufacturing investment opportunities, opportunities for financial speculation, and vital natural resources.

Second, geopolitics and military hegemony matter. Empires require ready access to regions and trouble spots all around the world. When Teddy Roosevelt, as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Vice President, and President of the United States, articulated the first warning of the need for global power he spoke of the development of a “two-ocean” navy. The U.S., he said, must become an Atlantic and a Pacific power; thus prioritizing the projection of military power in the Western Hemisphere and Asia. If the achievement of global power was dependent upon resources drawn from everywhere, military and political hegemony in the Persian Gulf, the Middle East, and parts of Africa also required attention.

Third, as the imperial project grows, certain political regimes and cultures take on particular importance for policy-makers and the American people. Foreign policy elites claim that the U.S. has a special responsibility for them. If these roles are rejected by the targeted country, the experience burns itself into the consciousness of the people. For example, Cuba was seen by U.S. rulers as far back as Thomas Jefferson as soon to be part of the United States. Cuba’s rejection of this presumption of U.S. tutelage has been a scar on the U.S. sense of itself ever since the spread of revolutionary ferment on the island.

The Danger of War With Iran Today

Reflecting on the SSUSI adds to the discussion about current United States foreign policy toward Iran. The history of U.S./Iranian relations has been long and painful. Before the dramatic United States involvement in that country, Iran’s vital oil resource had been under control of the weakening British empire. In 1901 the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now British Petroleum) consolidated control of much of the production, refining, and export of Iranian oil. Local oligarchs received only 16 percent of the oil revenue from the global sale of the oil.

After World War II, with a young monarch Mohammad Reza Shah serving as the Iranian ruler and Iranian masses living in poverty, Iranian nationalists mobilized to seize control of their valuable resource. Upper class nationalist Mohammed Mossadegh became Prime Minister and asserted the power of the parliament over the monarchy. The parliament voted to nationalize the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.

The British government enlisted the United States in 1953 to overthrow the Mossadegh regime using covert operations directed by the CIA. After Mossadegh was imprisoned and the Shah given full power to impose his will on an angry population, a new oil consortium agreement was established in 1954 which allowed five U.S. oil companies to gain a 40 percent share of Iranian oil. Anglo-Iranian would retain another 40 percent, and the rest would be given to rich Iranians.

Over the years, the Shah’s regime became the bulwark of US power in the increasingly vital Persian Gulf region. In the Nixon period, Iran was defined as a key “gendarme” state, which would serve as a surrogate western police power to oversee the region. Presumably Iran would protect the flow of Gulf oil to the United States, Europe, and Japan. By the 1970s, the Shah’s military was the fifth largest in the world.

To the great surprise of left critics of the Shah’s dictatorship, the CIA, and the Carter administration, the Shah’s regime began to crumble in the summer of 1978 as large strikes were organized by oil workers against the regime. In January, 1979 secretly organized massive street protests led by the religious community doomed the regime. As Iranian soldiers refused to fire upon street demonstrators, President Carter’s National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, urged the president to send troops to Iran to save the U.S. regional policeman, the Shah, from overthrow. That proposal was rejected by Carter.

After jockeying for power in the post-revolutionary period, religious leaders consolidated their power over the political system. To add embarrassment to loss of economic and geopolitical control over the vital Persian Gulf region, Iranian students took 52 U.S. diplomats and military attaches hostage and held them for 444 days. In 1980 Carter authorized a military rescue effort that failed. The bungled military operation further damaged the image of infallibility that American foreign policy elites, and the public, held about the nation’s power and destiny.

In the 1980s, to challenge Iran’s potential for becoming the hegemonic power in the Gulf, the Reagan administration sided with Iraq in the brutal war between it and Iran. In 1988, shortly before the end of the Iraq/Iran war U.S. planes shot down a civilian Iranian airliner killing 290 people aboard.

Subsequent to the ignoble history of U.S. support for the Shah’s dictatorship, militarization, the overthrow of Mossadegh, the embarrassment of the hostage taking, funding Iraq in the brutal Gulf war of the 1980s, the United States has maintained hostility to Iran despite occasional signals from the latter of a desire to establish better relations. U.S. policy has included an economic embargo, efforts to create region-wide opposition to the regime, expressions of support for a large and justifiable internal movement for democracy and secularization in the country, and encouragement, more or less, for growing Israeli threats against Iran. Given this troubled history of US/Iranian relations spanning at least 60 years, the current threats of war expressed by both Israel and the United States are not surprising.

Returning to SSUSI and Iranian Relations

As an emerging global power, United States needs for natural resources, customers for consumer and military products, investment opportunities, and outlets for energy companies grew throughout the twentieth century. One of the significant historical junctures in the transfer of economic and geopolitical power in the world from the declining British empire and the rising U.S. empire was the agreement to redistribute control of Iranian oil in 1954. The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company was obliged to share Iranian oil with the then five U.S. oil giants.

As U.S. oil needs and those of its friends in Europe increased, control of the Persian Gulf region and access to its oil became more vital. Furthermore, since a hostile Iran could control the Strait of Hormuz, the Iranian revolution of 1979 posed an increasing geopolitical problem for American dominance.

The impulse in 1979 to send U.S. troops to save the Shah’s regime was driven by both economics and geopolitics. It was only because other Carter advisers disagreed with the National Security Advisor on the possibility of saving the Shah that a U.S. intervention stalled in 1979. But in 1980 an Iraq/Iran war provided an opportunity, it was hoped, to weaken Iran’s potential control of the region.

Finally, the U.S. decision-makers since 1953 saw a special relationship between this country and Iran. The U.S. put the Shah in power, plied him with enormous military power, encouraged and facilitated significant cultural exchanges, and defined his regime as a junior partner in policing the region.

The rapidity of the Shah’s overthrow and the anger expressed by the Iranian people about its historic relationship to the American people communicated to the world declining U.S. power. Consequently, U.S. hostility to Iran in subsequent decades using a variety of issues including processing uranium is not surprising.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

IT IS NOT A YOU TUBE TRAILER: IT IS IMPERIALISM

Harry Targ

It is almost unfathomable for the media to explain the protests against the United States in seventeen countries as primarily the result of a trailer to an obnoxious anti-Muslim You Tube video. This view is consistent with the historic Western understanding of Islamic people, people of color, the “other,” as ignorant, subject to manipulation, and, finally, less than human. The reality is the peoples of the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, and Asia have a sense of their history and the world and most Americans do not.

Just to review the U.S. role in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf since World War II tells us much more about this week’s protests than the You Tube video. As Michael Klare has written, President Franklin Roosevelt met with King Abdul Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia, a week after the famous Yalta Conference aboard the USS Quincy. The President and the King made an agreement that the United States would provide protection for the Saudi regime in exchange for perpetual access to its oil.  

Mohammed Mossadegh the Iranian Prime Minister who negotiated with his parliament the nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company was overthrown in a CIA engineered coup in 1953. For the next 26 years the Shah ruled Iran as a brutal dictator, crushing secular and religious dissent.

In 1957 President Eisenhower declared that the United States was prepared to send troops to the Middle East to protect the region from international communism. Two years later, claiming the Eisenhower Doctrine, the president sent thousands of marines to Lebanon on false pretenses. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson worked to undermine the influence of secular Arab leaders, such as Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt and Syrian leaders, who were pursuing autonomy from former colonial overlords. During the 1960s, U.S. support, financial and military, tilted dramatically toward Israel in its war on the Palestinian people and neighboring Arab states.

In the aftermath of the Iranian revolution of 1979  the Carter Doctrine proclaimed the right of the United States to intervene if any attack on the Persian Gulf occurs because  it would “be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America….”  Carter created a Rapid Deployment Force of 100,000 specially trained troops to engage in instant responses to events such as had occurred in Iran and he created what became the U.S. Central Command to govern all forces in the region. Carter and then Reagan embarked on a massive covert war against the government of Afghanistan in the 1980s, supporting fundamentalists such as Osama Bin Laden in the war on communism.

George Herbert Walker Bush launched Gulf War One with a coalition of nations to extricate Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Over the decade of the 1990s, the Iraqi people were smothered by an economic embargo and regular bombing campaign.

Then the wars on Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003) were launched as well as attacks on military targets in Pakistan. The “war on terrorism” included violence against Muslim populations in several countries, including Yemen and Somalia, with hundreds of forward bases in the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, and Asia.

Stephen Walt, Harvard political scientist, estimated that from 1988 to 2009 about 10,000 Americans died in military encounters with Muslims. However, 288,000 Muslims died at the hands of American troops or bombs.  He wrote that Americans killed 30 Muslims for every United States citizen who was killed and if one includes the over one million non-combat deaths from economic sanctions (in Iraq for example) the ratio of Muslims who died in interaction with Americans would be 100 to one.

Walt reported that Muslim deaths were the direct result of United States foreign policy, whereas American deaths were largely at the hands of non-state actors, i.e. terrorist groups. In addition, the United States has funded and supports allies who also engage in the slaughter of Muslims.

He concluded: “Some degree of anti-Americanism may reflect ideology, distorted history, or a foreign government’s attempt to shift blame onto others (a practice that all governments indulge in), but a lot of it is the inevitable result of policies that the American people have supported in the past. When you kill tens of thousands of people in other countries-and sometimes for no good reason-you shouldn’t be surprised when people in those countries are enraged by this behavior and interested in revenge. After all, how did we react after September 11?” (“Why They Hate Us (II): How Many Muslims Has the U.S. Killed in the Past 30 Years?” November 30, 2009, reposted on the blog site of Foreign Policy on September 15, 2012).

The new reliance on drone warfare, while increasing the scope of war on Muslims, decreases the risk to U.S. troops in the short run. However, the question for the future is whether this war will continue to cause the violent attacks on United States targets that have been experienced over the last week.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

SIXTY YEARS OF BLOWBACK: IRAN

Harry Targ

Chalmers Johnson wrote in 2001 about “blowback” that it “is a CIA term first used in March 1954 in a recently declassified report on the 1953 operation to overthrow the government of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran. It is a metaphor for the unintended consequences of the US government's international activities that have been kept secret from the American people. The CIA's fears that there might ultimately be some blowback from its egregious interference in the affairs of Iran were well founded.…. This misguided ‘covert operation’ of the US government helped convince many capable people throughout the Islamic world that the United States was an implacable enemy.” (The Nation, October 15, 2001).

The CIA initiated overthrow of the regime of Mohammed Mossadegh sixty years ago on August 19, 1953 was precipitated by what Melvin Gurtov called “the politics of oil and cold war together.” Because it was the leading oil producer in the Middle East and the fourth largest in the world and it was geographically close to the former Soviet Union, President Eisenhower was prevailed upon to launch the CIA covert war on Iran long encouraged by Great Britain.

The immediate background for the ouster of Mossadegh was Iran’s nationalization of its oil production. Most Iranians were living in poverty in the 1940s as the Iranian government received only ten percent of the royalties on its oil sales on the world market. The discrepancy between Iran’s large production of oil and the limited return it received led Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, a liberal nationalist, to call for the nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in 1951. Despite opposition from Iran’s small ruling class, the parliament and masses of the Iranian people endorsed the plan to seize control of its oil. Mossadegh became the symbol of Iranian sovereignty.

Ironically, Mossadegh assumed the United States would support Iran’s move toward economic autonomy. But, in Washington, the Iranian leader was viewed as a demagogue, his emerging rival the Shah of Iran (the sitting monarch of Iran) as “more moderate.”

After the nationalization, the British, supported by the United States, boycotted oil produced by the Iranian Oil Company. The British lobbied Washington to launch a military intervention but the Truman Administration feared such an action would work to the advantage of the Iranian Communists, the Tudeh Party. 

The boycott led to economic strains in Iran, and Mossadegh compensated for the loss of revenue by increasing taxes on the rich. This generated growing opposition from the tiny ruling class, and they encouraged political instability. In 1953, to rally his people, Mossadegh carried out a plebiscite, a vote on his policies. The Iranian people overwhelmingly endorsed the nationalization of Iranian oil. In addition, Mossadegh initiated efforts to mend political fences with the former Soviet Union and the Tudeh Party.

As a result of the plebiscite, and Mossadegh’s openings to the Left, the United States came around to the British view; Mossadegh had to go. As one U.S. defense department official put it:

“When the crisis came on and the thing was about to collapse, we violated our normal criteria and among other things we did, we provided the army immediately on an emergency basis….The guns that they had in their hands, the trucks that they rode in, the armored cars that they drove through the streets, and the radio communications that permitted their control, were all furnished through the military defense assistance program…. Had it not been for this program, a government unfriendly to the United States probably would now be in power.” (Richard Barnet, Intervention and Revolution, 1972).

The Shah, who had fled Iran after the plebiscite, returned when Mossadegh was ousted. A new prime minister was appointed by him who committed Iran to the defense of the “free” world. U.S. military and economic aid was resumed, and Iran joined the CENTO alliance (an alliance of pro-West regional states).

In August, 1954, a new oil consortium was established. Five U.S. oil companies gained control of forty percent of Iranian oil, equal to that of returning British firms. Iran compensated the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company for its losses by paying $70 million, which Iran received as aid from the United States. The Iranian ruling class was accorded fifty percent of profits from future oil sales. President Eisenhower declared that the events of 1953 and 1954 were ushering in a new era of “economic progress and stability” in Iran and that it was now to be an independent country in “the family of free nations.”

In brief, the United States overthrew a popularly elected and overwhelmingly endorsed regime in Iran. The payoff the United States received, with British acquiescence, was a dramatic increase in access by U.S. oil companies to Iranian oil at the expense of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. The overthrow of Mossadegh and the backing of the return of the Shah to full control of the regime led to U.S. support for one of the world’s most repressive and militarized regimes. By the 1970s, 70,000 of the Shah’s opponents were in political prisons. Workers and religious activists rose up against the Shah in 1979, leading to the rapid revolutionary overthrow of his military state.

As Chalmers Johnson suggested many years later, the United States role in the world is still plagued by “blowback.” Masses of people all across the globe, particularly in the Persian Gulf, the Middle East, and East Asia, regard the United States as the major threat to their economic and political independence. And the covert operation against Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran is one place where such global mistrust began.

Friday, August 7, 2015

IMPERIALISM, WAR, AND/OR DIPLOMACY: WHERE SHOULD THE PEACE MOVEMENT STAND?

Harry Targ
Not every conflict was averted, but the world avoided nuclear catastrophe, and we created the time and the space to win the Cold War without firing a shot at the Soviets.

….Now, when I ran for president eight years ago as a candidate who had opposed the decision to go to war in Iraq, I said that America didn’t just have to end that war. We had to end the mindset that got us there in the first place. It was a mindset characterized by a preference for military action over diplomacy, a mindset that put a premium on unilateral U.S. action over the painstaking work of building international consensus, a mindset that exaggerated threats beyond what the intelligence supported. (Barack Obama, “Full text: Obama gives a speech about the Iran nuclear deal,” The Washington Post, August 5, 2015).

The peace movement has often been faced with a dilemma. Should it channel its energies in opposition to imperialism, including economic expansion and covert operations, or should it mobilize against war, or both. The problem was reflected in President Obama’s August 5, 2015 speech defending the anti-nuclear proliferation agreement with Iran.  On the one hand he defended diplomacy as the first tool of a nation’s foreign policy and on the other hand his defense included the argument that through diplomacy the United States “won” the Cold War, and thereby defeated a bloc of states that opposed capitalist expansion. The implication of his argument was that pursuing imperialism remained basic to United States foreign policy but achieving it through peace was better than through war.

The speech was presented at American University 52 years after President Kennedy called for peaceful competition with the former Soviet Union. In June, 1963, nine months after the Cuban Missile Crisis, which nearly led to nuclear war, and weeks after Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s call for “peaceful coexistence,” President Kennedy responded by urging the use of diplomacy rather than war in the ongoing conflict with the Soviet Union. 

A small but growing number of scholars and activists at that time had begun to articulate the view that the threat of nuclear war, growing U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia, and repeated covert interventions in Guatemala, Iran, Cuba, and the Congo, had to do with U.S. imperialism. The dilemma for the peace movement in 1963 then as it is in 2015 is how to respond to United States imperialism at the same time as supporting the use of diplomacy to forestall wars.

In the context of political discourse in 2015, dominated by “neoconservative” and “humanitarian interventionist” factions of the foreign policy elite, the danger of war always exists. Therefore, any foreign policy initiative that reduces the possibility of war and arguments about its necessity must be supported. The agreement with Iran supported by virtually every country except Israel constitutes an effort to satisfy the interests of Iran and the international community and without the shedding of blood and creating the danger of escalation to global war. 

Neoconservatives, celebrants of war, have had a long and growing presence in the machinery of United States foreign policy. James Forrestal, the first Secretary of Defense in the Truman Administration, was a leading advocate for developing a militaristic response to the Soviet Union in the years after World War II. As historian Andrew Bacevich pointed out, Forrestal was one of the Truman administrators who sought to create a “permanent war economy.” He was, in Bacevich’s terms, a founding member of the post-World War II “semi-warriors.”

Subsequent to the initiation of the imperial response to the “Soviet threat”--the Marshall Plan, NATO, wars in Korea and Vietnam, the arms race--other semi-warriors continued the crusade. These included the Dulles brothers (John and Alan), Air Force General Curtis LeMay, and prominent Kennedy advisors including McGeorge Bundy and Walter Rostow, architect of the “noncommunist path to development,” in Vietnam.

Key semi-warriors of our own day, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Elliott Abrams, Robert Kagan, and others who formed the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) in the 1990s, gained their first experience in the administrations of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. The PNAC view of how the United States should participate in world affairs is to use military superiority to achieve foreign policy goals. The key failure of Clinton foreign policy, they claimed, was his refusal to use force to transform the world. For starters, he should have overthrown Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

The neoconservative policy recommendations prevailed during the eight years of the George Walker Bush administration. International organizations were belittled, allies were ignored, arms control agreements with Russia were rescinded and discourse on the future prioritized planning for the next war. And concretely the United States launched long, bloody, immoral wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Humanitarian interventionists, more liberals than conservatives, argued that the United States should use force, but more selectively, to achieve various goals. These goals included interventions that allegedly defended the quest for human rights. Advocates of humanitarian interventionism argued that the United States must use all means available, military and diplomatic, to maximize interests and values. And force need not be the first or only instrument of policy. 

But in the end the humanitarian interventionists encouraged bombing Serbia, intervening in a civil war in Libya, funding rebels perpetuating war in Syria, expanding military training and a U.S. presence in Africa, and funding opposition elements against the government in Venezuela. In addition, with advice from humanitarian interventionists, the United States increased the use of drones to target enemies of U.S. interests in East Asia, the Persian Gulf, and the Middle East.

Neoconservatives and humanitarian interventionists (and in earlier times anti-communists) have led the charge for war-making in the United States since World War II. Between the end of the war and the 1990s, 10 million people died in wars in which the United States had a presence. Hundreds of thousands of young men and women serving in the armed forces of the United States have died or been permanently scarred by U.S. wars. And the physical landscape of Southeast Asia, the Persian Gulf, Central America, and the Middle East has been devastated by war. And in the United States, foreign policy elites, politicians, and think tank experts still advocate violence to address international problems. 

Therefore, in the context of a huge arms industry and global economic and political interests, any presidential initiative that uses diplomacy rather than force, declares its opposition to unilateral action, and challenges the war mindset deserves the support of the peace movement. Given the long and painful United States war system, the battle to secure the agreement between the P5 plus 1 nuclear agreement with Iran is worthy of support.


 


Thursday, January 2, 2020

The Wisdom of a Socialist Defector: A Book Review

by Harry Targ

(Jan 01, 2020) Monthly Review

Victor Grossman, A Socialist Defector: From Harvard to Karl-Marx-Allee (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2019), 352 pages, $23, paperback.

Victor Grossman’s A Socialist Defector: From Harvard to Karl-Marx-Allee is at once an exciting adventure story, an engaging autobiography of a radical opponent of U.S. imperialism, and a clear-headed assessment of the successes and failures of the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany) at the onset of the Cold War until 1990, when its citizens voted to merge with the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG, West Germany). Most poignantly, Grossman compares the benefits workers gained in the GDR, the FRG, and even the United States during the Cold War.

The story opens with Grossman (formerly Stephen Wechsler) swimming the Danube River from the United States to the Soviet zone of Austria and, after a time, ending up in the sector known as East Germany. Grossman fled the U.S. military in 1952 when he discovered that he might be prosecuted for lying about not being a member of any listed subversive organizations, including the Communist Party of the United States. Punishment could have amounted to a large fine and years in prison. So, he fled, thus beginning a lifelong journey living in, studying, and writing about the GDR, a smaller and weaker sector of Germany that had been demonized by Western journalists, academics, and politicians.

The book in significant detail compares the background to the formation and political and economic circumstances of the two Germanies during the onset of the Cold War (1945–53). At the last wartime conference in Yalta in February 1945 and Potsdam in July 1945, the defeated Germany was divided into so-called temporary zones of occupation, with the United States, Great Britain, France (later), and the Soviet Union controlling sectors of the country. By 1946, the U.S., British, and French zones were combined and, in 1949, created the FRG while the Soviet Union-controlled sector, the poorest and least industrialized area, became the GDR.
Ninety percent of wartime reparations to the Soviet Union for Germany’s destruction during the war were extracted from the East German zone alone. West Germany paid no reparations and instead received a large share of the $14 billion Marshall Plan program. In East Germany, most former Nazis were eliminated from government, educational institutions, industry, and research. Its de-Nazification program meant that most trained scientists and engineers lost their jobs or fled to the West, leaving the GDR with the need to employ relative novices at the pinnacle of educational, scientific, and economic institutions.

In the West, however, most of the leadership in politics, education, and scientific research came from the former Nazi corporate sector, including German corporations such as I. G. Farben, Krupp, Daimler-Benz, Deutsche Bank, Thyssen, Bayer, and BASF. Central to Grossman’s vivid, concrete, and data-based comparisons of the two Germanies after the Second World War is the fact that the two sectors of Germany were not equally resourced powers but rather one sector that would become the FRG, which recently had the capacity to launch a world war, and a small, underdeveloped agrarian sector of the country. In other words, the Cold War in Central Europe was not a conflict among equals as the Western narrative proclaimed.
Most importantly for Grossman, the GDR, despite its relative poverty and underdevelopment, systematically adopted policies that privileged the German working class. Gaps in wealth and income among the workers of the East were eliminated, education and health care were provided free to all workers, family-leave policies and day care facilities were instituted, and all workers were provided at least one large meal a day at their workplaces. Everyone had a place to live and rent never exceeded 10 percent of workers’ wages. Women were accorded basic rights in the workplace and, at least at the local level and on the factory floor, participated in political and social life more or less as equals.

In short, in the context of underdevelopment, huge war reparations to the Soviet Union, and a largely agrarian society striving to jumpstart economic development, the government of the GDR provided basic but vital provisions for the entire population. In addition, the government and community provided cheap access to the best of German culture: symphonies, operas, ballet, and theater for everyone. And, of course, as the Grossman narrative makes clear, the GDR hosted a small defector population from many countries.
Although the GDR was struggling to build a workers’ state and, to some extent, develop economically, it did achieve part of its vision. The road to success, however, as Grossman suggests, was made increasingly difficult by international forces and domestic flaws. First, the United States and the FRG launched sustained propaganda campaigns so workers would reject East German society, offering the image of a Western capitalism that provided a whole array of goods and services unavailable to the East. Since the Berlin Wall was not constructed until 1961, East Germans visited West Berlin and, if they could afford it, purchased products unavailable at home. Since East Germans paid so little for food, rent, health services, and culture, they saved money. But the consumer goods they desired were not found at home. Thus, East Germans increasingly thought about consumption and decreasingly about the life-sustaining resources they took for granted.

The availability of consumer goods in West Berlin was glowingly described as part of the illustration of Western democracy beamed to the East by Radio Free Europe and other means of electronic propaganda. The new medium of television made it possible for East Germans to experience an image of wealth presumed to be characteristic of the West. Grossman points out that by the 1980s, many East Germans were led to believe that all Americans lived like characters in the television series Dallas, a dramatic show about wealthy Texans.

Enticing images from the West were combined with the political and ideological rigidities of the government and party in the East. Internally, leaders of the GDR and the Socialist Unity Party (a merger of the Communist and Socialist Parties) had engaged in the struggles against fascism since the rise of Adolf Hitler, extending solidarity with the struggle against fascism in Spain and later serving in the resistance or in exile during the Second World War. Grossman felt that this lifetime of struggle led leaders to be skeptical of change, suspicious of artistic experimentation (including the theatrical techniques of Bertolt Brecht, for example), and defensive in the face of criticisms of state and local policies. In the GDR, workers were empowered to challenge policies at the factory level but were discouraged from or punished for confronting leadership of the state and party.

In 1961, relative stagnation in economic growth in the East, increasing demand for consumer goods, encouragement by politicians in the FRG to abandon loyalties to the GDR, and growing hostility and threats of war with the United States led to increased emigration of East Germans to West Berlin. In August, the GDR and Soviet troops built the Berlin Wall, which reinforced divisions among the German people, further singled out the bisected Germany as a possible locale for escalation from cold to hot war, and became the reigning metaphor for a bipolar world divided between freedom and tyranny, capitalist development and socialist underdevelopment. While Grossman’s narrative is not uncritical of the GDR, he suggests that the metaphor, for the most part, was the opposite of the truth. For all its flaws, the GDR represented an attempt, in the face of war’s devastation, sustained pressures from the West, underdevelopment, and leadership inflexibility at home, to build a new kind of society that could meet the material, cultural, and psychological needs of the German working class.
Grossman, drawing from his thirty-eight years in the GDR, reflects on the achievements and shortcomings of the United States at home and in the world. As his criteria for comparison of the East and West, he uses Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1941 call for the achievement of the “four freedoms”: freedom of speech and expression, freedom to worship as one chooses, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. “Looking back after more than seventy-five years, I think about the extent of their realization in the different societies in which I have lived” (261).

Drawing on a wealth of data, he suggests that the amazing achievements in economic and technological developments the United States experienced in the post-Second World War period were tempered by the lack of achievement of social and economic justice. In addition, the United States engaged in worldwide exploits, such as its opposition to the GDR, that undermined the efforts of many countries to provide for their citizens on their own terms.
The text provides a rich, detailed analysis of limitations on the achievement of the four freedoms in the United States and argues for the construction of a society based on an egalitarian economy not driven by profit. He warns of the evermore virulent consolidation of capitalist instrumentalities, banks, and corporations on a global scale.

While committed to the electoral process and convincing people to embrace change, Grossman concludes that he is “completely convinced [that] it is necessary to confiscate [the super wealthy’s] factories, banks, and mines, their huge expanses of farm acreage as well as their hoarded billions, in coins, paper, gold, or long columns of numbers. This wealth derives from sacrifices so many of the 99 percent have endured; it was created by the muscles, brains, skills, and dedication of countless millions of ordinary people” (320–21). He proclaims that his lifetime of experiences, including his nearly four decades in the GDR, convince him that we need to “dethrone the kings of wealth! Get rid of them!” (321).
A Socialist Defector is a masterful book that reads like a novel and memoir. It describes a politics of the Cold War in the heart of Europe that is not discussed in most histories of U.S. foreign policy. It details the positive features of East German society while criticizing its failings (for example, there is a long discussion of the negative impacts of the East German secret police, the Stasi). It also presents in depth the drive of the United States for global hegemony. In the last third of the book, Grossman also analyzes the failures of the United States (sometimes in comparison with the achievements of the GDR) with regard to social and economic justice, protecting the environment, and deterring military violence around the world. A Socialist Defector ends with praise for and a call for social movements in the United States to mobilize together to achieve the four freedoms (and along the way to fight the rising currents of twenty-first-century fascism).

Grossman ends his memoir reflecting on his life: “We are all part of the same world. I believe that what I wrote, said, or did was for a good cause, and despite occasional mistakes I have no real regrets. And I still have great hopes for a happier future for everyone, everywhere” (334).

Harry Targ is a retired professor of political science at Purdue University. He has written books and articles on U.S. foreign policy and international political economy, and blogs at Diary of a Heartland Radical, www.heartlandradical.blogspot.com. He would like to thank Arthur Heitzer of the National Lawyers Guild for his help with this review.