Time for Latin America & the Caribbean to come first

Photo: SAG

The policy of “America first” defended by the current U.S. administration constitutes a declaration of principles.

If Washington once fantasized about a world in its own image and likeness, in which progress would spread to countries that did not challenge its hegemony, it is now clear that there is only room for one country at the top. And anyone who disputes U.S. dominance must face “fire and fury.”

What can Latin America and the Caribbean expect of their northern neighbor? The next meeting of the continent’s heads of state, in mid-April in Lima, Peru, will be an opportunity to see.

With the opening of the 8th Summit of the Americas – an initiative of Bill Clinton’s administration to promote free trade – a month off, the White House must prepare the ground.

OAS Council meeting in Washington

This is the task of Vice President Mike Pence today, during the Organization of American States Council meeting in Washington, where he will offer an unusual speech on his government’s priorities in relation to the continent.

Pence will be the first U.S. Vice President to address the body since Democrat Al Gore did so in 1994, reflecting the lack of importance Washington gives this “council of colonies,” except when the U.S. is looking to attack or promote coups in sovereign countries.

U.S. officials have already announced plans to redouble aggression against Venezuela, with the overthrow of its government an obsession for this administration, as it attempts to extend an olive branch to others countries in the region and soften its offences.

Summit in Lima

The Summit in Lima will be the first time Trump comes face to face with his Latin American and Caribbean counterparts, who still hold fresh in their memories the xenophobic rhetoric he used in his 2016 election campaign; his threats to make Mexico pay for a border wall; his description of Haiti and El Salvador as “shithole countries” and immigrants from the region as “murderers and rapists.”

As Pence speaks to the OAS in Washington, meeting in Lima will be representatives of civil society from across the continent, in what is being called a Hemispheric Dialogue, to address issues like forced disappearances, neoliberal austerity measures, lay-offs and pension cuts, murders of journalists, corruption, and the “soft” coups taking place in our region.

Simultaneously in Cuba, a Thinking the Americas Forum will take on the challenge of addressing the diversity and richness of Cuban civil society in times of change, to pave the way for a prosperous and sustainable socialism.

Three events in three distinct locations, at a key moment in the region, again facing the confrontation of two Americas, two different historical projects, on the same continent.

As our emancipators did 200 years ago, this appears to be the time to say: “Latin America and the Caribbean first.”

Knowledge knows no borders

Source:  Granma
March 20 2018

U.S. orthopedic surgeon Xavier Duralde collaborates with Cuban doctors at Havana’s Ameijeiras Hospital

Dr. Xavier Duralde from the United States (center), with doctors Horacio Tabares Neyra and Osvaldo García Martínez, course coordinators representing the Cuban Orthopedics and Traumatology Society. Photo: Nuria Barbosa León

Despite obstacles imposed by the current U.S. administration to hamper relations with Cuba, including claims of alleged “sonic attacks” against its diplomatic personnel on the island, and issuing of an unfounded travel advisory against the Caribbean nation, recommending that its population “reconsider” visiting Cuba, U.S. citizens continue wanting to experience the island and help build bridges between the two nations.

Such is the case of Dr. Xavier Duralde from the United States, experienced orthopedic surgeon and renowned professor who gave an international course on arthroscopic diagnosis and treatment of injuries to shoulder and elbow joints to Cuban colleagues at Havana’s Hermanos Ameijeiras Surgical Clinical Hospital.

Duralde described the exchange with his Cuban counterparts as beneficial for both parties given marked interest in the development of minimally invasive surgery – or arthroscopic surgery within orthopedics – on the island, used to correct ankle, knee, hip, elbow, shoulder and wrist conditions.

Sharing new ideas

The specialist highlighted how performing this type of surgery benefits Cuban doctors, as well as the need to extend it to shoulder procedures. “I have come to share new ideas in these types of techniques so that their use can be extended here,” he noted.

The U.S. specialist also emphasized his marked interest in visiting the island given the lack of knowledge in his country about contemporary Cuban society. I am very proud to be visiting for the first time and to be sharing with colleagues on these issues, stated the U.S. medical professional.

Xavier Duralde, who graduated from the University of Columbia and currently works at Northside and Predmont hospitals in Atlanta, is also an associate adjunct professor at the Emory University School of Medicine in this U.S. state and orthopedic surgeon for the Atlanta Braves baseball team. He is also a member of the American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons Society; Association of Bone and Joint Surgeons; as well as the Major League Baseball Physicians Association.

An improvement in collaborative relations

The surgeon explained that the opportunity to give the course arose after he met Dr. Horacio Tabares Neyra, president of the Cuban Orthopedics and Traumatology Society, at an international specialist event.

He also noted that he wishes to repeat the experience and thus hopes to see an improvement in collaborative relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

Meanwhile, Tabares Neyra noted that the course was divided into three sessions and attended by orthopedic and rheumatology specialists from the country’s 15 provinces as well as all hospitals in the capital, with theoretic and practical sessions and demonstrations of live surgeries performed on real patients.

Xavier Duralde “is an expert in the theoretical and practical elements of these treatments, and his help is very valuable to extending arthroscopic shoulder surgery throughout the country,” stated Tabares Neyra, who went on to note that the program was designed by Duralde himself and given in Spanish, which helped understanding.

Regarding the Cuban Orthopedics and Traumatology Society, Tabares Neyra explained that the institution was founded in the 1940s, currently has over 2,000 members, and was presided for various decades by national and internationally renowned professor Dr. Rodrigo Álvarez Cambra.

Among other efforts, the Society aims to contribute to scientific work; disseminate key achievements of its professionals; introduce modern technologies and new prophylactic and therapeutic methods within the specialty through frequent exchanges and debates on individual and collective experiences. It also maintains links with similar national and international scientific institutions, with the potential for scientific-technical and educational exchanges in this field.

In figures

In 2017, 989,209 general surgeries using traditional methods were performed in Cuba, some 5,326 more than the previous year. During this period, 52,017 procedures using minimally invasive techniques were carried out, an increase of around 6,000 as compared to 2016. Minimally invasive surgery is practiced in 53 hospitals and by 13 medical specialties in Cuba.

Recolonization of Africa by Endless War

Source:  Black Agenda Report
November 8 2017
“Washington is running a gruesome protection racket in Africa, simultaneously creating the conditions for armed groups to thrive while offering protection against them.”
Recolonization of Africa by Endless War
Recolonization of Africa by Endless War


Six years ago, on October 20th, 2011, Muammar Gaddafi was murdered, joining a long list of African revolutionaries martyred by the West for daring to dream of continental independence.

goddafiEarlier that day, Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte had been occupied by Western-backed militias, following a month-long battle during which NATO and its “rebel” allies pounded the city’s hospitals and homes with artillery, cut off its water and electricity, and publicly proclaimed their desire to “starve [the city] into submission.” The last defenders of the city, including Gaddafi, fled Sirte that morning, but their convoy was tracked and strafed by NATO jets, killing 95 people. Gaddafi escaped the wreckage but was captured shortly afterward. I will spare you the gruesome details, which the Western media gloatingly broadcast across the world as a triumphant snuff movie. Suffice to say that he was tortured and eventually shot dead.

We now know, if testimony from NATO’s key Libyan ally, Mahmoud Jibril, is to be believed, it was a foreign agent, likely French, who delivered the fatal bullet. His death was the culmination of not only seven months of NATO aggression, but of a campaign against Gaddafi and his movement the West had been waging for over three decades.

“It was a foreign agent, likely French, who delivered the fatal bullet.”

Yet it was also the opening salvo in a new war –- a war for the military recolonization of Africa.

The year 2009, two years before Gaddafi’s murder, was a pivotal one for US-African relations. First, because China overtook the US as the continent’s largest trading partner; and second because Gaddafi was elected president of the African Union.

The significance of both for the decline of US influence on the continent could not be clearer. While Gaddafi was spearheading attempts to unite Africa politically, committing serious amounts of Libyan oil wealth to make this dream a reality, China was quietly smashing the West’s monopoly over export markets and investment finance. Africa no longer had to go cap-in-hand to the IMF for loans, agreeing to whatever self-defeating terms were on offer, but could turn to China –- or indeed Libya –- for investment. And if the US threatened to cut them off from their markets, China would happily buy up whatever was on offer. Western economic domination of Africa was under threat as never before.

The response from the West, of course, was a military one. Economic dependence on the West –- rapidly being shattered by Libya and China –- would be replaced by a new military dependence. If African countries would no longer come begging for Western loans, export markets, and investment finance, they would have to be put in a position where they would come begging for Western military aid.

“Economic dependence on the West –- rapidly being shattered by Libya and China –- would be replaced by a new military dependence.”

To this end, AFRICOM –- the US army’s new ‘African command’ –- had been launched the previous year, but humiliatingly for George W. Bush, not a single African country would agree to host its HQ; instead, it was forced to open shop in Stuttgart, Germany. Gaddafi had led African opposition to AFRICOM, as exasperated US diplomatic memos later revealed by WikiLeaks made clear. And US pleas to African leaders to embrace AFRICOM in the “fight against terrorism” fell on deaf ears.

After all, as Mutassim Gaddafi, head of Libyan security, had explained to Hillary Clinton in 2009, North Africa already had an effective security system in place, through the African Union’s “standby forces,” on the one hand, and CEN-SAD on the other. CEN-SAD was a regional security organization of Sahel and Saharan states, with a well-functioning security system, with Libya as the lynchpin. The sophisticated Libyan-led counter-terror structure meant there was simply no need for a US military presence. The job of Western planners, then, was to create such a need.

NATO’s destruction of Libya simultaneously achieved three strategic goals for the West’s plans for military expansion in Africa. Most obviously, it removed the biggest obstacle and opponent of such expansion, Gaddafi himself. With Gaddafi gone, and with a quiescent pro-NATO puppet government in charge of Libya, there was no longer any chance that Libya would act as a powerful force against Western militarism. Quite the contrary –- Libya’s new government was utterly dependent on such militarism and knew it.

“Gaddafi had led African opposition to AFRICOM.”

Secondly, NATO’s aggression served to bring about a total collapse of the delicate but effective North African security system, which had been underpinned by Libya. And finally, NATO’s annihilation of the Libyan state effectively turned the country over to the region’s death squads and terror groups. These groups were then able to loot Libya’s military arsenals and set up training camps at their leisure, using these to expand operations right across the region.

It is no coincidence that almost all of the recent terror attacks in North Africa – not to mention Manchester – have been either prepared in Libya or perpetrated by fighters trained in Libya. Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, ISIS, Mali’s Ansar Dine, and literally dozens of others, have all greatly benefited from the destruction of Libya.

By ensuring the spread of terror groups across the region, the Western powers had magically created a demand for their military assistance which hitherto did not exist. They had literally created a protection racket for Africa.

In an excellent piece of research published last year, Nick Turse wrote how the increase in AFRICOM operations across the continent has correlated precisely with the rise in terror threats. Its growth, he said, has been accompanied by “increasing numbers of lethal terror attacks across the continent including those in Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Tunisia.

“Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, ISIS, Mali’s Ansar Dine, and literally dozens of others, have all greatly benefited from the destruction of Libya.”

In fact, data from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland shows that attacks have spiked over the last decade, roughly coinciding with AFRICOM’s establishment. In 2007, just before it became an independent command, there were fewer than 400 such incidents annually in sub-Saharan Africa. Last year, the number reached nearly 2,000. By AFRICOM’s own official standards, of course, this is a demonstration of a massive failure. Viewed from the perspective of the protection racket, however, it is a resounding success, with US military power smoothly reproducing the conditions for its own expansion.

This is the Africa policy Trump has now inherited. But because this policy has rarely been understood as the protection racket it really is, many commentators have, as with so many of Trump’s policies, mistakenly believed he is somehow ‘ignoring’ or ‘reversing’ the approach of his predecessors. In fact, far from abandoning this approach, Trump is escalating it with relish.

What the Trump administration is doing, as it is doing in pretty much every policy area, is stripping the previous policy of its “soft power” niceties to reveal and extend the iron fist which has in fact been in the driving seat all along. Trump, with his open disdain for Africa, has effectively ended US development aid for Africa –- slashing overall African aid levels by one third, and transferring responsibility for much of the rest from the Agency for International Development to the Pentagon –- while openly tying aid to the advancement of “US national security objectives.”

In other words, the US has made a strategic decision to drop the carrot in favor of the stick. Given the overwhelming superiority of Chinese development assistance, this is unsurprising. The US has decided to stop trying to compete in this area, and instead to ruthlessly and unambiguously pursue the military approach which the Bush and Obama administrations had already mapped out.

“Terror attacks have spiked over the last decade, roughly coinciding with AFRICOM’s establishment. In 2007.”

To this end, Trump has stepped up drone attacks, removing the (limited) restrictions that had been in place during the Obama era. The result has been a ramping up of civilian casualties, and consequently of the resentment and hatred which fuels militant recruitment. It is unlikely to be a coincidence, for example, that the al Shabaab truck bombing that killed over 300 people in Mogadishu last weekend was carried out by a man from a town which had suffered a major drone attack on civilians, including women and children, in August.

Indeed, a detailed study by the United Nations recently concluded that in “a majority of cases, state action appears to be the primary factor finally pushing individuals into violent extremism in Africa.” Of more than 500 former members of militant organizations interviewed for the report, 71 percent pointed to “government action,” including “killing of a family member or friend” or “arrest of a family member or friend” as the incident that prompted them to join a group. And so the cycle continues: drone attacks breed recruitment, which produces further terror attacks, which leaves the states involved more dependent on US military support. Thus does the West create the demand for its own “products.”

It does so in another way as well. Alexander Cockburn, in his book Kill Chain, explains how the policy of ‘targeted killings’ –- another Obama policy ramped up under Trump –- also increases the militancy of insurgent groups. Cockburn, reporting on a discussion with US soldiers about the efficacy of targeted killings, wrote that: “When the topic of conversation came round to ways of defeating the [roadside] bombs, everyone was in agreement. They would have charts up on the wall showing the insurgent cells they were facing, often with the names and pictures of the guys running them,” Rivolo remembers. “When we asked about going after the high-value individuals and what effect it was having, they’d say, ‘Oh yeah, we killed that guy last month, and we’re getting more IEDs than ever.’ They all said the same thing, point blank: ‘[O]nce you knock them off, a day later you have a new guy who’s smarter, younger, more aggressive and is out for revenge.”’

Alex de Waal has written how this is certainly true in Somalia, where, he says, “each dead leader is followed by a more radical deputy. After a failed attempt in January 2007, the US killed Al Shabaab’s commander, Aden Hashi Farah Ayro, in a May 2008 air strike. Ayro’s successor, Ahmed Abdi Godane (alias Mukhtar Abu Zubair), was worse, affiliating the organization with Al-Qaeda. The US succeeded in assassinating Godane in September 2014. In turn, Godane was succeeded by an even more determined extremist, Ahmad Omar (Abu Ubaidah). It was presumably Omar who ordered the recent attack in Mogadishu, the worst in the country’s recent history. If targeted killing remains a central strategy of the War on Terror”, De Waal wrote, “it is set to be an endless war.”

“Endless war undermines China’s blossoming relationship with Africa.”

But endless war is the whole point. For not only does it force African countries, finally freeing themselves from dependence on the IMF, into dependence on AFRICOM; it also undermines China’s blossoming relationship with Africa.

Chinese trade and investment in Africa continues to grow apace. According to the China-Africa Research Initiative at John Hopkins University, Chinese FDI stocks in Africa had risen from just two percent of the value of US stocks in 2003 to 55 percent in 2015, when they totaled $35 billion. This proportion is likely to rapidly increase, given that “Between 2009 and 2012, China’s direct investment in Africa grew at an annual rate of 20.5 percent, while levels of US FDI flows to Africa declined by $8 billion in the wake of the global financial crisis”. Chinese-African trade, meanwhile, topped $200 billion in 2015.

China’s signature ‘One Belt One Road’ policy –- to which President Xi Jinping has pledged $124 billion to create global trade routes designed to facilitate $2 trillion worth of annual trade –- will also help to improve African links with China. Trump’s policy toward the project was summarized by Steve Bannon, his ideological mentor, and former chief strategist in just eight words: “Let’s go screw up One Belt One Road.” The West’s deeply destabilizing Africa policy –- of simultaneously creating the conditions for armed groups to thrive while offering protection against them – goes some way toward realizing this ambitious goal. Removing Gaddafi was just the first step.

Dan Glazebrook is a freelance political writer who has written for RT, Counterpunch, Z magazine, the Morning Star, the Guardian, the New Statesman, the Independent and Middle East Eye, amongst others. His first book “Divide and Ruin: The West’s Imperial Strategy in an Age of Crisis” was published by Liberation Media in October 2013. This article previously appeared in IBW21 [2] (The Institute of the Black World 21st Century) website

Going Down With the Bad Ship U.S.A.

Source:  Black Agenda Report
March 15 2018

going down with the bad ship.jpgGoing Down With the Bad Ship U.S.A.

“All that it can offer to the emerging nations of the world is a bad example and the threat of annihilation.”

There is no mystery to the ideological collapse of U.S. ruling class politics under late stage capitalism and imperial decline. Simply put, the corporate duopoly parties have nothing to offer the masses of people except unrelenting austerity at home and endless wars abroad. A shrunken and privatized Detroit serves as the model for U.S. urban policy; Libya and Syria are the scorched-earth footprints of a demented and dying empire. The lengthening shadow of economic eclipse by the East leaves the U.S. Lords of Capital with no cards left to play but the threat of Armageddon.

As China reclaims its historic place at the center of the earth, alongside the huge and heavily armed landmass of Russia, Washington flails about in a frenzy of firewall-building, buying time with the blood of millions, hoping to somehow preserve its doomed hegemony. But the “exceptional” superpower has no Marshall Plan to rescue itself from the throes of systemic decay, and all that it can offer to the emerging nations of the world is a bad example and the threat of annihilation. Its own people tire of the “Great Game,” finally realizing that they are the ones who have been played.

“Washington flails about in a frenzy of firewall-building, buying time with the blood of millions.”

George Bush drawled the “last hurrah” of empire with his declaration of “Mission Accomplished,” 15 years ago — and was quickly contradicted. With the failure in Iraq, the pretense of “spreading democracy” came ingloriously undone. A refurbishing of the imperial brand was attempted, with a bright and shiny new face – a Black-ish one — plus a new logo to justify invasion and regime-change: “humanitarian” intervention. But Obama’s assault on Syria revealed that the U.S. and its junior partners could only project power in the region through an alliance with Islamic jihadist terror. The architects of the War on Terror were, in fact, the godfathers of al Qaida.

“Do you realize now what you’ve done?” Vladimir Putin demanded of the Americans, at the United Nations, in 2015. “It is hypocritical and irresponsible to make loud declarations about the threat of international terrorism while turning a blind eye to the channels of financing and supporting terrorists, including the process of trafficking and illicit trade in oil and arms. It would be equally irresponsible to try to manipulate extremist groups and place them at one’s service in order to achieve one’s own political goals in the hope of later dealing with them or, in other words, liquidating them.”

The U.S. and its junior partners could only project power in the region through an alliance with Islamic jihadist terror.”

Washington’s jihadist strategy has rapidly unraveled ever since. The empire was unmasked in the world’s most public forum, revealing the utter depravity of U.S. policy and, more importantly, the weakness of Washington’s position in the region. The mighty fortress of global capital, the self-appointed defender of the world economic “order,” was revealed as, not just in collusion with head-chopping, women-enslaving, sectarian mass-murdering terrorists, but militarily dependent on the very forces it claims to wage a twilight, “generational” battle to destroy. The U.S. has been spouting The Mother of All Lies, and most of humanity knows it. Deep down, most Americans suspect as much, too.

With its intervention in Syria as a stalwart foe of jihadism and in defense of the principle of national sovereignty, Russia spoke the language of international law and morality, presenting a fundamental challenge to U.S. imperial exceptionalism. By deploying his forces against Washington’s jihadist proxies, in a region infested with American bases, Putin put muscle behind his call for a “multi-polar” world order.

China understands clearly that the ultimate U.S. aim is to block China’s access to the region’s energy and markets, at will. Beijing has praised Russia’s military role in the war, and stood with Moscow in vetoing western Security Council resolutions targeting Damascus. China routinely joins with Russia – and most other nations on the planet — in pursuit of a more “multi-polar world.”

“Putin put muscle behind his call for a “multi-polar” world order.”

The U.S. now uses the desperate Kurdish militia as surrogates in Syria, in an attempt to justify its presence in the country, while continuing to arm, finance and train other “rebel” groups, reportedly including former ISIS fighters. The U.S. has always avoided targeting the al Qaida affiliate in Syria, formerly known as the al Nusra Front — which, with ISIS on the run, remains the most effective anti-government force in the country.

The Trump administration declares that it will remain in Syria for the foreseeable future — without even a fig leaf of legal cover. Although there is now no possibility for a jihadist victory, Washington seems intent on drawing out the war as long as possible. The truth is, Washington doesn’t know how to extricate itself, because to do so would amount to yet another admission of defeat, and lead quickly to the dissolution of the jihadist networks the Pentagon has so long cultivated.

Withdrawal from Syria — and, sooner rather than later, from Iraq, whose parliament this month called for a timetable for U.S. forces to vacate the country — would totally unravel U.S. strategy to dominate events in the oil-rich region. Obama launched the jihadist war against the Syrian government in 2011 to force his way into the country. ISIS’s seizure of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, gave the U.S. the opportunity to return to that country, militarily. There will be no third chances, in Syria or Iraq.

“Washington doesn’t know how to extricate itself, because to do so would amount to yet another admission of defeat.”

The American people will not stand for another such adventure. They feel tainted by the experience in both Syria and Iraq, and don’t trust what their government says about the “good guys” and the “bad guys” in the Arab world. If only for reasons of racism, they want out.

Everyone smells U.S. defeat, inside and outside the empire. It is a stink that only Americans that were conscious in the Vietnam era can remember. It makes folks anxious — like the loss of a cocoon. Just as whites reaped a “psychological wage ” from Jim Crow privileges, according to W.E.B. Dubois, even if they were poor, so do citizens of empire feel psychological benefits, even when the cost of the war machine is impoverishing the country. U.S. politics in the era of imperial decline will be nasty, stupid, petty and racist — just as we are already experiencing. There must be scapegoats for the national de-exceptionalization. The Russians fit the bill, for now, and so does anybody that talks like a Russian, or a Chinese — for example, people that would like to live in a “multi-polar world.”

Do not expect the Republicans or the Democrats to make any sense of a world of diminishing empire. The duopolists are incapable of seeing any future beyond their rich patrons’ vision –- and the rich have no vision beyond continued accumulation of wealth, which requires a harsher and harsher austerity.

Most dangerous, they cannot imagine a world in which they are not on top. We will have to fight to keep them from blowing us all up, in rich man’s despair.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com .

Cuba Denounces Foreign Provocation on Eve of Elections

Source:  TeleSUR
March 9 2018

Outside forces tried to destabilize the island “with the financing and support of the external counterrevolution… and using a small illegal anti-Cuban group as an instrument.”

cuba denounces foreign provocationThe statement was issued after former presidents of Colombia and Bolivia,
Andres Pastrana and Jorge Quiroga, tried to enter the island.  | Photo: Reuters

Cuba‘s Foreign Ministry has condemned overseas governments trying to destabilize the Caribbean nation’s diplomatic relations with other states in the final run-up to the March 11 legislative elections.

RELATED:  It’s Latin America’s Turn to Help Cuba: Bolivian Vice President

“With the financing and support of the external counterrevolution… and using a small illegal anti-Cuban group as an instrument,” outside forces organized the Freedom and Life: Oswaldo Paya Award to destabilize the island,” the ministry said Friday.

The statement was issued after former presidents of Colombia and Bolivia Andres Pastrana and Jorge Quiroga, along with Chilean legislator Jaime Bellolio, tried to enter the island to attend the event. They had already been warned they would not be welcomed.

The Cuban government explained that, through a communication strategy, international media outlets sought to mount a show in order to damage the progress of the elections.

According to the government, the strategy was supported and financed by international organizations such as the Democratic Initiative of Spain and the Americas; the Foundation for Pan American Democracy, and the Victims of Communism Memory FoundationOrganization of American States Secretary General Luis Almagro was also involved.

Cuba said such organizations don’t care about the problems of Latin Americans, reiterating its intention to face any provocation and warning Cuba will give “a firm response” because it remains loyal to the principles of the Revolution.

Bolivian President Evo Morales also criticized the actions of Pastrana and Quiroga, posting on Twitter: “We condemn the act of impertinent provocation and reckless interference by former presidents Tuto Quiroga and Andres Pastrana who were trying to enter the sovereign country of Cuba.”

Morales also said that people supporting coups d’etat and U.S. President Donald Trump would never be welcome in countries free of imperialism.

AFRICOM – Staggering But Not Yet Down For The Count

Source:  Black Agenda Report
February 21 2018

“The AFRICOM serpent has spent more than a decade slithering into almost every African country and establishing a venomous presence.”

africom staggering but.jpg

Even though Donald Trump thinks Africa is a “shit hole” the continent forced its way into his life anyway in October when four U.S. soldiers were killed in Niger. After Trump deflected blame to others and made a soldier’s widow cry, he apparently returned quickly to his fantasies about boatloads of Norwegian immigrants swarming Ellis Island.

The military establishment was not so quick to change the subject. Their detailed investigation of the Niger matter has produced what is reported to be a damning assessment of the capacity of the U.S. military to carry out its imperialist agenda in Africa. The rest of us aren’t allowed to read it yet because, as the New York Times explained: “…public release has been delayed until General [Thomas] Waldhauser [head of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM)] appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee to present the command’s annual ‘posture hearing,’ scheduled for the last week of February.”

The New York Times goes on to say: “Defense officials said that the delay in part aims to keep senators from focusing on the Niger ambush during the hearing and, in turn, excoriating General Waldhauser when he testifies before the committee.” The convenient temporary suppression of the report will allow the General to present senators with the usual upbeat AFRICOM propaganda about U.S. soldiers digging wells and bringing medicine to downtrodden African villagers while giving friendly advice to African armies about how to fight terrorism.

“The convenient temporary suppression of the report will allow the General to present senators with the usual upbeat AFRICOM propaganda.”

Findings about failures of the campaign to militarize Africa are welcome news after the AFRICOM serpent has spent more than a decade slithering into almost every African country and establishing a venomous presence. Even better news is that the study reportedly “…calls for the Pentagon to scale back the number of ground missions in West Africa, and to strip commanders in the field of some authority to send troops on potentially high-risk patrols.”

With respect to the military deaths in Niger, the New York Times noted: “…[T]he ambush has exposed holes in the argument that the Pentagon has made under three different administrations: that in many far-flung places, American troops are not actually engaged in combat, but just there to train, advise and assist local troops.” Not only is the U.S. military engaged in combat, it has also formed an unholy alliance with France that gives both countries the opportunity to wreak havoc in Africa tag-team style. For example, in 2012 when one of Mali’s soldiers, who had been trained by AFRICOM, staged a coup that displaced Mali’s democratically elected government, the French military stepped in to try to clean up the mess.

“The study calls for the Pentagon to scale back the number of ground missions in West Africa, and to strip commanders in the field of some authority to send troops on potentially high-risk patrols.”

The U.S. has also had France’s back. State Department documents show that while Muammar Gadhafi lived, France coveted Libya’s oil and wanted desperately to stop plans to create a Pan-African currency backed by Libyan gold. In an effort to satisfy French desires, the U.S. stepped in and did the dirty work of arming vicious Libyan racists and terrorists who, in turn, not only committed a grisly assassination of Gadhafi, but also began a campaign of genocide against blacks in Libya.

In Niger, when French uranium mining operations in Arlit and a military installation in Agadez were attacked in 2013, the U.S. military stepped in, and its continuing involvement there eventually cost the lives of four U.S. soldiers last year. A Guardian article about the 2013 attacks said: “The militants vowed to hit any country that helped France…” Someone apparently made good on that threat.

Meanwhile, U.S. politicians claim they are clueless. Senator Lindsey Graham said: “I didn’t know there were 1,000 troops in Niger. This is an endless war without boundaries, no limitation on time or geography. We don’t know exactly where we’re at in the world militarily and what we’re doing.” Even though Donald Trump is probably less informed than Graham, his administration not only increased the number of drone strikes in Somalia, but also removed limits on drone strikes and commando raids that Barack (The King of Drones) Obama established in 2013.

“The U.S. has formed an unholy alliance with France that gives both countries the opportunity to wreak havoc in Africa tag-team style.”

Nevertheless, AFRICOM itself may already be downsizing. Lauren Ploch, a Congressional Research Service Africa analyst commented: “AFRICOM’s security cooperation spending was down in 2017 from the previous few years.” If the recently completed report on U.S. military engagement in Niger has the expected impact, the U.S. military presence in Africa will be scaled back even more — at least temporarily. But because the long-term interests of the U.S. Empire demand the continuing western capitalist domination of the African continent, the generals and strategists will no doubt huddle and figure out a more effective way to sell the AFRICOM idea, and it will return.

A temporarily scaled-back AFRICOM will present a window of opportunity that will probably close quickly. Those who want to prevent the further military domination of Africa must therefore make haste to do whatever possible to ensure that an already disintegrating AFRICOM project crumbles into dust and is swept away forever by African desert winds.

Mark P. Fancher is an attorney who writes frequently about the U.S. military presence in Africa. He can be contacted at mfancher(at)comcast.net

Gun Control will Not Cure a Society that Produces Monstrous Behavior

Source:  Dear Kitty Some Blog / The Real News Network


PAUL JAY: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay. In a previous interview with Dr. Gerald Horne, we discussed how guns, and God, and country are all part of the religious faith of the far right in the United States. The idea that guns and the individual right to defend oneself is more an act of faith than an act of logic, when one actually works through the arguments of how one actually achieves public safety, but there’s a reason why, or some reasons why, I think, that a lot of ordinary people can believe in such a faith, because part of that faith is a recognition of the decay of values in the society, the chaos in society, the violence in society. A lot of that is attributed — by such people who believe in these things — to the Democratic Party, and the intellectual elites, as they see them, the elites in the Democratic Party. I frankly think there’s something to that argument.Now joining me to discuss that again is Dr. Gerald Horne. Dr. Horne holds the John J. and Rebecca Moore Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston. His latest book is The Counterrevolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America. Thanks for joining me again, Gerald.

GERALD HORNE: Thank you.

PAUL JAY: When one looks at what’s happened to a large extent in popular culture, certainly what’s happened in terms of the growing inequality gap in terms of economics, ordinary working people who had some sense of stability from an economy that used to be far more reliable, and with that ideological and institutional beliefs that seemed far more reliable, and a lot of that seems up in the air now. People feel very threatened, both economically and in terms of their core beliefs. They feel like this society doesn’t believe in much of anything anymore.That leads, I think, leads people with some legitimacy to think that a lot of the leadership of the Democratic Party and their promises are such hypocrisy, and that some of this violence needs to be laid on their doorstep. When the charge for gun control is led by that leadership of the Democratic Party, it feels hypocritical, because they’re not dealing with some of the conditions that lead to so much mental illness, so much psychosis in this society. The numbers of these mass shootings are certainly increasing. This feeling that society’s spinning out of control, and that the Democratic Party leadership has a lot to do with that, and of course that gets exaggerated, because it’s not like when the Republicans are in power it’s better, but this all gets manipulated a lot. Anyway, what are your thoughts, Dr. Horne?GERALD HORNE: I would say that there are profound sociological reasons for what is occurring with regard to mass shootings. First of all, consider the fact that overwhelmingly and disproportionately those who pull the trigger are men. We should not take that for granted. We should instead seek to analyze why that might be the case, and it does not take an expert in sociology to quickly arrive at the conclusion that many men in this country have been unsettled by the changing role of gender in this country, by the enhanced role and authority of women, by the rise of feminism. There hasn’t been an adequate ventilation and discussion of this particular question, and as a result, it has left many men without any kind of understanding of what’s going on in the society in which they’re operating, leading men, as the saying goes, many men at least, to cling with bitterness to their guns.Secondly, with regard to foreign policy, I find it quite striking that a central aspect of U.S. foreign policy in recent decades has not only been war, that is to say settling political and sociological problems from the barrel of a gun, be it Libya, or Iraq, or Afghanistan, but also helping to fuel a certain kind of religious zealotry, particularly in pre-1979 Afghanistan, and not least in pre-2011 Libya, and then of course that particular phenomenon comes home to roost with the killing in Texas engineered by Nidal Hasan, the killing at the Pulse nightclub, for example. That general idea of settling political and sociological problems through the barrel of a gun should not be thought of as just an exemplar of religious zealots such as Nidal Hasan in Texas. It’s part of the U.S. culture, as noted in our previous segment, going back to European settlement in the 1600s.PAUL JAY: Look at Hollywood movies and television shows, at the number of movies and shows that glorify the most outlandish amounts of killing and slaughtering. That’s not new. We’ve had decades of that kind of culture developing. Again, I go to ordinary working people that buy into this kind of God, gun, and country ideology. It’s a legitimate concern when they look at what the kind of stuff that Hollywood produces, the level of violence of it, but I also think one of the points that the NRA woman made had a kernel of truth to it. I mean in the town hall CNN organized. According to her, there were 39 points where the young man that did the shooting was in connection with the state or social agencies in some ways, whether it was the police force or some kind of social agencies, and they kept diagnosing him as having mental illness. They saw some of his very threatening posts on social media.DANA LOESCH: We have to start, number one, following up on red flags. 39 times in the past year, it was law enforcement or it was social services that went to this individual’s home.PAUL JAY: The irony of her statement is, she supports — and the NRA and that right –precisely supports the kind of politics that cuts back on social services, that cuts back on mental healthcare, that cuts back on public health interventions. The lack of interventions in the schools, which is partly a resource question and partly a lack of agenda, but the number of severely depressed, disturbed kids that simply go through school … Now, most of them don’t shoot anybody, but often they shoot themselves. Suicide rates are also skyrocketing. It’s not just about mass shootings.Why is there such an opiate epidemic? This society is sick. The people who only focus on gun control, and here again I would point to the leadership of the Democratic Party and much of the liberal class that think gun control is the answer, without dealing with the issue of the rot in the society that is so screwing up people’s heads that massive drug addiction, deep depression, high suicide rates … We talk about that healthy society, and yes, of course, let’s also talk about gun control, but not to talk about the rest, that is hypocrisy.GERALD HORNE: First of all, with regard to Hollywood, it’s well known, point A, that that particular industry, in the film and television, has a more than normalized complement of executives at the top who tend to be campaign donors to the Democratic Party. Point B, as your comment suggested, the cultural products that they produce tend to glorify violence. Then point C is that the ratings agencies are much more willing to censor, if you like, scenes of sexuality as opposed to scenes of violence, and let ‘er rip when it comes to scenes of violence.Then there’s the question of mental health, which is quite tricky, because on the one hand, it would be a mistake, as the Republicans are tending to do, to lay this tragedy at the doorstep of mental illness. As suggested, there are many people who have mental problems who do not necessarily pick up an AR-15, and march into a public school, and mow people down. At the same time, the Republicans are pleading inconsistent accounts, as the lawyers like to say, because on the one hand they’re trying to point the finger of accusation at mental health. On the other hand, they’re defunding government programs that address mental health. Obviously, they can’t have it both ways. They are pleading inconsistent accounts, and certainly they need to be held to account for their inconsistent hypocrisy.PAUL JAY: This thing that this NRA woman says at the town hall, where she over and over again called this young man, the shooter, a monster, “He’s a monster.”DANA LOESCH: I don’t believe that this insane monster should have ever been able to obtain a firearm. This monster carrying bullets to school, carrying bullets to school …PAUL JAY: No, he’s another child of ours. He’s one of our kids. He wasn’t born a monster. If what he did was monstrous, not if, what he did was monstrous — but how does he become that kind of monster? She doesn’t want to deal with that whatsoever. She wants to demonize him. It’s virtually back to this good and evil argument. Somehow he’s an evil seed, and the good — God, guns, country — we need to go get these monsters. Of course, to do that, we need our guns.GERALD HORNE: I think what you’re saying is another problem, as well, which is that it’s well known that in this country, when there are prickly and tricky political and sociological problems, there is a tendency not to analyze the society, the soil from which these problems grow, but to denounce individual proxies. You see that in particular with regard to what happens in the black community, for example. That is to say, rather than denouncing white supremacy, or the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow, ongoing racism, etc., there is a laser-like focus on the imagined frailties and debilities, for example, of single black mothers.You see that as not necessarily isolated with regard to the black community. You see this also with regard to this question of mass shootings. Rather than do a historical analysis of European settlement, and colonialism, and dispossession of Native Americans, which would then lead to an indictment of society, it’s much easier to affix individual blame on a particular teenager, as is happening in Florida as we speak.PAUL JAY: Just to pick up on something you said, in terms of the history of this ideology of the right to have a gun, and how connected it is with the God, and country, and so on, it wasn’t all that long ago it was considered a right by a lot of Southerners, white Southerners, they have a right to lynch black people.GERALD HORNE: Sure. Once again, there is a reluctance to dig too deeply with regard to the nettlesome problems of this society. You see this, as you have suggested a moment or two ago, with regard to some of the liberals on Capitol Hill. That is to say, when there is a kind of tragedy that has just unfolded in Florida, the mantra is, “That’s not who we are.” That is to say, “This is not a problem of these United States of America and the kind of society that has developed over the decades and centuries ago.” If you take that particular point of view, that leaves you with an individual analysis of looking at the real and imagined problems of individuals, which fundamentally does not get you anywhere, because it does not lead to profound and sweeping changes of society, which is so desperately needed in this country.PAUL JAY: Yeah, it leads to more shootings in schools. Thanks very much for joining us, Gerald.GERALD HORNE: Thank you.PAUL JAY: Thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.