For all of you.
woensdag 31 december 2014
Zionist Fascism 306
2014: the year Israel’s illusions of normalcy died
But then resurfaced. For now.
By Asher Schechter | Dec. 26, 2014 | 3:23 PM
Smoke, dust and debris rise over Gaza City after an Israeli strike on August 8, 2014, during the 50-day Israel-Gaza war. Photo by AP
This was a rough year. To be fair, no year in Israel can ever be described as “easy,” but it’s been a long time since a single 12-month period managed to shatter the illusions, misconceptions and comforts of Israelis as swiftly, forcefully and ruthlessly as 2014 did.
For Israelis, 2014 was a year of plummeting security. Of war. Of rockets. Of terror attacks, above and below ground. Of senseless deaths. But then every year is another year of senseless deaths in these parts. It was a year of dead children. In Gaza. In Jerusalem. Hundreds of them. Children who died in the name of defense, or religion, or just plain revenge.
It was a year of political violence. Of rising extremism, in the streets and in the Knesset. A year that began with the firing of a schoolteacher who criticized the army's actions, escalated with the persecution of Arabs and left-wing activists who were attacked by extreme right-wing thugs and concluded with a "nation-state bill" that took the “democratic” out of “Jewish democratic state.” Until recently, most Israelis were confident they lived in a democracy. What they were reminded of this year is that you have to constantly fight for democracy, or else it can be taken away. Not that there is much fighting going on.
It was a rough year economically. Israelis are starting the new year poorer and more in debt than ever, with housing prices that continue to skyrocket and the cost of living reaching new highs. Three and a half years after the social justice protests of 2011 and 18 months after they handed Yair Lapid 19 Knesset seats and the Finance Ministry, many Israelis were surprised to discover that little has changed.
It was a year when the idea of emigrating from Israel, once considered taboo, became a sort of political movement. A year that began with a prefabricated coalition crisis and ended with the scheduling of an election the reason for which no one knows for sure. A year that began with a controversial electoral reform that was meant to promote “stability” — a governance bill that raised the electoral threshold and was said to hurt smaller parties — only to end with the calling of a new election that will take place less than two years after the previous one.
No one would dare say it was the best of times. Or even slightly good.
This is not to say good things didn’t happen. Israel’s presidential race was shameful, but the election of Reuven Rivlin provided a glimmer of hope. 2014 led to the end of one of Israel’s most disastrous governments. It may have also heralded the end of Benjamin Netanyahu’s rule.
It’s just that there was more dark than light.
In retrospect, what probably made 2014 stand out, most of all, was that it was the year in which Israel’s illusion of normalcy, carefully cultivated over a decade of minimal security problems, was shattered. In which Israelis had to confront their solipsism, their ongoing denial of where they live and what their living there comfortably entails. In which they couldn’t, presumably, just ignore the mountain of problems on their doorstep.
Because 2014 was the year in which so many of the things about ourselves we had tried to ignore came back to bite us. Our deepest delusions, our highest aspirations about our country, hit the brick wall of reality — and died.
The new normal
Anyone who knows anything about Israelis knows that above all, they want to live in a normal country. A country where civic issues are front and center, not playing second fiddle to security concerns. Where people can be happy without being ignorant. Where education and welfare are not competing with tanks.
For much of its existence, this kind of normalcy was out of reach for Israelis. But as the Palestinian conflict receded into the strained-but-stable status quo of recent years, Israel has developed an illusion of itself as a normal, developed country, especially since being allowed into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. We called ourselves Startup Nation and mythologized our technological triumphs. We advertised ourselves as a mecca of innovation and free love. We prided ourselves on the number of foreign celebrities we drew.
It’s not that those things weren’t true. But they contributed to a dangerous sense of complacency, a feeling that this perceived normalcy can go on and on.
Sure, every now and then Israelis were reminded that they did not live in a postcard: a terror attack, a Gaza flotilla, a threat of international boycott, an international performing artist eager to make a statement, a short-term conflict in Gaza, but those had no meaningful economic effect. “If you subtract the Arabs and the Haredim, we are doing great,” Netanyahu said in 2012, a claim that has since become a near-mantra for local politicians and, indeed, many Israelis.
Three years ago, many Israelis stopped focusing on the conflict altogether, and the political discourse moved strictly to economic issues, such the soaring cost of living, crony capitalism and political corruption. Israelis took to the streets by the hundreds of thousands and demanded social justice. The fate of millions of Palestinians, or of the Israeli settlements for that matter, were the furthest thing from their mind.
With everything somewhat quite on the Gazan front, Israelis took the time to focus on themselves. They voted for politicians such as Yair Lapid, who focused solely on economic issues and didn’t have a foreign policy agenda, and Naftali Bennett, who told them the Palestinian conflict is unsolvable and it’s best to accept that and move on. They began to feel so comfortable, in fact, that politicians on the left and the right, like Bennett and Lapid, demanded cuts to that most sacred of Israeli cows, the enormous defense budget.
Then came 2014 and shattered our pretend normal Israel. The news began to fill up again with rocket attacks, terror tunnels and riots, children kidnapped, children bombed, children burned alive. Our ugly margins, not really the margins anymore, were too big for denial.
Suddenly, it seemed we had time-traveled. Benjamin Netanyahu was prime minister, crop tops were fashionable and Jerusalem was burning due to tensions on Temple Mount. If it weren’t for Facebook, one could believe the late 1990s had returned.
Holding on to our denial
After all that came the nation-state bill, an extreme piece of legislation approved by the cabinet that, without containing anything that was inherently new, forced us to come to terms with what we had become. Instead of being cut, the defense budget increased by 13 billion shekels ($3.31 billion). Israelis wanted health, education and welfare. Instead, they got a bloated army state and a parliament controlled by the religious extreme right.
This all could have been a good thing. The shattering of illusions is a painful but sobering experience, one that could have served to rouse those in Israel who are dissatisfied with the way things are going to fight for the country they want.
Did it happen? No. Not yet, anyway. A poll conducted by the Walla! news site found that in the 2015 election, as in the 2013 election, the most important issue for Israeli voters is the cost of living. Not their endangered democracy, nor the ever-growing security state. While foreign observers might think all hell broke loose this year, Israelis, it seems, think differently.
That is because the denial mechanism that enabled Israel to ignore many of its problems, often to the point of divorcing itself from reality, is intact. Israelis’ illusions of normalcy may have unceremoniously perished this year, but the mental block that led them to ignore uncomfortable realities and develop this false sense of normalcy lives on.
H.J.A. Hoflands Ideologie 4
In het voorwoord van Tom Engelhardt's alom geprezen studie Shadow Government. Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Super Power World (2014) schrijft de bekende Amerikaanse onderzoeksjournalist Glenn Greenwald over de drijfveren van de NSA-klokkenluider Edward Snowdon:
He decided he simply didn't want to live in a world where the US government was permitted to have such extraordinary powers and to build a system that had as its goal the destruction of all individual privacy — that he could not in good conscience stand by and allow that to happen knowing that he had the power to help stop it.
Greenwald vervolgt met de constatering:
The goal of the US surveillance state is to make sure that there is no such thing as actual human privacy, not just in the United States but in the world. That's its intent. It does that by design. What we are really talking about is a globalized system that prevents any form of electronic communication from taking place without being stored and monitored by the National Security Agency. It's not just journalists but also dissident groups and Muslim communities that have been infiltrated and monitored. The government is deliberately working to create a climate of fear in exactly those communities that are most important in checking those in power.
Vanuit dit besef dient de bewering van de mainstream opiniemaker Henk Hofland van De Groene Amsterdammer te worden beoordeeld dat 'Het Westen nu alarm [slaat] vanwege de agressieve expansiepolitiek van Poetin.' In al haar leugenachtigheid creëert deze bewering 'a climate of fear,' waarvan alleen de macht profiteert, die ons zo nauwlettend bespioneert. Door het in stand houden van de angst voor de grote boeman, het vlees geworden Kwaad, te weten 'Vladimir Poetin,' legitimeert de maker van opinies 'de agressieve expansiepolitiek' van het neoliberale Westen, onder aanvoering van Washington en Wall Street. Ondertussen functioneren alle massamaatschappijen even totalitair door de burgerij permanent te controleren en te bestoken met een aanzienlijke hoeveelheid propaganda. Glenn Greenwald:
I really don't think there's any more important battle today than combatting the surveillance state. Ultimately, the thing that matters most is that the rights that we know we have as human beings are rights that we exercise. The only way those rights can ever be taken away is if we give in to the fear that is being deliberately imposed on our world. You can acculturate people to believing that tyranny is freedom, and that as a consequence their limits are actually liberties. That is what this surveillance state does, by training people to accept their own conformity so they no longer even realize the ways in which they're being limited.
Wanneer H.J.A. Hofland beweert dat 'Het Westen nu alarm [slaat] vanwege de agressieve expansiepolitiek van Poetin,' terwijl in werkelijkheid het NAVO-expansionisme Afghanistan, Irak, Libië, Syrië, en Oekraïne in een burgeroorlog heeft gestort, dan doet hij in wezen niets anders dan het voeden van 'the fear that is being deliberately imposed on our world.' Hofland verzwijgt tevens dat '96,6 procent van de bevolking op het schiereiland de Krim' tijdens een referendum op 16 maart 2014 'voor een afscheiding van Oekraïne en een aansluiting bij Rusland' had 'gestemd,' hetgeen strikt genomen, wezenlijk anders is dan de gewelddadige inval in Irak, onder aanvoering van de VS en met steun van de NAVO.
Vanuit geopolitiek opzicht is er geen sprake van een 'agressieve expansiepolitiek van Poetin,' maar van een -- volgens Henry Kissinger en Helmut Schmidt -- door het Westen uitgelokte tegenzet van Moskou. In het westen van het bijna 10.000 kilometer brede Rusland beschikt de Russische marine over slechts enkele warme havens, waaronder Sebastopol op de Krim, de thuishaven van de Zwarte Zeevloot. Gezien het feit dat de NAVO steeds verder oostwaarts oprukt, vreesde Moskou dat de door de NAVO-landen gesteunde gewelddadige regime-change in Kiev zou eindigen in het verlies van deze warme haven en daarmee het verlies van een tamelijk onbelemmerde toegang tot de Middellandse Zee en het Suez Kanaal. Opvallend was dat, in tegenstelling tot de Amerikaanse presidentsverkiezingen waarbij al een halve eeuw lang meer dan 40 procent van de stemgerechtigden niet komt opdagen, het opkomstpercentage bij de volksraadpleging op de Krim maar liefst 85 procent bedroeg. Het persbureau Agence France-Presse berichtte: 'Verrassend was die uitslag niet: het was bekend dat de meerderheid van de kiezers (1,5 miljoen) voor inlijving bij Rusland is. Op de Krim wonen voornamelijk etnische Russen (58 procent).'
Maar dit alles verzwijgt de nestor van de polderpers, omdat deze feiten niet in zijn propagandamodel passen. Toch mag ook van een mainstream-opiniemaker worden verwacht dat hij zijn meningen baseert op feiten en niet op ressentimenten. Om een reden te geven voor de -- in zijn ogen -- 'agressieve expansiepolitiek van Poetin' had Hofland moeten vermelden dat vanaf Spitsbergen in de Noordelijke IJszee tot Kirgizstan in Centraal-Azië, Rusland is omsingeld door NATO-bases, een groot aantal aangelegd na de val van de Sovjet Unie toen de Koude Oorlog officieel beëindigd was verklaard. In diezelfde tijd zijn onder aanvoering van het Pentagon, met steun van de NAVO, tenminste drie soevereine staten door het Westen met grootscheeps geweld aangevallen, zonder dat de polderpers sprak van westers 'expansionisme,' en wel omdat mijn mainstream-collega's stilzwijgend ervan uitgaan dat de noodzaak van grondstoffen en markten de westerse 'agressieve expansiepolitiek' rechtvaardigt. Weliswaar wordt het geweld verkocht onder het mom van de dreiging van massavernietigingswapens of dat het een humanitair ingrijpen betreft, maar dit is zoals iedereen kan weten een leugen. Vandaar dat de NRC in een redactioneel commentaar op 20 maart 2003, de dag dat de Amerikaanse en Britse illegale inval in Irak begon, stelde dat de redactieleden weliswaar 'aan de casus belli tegen Irak twijfelen,' maar tegelijkertijd toch het advies gaven dat
Nu de oorlog is begonnen, moeten president Bush en premier Blair worden gesteund. Die steun kan niet blijven steken in verbale vrijblijvendheid. Dat betekent dus politieke steun - en als het moet ook militaire.
Met andere woorden: de redactie van de toenmalige broodheer van opiniemaker H.J.A. Hofland wist expliciet dat de illegale Amerikaanse inval een oorlogsmisdaad betrof omdat, zoals tijdens de naoorlogse Neurenberg-Processen de Amerikaanse hoofdaanklager Robert H. Jackson duidelijk maakte:
To initiate a war of aggression... is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole,
waaraan de Chief Prosecutor of the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, nog eens toevoegde dat
If certain acts and violations of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them. We are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.
Desondanks pleitte de NRC voor het plegen van een oorlogsmisdaad door de Nederlandse regering op te roepen deel met nemen aan een 'agressieoorlog.' In tegenstelling tot Amerikaanse intellectuelen heeft Hoflands 'politiek-literaire elite,' waar volgens hem geen enkele natie zonder kan, naderhand nooit verantwoording voor deze misdaad afgelegd. Ook Hofland zelf heeft zover ik weet nooit het Westen beschuldigd van een 'agressieve expansiepolitiek.' Integendeel zelfs, in zijn columns spreekt hij zelfs van 'het vredestichtende Westen,' zodra hij weer eens meent dat het militair industrieel complex van Washington en Brussel ergens in de wereld, (het liefst in de islamitische wereld), met maximaal geweld moet optreden. Met andere woorden, in Hoflands neo-koloniaal wereldbeeld is de westerse 'agressieve expansiepolitiek' niets anders dan 'vredestichtend.'
Met deze informatie in het achterhoofd is het onthullend te lezen wat de mainstream-stem van Hofland nog meer te melden heeft. In De Groene van begin december 2014 stelde hij:
De annexatie van de Krim en het conflict over Oekraïne verstoren de internationale orde. De internationale gemeenschap, of wat daarvan over is, heeft met strafmaatregelen gereageerd. Maar is daarmee de nieuwe Koude Oorlog begonnen?
Rusland staat op de drempel van een diepe economische crisis. Een van de oorzaken is de gestaag dalende olieprijs, een wereldwijd verschijnsel waarvan een exporterend land als Rusland de nadelen ondervindt. Ook de economische strafmaatregelen van het Westen beginnen hun invloed op het dagelijks leven te krijgen. De koers van de roebel tegenover de dollar en de euro laat een dalende lijn zien. Dit alles zal voor de Russische consument niet verborgen blijven.
Wederom krijgt de lezer de simplistische manicheïsche versie van de werkelijkheid voorgeschoteld. Moskou's wandaden 'verstoren de internationale orde' en, zoals gebruikelijk, wordt uiteindelijk de bevolking hiervoor gestraft, terwijl de westerse mainstream media tegelijkertijd melden dat de meer dan een halve eeuw durende Amerikaanse 'strafmaatregelen' tegen Cuba niet hebben geleid tot een knieval voor de Amerikaanse politieke en economische elite, onder wie de Amerikaanse Mafia, die in 1959 door Cubaanse vrijheidsstrijders, met aan het hoofd Fidel Castro, van het eiland werd verjaagd. Maar omdat logica geen rol van betekenis speelt in de pro-westerse propaganda wordt alles wat Hofland te berde brengt voor kennisgeving braaf geslikt. Immers hij kan toch niet voor niets door zijn Nederlandse collega's tot de beste journalist van de twintigste eeuw zijn uitgeroepen. Daarom moeten we zelf ontdekken wat het polder-orakel precies bedoelt met 'de internationale orde,' een begrip dat opmerkelijk genoeg gebruikt wordt door iemand die als titel van één van zijn essay-bundels koos: Orde bestaat niet en is verderfelijk (1985), omdat in zijn ogen van hoog tot laag 'Mensen de behoefte [hebben] zich aan orde en regels te onttrekken.'
Uitgaande van het laatste kan de lezer niet anders dan constateren dat zodra Hofland het over 'orde' heeft, hij in feite de bestaande wanorde van de gevestigde 'orde' bedoelt. De 'orde' dus waarbij eenvijfde van de wereldbevolking 86 procent van de geproduceerde goederen op aarde bezit, en de overige viervijfde de resterende 14 procent, de 'orde' waarbij 85 miljardairs evenveel bezitten als de helft van de mensheid tezamen. Inderdaad, sommige 'mensen hebben de behoefte zich aan orde en regels te onttrekken,' maar niet alle mensen. De meeste mensen zijn sociale wezens en alleen al daarom doorgaans fatsoenlijk. Het gaat om een betrekkelijk kleine groep sociopaten en psychopaten die op dit moment de macht in de wereld al dan niet met geweld naar zich toe heeft getrokken. En juist de belangen van die groep worden door opiniemakers als Hofland verdedigd en gepropageerd. Vandaar ook zijn anti-Poetin hetze. Alles bijeen genomen moeten we concluderen dat Hoflands 'internationale orde' in de praktijk de fundamentele wanorde is die de neoliberale kapitalistische ideologie wereldwijd heeft veroorzaakt. Pas nu we dit hebben vastgesteld kunnen we de rest van zijn betoog op waarde schatten. De éminence grise van de Nederlandse 'vrije pers' stelt met de air van een ter zake kundige langs zijn neus weg dat:
Rusland op de drempel [staat] van een diepe economische crisis. Een van de oorzaken is de gestaag dalende olieprijs, een wereldwijd verschijnsel waarvan een exporterend land als Rusland de nadelen ondervindt.
Daarmee maakt hij duidelijk kennelijk niet te beseffen dat de olieprijs geenszins het product is van een of andere onwrikbare natuurwet, maar dat de prijs van een vat olie wordt 'veroorzaakt' door dezelfde 'mensen' die volgens hem 'de behoefte [hebben] zich aan orde en regels te onttrekken,' namelijk de rijken en machtigen in de westerse wereld. Maar omdat Hofland zich niet verdiept in de materie en doorgaans de mainstream-media in de VS napraat, weet hij niet dat 'It’s about manipulation,' zoals de Amerikaanse, altijd weer goed geïnformeerde, onderzoeksjournalist Mike Whitney op 29 december 2014 liet weten. Whitney schreef:
Are the Saudis manipulating supply to grab market share or for political reasons? THAT’S THE QUESTION. The fact that they ARE manipulating supply is not challenged by anyone including the über-conservative Financial Times that deliberately pointed out that the Saudis had abandoned their traditional role of cutting supply to support prices. That’s what a 'swing state' does; it manipulates supply keep prices higher than they would be if market forces were allowed to operate unimpeded.
So what is the motive driving the policy; that’s what we want to know?
Certainly there’s a strong case to be made for market share. No one denies that. If the Saudis keep prices at rock bottom for a prolonged period of time, then a high percentage of the producers (that can’t survive at prices below $70 per barrel) will default leaving OPEC with greater market share and more control over pricing.
So market share is certainly a factor. But is it the only factor?
Is it so far fetched to think that the United States–which in the last year has imposed harsh economic sanctions on Russia, made every effort to sabotage the South Stream pipeline, and toppled the government in Kiev so it could control the flow of Russian gas to countries in the EU–would coerce the Saudis into flooding the market with oil in order to decimate the Russian economy, savage the ruble, and create favorable conditions for regime change in Moscow? Is that so hard to believe?
Apparently New York Times columnist Thomas Freidman doesn’t think so. Here’s how he summed it up in a piece last month: 'Is it just my imagination or is there a global oil war underway pitting the United States and Saudi Arabia on one side against Russia and Iran on the other?'
It sounds like Friedman has joined the conspiracy throng, doesn’t it? And he’s not alone either. This is from Alex Lantier at the World Socialist Web Site:
'While there are a host of global economic factors underlying the fall in oil prices, it is unquestionable that a major role in the commodity’s staggering plunge is Washington’s collaboration with OPEC and the Saudi monarchs in Riyadh to boost production and increase the glut on world oil markets.
As Obama traveled to Saudi Arabia after the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis last March, the Guardian wrote, “Angered by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, the Saudis turned on the oil taps, driving down the global price of crude until it reached $20 a barrel (in today’s prices) in the mid-1980s… [Today] the Saudis might be up for such a move—which would also boost global growth—in order to punish Putin over his support for the Assad regime in Syria. Has Washington floated this idea with Riyadh? It would be a surprise if it hasn’t.' (Alex Lantier, Imperialism and the ruble crisis, World Socialist Web Site)
And here’s an intriguing clip from an article at Reuters that suggests the Obama administration is behind the present Saudi policy:
'U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sidestepped the issue (of a US-Saudi plot) after a trip to Saudi Arabia in September. Asked if past discussions with Riyadh had touched on Russia’s need for oil above $100 to balance its budget, he smiled and said: "They (Saudis) are very, very well aware of their ability to have an impact on global oil prices."'
Of course, they’re in bed together. Saudi Arabia is a US client. It’s not autonomous or sovereign in any meaningful way. It’s a US protectorate, a satellite, a colony. They do what they’re told. Period. True, the relationship is complex, but let’s not be ridiculous. The Saudis are not calling the shots. The idea is absurd. Do you really think that Washington would let Riyadh fiddle prices in a way that destroyed critical US domestic energy industries, ravaged the junk bond market, and generated widespread financial instability without uttering a peep of protest on the matter?
Dream on! If the US was unhappy with the Saudis, we’d all know about it in short-order because it would be raining Daisy Cutters from the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea, which is the way that Washington normally expresses its displeasure on such matters. The fact that Obama has not even alluded to the shocking plunge in prices just proves that the policy coincides with Washington’s broader geopolitical strategy.
And let’s not forget that the Saudis have used oil as a political weapon before, many times before. Indeed, wreaking havoc is nothing new for our good buddies the Saudis. Check this out from Oil Price website:
'In 1973, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat convinced Saudi King Faisal to cut production and raise prices, then to go as far as embargoing oil exports, all with the goal of punishing the United States for supporting Israel against the Arab states. It worked. The “oil price shock” quadrupled prices.
It happened again in 1986, when Saudi Arabia-led OPEC allowed prices to drop precipitously, and then in 1990, when the Saudis sent prices plummeting as a way of taking out Russia, which was seen as a threat to their oil supremacy. In 1998, they succeeded. When the oil price was halved from $25 to $12, Russia defaulted on its debt.
The Saudis and other OPEC members have, of course, used the oil price for the obverse effect, that is, suppressing production to keep prices artificially high and member states swimming in “petrodollars.” In 2008, oil peaked at $147 a barrel.'
1973, 1986, 1990, 1998 and 2008.
So, according to the author, the Saudis have manipulated oil prices at least five times in the past to achieve their foreign policy objectives. But, if that’s the case, then why does the media ridicule people who think the Saudis might be engaged in a similar strategy today?
Om hierop antwoord te geven werpt Whitney de volgende retorische vraag op:
Could it be that the media is trying to shape public opinion on the issue and, by doing so, actually contribute to the plunge in oil prices?
Bingo. Alert readers have probably noticed that the oil story has been splashed across the headlines for weeks even though the basic facts have not changed in the least. It’s all a rehash of the same tedious story reprinted over and over again. But, why? Why does the public need to have the same 'Saudis refuse to cut production' story driven into their consciousness day after day like they’re part of some great collective brainwashing experiment? Could it be that every time the message is repeated, oil sells off, and prices go down? Is that it?
Precisely. For example, last week a refinery was attacked in Libya which pushed oil prices up almost immediately. Just hours later, however, another 'Saudis refuse to cut production' story conveniently popped up in all the major US media which pushed prices in the direction the USG wants them to go, er, I mean, back down again.
This is how the media helps to reinforce government policy, by crafting a message that helps to push down prices and, thus, hurt 'evil' Putin. (This is called 'jawboning') Keep in mind, that OPEC doesn’t meet again until June, 2015, so there’s nothing new to report on production levels. But that doesn’t mean we’re not going to get regular updates on the 'Saudis refuse to cut production' story. Oh, no. The media is going to keep beating that drum until Putin cries 'Uncle' and submits to US directives. Either that, or the bond market is going to blow up and take the whole damn global financial system along with it. One way or another, something’s got to give.
Bottom line: Falling oil prices and the plunging ruble are not some kind of free market accident brought on by oversupply and weak demand. That’s baloney. They’re part of a broader geopolitical strategy to strangle the Russian economy, topple Putin, and establish US hegemony across the Asian landmass. It’s all part of Washington’s plan to maintain its top-spot as the world’s only superpower even though its economy is in irreversible decline,
aldus Mike Whitney, de Amerikaanse onderzoeksjournalist die lang voordat in 2008 de kredietcrisis in volle hevigheid toesloeg zijn publiek waarschuwde dat de handel in lucht zou exploderen, terwijl de huidige adjunct-hoofdredacteur van de NRC, Egbert Kalse al die jaren
dacht dat de huizenprijzen in Amerika altijd zouden blijven stijgen. Dom natuurlijk, maar zo was het wel. En omdat iedereen dat dacht, dacht ook iedereen dat het wel veilig was daarin te beleggen. Niet dus.
Kortom, ten onrechte suggereert Henk Hofland dat alleen de onwrikbare wet van vraag en aanbod op de zogeheten 'vrije markt' de olieprijs bepaalt. Daarentegen begrijpen ter zake kundigen dat de prijs van 's werelds meest belangrijke grondstof altijd wordt gemanipuleerd door talloze factoren die niets te maken hebben met het 'marktmechanisme.' Het feit dat Hofland dit wel suggereert is tekenend voor zijn verregaande onbetrouwbaarheid als opiniemaker. Net als vlak na de Tweede Wereldoorlog wordt Rusland opnieuw geïsoleerd en is er sprake van de voortzetting van de aloude containment-politiek. Het westerse kapitalisme bestaat bij de gratie van de groei en duldt geen autonome ontwikkeling van welk land dan ook, laat staan van een nucleaire grootmacht als Rusland. En in het kader daarvan moet u de anti-Poetin hetze beoordelen van de mainstream media, in handen van de economische elite die de politiek bepaalt.
U.S. Creating Enemies Again
Making Enemies America Can't Afford: Congress Votes More Sanctions on Russia
Congress long ago learned that public scrutiny makes it harder to pass bad bills. So in the midst of negotiations to avoid another government shut-down earlier this month both houses of Congress rammed through new sanctions against Russia as part of the misnamed "Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014."
Indeed, the House version, H.R. 5859, was introduced earlier the same day and approved by a sparse crowd late at night. The Senate legislation, S. 2828, passed on a voice vote. The measures sanction Russian weapons exports and oil production imports, and financial institutions which facilitate such transactions; target Gazprom if it "is withholding significant" gas supplies from specified states; provide money to "strengthen democratic institutions and political and civil society organizations" in Russia; bar the lifting of sanctions so long as Moscow supports groups undermining "the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine"; boost financial transfers to Kiev; order U.S. officials to work with Ukraine to solve such problems as electricity and fuel shortages; authorize weapons transfers to Kiev; and increase funds for government Russian-language broadcasting services.
Congress appears determined to turn an adversary into a forthright enemy and encourage retaliation against more significant American interests. Observed my Cato Institute colleague Emma Ashford: "the provisions in this bill will make it all the more difficult to find a negotiated settlement to the Ukraine crisis, or to find a way to salvage any form of productive U.S.-Russia relationship. No wonder Congress didn't want to debate it openly." President Barack Obama expressed some concerns about the bill, but nevertheless signed it.
Unfortunately, the legislation offers a belligerent foretaste of what to expect from the incoming Republican Senate. The legislation's chief sponsor was Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), slated to become chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. His earlier proposal, "The Russian Aggression Prevention Act of 2014," was even more confrontational, providing for greater sanctions on Russia, more military aid for Ukraine, and intelligence sharing with Kiev; conferring "major non-NATO ally status" on Georgia and Moldova as well as Ukraine; expanding "training, assistance and defense cooperation" with Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, and Serbia, as well as Kiev; mandating non-recognition of Russian annexation of Crimea; and subsidizing energy development in Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. As chairman he is likely to encourage equally misguided meddling elsewhere.
Ukraine has suffered through a tortured history. It was ruled by Moscow, both the Russian Empire and Soviet Union, for centuries. After World War I Ukraine was briefly independent and gained Galician territory from the defunct Austro-Hungarian Empire, but was reconquered by the Bolsheviks. Only after the collapse of the U.S.S.R. in 1991 did Kiev achieve more enduring nationhood, and then it suffered through corrupt, authoritarian, and incompetent governance.
Russian-Ukrainian relations were sometimes difficult, yet Kiev consistently accommodated Russia, which retained strong economic and cultural ties with much of the population. Despite the lack of any direct interest in Ukraine's status, Washington openly intervened in Kiev's political struggles, including through taxpayer-funded NGOs. The U.S. backed Viktor Yushchenko in the so-called Orange Revolution in 2005. He proved to be querulous and ineffective and was trounced in the 2010 race by the man he had earlier defeated, Viktor Yanukovich.
The egregiously corrupt Yanukovich in turn was ousted by protests backed by rabid and sometimes violent nationalists. The U.S. and Europe flaunted their support for the opposition. Indeed, American officials openly discussed their investment in Yanukovich's overthrow and who should take power after his ouster. That Moscow would be unhappy at what looked like a Western-orchestrated putsch against a friendly (and even elected!) president in a nation considered vital to Russia's security should have surprised no one.
Russian President Vladimir Putin still was not justified in dismembering Ukraine, but America would have reacted badly had Moscow helped overthrow a Washington-friendly government in Mexico. Putin acted to defend what he saw as Russian interests, not to challenge U.S. security. It might shock some Americans, especially those on Capitol Hill, but not everything that happens in the world is about the U.S. Moscow's intervention in Ukraine was all about Russia.
While Americans, especially ethnic Ukrainians, care about Ukraine's fate, it is not a serious security interest for the U.S. America got along quite well over the centuries when Kiev was ruled from Moscow. Who controls the Donbass or Crimea is even less important to Washington today. The Ukrainian conflict raises humanitarian concerns, but no different than those elsewhere around the globe.
Kiev's status matters more to Europe, largely for economic reasons. The Europeans understandably prefer a stable and intact Ukraine, but Kiev's travails place no European nation at risk. There's no evidence that Russia plans to base resuscitated Red Army tank divisions in Ukraine and sweep across Poland to the Atlantic. And if there was such a threat, Europe, with a larger economy and population than America, should be spending more on its own defense, rather than sub-contracting its protection to Washington.
If the European Union and its members nevertheless want to confront Russia over Ukraine, they should do so. But without Washington's involvement. If Congress hasn't noticed, U.S. forces are a bit busy elsewhere in the world. There's no need for the U.S. to take the lead in Europe. It is time for the Europeans to do some heavy lifting.
Of course, President Putin is an unpleasant autocrat who doesn't much like America. But Russia is not the Soviet Union. Like the old Russian Empire, Moscow today wants respect and border security. Washington has no reason to deny the first or challenge the second. Yet from expansion of NATO to dismemberment of Serbia to treatment of Georgia and Ukraine as allies the U.S. and Europe have increased Moscow's insecurity.
Now Congress seems determined to turn Russia into what Mitt Romney mistakenly thought Russia already was -- America's number one enemy. Putin could do much to take on that role by, for instance, arming Syria and Iran with advanced anti-aircraft missiles, defending Tehran's right to reprocess nuclear fuel, and hindering U.S. logistical support for Afghanistan.
Worse, he could continue to move closer to China. There is plenty of tension between Russia and Beijing, but one factor could unite them: U.S. threats. Legislators appear to have forgotten that one of the most fundamental objectives of U.S. foreign policy, going back to Richard Nixon's opening to China, was to keep the two apart. Now America is acting the part of the Soviet Union while Putin is playing Nixon.
Having failed to diagnose the problem correctly, legislators naturally came up with the wrong solution. The Obama administration already has tried to impose its will on Moscow. There's hardly a nation on earth that the U.S. does not lecture, sanction, bully, or threaten. Russia is not exempt. But again in a revelation that might shock Capitol Hill, it turns out American power is not unlimited. Other countries are inclined to resist U.S. dictates just as the U.S. would do in the reverse situation.
That's certainly the case with Russia. Moscow believes that it must prevent a united Ukraine from aligning with the West (no doubt, Putin also appreciates the popularity boost from his actions). The importance of this perceived interest is evident from his willingness to annex Crimea and inaugurate quasi-war in Ukraine's east. He obviously is willing to risk conflict with the West.
The only good news from Congress is that its anti-Russian legislation did not include any of the many fevered proposals for the U.S. to court war by introducing troops to Ukraine, daring Moscow to attack. If pressed, Russia might well take up the challenge, forcing Washington to retreat or escalate. The first would be humiliating, the second catastrophic.
No surprise, Moscow so far perceives its interests in Ukraine to outweigh the cost of sanctions. Congress can keep upping the ante, but Ukraine always will matter much more to Russia than to the U.S. (just as Mexico always will matter much more to America than to Moscow). Russia is likely to accept more pain than will the U.S. -- and especially Europe, which has more at stake economically. Historically economic sanctions rarely achieve their intended political objectives, and in some cases, such as Washington's 1941 restrictions on Imperial Japan, backfire spectacularly, in that case triggering war.
A hostile government in Washington funding anti-Putin groups in Moscow can only be seen by Russian authorities as an attempt to overthrow their government. They should be expected to respond accordingly -- against not only Washington, but any organizations funded by Washington. Turning NGOs, both American and foreign, into tools of U.S. foreign policy inevitably makes them targets.
Upping aid to Kiev will work little better. Ukraine is a financial black hole. Corruption and illiberal policies long have held the country back economically. Foreign financial transfers will offer little benefit without reform, which continues to lag. The cost of war, including the disruption of commerce, is equally high. Without peace, Ukraine will remain economically backward and financially dependent on others.
Washington cannot afford to take on another bankrupt client state. The U.S. already faces hundreds of trillions of dollars in unfunded liabilities and Congress has not demonstrated the slightest ability to get America's debts under control. If anyone is going to take on Kiev as a fiscal dependent, it should be Europe, which is not only closer geographically, but has far greater hope of economic gain from future trade and investment.
Military assistance to Ukraine is worse. It is only likely to fuel a fire which the allies cannot quench. Ukraine's military has improved over the past year, but remains significantly inferior to the Russian forces. Moscow can always trump any escalation by Ukraine. Last month Putin said he wouldn't allow the rebels to be defeated, and there's no reason to doubt him. Yet the allies won't directly intervene: even such uber-hawks as Sen. John McCain have not advocated attacking nuclear-armed Russia. Escalating a potentially endless conflict serves no one's interest, least of all that of the Ukrainian people.
Of course, Ukrainians nevertheless may decide that war is worth the price, even though Russia is better able to endure the cost. Kiev recently announced plans to double its defense budget (to a still anemic $3.2 billion, compared to more than $80 billion spent annually by Russia) and conscript 40,000 men for the army. The Ukrainian people are entitled to make that decision, but they should proceed without the U.S. America shouldn't pay the price of backing Ukraine in an endless war with Russia.
The worst of the legislation's many dumb provisions may be restricting the ability of the Obama administration to negotiate. A diplomatic solution might be unsatisfying, but Ukraine is in a bad neighborhood and, like Finland during the Cold War, suffers from constraints not faced by other nations. The situation isn't fair, but Congress can't change geopolitical reality.
A compromise agreement is the best outcome achievable. The outlines of a settlement are obvious, however difficult one might be to reach in practice. Peace agreement policed by outside observers; end to military action by Kiev and Moscow; Ukraine independent and intact; federal system with significant regional autonomy; commercial relations with all countries; military relations with no one else, especially NATO; Ukraine a true bridge between east and west.
With the latest iteration of the ceasefire appearing to hold, chances of a diplomatic settlement finally may be real -- if Congress doesn't make it impossible. Warned Peter Harris of Earlham College: "Instead of empowering doves in Russia (as if such a faction even exists in the Kremlin), the policy of containment risks strengthening the hawks and encouraging Putin to double down on nationalist words and deeds."
Republican legislators, in particular, like to talk tough. But they lack the slightest shame or self-awareness. Their bill of particulars against Moscow included a long litany of offenses routinely committed by the U.S.: invading other nations, providing weapons to insurgents, imposing sanctions on other governments, selling weapons to belligerents, propagating propaganda.
While avowed critics of social engineering at home, most conservatives believe the U.S. government can remake foreign societies abroad. It's a dangerous delusion. In pursuit of their interventionist fantasies they are prepared to waste scarce financial resources, entangle the U.S. in foreign quarrels, and risk war with nuclear-armed powers.
The most likely outcome of their latest handiwork is a permanent frozen conflict between the U.S. and Russia, a new Cold War without the ideological component. Moscow will work more closely with other countries hostile to America, most importantly China, creating a coalition capable of hindering if not blocking U.S. initiatives. Washington's allies in Europe will be in economic pain and looking for a way out, ready to break with the U.S. Ukraine will become a permanent financial dependent, another member of America's foreign aid dole. Heck'uva job, Messrs. President, Speaker, and Majority Leader!
The U.S. desperately needs foreign policy leadership. That is, leaders willing to set priorities and able to distinguish between vital and minor interests. Leaders willing to eschew cheap attempts to win votes and focus on advancing Americans' welfare. Leaders willing to acknowledge their failings and America's limitations. Leaders who obviously don't exist in the White House or Congress today.
Follow Doug Bandow on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Doug_Bandow
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