On The Idiotic Partisan Debate Over Regime Change In Iran Or Syria

By Caitlin Johnstone

Source: CaitlinJohnstone.com

I love my job. Really, I do. But writing about US military agendas for a living often brings one into contact with such staggering stupidity that all you can do is pause and wonder how our species survived past the invention of the pointy stick.

By far the dumbest thing in all of US politics is the fact that Democrats tend to support regime change in Syria, while Republicans tend to support it more in Iran. I am not talking about the elected officials in those parties; I’m talking about the ordinary rank-and-file Joes and Janets who stand absolutely nothing to gain from toppling either Damascus or Tehran, but who have been brainwashed by lifelong media consumption into supporting one or the other anyway.

Whenever I write against the US government’s longstanding agenda to replace the leadership of Tehran with a compliant puppet regime, I know with absolute certainty that I’m going to spend the rest of my time online arguing with Trump supporters and lifelong Republicans. Whenever I write against the US government’s longstanding agenda to do the same in Syria, I know with absolute certainty that I’m going to be arguing predominantly with so-called centrist liberals.

At no time has this ever failed to occur.

I’ve spent the last few days arguing with Trump supporters who are telling me I’m crazy for not celebrating the death of an Iranian general they had no idea existed one week ago, and many of these pro bono State Department propagandists began following my work because they liked what I’ve been saying about Syria.

Conversely, all the fauxgressives and liberal interventionists who spent all last month telling me I’m a monster for writing about leaked OPCW documents showing we were lied to about an alleged 2018 chemical weapons incident have been staying out of my social media notifications completely these past four days.

It is truly bizarre. And it is truly, deeply, profoundly stupid.

It is truly, deeply and profoundly stupid because the agenda to topple Iran’s government and the agenda to topple Syria’s government are not two separate agendas. They are the same. Supporting one while opposing the other is like wanting to shoot someone in the head but being morally opposed to shooting them in the heart.

Syria and Iran are allies. Eliminating one government necessarily hurts the other. Iran has been helping Syria to win the war against foreign-backed extremist proxy fighters who nearly succeeded in toppling Damascus before its allies stepped in, and should Syria succeed in rebuilding itself (something the Trump administration is actively preventing it from doing) we can be sure it would return the favor when called upon.

The US government’s agenda to “take out” all noncompliant governments in the Middle East is completely removed from any consideration for American party politics. It’s one unified agenda, and the more the imperial blob succeeds in weakening any of the remaining unabsorbed nations, the easier it gets to absorb the others.

Supporting regime change in Iran but not Syria, or vice-versa, is for this reason an inherently absurd position to take. If you opposed Obama’s attempt to topple Damascus via Timber Sycamore-armed proxies, it’s absurd for you to support any maneuvers which could lead to the elimination of Syria’s key ally in that fight. If you oppose Trump’s current warmongering toward Iran, it’s absurd for you to support the elimination of one of Iran’s remaining friends in the region.

If Iran falls you may be sure that Syria will fall next, and vice versa. It’s the same box being ticked; you’re just arguing over whether it should be a left-handed or right-handed check mark.

But such is the strength of propaganda. The perception managers of the US war machine have successfully manipulated the voting public into a debate not about whether regime change interventionism should happen, but which regime change intervention should happen first.

In a sense it’s quite brilliant; we may be quite sure that government agency departments responsible for domestic perception management on US foreign policy have discussed this precise dynamic at length. But in another sense it’s quite mundane: the recent Republican presidents have pursued regime change in Iran, while Obama pursued it in Syria, so Republicans support Republican interventions while Democrats support Democratic ones.

This has nothing to do with any substantial difference in these agendas (again, it’s actually one agenda) and everything to do with what each faction can be more easily propagandized toward. Liberal hearts are easier to grab with horror stories about a monster who gasses babies for no reason and less concerned about refugee crises and the persecution of Syrian Christians, while Republicans are much easier to manipulate into despising a theocracy run by Muslims.

And of course there’s overlap; people who prioritize mass murder above all else like John Bolton and Lindsey Graham will cheer enthusiastically for as much military interventionism as they can get in either country (or any country, really). But by and large, especially among the rank-and-file, people tend to support the interventions their respective presidents propagandized them into supporting. Propaganda is pretty much the only thing the presidential “bully pulpit” is used for.

Because Iraq has poisoned the idea, each mainstream faction may deny actually wanting the US to oust the government of Iran or Syria. Trump supporters who still stand by the anti-interventionist platform he falsely campaigned on may say “I don’t want war with Iran, I just want Iranians to get their freedom and I think it’s awesome they killed Solamumi or however you spell it.” Liberals might say “I don’t want interventionism! I just support the Freedom Fighters™️ in Idlib and want Assad to stop murdering civilians for fun and sexual gratification.” But circulating propaganda narratives about governments targeted for regime change is supporting regime change. You’re participating in it as surely as if you’d deployed the Tomahawk missiles yourself.

Yesterday someone told me that everyone at Qassem Soleimani’s incredibly massive funeral procession was attending because they were forced to. When I asked him if he was claiming that every single one of those millions of people were publicly mourning because they’d been literally forced at gunpoint, he told me no: many were forced in the sense that state propaganda was all they’d ever known, so they were psychologically coerced into grieving Soleimani.

“I don’t accept that your ‘state propaganda their whole lives’ model is any more coercive or fascistic than the kind that causes Americans to turn up to pro- and anti-Trump rallies,” I said. “Americans are no less propagandized than Iranians. If anything it’s worse, since Americans don’t know they’re being propagandized.”

“You’ve got it backwards,” he said. “Iranians don’t know they’re being propagandized because they only have one source of information. The U.S. knows it because we have sides screaming it to other sides all the time and the freedom of information and thought to come to our own conclusions.”

“Nonsense,” I replied. “Nearly all Americans are propagandized to the gills. They’re probably the most aggressively propagandized population on earth, just because so much depends on their swallowing propaganda. It’s just a more scientific sort.”

“And yet here we are, talking about it freely without worrying about swallowing a bullet,” he said.

“Here I am arguing with a man who just so happens to be striving very, very hard to convince me to swallow the exact same narrative that Mike Pompeo is trying to convince me to swallow,” I replied.

The greatest asset of the propagandists is the belief that we haven’t been propagandized.

Posted in Authoritarianism, black ops, conditioning, corporate news, culture, Deep State, Empire, Geopolitics, imperialism, media, Media Literacy, Militarization, Neocons, news, Oligarchy, propaganda, Social Control, Social Engineering, society, Sociology, State Crime, war, war on terror | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Saturday Matinee: Faces of the Enemy

Description from California Newsreel:

As relevant today as when it was first released, Faces of the Enemy follows social psychologist Sam Keen as he unmasks how individuals and nations dehumanize their enemies to justify the inhumanity of war.

Using archival news footage, public service announcements, and editorial cartoons, Keen unveils the same frightening pattern in conflict after conflict – World War II, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, Islamic and Christian Fundamentalism – and prefigures the current War on Terrorism. First we identify ourselves as victims. Then we blame, demonize and finally dehumanize our adversaries, rationalizing our murder of other human beings.

Faces of the Enemy contends that before a drop of blood is spilled we must ‘think each other to death.’ It is a story replayed on the nightly news, in Islamic Fundamentalists’ characterization of the West as the ‘Great Satan’ and our own stereotyping of Muslims as terrorists. In a revealing examination of the images and iconography of war Keen interviews the nation’s leading editorial cartoonists. They discuss how they use an almost universal language of stereotypes and prejudices to tap into readers’ most visceral emotions.

In a chilling example of the psychological roots of enmity, we meet David Rice, an unemployed welder now an inmate on Death Row. Influenced by far-right propaganda, Rice decided communism was responsible for his personal problems. He bludgeoned to death a family of four whom he (mistakenly) thought were communists. He remains without remorse regarding them as ‘collateral damage’ in a war against the Evil Empire. The Christian Fundamentalist leaders who inspired Rice are only too happy to explain that they are in a holy war against communists and any non-believers.

By contrast, William Broyles, a Viet Nam veteran and author, returned after the war to personalize the individuals who had been his enemies’ to humanize the abstractions. He explains how racist terms and images can be used to turn human beings into monsters. These epithets and images extend the circumstances of war into terrible brutality. But he also explains how we can move beyond these dehumanizing thoughts and seek out the humanity of others.

Psychologists Robert Lifton and Steven Kull explain how war and artificial enemies provide people with the moral and mental certainties they crave, giving them a sense of purpose in a sometimes-ambiguous world. Mythologist Joseph Campbell, providing a note of hope, suggests that underneath the mask of the enemy we ultimately recognize ourselves. This, Campbell further contends, may be the origin of compassion, brotherhood and altruism, in other words the inverse of war.

 

Watch the full film on Kanopy.

Posted in anti-war, corporate news, culture, Empire, Film, imperialism, media, Media Literacy, Philosophy, Psychology, Saturday Matinee, Social Control, Social Engineering, society, Sociology, Video, war | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Human Extinction Now Imminent and Inevitable? A Report on the State of Planet Earth

By Robert J. Burrowes

There is a significant body of evidence that human extinction is now imminent; that is, it will occur within the next few years and possibly this year: 2020. There is also a significant body of evidence that human extinction is now inevitable; that is, it cannot be prevented no matter what we do.

There are at least four distinct paths to imminent (that is, within five years) human extinction: nuclear war (possibly started regionally), biodiversity collapse (already well advanced and teetering on the brink), the deployment of 5G (commenced recently) and the climate catastrophe. Needless to say, each of these four paths might unfold in a variety of ways.

In addition, it should be noted, there are other possible paths to extinction in the near term, particularly when considered in conjunction with the four threats just mentioned. These include the cascading impacts triggered by destruction of the Amazon rainforest (which is now imminent) particularly given its critical role in the global hydrological cycle, the rapidly spreading radioactive contamination of Earth, and geoengineering for military purposes (which has been going on for decades and continues).

Far worse, however, is the path to extinction that looms before us when we consider the impact of all seven of these paths in combination with the vast range of other threats noted below.

These interrelated threats have generated a shocking series of ‘points of no return’ (‘tipping points’) that we have already crossed, the mutually reinforcing set of negative feedback loops that we have already triggered (and which we will continue to trigger) which cannot be reversed in the short-term, as well as the ongoing synergistic impact of the various ‘extinction drivers’ (such as ongoing extinctions because dependent species have lost their resource species) we have set in motion and which cannot be halted irrespective of any remedial action we might take. Hence, taking into account all of the above factors, the prospects of averting human extinction are now remote, at best.

Why has this happened?

Because long-standing dysfunctional human behavior, which we have not even begun to recognize as the fundamental driver of this extinction crisis, let alone address, has now trapped us between a rock and a hard place.

On the one hand, we are trapped by our grotesquely dysfunctional parenting and education models that mass produce individuals who are terrified, self-hating and powerless (leaving them submissively obedient while unable to seek out and consider the evidence for themselves and take powerful action in response) and who, as a result of being terrorized during childhood, are now addicted to chronic over-consumption to suppress their awareness of their deep (and unconscious) emotional pain. See ‘Love Denied: The Psychology of Materialism, Violence and War’ and ‘Do We Want School or Education?’ with more detailed evidence in ‘Why Violence?’ and Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’.

On the other hand, also as an outcome of our dysfunctional parenting and education models (as well as the political and economic systems these generate), we keep reproducing and remain trapped by the global elite, and its compliant international organizations (such as the United Nations), national governments and corporations, including its corporate media. This global elite is utterly insane (and, hence, devoid of such qualities as conscience, empathy, compassion and love) and intent on exploiting our desire to suppress awareness of our emotional pain by over-consuming in order to feed their insatiable desire for profit, power and privilege no matter the cost to humanity and Earth’s biosphere. See ‘The Global Elite is Insane Revisited’.

Hence, this article does two things.

First, in the hope of generating greater consideration of these two issues – imminence and inevitability of human extinction – I have presented in straightforward language and point form, a reasonable summary of the nature and extent of our predicament (which clearly indicates that we are on track for human extinction between now – January 2020 – and 2025), as well as citing the relevant scientific and/or other evidence that explains each problem in more detail.

And second, the article outlines a powerful series of actions and strategies that individuals as well as community groups, neighborhoods and action groups can take as part of a global effort to fight to avert human extinction even if, as mentioned above, it is now inevitable. See, for example, ‘Extinction Foretold, Extinction Ignored’ in which the ‘McPherson Paradox’, which explains one key reason why we are doomed to extinction, is explained.

The obvious question, which you might well ask me, is this: ‘If the overwhelming evidence that human extinction is now imminent and inevitable is incontrovertible, why are you suggesting that we “fight to avert human extinction”?’ And my answer is simply this: Because, as I have done for several decades, I am committed to trying to do this one key thing that feels worth doing. Moreover, I am also hopeful that a miracle or two might just occur if we humans commit ourselves fully to the effort. I am only too well aware that anything less than a full effort, as outlined below, will certainly fail. And we will virtually certainly fail anyway. But I would rather try, than give up. And you?

So, in noting the points below, each of which identifies one key way (or a set of related key ways) in which the Earth and its inhabitants were subjected to greater violence in 2019, it is painful to reflect that, as forecast this time last year and based on a clear understanding of the primary driver of human behavior – fear – that is generating this multifaceted crisis, 2019 was another year of vital opportunities lost when so much is at stake.

Because, in essence, whether psychologically, socially, politically, militarily, economically, financially, ecologically or in other ways, in 2019 humanity took more giant strides backwards while passing up endless opportunities to make a positive difference in our world.

Moreover, to highlight the dramatic nature of our failure, by the end of 2019, a substantial number of countries and regions of the world – notably including the Amazon basin, Australia, several countries in Central Africa, many European countries, Indonesia, Siberia and North America – had each experienced (and/or were still experiencing) a huge series of wildfires (or fires that were deliberately lit), many of them ‘out of wildfire season’ and breaking records for their ‘unprecedented’ destructive impact, demonstrating that the Earth is literally burning up. For just an overview, see NASA’s ‘Fire Information for Resource Management System’.

But this very visible symptom of our crisis masks a vast quantity of evidence, in many domains, that is virtually unknown but far more damaging.

One acknowledgment of this crisis in Earth’s biosphere was the fact that the Doomsday Clock of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists remains poised at just two minutes to midnight, the closest it has ever been to ‘doomsday’ (and equal to 1953 when the Soviet Union first exploded a thermonuclear weapon matching the US capacity and raising the spectre of nuclear war). See ‘It is now two minutes to midnight’.

This status reflects the perilous state of our world, particularly given the renewed threat of nuclear war and the ongoing climate catastrophe. It didn’t even mention the massive and unrelenting assault on the biosphere (apart from the climate) and the rapidly accelerating biodiversity crisis nor, of course, the ongoing monumental atrocities against fellow human beings.

So let me identify, very briefly, some of the more crucial backward steps humanity took during 2019 and, far too easily, unfortunately, forecast what will happen in 2020.

Some Key Lowlights of 2019

  1. The global elite, using key elite fora such as the Group of 30, the Trilateral Commission, the Bilderberg Group and the World Economic Forum, and despite much rhetoric to the contrary, continued to plan, generate and exacerbate the many ongoing wars, deepening exploitation within the global economy, climate and environmental destruction, and the killing and exploitation of fellow human beings in a multitude of contexts, in pursuit of greater elite profit, power and privilege. See, for example, ‘Who Is Really in Control of US Foreign Policy?’, Giants: The Global Power Elite and ‘The Global Elite is Insane Revisited’.
  2. International organizations (such as the United Nations, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund) and national governments and corporations used military forces, legal systems, police forces and prison systems – see ‘The Rule of Law: Unjust and Violent’ – around the world to serve the global elite by defending its interests against the bulk of the human population, including those individuals and organizations courageous enough to challenge elite profit, power and privilege who are being killed in record numbers. (See more in point 35 below.)
  3. $US1.8 trillion was officially spent worldwide on military weapons to kill fellow human beings and other lifeforms, and to destroy the biosphere. This is the highest official (because the figures are taken from ‘open sources’) annual military expenditure ever recorded and the second consecutive year in which an increase occurred. Apart from military spending, weapons transfers worldwide remained high and both the USA and Russia were ‘on a path of strategic nuclear renewal’. See ‘SIPRI Yearbook 2019: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security; Summary’.

However, as noted last year, so out-of-control is this spending that the United States government has now spent $US21trillion on its military in the past 20 years for which it cannot even account! That’s right, $US1trillion each year above the official US national budget for killing is ‘lost’. See Army General Fund Adjustments Not Adequately Documented or Supported, ‘Has Our Government Spent $21 Trillion Of Our Money Without Telling Us?’ and ‘The Pentagon Can’t Account for $21 Trillion (That’s Not a Typo)’.

There has been no progress reported in accounting for this ‘lost’ expenditure during the past year.

  1. Under the direction of the global elite (as explained above), the United States government and its NATO allies continued their perpetual war across the planet wreaking devastation on many countries and regions, particularly in the Middle East and Africa. See, for example, Towards a World War III Scenario: The Dangers of Nuclear War, Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield and ‘Understanding NATO, Ending War’.

As a result, whether in the US-sponsored and supplied Saudi Arabian war against Yemen which the UNHCR characterizes as the worst humanitarian disaster in the world – see ‘The Cost of Feeding Yemen as War Rages On’ – the result of the US use of depleted uranium on top of its other extraordinary military destruction of Iraq over the past 29 years – see ‘Depleted Uranium and Radioactive Contamination in Iraq: An Overview’ – or the complete dismemberment of Libya as a result of NATO’s bombing of that country and the subsequent assassination of its leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 – see ‘Endless War and Chaos in Libya’ – the United States and its NATO allies have continued their efforts to destroy entire countries (also including Afghanistan, among others), at staggering cost to their populations and environments, not because these countries posed a threat to security anywhere but in order to maintain geopolitical control and to facilitate the theft of their resources (mainly oil) at great profit to the global elite. See, for example, ‘Hillary Emails Reveal NATO Killed Gaddafi to Stop Libyan Creation of Gold-Backed Currency’.

Moreover, of course, the perpetually-profitable perpetual war, by definition, has no end. But it still isn’t quite acceptable to say, too publicly and loudly, that ‘The global elite has again used the United States military and its NATO allies to destroy Iraq/Afghanistan/Syria/… (or, as is now the case, to attack Iran) to make a profit’ so what can be passed off as an excuse must be manufactured and promulgated by the compliant corporate media. And, with a gullibly terrified human population disinclined to question authority, this isn’t a problem. The same unconvincing formula invariably works each time. For a fuller and insightful explanation of this point, see Edward Curtin’s article ‘The war hoax redux’.

Of course, Iran has long been in the crosshairs of the global elite because of its prodigious (and thus hugely profitable) oil reserves as well as the clear inclination of its leaders (both before and after the US-installed Shah) to make decisions in the interests of Iranians, including foreign policy decisions such as those related to defense and the role of nuclear weapons. Thus, the global elite ensured that the US Congress, via removal by the Senate of a provision ‘explicitly not authorizing the Pentagon to wage war against Iran or assassinate its officials’ in the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act, effectively ‘authorized’ President Trump to order the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani. See ‘America Escalates its “Democratic” Oil War in the Near East’. Soleimani was the head of Iran’s Quds Force, the foreign arm of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC), Iran’s elite military force. He was the key figure in the fight against terrorism in the Middle East, and his assassination was carried out in clear contempt of international law. See ‘Trump’s assassination of Soleimani: Five things to know’, ‘With Suleimani Assassination, Trump Is Doing the Bidding of Washington’s Most Vile Cabal’, ‘Why US assassinated General Qassem Soleimani’ and ‘US killing of Iran’s Qassem Soleimani “an act of war”’.

This assassination, of course, raises a heightened possibility of war – essentially, from the elite perspective, to achieve ‘regime change’ and capture control of Iran’s oil – in one or more guises possibly involving, as explained by Professor Michel Chossudovsky, the use of ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons, acts of political destabilization, confiscation of financial assets, extensive economic sanctions, electromagnetic and climatic warfare, environmental modification techniques, cyberwarfare as well as chemical and biological warfare. See ‘A Major Conventional War Against Iran Is an Impossibility. Crisis within the US Command Structure’ and ‘America, An Empire on its Last Leg: To be Kicked Out from the Middle East?’

Hence, much will depend on the Iranian response to the insanity of those attacking it, which will unfold as this article is being published. For further thoughtful analyses of this crisis, see ‘War With Iran’, ‘Iran vs. US – The Murder of General Qassem Suleimani’ and ‘On the Brink of War?’

  1. Not content with the devastating impact of the military violence it is inflicting already, during 2019 the global elite continued to plan how to cause more destruction in future. Key initiatives included ongoing work to employ advances in autonomous systems and artificial intelligence technologies that will undermine nuclear deterrence and increase the likelihood of nuclear escalation – see ‘A Stable Nuclear Future? The Impact of Autonomous Systems and Artificial Intelligence’ – and the decision in the United States to create a Space Force, a sixth branch of the US military forces, just two manifestations of this. See ‘The Very Bad Space Force Deal’ and ‘US Making Outer Space the Next Battle Zone – Karl Grossman’.

In its turn, the Russian government has developed and just deployed a hypersonic weapon that travels at Mach 27 and which makes the US missile defense installations in Europe ‘obsolete’. See ‘Avangard changes everything: What Russia’s hypersonic warhead deployment means for the global arms race’.

But other initiatives receiving renewed attention – ‘hypervelocity guns, particle beams and laser weapons onboard orbiting battle platforms with onboard nuclear reactors or “super” plutonium systems providing the power for the weapons’ – also enhance the threat that ‘Modern society would go dark’ in the words of Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell. Why? Because ‘any war in space would be the one and only. By destroying satellites in space massive amounts of space debris would be created that would cause a cascading effect and even the billion-dollar International Space Station would likely be broken into tiny bits. So much space junk would be created… that we’d never be able to get a rocket off the planet again because of the minefield of debris orbiting the Earth at 15,000 mph’. See ‘Trump Signs Measure Enabling Establishment of a U.S. Space Force’.

Of course, technological ‘advances’ in weaponry reflect retrograde steps in policy with the US Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) – which includes 20 B-2 stealth bombers, 76 B-52 bombers and 450 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles together capable of delivering thousands of nuclear warheads – along with the U.S. Navy’s submarine-launched Trident ballistic missiles, are now ‘capable of extinguishing essentially all life on Earth within a matter of hours.’ See ‘The Air Force’s Global Strike Command Is Preparing For A Delivery Of New Nuclear Weapons’.

  1. Following the US withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty in 2002 and after withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the ‘Iran nuclear deal’) and the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty (which limited the deployment of intermediate range nuclear weapons) in 2018, the US government further and unilaterally signaled its intention to dismantle the little that remained of attempts during the Cold War and since that time to contain the threat of nuclear war by further acting in violation of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 – see ‘Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies’ and ‘US Weaponizing Space in Bid to Launch Arms Race’ – as explained in the point above, and demonstrating its disinterest in extending New START: the sole remaining restraint on U.S.-Russian nuclear arsenals that caps deployed offensive strategic nuclear weapons to no more than 1,550 each. See ‘Russia says it’s already too late to replace new START treaty’ and ‘Global Zero Urges Trump to Accept Putin’s Offer on Nuclear Treaty’.

If you are in any doubt regarding the devastating consequences of nuclear war, you will find Professor Steven Starr’s thoughts – see ‘Nuclear Darkness, Global Climate Change and Nuclear Famine: The Deadly Consequences of Nuclear War’ – illuminating. In addition, the description by Lynn Eden in ‘City on Fire’ (based on her book Whole World on Fire: Organizations, Knowledge, and Nuclear Weapons Devastation) is compelling.

  1. Another substantial proportion of global private financial wealth – conservatively estimated by the Tax Justice Network in 2010 to already total between $US21 and $US32 trillion – has been invested virtually tax-free through the world’s still-expanding black hole of more than 80 ‘offshore’ tax havens (such as the City of London Corporation, Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Hong Kong, Nauru, St. Kitts, Antigua, Tortola, Switzerland, the Channel Islands, Monaco, Cyprus, Gibraltar and Liechtenstein). This is just financial wealth. Additionally, a large share of the real estate, yachts, racehorses, gold bricks and many other assets that count as non-financial wealth are also owned via offshore structures that make it impossible to identify their owners. See Tax Justice Network.

Tax havens are locations around the world where wealthy individuals, criminals and terrorists, as well as governments and government agencies (such as the CIA), banks, corporations, hedge funds, international organizations (such as the Vatican) and crime syndicates (such as the Mafia), can stash their money so that they can avoid laws, regulation and oversight and, very often, evade tax. See ‘Elite Banking at Your Expense: How Secretive Tax Havens are Used to Steal Your Money’.

Controlled by the global elite, Wall Street and other major banks manage this monstrous diversion of wealth under Government protection. ‘Their business is fraud and grand theft.’ Tax haven locations offer more than tax avoidance. ‘Almost anything goes on.’ It includes ‘bribery, illegal gambling, money laundering, human and sex trafficking, arms dealing, toxic waste dumping, conflict diamonds and endangered species trafficking, bootlegged software, and endless other lawless practices.’ See ‘Trillions Stashed in Offshore Tax Havens’.

  1. The world’s major corporations continued to inflict enormous ongoing violence (in a myriad of ways) in their pursuit of endless profit at the expense of living beings (human and otherwise) and Earth’s biosphere by producing and marketing a wide range of life-destroying products ranging from nuclear weapons and nuclear power to fossil fuels, junk food, pharmaceutical drugs (including health-destroying and sometimes life-destroying vaccinations: see, for example, ‘Vaxxed-Unvaxxed – The Science’), synthetic poisons and genetically mutilated organisms (GMOs).

These corporations include the following: weapons manufacturers, major banks and their ‘industry groups’ like the International Monetary Conference, asset management firms, investment companies, financial services companies, fossil fuel (coal, oil and gas) corporations, technology corporations, media corporations, major marketing and public relations corporations, agrochemical (pesticides, seeds, fertilizers) giants, pharmaceutical corporations (with their handmaidens in the medical and psychiatric industries: see ‘Defeating the Violence in Our Food and Medicine’ and ‘Defeating the Violence of Psychiatry’), biotechnology (genetic mutilation) corporations, mining corporations, nuclear power corporations, food multinationals and water corporations. You can see a list of the major corporations in this article: ‘The Global Elite is Insane Revisited’.

  1. More than two billion people continued to live under occupation, dictatorship or threat of genocidal assault often with the global elite sponsoring an oppressive national government or simply a local elite that exercises power irrespective of the government in office. See, for example, ‘500 Years is Long Enough! Human Depravity in the Congo’.
  2. 36,500,000 human beings (mainly in Africa, Asia and Central/South America) were starved to death in 2019.

Are we serious about ending these totally unnecessary deaths? Not even remotely, as thoughtfully explained by Professor George Kent in his article ‘Are We Serious About Ending Hunger?’

As Professor Kent notes: currently, around the world, ‘around 800 million people suffer from hunger’ and that ‘global efforts to end hunger have not been serious’: There has been ‘no substantial commitment of resources, no management group to control the process, no realistic timeline, and no means for mid-course corrections on the way to the goal. There [have been] no contracts with agencies that would work toward achievement of the goal…. hoping for the end of hunger won’t work. Hope is not a strategy.’ Moreover, ‘The UN system offers little more than vague aspirations.’

  1. 18,250,000 children were killed by adults in wars, by starving them to death, by denying them clean drinking water, and in a large variety of other ways.
  2. 8,000,000 children were trafficked into sexual slavery; executed in sacrificial killings after being kidnapped; bred to be sold as a ‘cash crop’ for sexual violation, to produce child pornography (‘kiddie porn’) and ‘snuff’ movies (in which children are killed during the filming); ritually tortured and murdered as well as raped by dogs trained for the purpose. See ‘Humanity’s “Dirty Little Secret”: Starving, Enslaving, Raping, Torturing and Killing our Children’.
  3. Hundreds of thousands of individuals were kidnapped or tricked into slavery, which now denies 46,000,000 human beings (more than at any time in human history) the right to live the life of their choice, condemning many individuals – especially women and children – to lives of sexual slavery, forced labor or as child soldiers. Needless to say, the global elite continues to expand this highly profitable business while its compliant governments do no more than mouth an occasional objection to the practice while doing nothing effective to actually end it, as was patently evident following disclosures about high-profile public figures during the year. See ‘The Global Slavery Index’. For one recent account of the life of a modern slave, see ‘My Family’s Slave’. And for an account of the involvement of public figures in sex slavery, see ‘Prince Andrew and Jeffrey Epstein: what you need to know’ and the other articles listed at the end of this one.
  4. Well over 100,000 people (particularly Falun Gong practitioners) in China, where an extensive state-controlled program is conducted, were subjected to forced organ removal for the trade in human organs. See Bloody Harvest and The Slaughter.
  5. 15,768,000 people were displaced by war, persecution or famine. There are now 70,800,000 people, more that half of whom are children and approximately 10,000,000 of whom are stateless, who have been forcibly displaced worldwide and remain precariously unsettled, usually in adverse circumstances. One person in the world is forcibly displaced every two seconds. See ‘Figures at a Glance’.
  6. Millions of people were made homeless in their own country as a result of war, persecution, ‘natural’ disasters (many of which, including hurricanes/cyclones and wildfires, were actually generated by dysfunctional human behavior rather than nature), internal conflict, poverty or as a result of elite-driven national economic policies. The last time a global survey was attempted – by the United Nations back in 2005 – an estimated 100 million people were homeless worldwide. In addition, as many as 1.6 billion people lack adequate housing (living in slums, for example). See ‘Global Homelessness Statistics’.
  7. Highlighting the unheralded biodiversity crisis on Earth, as a result of habitat destruction and degradation as well as a multitude of other threats, 73,000 species of life (plants, birds, animals, fish, amphibians, insects, reptiles and microbes) on Earth were driven to extinction with the worldwide loss of many of these species – and certainly including insects, birds, animals and fish – now at catastrophic levels. Tragically, many additional species are now trapped in a feedback loop which will inevitably precipitate their extinction as well because of the way in which ‘co-extinctions’, ‘localized extinctions’ and ‘extinction cascades’ work once initiated and as has already occurred in almost all ecosystem contexts. See the (so far) five-part series ‘Our Vanishing World’. Have you seen a flock of birds of any size recently? A butterfly?
  8. Separately from global species extinctions, Earth continued to experience ‘a huge episode of population declines and extirpations, which will have negative cascading consequences on ecosystem functioning and services vital to sustaining civilization. We describe this as a “biological annihilation” to highlight the current magnitude of Earth’s ongoing sixth major extinction event.’ Moreover, local population extinctions ‘are orders of magnitude more frequent than species extinctions. Population extinctions, however, are a prelude to species extinctions, so Earth’s sixth mass extinction episode has proceeded further than most assume.’ See ‘Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction signaled by vertebrate population losses and declines’ and ‘Our Vanishing World: Wildlife’.
  9. Wildlife trafficking, worth up to $20 billion in 2019, is pushing many endangered species to the brink of extinction. Illegal wildlife products include jewelry, traditional medicine, clothing, furniture, and souvenirs, as well as some exotic pets, most of which are sold to unaware/unconcerned consumers in the West although China is heavily implicated too. See, for example, Stop Wildlife Trafficking.
  10. 16,000,000 acres of pristine rainforest were cut or burnt down for purposes such as the following: acquiring timbers used in construction, clearing land to establish cattle farms so that many people can eat cheap hamburgers, clearing land to establish palm oil plantations so that many people can eat processed (including junk) foods based on this oil, clearing land to establish palm oil and soybean plantations so that some people can delude themselves that they are using a ‘green biofuel’ in their car (when, in fact, these fuels generate a far greater carbon footprint than fossil fuels), mining (much of it illegal) for a variety of minerals (such as gold, silver, copper, coltan, cassiterite and diamonds), and logging to produce woodchips so that some people can buy cheap paper, including cheap toilet paper. One outcome of this destruction is that 40,000 tropical tree species are now threatened with extinction. See ‘Our Vanishing World: Rainforests’, ‘Measuring the Daily Destruction of the World’s Rainforests’, ‘Estimating the global conservation status of more than 15,000 Amazonian tree species’ and ‘Half of Amazon Tree Species Face Extinction’.

Another outcome is that ‘the precious Amazon is teetering on the edge of functional destruction and, with it, so are we’. How long do we have? ‘The tipping point is here, it is now.’ Professor Thomas E. Lovejoy and his fellow researcher Carlos Nobre elaborate this point: ‘Bluntly put, the Amazon not only cannot withstand further deforestation but also now requires rebuilding as the underpinning base of the hydrological cycle if the Amazon is to continue to serve as a flywheel of continental climate for the planet and an essential part of the global carbon cycle.’ See ‘Amazon Tipping Point: Last Chance for Action’.

  1. Vast quantities of soil were washed away as we destroyed the rainforests, and enormous quantities of both inorganic constituents (such as heavy metals like cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, nickel and zinc) and organic pollutants (particularly synthetic chemicals in the form of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides) were dumped into the soil as well, thus reducing its nutrients and killing the microbes and earthworms within it. We also contaminated enormous quantities of soil with radioactive waste. See Soil-net, ‘Glyphosate effects on soil rhizosphere-associated bacterial communities’ and ‘Disposing of Nuclear Waste is a Challenge for Humanity’.

To briefly elaborate the evidence in relation to earthworms: Given ‘recent reports of critical declines of microbes, plants, insects and other invertebrates, birds and other vertebrates, the situation pertaining to neglected earthworms’ was evaluated in an extensive investigation recently undertaken by Robert J. Blakemore. His research demonstrated an 83.3 percent decline in earthworms in agrichemical farms – that is, those that use pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers – compared with farms utilizing organic methods. Why? Because ‘it is impossible to replace or artificially engineer the myriad beneficial processes and services freely provided by earthworms’ which includes extensive burrows in pastures enriched with soil organic matter that allow ingress of air & water and provide living space for other soil organisms. Moreover, given that ecological services overall have been given a median value of US$135 trillion per year, which is almost double the global economic GDP of around $75 trillion – see ‘Changes in the global value of ecosystem services’ and ‘Valuing nature and the hidden costs of biodiversity loss’ – Blakemore reaches an obvious conclusion: ‘Persistence with failing chemical agriculture makes neither ecological nor economic sense.’ See ‘Critical Decline of Earthworms from Organic Origins under Intensive, Humic SOM-Depleting Agriculture’.

Given that this multifaceted destruction of the soil fundamentally threatens the global grain supply, when the ability to grow, store and distribute grains at scale is a defining element of civilization, as Professor Guy McPherson eloquently explains it: ‘A significant decline in grain harvest will surely drive this version of civilization to the abyss and beyond.’ See ‘Seven Distinct Paths to Loss of Habitat for Humans’.

  1. Despite an extensive and ongoing coverup by the Japanese government and nuclear corporations, as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), vast amounts of radioactive waste were dumped into the biosphere from the TEPCO nuclear power plant at Fukushima in Japan including by discharge into the Pacific Ocean killing an incalculable number of fish and other marine organisms and indefinitely contaminating expanding areas of that ocean. See ‘Fukushima: A Nuclear War without a War: The Unspoken Crisis of Worldwide Nuclear Radiation’, ‘2019 Annual Report – Fukushima 8th Anniversary’, ‘Eight years after triple nuclear meltdown, Fukushima No. 1’s water woes show no signs of ebbing’ and ‘Fukushima’s Three Nuclear Meltdowns Are “Under Control” – That’s a Lie’.

But the challenges to be overcome in safely handling and, ultimately, safely storing the radiation hazards (such as the three melted nuclear reactors and the spent fuel rods) and the radioactive waste from the Fukushima disaster are monumental, as touched on in this article outlining the 40-year plan that the Japanese government hopes will delude us into believing will deal with the many components of this perpetual radioactive nightmare. See ‘Japan revises Fukushima cleanup plan, delays key steps’.

In addition, one critical legacy of the US military’s 67 secretive and lethal nuclear weapons tests on the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958 is the ‘eternally’ radioactive garbage left behind and now leaking into the Pacific Ocean. See ‘The Pentagon’s Disastrous Radioactive Waste Dump in the Drowning Marshall Islands is Leaking into the Pacific Ocean’.

Is other nuclear waste safely stored? Of course not! See, for example, ‘NRC admits San Onofre Holtec nuclear waste canisters are all damaged’, ‘USA’s Hanford nuclear site could suffer the same fate as Russia’s Mayak – or worse’ and, for a more comprehensive report, ‘The World Nuclear Waste Report 2019: Focus Europe’.

Of course, the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe in 1986 continues to inflict extensive damage on the biosphere which you can learn more about from the research by Professor Kate Brown, author of Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future‘Chernobyl Radiation Cover-Ups & Deadly Truth’, ‘UN and Western countries covered up the facts on the huge health toll of Chernobyl radiation’ and ‘Unreported Deaths, Child Cancer & Radioactive Meat: The Untold Story of Chernobyl’ – as well as the investigatory work of Alison Katz of Independent WHO: ‘Chernobyl Health Cover-Up, Lies by UN/WHO Exposed’.

  1. Human use of fossil fuels to power aircraft, shipping and vehicles as well as for industrial production and to generate electricity (among other purposes) released 10 billion metric tons (10 gigatons) of carbon dioxide into Earth’s biosphere, a 0.6% increase over 2018, with China’s monstrous CO2 emissions for 2019 totaling 2.6% greater than the previous year. See ‘Global Carbon Budget 2019’.

As one measure of their contempt for the utterly inadequate goals of the Paris climate agreement, and with government approval, ‘over 400 of the 746 companies on the Global Coal Exit List are still planning to expand their coal operations’. If built, these projects in 60 countries would add over 579 GW to the global coal plant fleet, an increase of almost 29%. See ‘Companies Driving the World’s Coal Expansion Revealed: NGOs Release New Global Coal Exit List for Finance Industry’ and ‘Proposed Coal Plants by Country’.

  1. 72 billion land animals (mainly chickens, ducks, pigs, rabbits, geese, turkeys, sheep, goats and beef cattle) were killed for food. In addition, between 37 and 120 billion fish were killed on commercial farms with another 2.7 trillion fish caught and killed in the wild. See ‘How Many Animals Are Killed for Food Every Day?’

Apart from that, more than 100 million animals were killed for laboratory purposes in the United States alone and there were other animal deaths in shelters, zoos and in blood sports. See ‘How Many Animals Are Killed Each Year?’

In addition, according to Humane Society International, about 100 million animals (particularly mink, foxes, raccoon dogs and rabbits) were bred and slaughtered in fur farms geared to supplying the fashion industry. In addition to farming, millions of wild animals were trapped and killed for fur, as were hundreds of thousands of seals. See ‘How Many Animals are Killed Each Year?’

  1. Farming of animals for human consumption released 7.1 gigatons of CO2-equivalent into Earth’s atmosphere; this represented 14.5 percent of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. About 44% of livestock emissions were in the form of methane (which was 44% of anthropogenic CH4 emissions), 29% as Nitrous Oxide (which was 53% of anthropogenic N2O emissions) and 27% as Carbon Dioxide (which was 5% of anthropogenic CO2 emissions). See ‘GHG Emissions by Livestock’.
  2. Human use of fossil fuels and farming of animals released more than 3.2 million metric tons of (CO2 equivalent) nitrous oxide (N2O) into Earth’s atmosphere. See ‘Nitrous oxide emissions’.
  3. Despite largely successful efforts by the elite-controlled IPCC to delude people into believing that the global mean temperature has increased by only 1.0 degree celsius, in fact, since the pre-industrial era (prior to 1750) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have already caused the global temperature to rise by about 1.73 degrees celsius. See ‘How much warmer is it now?’

Among a lengthy list of adverse outcomes, this has caused the melting of Arctic permafrost and undersea methane ice clathrates resulting in an incalculable quantity of methane being uncontrollably released into the atmosphere, including during 2019, with the quantity being released getting ever closer to ‘exploding’. See ‘Anomalies of methane in the atmosphere over the East Siberian shelf: Is there any sign of methane leakage from shallow shelf hydrates?’, ‘7,000 underground gas bubbles poised to “explode” in Arctic’, ‘Release of Arctic Methane “May Be Apocalyptic,” Study Warns’ and ‘Understanding the Permafrost-Hydrate System and Associated Methane Releases in the East Siberian Arctic Shelf’.

In fact, the methane threat is already so extreme that the forecast El Niño event for 2020 could be the catalyst to trigger huge methane releases from the Arctic Ocean precipitating human extinction this year. See ‘Very early warning signal for El Niño in 2020 with a 4 in 5 likelihood’ and ‘Extinction in 2020?’

  1. Glaciers and mountain ice fields – whether located in Greenland or other regions of the far north, the Himalaya, at the Equator, in southern latitudes or Antarctica – are all melting at unprecedented and accelerating rates, losing billions of tonnes of ice in 2019. For a discussion of the details and the implications of this, see ‘Our Vanishing World: Glaciers’.
  2. The ongoing destruction of Earth’s oceans continued unabated and accelerated in key areas.

An incalculable amount of agricultural poisons, fossil fuels and other wastes was discharged into the ocean, adversely impacting life at all ocean depths – see ‘Staggering level of toxic chemicals found in creatures at the bottom of the sea, scientists say’ – and generating ocean ‘dead zones’: regions that have too little oxygen to support marine organisms. See ‘Our Planet Is Exploding With Marine “Dead Zones”’.

In addition, however, another problem that has been getting insufficient attention is the result of the expanding impacts of the rapidly increasing levels of ocean acidification, ocean warming, ocean carbon flows and ocean plastics. Taken in isolation each of these changes clearly has negative consequences for the ocean. All these shifts taken together, however, result in a rapid and serious decline in ocean health and this, in turn, adversely impacts all species dependent on the ocean including fish, mammals and seabirds. Moreover, on top of these problems is the issue of oxygen availability given that oxygen in the air or water is of paramount importance to most living organisms. As the recently released report ‘Ocean deoxygenation: Everyone’s problem. Causes, impacts, consequences and solutions’ describes in some detail, oxygen levels are currently declining across the ocean, not just in ‘dead zones’.

And to elaborate the plastics problem briefly: at least 8 million metric tons of plastic, of which 236,000 tons were microplastics, was discharged into the ocean. So severe is the problem that there are now five massive patches of plastic in the oceans around the world covering large swaths of the ocean; the plastic patch between California and Hawaii is the size of the state of Texas. See ‘Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean’ and ‘Plastics in the Ocean’.

  1. Earth’s fresh water and ground water was further depleted and contaminated.

The depletion is a primary outcome of the ongoing deforestation of the planet and is manifesting in several ways including as localized droughts, which are becoming increasingly common as a number of cities and regions around the world can attest. According to the World Resources Institute, half of the surface water in some countries – mainly in Central Asia and the Middle East – was depleted between 1984 and 2015, with agriculture using an average of 70% of the water. 36 countries are ‘extremely water-stressed’ and water is now a major factor in conflict in at least 45 countries. See ‘7 Graphics Explain the State of the World’s Water’.

Separately from depletion, fresh water was contaminated by bacteria, viruses and household chemicals from faulty septic systems; hazardous wastes from abandoned and uncontrolled hazardous waste sites (of which there are over 20,000 in the USA alone); leaks from landfill items such as car battery acid, paint and household cleaners; the pesticides, herbicides and other poisons used on farms and home gardens; radioactive waste from nuclear tests (some of it stored in glaciers that are now melting); and the chemical contamination caused by hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in search of shale gas, for which about 750 chemicals and components, some extremely toxic and carcinogenic like lead and benzene, have been used. See ‘Groundwater contamination’, ‘Groundwater drunk by BILLIONS of people may be contaminated by radioactive material spread across the world by nuclear testing in the 1950s’ and ‘Fracking chemicals’.

  1. The longstanding covert military use of geoengineering – spraying tens of millions of tons of highly toxic metals (including aluminium, barium and strontium) and toxic coal fly ash nanoparticulates (containing arsenic, chromium, thallium, chlorine, bromine, fluorine, iodine, mercury and radioactive elements) into the atmosphere from jet aircraft to weaponize the atmosphere and weather – in order to enhance elite control of human populations, continued unchecked. Geoengineering is systematically destroying Earth’s ozone layer – which blocks the deadly portion of solar radiation, UV-C and most UV-B, from reaching Earth’s surface – as well as adversely altering Earth’s weather patterns and polluting its air, water and soil at incredible cost to the health and well-being of living organisms and the biosphere. See ‘Geoengineering Watch’, including ‘Engineered Climate Cataclysm: Hurricane Harvey’.

For a discussion of the military implications of geoengineering, see ‘The Ultimate Weapon of Mass Destruction: “Owning the Weather” for Military Use’.

And for discussions of the research, and implications of it, by Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt and Dr. Stephenie Seneff (Senior Research Scientist at MIT), which considers damage to the biosphere and human health caused by the geoengineering release of a synthesized compound of nanonized aluminium and the poison glyphosate that creates a ‘supertoxin’ that is generating ‘a crisis of neurological diseases’, see ‘World-Renowned Doctor Addresses Climate Engineering Dangers’, Dr Stephenie Seneff, ‘Autism Explained: Synergistic Poisoning from Aluminum and Glyphosate’ and ‘Extinction is Stalking Humanity: The Threats to Human Survival Accumulate’.

  1. The incredibly destructive 5G technology, which a vast number of scientists (currently totaling more than 188,000 individuals and organizations from 203 nations and territories: see ‘International Appeal to Stop 5G on Earth and in Space’) are warning will have catastrophic consequences for life on Earth, is now being rapidly introduced without informed public consultation and despite ongoing protests around the world.

The following articles and videos will give you a solid understanding of key issues from the viewpoint of human and planetary well-being. See ‘5G Satellites: A Threat to all Life’, ‘5G Danger: 13 Reasons 5G Wireless Technology Will Be a Catastrophe for Humanity’, ‘5G Technology is Coming – Linked to Cancer, Heart Disease, Diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and Death’, ‘20,000 Satellites for 5G to be Launched Sending Focused Beams of Intense Microwave Radiation Over Entire Earth’, ‘Will 5G Cell Phone Technology Lead To Dramatic Population Reduction As Large Numbers Of Men Become Sterile?’, ‘The 5G Revolution: Millions of “Human Guinea Pigs” in Big Telecom’s Global Experiment’ and ‘5G Apocalypse – The Extinction Event’.

  1. As one outcome of our dysfunctional parenting model and political systems, fascism continued to rise around the world. See ‘The Psychology of Fascism’.
  2. Despite the belief that we have ‘the right to privacy’, privacy (in any sense of the word) was ongoingly eroded in 2019 and is now effectively non-existent, particularly thanks to Alphabet (owner of Google). Taken together, ‘Uber, Amazon, Facebook, eBay, Tinder, Apple, Lyft, Foursquare, Airbnb, Spotify, Instagram, Twitter, Angry Birds… have turned our computers and phones into bugs that are plugged in to a vast corporate-owned surveillance network. Where we go, what we do, what we talk about, who we talk to, and who we see – everything is recorded and, at some point, leveraged for value.’ Moreover, given Google’s integrated relationship with the US government, the US military, the CIA, and major US weapons manufacturers, there isn’t really anything you can do that isn’t known by those who want to know it. In essence, Google is ‘a powerful global corporation with its own political agenda and a mission to maximise profits for shareholders’ and it partly achieves this by expanding the surveillance programs of the national security state at the direction of the global elite. But Google isn’t alone and it isn’t just happening in the USA. See ‘Everybody’s Watching You: The Intercept’s 2019 Technology Coverage’, ‘Google’s Earth: How the Tech Giant Is Helping the State Spy on Us’, the articles by John W. Whitehead on ‘Surveillance’ and the documentary ‘The Modern Surveillance State’.
  3. The right to free speech, accurate information and conscience-based nonviolent activism was ongoingly eroded in 2019 as efforts, by governments and corporations particularly, to control speech, information and political action accelerated. Whether this took the form of censorship, restrictions on access or violent acts directed against those whose views or actions were seen as dangerous or wrong, Global Witness, Human Rights Watch and other organizations documented an endless series of setbacks for free speech and political activity in a wide variety of countries around the world with individuals and journalists imprisoned for telling the truth, nonviolent activists assaulted and killed, critics silenced by defamation laws or ‘disappearance’, and the closure of newspapers, television stations and the internet to prevent rapid promulgation of information, among other infringements. See, for example, ‘Free Speech’, ‘The supply chain of violence’, ‘Environmental activist murders double in 15 years’ and ‘Enemies of the State? How governments and businesses silence land and environmental defenders’.
  4. Believing that we know better than evolution, and following the birth in 2018 of the first gene-edited babies in China – see ‘Why we are not ready for genetically designed babies’ and ‘China’s Golem Babies: There is Another Agenda’ – in 2019, further human gene-editing was done as well as gene-editing experiments intended to explore possibilities for more complex gene-editing of humans. Why? According to the authors of one report: ‘To extend the frontier of genome editing and enable the radical redesign of mammalian genomes’ (emphasis added). This experiment allowed ‘for the simultaneous editing of >10,000 loci in human cells’. See ‘Enabling large-scale genome editing by reducing DNA nicking’.

Needless to say, at least some responsible scientists are well aware of the possibly horrific consequences of this technology in the hands of those without ethics and are calling for a moratorium of at least five years on heritable human gene editing to allow time ‘to engage in proactive, rather than reactive, discussions about the future of such technology’. Of course, despite the calls for caution, ‘some researchers are forging ahead’. See ‘NIH Director on Human Gene Editing: “We Must Never Allow Our Technology to Eclipse Our Humanity”’.

  1. Incalculable amounts of waste of every conceivable kind – including antibiotic waste, military waste, nuclear waste, nanowaste and genetically engineered organisms, including ‘gene drives’ (or ‘mutagenic chain reactions’) – were released into Earth’s biosphere, with an endless series of adverse consequences for life. See ‘Junk Planet: Is Earth the Largest Garbage Dump in the Universe?’

Not content to dump our junk on Earth, an incalculable amount of junk was also dumped in Space which already contains 100 trillion items of orbiting junk. See ‘Junk Planet: Is Earth the Largest Garbage Dump in the Universe?’ and ‘Space Junk: Tracking & Removing Orbital Debris’.

  1. Ongoing ‘visible’, ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence against children – see Why Violence?’ and Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’ – ensured that more people will grow up accepting (and quite powerless to challenge) our dysfunctional and violent world, as described above.
  2. The global elite’s corporate media, schooling and film/television industries continued to distract vast numbers of people from reality with an endless barrage of propaganda respectively labeled, depending on the context, ‘news’, ‘education’ and ‘entertainment’ ensuring that most people remain oblivious to our predicament, devoid of the capacities to investigate, comprehend and analyze this predicament as well as their own role in it, and to respond to this predicament powerfully. See, for example, ‘Media’s Deafening Silence on Latest from WikiLeaks about the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Fake Douma Report Blaming Syria’, ‘Do We Want School or Education?’ and ‘The Most Important Free Press Stories of 2019’.
  3. Finally, as a direct outcome of these last two points but most tragically of all, virtually all of the individuals who self-identify as ‘activists’ continued to waste their time begging the global elite (or their agents) to fix one or other of our crises – starkly illustrated by those thousands of climate ‘activists’ who traveled to Madrid, mostly using fossil fuels, and then complained when the outcome was, predictably, pitiful: see the powerless civil society ‘Statement on COP25’ – despite the overwhelming evidence that the global elite will not take action to ‘fix’ any of these crises. See ‘Why Activists Fail’. And, for more detail in two key contexts, see ‘The Global Climate Movement is Failing: Why?’ and ‘The War to End War 100 Years On: An Evaluation and Reorientation of our Resistance to War’.

Moreover, even if it was inclined, the elite is now powerless to avert extinction given that, if we are to have any chance given the advanced nature of the crisis and the incredibly short timeframe, we must plan intelligently to mobilize a substantial proportion of the human population in a strategically-focused effort. Nothing else can work.

Highlights of 2019

But so that the picture is clear and ‘balanced’: were there any gains made against the onslaught outlined above, particularly given we were driven inexorably closer to extinction?

Considering the elite and its agents: Zero gains were made of which I am aware. I have found no record of official efforts during the year to plan for the development and implementation of a comprehensive, just and sustainable peace although there was plenty of rhetoric in some quarters, often by those without any actual power to make a difference.

Separately from this, there have been some minor activist gains: for example, some western banks and insurance companies are no longer financially supporting the expansion of the western weapons industry and the western coal industry, some superannuation (pension) funds have divested from weapons and fossil fuels, some rainforest groups have managed to save portions of Earth’s rainforest heritage, and activist groups continue to work on a variety of issues sometimes making modest gains.

In essence however, as you probably realize, many of the issues above are not even being tackled and, even when they are, activist efforts have been hampered by inadequate analysis of the forces driving conflicts and problems, limited vision (particularly unambitious aims such as those in relation to ending war and the climate catastrophe), and unsophisticated strategy (necessary to have profound impact against a deeply entrenched, highly organized and well-resourced opponent), with the endless lobbying of elite institutions, such as governments and corporations, despite this effort simply allowing the absorption and dissipation of our dissent, as is intended. As Mark Twain once noted: ‘If voting made a difference, they wouldn’t let us do it.’ Another problem was the failure to make the difficult decisions to model and promote necessary solutions that are ‘unpopular’.

Fundamentally, these ‘difficult decisions’ include the vital need to campaign for the human population, particularly in industrialized countries, to substantially reduce their consumption – by 80% – involving both energy and resources of every kind, while increasing our individual and community self-reliance, as the central feature of any strategy to curtail destruction of the environment and climate, to undermine capitalism and to eliminate the primary driver of war: violent resource acquisition from Middle Eastern and developing nations for the production of consumer goods for consumers in industrialized countries.

So here we stand at the brink of human extinction (with 200 species of life on Earth being driven to extinction daily) and most humans utterly oblivious to (or in denial of: see ‘The Psychology of Denial’) the desperate nature and timeframe of our plight. And the fundamental reason why this is the case is simple to identify: unconscious fear is making people, including activists, incapable of behaving sensibly in the crisis. Instead, people are doing what they were terrorized into doing as a child: obeying their parents, teachers, religious figures and, ultimately, the elite. Why? Because when the choice is between obedience on the one hand and punishment on the other, obedience almost invariably wins. And so now we obediently ask the elite, perhaps by lobbying one of their governments, to ‘fix’ things for us – to save the climate, to end war… – and meekly accept it when they ignore us or refuse. After all, that is what most parents and teachers do – ignore us or refuse us – and we have fearfully learned to ‘accept it’. Which is why the idea of behaving powerfully ourselves never really occurs to most people.

‘But I am not afraid’ you (or someone else) might say. Aren’t you? Your unconscious mind has had years to learn the tricks it needed when you were a child to survive the onslaught of the violent parenting and schooling you suffered – see Why Violence?’, Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’ and ‘Do We Want School or Education?’ – among the many other possibilities of violence, including those of a structural nature, that you will have also suffered.

But your mind only learned these ‘tricks’ – such as the trick of suppressing awareness of your fear and hiding it behind the permitted and encouraged overconsumption: see ‘Love Denied: The Psychology of Materialism, Violence and War’ – at great cost to your functionality and it now diverts the attention from reality of most people so effectively that they cannot even pay attention to the obvious and imminent threats to human survival.

In any case, there is a simple test of whether or not you are afraid.

Responding Powerfully

If you feel able to act powerfully in response to this complex and multifaceted crisis, in a way that will have strategic impact, you are invited to join (but now using a substantially accelerated timeframe) those participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth’, which outlines a simple plan for you to systematically reduce your consumption, by at least 80%, involving both energy and resources of every kind – water, household energy, transport fuels, metals, meat, paper and plastic – while dramatically expanding your individual and community self-reliance in 16 areas, so that all threats to the biosphere are effectively addressed.

If you are also interested in conducting or participating in a campaign to systematically address one of the issues identified above, you are welcome to consider acting strategically in the way that Mohandas K. Gandhi did. Whether you are engaged in a peace, climate, environment or social justice campaign, the 12-point strategic framework and principles are the same. See Nonviolent Campaign Strategy. And, for example, you can see a basic list of the strategic goals necessary to end war and halt the climate catastrophe in ‘Strategic Aims’.

If you want to know how to nonviolently defend against a foreign invading power or a political/military coup, to liberate your country from a dictatorship or a foreign occupation, or to defeat a genocidal assault, you will learn how to do so in ‘Nonviolent Defense/Liberation Strategy’.

If you are interested in nurturing children to live by their conscience and to gain the courage necessary to resist elite violence fearlessly, while living sustainably despite the entreaties of capitalism to over-consume, then you are welcome to make ‘My Promise to Children’.

To reiterate: capitalism, war and destruction of the biosphere are, fundamentally, outcomes of our dysfunctional parenting and education of children which distorts their intellectual and emotional capacities, destroys their conscience and courage, and actively teaches them to over-consume as compensation for having vital emotional needs denied. See ‘Love Denied: The Psychology of Materialism, Violence and War’.

This explains why Gandhi’s example, set more than 100 years ago, to minimize his own possessions and consumption as symbolized by his wearing of khadi, together with his observation ‘Earth provides enough for every person’s need, but not for every person’s greed.’ have never had the widespread impact that was needed to achieve some level of sustainability about the human presence on Earth. The dysfunctional emotional attachment to possessions and consumption is overwhelming for most people.

If your own intellectual and/or emotional functionality is the issue and you have the self-awareness to perceive that, and wish to access the conscience and courage that would enable you to act powerfully, try ‘Putting Feelings First’.

And if you want to be part of the worldwide movement committed to ending all of the violence identified above, consider signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’.

In summary: if we do not rapidly, systematically and substantially reduce our consumption in several key areas and radically alter our parenting model, while resisting elite violence strategically on several fronts, Homo sapiens will enter Earth’s fossil record in 2020 or soon after. Given the fear, self-hatred and powerlessness that paralyses most humans, your choices in these regards are even more vital than you realize.

Or, if the options above seem too complicated, consider committing to:

The Earth Pledge

Out of love for the Earth and all of its creatures, and my respect for their needs, from this day onwards I pledge that:

  1. I will listen deeply to children (see explanation above)
  2. I will not travel by plane
  3. I will not travel by car
  4. I will not eat meat and fish
  5. I will only eat organically/biodynamically grown food
  6. I will minimize the amount of fresh water I use, including by minimizing my ownership and use of electronic devices
  7. I will not buy rainforest timber
  8. I will not buy or use single-use plastic, such as bags, bottles, containers, cups and straws
  9. I will not use banks, superannuation (pension) funds or insurance companies that provide any service to corporations involved in fossil fuels, nuclear power and/or weapons
  10. I will not accept employment from, or invest in, any organization that supports or participates in the exploitation of fellow human beings or profits from killing and/or destruction of the biosphere
  11. I will not get news from the corporate media (mainstream newspapers, television, radio, Google, Facebook, Twitter…)
  12. I will make the effort to learn a skill, such as food gardening or sewing, that makes me more self-reliant
  13. I will gently encourage my family and friends to consider signing this pledge.

Conclusion

Very soon now, the overwhelming evidence is that Homo sapiens will join other species that only exist as part of the fossil record. For other summaries of our predicament, see ‘Human Extinction by 2026? A Last Ditch Strategy to Fight for Human Survival’, ‘Doomsday by 2021?’ and ‘Extinction in 2020?’

Our chance of escaping this fate is now remote.

Which is why I am compelled to forecast the following: As is overwhelmingly demonstrated by any consideration of the historical evidence in relation to human behavior, fear will prevent the vast bulk of human beings considering the evidence offered above as well as that cited. Moreover, even among those who do consider it, few will have the capacity to act sensibly and powerfully in response, particularly given the comprehensive range of strategies in so many different contexts that are now necessary.

Hence, absent the intellectual and emotional capacities necessary to respond strategically to this complex and multifaceted crisis, human extinction will occur imminently.

Obviously, I hope I am wrong (and I will be doing everything I can to make it so).

 

Biodata: Robert J. Burrowes has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?’ His email address is flametree@riseup.net and his website is here.

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In Redux of Iraq War Run Up, Media Cheers on Assassination of Soleimani

Gen. Qassim Soleimani, center, attends a meeting of a group of the Guard members with Iranian Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in Tehran, Iran on Oct. 2, 2019. Photo | AP

With echoes of Iraq, media are once again cheering an attack against a Middle Eastern country on the grounds of a supposedly imminent strike against the United States.

By Alan Macleod

Source: Mint Press News

Early Friday morning, a U.S. airstrike assassinated Iranian Lt. General Qassem Soleimani as he traveled from Baghdad’s international airport. A charismatic and capable military figure, Soleimani was widely considered to be one of the most powerful and influential individuals in Iran. Two years to the day since MintPress News reported that the U.S. government had given the green light to assassinate him, Soleimani’s convoy was struck from the air. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo presented the decision as a defensive one, claiming that Soleimani was preparing an “imminent attack” against the U.S. When pressed, he refused to give any more evidence or details. Despite claiming the strike made Americans much safer, the government immediately instructed all U.S. citizens to leave Iraq and avoid the American Embassy.

Assassinating foreign leaders is a major international war crime under international law, yet across the corporate spectrum, media applauded the bombing, or “precision targeting,” as CNN described it. Unsurprisingly, many conservative media outlets supported the Trump administration’s decision to potentially spark a huge international conflict. The Washington Examiner quoted one “expert” celebrating the killing as more important than Bin Laden’s death and a “massive blow to the regime.” Fox News quickly published an opinion piece from Christian Whiton of the strongly hawkish Center for the National Interest, praising Trump for acting “correctly and decisively,” preventing further American bloodshed by taking out a major “terrorist.” It also immediately invited major Neoconservative hawks and public faces of the Iraq War, Karl Rove and Ari Fleischer, on air to discuss the situation and inform its audience what to think.

Media with more liberal audiences ­– who claim to be leading the resistance against a dangerous fascist commander-in-chief – were no less supportive of Trump’s latest aggressive actions. Just as it had done with U.S.-supported coup attempts in Venezuela and Bolivia, resistance media lined up shoulder-to-shoulder with the president and condemned Soleimani as guilty of a myriad of crimes against humanity. CNBC’s headline read, “America just took out the world’s no. 1 bad guy,” accusing him of being the leader of the world’s “most active and pervasive terrorist army.” It claimed that Trump’s decision had “saved current lives” and represented “justice” to his many victims. It also claimed that it saved further American lives as it would “deter future Iranian attack plans.” “There’s no question Soleimani had American blood on his hands” claimed one source in USA Today; “he was an enemy.” It is worth noting, however, that the American deaths being referenced are not civilians, but members of an invading and occupying army in Iraq who were killed by locals resisting a foreign occupier.

The New York Times claimed he had “spent the last decade replicating the Hezbollah model in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, propping up local militias with precision weapons and tactical know-how” and held him responsible for “driving over 10 million [Syrian] people from their homes” not mentioning the American role in any of those warzones. Meanwhile, CNN’s Alex Marquardt claimed that, “US lawmakers are united in their support of the killing of Soleimani” and that Republicans and Democrats alike agreed that, “this is a man who deserved to be killed because of everything he has done against American forces” and were busy “congratulating” Trump for his heroism. The message from corporate media was clear: “Soleimani is a ruthless killer. He’s a horrible human being,” (CNN). The evidence presented for this claim was that “he commanded a division in the Iran/Iraq War” – a war in which the United States armed, funded and supported its then ally Saddam Hussein to invade Iran, causing around one million deaths.

In reality, corporate media are not celebrating Soleimani’s assassination because of his many (real) faults, but rather because of his qualities as an effective leader and organizer, someone who has constantly stymied American efforts to further dominate the region. In Syria, where the U.S. has all but allied with Al-Qaeda/Al-Nusra in order to overthrow the Assad dynasty, Iran has provided a significant counterweight to American-backed forces. Likewise, it continues to support groups such as Hezbollah that resist the U.S. and its allies across the region. It has also, rhetorically at least, supported the Houthi rebels fighting against a U.S./Saudi onslaught, although the extent of Iranian involvement is questionable.

The U.S. government has announced that it is preparing to increase its presence in the wake of the Soleimani assassination, sending at least 3,000 more troops to the region. With echoes of Iraq, media are once again cheering an attack and a military build-up against a Middle Eastern country on the grounds of a supposedly imminent strike against the United States. History, they say, never repeats itself. But it often rhymes.

 

Related Video

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The Scourge of US Hostility to World Peace and Stability

By Stephen Lendman

Source: StephenLendman.org

The US is a warrior state, a global menace hostile to peace, stability, equity, justice, and the rule of law.

Its agenda is all about advancing its imperium by achieving control over nations and resources, especially their oil and gas.

Dollar hegemony is key. Maintaining it as the world’s reserve currency facilitates corporate takeovers, finances militarism, endless wars, and America’s global empire of bases.

Large dollar inflows into US Treasuries finance the nation’s budget deficit.

As long as world central banks buy US dollars and they dominate international trade, its hegemony is preserved.

De-dollarization, nations increasingly trading more in their own currencies, could undermine US imperial aims if the trend continues.

“Without the dollar’s function as the vehicle for world saving – in effect, without the Pentagon’s role in creating the Treasury debt that is the vehicle for world central bank reserves – the US would find itself constrained militarily and hence diplomatically constrained,” economist Michael Hudson explained.

Russia, China, Iran and other nations the US doesn’t control threaten dollar hegemony, the source of its strength on the world stage.

Soleimani was assassinated because of his success in combatting US-supported ISIS and other terrorists, undermining its regional imperial aims.

In Iraq on a peace mission, according to its PM Mahdi, not plotting imminent attacks on US regional interests as Trump falsely claimed, Hudson explained the following:

“(E)very indication is that he was in Iraq to work with that government seeking to regain control of the oil fields that President Trump has bragged so loudly about grabbing.”

Along with maintaining dollar hegemony, controlling Middle East and global energy resources are key US imperial objectives.

Without them, its hegemonic aims are undermined — furthered by endless wars and other hostile actions, its key strategies.

Independent nations controlling their own hydrocarbon resources are targeted by the US for regime change, including Russia, China and Iran.

For the Islamic Republic, wanting its government replaced by pro-Western puppet rule is also about eliminating Israel’s main regional rival.

Netanyahu, other regime hardliners, and their Jewish state counterparts need the US to wage its wars. Achieving Israeli regional hegemony depends on it.

Trump overstepped by assassinating Soleimani and Iraqi deputy PMU head Muhandis, connected to the country’s military.

His action backfired, uniting tens of millions of Iranians, Iraqis, others in the region and elsewhere against the menace that the US poses.

US troops occupy Iraq to control the country and its oil. Expelling them, if things turn out this way, would eliminate this lever of control.

It’s why policymakers in Washington are resisting Baghdad’s demand to leave, things uncertain so far whether they’ll stay or go.

By letter on Monday, US Task Force Iraq commander General William Seely discussed “measures to ensure that the movement (of US forces) out of Iraq is conducted in a safe and efficient manner,” adding:

They’ll “be reposition(ed) over the course of the coming days and weeks to prepare for onward movement.”

Not so, according to US war secretary Mark Esper, indicating no preparations for “movement out of Iraq…no decision whatsoever to leave” the country, adding:

Seely’s letter is “inconsistent with where we are right now.” Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley said “(i)t shouldn’t have been sent.”

Trump warned Baghdad of sanctions “like they’ve never seen before” if US forces are expelled from the country — what Iraqi parliamentarians voted for, PM Mahdi supporting their demand.

According to the CIA-connected Washington Post, the Trump regime began drafting possible sanctions on Iraq, citing anonymous sources.

Separately on Monday, Russia and China blocked a US sponsored Security Council statement to condemn last week’s storming of Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone by angry Iraqis in response to the Trump regime’s assassination of Soleimani and Muhandis.

This action more greatly destabilized the region already embroiled in multiple US wars of aggression.

Do its hardliners have another one in mind against Iran? Will the Trump regime strike a nation able to retaliate strongly against US regional interests and its allies?

Year 2020 began with a bang. It’s an ominous sign for what may lie ahead in the new year and beyond.

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Two for Tuesday

The International Noise Conspiracy

MC Frontalot

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The Final Act

By Dmitry Orlov

Source: Club Orlov

In processing the flow of information about the goings on in the US, it is impossible to get rid of a most unsettling sense of unreality—of a population trapped in a dark cave filled with little glowing screens, all displaying different images yet all broadcasting essentially the same message. That message is that everything is fine, same as ever, and can go on and on. But whatever it is that’s going on can’t go on forever, and therefore it won’t. More specifically, a certain coal mine canary has recently died, and I want to tell you about it.

It’s easy to see why that particular message is stuck on replay even as the situation changes irrevocably. As of 2019, 90% of the media in the United States is controlled by four media conglomerates: Comcast (via NBCUniversal), Disney, ViacomCBS (controlled by National Amusements), and AT&T (via WarnerMedia). Together they have formed a corporate media monoculture designed to most effectively maximize shareholder value.

As I wrote in Reinventing Collapse in 2008, “…In a consumer society, anything that puts people off their shopping is dangerously disruptive, and all consumers sense this. Any expression of the truth about our lack of prospects for continued existence as a highly developed, prosperous industrial society is disruptive to the consumerist collective unconscious. There is a herd instinct to reject it, and therefore it fails, not through any overt action, but by failing to turn a profit because it is unpopular.”

Two years earlier, in a slideshow optimistically titled “Closing the Collapse Gap” (between the USSR and the USA), I wrote: “…It seems that there is a fair chance that the US economy will collapse sometime within the foreseeable future. It also would seem that we won’t be particularly well-prepared for it. As things stand, the US economy is poised to perform something like a disappearing act.” And now, 12 years later, I believe I am finally watching what amounts to preparations for that act’s final rehearsal; the ballet troupe is doing stretching exercises and the fat lady is singing arpeggios to warm up…

Clearly, this final act is yet to be performed. The media replay loop continues to play, keeping the populace convinced that the future will resemble the past (except, perhaps, it will have more wind generators, solar panels and electric cars). The populace continues to be persuaded to go out and shop for (or, more frequently now, order online) things it doesn’t need, to be paid for by money it doesn’t have.

Of course, there have been changes. The populace in the US has been doing progressively worse. Drug addiction and suicide rates have skyrocketed while rates of childbirth have plummeted. The purchase of a home is now out of reach for the vast majority of young couples. Artificially rosy unemployment statistics hide the 100 million or so people who are considered “not in labor force” (because they lost their jobs some time ago and haven’t been able to find another one). Uniquely among developed nations, life expectancy among white males—historically the most economically active and prosperous part of the population—has been dropping. These are all negatives, but neither any one of them nor any combination of them adds up to anything that could cause the US economy to undergo a spontaneous existence failure.

Nevertheless, it is possible to build a convincing case that Rome is, to put it figuratively, burning. To continue with the metaphor, evidence that there is some fiddling going on is particularly compelling. Overall, there is a steady backing away from addressing the substance of any problem and a concerted effort to maintain appearances at all cost.

Take the trade war with China, which has been going on since early 2018. Trump has recently declared a major victory in it, but upon examination signs of victory are impossible to discern. In 2017 the US ran a $750 billion trade deficit with China on $3.3 trillion of trade (22.7%). In 2018 it has jumped to $930 billion on $3.8 trillion of trade (24.4%). China has found ways to parry each of Trump’s thrusts by imposing countertariffs. After two years of this sort of World War I-style trench warfare, in which the US has been slowly losing ground, it became clear that the US doesn’t have any means to put pressure on China.

And so Trump suddenly declares victory; not a full victory (that will have to wait until after Trump is reelected for his second term) but a victory nonetheless, because the Chinese have supposedly agreed to buy an extra $200 billion worth of US exports, $50 billion of them of agricultural exports from states that voted for Trump in 2016. But Trump is lying to his supporters. Over the past two years the Chinese have imported roughly $24 billion of agricultural commodities from the US, and sources close to the trade talks have said that the Chinese have agreed to increase these imports by just $16 billion, putting the total $10 billion short of the $50 billion mark. Even then, the US agricultural sector would have to rapidly scale up production by a factor of 1.6—and this is not at all likely.

The farmers will discover this only after they vote to reelect Trump, but that’s not Trump’s problem. Nor was it Trump’s problem when in 2017 the Chinese promised to buy $120 billion of US liquefied natural gas exports and then the US wasn’t able to provide anywhere near that volume. And now that Russia’s Power of Siberia pipeline is operational and ramping up volumes, while US fracking companies are going bankrupt left and right, the question has become largely moot. The AG promise is just a replay of the LNG promise at a smaller scale. Appearances are all that matter, and appearances are what Trump delivers every time. And if his voters want to believe—who’s to stop them? Even though it is clearly heading toward a defeat for the US as a whole, the trade war with China is definitely a huge positive for Trump: all he has to do to win personally is periodically deliver promises that others won’t keep—but that’s not his problem.

Another net benefit for Trump is the never-ending impeachment saga. It has kept him in the media limelight and has allowed him to pretend that he is prevailing heroically against great odds while making his opposition look ridiculous in the eyes of his supporters. After the “Russian meddling” fable unraveled, an even more preposterous rationale for impeachment has taken its place. An attempt to impeach Trump for refusing to cooperate with a congressional investigation is in the process of failing, since anyone with more intelligence than a bucket of California penis fish should know that it is up to the courts, not up to the legislature, to resolve disputes between the legislature and the executive. All that remains now is an alleged abuse of power by Trump. Apparently, it is a no-no for a US president to ask a foreign leader to investigate a US presidential candidate for a variety of crimes such as corruption, bribery and money-laundering. This may all seem quite ridiculous, but it serves a purpose: it allows Trump to clean up on free publicity and to continue fiddling (tweeting, in his case) as Rome burns.

But what has set fire under Rome is not the decrepitating state of US society, or the permanent and permanently worsening trade imbalance with China, or the never-ending impeachment farce. It is the incipient failure of the US dollar. For those who have been paying careful attention, the surreal nature of the proceedings, and the fact that results no longer matter—only appearances do—have become perfectly obvious, but they are a tiny minority. What has allowed the politicians and the media to exploit the general public’s innate normalcy bias and to keep the media replay loop going without too many people catching on to what’s really happening was (note the past tense!) the ability of the US government (with the assistance of the Federal Reserve, which is a government-linked but essentially private entity) to paper over the gaping chasm in the nation’s finances by issuing debt, in the form of US Treasury paper.

The US Treasury has been able to exploit its “exorbitant privilege” to issue internationally recognized and traded debt instruments denominated in its own currency—the US dollar—which has been the world’s main reserve currency for many decades. The reserve currency status has conveyed a certain aura of security and reliability (paper money is, after all, pretty much just a confidence game) and has supported the world’s largest and most liquid financial market. Anybody anywhere could put up US Treasury paper as collateral for a loan and get a low interest rate because that paper was considered as good as “real money” (whatever that means). And then that scheme suddenly broke.

It is difficult to say what caused the confidence game to fail. It could be just the inexorable and ever-accelerating increase in US government debt. It could be the blatant decoupling between the growth rate of the US economy and the rate of increase of its indebtedness. It could also be the fact that much of the world is making a concerted effort to walk away from the US dollar as a reserve currency and as a means of exchange in international trade (Russia has sold off almost all of its US debt; China’s hoard is much larger but it is also gradually selling it off). It is unclear what was the ultimate cause, but what is clear is that in August of 2019 something finally snapped, and USTs went from “good as real money” to “stuff nobody wants to hold.”

I first wrote about this in September when it became clear that real trouble was brewing in the market for US debt. Now, three months later, the situation has gone from bad to worse, and it would appear that the market for USTs definitively broke. I will try to sketch out what that means for the US economy and society later on (spoiler alert: nothing good) but for now I just want to lay out some of what has happened. In the meantime please take your normalcy bias and put it some place safe (in case you need it later, although I have no idea what for).

Previously, when it was clear that an overburden of bad debt could trigger financial collapse at any moment, the Federal Reserve (which is in charge of printing money) engaged in something it euphemistically called “quantitative easing” (“QE”). It printed lots of US dollars in exchange for various bits of USTs, along with other financial garbage, with the goal of later selling the USTs while hiding the garbage, thereby preserving the appearance that USTs are sovereign debt supported by the full faith and credit of the US government rather than just some waste paper clogging up its vaults. But when it declared “quantitative easing” to be over and tried selling the USTs, all hell immediately broke loose and it was forced to go right back to buying them up, in a scheme that has been sarcastically referred to as “not QE.” Euphemisms aside, what is happening is properly called “debt monetization”: it’s when a government “borrows” money not by selling its debt in exchange for money that already exists but simply printing the money using paper and ink, or magic digits inside a very secure computer.

Let’s go over some of the relevant details. “Not QE” actually started well before it was announced and proceeded in stealth mode. Over six weeks starting in September 2019, the Fed monetized an average of $20.5 billion per week. This rate is compatible with the extent of its previous efforts at “quantitative easing” at their height. It was forced to do so because the REPO rate on USTs spiked to 10 times the rate set by the Fed. (REPO stands for “repurchase agreement”; it is where one party borrows short-term from another party, using USTs (and other supposedly very safe debt instruments) as collateral, much as a pawn shop will give you money for a watch and then allow you to buy it back.) The huge spike in interest rates signaled that USTs were no longer seen as particularly safe collateral and the Fed had to step in and start throwing freshly minted dollars at the problem. And it never stopped. In fact, the problem grew larger; so large, that now, at the year’s end, the Fed has committed $500 billion of printing press output to making sure that nobody runs out of cash.

It is commonly thought that the Fed’s action has to do with short-term debt, and is therefore a short-term problem, but that’s simply not the case. Since early August (the start of stealth-mode “not QE”) the Fed has vacuumed up $179 billion with of USTs, of which USTs with terms longer than a year made up $108 billion, or 60%. Compare these numbers to the total borrowing by the US government over the same period, which amounted to $659 billion, of which $368 billion was short-term debt and $291 billion long-term. Thus, over this period the Fed has monetized 29.4% of new long-term debt and 24.4% of short-term debt. This should help put your mind at ease if you suspected that this isn’t a short-term problem but weren’t sure. It’s a long-term, structural problem.

Next, let’s consider whether the problem is being solved or is getting worse. Rest assured, it is getting worse. Looking at the numbers for October and November, the Fed monetized over half (50.7%) of new US government debt. A straight-line projection is that if it took the Fed to go from 0% to 50% in four months, then it will go from 50% to 100% in another four—by April Fool’s 2020. But who’s to say that the increase will be linear rather than exponential? Whichever it is, the trend is unmistakable: the market in US government debt—once the deepest and most liquid market in the world—is dead. The only thing propping up the value of USTs is the Fed’s printing press. And the only thing propping up the value of the output of the Fed’s printing press is… what is it, exactly? Exactly!

Let’s add one more salient detail. Over the course of 2020, $4.665 trillion of USTs will mature and will need to be rolled over into new USTs. This is an all-time record, and this is on top of new debt that will have to be issued in order for the US government to be able to stay open. Over the past year the US budget deficit has amounted to $1.022 trillion, which is a 15.8% increase over the previous year. If this trend continues, the new deficit will be around $1.183 trillion. In order to keep the wheels of finance from grinding to a halt, over 2020 the Fed will have to monetize, or print, close to $6 trillion.

It appears likely that at some point over the coming months Fed chairman Jerome Powell will have to announce “not not QE,” and then “not not not QE,” and then “Milk-milk-lemonade, ’round the corner fudge is made!” and run for the unigender restroom sobbing inconsolably. And then Donald Trump will be forced to channel Boris Yeltsin, who, on August 14, 1998, summoned all the presidential gravitas he could muster and spoke the following sage words:

«Девальвации рубля не будет. Это твердо и четко. Мое утверждение — не просто моя фантазия, и не потому, что я не хотел бы девальвации. Мое утверждение базируется на том, что все просчитано. Работа по отслеживанию положения проводится каждые сутки. Положение полностью контролируется».

“There will be no ruble devaluation. This is my firm and clear position. My assertion is not just a product of my fantasy, and not because I don’t want devaluation to happen. My assertion is based on the fact that everything is taken into account. The work on reassessing the situation is being conducted daily. The situation is entirely under control.” (My translation.)

And then three days later the Russian government declared sovereign default. The ruble dropped by 2/3 against the US dollar and the Russian economy, which was at that time extremely import-dependent, crashed hard. In a similar scenario, the US economy will crash much harder. Like Russia in 1998, the US is extremely import-dependent. But here the US government is not the only large borrower: most of US corporations are zombified corpses bloated with debt. For many years they have been borrowing at artificially low interest rates in order to buy up their own shares and prop up their value in a ridiculous effort to maximize shareholder value in the face of stalling economic growth. If they become unable to roll over their debt at artificially low interest rates (which will go away once the Fed definitively loses control of the situation) then they will automatically be forced to declare bankruptcy and liquidate.

If you want to maintain an optimistic outlook in spite of all of this, here is a book you might want to read.

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US assassinates top Iranian general as 4,000 troops readied for Iraq intervention

Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, center, attends a meeting in Tehran, Iran. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP, File).jpg

By Bill Van Auken

Source: WSWS.org

The targeted assassination of the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force commander Major General Qasem Soleimani at Baghdad’s international airport early Friday morning has sharply intensified the spiraling conflict between the US and Iran, placing the outbreak of a catastrophic new war in the Middle East on a hair trigger.

The Iraqi and Lebanese media, as well as officials in Iraq’s Shia militia movement, reported that a US missile strike killed Soleimani after he had disembarked from a plane that had brought him to Iraq from either Syria or Lebanon. Also slain in the attack was Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the second in command of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), the powerful coalition of Iraqi Shia militias.

The Pentagon issued a statement taking responsibility for the killing: “The U.S. military has taken decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.”

For its part, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards confirmed the killing, telling the Iranian media that “Honored supreme commander of Islam Soleimani was martyred in attack by U.S. helicopters.”

Soleimani has been a major figure within the Iranian military since the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88. As head of the Quds Force, he played a central role in defeating the US-backed Al Qaeda-linked militias unleashed by Washington and its allies against the government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and subsequently helped lead Iraqi militia forces in routing the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). While mentioned as a possible candidate for the Iranian presidency, he rejected any run for office, insisting that he would serve his country as a soldier.

He was well known to US officials and military commanders who had engaged in back-channel communications with the Iranian general since Tehran’s collaboration with Washington in the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan.

The assassination came as the Pentagon dispatched another 750 US paratroopers to the Middle East, while 4,000 more have been placed on high alert for deployment to the region.

The deployment follows this week’s storming of the US Embassy in Baghdad by Iraqi demonstrators, an act of popular anger over US militarism that Washington blamed upon Iran.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper claimed on Thursday that there were “indications out there” that Iran is planning “additional attacks” on US forces or interests in the region and that Washington was prepared to “take preemptive action” if it received any “word of attacks or some kind of indication.”

“The game has changed,” Esper said. “Do I think they might do something? Yes, and they will likely regret it.”

Thus, US imperialism has arrogated to itself the “right” to launch not only assassinations, but devastating military attacks on Iran based on the claim that it is acting to “preempt” rumored or invented threats from any entity in the Middle East that Washington deems an Iranian “proxy.” This category stretches from Iraqi Shia militias to the Hezbollah mass political and militia movement in Lebanon to Hamas, the Islamist party that governs the Israeli-occupied territory of Gaza.

On Tuesday, the US Embassy in Baghdad came under siege by thousands of protesters outraged over the December 29 US air strikes against bases in both Iraq and Syria of Kata’ib Hizbullah, an Iraqi Shia militia. The bombings, carried out by US F-15E fighters, killed 25 of the militia’s members and wounded at least 55 others.

The Trump administration claimed that the airstrikes were in retaliation for a missile attack on Iraq’s K-1 military base outside of Kirkuk in which an American civilian contractor was killed. While Washington blamed Kata’ib Hizbullah for the attack, it has presented no evidence of its responsibility.

The protesters, including many militia members and supporters, had marched on the embassy, located in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, following funeral services for the slain militia fighters that had brought thousands into the streets of the Iraqi capital.

They scaled the wall surrounding the US Embassy and laid siege to it, hurling Molotov cocktails and rocks. The embassy complex, the largest US diplomatic facility in the world, sprawls over 104 acres on the Tigris River and, at its high point in 2012, housed 16,000 US personnel, an effective continuation of the American occupation that formally ended in 2011.

The protesters managed to storm the main entrance to the complex, setting alight a guard booth and two reception rooms. Photographs released by the Associated Press on Wednesday showed the charred interiors of these areas of the embassy, with smashed furniture and windows and smoke still rising from the ruins.

Walls to the embassy compound were left covered with graffiti, including slogans such as “US embassy closed by order of the people” and “Death to America and Israel.”

US Marines manning the embassy’s interior fired continuous rounds of tear gas, stun grenades and warning shots in an attempt to disperse the protesters. Apache attack helicopters circled overhead firing flares toward the crowds in what was described as a “show of force.”

While the December 29 airstrikes were meant as a demonstration of US power and a blow to the Kata’ib Hizbullah militia, the popular response expressed in the siege of the embassy has exposed the immense crisis of Washington’s policy in Iraq and across the region.

The crowds of protesters were able to reach and enter the embassy only because the elite US-trained Iraqi antiterror troops deployed to protect the Green Zone, which also houses government buildings, other embassies and villas of the Iraqi oligarchy, offered no resistance whatsoever.

The event further exposes the predominant role played in the Iraqi government and its security forces by Shia militias—many of which originated in the fight against American troops following the criminal US invasion of Iraq in 2003—organized under the umbrella of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). This had already become clear in 2014, when the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was able to overrun roughly a third of Iraq after US-trained security forces collapsed, and the main opposition was mounted by the forces that would be organized into the PMF.

Infuriating the Trump administration, among those present at the embassy protest were Faleh al-Fayyadh, the nominal head of the PMF, who also serves as the country’s national security advisor, Hadi al-Amiri, the former minister of transport and leader of the Badr Brigades, one of the largest militias within the PMF, and other leading members of parliamentary factions tied to the Shia militias.

While the US ambassador had been meeting with these figures in recent months, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo fired off an angry tweet, including a photograph of four of them, branding them as “terrorists.”

All of Iraq’s key government leaders, including the president, prime minister and head of the parliament, have denounced the US airstrikes as a violation of Iraqi sovereignty. Iraqi Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi, who heads a caretaker government after resigning in the face of mass protests against unemployment, social inequality and government corruption that have swept the country since last October, described the strikes as an “unacceptable vicious assault” against a militia that is considered part of Iraq’s armed forces and warned of its “dangerous consequences.” He described being notified by US Defense Secretary Esper of the impending bombings shortly before they were launched and pleading with him, unsuccessfully, to call them off.

The country’s President Barham Salih, who also condemned the US attack, described a similar conversation with a US diplomatic official.

While Trump fired off a tweet Wednesday thanking Abdul Mahdi and Salih for their “rapid response” to Washington’s demand that they provide security for the embassy, the US-trained Iraqi antiterrorism force charged with protecting the Green Zone, issued a pointed statement to the media denying that it had received an order to protect “any entity.”

The protesters left the Green Zone chanting “Yeah, we burned them!” after being told by militia leaders that they had achieved their purpose, and that legislation would be introduced in the Iraqi parliament demanding the expulsion of all US troops from the country.

While similar proposals have been introduced in the past without success, the present crisis may well have produced the conditions for the approval of such a measure. Leaders of a number of the blocs in the Iraqi legislature have signaled their support for ending the US military presence.

According to the Pentagon’s figures, some 5,000 uniformed US personnel are deployed in Iraq along with an unknown number—undoubtedly greater than that amount—of civilian military contractors. Their presence in the country was justified in the name of the “war on ISIS,” in which the US played a massively destructive role, reducing Mosul, previously Iraq’s second city, along with a number of other urban centers in Anbar province, into rubble and killing tens of thousands.

With ISIS smashed, Trump early last year allowed that having “spent a fortune on building this incredible base” in Iraq, Washington should keep it to “watch” Iran. The remark drew a swift rebuke from the Iraqi president, who stated that Iraq’s constitution “does not allow our territory … to be used against our neighbors” and that Baghdad did not want to be “part of any axis.”

If the Iraqi parliament were to vote for legislation mandating an end to the US military presence in Iraq, it is by no means clear that Washington would withdraw its troops. A continuation of the American occupation, initiated by an unprovoked and criminal invasion, would initiate a new stage in the protracted war that has devastated Iraqi society.

While Washington postures as the victim of missile attacks and an embassy invasion, the conflicts and tensions that continue to roil the Middle East are the product of decades of US military aggression and crippling economic sanctions against Iraq, Iran and Syria that have claimed well over a million lives.

This has culminated in the Trump administration’s abrogation last year of the 2015 nuclear accord between Tehran and the major world powers, followed by the initiation of a “maximum pressure” campaign aimed at reducing Iranian oil exports to zero and starving the Iranian population into accepting regime change and the installation of a US puppet government.

The recklessness and criminality that characterize Washington’s acts against Iran are not a sign of strength, but rather an expression of the deep-going social tensions, economic instability and political crisis gripping American capitalism, which the ruling financial oligarchy seeks to divert outward in an explosion of military violence.

A war against Iran would eclipse the horrific bloodshed of the Iraq war launched in 2003, drawing in the entire region and all of the major powers, including US imperialism’s so-called “great power” rivals Russia and China, bringing humanity face-to-face with the threat of a nuclear Third World War.

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