On October 20, US President Donald Trump confirmed that U.S. would be abandoning the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. After a rally in Elko, Nevada, the President claimed that Russia has been “violating it for many years”.
“We’ll have to develop those weapons,” Trump said. “We’re going to terminate the agreement and we’re going to pull out.”
Furthermore, Washington is going to withdraw for another nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia – New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty). Under New START signed on 8 April 2010, the number of strategic nuclear missile launchers will be reduced by half. Reports that the Trump administration would withdraw from it started actively appearing in the media citing senior White House officials on October 21.
The US stance on these key deals faced a strong response from Moscow. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov stated that the US withdrawal from the INF Treaty would be a very dangerous step, which would be definitely condemned by the international community.
“The issue is too serious to be dealt with through public debate. If the United States continues to act so clumsily and harshly, as we can see it do on numerous occasions, if it continues to unilaterally withdraw from agreements, different kinds of accords and mechanisms, and the examples are piling up — from the JCPOA on Iran to the Universal Postal Union — then we will have nothing left to do but to take retaliatory measures, including ones of military and technological nature. But we would like to avoid that. The US clumsy and harsh politics sees more and more rejection in a lot of countries and wide circles of international community. Washington should not underestimate these shifts in sentiment,” Ryabkov said.
He also stated that Russia condemns US attempts to achieve Moscow’s concessions in international security issues through blackmail.
“We condemn the continuing attempts to achieve Russia’s concessions through blackmail, moreover in such an issue which has importance for international security and security in the nuclear weapons sphere, for maintaining strategic stability,” he said.
The Turkish-backed Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement, the al-Sham Legion and the Thuwar al-Sham Brigades have begun withdrawing their heavy weapons from their positions in the outskirt of the northern city of Aleppo, the al-Mayadeen TV reported on October 21.
According to the Lebanese channel, the armed groups moved their heavy weapons from the al-Zahra district north of Aleppo to their positions around the towns of Kafr Sulin, Sheikh Suleiman and Atarib. The three towns are located outside of the demilitarized zone, which was established under the Russian-Turkish deconfliction agreement on the governorate of Idlib.
In the last few weeks, the militants around Aleppo, including Turkish-backed elements, violated the deconfliction agreement several times by shelling civilian areas within the city. On October 18, two civilians were killed as a result of a brutal rocket attack. Since then, the violations stopped.
Al-Mayadeen’s report confirms that the Turkish military lied when it claimed on October 10 that all heavy weapons had been withdrawn from the demilitarized zone. Despite of that, it appears that Turkey is now seriously working to force the militants to respect the agreement.
A photo illustration of the Virginia-class attack submarine USS Vermont (SSN 792). (U.S. Navy photo illustration/Released)
On October 20, two new Virginia-class nuclear-capable attack sumbarines were christened as the USS Vermont (SSN 792) and the USS Delaware (SSN 791).
The USS Delaware is the 18th Virginia-class attack submarine and the eighth and final Virginia-class Block III submarine. The USS Vermont is the 19th Virginia-class attack submarine and the first of ten Virginia-class Block IV submarines. Each of the subs carry 12 Tomahawk cruise missiles, which can carry a nuclear warhead.
“Virginia-class submarines are built to operate in the world’s littoral and deep waters while conducting anti-submarine warfare; anti-surface ship warfare; strike warfare; special operation forces support; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; irregular warfare; and mine warfare missions. Their inherent stealth, endurance, mobility and firepower directly enable them to support five of the six maritime strategy core capabilities – sea control, power projection, forward presence, maritime security and deterrence,” the US Navy said in its statement on these development.
China has successfully tested the world’s largest commercial drone developed and manufactured by the China Academy of Aerospace Electronics Technology (CAAET) made its first successful test flight at Baotou Airport in North China’s Inner Mongolia autonomous region on Tuesday, reported Ecns.cn, the official English-language website of China News Service.
SF Express Co., Ltd, a Chinese transport company based in Shenzen, conducted the first public test flight on Oct. 16 with the new delivery drone, named Feihong-98, in cooperation with CAAET.
Feihong-98 is a Chinese copy of the Soviet Antonov An-2, which is China’s first domestically-built transport aircraft, the Shiefei Y-5B has a 60-year history since its first flight in 1957.
According to Liu Meixuan, president of CAAET, the FH-98 is now the most affordable and advanced transport drone in the world.
The plane has a maximum weight of 5.25 tons, with a payload of 1.5 tons, and a volume space of 15 cubic meters. It can reach a max flight altitude of 15,000 ft. while cruising at 112mph.
SF Express and CAAET signed an exclusive agreement in 2017, with the intentions of operating a large-scale drone delivery fleet in the next several years.
Pandaily said it took about eight months for researchers to apply the technologies and complete the research and development of core technologies that converted the plane into a fully autonomous drone.
Feihong-98 completed its first flight test in August. It received an operational approval from the Civil Aviation Administration of China and should finish up testing by June 2019.
With a takeoff and landing distance of roughly 500 ft., the FH-98 could be the most affordable transport drone for world governments, in need for a low-cost solution to handle emergency and disaster relief missions, and or just a cheap option to transport goods.
In the last twenty years, China has emerged as one of Washington’s top competitors in the global drone market. China is offering affordable drone technology, that has been rapidly gaining global market share.
China manufactures several types of drones. The Caihong 5 (CH-5) Rainbow, its newest multi-role capable drone, has seen increased activity in the Middle East — especially the Yemeni Civil War. The CH-5 competes with the American Reaper and Israeli Heron TP.
China is a major exporter of multi-role strike capable drones. Between 2008 and 2017, China exported a total of 88 drones to eleven different countries.
Regarding total drone sales, however, China lags the US (as shown above). Since the financial crisis to 2017, the US has sold 351 drones to numerous countries, followed by Israel’s 168 drone export.
China’s drone exports have greatly benefited from American export controls. The US has historically slapped some countries with weapon bans, which has allowed China to fill the void. If countries cannot buy arms from US defense companies, they usually resort to China. With a wide variety of drones, and now the addition of the world’s largest transport drone, it seems China is threatening Washington’s global drone market share — a move that does not sit well with America’s military-industrial complex.
Finally, nearly three weeks after what most of the world suspected to be a foul murder, the Saudi regime has officially admitted that Jamal Khashoggi was killed in its consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. No sooner had the Saudis issued their latest lie to cover up previous lies, US President Trump was lending White House prestige to the travesty.
Trump said the belated Saudi version of what happened was “credible”. He also welcomed as “good first steps” the Saudi arrest of 18 individuals and sacking of several top officials.
The Saudi “explanation” of Khashoggi’s death stretches credulity to snapping point. They are saying he was killed after a fist-fight broke out in the consulate. The Saudis are also claiming the de facto ruler of the kingdom, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), did not know anything about the murder, its planning or aftermath. Recall that MbS asserted in an interview with Bloomberg on October 5 that Khashoggi had walked out of the consulate the same day he arrived.
Now the Crown Prince has been appointed by his father, aging King Salman, to head up a committee to oversee an overhaul of the royal court’s intelligence organization. The former deputy head of intelligence, Ahmed al-Assiri, is one of those senior aides who has been sacked and set to take the rap.
In other words, the heir to the throne, MbS, is being absolved of any responsibility in the scandal. The sacked aides and arrested men, who are believed to include the 15-member team that went to Istanbul to intercept Khashoggi, are being made the scapegoats.
It is customary Saudi treachery at work. There is simply no way that a 15-member team that included top bodyguards of the Crown Prince could have carried out the Khashoggi abduction and killing without the monarch’s knowledge and sanction.
US intelligence intercepts have claimed to show that MbS was indeed involved in the planning of Khashoggi’s doom. It is simply preposterous that the 15-member hit squad went “rogue” and carried out a murder on their own initiative.
But President Trump and his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appear to be coordinating with the House of Saud to project an alibi for the 33-year-old future king.
It was Trump who floated the idea last week of “rogue killers” being the culprits. Pompeo then flew to Riyadh where he held chummy photo-ops with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and King Salman. The top US diplomat ludicrously commended the Saudi “commitment” to a “transparent investigation” into what happened in Istanbul.
Now that the Saudis have finally admitted the killing, while denying the Crown Prince’s involvement, Trump is saying that such a patent lie is “credible”.
What’s more, the treachery in the House of Saud will likely involve the killing of the scapegoats to ensure they never talk about the plot against Khashoggi.
One of the 15-man hit squad has already been killed in a suspicious car accident in Riyadh last week. Mashal Saad al Bostani (31) was a Saudi Royal Air Force lieutenant who was identified by Turkish intelligence as being among the group that lay in wait at the consulate for Khashoggi. Turkish media have speculated that the House of Saud has begun destroying evidence and potential witnesses. Watch, in particular, the fate of the former Consul General in Istanbul, Mohammed al Otaibi.
The notion, according to the Saudis, that a fight broke out in the consulate leading to Khashoggi’s death does not tally with reports that the 15-man team was equipped with a bone saw. Turkish intelligence sources also say they have audio tapes showing Khashoggi was immediately assaulted on entering the consulate, then tortured by having his fingers cut off, before finally being decapitated and his body dismembered.
If the Saudi “explanation” is considered, then where is Khashoggi’s remains? If his death was somehow an accident, then the Saudis should be able to present his corpse. But they won’t because the far more credible account is that Khashoggi’s remains would testify to torture and mutilation.
Let’s also bear in mind the routine nature of treachery in the House of Saud, especially under the new Crown Prince. When he was made heir to the throne in 2017, the then incumbent Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef was unceremoniously sidelined. It was a power grab that broke Saudi succession rules. Video footage at the time showed MbS feigning an act of humility and contrition to the ousted Bin Nayef, his older cousin. MbS was seen bending down to kiss the leg of the hapless former Crown Prince, in what appeared to be a show of magnanimity.
Within weeks of the ouster, it was then reported that Bin Nayef had been placed under continual house arrest by MbS with armed guards. The move was to ensure there would not be a counter-coup.
Next the new Crown Prince ordered the round-up and detention of several other senior House of Saud figures. Some of them were reportedly tortured and extorted for billions of dollars to buy their release.
MbS’s penchant for abduction then went overseas when he ordered the kidnapping of Lebanese Prime Minister Said Hariri. Hariri was reportedly slapped around while in detention in Riyadh before being forced to announce his “resignation” in a bizarre TV interview. An intervention by French President Emmanuel Macron, who was friendly with MbS, managed to secure Hariri’s release, and he reversed his resignation on returning to Lebanon.
These are just some examples of the Saudi Crown Prince’s nature as a psychopathic tyrant who thinks he can act with impunity. The image of a “reformist” monarch had been built up by the Western media and leaders like Macron and Trump. But that image is totally at odds with reality, as the Western media are slowly being forced now to admit after the barbarous killing of Khashoggi.
US media and many Republican and Democrat lawmakers in Congress are skeptical about the latest Saudi “explanation” for the death of Khashoggi.
Other Western governments seem also to be adopting a tougher line, with Britain, France and Germany withdrawing diplomatic contacts.
Trump also lately said there “will be severe consequences” after the Saudis admitted Khashoggi’s death in their consulate. But the lucrative multi-billion arms trade is off-limits for Trump if any sanctions are imposed.
The White House’s solemn rhetoric is belied, however, by Trump’s willingness to dignify the absurd Saudi response as “credible”. The whitewashing of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – the undoubted author of Khashoggi’s execution – is being given crucial gloss from the Trump administration.
Apart from the lucrative arms trade and Trump’s own personal enrichment from years of doing property business with the House of Saud, the other vital interest for the US is its reliance on the Saudis for the coming war with Iran. Trump said so himself when he tried to excuse not imposing sanctions on Saudi Arabia by saying the country was “an important counter to Iran”.
In the next few weeks, the Trump administration is set to impose a global oil embargo on Iranian exports of crude. For the economic war to succeed, Washington needs the Saudis to ramp up oil supply in order to replace the anticipated Iranian shortfall and to prevent world market prices from soaring.
The imperative of US aggression towards Iran by Trump means that he has to, by sheer necessity, shore up the House of Saud. That means spinning a cover-up to absolve the Crown Prince. But such is the damning evidence against MbS over Khashoggi’s murder, the Trump media charade on behalf of the Saudis may prove to fall apart. For the sake of peace in the Middle East, we might hope so too.
The situation in the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine is remaining tense. Both the Ukrainian military and local militais accuse each other of violating the ceasefire region on a constant basis. Thus, according to the Ukrainian side, there were 11 violations of the ceasefire by forces of the Donetsk People’s Repubic (DPR) recently. At the same time, the DPR said that pro-Kiev forces had violated the ceasefire 24 times.
Nonetheless, there is still a relative parity at the frontline because the Ukrainian side has not employed its superior firepower and manpower to carry out significant offensive operations so far. This may change if the US backers of the Kiev regime decide that the escalation is the region contributes to their political and economic goals.
On October 20th, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reveaked that Russian Aerospace Defense Forces had carried out more than 40,000 flights, including 21,000 nighttime ones over the course of the operation in Syria. These have resulted in approximately 122,000 strikes on terrorist facilities.
Furthermore, about 87,500 terrorists were eliminated and over 1,411 settlements were liberated as a result of the operations.
More than 2,500 settlements have joined the reconciliation process as a result of the Russian reconciliation center’s efforts. According to Shoigu special attention is being paid to resolving humanitarian issues.
Currently, the province of Idlib, which is mostly controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) and its allies, is the main area of tensions in the war-torn country. Turkey, Russia, Iran and the Damascus government have contributed significant efforts to de-escalate the situation there and to force the radical part of militants to separate from the Turkish-backed “moderates”. Nonetheless, this has not resulted in any major success yet. Thus, there are still significant chances of the escalation.
This map provides a general look at the military situation in Yemen. The Saudi-led coalition continues its attempts to pressure the Houthis in western and northern parts of the country. The main areas where the clashes are ongoing are the countrysides of Hudaydah and Midi as well as a part of the Yemeni-Saudi border in nortwestern Yemen.
Over the past few months, the Houthis have not attempted to kick off any kind of large-scale miltiary operations against the Saudi-led coalition and its proxies. However, they have successfully repelled attacks on Hudaydah and continued carrying out missile attacks, cross-border attacks and raids against coalition forces across Yemen and even in southern Saudi Arabia.
Taliban fighters during a military exercise before “Operation al-Khandagh”
October 20, Afghanistan’s Minister of Interior Wais Barmak told the TOLO TV that different armed groups had carried out 192 attacks throughout Afghanistan in an attempt to sabotage the long-awaited parliamentary elections.
The attacks didn’t stop the election process. However, it resulted in the death of at least 17 civilians and the injury of 83 others. Barmak also revealed that the Afghan National Police lost 10 of its personnel in different attacks, while securing the elections.
The Afghan capital of Kabul witnessed the most brutal attack. Afghan sources reported that a suicide bomber blew himself up outside of a polling station killing 10 civilians and 5 policemen. Despite of the attack, the election process continued in the capital.
In an official statement released by Taliban’s spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, the Afghan group claimed responsibility for 166 attacks on polling stations and other facilities around the country. Furthermore, Mujahid claimed that the election process had been halted in many regions as a result of these attacks.
“Looking at the operations by the Mujahedeen of Islamic Emirate up until noon time today, we can confidently say that this electoral process was a merely a regime process with only regime workers participating. The rest of the nation announced a boycott and the Mujahedeen have also been successful in neutralizing the enemy plot,” Mujahid said in the statement.
Despite Taliban attempts to sabotage the elections, the Afghan Independent Election Commission (IEC) stated that approximately 3 million registered voters had cast their ballot, out of supposed 9 million. The number is considered a success considering the situation in the war torn country that delayed the elections for three years. However, the attacks confirm that the Afghan government is still incapable of securing the country on its own.
The Yemeni Missiles Force and the Yemeni Air Force [both loyal to the Houthis] announced on October 20 that they had targeted a headquarters of the UAE military in the district center of al-Durayhimi on the western Yemeni coast. “Ballistic missiles” and armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were reportedly used in the joint operation.
“The joint operation of the missiles force and the air force was based on information and a careful monitoring of the UAE invaders on the western coast,” a Yemeni military source told the al-Masirah TV.
Experts believe that the Houthis used the Badir-1 solid fuel artillery rocket, which is a locally-made copy of the Iranian Fajir-3, and an armed UAV named Qasef-1, which is a copy of the Iranian Ababil-2.
Hours after the supposed attack, the Emirates News Agency [known as WAM] reported that the Saudi-led coalition air defense had intercepted and destroyed two ballistic missiles launched by the Houthis at al-Durayhimi.
“The coalition’s air defense forces monitored the launch of the two missiles towards a densely populated area in al-Durayhimi before intercepting and destroying them without any casualties or damage to property,” WAM said in statement.
Furthermore, WAM revealed in separate statement that an “anti-drone unit” of the Saudi-led coalition had taken control of a Houthi “booby-trapped” UAV with Iranian specifications, which was heading to the coalition’s positions in al-Durayhimi.
“The unit’s specialist teams inspected the drone and found large quantities of explosives which were intended for use against selected targets,” WAM said.
The information provided by WAM suggests that the Houthis attack had been foiled. However, the attack once again demonstrated the capabilities of the Yemeni group to use a wide range of means and measures to deter forces of the Saudi-led coalition.
The remaining ISIS fighters in the Euphrates Valley launched more attacks on the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the region on October 20 forcging US-backed forces to move from offense to defense.
In details, five suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (SVBIEDs) and dozens of fighters of the terrorist group attacked key positions of the SDF north of the town of al-Baghuz al-Fawqani. However, SDF fighters, backed by US-led coalition warplanes, destroyed the VBIEDs and recaptured a position they had lost earlier.
Around the town of Hajin, north of al-Baghuz al-Fawqani, a group of ISIS suicide bombers attacked a position of the US-backed forces. According to the SDF, the attack failed and a tunnel, which had been used by the attackers, was uncovered and destroyed.
The SDF media center claimed in a press release that more than 31 ISIS fighters were killed during the clashes in the last 24 hours. Furthermore, many vehicles and positions of the terrorist groups were destroyed.
The SDF military operation against ISIS in the Euphrates Valley has been ongoing for more than a month now. However, US-backed forces are yet to make any significant advance despite a clear advantage in the manpower and firepower.
As journalist and activist I urge anonymous teams to be proactive for #pressfreedom activities in particular concerning journalist #JamalKhashoggi who got assassinated & awfully dismembered & chopped by the Saudi regime inside a diplomatic buildingRead more »
New satellite images released on October 20 revealed that Russian forces are building eighteen hardened aircraft shelters (HAS) in Hmeimim airbase in the coastal Syrian governorate of Lattakia. A local Syrian source said that the construction of these shelters began more than a month ago..
Russian Air Force at Hmeymim airbase in Latakia with 9 Su-24, 4 Su-34 and 4 Su-35 soon to be protected by new aircraft shelters that are under construction. an A-50, 4 Il-76, 2 An-26/30 and an Il-38 on the eastern apron (3 Oct 2018) pic.twitter.com/VhAK9qtqEg
The images also show that Hmeimim airbase is currently hosting nine Su-24, four Su-34, four Su-35 warplanes, an A-50 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) plane, an Il-38 maritime patrol and anti-submarine plane, four Il-76 cargo planes and two An-26 transport planes.
Since the beginning of this year, Syrian militants have attempted to attack Hmeimim airbase several times with Grad rockets and armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). While these attacks didn’t cause any real damage on the airbase, the militants view them as a way to deter the Russian Aerospace Forces.
In most cases, Russian air defense systems deployed in Hmeimim foiled the militants attacks by intercepting their rockets or shooting down their UAVs. Despite the success of this method, the hardened shelters will for sure provide an extra protection for Russian Aerospace Forces personnel and assets that are deployed in the airbase.
A militant operates a TOW anti-tank rocket launcher in Syria. (File photo)
In another clear violation of the Russian-Turkish deconfliction agreement, unknown militants destroyed a 14,5mm machine gun of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in the northern Lattakia countryside with an anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) on October 20, according to several Syrian opposition sources.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack so far. However, local observer believe that the attack was carried out by al-Qaeda-affiliated Horas al-Din or Ajnad al-Kavkaz. Both groups are mainly stationed in the opposition-held areas in northern Lattakia and northwestern Idlib.
The previous day witnessed several violations of the deconfliction agreement, mainly in northern Lattakia and around the city of Aleppo. Following these violations, the Russian Center for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides in Syria argued the militants’ commanders to cease hostilities. However, it appears that some sides are interested in sabotaging the agreement.
So far, the SAA has limited its response to artillery strikes. This soft policy may be changed soon if militants continue their destructive actions. The alternative will likely be a military operation, backed by the Russian Aerospace Forces.
This map provides a general look at the military situation in Syria and Iraq on October 20, 2018. The key remaining hot points in Syria are the Euphrates Valley, the province of Idlib and the al-Safa pocket. In Iraq the situation is more stable. However, multiple ISIS cells still operate across the country. They pose a significant security threat to the areas liberated from ISIS near the Syrian-Iraqi border, near and inside the city of Mosul and even to the capital of Baghdad.
Israeli policemen patrol a street in the Arab east Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber following clashes in Jerusalem September 18, 2015. FILE IMAGE: Reuters
Israeli security forces arrested a 20-year-old Palestinian from the village of Kfar Katna in the Western Bank just before committing a terrorist attack in the Israeli settlement of Har Adar near the city of Jerusalem, The Jerusalem Post reported on October 20.
According to the Israeli Maariv newspaper, only a knife was found in the scene, where the suspect was planning to carry out the supposed terrorist attack. The Israeli authorities didn’t explain how they knew in advance of the suspect’s intention; despite that he was not armed.
The incident reflects the recent high tension between the Israel and the Palestinians, which is a result of U.S. President Donald Trump decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel last December. The following months witnessed several attack on Israeli citizens and personnel of the Israel military.
Furthermore, a series of large protests, in which more than 168 civilians were killed by Israel military, have been ongoing since March. The protests led to several dangerous military confrontations in the Gaza Strip between the Palestinian Hamas Movement and Israel.
In attempt to counter any Palestinian action, the Israeli security cabinet adopted a new policy this week, under which the Israeli military will step up its response to any attacks. This police, which is now active, will likely lead to a furtherconfrontation soon.
Some of the world’s hottest points of conflict during the Cold War are, once again, in the headlines because of Donald Trump’s erratic and bombastic saber-rattling antics. Even a military pact between North and South Korea, one worked out between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at their third summit in Pyongyang in September is being actively opposed by Trump’s pompous Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. In remarks in the South Korean parliament, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung said that Pompeo wanted Seoul to go slow on its talks with North Korea. It is known that Trump wants another summit with North Korea’s Kim. Little resulted from the first Trump-Kim meeting in Singapore, which was largely a much-ballyhooed photo op, but was heralded by some myopic Trump supporters as an epic event rivaling President Richard Nixon’s trip to China.
Trump is likely opposed to the inter-Korean agreement, which would see a moratorium on military drills, removal of land mines and guard posts within the Demilitarized Zone and establish a no-fly zone around it, and other major steps, because he was not part of the talks between the two Korean leaders that brought about the deal. No world leader who is interested in any sort of peace deal would want the bellicose and mentally-imbalanced Trump, a self-described “deal maker,” involved. Trump’s ego and his ignorance of world history and international relations serves as an impediment to any meaningful multilateral talks, whether they are between the two Koreas or further south between China and Taiwan.
Cross-Strait relations between China and Taiwan have grown tense since the Trump administration announced that it was increasing military relations with Taiwan. This has included more exchange visits between US and Taiwanese military and intelligence officials. In March 2018, Trump signed the Taiwan Travel Act, which permits high-level diplomatic and government-to-government visits by US and Taiwanese officials. In July 2018, the US completed a $1.94 billion sale of US Apache attack helicopters to Taiwan. In September 2018, the Pentagon announced the sale to Taiwan of spare parts for F-16 and F-5 fighter aircraft and C-130 military transports, in addition to other military hardware.
After the US Navy embarked on several “show of force” missions near Chinese-occupied islands, reefs, and atolls in the South China Sea, it was announced that similar “show of force” would take place in the Taiwan Strait, all but destroying previous improvement in Cross-Strait relations between Beijing and Taipei. The island of Quemoy, a Taiwanese-occupied island now known as Kinmen, and another Taiwanese island, Matsu, now known as Mazu, lie just a few miles off the Chinese coast. Fighting between Communist Chinese and Nationalist Chinese military forces for control of both islands subsided in the 1950s, however, Trump administration saber-rattling has, once, again, led to the islands again becoming hot spots in the Cross-Straits rivalry egged on by the White House. During the Nixon-Kennedy presidential contest of 1960, Nixon accused Kennedy of not being willing to commit to the use of nuclear weapons if mainland China invaded the two coastal Nationalist-held islands. Although Taiwan abolished military control over Kinmen and Mazu in 1992, when it disestablished the Battle Field Administration over the islands, Trump’s incendiary moves with regard to Taiwan, a trade war with China, and accusations that China is waging a mid-term election meddling and espionage campaign against the United Sates, have thrust Kinmen and Mazu, as well as the mid-Taiwan Strait Penghu Islands, into a neo-Cold War in East Asia.
US Defense Secretary James Mattis is seen as a more moderating influence inside the Trump administration, however, no sooner had he been sworn in as secretary in February 2017, Mattis committed the US to a full-throttled military invocation of the US-Japan Security Treaty of 1960, if China made a military move on the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea, which are under Japanese administration. The US-Japan treaty was agreed upon as US and Chinese forces faced off over Kinmen, Matsu, and Penghu islands in the Taiwan Strait. For the peoples of Japan, the Korean peninsula, Taiwan, and mainland China, Trump’s retrogression to the era of the Cold War threatens to ignite a massive arms race and a possible war in East Asia.
During the Cold War, the so-called Formosa Lobby, which was bankrolled by wo of the notorious Soong Sisters, convinced the US leadership that the Nationalist Chinese government on Taiwan, also called Formosa, was America’s “Frontier Island” in the battle against Communism. Taiwan, under its Nationalist government, was shown on propaganda maps as leading the Western vanguard in protecting the “Maritime Frontier” of Japan, South Korea, Okinawa, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and South Vietnam against “Communist aggression.” Eling (“Nancy”) Soong, the wife of Nationalist China’s richest man, and Soong Mei-ling, the wife of Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek, inserted themselves, with the help of their immense wealth, into right-wing circles in Washington and New York.
Another major figure in the Formosa Lobby was Anna Chennault, born Chan Sheng Mai, the wife of General Claire Chennault, the head of the Flying Tigers, a US mercenary force that flew for Chiang Kai-shek’s forces against the Japanese prior to America’s entry into World War II. Chennault helped create a network of airlines for the Central Intelligence Agency after the war. One was Civil Air Transport, which was renamed Air America during the US war in Southeast Asia.
Today, the Formosa Lobby has re-emerged. Taiwan secured the representation of the nonagenarian former Republican Senate leader and presidential candidate, Bob Dole, to represent its interests in Washington. After Trump’s election in 2016, Dole arranged for Trump to receive a congratulatory phone call from Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen. China saw the call as a complete breach of diplomatic agreements between Beijing and Washington.
Under Trump, Taiwan’s unofficial “embassy” in Washington, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, has been treated more like an official diplomatic legation, even though the United States only recognizes the People’s Republic of China as the government of all of China, including Taiwan. Dole set up meetings between the Taiwan office and members of the Trump transition team between November 2016 and January 2017. Taiwan exerted influence on the Trump administration via support from the neo-conservative Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute, both of which receive generous financial endowments from Taiwan. One of Taiwan’s strongest advocates is New Gingrich, former Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives. Gingrich’s wife serves as US ambassador to Vatican City, the only European state that still maintains diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
Taiwan also has its reconstituted Formosa Lobby advocates in the US Senate. They include Senators Tom Cotton (Republican-Arkansas), John Cornyn (Republican-Texas), Marco Rubio (Republican-Florida), Ted Cruz (Republican-Texas), Cory Gardner (Republican-Colorado), Ron Wyden (Democrat-Oregon), and Chris Van Hollen (Democrat-Maryland).
Trump’s turning back the clock to the days of the Cold War has also manifested itself into a increased US military presence in the Philippines and Guam. The largest US military contingent in many years joined the 2018 Cobra Gold military exercises in Thailand. For the first time ever, US military forces trained with forces from Myanmar.
In return for access to highly-advanced US military technology, India is granting visiting US military forces greater access to Indian border outposts on the border with China. This border was the scene of a border war between China and India in 1962, one, in which, the United States provided military and intelligence support to India.
Donald Trump has turned back the clock on US policies around the world. From Asia to Latin America, where Trump has said he favors a US military invasion of Venezuela, and Europe to the Middle East, America’s policies appear to be directed from the graves of 1950s and 60s Cold Warriors.
Dear Hambis, I just sent this message to my brother-in-law. It needs no further explanation:
Hello X, I hear you are worried about the garbage in Hambach Forest. Rightly so. Unlike what the police wants to make us believe, it was created during the evictions, as the tree houses were scattered on the forest floor, along with everything in there, including windows. But something has been done in the meantime. … more…
A group of twenty-seven American psychiatrists and mental health experts made a long list of personality disorders — narcissism, delusional disorder, paranoia, unbridled and extreme present hedonism, and more — shortly after he came into office. Some might be accurate. But psychological designations aren’t the best way to wrap your mind around Trump. To fully examine him as a political actor, we must root his personal characteristics in the US social structure.
Trump is a capitalist. That isn’t a surprise to anyone. But he is a particular kind of capitalist: a lumpen capitalist.
A Career of Skullduggery
In his Class Struggles in France. 1848–1850, Marx wrote that the finance aristocracy of that time “in its mode of acquisition as well as in its pleasures, is nothing but the rebirth of the lumpenproletariat on the heights of bourgeois society.” Marxist scholar Hal Draper clarified that Marx’s “finance aristocracy” did not refer to the finance capital that plays an integral role in bourgeois economy, but to the “vultures and raiders” who swing from speculation to swindling and who are the near criminal or extralegal excrescences from the body social of the rich just like the “lumpen proletariat” proper are excrescences from the poor.
Marx referred again to this upper-class “lumpen proletariat” after the fall of the Paris Commune in 1871, as enjoying their leisure in “the Paris of the Boulevards, male and female — the rich, the capitalist, the gilded, the idle Paris, now thronging with its lackeys, its blacklegs, its literary bohême, and its cocottes.”
The essence of Trump’s lumpen capitalism is expressed in many ways, beginning with his shady, illegal (or bordering on the illegal) financial operations. “Normal” capitalists will often take illegal shortcuts in pursuit of profit — like avoiding paying taxes, violating government regulations, illegally smashing union drives — all in the course of managing otherwise “normal” capitalist enterprises. For lumpen-capitalist Trump, however, those shortcuts are the principal strategy for his profit-making.
Examples of this abound, starting with the skullduggery that pervades his financial operations. “Normal” capitalists may regularly borrow money from banks and other financial institutions to run their businesses; they only resort to bankruptcy occasionally, usually as a last resort. But as the “king of debt,” Trump’s businesses have gone into bankruptcy no less than six times, five times for his casinos and once for New York’s Plaza Hotel.
According to business historian Gwenda Blair, in 1990, Trump secretly met with representatives of several big American banks to find a way out of his staggering $2 billion in bank debt that included personal liability on guarantees and unsecured loans amounting to $800 million, as well as more than $1 billion in junk bonds on his casinos. As Blair put it, in less than a decade, Trump had become what Marie Brenner in Vanity Faircalled the “Brazil of Manhattan,” with annual interest payments of approximately $350 million exceeding his cash flow. Only two of his assets, his half of the Grand Hyatt Hotel and the retail component of Trump Tower, had at that time any chance of making a profit.
The lawsuits against his Trump University have further exposed the extent of his shady financial operations. He founded this for-profit “university” with a couple of partners in 2005 to offer courses in real estate and asset management among other subjects. It was not accredited; neither did it give grades, confer university credits, or grant degrees. A few years after it was founded, it was investigated by the New York Attorney General and sued for illegal business practices. Two class-action suits were also filed against it in federal court, alleging that its students were the victims of misleading marketing practices and aggressive sales tactics. After he was elected president, Trump paid the victims $25 million and settled the case, even though he had repeatedly promised not to do so.
Like Trump University, these types of institutions typically have very poor records in degree completion and job placement but are efficient machines for exacting profits off the fat of the federal government’s loans and subsidies to their overwhelmingly poor and minority adult students. After the Obama administration’s attempts to curb some of their worst abuses, Trump’s administration sharply went the other direction: under the direction of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, it has given them the green light to proceed with their fraudulent practices.
His Trump Foundation is another case in point. As the New York Times wrote in a recent editorial, “the Trump Foundation, is not a generous and ethical charity, but just another of his [Trump’s] grifts.” As the editorial pointed out, the largest donation reported by the foundation, for the amount of $264,631, was used to refurbish the fountain in front of Trump’s Plaza Hotel in New York City. Other questionable activities included its 2013 illegal contributions to the reelection of Pam Bondi, Florida’s attorney general.
On October 2, 2018, the New York Timespublished a devastating investigative report on Trump debunking his claim that his father Fred Trump had “only” lent him $1 million to start his business career. In fact, as the report shows, Donald Trump received from his father at least $60.7 million, ($140 million in today’s dollars). The report also details the numerous dubious and outright illegal ways in which Donald avoided paying hundreds of millions of dollars in gift and estate taxes.
Most telling of Donald’s character is the finding that he tried, in 1990, to take total control of his then-eighty-five-year-old father’s business and fortune behind his back. Donald’s attempt was foiled by Trump Sr himself, who, with the help of his daughter, federal judge Maryanne Trump Barry, had him legally stripped from any attempt to take over his father’s businesses. According to sworn depositions by members of the Trump family, Fred told them that Donald’s takeover would put “his life’s work at risk,” and that he feared his son would use his father’s businesses as collateral to rescue his failing businesses.
There are strong indications that Trump’s serious financial difficulties have pushed him to the margins of the financial world and to money laundering as a source of capital. As John Feffer pointed out in “Trump’s Dirty Money,” there was only one institution left, Deutsche Bank, willing to give him credit — which led Trump to begin relying on questionable characters and networks, creating baroque financial arrangements involving shell companies, using pseudonyms on contracts, and hiding his tax returns. And, in financial activities highly suggestive of money laundering, Trump started to use large amounts of cash to purchase huge properties — as much as $400 million since 2006.
Much of this cash, Feffer wrote, came from the sale of his properties to Russian oligarchs. A 2017 Reuters investigation discovered that Russian buyers purchased nearly $100 million in condos in Florida from Trump, and a Russian-Canadian billionaire invested millions into a Trump property in Toronto, including the payment of a $100 million “commission” to a Moscow fixer to attract other Russian investors.
In 2018, a Russian oligarch paid $95 million to Trump for a Palm Beach mansion that Trump had bought four years before for $41 million. In addition, Feffer indicates, Trump has made similar deals with known Kazakh money launderers, corrupt businesses in India, and a shady casino operator in Vietnam. Even his Taj Mahal casino was on two different occasions — in 1998 and 2015 — accused of violating anti-money-laundering laws.
Trump’s Lumpen Friends
Trump’s lumpen-capitalist character is not only expressed in his pursuit of gain, but also in the kinds of friends and associates he has surrounded himself with, and to whom he is attracted by commonly shared activities and values evincing a predatory orientation to the world devoid of any consideration besides how to benefit oneself and one’s friends.
One example of Trump’s choice of friends is David J. Pecker, chairman of the tabloid company American Media Inc. (AMI) and publisher of the National Inquirer, the leading organ of the gutter press in the United States. Before the 2016 elections, AMI bought the rights to Playboy model Karen McDougal’s story of her adulterous affair with Trump in order to ensure it did not ever see the light of day. Besides exposing Trump and Pecker’s shared predatory attitude towards women, this clearly violated campaign finance laws.
Another notable example was Roy Cohn, one of Trump’s best friends and avowed mentor, a veritable example of a lumpen bourgeois (since, strictly speaking, he was not a capitalist.) Roy’s notorious role as a legal hatchet man for Senator Joe McCarthy’s Red witch-hunting, may have distracted public attention from his subsequent nefarious activities. Cohn’s biographer Nicholas von Hoffman cites one of his law partners describing him as “a person who was totally free of the rules,” so “whatever he wanted at any given moment was the right thing,” an expression of Cohn’s predatory lumpen make-up.
Von Hoffman and even Sidney Zion, a paid apologist for Cohn, have shown Cohn as a great manipulator of people for whom the exchange of favors was the currency of his realm. In addition to having legally represented the Mob, Cohn socially consorted with them. He was indicted for jury tampering in 1963 and was disbarred six weeks before he died in 1986 for unethical and unprofessional conduct that included, tellingly, misappropriation of clients’ funds, lying on a bar application, and pressuring a client to amend his will. Typical of his lack of principles, he was a homophobic gay man (he died of AIDS) who publicly came out against allowing gays to be school teachers.
Trump knew all of this about Cohn. And yet he brought him into his inner life as friend and mentor. Business historian Gwenda Blair quotes Eugene Morris, Cohn’s first cousin and a prominent New York real estate lawyer, to the effect that “Donald was attracted by the fact that Roy had actually been indicted.” And he used Cohn’s legal services, tellingly, to sue the US government for damages in retaliation for having charged him with engaging in racially discriminatory rental practices in the apartment buildings he owned.
Michael Cohen, Trump’s former close friend, personal attorney, and fixer is another case of Trump’s tendency to surround himself with lumpen-bourgeois associates and friends. Cohen’s life is a rich trove of what lumpen capitalism is about. After graduating from Cooley Law School in Michigan, he became a hard-edged personal-injury lawyer. His 1994 marriage brought him into contact with immigrants from the former USSR and into the taxi industry, where he made millions through the purchase and sale of medallions.
But a big break came from his buying and selling buildings in highly suspect circumstances. Just in one day, in 2014, he sold four buildings in Manhattan for $32 million in cash, three times what he had paid for them no more than three years earlier. The owners of the limited liability companies that bought the properties from Mr Cohen are unknown; so is the reason why they agreed to pay such high prices, although Cohen claimed that the sales were in cash to help the buyers defer taxes in other transactions. However, Richard K. Gordon, director of the Financial Integrity Institute at Case Western Reserve University law school, who once conducted anti-money-laundering efforts for the International Monetary Fund, stated that if he had been the bank, he would have either refused the transaction up front or rated Cohen as extra high risk.
Cohen then became involved in the construction of a Trump Tower in Moscow with Felix Sater, a Russian immigrant friend with whom Cohen and Trump continued to work even after it was revealed that Sater was involved in a stock manipulation scheme involving Mafia figures and Russian criminals. (Eventually, Sater pleaded guilty and became an informant for the FBI and other intelligence agencies.)
Cohen also had business dealings with companies that operated on the fringes of the medical field. Although it is unclear what role he played in those companies beyond having helped them to register with state authorities, two doctors listed in the incorporation papers as being involved in the businesses, Aleksandr Martirosov and Zhanna Kanevsky, were accused of insurance fraud with the different medical practices they operated. Martirosov was also charged with grand larceny and Dr Kanevsky with state racketeering charges, both as a result of an investigation into phony accidents and medical claims.
The above information about Cohen is based on an exhaustive investigative report published by the New York Times on May 5, 2018. This report also revealed that in 1993, Mr Cohen’s father-in-law pleaded guilty to evading federal reporting requirements for large cash transactions (because he cooperated in a related case, he was sentenced to probation.) Dr Morton W. Levine, Mr Cohen’s uncle, a family practitioner, provided medical assistance to members of the Lucchese crime family, which according to an FBI agent “aided their illegal activities.” Anthony (“Gaspipe”) Casso, a Lucchese underboss “regarded Levine as someone who would do anything for him.” Dr Levine also owned El Caribe, a Brooklyn catering hall — in which Michael Cohen long held a small stake before the 2016 election — that for decades was the scene of mob weddings and Christmas parties, while two of New York’s most notorious Russian mobsters kept their offices there.
The New York Times’s investigative report also pointed out that both of Mr Cohen’s taxi partners (Symon Garber and Evgeny Freidman) had a history of legal troubles. Each has been made to pay over $1 million for overcharging their drivers, according to the New York State Attorney General. Former business partners also accused them of forging signatures, stiffing lawyers, and dodging debt-collection efforts. Cohen’s taxi businesses in New York and Chicago owe more than $375,000 for a number of tax, insurance, and inspection problems, and fourteen of his fifty-four cabs were suspended.
Trump’s chosen retinue of friends also include celebrities whose personal characteristics reveal a great deal about who he is. One of them is rapper Kanye West, who Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote is, like Trump, a persistent bearer of slights, narcissistic, and shockingly ignorant; his remark suggesting that the hundreds of years slavery lasted were an indication of the slaves’ own preferences is emblematic of his (and Trump’s) contempt and lack of empathy for the victims of oppression. Another is former boxing champion Mike Tyson, a Trump hero known for his drinking, drug use, legal problems, and rape conviction. As Charles M. Blow averred in the New York Times, Trump counts his flirtation with rich rappers and athletes as proof of his egalitarianism. True to his lumpen make-up he takes up, as Blow writes, the coarser side of these celebrities whose thrall he is in and repackages their qualities behind a wealthy businessman’s face.
Trump’s Capitalist Friends
True to his lumpen predatory inclinations, Trump has an almost precapitalist, pre-democratic relation to government office, whereby his person and the office are merged into each other, and political office is there for him to benefit himself and his friends. Trump’s political conduct is as an impediment to the most important political function of the capitalist state: acting as a unifier and arbiter of the capitalist class.
Trump has been a chronic breaker of the “normal” rules of political comportment essential to the function of being a trusted and reliable arbiter to intra-capitalist conflict. He refused to publicize his tax returns and place his financial and real estate holdings in a so-called blind trust, routine rules of the system that both Republican and Democratic officeholders have adhered to for many years. He has ignored many of the political rules of the game, especially those that maintain the “civility” regarded as essential to political stability and the harmonious alternation in power between Republican and Democrats.
A blatant example of this lack of “civility” was his call for the imprisonment of rival candidate Hillary Clinton and the encouragement of his followers’ call to “lock her up.” All professional politicians lie, but Trump’s chronic and blatant lying in the most easily verifiable matters has broken the mold of regular politicking and subverted the moral authority of the presidency among large numbers of Americans. He has instilled a bullying atmosphere in politics, often justifying illegality and often resorting, as Joan Walsh pointed out in the Nation, to mobster language, as when he complained about the practice of “flipping witnesses” to implicate the top bosses in the criminal hierarchies and when he denied that White House Counsel Don McGahn was “a John Dean style rat.”
Capitalists mistrust Trump, not because they see him as morally lacking, but because they see him as an arbitrary, unpredictable, and unreliable wild-card president who, like his friend and mentor Roy Cohn, does not accept any rules except those that he finds expedient at any given moment. Even though US capitalists have for the most part benefited from his presidency, they see him not only as not part of them as a class, but also as an outside political actor with whom it is impossible to come to a mutual understanding of what to expect from each other, in contrast with previous presidents from whom they could predictably expect to abide by their mutually constructed relationship.
That is one of the major reasons why much of the elite media like the New York Times and Washington Post went into outright opposition to Trump, itself unusual in US politics except perhaps during Nixon’s Watergate period.
That is why, before it became clear that Trump had won the Republican primary race in 2016, most capitalists refused to support him. Many of these capitalists also refused their support because of his racist and anti-immigrant provocations which they saw as a threat to the economic and political system’s stability; or, as with the capitalists involved in agri-business and Silicon Valley, because they supported the legalization of at least short- term immigrant labor. (In fact, on August 22, 2018, dozens of American executives who are members of the Business Roundtable delivered a letter to the secretary of Homeland Security expressing their “serious concern” over the administration’s immigration policies, particularly those affecting the applications for, and renewal of, H-1B visas for skilled foreign workers and their spouses.) Large numbers of capitalists did not support him either because of his advocacy of protectionism, a policy advocated primarily by the executives of ailing industries such as coal and steel.
According to a 2018 study by Thomas Ferguson, Paul Jorgensen, and Jie Chen, in 2015 (the year before the 2016 general election) the Trump campaign attracted financial support from firms in ailing industries like steel, rubber, machinery, and others that expected to benefit from Trump’s protectionism. It also received, at that early stage, money from individual capitalists like corporate raider Carl Icahn, a virtual pariah to mainline firms in the Business Roundtable and Wall Street; and from a minority of Silicon Valley capitalists (who for the most part strongly supported Hillary Clinton) including Peter Thiel, a known figure in the industry, and several executives at Microsoft and Cisco Systems who contributed, respectively, more than $1 million and approximately $4 million to the Trump campaign.
Still, by the end of August 2016, by which time Trump had obtained the Republican nomination, no chief executive of a Fortune 100 company had donated to his campaign. This was in contrast with the 2012 presidential campaign, when according to the Wall Street Journal, nearly a third of Fortune 100’s CEOs had by then supported Mitt Romney Republican candidacy. As reported in Fortune magazine, during the 2016 primary season nineteen of the nation’s largest hundred companies had contributed to the campaigns of Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. For her part, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton had received twice as many donations from Fortune 100 executives than President Obama did in 2012.
It is true that after Trump won the number of delegates in the Republican primaries necessary to obtain the presidential nomination, an increasing number of capitalist firms began to contribute to his campaign hoping to propitiate Trump’s goodwill should he be elected president. Thus, according to Ferguson et al., the run up to the Republican Convention brought in “substantial new money, including, for the first time, significant contributions from big business.”
Apart from mining (especially coal companies, which continued to support Trump), the new contributors included Big Pharma, worried by Hillary Clinton’s talk about regulating drug prices; tobacco, chemical companies, oil, and telecommunications — particularly AT&T, which had a major merger pending with Time Warner. The Ferguson et al. report notes that money also started to come in from executives at big banks (Bank of America, J.P. Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Wells Fargo), and even from some Silicon Valley companies that had not previously supported Trump, like Facebook, that contributed $900,000 to the Cleveland Host Committee for the Republican Convention.
Yet, in the end, as reported by Ferguson et al., total spending on behalf of Trump’s election from all sources totaled a little more than $861 million compared with the $1.4 billion raised by the Clinton campaign. With the possible exception of 1964, the Clinton campaign surpassed any other campaign since the New Deal and obtained financial support reaching “far into sectors and firms that have rarely supported any Democrat.” Undoubtedly, Hillary Clinton, not Trump, was the presidential candidate supported by the majority of the capitalist class (notwithstanding Trump’s improved record in capitalist fundraising after the Republican Convention).
Capitalist support for Trump increased substantially after he took office. His right-wing tax policies and even more extreme right-wing policies of drastic deregulation in the key fields of the environment, labor, and consumer protection have won over large sections of the capitalist class. The American capitalist willingness to support Trump’s administration is not only due to his tax cuts and deregulatory policies, but because his regime coincides with a continued cyclical economic expansion.
While the majority of capitalists may be opposed to Trump’s tariffs and trade wars with China and the European Union, they are muted in their opposition to the administration because, and as long as, profits continue to rise. But they don’t trust him and cannot build with him a relationship with mutually agreed rules.
His extreme political behavior has forced them to at least take some distance from him, as happened in August 2017 after white supremacists gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia for a show of force that left one person dead and several others seriously injured at the hands of the white supremacists. Trump’s reaction, pointing to violence on “many sides,” provoked widespread indignation. Many CEOs felt forced to resign from Trump’s manufacturing council: Kenneth Frazier of Merck Pharmaceuticals, Brian Krzanich of Intel, Kevin Plank of Under Armour, Inge Thulin of 3M, and Scott Paul, the president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing.
Sophisticated pro-capitalist organs of information and opinion, especially those ideologically committed to laissez-faire economics, are uneasy with the support that American business are affording — grudgingly or ungrudgingly — to Trump. An emblematic example of this queasiness is a May editorial of the Anglo-American Economist, titled “The Affair” and subtitled “American executives are betting that the president is good for business. Not in the long run.”
Recognizing that for capitalists tax cuts, deregulation, and potential trade concessions from China outweigh the unclear costs of weaker institutions and trade wars, the Economist contends that “when it comes to gauging the full costs of Mr. Trump, America Inc. is being short-sighted and sloppy.” “The country’s system of commerce,” holds the editorial, “is lurching away from rules, openness and multilateral treaties towards arbitrariness, insularity and transient deals.”
As the Economist sees it, the expense of re-regulating trade could even exceed the benefits of deregulation at home. This might be tolerable except for the unpredictability of the Trump era, particularly Trump’s tendency to show off his power with “acts of pure political discretion.” It is this unpredictability that concerns the Economist most.
The Rise of a Lumpen-Capitalist President
How did it happen that a US president with such a problematic relationship with the capitalist US ruling class emerged, and managed to be elected, president? And even more so when paradoxically, he, a capitalist, had far weaker ties to the US capitalist class as a whole when he assumed office in January 2017 than had been the case of Obama, Clinton, Bush father and son, Reagan, and Carter.
The explanation goes back to the impact of the crisis created by the great economic recession of 2008. This recession came on top of the long-lasting effects of the growing deindustrialization that American workers suffered and about which the Democratic Party, whether under Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, or Barack Obama, did nothing significant to ameliorate their plight.
The paradigmatic case was West Virginia, a heavily Democratic state with a coal mining-based economy and the once politically powerful United Mine Workers Union (UMW), that was disregarded by the Democratic Party when the coal mining industry began ailing, bringing unemployment and underemployment and leading to a turn to the Republican Party. A similar pattern was followed in 2016 by states like Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The loss of these states sealed the defeat of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign.
By 2016, in the United States as a whole, millions of American families that had witnessed rising living standards and social mobility in the “glorious thirty years” between 1945 and 1975 no longer expected their children — saddled with heavy debts if they make it to college — to do as well as they did. Jobs had become increasingly limited to the low-wage, nonunion sectors such as logistics, call centers, hospitality, and health care, while the good, often technical jobs for the most part required postgraduate education. This situation is the economic and social background to the growth of the opioid epidemic within white and, increasingly, minority populations.
Donning the garb of authenticity in claiming to stand for the people — not a difficult task in confronting Hillary Clinton — Trump promised much-needed change to the victims of the crisis, including many of those who had voted for Obama and who were abandoned by him and his party. Trump offered protectionism as a solution to the problems of American workers. He courted the support of white Americans, sometimes dog whistling, sometimes openly espousing racist, nativist, and chauvinist views. Astutely, he assured voters he would leave Social Security and Medicare intact, social programs which more overtly neoliberal politicians like Paul Ryan have threatened to cut for some time. In doing so, he appealed to the large number of white Americans who erroneously thought that they had completely paid for these benefits through their lifelong individual contributions, in contrast to the “welfare” programs that the non-respectable poor supposedly get at the expense of the respectable middle and working class.
Trump also benefited from the Republican winner-take-all primary system originally designed to get an establishment candidate like Jeb Bush quickly selected instead of a prolonged period of competition that the Republican leadership feared might have hurt the party’s chances. In the absence of his Republican opponents uniting around one candidate, or of a runoff system to assure a majority for the winner, he was able to obtain the nomination with only a plurality rather than a majority of Republican primary voters.
Trump’s election and his presidency brings to the fore the old question of whether and how the capitalist class rules. Capitalists directly own and administer the economy, which they privately own. But they do so under circumstances any individual firm has little control over, such as national and international competition. That comes under the control of the state, which in light of the separation between the economy and polity that generally characterizes capitalist systems, particularly democratic ones, the capitalists don’t control directly but by means of complicated mechanisms.
In “normal” circumstances, these mechanisms include “tailing” after the political parties in power while trying to promote and defend their interests through a variety of means, both negative — the threat and reality of capital flight, refusal to invest, and other forms of capital “going on strike” — and positive, such as campaign contributions, lobbying, and media campaigns.
Crises imperil the complicated control that the capitalist class has attained in “normal” circumstances. They create the conditions that facilitate the rise of external class and political agents to run the political system, ultimately on behalf of the ruling class but not on ruling-class terms. Under extreme crisis, such as that of Germany in the late twenties and early thirties, Nazism — to a considerable degree rooted in German lumpen elements, although many of these were purged by Hitler in the Night of the Long Knives in the summer of 1934 — was such a political agent protecting the survival of capitalism and its powerful capitalists, not in the capitalists’ terms but in the Nazi’s own terms. It is as if the Nazis had said to the capitalists: “We will provide you domestic political stability and let you make profits, but you have to pay the price of our barbaric rule.”
Trump is another political external agent. But he is not a fascist and has not tried to introduce fascism in the United States — his rule is not based on, among other things, fascist squads and the secret police seizing the unions, opposition media, and political parties, or eliminating elections. He has certainly carried out a set of vicious anti-working class, anti-poor, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, and anti-environmental policies. The crisis that facilitated his election was not of the same dimension and significance as the German crisis of the thirties or Italy in the early twenties. By those standards, it was instead a mid-range crisis based to a considerable degree on the impact of the great recession of 2008 and the preceding decline of income, living standards, and substantial growth of inequality in the United States.
So far Trump has managed to retain the loyalty of the overwhelming majority of Republicans. The alliance of religious conservatism and white nationalism that Trump built may turn out to be more solid and enduring than the Republican neoliberal-religious alliance that preceded it. The irony is, of course, that Trump is more ruthlessly implementing a neoliberal program — certainly not in international trade where he deviates from the neoliberal Republican line, but in what counts a lot more: dismounting tax and regulatory policies, particularly in the areas of labor, environment, and consumer protection, accompanied, in his particular case, by the old racist emphasis on reducing civil and voting rights.
While several groups and individuals are lobbying for extended transgender rights at law, Women Speak Tasmania is working on a comprehensive series of policies to address changes in the law that have promoted the rights of transgender persons ahead of the sex-based rights of women.
“We have drafted two policy position papers, initially, that consider transgender rights and women’s rights in anti-discrimination law, and in the law regarding changes to sex markers on birth certificates,” said spokesperson, Bronwyn Williams. “These policies have been forwarded to all members of the Tasmanian Parliament for comment.
“Under our proposals, the terms ‘gender’ and ‘gender identity’ will be removed from the relevant legislation, and ‘gender identity’ will be replaced with ‘social identity’ as a protected characteristic under the Anti-discrimination Act 1998 (Tas). ‘Biological sex’ will become a protected characteristic under the Act.
“‘Gender’ and ‘gender identity’ are confusing concepts that are not adequately defined in the current law. ‘Social identity’ more accurately describes the incongruence with biological sex that characterises transgenderism.
“We want to end the confusion,” said Miss Williams. “We also believe there should be no changes to sex markers on birth certificates. Birth certificates are historical records that serve a number of demographic functions and inform both government policy and legislation in a wide range of areas.
“We propose, instead, a process of application for a Recognition Certificate, to be issued after consideration by a dedicated, properly constituted Board.
“It’s time we take stock and re-assess laws that have given us the ultimate legal fiction – where biological males can be declared legally female. This fiction has already eroded the rights of women and girls to female-only spaces and services. If male-bodied people are permitted to be legally recognised as female on the basis of self-identification alone, as proposed by groups like Transforming Tasmania, women’s sex-based rights will be a thing of the past.”
Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) Deputy Chairman and AK Party’s Spokesman Omer Celik, By the Anadolu Agency
On October 20, Omer Celik, a spokesman for the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party in Turkey, told reporters that Turkey will reveal all the details of the murder of Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi once the investigation is completed.
“Turkey will uncover whatever happened. No one should have doubts about that,” the Turkish Anadolu Agency quoted Celik as saying.
AK’s spokesman also revealed that Turkey’s President President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is personally determined to solve the case by all means. At the same time Celik stressed that Turkey will not hold anyone responsible until the investigation is over.
A day earlier, Saudi Arabia acknowledged that Khashoggi was murdered during what was described as a “quarrel and a brawl” with personnel he met inside the Saudi consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul. The Saudi Public Prosecution detained 18 suspect, while many senior officials in the General Intelligence and the the Royal Court were sacked by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
U.S. President Donald Trump had welcomed the results of the Saudi investigation and called it “credible.” However, this stand may change dramatically, if Turkey revealed facts that contradict to the Saudi “investigation” claims.
It’s intersting to note how Washington reactoed to news about the murder of journalist in the Saudi consulate. If one assumes that this was a consulate of China or Russia, the US would already impose additional sanctions and kick off a large-scale diplomatic and propaganda campaign using this incident as a pretext to propel own interests. Nonetheless, in the case of Saudi Arabia, the US prefers to ingore its own propaganda of the “democratic values”.
On October 20, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov commented on the recent anti-Russia accusations in the US. The diplomat described these accusations as “blantant lies”and stated that they are a part of the ongoing internal political standoff within the US. He also noted that the US “hostility towards Russia and contempt for the rest of the world” will trigger only “an increasingly tougher response”.
“The US government, in an ongoing campaign to frighten the US and international public with tales of “Russian hackers and bloggers”, has accused yet another Russian national of attempting to influence US voters. Spreading blatant lies about the mythical “hand of Moscow” for over two years – since the last presidential election – Washington is now trying to play the same card ahead of the upcoming election day: Americans will elect a new Congress on November 6.
We have said a number of times that this is a disgraceful smear campaign. It is dictated by a desire of some US politicians to get an advantage in inter-party squabbles and at the same time to pressure Russia. They are using unscrupulous tactics to achieve this, including blatantly fabricated criminal cases with a laughable evidence base.
We realise that Washington is cooking up a pretext to impose their notorious sanctions against our country once again. The United States clearly overestimates its own capabilities. By displaying hostility towards Russia and contempt for the rest of the world, they will only get an increasingly tougher response,” Ryabkov stated, according to the Foreign Ministry website.
Earlier, the US accused a Russian citizen, Elena Husyainava, of attempting to damage the US political system and to intervene in the US epecltion in 2016 and 2018.
It should be noted that the increasingly tought diplomatic rhetorics of both Moscow and Washington as well as hostile US actions against Moscow and an active pro-war propaganda campaign within the US military are openly signaling that the sides may have already launched preparations for a possible military confrontation. This confrontation may take a limited form of the continued proxy war in some regions, like Syria or the Middle East in general. However, in the worst-case scenario, it may trigger a big open regional war.
As old programs go, the Corps is looking at new cyber capabilities and getting back into the air defense game.
The Marine Corps think they’ve found a path forward for pushing more money to areas Defense Secretary James Mattis wants them to spend. And that involves kicking a growing list of old programs to the curb.
The two-year budget boost negotiated by Congress will come to a crashing halt with the 2020 defense budget with sequestration budget caps returning, So, to modernize “we have to divest,” Brig. Gen. James Acton, director of the Capabilities Development Directorate said.
The 2019 budget “was designed to plug holes. Honestly that was when we first started looking at divestment issues,” he told the Expeditionary Warfare Conference in Annapolis Md. on Wednesday The 2020 and 2021 budgets “are all about modernization, and modernization requires us to adapt and innovate to make us more lethal.”
But the cuts all come with a cost, Adams warned, and every decision is difficult. “It’s easy to say I need this new thing or that new thing, but no one ever comes to the table with an offset,” Adams said. “But we have to figure out where the trades are, if we’re going to modernize and accelerate.”
Mattis has made sure that the armed services are focused on his favorite concept — “lethality” — and the Pentagon rank and file have taken that message to heart. It’s rare that a civilian or military official talks these days without underscoring their sole focus is on making the force more lethal.
That might be harder than the past two years of budget stability have made it appear. President Trump this week demanded his cabinet officials cut 5 percent from their 2020 budget requests, a call that appears, in some fashion, to include the Pentagon.
“We know what the new budget is for the Defense Department. It will probably be $700 billion,” Trump said of the fiscal year 2020 request.
A budget of $700 billion is a 2.3 percent reduction from the previous year’s request of $716 billion. But, Trump added, “we’re doing things that we have never done on this scale. So, that included a lot of rebuilding of our military. Despite that, I am going to keep that at $700 billion, defense.” (Caution: we’re not sure if Trump was speaking about the DoD budget or the broader national security budget.)
Adams, speaking around the same time as the president on Wednesday, observed that budgets are “only going to get the same or less, in my opinion, down the road. So, in order to modernize, we have to divest.”
The Corps has already cancelled the planned survivability upgrade for its AAV-7 amphibious landing craft in order to focus on the new Amphibious Combat Vehicle.
Adams also includes the Marine Corps’ replacement of its EA-6B Prowlers and F-18 Hornets with the F-35B as an example of scrapping legacy systems. While the loss of the Prowlers means the Corps loses some of its electronic jamming capability, service leaders say the Navy’s EA-18G Growlers could take up some of the slack there. And, of course, the F-35 brings electronic warfare capabilities to the fight.
In addition, the Corps is prioritizing air defense against a range of threats from cruise missiles to short and medium-range missiles. Since the end of the Cold War, “across the joint force, we’ve allowed the air defense capability to languish,” he said.
The Marine Corps Requirements Oversight Council played a major role in identifying more than $567 million in savings over the course of 2019, either by getting rid of small programs or cutting back on refurbishment of older programs on their way to the scrap heap.
Those savings are being earmarked for a long list of new programs. “Now we’re focusing more heavily on the cyber and space domains,” Adams said. “That feeds into our divestment discussions all the time.”
Gloomy 1970s predictions about Earth’s fate still hold true Four decades ago, the Club of Rome predicted looming economic collapse in its iconic ‘Limits to Growth’ report. An update of the analysis sees much the same picture. By Quirin Schiermeier Oct 18 2018 https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-07117-2
On the eve of one the twentieth century’s most notable economic shocks — the 1973 oil crisis — an influential group of researchers released a now-iconic report entitled ‘The Limits to Growth’.
The work, which received wide attention and proved controversial, painted a bleak picture of humanity’s future. Left unchecked, it said, economic and population growth would deplete the planet’s resources and cause economic collapse before 2070.
More than four decades later, the report’s main conclusions are still valid, according to a group of independent researchers who have updated the work using more sophisticated analytical tools. Like the 1972 report, the latest work was commissioned by the Club of Rome, a group of liberal scientists, economists and politicians that this year celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of its founding in 1968.
The update, released on 17 October in Rome for the club’s anniversary, makes for a sobering read. Although its conclusions are not quite as drastic, humanity, it says, finds itself in something of a catch-22.
Business-as-usual or accelerated economic growth scenarios will mean the world will not be able to meet the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDGs) — a suite of social, environmental and prosperity targets for 2030 — the authors conclude. And even if governments were to substantially strengthen ‘conventional’ policies to meet social goals — such as the eradication of poverty and hunger and achieving quality education for all — they risk missing environmental goals.
“There is high risk for pushing the Earth’s life-supporting systems beyond irreversible trigger-points by 2050,” the report concludes.
“It is quite disturbing to see that we’re still facing the same dilemma the Club of Rome described almost 50 years ago,” says Julia Steinberger, an expert in ecological economics at the University of Leeds in the UK.
Conventional policies won’t do
The original report was a quantitative analysis based on a computer model that calculated likely future outcomes of the world’s economy. Criticism focused mainly on the authors’ assumptions about the expected duration of natural resources.
Some economists called the book’s pessimistic conclusions “irresponsible nonsense”, while others criticized the validity of the model — World3, sophisticated at the time — that the authors had used to predict energy consumption, pollution and population growth.
The latest version of the report — by researchers with the Stockholm Resilience Centre in Sweden and the Norwegian Business School in Oslo — used an Earth-system model that combines socio-economic and biophysical variables, alongside a wealth of historic and new socio-economic data, to draw up their conclusions.
This model, whose elements interact with the passage of time, is much more robust, says Steinberger.
The researchers found that, on its current path, the world is on track of achieving only 10 of the 17 SDGs by 2030. Efforts to satisfy social SDGs with conventional policy tools come at the price of unsustainable or wasteful use of natural resources such as water, land and energy. Hence, environmental goals, including stabilizing climate, reducing pollution and maintaining biodiversity, threaten to fall by the wayside, they say.
To prevent human civilization from more environmental damage than it might be able to endure, the authors call on world leaders to consider more policies they deem unconventional.
Only more extreme economic and behavioural changes than are currently being enacted will allow the world to achieve all 17 SDGs together, the authors say.
Russian intelligence operations have taken a heavy hit recently. It is hard to evaluate the exact measure of things in the murky world of spies and counter-spies, but it appears that the Western spies have had extraordinary success in the subterranean battle.
The external, visible signs of the hit are less than mind-boggling. A group of Russian diplomats had been detained and deported after an attempt to learn what is cooking in the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). It had been claimed they were members of a GRU squad caught in flagrante while accessing Wi-Fi network; not exactly red-hand assassination stuff. The Russians denied even that; however, the claim is not specially damaging.
In a different development, two (separate but interacting) fronts for Western intelligence, Bellingcat and The Insider, claimed they have discovered the real identities of the two Russians accused by the Brits of involvement in the weird case of the alleged Skripal poisoning.
None of these achievements is important by itself. It makes sense for the Russians to make an effort and discover what is planned against them in the OPCW of which they are members. The Russian officials complained that the Western members excluded them from their deliberations and did not share their data, thus defeating the very reason for the OPCW’s existence. This is connected with the alleged Syrian chemical attacks and with the Skripal case, where the best Russian defence against ungrounded accusations came from clandestinely obtained sources.
If the OPCW would function as it should by its charter, the Russians would be notified officially that the Swiss lab had established that the samples proffered by the British as taken from Salisbury, could not be produced in Russia. But the Swiss played coy, and the Russians had to steal the very product they were entitled to by right. The OPCW did not reveal on its own initiative that the samples from Syria weren’t obtained by the OPCW officials in Syria, but passed through the unverifiable chain of the White Helmets network. Nor did it reveal that the chemical weapons seized in Douma had been made in England, in Salisbury.
If the Russian intelligence wouldn’t try and snoop in the OPCW labs and discussions they would be rightly accused by their superiors of wasting their budget and not earning their salaries.
Ditto discovering the identities of Salisbury agents. There is nothing that connected the two men with Skripal, or with alleged poisoning. There is not a single frame of endless CCTV videos that shows them near Skripal’s house. Even by the British version, they could not possibly cause harm to Mr Skripal as he had left his home before their arrival to the vicinity and didn’t come back at all.
And anyway nobody has had access to Mr and Miss Skripal since the alleged poisoning excepting for a call Miss Skripal had made to her aunt in Russia that practically debunked the official British story. If she had not had the courage to make this call while slipping the observance of British intelligence, she would probably be dead by now.
If we want to find out who could poison Mr and Miss Skripal, we may ask the Brits a simple question, they know the answer to: who took the picture of them in the restaurant just a few minutes before they fell ill? Who did they dine with? Why did they turn off their phones for this meeting? Could it be connected with the D-notice (UK government prohibition to publish certain material) issued regarding a certain Mr Pablo Miller, Sergei Skripal’s former MI6 handler and a dweller of Salisbury?
The UK government is reticent about the involvement of Mr Skripal in the production of the Golden Rain dossier on Trump by the ex-spy Mr Christopher Steele of Orbis Intelligence, though it may explain some mysterious points of the story. That would justify the interest of American and Russian intelligence in Salisbury.
However, the presence of Russian spies in Salisbury can be explained by its nearness to Porton Down, the secret British chemical lab and factory for manufacturing chemical weapons applied by the White Helmets in Syria in their false-flag operation in Douma and other places. It is possible that a resident of Salisbury (Mr Skripal?) had delivered samples from Porton Down to the Russian intelligence agents. This makes much more sense than the dubious story of Russians trying to poison an old ex-spy who did his stretch in a Russian jail.
Likewise, the Netherlands story of Russian hacking connected with the Dutch commission investigating the tragedy of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 sounds realistic. The commission refused Russians access to its findings; this unfair dealing would force any intelligence service in the world to try and learn what had been found.
Not that it was of any use. The Dutch commission indeed found out the numbers of the missile that destroyed the jet; the Russians went through their documents and proved that this particular missile had been delivered to the Ukraine (when it was a Soviet republic) and remained there. A scoop! Now we know what happened with the jet – it was destroyed by the Ukrainians, presumably by mistake, like they downed another Russian airliner. However, the Western media ignored this scoop altogether. They decided to blame the crash on the Russians, and so they did to the end. Even if Russian intelligence were to find and deliver to the Hague the Ukrainian soldiers who operated the missile launcher, the Dutch, as loyal NATO members, would look other way.
This already happened regarding Syrian chemical attacks – the Russians and the Syrians delivered the very kids who unwillingly participated in the White Helmets’ staged and filmed ‘attack, directly to the OPCW. It was of no use. These guys are not after truth, they are just repeating the narrative they learned by rote.
Still, Russian intelligence worth of its name would be expected to try and obtain maximum findings in order to help the government to clear Russia’s name of unjust accusations. There revelations of Russian activity weren’t particularly dangerous or vicious. But while this subject had been discussed, a very painful and distressing development had been revealed.
The Western intelligence services have achieved incredible knowledge of whatever happens in Russia. They have obtained extensive databases of Russian everyday life from traffic violations and fines to passport scans, from residence registration to taxi requests, from messenger chats to emails, allowing them to trace persons and events in Russia with uncanny precision.
Many databases had been stolen and sold by small-time crooks; Western intelligences had made a concentrated effort to buy whatever is available on the black market; some bases were stolen and sold for crypto-currencies on the deep internet.
The most valuable databases had been sold by the crooks and/or traitors, while the Information Security Centre of FSB (ЦИБ ФСБ) led by colonel Sergei Mikhailov who is now being tried for the high treason, did nothing to stop the leak.
It appears that by cross-checking a Russian passport, the Western services can find the passport holders with a deficient or faulty tracking history, insufficiently legended, in the trade talk, who are likely to be members of secret services. People have history, while agents have legends; if these legends are faulty, they are traceable. It refers only to low-level agents, to the operatives of not-very-high-class, who are likely to travel West with this sort of documents. High-class agents have a full legend, that is complete personal (probably fictitious) history, and they probably use foreign passports.
By monitoring messengers, the Western services could discover people who had sent or received messages congratulating them with the traditional Day of the KGB operative. This is very common even in Facebook, though it is usually done by retired agents or people who had casual connection to the secret services.
Much of this debacle can be learned through Pavel Vrublevsky, a prominent internet operator and businessman (he created Chronopay, the Russian system for online payments) who had been described as ‘cybercriminal No. 1 in the world” by an American expert, Brian Krebs of the Spam Nation fame. Vrublevsky was accused by Colonel Mikhailov of breaking internet security and had been sentenced for two years of imprisonment but released from jail when his archenemy Mikhailov had been charged with treason. Vrublevsky denied Krebs’ accusations. In his view, Krebs works for a Western secret service, and he helped the traitor Mikhailov. I have no idea whether it is true or not; however, Vrublevsky is free while Mikhailov is in jail. Pavel Vrublevsky gave me his explanation of the recent developments in the Russian services especially for Unz.com.
Russia is unique by its lax internet security and confidentiality rules and practices. For years, all the databases of Russia have been stolen and sold, while ISC FSB did nothing (or little) to fight it. Vrublevsky thinks the FSB had been misled by the Western services and concentrated its efforts on fighting viruses, worms and Trojans, while it was a money-and-time-wasting enterprise. The stolen databases allowed the West to get almost an complete picture of lower-level Russian spies.
Vrublevsky thinks that British intelligence convinced the GRU (probably we should say that GRU is not called GRU anymore but GU, the Chief Directorate of the General Staff, but it hardly matters) that Mr Skripal wanted to return home to Russia. Probably they were told that Mr Skripal intended to bring some valuable dowry with him, including Porton Down data and the secrets of the Golden Rain dossier. It is possible that Skripal had been played, too; perhaps he indeed wanted to go back to Russia, the country he missed badly.
Two GRU agents, supposedly experts on extraction (they allegedly sneaked the Ukrainian president Yanukovych from Ukraine after the coup and saved him from lynching mob) were sent to Salisbury to test the ground and make preparations for Skripal’s return. As we had learned from videos and stills published by the Brits, the two men had been carefully followed from the beginning to the end. Meanwhile, British intelligence staged a ‘poisoning’ of Skripal and his daughter, and the two agents quickly returned home.
There is not a single man close to Russian intelligence who thinks that Skripal had actually been poisoned by the Russians. First, there was absolutely no reason to do it, and second, if the Russians would poison him, he would stay poisoned, like the Ukrainian Quisling Stepan Bandera was.
However, by playing this card, the British secret service convinced the Foreign Office to expel all diplomats who had contacts and connection to the exposed GRU agents. The massive expulsion of 150 diplomats caused serious damage to the Russian secret services.
Still, the Russians had no clue how the West had learned identities of so many diplomats connected to GRU. They suspected that there was a mole, and a turncoat who delivered the stuff to the enemy.
That is why Vladimir Putin decided to dare them. As he knew that the two men identified by the British service had no connection to the alleged poisoning, he asked them to appear on the RT in an interview with Ms Simonyan. By acting as village hicks, they were supposed to provoke the enemy to disclose its source. The result was unexpected: instead of revealing the name of a turncoat, the Belling Cat, a site used by the Western Secret Services for intentional leaks, explained how the men were traced by using the stolen databases. Putin’s plan misfired.
The Russian secret service is not dead. Intelligence services do suffer from enemy action from time to time: the Cambridge Five infiltrated the upper reaches of the MI-5 and delivered state secrets to Moscow for a long time, but the Intelligence Service survived. Le Carre’s novels were based on such a defeat of the intelligence. However they have a way to recover. Identity of their top agents remain secret, and they are concealed from the enemy’s eyes.
But in order to function properly, the Russians will have to clean their stables, remove their databases from the market place and keep its citizenry reasonably safe. Lax, and not-up-to-date agents do not apparently understand the degree the internet is being watched. Considering it should have been done twenty years ago, and meanwhile a new generation of Russians has came of age, perfectly prepared to sell whatever they can for cash, it is a formidable task.
There is an additional reason to worry. Such a massive operation against Russian agents and their contacts could signal forthcoming war. In normal circumstances, states do not reveal their full knowledge of enemy agents. It made president Putin worry; and he said this week: we’ll go to heaven as martyrs, the attackers will die as sinners. In face of multiple and recent threats, this end of the world is quite possible.
The DNA testing company Color Genomics says that early next year it will offer customers a new type of gene analysis that could tell them if they are at risk of a heart attack.
Here’s the problem, though: it only works in white people.
The new type of DNA analysis, called a polygenic risk score, can predict people’s risk for a variety of serious diseases, including cancer, diabetes, and clogged arteries. It’s a big enough deal to be on our list of 10 Breakthrough Technologies this year.
But because the algorithms were developed by using large databases of health and DNA data mostly from people with of recent European ancestry, the tests aren’t as accurate in other groups, like black Americans, Hispanics, and Asians.
For companies like Color, based near San Francisco, that poses a dilemma.
“To be only able to offer a product to one part of population is inequitable and should be unacceptable to the field,” says Alicia Zhou, head of research at the company. On the other hand, the tests do work in some people; they could actually save lives now. “Holding back data from individuals that could benefit,” would also be wrong, she says.
To help solve the problem, the company says, it has made genetic data available on 50,000 people, including minorities. And it hopes other scientists will use the data to speed the work of developing risk scores for people of all backgrounds. “We can’t wait for five years,” says Zhou.
Traditional genetic tests look deeply at single genes for mutations that cause disease. The new risk scores work differently. Instead of inspecting one gene, they consider a large number of measures from across a person’s genome—usually about 500,000 locations—to create a composite score reflecting more risk or less, depending on the overall result.
The problem is that biobanks employed to prepare the scores largely contain DNA from people of European ancestry. As of 2016, about 80% of the 35 million participants in one set of big science projects were of European descent. Hispanics were just 1%. (See “DNA databases are too white. This man aims to fix that.”)
That means the DNA scores—and the risks they imply—aren’t nearly as accurate when applied to other ethnicities, whose ancestral genetic patterns are different. Those underlying differences decrease the accuracy of the risk models, sometimes so much that they might not be safe to use.
The result, geneticists fear, is a race-specific medical advance.
Some scientists are racing to fix this problem. For instance, Alicia Martin of the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and 22 colleagues presented a statistical scheme for adjusting risk calculations to increase their accuracy in different populations.
“The fact that [risk scores] offer far greater predictive value in individuals of recent European ancestry than others is perhaps the primary ethical and scientific challenge preventing their clinical implementation,” Martin and her colleagues write.
Even so, race-restricted polygenic risk tests are already for sale. In September 2017, for example, Myriad Genetics of Salt Lake City added a new “riskScore” to its well-known breast cancer test. In the past, Myriad only analyzed infamous genes like BRCA2 to look for mutations that are known to lead to cancer. The new test, it believes, can identify at-risk women who don’t have an inherited BRCA mutation. It employs a scoring system to assess variations at 86 locations in the genome at once.
With the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, the future of Roe v. Wade is looking increasingly grim.
But even while the landmark law remains in place, the rollback of abortion access across the US is already well underway — and women who want to safely terminate their pregnancies face an increasing number of roadblocks.
Enter Aid Access, a new online service through which women can obtain medical abortion pills, mifepristone and misoprostol, to take at home. As first reported by the Atlantic’s Olga Khazan, Rebecca Gomperts, a Dutch physician and activist, launched the service six months ago in response to overwhelming US demand.
“I got an email from a woman who was living in a car with two kids,” Gomperts told Khazan. “Something had to be done.”
Aid Access offers what Gomperts’s other service, Women on Web, has been doing for years for women in other countries with restricted healthcare systems: a way to get a safe abortion. (She set up a separate US site because she feared powerful pro-life groups would try to shut her operation down.)
Although abortion is still legal in the US, self-managed abortions have been considered criminal in many states, and women have faced arrests, jail time, or police investigation.
“Many think it’s easy to get an abortion in the US, but it is not,” said Jill Adams, the strategy director for SIA Legal Team, a group of lawyers focused on self-managed abortions. “Resourceful people are looking for options to end a pregnancy that are safe, affordable, and fit their circumstances.” (Gomperts told the Atlantic she’s already filled 600 US prescriptions in the last 6 months.)
But the service also prompts three important questions. Are these abortion pills really safe? Are they legal, everywhere? And when should women who need an abortion turn to this service?
Are mail order abortions safe? It depends.
Getting an abortion by mail from Aid Access works like this: Women are screened through an online consultation about their pregnancy and health history. If they meet specific criteria — healthy, less than ten weeks pregnant, live within one hour of a hospital — Gomperts fills a prescription, and sends it to a pharmacy in India she knows and trusts.
The pills are then mailed from India to the woman’s home for a fee of $95 (though Aid Access says they’ll find ways to help women who can’t pay). And women can access real-time instructions and support if necessary.
The two medications Gomperts prescribes — mifepristone and misoprostol — work in combination by inducing a miscarriage early on in pregnancy. These drugs are standard in the US — approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use early in pregnancy — and around the world. They’re also considered essential medicines by the World Health Organization, meaning they’re supposed to be available to people in all functioning health systems at all times.
If taken before 10 weeks, mifepristone and misoprostol are between 92 to 98 percenteffective. So failed abortion is rare when women use these drugs as directed, according to UptoDate, the physician’s evidence-based medicine resource.
The WHO has also studied the safety of using mifepristone and misoprostol when self-administered at home compared to in a clinic, and gave the home-based approach the green light. “There is no evidence that home-based medical abortion is less effective, safe or acceptable than clinic-based medical abortion,” the WHO report concluded.
Reproductive medicine experts in the US also consider these drugs reliable and routine. “First-trimester medication abortion with mifepristone and misoprostol is very safe,” Daniel Grossman, a professor in the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive Sciences at UCSF, told Vox, “with serious complications occurring in less than 0.5 percent of patients.”
But this doesn’t mean any pregnant woman can take these drugs — or that the pills are risk-free. According to UptoDate, there are a number of groups who should avoid mifepristone and misoprostol, including women with ectopic pregnancies (or pregnancy that grows outside the womb, which can only be confirmed by getting medical imaging), women with an intrauterine device in place, and women who have chronic adrenal failure or who are on long-term corticosteroid therapy.
How do you make a movie about teenagers when the more authentic it sounds, the less likely it is that young people will be able to see it?
That was the dilemma facing George Tillman Jr., who directed “The Hate U Give.” Based on the best-selling young-adult novel by Angie Thomas, the film follows Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg), a black student at a largely white prep school, who is galvanized into activism after she witnesses the police shooting of her childhood friend Khalil.
“The Hate U Give” takes its title and central philosophy from a concept espoused by Tupac Shakur: To the rapper, who had “THUG LIFE” tattooed in capital letters on his torso, that phrase was an acronym for a vicious cycle of societal violence. “THUG LIFE,” he explained, actually stands for “The Hate U Give Little Infants Effs Everybody.”
Of course, Shakur used a stronger word than “eff” — one that Thomas was able to print several times in her book but that Tillman could use only sparingly onscreen, lest he incur an R rating from the Motion Picture Association of America for strong language. (The Times has a similar restriction on the expletive, which your Carpetbagger has been known to utter from time to time.) If “The Hate U Give” featured more than one use of that word, the movie would be in jeopardy of losing the PG-13 rating that Tillman and his distributor, 20th Century Fox, had hoped to earn, and teenagers who treasured the book might be barred from seeing the adaptation.
“Young kids today are very smart,” Tillman said. “They watch adult films, they get things very quickly, and they’re very sophisticated.” But that posed its own problem: If Tillman tried to sanitize the language, his target audience would know. And given that two crucial scenes in “The Hate U Give” require Shakur’s “THUG LIFE” concept to be explained in full, there were no easy write-arounds.
“I felt like if I didn’t say what Tupac was trying to say, it would not feel authentic,” the director said. A different, less penalized expletive wouldn’t work either: “The audience that was familiar with Tupac and his philosophy would think, ‘Oh, they’re just trying to make it mainstream,’” Tillman said.
Another filmmaker, Bo Burnham, faced a similar dilemma this year with his movie “Eighth Grade.” The M.P.A.A. slapped the junior-high dramedy with an R rating for strong language, though its curse words would hardly scandalize teenagers. Burnham refused to cut his film for a wider audience: “I just wanted to portray the way kids’ lives are,” he told Variety in July. “I would love kids to be living in a PG-13 world. They just aren’t.”
For Tillman, whose previous films like “Soul Food” and “Men of Honor” have been mostly rated R, reaching a general audience was paramount. “If we’re following this young girl’s point of view, I just felt like it really made it more universal to walk that line and make it for anyone under 13,” he said. “As a filmmaker, you really want to be organic, but you also want people to see the film as much as possible.”
To make it work, then, Tillman strategized. In one early scene, Starr’s father (Russell Hornsby) was supposed to use the expletive; Tillman changed it to “eff,” reasoning that a father might want to soften his language around his daughter. Tillman wanted to save his single usage of the full-blown word for a different first-act scene, in which Starr listens to Shakur as Khalil explains the rapper’s message. “If Khalil was saying ‘eff’ or bouncing around that word,” Tillman said, “it just wouldn’t have been authentic.”
At the early hours of October 20, governor of the province of al-Suwayda, Amer al-Ashi, announced that the Syrian authorities had freed six of the civilian hostages, who were abducted by ISIS terrorists during a brutal attack last July.
“As a result of the strict siege imposed by the army on the terrorist organizations [in al-Safa], the authorities freed six abductees, two women and four children out of the twenty-nine hostages. The remaining hostages will be released soon,” the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) quoted al-Ashi as saying.
Click to see full size image, by the SANA
Click to see full size image, by the SANA
Meanwhile, the al-Suwayda 24 blog revealed that the Syrian authorities released twenty-five people affiliated with ISIS from its prisons in exchange for the hostages. A source familiar with the negotiations told the Syria-based blog that the terrorist group will release the remaining civilian hostages in the upcoming few days.
The SAA carried out a large-scale military operation against the remaining ISIS cells north of al-Suwayda for more than two months in order to free the hostages. Now with the negotiations witnessing real progress, the operation will likely end and the terrorist group may withdraw towards other areas in central Syria.
Sears, the once-iconic American retailer known for its catalogs, filed for bankruptcy this week. The company is closing more than 100 stores across the country, but several hundred more will remain open.
Before Sears was a department store, it was a mail-order retailer that gave people in far-flung parts of the country the opportunity to shop like their city-dwelling counterparts. Its long, slow decline arguably began in the 1980s and was exacerbated in the years surrounding the 2008 financial crisis.
Most experts blame Eddie Lampert, a hedge fund executive who served as the company’s CEO from 2013 until this week and had no prior experience in retail, for purportedly treating the store like a financial services company and essentially running it into the ground. Before Sears was gutted by venture capital, though, it transformed the American retail landscape by giving people in rural areas who could otherwise only shop at general stores the ability to buy nearly anything, from watches to guns to entire prefabricated homes.
In a fascinating Twitter thread, Louis Hyman, a work historian at Cornell University and the director of the Institute for Workplace Studies, delved into a lesser-known aspect of Sears’s history: It gave black Americans under Jim Crow, especially those who lived in the rural South, the ability to shop as freely as white people. I interviewed Hyman on the Sears catalog’s history as both a capitalist endeavor and an unintentionally anti-racist one.
Our conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Gaby Del Valle
People in cities, I assume, could buy things at department stores or other businesses. But what was shopping like in rural areas before Sears?
When we talk about America, it’s really important to understand that it wasn’t until the 1920s that most people lived in towns, much less cities. Most people lived in the country. If you lived in the country — and especially if you lived in the South — most of your shopping was done through one store, the general store.
If you were a tenant farmer or a sharecropper, which was the dominant kind of work for African Americans and for many whites, you lived on credit. You weren’t paid until the harvest came in, and you had to borrow an account from that store. You’re basically locked into this monopolistic relationship with one store that controlled all of your credit.
Gaby Del Valle
Did these stores have high interest rates?
There were no interest rates, but there was something called the “credit price,” where you were charged extra. People often ended the year in the red.
This is where the system of debt peonage really emerges in the South, as a way of controlling African Americans from Reconstruction and until the 1950s. One person would own a lot of land, and you could either rent it as a tenant farmer or a sharecropper. With tenant farming, you could rent it for a price, and with sharecropping you gave a part of your harvest.
You basically made no money; you were locked into place. And black people were told they couldn’t leave [that land] until they paid off their debts, so they were locked into a certain farm, a certain store, for their lives. They were trapped in debt from year to year.
Kiah Morris, the first black woman to ever serve in Vermont’s state legislature, is speaking out about her decision to resign in late September after facing repeated harassment — including acts of intimidation at her home that forced her and her husband, who was recovering from heart surgery, to flee to a different town. Morris, who was first elected in 2014 and won re-election in 2016, announced that she wouldn’t seek reelection this year — despite running unopposed — after facing vandalism, death threats that were seen by her young son, and a break-in to her home while her family was present. Despite her declaring her intent to leave office, intimidation from angry youths who would pound on her house’s windows and doors at night continued until she and her husband, who was recovering from heart surgery, were forced to flee her home in Bennington and move to another town.
“There’s obviously online harassment that can happen, and that’s a part of our social media world right now, but then when things started happening in everyday life, that’s when it becomes really worrisome and terrifying,” she told The Associated Press. “That’s the worst part about this. I realized, in seeing what’s happened over the last few years … seeing that our system is not set up in a way to protect someone like me, I cannot be the legislator that I want to be. I cannot speak my truths in a way that need to have been said. I cannot do these things and be secure, be assured of safety for me and my family.”
The lack of action from police to protect her and her family, she added, was shameful.
“There is a component of harm that takes place, whether you say that it’s protected speech or not. And that, I feel, has not been fully vetted and appreciated yet,” she said, explaining that activists, average citizens, and even children in schools were also left without recourse against similar harassment and intimidation.
“Are our law enforcement actually equipped, capable, and knowledgeable enough to really deal with these kinds of complex cases that on their face may seem like a simple act of vandalism, but have so much more happening underneath? They don’t have those capabilities,” she continued. “When it comes to our state’s attorney and they see all this evidence and they say, ‘I can’t move forward with charges because the statute’s not strong enough,’ that’s a systemic failure that has to be addressed or otherwise everyone is left vulnerable.”
Vermont, the first state to abolish slavery and recognize same-sex civil unions, is famous for its progressive heritage but remains incredibly non-diverse, with a population that is 94.4 percent white. In recent years, The Associated Press reports, indications have shown that white supremacy has been on the rise — or at least increasingly visible — as neo-nazi fliers have begun appearing on the state’s college campuses.
A network of Facebook troll accounts operated by the Myanmar military parrots hateful rhetoric against Rohingya Muslims. Viral misinformation runs rampant on WhatsApp in Brazil, even as marketing firms there buy databases of phone numbersin order to spam voters with right-wing messaging. Homegrown campaigns spread partisan lies in the United States.
The public knows about each of these incitements because of reporting by news organizations. Social media misinformation is becoming a newsroom beat in and of itself, as journalists find themselves acting as unpaid content moderators for these platforms.
It’s not just reporters, either. Academic researchers and self-taught vigilantes alike scour through networks of misinformation on social media platforms, their findings prompting — or sometimes, failing to prompt — the takedown of propaganda.
It’s the latest iteration of a journalistic cottage industry that started out by simply comparing and contrasting questionable moderation decisions — the censorship of a legitimate news article, perhaps, or an example of terrorist propaganda left untouched. Over time, the stakes have become greater and greater. Once upon a time, the big Facebook censorship controversy was the banning of female nipples in photos. That feels like a idyllic bygone era never to return.
The internet platforms will always make some mistakes, and it’s not fair to expect otherwise. And the task before Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and others is admittedly herculean. No one can screen everything in the fire hose of content produced by users. Even if a platform makes the right call on 99 percent of its content, the remaining 1 percent can still be millions upon millions of postings. The platforms are due some forgiveness in this respect.
It’s increasingly clear, however, that at this stage of the internet’s evolution, content moderation can no longer be reduced to individual postings viewed in isolation and out of context. The problem is systemic, currently manifested in the form of coordinated campaigns both foreign and homegrown. While Facebook and Twitter have been making strides toward proactively staving off dubious influence campaigns, a tired old pattern is re-emerging — journalists and researchers find a problem, the platform reacts and the whole cycle begins anew. The merry-go-round spins yet again.
This week, a question from The New York Times prompted Facebook to take down a network of accounts linked to the Myanmar military. Although Facebook was already aware of the problem in general, the request for comment from The Times flagged specific instances of “seemingly independent entertainment, beauty and informational pages” that were tied to a military operation that sowed the internet with anti-Rohingya sentiment.
The week before, The Times found a number of suspicious pages spreading viral misinformation about Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused Brett Kavanaugh of assault. After The Times showed Facebook some of those pages, the company said it had already been looking into the issue. Facebook took down the pages flagged by The Times, but similar pages that hadn’t yet been shown to the company stayed up.
It’s not just The Times, and it’s not just Facebook. Again and again, the act of reporting out a story gets reduced to outsourced content moderation.
One of the classic moments in the Simpsons comes when the venal TV anchorman Kent Brockman sees on his screen an ant crawling across a lens and assumes at once that this is not a negligible terrestrial arthropod but a giant alien descending from space that will become one of “our new insect overlords”, a species to which he instantly and publicly pledges allegiance. The joke hinges on the idea that in real life ants are inconsequential compared with human beings. The world, we feel, could get on perfectly well without them, and still better without mosquitoes or any number of other creepy crawlies.
This confidence is quite as mistaken as Kent Brockman’s grovellings. Insects form the greatest part of animal life on Earth, and almost every other kind of animal depends on them – directly or indirectly. They pollinate plants and nourish animals, especially birds. In turn, everything that relies on these plants or animals depends on the insects. And the whole intricate web of interdependent exploitation is collapsing, and has been for decades. We ourselves are part of this web, in the long run quite as much dependent as exploitative.
On the island of Puerto Rico, a rainforest preserved for centuries from human intervention shows a terrifying drop in the abundance and variety of insects. Forty years ago, there were 60 times as many insects on the forest floor as can be trapped today. The bird and lizard species that feed on insects have also been hit, if not to the same extent, falling by between a third and a half over the same period.
The same trend is apparent in German nature reserves, where the number of insects appears to have dropped by about 75%; and these are results from places deliberately preserved, so far as possible, from human intervention. The collapse of insect life is obvious to anyone who looks in Britain – butterflies, bees and even the millions of chironomid midges that used to form plumes like smoke around the trees along the shores of reservoirs are all now mostly a memory. Car windscreens and headlights are no longer thickly speckled after any long journey.
The causes of this global decline seem to vary with latitude. But they are all, in one way or another, the product of human activity. In the temperate regions insect populations are more adaptable to fluctuations in temperature, but insects must contend with the mass use of pesticides across the bleak monocultures of industrial agriculture, as well as the generalised pollution of the air and water. In the rainforest, where the pattern of losses across species and over time shows that there must be some single vast factor acting on the whole ecosystem, it appears that the main driver is simply the climate catastrophe. The consequences of this collapse lend still more urgency to political efforts to slow and eventually halt climate change; but even as individuals we can follow Candide’s advice and cultivate our gardens so insects can thrive there.
Last Thursday 10th of May at 10.30h in the morning appeared the owner with some thugs without uniform in front of Kan Bici, little bit after 3 cop cars arrived (Mossos) and a bureaucrat from the court of Girona who decided to force the main door (without much success) but later they forced the back-door of the garden while the neighbor “worked” with a grass-cutting machine… There was only two of us and not really cheered up to have a fight with the cops, so they gave us 10 minutes to take all the stuff which we couldn’t take out before. The small number of assistants during the acts of the resistance-week of Kan Bici and ignorance condemned the squat to eviction. The fear to express the opinion in public is a collaboration with daily perpetrated crimes. From the comrades there was little solidarity, but we know why we’re in this situation and the means with which they manipulate and distort reality. Always against evictions, yesterday like today, our only weapon is the solidarity expressed in the streets. Silence kills! Greeting from the new squat in complicity with the diverse resistances around the world, and specially warm greetings for the comrades of the ZAD (Brittany) and the arrested anarchist comrades in Indonesia. Life continues to be a struggle that we chose to make ourselves strong and look for the confrontation with this corrupt and false system which only knows the option between be a slave and/or pay what they ask for or the permanent struggle against their tricks and traps. They can evict our squats but our ideas they never will change!
Ben Sasse, a Republican, represents Nebraska in the Senate and is the author of the new book “Them: Why We Hate Each Other and How to Heal,” from which this op-ed was adapted.
Flash forward two years and consider these hypotheticals. You’re seated at your desk, having taken your second sip of coffee and just beginning to contemplate the breakfast sandwich steaming in the bag in front of you. You click on your favorite news site, one you trust. “Unearthed Video Shows President Conspiring with Putin.” You can’t resist.
The video, in ultrahigh definition, shows then-presidential candidate Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin examining an electoral map of the United States. They are nodding and laughing as they appear to discuss efforts to swing the election to Trump. Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump smile wanly in the background. The report notes that Trump’s movements on the day in question are difficult to pin down.
Alternate scenario: Same day, same coffee and sandwich. This time, the headline reports the discovery of an audio recording of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch brainstorming about how to derail the FBI investigation of Clinton’s use of a private server to handle classified emails. The recording’s date is unclear, but its quality is perfect; Clinton and Lynch can be heard discussing the attorney general’s airport tarmac meeting with former president Bill Clinton in Phoenix on June 27, 2016.
The recordings in these hypothetical scenarios are fake — but who are you going to believe? Who will your neighbors believe? The government? A news outlet you distrust?
If you thought the fight over Brett M. Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation couldn’t have been more horrible, buckle your seat belts. Imagine how the public divisions would have deepened had there been fake-but-plausible video of an undergraduate Kavanaugh partying hard at Yale, or fake-but-plausible audio of Senate Democratic Leader Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) huddling on strategy calls with lawyers for Kavanaugh’s accusers.
Deepfakes — seemingly authentic video or audio recordings that can spread like wildfire online — are likely to send American politics into a tailspin, and Washington isn’t paying nearly enough attention to the very real danger that’s right around the corner.
Consider: In December 2017, an amateur coder named “DeepFakes” was altering porn videos by digitally substituting the faces of female celebrities for the porn stars’. Not much of a hobby, but it was effective enough to prompt news coverage. Since then, the technology has improved and is readily available. The word deepfake has become a generic noun for the use of machine-learning algorithms and facial-mapping technology to digitally manipulate people’s voices, bodies and faces. And the technology is increasingly so realistic that the deepfakes are almost impossible to detect.
Creepy, right? Now imagine what will happen when America’s enemies use this technology for less sleazy but more strategically sinister purposes.
I spoke recently with one of the most senior U.S. intelligence officials, who told me that many leaders in his community think we’re on the verge of a deepfakes “perfect storm.” The storm has three critical ingredients: First, this new technology is staggering in its disruptive potential yet relatively simple and cheap to produce. Second, our enemies are eager to undermine us. With the collapse of the Russian economy, Putin is trying to maintain unity at home by finding a common enemy abroad. He has little to lose and lots to gain — it’s far easier to weaken U.S. domestic support for NATO than to actually fight NATO head-on. Russia hasn’t mastered these information operations yet, but China is running scout-team offense behind every play. China will eventually be incredibly good at this, and we are not ready.
Puerto Rico’s devastation by Hurricane Maria was a man-made disaster, rooted in American empire.
September, peak hurricane season, is over, and with its passage everyone in Puerto Rico can exhale with some measure of relief that this year, at least, didn’t see any hurricanes make landfall on the island like the devastating Hurricanes Irma and Maria of last September.
It has taken a full year of struggle for the people of Puerto Rico to gain some level of national recognition of the depth of devastation wrought by last year’s hurricanes. Only after a May 2018 report from Harvard estimated almost three thousand deaths from Maria and its after-effects did the government of Puerto Rico — which for almost a year clung to the early claim of only sixty-four deaths — publicly accept the scale of the hurricane’s toll in lives.
The reluctance to acknowledge such large-scale human death is criminal. But with this September’s reprieve from more hurricanes, it is a good time to situate the problems of government emergency response to tropical storms within a much broader set of problems of rule and sovereignty on the island. Beyond the feckless disaster relief effort staged by the U.S. government, the more pernicious crimes committed against Puerto Rico are the decades of economic and political exploitation that made the island a place where tropical storms could so lethally crash the entire social infrastructure and leave $123 billion of crushing indebtedness on its people.
This means turning to much deeper questions of US rule and political economy. If September marked one year since the hurricanes hit, December will mark one hundred twenty years since the United States signed a treaty with the Spanish Empire to secure imperial control of Puerto Rico. This long-standing and ongoing experiment in colonial rule is the key to understanding why the people of Puerto Rico have had to face comprehensive social catastrophe over the past year, and why they face remorseless austerity policies still today.
In this sense, A. G. Hopkins’ recent American Empire: A Global History offers an ideal text with which to make sense of post-Maria Puerto Rico. This is so not only because the book offers a deep history of the island that reaches back to the origin of US imperial exploitation there, but also because Hopkins’ book is not a history of Puerto Rico, per se, but rather a truly global history of the relationship between the United States’ imperialism and the construction of the entire modern world economy. It is these two historical developments that have led to Puerto Rico’s vulnerability to both a storm’s destructive possibilities and financial capital’s slower but steadier devastations.
American Empire embeds the US colonization of Puerto Rico within a larger logic of the US imperialist project as Hopkins sees it, stretching from Puerto Rico and Cuba in the Caribbean to Hawaii and the Philippines in the Pacific. And Hopkins’ broader argument, about the nature of empire, connects US imperial rule to the rules of the modern world economy, as he argues that in modern history, the role of empires has been to impose globalization on those who would not willingly join global capitalism.
Even beyond what it tells us about Puerto Rico and the other sites of US colonization, then, Hopkins’ history of American empire matters because it shows something of how illiberal the construction of liberal capitalism was — and how compulsory globalization has been.
The United States seized the Spanish colony of Puerto Rico during the imperial war of 1898, when the United States also took control of Hawaii, the Philippines, Cuba, Guam, Midway, and some of Samoa. In Hopkins’ hands, as early as 1900 the corrupt, special-interest driven tariff policies of the United States quickly put Puerto Rico on its long path to social vulnerability and economic collapse.
The point that Hopkins seizes on is that US tariff policies produced Puerto Rican economic dependency. They did this because they were crafted for the benefit of particular US business interests — the sugar industry — without regard for Puerto Rico’s own industrial development. Under Spanish rule the island’s top export had been coffee, but US importers of Brazilian coffee stood ready to fend off any tariff that would advantage Puerto Rican exports headed for the mainland US. Deprived of its market in Spain, Puerto Rican coffee — which tended to involve smaller, independent growers backed by local investors — crumbled.
Meanwhile, sugar — which tended to involve larger, corporate producers and mainland US investors — quickly came to dominate the island’s economic landscape, because while the United States threw up tariffs on sugar imports from beyond the empire, it granted tariff-free trade from Puerto Rico now that the island stood inside the imperium. This all made the Puerto Rican economy dependent on the whims of US policies.
Yet this did not, Hopkins emphasizes, equal free trade: “In the case of the American Empire, free trade was imperial preference under a benign name.” Puerto Rican sugar had to travel on US ships and Puerto Rico couldn’t sign trade agreements with other countries or set up its own tariffs. The United States also forced Puerto Rico onto the US dollar, which, because of the ensuing devaluation, let absentee sugar producers scoop up land where previously Puerto Ricans had grown their own food staples.
From the first years, US imperial control decimated Puerto Rico’s chances to build an autonomous economy for Puerto Ricans, instead enabling Wall Street investment, concentrated production, and the monopoly of Big Sugar. The world market’s need for mass production of an export commodity trumped Puerto Rico’s need to build a diverse economic system capable of sustaining itself. Coerced into taking part in globalization, Puerto Rico was left without recourse when the inevitable worldwide overproduction of sugar choked prices.
Hopkins details the course of events as this pattern played out again and again in the United States’ colonial rule of Puerto Rico: without robust political sovereignty, Puerto Rico has never been able to make its own economic decisions based on its own needs.
His book makes clear that the problem of sovereignty in Puerto Rico isn’t simply that Washington rules from afar as an uncaring emperor, but that American imperial rule has led to capitalism’s domination of the island without any effective state counter-force. This is most apparent in the ever-tightening vice of debt with which international finance dictates Puerto Rican political life and imposes austerity policies.
To understand Puerto Rico’s problems, then, don’t look at Puerto Rico at all: Looked at through Hopkins’ lens, Puerto Rico’s accumulation of debt and its lack of social infrastructure for an effective response to Hurricane Maria only look like Puerto Rican problems because they materialize in concentrated form there. They do so because of imperial rule, but they are nonetheless systemic problems produced by a globalized economy. Both problems are the by-products of liberal capitalism.
The United States had seized Puerto Rico during a global age of imperialism, an era when empires claimed colonies at an unprecedented rate from the Caribbean to Africa to Asia and the Pacific. It is much to Hopkins’ point that it was also an age of intense economic globalization, as Puerto Rico was far from the only colony overhauled into a mass-commodity production machine in service to the world economy.
But Hopkins goes further than this. He argues that it was only when the US took colonial control of Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Hawaii, and secured its protectorate in Cuba, that it “suddenly, and very visibly,” imperialized.
This is Hopkins’ most notable conceptual departure from the histories of US empire that he’s challenging. Part of the challenge has to do with his surprising insistence that the United States’ nineteenth-century continental expansion doesn’t qualify as empire.
But his more forceful argument is that an empire is a place (or a collection of places) one can find on a map. It consists squarely of colonial possessions. In this emphasis on what is often called “formal empire,” Hopkins is explicitly arguing against the Wisconsin school of US diplomatic history. A group of influential historians (many of whom trained at the University of Wisconsin), the Wisconsin school has argued that land conquest and formal political possession do not define empire. Rather, it is the project of economic domination on a global scale (facilitated, certainly, by formal empire) that animates modern empire.
This leads to an emphasis on the struggle to conquer markets (not lands) and to control the circuitry of the world economy — the power to act beyond an empire’s formally, visibly conquered land. Abraham Lincoln’s secretary of state, William Seward, an architect of the United States’ informal imperialism, went so far as to claim that “the empire of the seas,” by which he meant world-economic power, “alone is real empire.”
Hopkins similarly references what he calls “the real American Empire,” but his “real empire” is “the tangible territorial empire” made in 1898.
The Wisconsin school’s move is to understand these land grabs somewhat instrumentally, as geographically driven logistical maneuvers to win global economic power: a naval base at Guantánamo Bay, say, to control access to the Central American isthmus, where plans were underway to build a canal that would stitch together the world economy; a naval base at Manila Bay to put the United States in position to move on the fabled China market. The United States wasn’t interested in making Panama or China into formal colonies; its imperialists used the colonial footholds of Cuba and the Philippines to achieve economic power elsewhere.
By instead focusing on the economic-productive capacities of the 1898 territorial empire, as Hopkins does when he details the rise of sugar production in Puerto Rico, he counters the Wisconsin school’s emphasis on opening doors to global markets with a materialist interpretation of his own, focused on the point of production. Instead of the naval port in the seaside bay, Hopkins points to the sugarcane field in the colonial interior.
What the Wisconsin school and Hopkins have in common is that they see American empire as a coercive regime, designed to force territories to take part in globalization. They differ about which places they see the American empire as globalizing. Hopkins’ careful attention to the colonies themselves is enough to show that Seward overstated his case when he called informal empire — the capture of maritime trade routes — the only real empire. But it doesn’t follow that Hopkins’ “real American empire” captures all that the US empire does, either. An empire is never content to work only within its formal domain, and a full understanding of the American empire’s workings has to acknowledge that it had its eye on money to be made beyond its formal borders.
Empire as a Way of Life
While I don’t follow Hopkins in viewing the formal colonial possessions of Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Hawaii, and the protectorate of Cuba, as the American empire — to the exclusion of places where the United States manipulated financial systems, secured naval bases, seized customhouses, or sent gunboats and marines — his focus on the formally ruled imperial domains nonetheless leads him to pursue fascinating claims about imperial practices in formally ruled places like Puerto Rico.
Perhaps most strikingly, where the Wisconsin school’s attention to markets highlights the open-door imperialism of free-trade capitalism, Hopkins’ attention to colonial possessions underscores the potency of tariffs as imperial weapons for molding globalization to the benefit of particular capitalist interests. This, of course, is a timely argument to make, as US policy takes a sharp turn away from the coerced-free trade policy central to liberal capitalism, toward America First-style tariff warfare.
Whether or not one is persuaded by Hopkins’ arguments in this immense, feisty, delightfully pugilistic book, one can’t help but appreciate his intellectual fireworks, his depth of reading, and his conviction that history sits as the exacting judge of even emperors. American Empire is a behemoth of a book — 738 pages of text followed by 193 pages of endnotes — with much to say about everything from the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the concept of the fiscal-military state, and the age of imperialism, to globalization, decolonization, and the postcolonial state.
Still, its greatest accomplishment is its pursuit of the history of America’s island colonies beyond the 1898 conquests and its depiction of the mechanics of US colonial political economy. The book’s latter chapters synthesize the twentieth-century histories of Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Philippines, and Hawaii, showing the accumulation of wrongs that marked post-conquest imperial rule.
The Wisconsin school’s leading historian, William Appleman Williams, insisted that empire harmed human community not only in Puerto Rico and Cuba but also in Wisconsin and Iowa, a claim captured in his aphoristic phrase, “empire as a way of life.” This is a powerful explanation of how the lure of imperial profits extracted from other peoples has repeatedly muddied attempts to build socialism from the ground up in places like Wisconsin and Iowa.
But one problem with Williams’ work was that the on-the-ground encounter with imperial colonization remained off-stage, unseen. Hopkins’ chapters on the empire of islands are wonderfully grounded in the islands themselves, and this allows for a better understanding of certain workings of empire — what it did to its colonial zones and how capitalism and colonialism worked hand in hand. With the Philippines gaining political independence after World War II, Cuba waging a revolution to break away from the imperial colossus, and Hawaii winning membership in the empire’s exclusive club as its fiftieth state, Puerto Rico is where these workings of empire, and their consequences, are most clearly seen today.
Composer Hanns Eisler was a lifelong communist and self-described Jacobin. His music provided the soundtrack for both the tragedies and triumphs of German antifascism.
Hanns Eisler was one of the towering composers of the modern era. Yet his biography reads more like a spy thriller than the academic careers of many of his musical contemporaries. Born in 1898 into a struggling petit-bourgeois family, his life took in some of the decisive moments of the twentieth century, from the front lines of World War I to Berlin during the rise of Nazism, Civil War Spain, McCarthyite America, and Cold War-era Germany.
A talented composer of film scores, the double Oscar-nominee Eisler is perhaps best known for writing the national anthem of the GDR (German Democratic Republic), the state founded in the eastern portion of Germany after World War II. The optimistic message of Auferstanden aus Ruinen (Arisen from Ruins) reflected the promise of overcoming the crimes and devastation of the Nazi era.
The socialist future was not realized: the new state was born in harsh circumstances and ultimately collapsed. But Eisler, who died in 1962, also represented a generation that had felt fascism on their own hides and sought to create a new Germany. For decades a collaborator of Brecht’s, Eisler is an unduly forgotten protagonist of a cultural milieu galvanized by a shared socialist humanism.
Although born in Leipzig, Germany, to a Jewish-Austrian father and a German mother, Eisler grew up in his father’s native Vienna together with his sister Elfriede and brother Gerhart. This would remain discernible in the heavy Viennese accent he would always have when speaking German. Eisler often remarked on his dual class heritage: his mother, an impoverished servant, brought him up with stories of working-class reality in the late nineteenth century, while his philosopher father came from the Bildungsbürgertum (educated petty bourgeoisie) and ensured there was a rigorous humanist philosophy within the family home.
During his youth, the family experienced periods of severe poverty. They supported the Social Democratic Party and at age fourteen Eisler joined a socialist youth group. He showed musical talent from a very young age, completing his first composition at the age of ten. As Eisler’s father could no longer afford their rental piano, this was done without the aid of an actual musical instrument.
Shortly after graduating from secondary school in 1916, Eisler was drafted into the Austro-Hungarian army, at that time fighting for its survival in the storm of World War I. Officers branded Eisler “politically unreliable” due to memberships in various socialist organizations and the fact that his brother had published an illegal anti-war magazine. Following a brief spell at a reserve officers’ training school where he was repeatedly punished for disobeying orders, Eisler was assigned to a Hungarian infantry regiment on the eastern front. His superiors hoped that the language barrier would hinder him from further political agitation. Eisler turned to composing music in his spare moments in order to cope with the horror and tedium of war. His composition Gegen den Krieg (Against the War) was sadly lost for future generations. However, Eisler later wrote of the impact that October Revolution of 1917 had on the soldiers, celebrating news which they hoped would stop the bloodshed that had become their daily reality.
After the final surrender of the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria) in 1918, Eisler moved back to Vienna. Thanks to his obvious promise he became a personal student of famed expressionist composer Arnold Schönberg, inventor of the twelve-tone technique. However, despite the radical innovation of the musical groups he was moving within, Eisler found himself restless within the political confines of petit-bourgeois Vienna and unable to make a living. In 1925 he moved to Berlin, a hotbed of cultural and political sedition at the time. Supporting himself by working as a piano teacher, Eisler became involved in political agitation by writing songs for workers’ choirs and agit-prop groups, including the most famous communist ensemble of the Weimar Republic — Das rote Sprachrohr (The Red Megaphone).
In 1926, Eisler met the young playwright Bertolt Brecht, with whom he became fast friends. Eisler’s fate soon became entwined with that of the celebrated playwright, with whom he would collaborate closely for the rest of his life. That same year, Eisler joined the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) and began working as a music critic for the party newspaper, Die rote Fahne (The Red Flag). During this period, his songs became part of the soundtrack of the social revolution which seemed to bubble barely under the surface of Berlin throughout the late 1920s and early 1930s. This was thanks largely to his collaboration with Ernst Busch, a working-class singer who became one of the most famous voices of the late Weimar Republic. Eisler composed many songs for him to sing, usually using lyrics taken from the poetry or plays of Brecht and Erich Weinert (another widely known communist author). Busch performed with Eisler on piano throughout the workers’ clubs and pubs of Berlin and beyond. One of the most influential songs of this period was Roter Wedding (Red Wedding). This inspirational march tells of Wedding, a famous communist neighborhood in Berlin, and calls listeners to action:
“Red Wedding” greets you comrades,
Hold your fists at the ready!
Keep the red ranks closed,
As our day is fast approaching!
With the meteoric rise of the Nazi Party following the financial crash of 1929, Eisler’s attention, like many of his communist comrades, was increasingly directed towards antifascist activity. A collaboration with Brecht and Ernst Busch, DasLied vom SA-Mann (The SA Man’s Song) tells the story of how an initially enthusiastic Nazi brownshirt sees the error of his ways upon being ordered to shoot at fellow workers. The Kampflied gegen den Faschismus (Battle Song Against Fascism) in 1932 was a popular shellac vinyl single which highlighted the fact that many capitalists were backing Hitler’s allegedly “national socialist” agenda. Equally, it called on all listeners to forget old divisions and join the united front under the red flag. While producing specifically antifascist material was naturally a key concern of Eisler’s in this period, he like Brecht also recognized that being against something was not enough, and that socialists had to offer a positive inspirational alternative to the divisive demagoguery of the far right.
Projects such as the famous KPD-funded film Kuhle Wampe (Who Owns the World), for which Eisler composed the score, aimed to communicate convincingly why the capitalist system was responsible for the mass unemployment, hunger, and destitution affecting millions of Germans. The film ends with a stirring rendition of Eisler and Brecht’s famous Solidaritätslied (Solidarity Song) which calls for working-class unity across nations and races in order to build a better world for all, asking powerfully in its final refrain: “Wessen Welt ist die Welt?” (“and whose world is the world?”) During filming, members of the KPD had to physically protect the sets from SA brownshirts and the film was banned upon release by the government, demonstrating the increasingly aligned interests of the German state and the Nazi Party.
Despite the many challenges they faced, Eisler, Brecht, and Busch et al. played a significant role in building mass working-class cultural networks in Berlin, establishing a “red hegemony.” Importantly, it voiced not only opposition to fascism and capitalism but also an inspirational and conceivable alternative: humanity’s socialist future. Their approach to building a cultural alternative relied on catchy songs, gripping theater, and films aimed at the “everyman,” sure in their conviction that only the working class itself could halt fascism and build a democratic society worthy of the name. While these efforts could not stop the Nazi behemoth on the national level, it should be noted that Berlin did remain “red”; in the final democratic election in 1932 the two workers’ parties won some 62 percent of votes (KPD, 38 percent; SPD, 24 percent) as against 22 percent for the Nazis.
The Hollywood Years
After the Nazis were handed state power in 1933, both Eisler’s Jewish heritage and communist convictions forced him to flee. The first stage of his exile was spent in Paris. In order to pay the bills he wrote scores for cheap films, one of which he prosaically described as a “piece of shit.”
In February 1934 Eisler saw firsthand what he described as an attempted putsch by French fascists. As a committed communist, he hurried to the counterdemonstrations organized by the French trade unions. On arrival he found the assembled multitude singing the French version of Roter Wedding (Red Wedding) which had become a classic of the international workers‘ movement. One worker, not recognizing the composer and eyeing the balding, rotund Eisler with suspicion, shouted “Hey bourgeois, you must sing with us!” Eisler tried his best but could not remember the French lyrics to his song and so was forced to retreat, having been mistaken as an out of place member of the bourgeoisie who had stumbled across the demonstration by accident. Eisler’s often self-deprecating humor was demonstrated in his enjoyment in regaling people with this anecdote.
Over the next few years, Eisler would move from place to place following commissions for film scores. He also sought to support the international communist and antifascist struggle as best he could by giving concerts and recording music. The Einheitsfrontlied (Song of the United Front) which Brecht and Eisler composed at the behest of the Comintern (the international alliance of Communist Parties) in 1934 was a staple of these performances. The song sought to underline the Comintern’s new policy that sought a formal united front in the fight against European fascism and to bridge the old divisions between Social Democrats and Communists which had helped divide the workers’ movement and contributed to the rise of fascism. It is still a popular song among socialists and antifascists to this day, having been translated into many languages and recorded by several artists.
In early 1937, Eisler was invited to Spain by the International Brigades, made up of international volunteers defending the Spanish Republic from the clerical-fascists under Franco. Arriving in Madrid, he was quickly whisked away to the front line in Murcia where he spent a few weeks with the XI Brigade famous for being involved in some of the bloodiest battles of the conflict, particularly the defense of Madrid in 1936.
On the day of his arrival he was so inspired by the volunteers that he penned four new songs that very day, which were duly sung by volunteers of all nations at an impromptu concert that evening. Many of them were severely wounded and most exhausted, leading Eisler to recall: “They did not sing beautifully; their voices were hoarse due to the frightful cold of the battle lines. But they sang with great passion. This is how the peasants must have sung during the Great Peasants’ Revolt, the Taborites [a fifteenth-century millenarian movement], this is how La Marseillaise must have sounded for the first time.” Perhaps the most notable song to come from Eisler’s time in Spain is No Pasarán!, the musical rendering of a poem by Spanish Republican poet Herrera Patere, which could be heard throughout Madrid shortly after its initial recording and became one of the most iconic songs and slogans of the Spanish Civil War. No Pasarán is still a common battle cry for antifascists today.
In 1938, Eisler emigrated to America on a temporary visa with his second wife Louise. In New York he again found himself compelled to turn his attention to composing film scores in order to support his family, including a cartoon funded by oil magnates. He could never have imagined that circumstances would leave him working for big American capital. At the same time, however, he was involved in the activities of the Communist Party of America, helping organize a large memorial event for Lenin as part of anniversary celebrations of the October Revolution. As any communist activity was grounds to revoke his visa, he adopted the pseudonym “John Garden.” He even helped write the unofficial anthem of the Communist Party of America, Sweet Liberty Land.
Following a series of visa complications — Eisler was an undesirable communist, as far as the American authorities were concerned — there was an order for his arrest and deportation in 1940. Had he been sent back to Europe, it is highly likely that Eisler would have been travelling to his death due to his Jewish heritage and well-known communist allegiance. Fortunately for Eisler, he was able to seek refuge in Mexico, at that time led by the left-winger Lázaro Cárdenas. Thanks to a “sleeping consular official” (as the House Un-American Activities Committee would later term him), Eisler was soon able to procure an unlimited visa in person on the Mexican-Californian border. The official clearly did not know he was dealing with a known communist. Following brief sojourns in New York and the USSR, Eisler decided to join his close friend Brecht in Los Angeles.
Following the assassination of senior Nazi and key Holocaust architect Reinhard Heydrich by Czechoslovakian partisans in 1942, Brecht and Eisler worked together on a film loosely based on the events entitled: Hangmen Also Die! Eisler managed to sneak in the melody of the Comintern Song over the final credits, under the title No Surrender. For his work on the film, directed by Fritz Lang, Eisler would be nominated for an Oscar, as he was again for Clifford Odets’s None but the Lonely Heart, in which Cary Grant played the lead. His reputation as a Hollywood film-score composer now ensured, Eisler found offers of work coming in thick and fast. In comparison to much of his previous exile experience, Eisler was now able to live comfortably. He and his wife bought a house next door to fellow antifascist exiles such as the celebrated novelist Thomas Mann and Frankfurt School philosopher Theodor Adorno. From 1943 onwards, the FBI would keep Eisler and this circle of antifascists under almost total surveillance as his over-six-hundred-page FBI file attests.
In 1946, the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) under Senator Joseph McCarthy reconvened its anticommunist witch hunt. The wartime alliance with the USSR had come to an end, and so, too, the short-lived tolerance of communist émigrés. Hanns Eisler and his brother Gerhart, a functionary of the KPD, who had been in America since 1941 were the subject of a furious press campaign. Eisler was called before the Committee to find that he had been denounced by none other than his own sister Elfriede, now using the name Ruth Fischer.
Fischer had been the leader of the KPD during a brief ultra-left phase in the mid-1920s characterized by sectarian attitudes to cooperation with the SPD; in this period, KPD members were forbidden from shaking hands with SPD members and parliamentary representatives were instructed to wear red gloves. Following her exclusion from the party in 1926, Ruth Fischer and husband Arkadi Maslow were close collaborators of various Soviet oppositional figures, firstly Grigory Zinoviev and later closely with Leon Trotsky until they fell out with him in 1936.
In 1941, the couple who had also been forced into antifascist exile, found themselves in Havana when Maslow suffered a heart attack which Ruth Fischer would always believe was a targeted assassination by Soviet agents. From this point on she became a tireless communist renegade, publishing an anticommunist journal The Network, delivering anti-Soviet lectures at the University of Cambridge in England, and even becoming a key figure in the anticommunist activities of the early CIA forerunner The Pond. Fischer appeared hell bent on bringing down world communism single-handedly and her brothers were her first target, despite the fact that she had remained friendly with Hanns during the war years, receiving financial support from him and even staying with him in LA on several occasions. The letters which she sent to the HUAC show how paranoid she had become. She also began taking out full-page ads in newspapers across the country accusing her brother Gerhart of having murdered Soviet politician Nikolai Bukharin and of being a nuclear spy for the Soviet Union.
The future president, Richard Nixon, sat on the HUAC and noted in his preparations that the case against Eisler could be “the most important” to be brought before them. In retrospect, historians believe that the Hanns Eisler case was intended as the opening salvo of the Hollywood hearings, in which scores of actors, artists, and other film personnel were subjected to prolonged periods of pressure and scrutiny in order to sniff out any whiff of communism.
Eisler noted his impressions of the HUAC in his diary: “This hearing is sinister and risible at the same time. The Committee is not actually interested in my testimony at all, it has only two purposes: to present me as a monster publically and to throw me in jail for perjury.” The threat of jail was very real; Hanns’s brother Gerhart was sentenced to three years in jail, although was ultimately able to flee to Europe in 1948 by smuggling aboard a ship while out on bail.
Eisler sought to defend himself from the McCarthyites’ machinations by responding to the infamous question: “Are you or were you at any time a member of the Communist Party?” by stating in his heavily Germanized English that he had “put in an application” but did not take “more care of it” due to his “artistic activities,” while also noting that like membership in any body, if you don’t pay your dues you “drop out.” These poised semantics were necessary to try and keep himself out of jail. However, this did not stop him from occasionally provoking the Committee and landing a few blows of his own. When the chief investigator, Robert Stripling, was asked what the purpose of reading so many quotes from Eisler’s songs, interviews, and articles may be, he retorted arrogantly “The purpose is to show that Mr. Eisler is the Karl Marx of communism in the area of music.” Eisler responded laconically: “That would flatter me!”
Perhaps the most powerful moment of Eisler’s testimony was when he faced repeated questioning as to whether he was officially a Communist Party member. He stated passionately that “The Communists have sacrificed so much and fought so heroically, I would be a swindler if I called myself a Communist, I have no right to say this, the Communist underground workers in every country, they are heroes! I am not a hero, I am a composer.” Ultimately, Eisler’s attempts to box clever were unsuccessful and in March 1948, he was expelled from the United States. He headed to Austria, the country for which he still held citizenship. The signed contract to write the score for his close friend Charlie Chaplin’s The Circus would never transform into reality.
Facing the Future
On arrival in Vienna, Eisler quickly realized this was not the same city of his youth or even of his visits during exile. He found a cultural and personal boycott of almost anything associated with communism. The Communist Party of Austria procured him a flat but the prospects for his music career appeared bleak. In June, 1949, Eisler emigrated to Berlin. The promise of work from the GDR’s state film company DEFA, the fact that his old friend Brecht was establishing a Berliner Ensemble theater group, and the wider possibility of contributing to the first socialist state on German soil appear to have been decisive for the now fifty-one-year-old composer
Eisler threw himself enthusiastically into the Aufbau (construction) of socialism. In 1951, he would write: “I have endeavoured since my youth to write music for the benefit of socialism. This task has been difficult and often full of contradiction. But it seems to be the only worthy task for the artists of our age.” Eisler’s first contribution was to compose the GDR’s national anthem Auferstanden aus Ruinen (Arisen from Ruins) with lyrics from poet Johannes R. Becher. The song captured the mood of the times, the hope and determination to build a socialist society from the ruins of German fascism and war.
However, Eisler’s early years in the GDR were not without controversy. In 1953 he was accused of debasing the national legend of Goethe’s Faust with his play, which he intended to turn into an opera, Johann Faustus. The details of this largely academic dispute are perhaps difficult to appreciate some sixty-five years later. But more interesting is the discernible attempt in some quarters to highlight episodes such as this in order to disassociate the celebrated intellectual Eisler from his chosen country, the GDR, as if they were evidence of his “dissident” or “oppositional” stance.
Similar narratives can be found with regards to Bertolt Brecht and Ernst Busch, among many other communist intellectuals and artists. Relatively minor disputes are disproportionately emphasized in order to claim these convinced communists for a Western liberal canon of “critical intellectuals.” Their Marxism-Leninism is seen as an awkward anomaly due to the times in which they lived and operated. Commentators such as Friederike Wißmann or Andrea and Philip Bohlmann portray Eisler as a “cosmopolitan” intellectual whose relationship with communism can be described wholly in terms of “dissidence”. The Bohlmanns suggest that Eisler’s sense of justice and spirit of struggle were derived not from his Marxist convictions but his identification with Judaism, despite his in fact staunch atheism.
This tendency appears to have been part of a wider discursive shift brought about in the aftermath of the supposed “end of ideology” (as claimed by Francis Fukuyama) and the delegitimization of the socialist left in the 1990s. Marx and especially Lenin could no longer be discussed. However, nearly thirty years later, in a post-crash world in which right-wing authoritarianism and economic insecurity are on the rise, we can see that this proclamation of the “final victory” for capitalism and liberal democracy was itself a mere expression of ideological bias.
This demands that we reconsider the history and tradition that communist intellectuals like Eisler really represent. His own final words on the Faustus debate are telling: “I can only imagine my place as an artist in that part of Germany where the foundations for socialism are being built anew.”
The question of artistic freedom was one which Eisler enjoyed philosophizing over. He rejected any liberal notion of absolute artistic freedom, considering that artists must endeavor to serve a higher purpose: “I do not believe in artistic freedom which simply exists for its own pleasure. In this regard I can state plainly that I am a Jacobin.”
Sun Over Germany
Eisler evidenced this unity of artistic purpose and meaning with aesthetic quality throughout his time in the GDR. This was particularly poignantly expressed with the music he composed for French director Alain Resnais’s Nuit et brouillard (Night and Fog). The groundbreaking 1956 documentary was one of the first to bring the horrors of the Holocaust to a wider Western European audience. Eisler’s haunting melodies overlap with images of Auschwitz-Birkenau, testimony from survivors, and the final montage of camp guards repeating the same words, “I am not responsible.” Eisler’s music, like the film itself, avoided sentimentality, which is perhaps why it remains a potent classic to this day.
The Jewish-heritage communist Eisler had always considered it his duty to educate the world about the horrors of fascism, and not least to teach that fascism was a form of capitalism. As the opening lines of one of his 1930s songs had plainly put it: “Who pays the money for Hitler and his company? It is the big profitlers [sic] of the weapons industry!” This duty came to fruition in his magnum opus the Deutsche Sinfonie (German Symphony). Eisler began work on the symphony during his exile period, the first two movements were scheduled to be performed in 1937 as part of the Paris World Exhibition. However, the Nazis persuaded the French government to cancel the performance. A slightly more developed version was scheduled to be performed in England in 1940, however, this was halted, somewhat ironically, due to anti-German sentiment among the English musical establishment. It would not be fully completed until 1958, shortly before its premiere.
Using lyric poetry from Brecht, Eisler created a sweeping cacophony of intermittent tales. They tell of the concentration camps — the original title was Concentration Camp Symphony — of the bloody hands of German soldiers raised in the Hitler salute, but also of the suffocating atmosphere of enforced conformity and denunciation which characterized life under fascism for ordinary Germans. In many respects, the symphony represents a socialist artist’s comment on the “German question” in the Nazi era but also, significantly, thereafter. Eisler gives a resounding answer that this question is, at its core, a question of class struggle. The penultimate and longest section entitled Worker’s Cantata is a stirring reworking of Brecht’s Lied vom Klassenfeind (The Class Enemy Song). It tells a moving story of a worker grappling with the class system around them from childhood onwards, through war, hunger, and poverty. The repeated motif of rain falling from above to below serves to illustrate the upper class’s inherent need to exploit the classes below, for example:
Rain can’t suddenly fall up
because it is benevolently inclined,
but what it can do is: it can stop
once the sun comes out and shines.
The metaphorical sun is an end to the capitalist class system; that is, socialism.
With this emphasis on the class nature of any nation, and therefore the disparities of power, of influence, and of the ability to forge the ideology of that nation, Eisler sought to point an accusing finger at the German capitalist class which had handed power to Hitler in order to brutally crush the latent social revolution. This is again highlighted in the epilogue of the symphony, which repeats:
Look at our children, stunned and besmeared in blood!
Freed from a frozen Panzer they come:
Even the Wolf who licks his lips needs
a place to hide! Warm them, they are numb.
Eisler did not wish to excuse the crimes committed by German soldiers in the name of the German nation — far from it. But as a consistent Marxist he wanted his audience to understand that these crimes had ultimately stemmed from a dialectic of material events and relations that emanated from capitalist class society — a lesson many writers on the subject of fascism appear to have forgotten. Eisler’s magnum opus is ultimately a powerful call for recognition of Germans’ culpability but also their resistance; a call for the rehabilitation of those led astray and for an end to the socioeconomic structures that ingrain division, competition, and ultimately war.
Two events in 1956 had a profound effect on Eisler. Firstly, in February, Khruschev’s so-called “Secret Speech” attacked the deceased Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. It shattered the positive image of Stalin and thus of the entire Soviet-influenced socialist project. The repercussions of the speech are still felt in debates surrounding communism today. Secondly, in August his best friend and collaborator Brecht died aged fifty-eight. Following this, Eisler fell into a deep depression and began to drink heavily. However, this blue funk was short-lived. He dedicated himself to continuing the work of his dear departed friend, setting numerous of Brecht’s words to music, notably Kriegsfibel (War Primer) and Schwejk im zweiten Weltkrieg (Schweik in World War II), a powerful reworking of Czechoslavakian author Jaroslav Hašek’s celebrated World War I novel The Good Soldier Švejk. In 1958 he received the National Prize of the GDR for his combined efforts.
Eisler would never have been happy with superficial simplifications such as the concept of “Stalinism” or “anti-Stalinism.” He instead sought to get to grips with the fluid development of socialism; to understand it dialectically and contextualize the birth pangs of a revolution surrounded by hostile enemies and to do so without moralizing judgements. He sought to envisage the trajectory of a socialist society truly unencumbered by imperialist encirclement, hot or cold war; a society that had traversed the vestigial class divisions and resentments that were clearly still present in the early postwar socialist states. This can be seen from his final major work Ernste Gesänge (Serious Songs) in which he comes to terms with the history of socialism, warts and all, but communicates the importance of learning from the tradition and past of socialism in order to build the “scarcely imagined joy: life without fear.”
Hanns Eisler would not live to see his hopes fulfilled. He died on September 6, 1962. He was given a full state funeral by the GDR, which set up an award to honor his legacy: the Hanns Eisler Music Prize has been awarded since 1968 for outstanding compositions. The Hanns Eisler College of Music in Berlin still bears his name today. There are a great many things we can learn from a life like Eisler’s but perhaps the most poignant is captured in the words of Brecht, which Eisler himself set to music, “Change the world, it needs it!”
On October 18 at the Atlantic Council, US Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Aaron Wess Mitchell made bombshell remarks removing the fog of informational cover from goals and actions of the Washington establishment in Central and Eastern Europe. The recent developmenst showed that representatives of the Washington establishment do not contribute much efforts to hide their real goals and double-faced policy as well as the humilating actions against and contemptuous disregard of other states and nations, first of all small states. In the framework of this behaviour, the October 18 remarks by Mr Mitchell summed up Washington narratives and send a clear message to the international community.
Let’s look at the most interesting part of his remarks.
Mitchell claimed that the United States’ rivals – China and Russia – are “expanding their political, military, and commercial influence” in Central and Eastern Europe to the detriment of the Western alliance. He continued stating that there is “the urgent task of strengthening the West t ocontest the growing influence of our rivals”.
Mitchell: “Even a casual look at the map today should lead us to question the assumptions that animated past policies and turn our attention to the urgent task of strengthening the West to contest the growing influence of our rivals.” #ACEurasiapic.twitter.com/wQbBdJJ3Wl
The US diplomat added that the US is going to carry out active actinos abourd, keeping them away from the US territory and sphere of the economic security.
“US strategy towards these regions today is guided by certain principles… First, America will compete for positive influence abroad,” he stated.
In fact, Mr Mitchell openly proclaimed that the US will contest its “rivals” using other states as a battleground. This will allow to keep the conflict away from the homeland interests of the Washington establishment. The US diplomat also pointed out states where this conflict will be ongoing. These are “Ukraine, Georgia, and even Belarus”.
“Today it is the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of frontier states like Ukraine, Georgia, and even Belarus, that offer the surest bulwark against Russian neo-imperialism,” he said.
The logic of this comment raises eyebrows. He openly suggest to contest Russia intervening into the internal situation in Ukraine, Georgia and Belarus. Nonetheless, he does not see any violation of “sovereignty and territorial integrity” in this strategy employed towards these newly created states.
Mr Mitchell also claimed that states of Central Europe are under threat of economic and political intervention in their internal policies. One can think that Mitchel’s remaks is about the US regional policy, but no. He accused Russia and China. The US diplomat also made a classic PR stunt claiming that Washington will “compete for positive influence abroad” using its public image.
“America is a powerful democracy whose example as a beacon of liberty burns bright and continues to draw others to us. ” he stated adding that the US expects “those whom America helps to not abet our rivals.”
Convering these propaganda claims into normal people speak, this means that the US using its unlimited influence tools (financial, military political and personal security threats) demands from its clients to obey and to follow its very policy and interests. This is also warning to national elites to avoid attempting to defend their own interests or intersts of their nations, which are not relevant to the US policy.
An example of this explanation is the following remark by Mr Mitchell:
” Western Europeans cannot continue to deepen energy dependence on the same Russia that America defends it against. Or enrich themselves on the same Iran that is building ballistic missiles which threaten Europe.”
“The same holds true for Central Europeans. It is not acceptable for U.S. allies in Central Europe to support projects like Turkstream II and maintain cozy nuclear energy deals that make the region more vulnerable to the very Russia that these states joined NATO to protect themselves against. “
The question appears how is the US defending Western Europe from Russia? What kind of measures does it employ for it? How is Russia or Iran attacking and threatening Europe?
It’s also interesting to note that Washington constantly adresses the energy projects like Turkstream II. This very topic has economic matter only because it threates super profits of the Washington establishment from LNG sales to Europe. Today, using its diplomatic and military power, the US is forcing EU states to buy LNG generating extra revenues (30-50%). These funds will continue flowing to Washington next decades if the US threats ahieve their goal.
Admitting the US neo-imperialism, Mr Mitchell also said that Washington “reject[s] Russia’s territorial aggression against its neighbor Ukraine and [rejects] China’s predatory ‘debt-mongering’ throughout Central and Eastern Europe.” What does Mitchell adress when he talks abotu China’s predatory ‘debt-mongering’? In fact, Beijing is employing a different approach – the policy of soft economic expansion. China provides its partner states and corporations with debts at reduced rates. Additionally, if the debt funds are spent on Chinese-made production, these rates become even lower or event 0%. In the framework of the same approach, the credit user gets discounts and instalments of date for Chinese production. Currently, the US is not able to compete with China in this field. Furthermore, in the ongoing economic war between the US and China, Beijing is slowly gaining an upper hand. This is th real reason behind these emotional remarks by Mr Mitchell.
In general, the speech of Mr Mitchell at the Atlantic Council shows a low level of competence of members of the Trump administration working in the field of the European, Russian and Chinese issues.
We have two very important interviews for you today. First, we talk with long time investigative journalist Greg Palast, who for years has written about voter suppression and stolen elections. In 2016, Palast attempted to break into the American mainstream by covering a story of a program being used in some states by Republicans entitled, CrossCheck. The system was fairly simple: it simply checked to see if “Jose Hernandez” was also a registered voter into more than one state. The Republican Party would then send a mailer to the person’s house to verify their information, and in many cases, it was simply thrown away as junk mail. In this way, in the 2016 election, millions of people, largely African-American and Latino voters, were purged from the voting rolls. The man behind this push, Kris Kobach, comes out of the legal arm of the white nationalist think-tank FAIR, (Federation for American Immigration Reform), who we here at It’s Going Down have covered at length.
Kris Kobach worked for the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a white nationalist group. https://t.co/rjILEA9Sqg
Fast forward to 2018, and Kris Kobach, and Palast discusses, has now begun to help other Republicans engage in CrossCheck campaigns in their own states, including many of the recent cases involving African-American voters you may have heard on the news. And look to be real, while we here at IGD rep that red and black as autonomists and anarchists, we believe that the working class should never give up rights won through struggle, and that we should see the recent attempts by Republicans to remove literally millions of voters of color for what it is: a blatant racist attack on a broad section of the working class that is designed to keep in power a gang of pro-Trump bureaucrats.
The connections between the Alt-Right and FAIR are numerous. Their sole Latino employee also issued complains against them, saying that they even referred to him as a “spic” in several occasions. pic.twitter.com/CMP9Sh9o5K
This is why the Kavanaugh confirmation was so vital to the GOP, and why the Trump administration has been ravenously confirming judges to lower courts. Just recently another 15 judges were confirmed to federal courts, all of them obedient New Right conservatives, some of them approved by the Federalist Society which has formed the backbone of Trump’s judicial reformation. This is a state organ which has been fundamentally reshaped to uphold corporate power, weaken civil rights, and most importantly, defend the administration at any cost. As a government without popular approval, the Trump regime literally cannot allow for the free exercise of democratic power without jeopardizing its own security. Anything less than a stranglehold on state machinery would result in disastrous electoral losses for the GOP. To justify their authoritarian methods, the regime is stoking fears of left-wing violence and social chaos.
Our next interview is with a spokesperson from Rose City Antifa, who discusses the events in Portland over the past few weeks. This conversation covers a lot of ground, starting with how the Right media took a protest vigil organized for Patrick Kimmons, an African-American man killed by the police, and turned it into a tale of “antifa taking over the city” to attack “white motorists.”
We then discuss the events that happened last weekend, where on Saturday night, Joey Gibson and members of the Proud Boys, Patriot Prayer, and other far-Right and white nationalist groups held a flash “Law and Order” rally, ostensibly in response to the buzz that was generated by far-Right media over the last week. This messaging soon changed after news of the Proud Boys attack in New York took over, and the rally was then changed to being against Mayor Ted Wheeler. Gibson’s goons then proceeded to harass a vigil for Kimmons, where Patriot Prayer members chanted “Crip Lives Don’t Matter,” and then proceeded to march around the city, looking for victims to beat up, settling on a small group of about 5 antifascist protesters that had been separated from the larger group. Ironically, in the wake of this latest violence, Joey Gibson has attempted to argue that the people who carried out the assaults were “not with him.”
If there was any doubt about Joey Gibson being a Nazi, here are a few shots from the Flash March, where one of his followers Seig-Heils seconds before giving him a hug. pic.twitter.com/XrksAArnpe
After the violence this weekend, Portland police announced that back on the massive antifascist mobilization on August 4th, they had in fact found a stash of weapons and people associated with Patriot Prayer on a roof top, over looking the counter-protesters. Police claim that they were armed with “long guns” as well as “concealed weapons” which they had permits for, and quickly let those on the roof leave. This latest news has caused an outrage, as Portland police nearly killed one counter-protester with a flash bang grenade and lied about “bottles being thrown” at them to justify attacking the antifascist protesters. Police then allowed members of Patriot Prayer to roam around the city, attacking people at will.
After releasing news of the weapons roof top stash to the public, the Portland Mayor then announced that he was pushing a new protest ordinance, that would in the future, put opposing sides of demonstrators into protest pins. Rose City Antifa and a host of other groups have attacked this proposal as an assault on basic rights, but also as a ruber stamp of police containment and attack of antifascist protesters the State has already employed now for years; essentially facilitating and protecting violent fascist groups whenever and wherever they choose to rally.
We’ve got a lot to cover, but first, let’s get to the news.
In Florida, a chapter of Turning Point USA, a “conservative” group backed by billionaires and the President, has been found to be strongly influenced by the Alt-Right and its memes. As The Daily Beast wrote:
One member of the group posted a meme featuring a brown Pepe the Frog, the alt-right’s mascot, raping a Swedish woman, while another brown Pepe holds a gun to a man’s head. In the background of the image, a “Refugees Welcome sign implies that Muslim refugees in Europe will rape women.
Posters in the forum urged people to tone down their anti-Semitism and to be careful to not mention Alt-Right figurehead, Richard Spencer.
Trump has once again stated that he will send thousands of soldiers to the US border, as a caravan of people has left Honduras and is marching through Mexico. They are asking to be allowed sanctuary into the United States. Far-Right Republicans have responded by also playing up fears and conspiracy theories, with some stating that the marchers are being paid by Soros. One report wrote:
The Mexican government has responded to Trump’s orders by preparing to carry out the dirty work of his administration’s crackdown on immigrants, including physical repression. Yesterday, black airplanes carrying several hundred Mexican federal police armed with riot gear arrived at the Mexico-Guatemala border. Helicopters were also deployed to monitor the border region.
CNN reported earlier today:
A chaotic scene unfolded as a massive caravan of Honduran migrants reached the Guatemala-Mexico border Friday. A surge of migrants broke through a steel fence that had been padlocked shut. Mexican police in riot gear pushed them back, setting off smoke canisters. Hundreds of Mexican Federal Police sealed the border as drones and helicopters hovered above the crowd, which waited on a bridge in sweltering heat. Thousands of migrants are waiting to cross, according to CNN teams at the scene.
At least a dozen migrants stuck on the bridge have jumped into the river below. It is unclear if they are trying to swim across to the Mexico side of border, go back to Guatemala or just get relief from the crowds on the bridge. The migrants who remained told CNN they joined the caravan because they had no other choice, noting that they were desperate for work. Mexican officials had said people seeking asylum would be processed at the border. But it’s unclear what will happen next. Members of the group — many with children in tow — had cheered and chanted as they streamed toward the port of entry, with celebratory airhorns blaring.
On October 16th, students protested against Goldman Sachs recruiting event at Brown University for their backing of Energy Transfer Partners.
Protests continue in Haiti against government corruption.
Mutual Aid Disaster Relief reports from the Florida Panhandle:
Florida panhandle hurricane survivors need support and solidarity. Displacement and trauma along with existing in a community made unrecognizable, looking like a bomb dropped, are the realities. Many pathways for autonomous relief and response alongside community led efforts exist. The UU church of Panama City has been generous enough to let us use their building as a community hub for relief efforts. If you would like to assist with relief and recovery efforts here, email email@example.com. People with chainsaw experience, construction experience, and people able to do mobile distribution with their vehicles are especially needed at this time.
On October 18th, L’eau Est La Vie Camp organized a disruption of an Energy Transfer Partner’s meeting to demand the end of construction of the Bayou Bridge pipeline and repression of Water Protectors. Two people were arrested.
In an official statement released by the Saudi Public Prosecution on October 20, Saudi Arabia acknowledged that journalist Jamal Khashoggi had died as a result of a “quarrel and a brawl” with personnel he met inside the Saudi consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul.
“The Public Prosecutor confirms that its investigations into this case are continuing with the (18) individuals who are all Saudi nationals in preparation for reaching all the facts and declaring them and to hold all those involved in this case accountable and bringing them to justice,” the Saudi Public Prosecution said in the statement, which was released by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
A Saudi official told SPA that after the death of Khashoggi, the personnel involved in the incident made an attempt to conceal and cover what happened. According to the official, the joint Saudi-Turkish security team played a key role in the investigation, which is still ongoing.
Following the announcement, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud released several royal orders, in which he sacked the following senior officials:
– Assistant Chief of the General Intelligence’s Intelligence Affairs, Gen. Mohammad Bin Saleh al-Rumaih;
– Assistant Chief of the General Intelligence’s Human Resources, Maj. Gen. Abdullah bin Khalifa al-Shaya;
– Chief of the General Intelligence’s General Directorate of Security and Protection, Gen. Rashad bin Hamed al-Mehmadi;
– Saud bin Abdullah Al-Qahtani, an advisor at the Royal Court;
– Deputy Chief of the General Intelligence, Ahmed bin Hassan bin Mohammed Asiri.
Furthermore, king Salman ordered the formation of a ministerial committee that will reshape the General Intelligence and update its regulations and powers. The committee will be headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who had been previously accused of ordering the assassination of Khashoggi.
In its first response to the Saudi announcements, the White House said that it will continue to press for “justice that is timely, transparent, and in accordance with all due process.”
The upcoming hours will for sure be decisive for the investigation, and maybe for the future of Mohammed bin Salman himself.
Click to see full-size image, By the Official Twitter account of the International Coalition for Operation Inherent Resolve.
US-led coalition warplanes carried out a series of airstrikes on the ISIS-held town of al-Susah in the southeastern Deir Ezzor countryside killing more than 46 civilians in the last 24 hours, local sources told the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).
According to the UK-based monitoring group, only 3 of the casualties were fighters of the terrorist group. A large part of the killed people was women and children, mostly refugees, who had run away from the coalition bombing in Iraq last year.
The US-led coalition and its proxy, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), have not commented on the new reports about the massacre in al-Susah so far. Usually, the coalition addresses such incidents within a few months claiming that there were no civilian casualties or their number was very low.
These violent airstrikes are clearly an attempt by the US-led coalition to support SDF fighters, who are facing a strong resistance from remaining ISIS fighters in the Euphrates Valley. The coalition operation there has been ongoing from more than a month now without any significant progress.
The Russian Center for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides in Syria announced that unknown militants had shelled several government-held areas in the governorates of Aleppo and Lattakia on October 19 in a clear violation of the Russian-Turkish deconfliction agreement.
“The Russian Center for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides urges leaders of illegal armed formations operating in the Idlib de-escalation zone to cease hostilities and move towards peaceful settlement of the situation in areas they occupy,” the center’s statement reads.
The attack in Lattakia, which took place in its northern countryside, was clearly carried out by one of the radical groups operting there. However, the shelling of the city of Aleppo and several areas north of it was likely carried out by Turkish-backed militants.
The militants are currently violating the deconfliction agreement on almost a daily basis, in what appears to be an attempt to sabotage the deal. A day earlier, two civilians were reportedly killed in a rocket attack on Aleppo.
This week, we share the final story from the Voices of the Formerly Incarcerated panel that took place during the Fight Toxic Prisons conference in Pittsburgh. After we hear updates on Kevin Rashid Johnson and Keith Malik Washington, we close with anecdotes from Wendell Caldwell. Caldwell speaks on his time inside, its impact on his family, his writing, and what life is like for him now that he is out.
On October 18, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) revealed that its cells in the area of Afrin killed four fighters of the Hamza Division during a hit and run attack on a position of the Turkish-backed group in the district of Sherawa two days ago. A video of the attack shows that YPG elements used a sniper rifle equipped with a thermal sight.
YGP cells also destroyed a pickup truck of the Turkish-backed Suleyman Shah Brigade in the district of Maabatli with an IED on October 17. As a result of the attack, two fighters of Suleyman Shah were killed.
Last March, the Turkish military and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) imposed control of Afrin following a rapid military operation. Since then, YPG cells have launched dozens of hit and run attacks inside the occupied area.
In an attempt to put end to the YPG attacks, the Turkish military and its Syrian proxies launched several security operations in Afrin during the last few months. However, the vast majority of these operations failed and Kurdish forces are still able to infiltrate the area and to carry out attacks inside it.
This analysis considers the changes in the maritime doctrine of the Russian Federation and the difficulties for the Russian surface fleet in implementing this doctrine. The analysis is made by SouthFront Team under the general editorship of Daniel Deiss.
Maritime doctrine of the Russian Federation to the year 2030. Requirements and priorities
Current changes to the global geopolitical map are being fueled by struggles between world powers for control over strategically important logistical communications, corridors, staging areas, and potential markets. One important arena of this struggle are the planet’s oceans, and the key competitors are the United States, China, and Russia. These state actors are reassessing the competition, rethinking military doctrines, and establishing new responsibilities for their armed forces. Of special importance is the development of naval capabilities equal to the tasks set before them. Each of the three main competing powers have their own aims which come from their specific geopolitical position, economic potential, and unique considerations of national security and cultural strategy. In the last several years following Russia’s return to the world stage as a power to be reckoned with, Moscow has significantly revised its approach to challenges and threats. As part of this work on new strategic plans detailing the character of Russia’s naval presence on the high seas, the maritime doctrine was updated and then approved on July twentieth, 2017. The main threat to Russia was identified as “the efforts of a number of states, primarily the United State of America and its allies, to dominate the oceans, including the Arctic, and to establish overwhelming naval superiority.”
The Atlantic is of special interest to Russia due to the increasing economic, political, and military pressure from NATO countries and the consequent sharp reduction in Russia’s capacity to project power in the region. Additionally, Russia’s political and military leadership are striving to strengthen the armed forces in the strategically important Mediterranean and Black seas, which also have repercussions on the Atlantic.
The main priorities of naval policies in the Arctic region are to maintain the Russian fleet’s access to the Atlantic as well as to safeguard exclusive access to the rich natural resources of the continental shelf. The Northern fleet plays a vital role in defense of the state and continued, unhindered economic development.
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The importance of the Pacific for the Russian Federation is also huge and continues to grow. The Russian Far East sits on enormous resources but is sparsely populated and largely isolated from the industrially developed regions of the country. This situation is aggravated by the intense economic and military development of neighboring states in the Asia-Pacific region, which has a strong influence on economic, demographic, and other processes in the region.
One area previously ignored in the maritime doctrine but which was included in the revised version devotes attention to Russia’s shipbuilding capacity. The inclusion of this section in the doctrine is due to the critical situation of the naval construction industry and the physical state of the military and commercial fleet. For example, the doctrine estimates that in order to maintain a shipping volume of 1129 million tons, it will be necessary to build 1470 cargo ships with deadweight of 22.9 million tons. Furthermore, 1069 vessels will need to be scrapped and replaced due to aging, and 401 vessels will need to be built in addition to that which exists today.
The doctrine describes how the ability of Russia to effectively react to challenges and threats requires a significant strengthening of the navy and a presence on the oceans.
In order to defend its interests, the navy requires a minimum of two full-fledged aircraft carriers – one in the Arctic and the second in the Mediterranean. This says nothing of the large number of surface vessels which could be needed for other sea zones. The deployment of an aircraft carrier in the Pacific would only be possible in the distant future. So far, it appears that surface groups deployed in distant sea zones are being folded back into existing groups closer to home.
The new doctrine emphasizes the capabilities of naval aviation in relation to nuclear strategy. Without air cover to deal with the likely superiority of enemy anti-submarine aviation, it is impossible to guarantee not only combat readiness but also the deployment of submarines with their ballistic missile payloads which form the main nuclear strike capability of the Russian navy. Missile-carrying vessels and shore-based surveillance aviation as well as anti-submarine aviation would be unable to successfully go into action without fighter cover. Fighter cover is necessary for the combat efficiency of large ships. In turn, surface vessels make possible the deployment and safe return of submarines from combat areas as well as the movement and deployment of paratroopers. The surface fleet plays the defining role in building mine fields as well as mine-clearing operations. The traditional uses for surface vessels include launching strikes on enemy objects within their own territory, defending shorelines from enemy naval forces, and engaging in anti-submarine operations. In these ways, surface vessels perform a number of critical functions on the battlefield. They can carry out these functions independently, in groups, or in coordination with other naval forces like submarines, carrier-born aviation, and the marines.
Due to the important role played by the navy in Russian power projection, the navy and the surface fleet in particular are faced with many critical challenges which must be addressed today or in the nearest future.
While the Russian air force and submarine fleet are equipped to meet their particular challenges, the surface fleet finds itself in a complex and even paradoxical situation. In order to analyze the condition of the surface fleet, it is necessary to survey the current line of surface vessels as well as the construction and modernization plans which are part of the government’s rearmament strategy.
Current state and capabilities of the Russian surface fleet
Project 1143.5 heavy aircraft-carrying missile cruiser “Admiral of the fleet of the Soviet Union Kuznetsov”
Russia’s only ship of this type. Tasked with the destruction of large surface targets and defense of naval assets from attack by enemy carrier-born units and submarines.
Homeport: Severomorsk, Northern fleet
Laid down on September first, 1982 at the Black Sea Shipyard and launched on December fourth, 1985. Commissioned and joined the Northern fleet on January twentieth, 1991. In 2018 the ship is undergoing a refit and modernization at the Zvezdochka naval refit center in Severodvinsk.
Tactical and technical specifications of the Project 1143.5 heavy aircraft-carrying missile cruiser “Admiral of the fleet of the Soviet Union Kuznetsov”
Speed: 29 knots
Endurance: 45 days
Complement: 1960 crewmembers
Propulsion: 4 x 50,000 horse power steam turbines, 9 x 1500 kilowatts turbogenerators, 6 x 1500 kilowatts diesel generators
Length: 302.3 meters
Length at the waterline: 270 meters
Beam: 72.3 meters
Beam at the waterline: 35.4 meters
Draft: 9.14 meters
Standard displacement: 43,000 tons
Full load displacement: 55,000 tons
Maximum displacement: 58,600 tons
The carrier is equipped with rocket launchers (12 Granit anti-ship cruise missiles and 60 Udav-1 anti-submarine missiles) and the Klinok (192 missiles, 24 launchers) and Kashtan (256 missiles) anti-aircraft missile systems.
It can carry up to 24 Ka-27 multi-use helicopters, up to 16 Yak-41M vertical take-off and landing fighters, and up to 12 Su-27K naval fighters.
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Project 1144 and 11442 heavy missile cruiser
Out of three cruisers, one (Pyotr Velikiy) is in service. The main function of these vessels is to carry out rocket strikes on American carrier battle groups.
Homeport: Vladivostok, Pacific fleet.
The cruiser was laid down on July twenty-seventh, 1978 at the Baltic Shipyard in Leningrad (St. Petersburg), launched on May twenty-sixth, 1981, and commissioned in December 1984. Its status is not released, but it will most likely be scrapped.
Homeport: Severomorsk, Northern fleet.
The cruiser was laid down on May seventeenth, 1983 at the Baltic Shipyard in in Leningrad (St. Petersburg), launched on April twenty-fifth, 1986, and commissioned on December thirtieth, 1988. Its status is not released, but it will most likely be refitted.
The flagship of Russia’s Northern fleet.
Homeport: Severomorsk, Northern fleet.
The cruiser was laid down on April twenty-fifth, 1986 at the Baltic Shipyard in in Leningrad (St. Petersburg), launched on April twenty-fifth, 1989, and commissioned in 1998. It is currently in service.
Tactical and technical specifications of the heavy missile cruiser Pyotr Velikiy
Propulsion: 2 boilers, 140,000 horse power nuclear reactor
Speed: 31 knots
Endurance: 60 days of food and supplies, 3 years of fuel (unlimited on nuclear reactor)
Complement: 655 crewmembers
Length: 251.1 meters
Beam: 28.5 meters
Height: 59 meters
Draft: 10.3 meters
Standard displacement: 23,750 tons
Full load displacement: 25,860 tons
AK-130 130mm anti-aircraft gun
20 SM-233 rocket launchers
12 Rif anti-aircraft guided missile systems (96 missiles)
2 Klinok (Kinzhal) anti-aircraft missile systems
6 3M87 Kashtan (Kortik) air defense gun-missile systems
2 RPK-6M Vodopad 533mm anti-submarine missile-torpedo systems
Anti-torpedo RKPTZ-1 Udav-1M system
RBU-12000 Udav-1 and RBU-1000 Smerch-3 rocket launchers
2 PU PK-14 150mm anti-missile systems
2 heavy Ka-27 Helix-V multi-use helicopters
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Project 1164 missile cruiser
Out of the three cruisers of this type, two (Varyag and Marshal Ustinov) are in service. They fill the area between the Project 1144 heavy missile cruisers and the Project 956 destroyers. The main functions of these vessels are to strengthen the capabilities of fleets deployed in distant seas and to destroy enemy surface ships including aircraft carriers. Later on, the responsibilities of the Project 1164 grew to include striking enemy group formations, carrying out assignments from naval command, escorting convoys in distant seas, dealing with submarines, firing on enemy-held shorelines, and providing support to paratroopers.
The cruiser was laid down on November fourth, 1976 at the Nikolayev Shipyard, launched on July twenty-seventh, 1979, and commissioned on January thirtieth, 1983. It is being refitted with a modernized engine system at either the Zvezdochka naval refit center in Severodvinsk or its branch in Sevastopal.
The cruiser was laid down on October fifth, 1978 at the Nikolayev Shipyard, launched on February twenty-fifth, 1982, and commissioned on November fifth, 1986. It is in service with the Northern fleet.
The cruiser was laid down on July thirty-first, 1979 at the Nikolayev Shipyard, launched on August twenty-eighth, 1983, and commissioned on February twenty-eighth, 1990. It is in service with the Pacific fleet.
Tactical and technical specifications of the Varyag missile cruiser
Speed: 32 knots
Cruising speed: 16 knots
Endurance: 30 days
Complement: 480 crewmembers
Length: 186.4 meters
Beam: 20.8 meters
Height: 42.5 meters
Draft: 8.4 meters
Displacement: 11,490 tons
16 P-500 Bazalt anti-ship missile launchers
2 torpedo tubes
RBU-6000 Smerch-2 rocket launcher
2 AK-130 130mm anti-aircraft guns
AK-630 30mm close-in weapon system
2 Osa-MA anti-aircraft missile systems
8 S-300F Rif anti-aircraft guided missile systems
Ka-25 or Ka-27 anti-submarine helicopter
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Project 956 destroyers
Out of the eight cruisers of this type, three are in service. They are Admiral Ushakov (Northern fleet), Buistriy (Pacific Fleet), and Nastoychiviy (Baltic Fleet). Another four (Bezboyazneniy, Boyevoy, Bespokoyniy, Burniy) are awaiting refits. Gremyashiy is to be scrapped. The main functions of these vessels are to suppress small land targets, destroy anti-airborne defenses, destroy concentrations of enemy men and material, provide anti-aircraft and anti-missile fire support for landing forces, and destroy surface vessels in coordination with other fleet elements.
Tactical and technical specifications of the Nastoychiviy
Speed: 32 knots
Propulsion: 2 x GTZA 50,000 horse power steam engines, 2 fixed pitch screws
Complement: 296 crewmembers
Endurance: 30 days
Standard displacement: 6500 tons
Full load displacement: 7940 tons
Length: 156.5 meters
Beam: 17.2 meters
Draft: 5.96 meters
2 AK-130 130mm anti-aircraft guns
4 AK-630 30mm close-in weapon system
2 P-270 Moskit anti-ship cruise missile launchers
2 RBU-1000 Smerch-3 rocket launchers
2 Shtil anti-aircraft missile systems
2 dual 533mm torpedo tubes
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Project 1155 and 1155.1 missile destroyers
Out of the nine destroyers of this type, seven are in service. They are Admiral Panteleev (Pacific fleet), Admiral Vinogradov (Pacific fleet), Admiral Levchenko (Northern fleet), Admiral Tributs (Pacific fleet), Marshal Shaposhnikov (Pacific fleet), Severomorsk (Northern fleet), and Vitse-admiral Kulakov (Northern fleet). Admiral Chabanenko is being refitted. Admiral Kharlamov is in reserve. The main functions of these vessels are battling submarines on the high seas. The oldest ship is Vitse-admiral Kulakov which has been in service since December 1981. The newest ship is Admiral Panteleev which has been in service since December 1991.
Tactical and technical specifications of Admiral Chabanenko
Propulsion: dual-shaft COGAG turbines, 2 M-63 9000 horsepower gas turbine plants, 2 M-8KF 22,500 horsepower afterburner gas turbine plants
Speed: 32 knots
Cruising speed: 18 knots
Endurance: 30 days
Complement: 296 crewmembers
Standard displacement: 7700 tons
Full load displacement: 8900 tons
Length: 163.4 meters
Beam: 19.5 meters
Average draft: 5.2 meters
Draft when outfitted with sonar system: 7.9 meters
P-270 Moskit anti-ship cruise missile launcher with the Mineral target designation system
2 Klinok (Kinzhal) anti-aircraft missile systems
2 3M87 Kashtan (Kortik) air defense gun-missile systems
AK-130 130mm anti-aircraft gun
Vodopad-NK anti-submarine missile system
Anti-torpedo Udav-1 system
2 Ka-27 anti-submarine helicopters
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Project 11540 frigates
Out of the two frigates of this type, one, Yaroslav Mudriy (Baltic fleet), is in service. The Neustrashimiy is undergoing a refit until 2019. The main functions of these vessels are search, detection, and tracking of enemy submarines, provide anti-ship and anti-submarine defense for other vessels, carry out strikes on ships and their bases, support land operations, and protect amphibious landing forces.
Tactical and technical specifications of Yaroslav Mudriy
Propulsion: dual-shaft COGAG turbines, 2 gas turbine plants with a total 20,000 horsepower, 2 afterburner gas turbine plants with a total 37,000 horsepower
2 Kashtan (Kortik) air defense gun-missile systems
AK-100 100mm anti-aircraft gun with MR-145 Lev radar system
Ka-27 anti-submarine helicopter
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Project 1135, 1135M, 11352, 11356 frigates
The following five frigates are in service: Admiral Makarov, Admiral Essen, Admiral Grigorivich, Ladniy, and Puitliviy (all from the Black Sea fleet). An additional three are under development (Project 11356): Admiral Butakov, Admiral Istomin, and Admiral Kornilov. Admiral Butadov launched in 2016, while Admiral Istomin and Admiral Kornilov launched in 2017. They are intended to be in service in 2020 or 2021 with the Black Sea fleet. The main functions of these vessels are combat with surface vessels and submarines, repel air attacks independently or in coordination with other forces, security and strike missions in the Black and Mediterranean Seas, and participate in anti-terrorist and anti-pirate operations.
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Tactical and technical specifications of Admiral Makarov
Propulsion: 2 diesel 30,450 horsepower gas turbines, M7N1 8450 horsepower gas turbines, 4 WCM-800 diesel generators
Speed: 30 knots
Endurance: 30 days
Range: 4850 miles at 14 knots
Complement: 180 crewmembers and 20 infantry
Standard displacement: 3620 tons
Full load displacement: 4035 tons
Length: 124.8 meters
Beam: 15.2 meters
Draft: 4.2 meters
8 Kalibr-NK anti-submarine anti-ship missiles
A-190 100mm gun emplacement
2 (Kortik or Palash) air defense gun-missile systems
Shtil anti-aircraft missile system
8 Igla-1 surface-to-air missile launchers
12 RBU-6000 Smerch-2 rocket launchers
6 533mm torpedo tubes
Ka-27 or Ka-31 helicopter
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Project 22350 multi-role frigates
One ship of this type is in service, the Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Gorshkov (Northern fleet). An additional three are being developed: Admiral Flota Kasatonov, Admiral Golovko, and Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Isakov. These vessels are the navy’s backbone in the Arctic, Atlantic, and Mediterranean.
The lead ship Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Gorshkov has been in service since July 2018. Admiral Flota Kasatonov has been launched and it is planned to enter service in 2019. Admiral Golovko was laid down in 2012 and Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Isakov was laid down in 2013 with both launches planned for 2020.
Tactical and technical specifications of Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Gorshkov
Speed: 30 knots
Endurance: 30 days
Range: 4850 miles at 14 knots
Complement: 180 crewmembers and 20 infantry
Full load displacement: 4500 tons
Length: 135 meters
Beam: 15 meters
Draft: 4.5 meter
Propulsion: 2 diesel 30,450 horsepower gas turbines, M7N1 8450 horsepower gas turbines, 4 WCM-800 diesel generators
Kalibr-NK anti-submarine anti-ship missiles with 32 Oniks or Kalibr missiles
Paket anti-submarine system
A-192 130mm cannon
2 Palash air defense gun-missile systems
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The Russian Navy’s surface fleet, which is in service and ready to carry out operations in the second half of 2018, is as follows:
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*In the second half of 2018, the Russian Navy had no combat ready aircraft carrier (heavy aircraft-carrying missile cruiser)
The Russian Navy’s submersible fleet, which is in service and ready to carry out operations in the second half of 2018, is as follows:
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It is clear from this information that the Russian Federation’s surface fleet is not ready to carry out its obligations according to the Maritime Doctrine – 2030. In reality, it is one strike group which has been spread from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It is unable to react to threats in an effective and timely manner. In order to gather these forces in one combat theater would take a month at minimum. Expecting the surface fleet to fulfill its responsibilities under the Maritime Doctrine – 2030 is unrealistic. It bears mentioning that a large part of the fleet has aged and modernization given economic realities is doubtful.
Russia’s state rearmament program
Now we will look at how the development of the surface fleet will meet the challenges specified by the rearmament program.
About 4.7 trillion rubles has been appropriated for the navy’s modernization from 2011 through 2020 with an additional 2.6 trillion rubles designated for the army. These plans call for entry into service of 10 Project 955 missile cruisers, 10 Project 885 nuclear submarines Project cruise missiles, 20 non-nuclear submarines including 6 Project 636.3 diesel-electric submarines and 14 rebuilt Project 677s, 14 frigates including 6 Project 11356s and 8 Project 22350s, 35 corvettes including 18 Project 20380s and 20385s with the others being anticipated future versions.
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This construction program is the most ambitious rearmament since the fall of the Soviet Union. The state rearmament program 2011-2020 (GPV 2011-2020) includes a construction program for a coastal fleet, designed not only to defend Russia’s shores but also to defend Russia’s interests in deeper waters. This program is the only area in which there has been no progress made under the Maritime Doctrine to 2030. The GPV 2011-2020 is turning out to be entirely unrealistic both in terms of construction capacity and the ability to finance these projects. In 2015 and 2016 it became clear that the budget and military industrial complex were inadequate and that additional funding for the GPV is impossible.
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The revised GPV 2018-2027 determined that each branch of the military would receive roughly the same resources. It also takes into account Russia’s actual ship-building capacity and emphasizes work on submarines and smaller vessels like corvettes and frigates. A key point of the naval part of GPV 2018-2027 will be the construction of coastal vessels armed with cruise missiles, strategic missile submarines, and lastly multi-role submarines – to be developed in that order. In this way, the new GPV addresses both open and closed seas.
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What hapened to planned surface vessels included in GPV 2011-2020 but are absent in GPV 2018-2027
The Project 23000 Shtorm nuclear aircraft carrier was not included in GPV 2018-2027. In May 2018 a source in the Russian Navy explained that a concrete decision on development of a new aircraft carrier and preparation of the project’s documentation would begin in 2019. It is possible that this aircraft carrier could be laid down in 2021 or 2022 and preliminary estimates say its construction would take about ten years. Blueprints indicate the vessel would have a displacement of 80 to 90,000 tons, a length of 330 meters, beam of 40 meters, and draft of 11 meters. It could carry up to 90 aircraft and 3000 missiles and bombs. Which company would build the project has not been indicated. By the most optimistic estimates, work could not begin earlier than 2022.
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The Project 23560 Lider destroyer finds itself in a similar situation. Unlike the aircraft carrier, all work on this project has been postponed until after 2025. In January 2018, a source in the Russian Navy explained that technical and design work on the Lider is set to begin after 2020 with construction of this lead ship to begin in 2025 by the firm Severnaya Verf (St. Petersburg). The vessel will have a displacement of about 17,500 tons, length of 200 meters, beam of 20 meters, and a maximum speed of 32 knots. Lider’s armament will include 60 anti-ship cruise missiles, 128 guided missiles, and 16 anti-submarine guided missiles. Severnaya Verf is planned on building two helicopter carriers and then beginning construction of the destroyer. Development work on the helicopter carriers will begin in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020 and launch set for 2024.
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Challenges with the naval surface fleet
What is causing the gap between plans and reality in GPV 2011-2020 and GPV 2018-2027? There are several main reasons.
Personnel. It’s not a secret that the navy suffered more than other branches from the fall of the Soviet Union. The navy today has a serious manpower shortage. The average age of its staff is 55-57. 30% of its specialists are older than 60. There is a major lack of personnel between 35 and 45. The shortfall in technical engineers in the industry is at 17%, construction engineers at 22%, and specialists in a variety of fields up to 40%. By way of comparison, the aviation and tank industries did not lose their personnel between 1990 and 2000, and they fulfilled their obligations under GPV 2011-2020 and are fulfilling them under GPV 2018-2027. This is due to export orders worth billions of dollars. This allowed personnel to be maintained, occasionally factories modernized, and cooperation between corporations in the industry continued. Military ship-building of anything significant for the surface fleet more or less came to a halt during this period. Modernizations and technical service was continued for exported ships but this clearly was insufficient to allow the navy to fulfill its GPV requirements today.
Industrial capacity. Since the collapse of the USSR, the Russian ship-building industry has not produced anything on the scale of the Project 23560 Lider. Neither the USSR nor Russia built a full-fledged aircraft carrier. The industry, which already has a lack of experience, could encounter problems which would lead to long delays in production. These issues are not visible during the planning phase. The initial planning for the Project 23560 Lider destroyer did not take very long, which is the only source of optimism to the naval command. New issues may arise in the near-future during the engineering design phase. Among other things, difficulties should be expected in the planning and development of specific components. Issues in this project which could arise in a number of areas, negatively reflect on the entire destroyer building program. Issues with the armaments and electronic systems cannot be ruled out either.
Added to the fray could be the search for a suitable location to build the Project 23560 lead ship and others of its class. Few Russian shipyards are equipped to build such a large vessel and existing capacity is already backordered for the next several years. As a result the navy and military industrial complex will have to plan the construction of large vessels around the industry’s current and future abilities.
Funding. According to a number of Russian experts, the process of creating a single aircraft carrier would cost 350-400 billion rubles (at 2018 valuation). Including the aviation component and group ships, the price tag passes 1 trillion rubles. The cost of reconstruction of existing industrial space for building large naval vessels would be astronomical and Russia does not have the money nor will it have the money in the near future.
Technology. A number of critical technologies for building an aircraft carrier in Russia today are lacking. There is no shipborne aviation with long-distance radars, shipborne anti-submarine aircraft, or sudden take off and vertical landing aircraft even under development. It is possible to do these things but it would cost additional billions of rubles and years of R&D.
Engines. As long as engineering work on ocean-going vessels has not even started, it is pointless to talk about the power plant for destroyers or aircraft carriers. There is more hope for the Russian fleet to produce gas turbine engines for smaller surface vessels and the future construction of large ocean-going ships depends on their success in this. According to information from the Rybinsk manufacturer, Saturn, they have built at least four M90FR engines for Russia’s navy and one for testing. Furthermore, two gas turbine engines for the last two Project 22350 frigates are already complete and are awaiting the delivery of reduction drives. The company has also built at least three M70FRU engines which are presumably for the Project 11356 frigates. Despite this, some Russian experts doubt the operational readiness of these first of their series gas turbine engines as prototypes still need to be tested. It is likely that the delay in the completion of the Project 23560 is due to waiting on the results of government tests.
Challenges in the areas of organization and planning. After a delay of several years, the refit of the only Russian aircraft-carrying cruiser, Admiral Kyznetsov, began. It is planned to be undergoing this refit and modernization from 2018 until 2020. However, the condition of the Russian shipyards is such that there is a risk of serious delays similar to that which plagued the nuclear missile cruiser Admiral Nakhimov, which was supposed to return to service in 2012 but which in fact began its refit in 2015 and may not be completed until 2021. Out of the large ships undergoing a refit and modernization in this decade, only the missile cruiser Marshal Ustinov completed the process successfully and even at that, the process which was expected to take three years ended up taking more than five. Furthermore, the modernization work was limited especially if you don’t count the radar outfit. The PKR P-500 Bazalt was replaced with the more up-to-date (but still developed during the Soviet period) P-1000 Vulkan, while the other armaments stayed the same.
Bases and resupply points. Another difficulty of developing an ocean-going fleet with an aircraft carrier is that Russia lacks a network of military bases overseas like that which supports US naval power. Of course, these open seas ships have a great deal of autonomy but on long voyages they still need to take on new stores of water and food and make routine repairs.
The Russian ship-building industry is the most troubled out of the entire military-industrial complex. Its number of failed programs is as bad as that of the space industry, keeping in mind both its military as well as civilian parts. Unfortunately, the current state of military ship-building does not engender optimism. With the exception of specific companies, the industry as a whole is in a crisis which leads to catastrophic delays in the majority of programs.
Paths to solving the issues in the military ship-building industry
To remedy the deficit in personnel in the military-industrial complex will take years. In the last few years, the Russian leadership has encouraged development in this area through the setting of legal norms in the training of new personnel. This comes in addition to legislation “About education in the Russian Federation” and a Presidential Order from October fourteenth, 2012 on increasing the ability of the state to support worker organizations in the defense industry. It’s important to understand that resolving any given problem in planning or construction will require specific specialists. In other words, decisions have to be made now about what kind of fleet is needed and then how many and what kind of specialists to train. Even if these processes are successfully realized, training the necessary personnel for an area will take years, if not decades.
A number of specialists investigating various ways of solving these problems in the industry are taking in account the Korean experience with building large ships like supertankers and super containerships. Korea took a path of intensive scientific and technological progress and implementation of innovations in ship-building. The main risks with this strategy are from the development of knowledge economy, or more to the point, from the rate of growth compared to the rate of production of the main competitors. It demands not only the uninterrupted import of technology from abroad, but also the development of a scientific and engineering base inside the country. Especially for construction of large, specialized purpose open-sea vessels where the amount of imported technology is large, the work is just a question of assembly and the Korean companies play a minor role in the actual development process. The reality of Russia’s position today disallows this sort of strategy, particularly for the construction of a modern navy.
Shipyards certainly will not be able to find space before the end of this decade more the construction of the Project 23560 Lider destroyer, to say nothing of building an aircraft carrier. Possibly for this reason the country’s leadership and naval command decided not to hurry the process. It makes sense to study the engineering and construction decisions made on analogous enemy ships and prepare the technical response in Russia’s own ships in order to level the playing field as much as possible. In this case it would be better to invest in research and technological development such as missile systems, strike coordination systems, and unmanned aerial vehicles. At the same time existing systems should be modernized and if resources allow, ships of whatever type can be built over the course of seven or eight years. Following on this it would be reasonable to begin the development of just one series of frigate.
Concerning the propulsion for the proposed aircraft carriers and destroyers, it may not make sense to develop a gas turbine engine from scratch for these types of ships. Warships in distant waters with gas turbine engines would be extremely reliant on refueling. For the US Navy which has a network of bases and supplies, this is not a problem. However, the Russian Navy would be better served by building ships with nuclear propulsion. For example, the KN-3 TARKR reactors from the Project 1144 Pyotr Velikiy were developed on the foundation of icebreakers’ OK-900 reactors. Today, next generation RITM-200 reactors are used in the new LK-60Ya icebreakers (Arktika, Sibir, and Ural). They are lighter and more compact than the OK-900, but operate for three times as long and use 80% as much fuel. It needs to be refueled every seven years (as opposed to ever 2 or 3 like the OK-900) using civilian 20% enriched uranium, however it never needs to be refueled using more heavily enriched uranium. Probably the entire military-industrial complex is practical applications for the RITM-200 reactor so with modifications it could be installed on the destroyers. The first icebreaker sporting the type of propulsion system should enter service in 2019.
Speaking of existing gas turbine engine models, the implementation of their mass production is one example of successfully and quickly replacing Ukrainian production. Another example of fairly quickly developing domestic capacity was the production of VKhD water-water coolant systems and MKhD water-oil coolant systems. Russian diesel engines are constantly becoming more reliable. In 2017 the Kingiseppskiy Machine-building Factory officially announced the launch of the diesel family M-50 and M-500. According to the results of a comprehensive audit, the company presented the necessary technological processes in the manufacturing of components for marine engines of various sizes, including the ChN18/20 and ChN16/17. In this industry it is much more important to develop the processes, modernization, and construction of diesel engines for ships of smaller displacement. Balance needs to be found between constant regulation of the industry and at the same time maintain competitive conditions. The first half of this can be accomplished with the establishment of a center to monitor the industry which will process details about the pace of work and fulfillment of government defense contracts. This type of control would provide alerts about problems and allow for additional material and financing to be directed at those issues. Stimulating competition in the industry is a much less familiar task for the Russian military-industrial complex. Today, the industry is essentially a monopoly and naval command lacks influence over it in the case of delays or quality issues. Increasing competition would prevent situations like a practically finished ship not being put into service because its engines are faulty.
As for bases and supplies, some historically active bases could be reinstated with some countries in Africa and South-east Asia.
Considering the preceding analysis, the Russian surface fleet is currently unable to effectively realize the demands of the Maritime Doctrine to 2030. This is due to a whole series of problems such as a lack of personnel, the loss of industrial capacity, and the lack of a space in which to build aircraft carriers and other large ships. On top of this, the condition of fleet itself is deteriorating. The remedies applied by the Russian leadership have not been enough. Following the logic in GPV 2018-2027 and the actual condition of the Navy’s surface fleet, by 2030 Russia could lose components of the fleet which are able to independently and effectively act on open-seas. Of course as a branch of the armed forces, the Navy will still exist, but the maximum which could be expected would be the defense of its own bases and parts of the Russian coast with demonstrations in seas close to Russian territory. Furthermore, the ability of the Navy to carry out one of its most important tasks, the deployment of naval strategic nuclear forces, would be put in doubt. Nuclear and diesel submarines deployed without surface cover are defenseless and blind.
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On the other hand, there are many signals that the military and political leadership clearly understands these issues and how things stand in the Navy, and place high importance on the development of naval power.
The Russian leadership is planning to develop the fleet for asymmetrical containment using modern twenty-first century technology like that which President Putin recently unveiled to the world. These plans include automation of manned and unmanned naval systems, unmanned surface ships and submarines, modern torpedoes and missiles, and weapons based on new principles of physics.
Concerning the ocean-going surface fleet, the technical redevelopment of shipyards, training of personnel and specialists, and R&D on potential projects will all have to be waited on. Only then can the modernization of the fleet really begin.
Therefore, for the foreseeable future, the surface fleet must defend Russian waters with corvettes and frigates. To discuss a growing Russian naval presence on the high seas in the near-term would be premature. The surface fleet could at most carry out one campaign or one extended tour on the oceans.
The situation that meets this definition right now is the Navy’s deployment in the eastern Mediterranean Sea as part of the Syrian intervention.
An effective presence on open-seas will not be possible earlier than 2030 and only if current naval funding and other defense programs are maintained at their current levels.
On October 19, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah called on Saudi Arabia to make a “brave” decision and put an end to the war in Yemen and warned the Kingdom’s leadership that the international support for them was shaken by the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“The leaders of Saudi Arabia should know that the international cover for their war on Yemen has begun to collapse, especially after this incident … Today the kingdom’s image worldwide is the worst in its history,” Nasrallah said during a televised speech.
Nasrallah went on to say that Saudi Arabia had suffered from large loses on ever lever as a result of its intervention in Yemen despite that it had international support. The Lebanese leader also predicted that the Saudi leadership will witness its end soon if it continues with its “stubborn” policies.
The disappearance of Khashoggi, who was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, have led to unprecedented international pressure on Saudi Arabia and its leadership. However, Hezbollah and its allies, Iran and Syria, have chosen to not comment on the issue, according to Nasrallah.
If the war in Yemen ends, this would for sure improve Saudi Arabia image and would allow to solve the humanitarian crisis in the war-torn country. However, this is unlikely any time soon. The US and the Saudi-led coalition use Yemen as a battleground in their proxy-war against Iran. Furthermore, Riyadh sees the establishment of a loyal government in Sanaa as a key point in its national security strategy.
The major French daily Le Figaro on Thursday published a bombshell story which reports the Saudi royal family is actively considering a replacement to crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) as next in line to succeed his father King Salman as the kingdom finds itself under the greatest international pressure and scrutiny it’s faced in its modern history over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi — widely believed to have been killed on orders of MbS himself.
For several days, the Allegiance Council for the ruling Saudi family is meeting in the utmost discretion, says a diplomatic source to Le Figaro in Paris. The information has been confirmed by a Saudi Arabian contacted in Riyadh. Composed of a delegate representing each of the clans — at least seven — of the royal family, this body, responsible for inheritance problems, examines the situation created by the disappearance, still unresolved, more than a fortnight ago, of the journalist dissident Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
The report in France’s oldest top three national newspapers further suggests the ruling family is seeking to replace the 33-year old MbS with his much less ambitious and more predictable brother, Prince Khalid bin Salman.
Image source: AP file photo
The council was already seen as having broken the customary rules of succession last year when it appointed MbS as the new crown prince over next-in-line to the throne Mohammed bin Nayef; however, the council’s authority has tended to be seen as a rubber stamp on already decided succession by the most powerful figures within the ruling family.
The Le Figaro report further cited a Saudi source who explained the transition wouldn’t necessarily be immediate, but that Khalid would gradually replace his brother.
Khalid, who’s even younger than MbS at 28, is said to be popular both at home and abroad, and is generally seen as someone who can improve the kingdom’s image in the West.
Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. Prince Khalid bin Salman. He was recalled last week after Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance.
He’s been Saudi ambassador to the United States since taking the post in April 2017 but was recalled last week, according to The New York Times. He flew directly back to Riyadh where he was present for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s high pressure but brief visit with King Salman and MbS to discuss to Khashoggi disappearance.
Newsweek summarizes his political career as follows:
Before becoming an ambassador, the prince was an adviser at Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Washington as well as at the Ministry of Defense in Riyadh, according to his bio on the embassy’s website. Prior to that, he served as a pilot in the kingdom’s air force, flying F-15s and taking parting in more than 50 combat missions in Syria and Yemen.
When he took his post in Washington, Marcelle M. Wahba, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and president of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, told Saudi Arabia’s English-language newspaper Arab News that Prince Khalid’s biggest challenge would be improving and broadening the kingdom’s image.
If the ruling family is pushing to replace MbS, it’s likely to be announced fast (or at least “leaks” of the news will continue) in order to relieve the continued pressure on Riyadh.
Currently a public campaign is mounting for lobbying and media companies to pull out of Saudi events, especially the Saudi Future Investment Initiative summit set for this month — which as of Thursday US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he would not be attending, adding his name to a host of other officials.
[Note: This comment comes from friend David Rosenthal. DLH]
From: “David S. H. Rosenthal” <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Re: [Dewayne-Net] Before Arguing About DNA Tests, Learn the Science Behind Them Date: October 19, 2018 at 12:10:12 PM EDT To: email@example.com
[Note: This comment comes from friend Joly MacFie. DLH]
From: Joly MacFie <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Re: [Dewayne-Net] Supreme Court agrees to hear a case that could determine whether social media companies can censor their users Date: October 18, 2018 at 12:34:08 AM EDT To: email@example.com
Hi Dewayne, Dave
Many Internauts will be familiar with DeeDee Halleck via her longtime membership in ICANN’s GNSO Noncommercial Constituency!
Her Wikipedia bio describes her lifelong advocacy of Independent media. It’s ironic that her position in this case is one that may be endorsed by those who partake in divisive partisanship.
However, there is a world of difference between so called PEG-tv and social media. Public Access Channels are mandated under the Cable Communications Act of 1984 which requires cable operators to set aside channels for public, educational, and governmental use, while specifying the operators have First Amendment protection for program content (unlike over-the-air broadcasters). State and local government franchisors may specify the number and types of channels and authorize public access.
Not surprising that the courts decided MNN was a state actor.
The prospect that a SCOTUS decision either way could affect commercial social media seems remote.
PS1: Declaration of Interest: I do a fortnightly show on MNN for ISOC-NY
PS2: A plug. I will be streaming this event on Oct 25. COMO III: Content Moderation & The Future Of Online Speech
Repairnator is a bot that identifies bugs in open source software integration and creates patches without human intervention, submitting them to the open source project’s maintainers under an assumed human identity; it has succeeded in having five of its patches accepted so far.
Repairnator’s creator, Martin Monperrus, has found that human software maintainers have a bias against accepting patches generated by bots, but will willingly accept the same code if its author is identified as another human.
To demonstrate that program repair is human-competitive, a program repair bot has to find a high-quality patch before a human does so. In this context, a patch can be considered to be human-competitive if it satisfies the two conditions of timeliness and quality. Timeliness refers to the fact that the system must find a patch before the human developer. In other words, the prototype system must produce patches in the order of magnitude of minutes, not days. Also, the patch generated by the bot must be correct-enough, of similar quality — correct and readable — compared to a patch written by a human. Note that there are patches that look correct from the bot’s point of view, yet that are incorrect (this is known as overfitting patches in the literature [6, 3]). Those patches are arguably not human-competitive, because humans would never accept them in their code base.
Consequently, for a patch to be human-competitive 1) the bot has to synthesize the patch faster than the human developer 2) the patch has to be judged good-enough by the human developer and permanently merged in the code base.
There is one more aspect to consider. It has been shown that human engineers do not accept contributions from bots as easily as contributions from other humans, even if they are strictly identical . The reason is that humans tend to have a priori biases against machines, and are more tolerant to errors if the contribution comes from a human peer. In the context of program repair, this means that developers may put the bar higher on the quality of the patch, if they know that the patch comes from a bot. This would impede our quest for a human-competitiveness proof in the context of program repair. Human-competitive Patches in Automatic Program Repair with Repairnator [Martin Monperrus/Medium]
On October 19, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad met with Russian President’s Special Envoy to Syria Alexander Lavrentiev and discussed the recent developments in the war-torn country, according to the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA).
During the meeting, Lavrentiev briefed al-Assad on the outcomes of his tour in the region, which included Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Furthermore, the Russian diplomat stressed that Russia seeks to exchange views on the issues of the region, especially the political process in Syria and and the battle against terrorism.
“The Russian side is satisfied with the positive attitude shown by Damascus and its openness to everything that would contribute to moving forward and achieving the desired progress on this path,” the SANA quoted Lavrentiev as saying.
The return of Syrian refuges was also discussed by the two sides during the meeting, that was attended by senior Syria officials and Russia’s ambassador in Damascus. According to the SANA, Assad stressed that the return of the Syrians to their home is a fundamental objective and is a priority for the work of the Damascus government.
The meeting reflects the high level of coordination between the Damascus government and Russia, which is currently working with several regional and international partners to stabilize Syria and promote political process there.
Agreements on the demilitarized zone in Idlib have not been implemented by Turkey as of yet, but Russia is grateful to its Turkish partners for the work they are doing, Russian President Vladimir Putin told a plenary session of the Valdai Discussion Club on Thursday.
“No, they haven’t implemented [them] as of yet, but they are working on this,” Putin said when asked whether Turkey had met its part of engagements. “We see that they are working. Things are not that easy, on the contrary, everything is difficult,” the president said.
“But they are carrying out their obligations, and this demilitarized zone, which we agreed to set up, the 15 to 20-kilometer deep Idlib de-escalation zone, is being created,” the president added.
Not all militants have been withdrawn, the Russian leader said. “The Turkish partners are doing everything to comply with their commitments,” Putin said, adding that the Turkish partners had even deployed a military hospital to that region. He characterized Turkey as a “rather tough and rather efficient” party in fight against terrorism.
The “Singularity” is a metaphor taken from the physics of Ray Kuezweil, founder of the Singularity University, used to describe the technological process that will manage to combine human being with technology. That’s the reason why the Singularity University has the purpose of teaching the leaders how to apply modern exponential technologies to anthropological, social and ecologic changes required by the technological world.
This aim clearly succeeds in preparing the best transhumanist researchers and directors of the world since some of them merge with the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), one of the most important research universities of the world; with the DARPA, a governmental institution of the United States Department of Defense for the development of new technologies for military use; With Google, Microsoft and others…
The fact that the Singularity University locates in the Silicon Valley, in a plot of land owned by the NASA and the fact that Google is one of its best sponsors, is a further demonstration that its idea of the world is shared with who creates and maintains the conditions of the social ecological disaster we are facing. Then, they would like to find a solution to this disaster by putting a patch on it.
Oh, don’t worry! It seems like they have found the famous patch, it is an artificial and robotic patch. In fact, by using the technology they think they can face the so-called “great challenges of humanity”: the possibility of a happy future is guaranteed.
A future that, replying to the fear of the death and the desire of immortality, promises a therapy of diseases, the absorption of environmental pollutants, the defeat of poverty and famine. But you have to barter this fantastic eventuality for the complete reception of this technological world.
By replying to the desire of a better life with no sufferings and limits, transhumanists are planning a world which is artificial, digitized, engineered and nanotechnological.
But you mustn’t fall into this trap: more technology didn’t bring and won’t bring more happiness and freedom, it brings actually the exact opposite. These technologies are instruments for power and they can’t bring anything but the maintenance and the spread of the power itself and also the manipulation of bodies. The singularity is not just the creation of super smart machines: first of all, it is the birth of a new totalitarian regime where human beings control other human beings and the world by using new technologies. A regime where the human being, sure of his skill to manipulate everything around to his taste, can give himself the false hope of being free and chasing his dream of perfection by boosting himself and eliminating any borders and any physical limits to create the Cyborg.
In a world like this the bodies and the natural elements don’t represent an unavailable foundation anymore; they become usable, manipulating, improving. The singularity these scientists want to transmit to us doesn’t correspond with the uniqueness and the singularity of the individual, but with the uniformity and the homogenization due to the technological development.
A technosciences guru once gave his followers a warning that could extend also to his opponents: “Don’t stand aside to the Singularity, you have the chance to lead your efforts to the point of greatest collision, the beginning”.
The fight against these processes and this techno-world, feeling the need of it, before it is too late.
An interview with Spenser Rapone — the “commie cadet” that got kicked out of the military for standing against US imperialism.
Spenser Rapone was accepted to West Point in 2012, graduated in 2016 — and received an “other than honorable discharge” in June. His expulsion came after a viral tweet showing him — clad in uniform, fist raised — displaying a hat reading, “COMMUNISM WILL WIN.”
“I was always told growing up that the US military protects the innocent, that we fight for freedom, truth, and justice,” Rapone tells Rory Fanning in the following interview. “It didn’t take me long to realize that my experiences did not reflect that in the slightest.”
Fanning — himself a former Army Ranger — spoke with Rapone at the Socialism 2018 conference in Chicago earlier this year. They discussed Rapone’s time in the military, the myths of American empire, and how to rebuild the antiwar movement. Their conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Can you start off by telling us about your background and why you decided to join the military?
I’m from New Castle, Pennsylvania, which is a classic Rust Belt city. I’m one of six children from, at the time, a single-income family. I did well in high school, and I might have been able to go to a state school, but I really couldn’t afford it. And I was a young male in American society, so I watched a lot of Hollywood movies, a lot of TV shows. That conditions you to think a certain way about the world, about what’s morally right and ethical. So I decided to enlist as an infantryman out of high school.
Soon after enlisting and finishing basic training, military airborne school, and ranger selection, I was deployed to Afghanistan, to Khost Province — right on the Pakistan border. I was told I was in this elite unit with elite soldiers. But the men I was surrounded by took active pleasure in killing other human beings and dehumanizing people because they have different cultures or a different religion. I was always told growing up that the US military protects the innocent, that we fight for freedom, truth, and justice. It didn’t take me long to realize that my experiences did not reflect that in the slightest.
I was deployed for most of the summer of 2011. I got back and began trying to process what I witnessed. At that time, I had some idea of what US imperialism constituted from my own experiences, but I didn’t have a political education, which is crucial to understanding these things. So I thought, like the adage goes, maybe I could “change things from the inside.” I applied to West Point, and got accepted.
From there I began to realize the issue was a structural phenomenon — that one good person can’t effect change when the system is inherently wrong. I soon found myself trying to resolve the contradiction of my future officership. I wouldn’t just be a soldier — I’d have to influence soldiers who were my subordinates. I’d have to tell them the mission we were doing was right when I had firsthand experience as a teenager in Afghanistan that what we were doing was not right. We were just persecuting and terrorizing some of the most exploited people on Earth with one of the most technologically advanced militaries in history.
You served under both Obama and Trump. Can you talk about some of the differences among active-duty soldiers under each president?
When I enlisted during the Obama era, one of the prevailing themes was “the commander in chief doesn’t understand what we’re doing.” The casual racism you see in American society is intensified in the military because of the hyper-masculine environment, especially in combat arms.
At the end of the day, the material effects of US foreign policy are largely the same [between administrations], but when Trump was elected, there was a noticeable shift. Before, soldiers would feel hesitant about saying blatantly racist or sexist things. Trump’s election emboldened them to act out in a way that wasn’t typical before.
While Trump himself may be more of a parody-fascist than a fascist, it was as if that election was releasing the forces of a new kind of fascism. Within the military ranks, that was prevalent. A lot of guys were getting excited at the prospect that we might go into North Korea or possibly Iran.
We have to talk about the picture that caused this whole situation for you. For those who haven’t seen it, Spenser is at his West Point graduation. He’s holding up a sign under his hat, and it says, “Communism will win.” But you sat on the photo for a while. You posted it with a hashtag, #VeteransforKaepernick. Can you describe why you decided to say that?
I sat on those photos — the first one of “Communism will win” inscribed in my hat, the second one of me wearing a Che Guevara shirt underneath [my uniform] — from the time I graduated in May 2016 to September 2017.
This was for a couple reasons. First, to get through West Point despite my political beliefs — I was almost kicked out my senior year for espousing a communist political line. Second, I knew if I was authentic in my worldview, I wouldn’t be able to continue serving my full commitment. I’d have to find a way out somehow. Getting out of the military is daunting, especially as an officer.
So I took those pictures both as my own individual act of rebellion, but also so that if there was ever an opening, I could use them for some larger, political purpose.
The opening I saw was the one-year anniversary of Colin Kaepernick’s protest of police brutality. A year prior, you had taken a picture at a Cubs game holding up a sign saying, “Vets for Kaepernick,” and I kept that idea in my back pocket. The debate on Kaepernick started up again, with Trump denouncing him and other football players expressing solidarity.
I decided that was an opening to express how I feel. I didn’t expect it to go viral like it did, but I thought maybe I could influence other soldiers. Or at the very least, I’d be able to remove myself from the army and find a way to talk about my experiences in some type of antiwar movement.
Plus, Colin Kaepernick risked his career to support a cause. He could have been comfortable for the rest of his life. But he put some skin in the game, and he suffered for it. I figured this was the least I could do if I was serious about my own beliefs.
Can you talk about the repercussions afterwards, not only from the military, but the right-wing media, your family, etc.? Thoughts like yours go through a lot of soldiers’ heads, but it’s the repercussions that keep them from acting on them.
The next morning, one of the field-grade officers said to me, “So, I hear you’re a fan of Colin Kaepernick,” and I thought, “Oh boy, here we go.” Then my chain of command pulled me aside and told me I was under investigation. They read me my rights and told me I had the right to an attorney. Then they essentially confined me to a range tower, which is a tall structure where you can oversee all the different operations happening on the rifle range.
They made me stay in there for what they told me was for my own safety. Immediately, I had friends and family members reaching out to me. The right-wing hysteria was quickly whipped up: publications like the Daily Caller and Infowars ran stories. Alex Jones challenged me to a boxing match. That didn’t faze me too much, but my family was worried, and began to get “alt-right” trolls trying to dox me and find their information.
My attorney told me that the military would win in this situation because of the way the uniform code of military justice is structured. You’re essentially guilty until proven innocent. Although it’s not illegal to be a communist in the military, there are other ways to formulate their arguments to repress you.
Eventually I was pulled out of the field and went through the different legal channels. Within that time period, Marco Rubio wrote a letter to the acting secretary of the army, Ryan McCarthy. He said I should have my commission revoked, my degree pulled — unclear how that latter demand would work — and called for a larger investigation of other troops. This launched a separate investigation back at West Point: hundreds of cadets who were even remotely associated with me were interviewed, and they were asked about their politics.
While waiting for the verdict, I was told I couldn’t say anything publicly. I had to bite my tongue and wait until I was officially reprimanded, which happened in December 2017. I was told this would initiate a show-cause board, which is where you show why you should be retained, or you show why you should leave on their terms.
I tried to submit a conditional resignation, saying I wanted to leave, and asked for a general discharge. But they said “no,” and that I could either go to a board of inquiry, which is basically an adversarial trial — one side presents their case, I present mine — or I could leave unconditionally. I didn’t want to grovel before the empire, and knew it’d be a show trial at best, so I submitted my resignation. That was accepted, and I got issued an “other than honorable” discharge.
I want to shift gears. We’re in Chicago. This is home to the largest concentration of JROTC students in any school district in the country. Ten thousand students are enrolled in the program; 55 percent are black, 40 percent are Latinx. But when you talk to these kids who are signed up, they can tell you very little about the last seventeen years of the war, much less the history of US imperialism around the world. You signed up and went to West Point, in part, for an education. What would you tell these kids who are looking for an education, looking for a way out of poverty, about the military?
First, when you’re talking to a teenager about this subject, there’s no effective argument that says, “You’re too smart for this, you could do better, etc.” That’s usually condescending. But you can explain what their material relation to violence and power will be as a soldier and the harsh reality of what that means.
Whether you’re in combat arms or not, there’s a tangible chance that you’ll be killed. But as bad as that is, there’s something very different about taking a human life yourself, let alone if you don’t understand what cause it’s serving. So, you explain that, and ask questions about how if you’re an infantryman, and you’re forced to kill another human being, whose interest is that serving and why were you so prepared to take that human life in the first place?
And even if you’re not in combat, you’re supplying the bullets, you’re supplying the food, to aid in the war effort. Whether you’re on the front lines or not, you’re still complicit in the killing of other human beings and the pursuit of US foreign policy.
If you’re able to articulate what that will do to you as a human being, and how you’ll be forced to live with that — and that’s not scare-mongering, it’s speaking to what they will actually have to execute as a soldier in the US military — that can at least plant the seed for them to grapple with these questions. Even if they decide to join, at least they’ll be armed with some degree of critical thinking. When they’re faced with those situations, they might find the courage to resist, or find a way out.
During the Vietnam War era, we had hundreds of union meetings happening within the rank and file of the military on a daily basis. We had hundreds of incidents where soldiers were fragging and killing their officers. We saw people hijack helicopters within the ranks to drop propaganda flyers over military bases. But we also had a large student movement that was providing a support network, with coffeehouses and structures to welcome soldiers who were resisting back into civilian life and treating them with the respect they deserve for resisting. We also had the Viet Cong resisting.
The Viet Cong and the Afghan resistance — that people in these countries are resisting — is the only similarity I can see between the Vietnam era and the current global “war on terror.” For example, it’s illegal to have union meetings in the military now.
It’s a big question, but how do you see soldiers organizing now? You’re proof that resistance is still possible within an all-volunteer military, but how do we create more of that?
The war resisters from Vietnam were not all draftees; a substantial portion were volunteers. The narrative that a conscription army is the only thing that will produce war resisters is flawed and ahistorical.
Yes, there were attempts to create military labor unions. It’s now in US military code that that’s illegal. In fact, in the documents about my investigation, one of the charges against me was about advocating for military labor unions.
But you asked how we get more people to resist. Part of it is how we term “antiwar,” and what that means. Initially, after the invasion of Iraq, there was a substantial antiwar movement, but five years later, with the election of Barack Obama, a lot of that dissipated.
When it comes to antiwar resistance there’s an insistence on making it anti-Trump, or at the time, anti-Bush, rather than antiwar. So, one key is articulating “antiwar” in terms of the structural phenomena we witness: how war is profitable, how it’s designed to be endless. There’s no tangible objective other than to make it endless, to continue lining the pockets of Raytheon, Boeing, and so on.
As to how to reach soldiers, you need to meet them where they are. No one likes being in the military, in the moment. But what happens is that because in the US our civic religion is patriotism, folks who at one time had nothing but hate for it — they couldn’t stand being in the field, waking up for [physical training] — when they get out, they’re placed on a pedestal as a veteran. If we reach them and can tell them that none of these people who sing your praises now really care about you outside of serving their own political interests, that’s critical. A glaring example of that is that many of the politicians who claim to be staunch patriots and support the troops want to privatize the VA.
Aside from that, reaching active-duty soldiers? No one likes to deploy; no one likes to be separated from their friends and family to go inflict violence on human beings. Even some of the true believers who claim they enjoy it or relish it — deep down, they know what they’re doing.
But it’s very daunting: how in the world are you supposed to say, “No, I’m not deploying.” That’s on us to create the structures — to have places for dissident soldiers and military personnel. To tell them that there’s more to your skills as a soldier than firing a weapon. There are many different social movements and organizations you could join, where you could actually aid people, and actually fight for freedom, for liberation, for emancipation.
Playing the denouncement game toward those soldiers isn’t politically viable, nor does it make much sense. That said, we also need to do some de-programming with soldiers — I myself had to go through it — and it’s going to take a lot of patience. But we need to find a way to bring them in, create spaces for them to name their experiences, and then use their knowledge and abilities at organizing and working on a team to support emancipatory movements and socialist politics.
On October 19, a Russian military-diplomatic source told the TASS news agency that Russian specialists are converting S-300PM air defense systems, which had been delivered to Syria, into the S-300PMU-2 Favorit version.
“In October, three battalions of S-300PM systems and their ammunition load were delivered to Syria. Later, a regimental command post was brought to the country. All the hardware makes part of the S-300PM equipment set, except for the reconnaissance and air target detection radar of the regiment’s command post, which is part of the S-300PM-2,” the source told TASS.
According to the source, the specialists will change codes and letter frequencies of the ground interrogator and the letter frequencies of the radar for Syrian versions. The specialists work will reportedly end before November.
The S-300PM version uses domestic Russian codes and letter frequencies, which can’t be shared with any other country. However, the S-300PMU-2 Favorit is the export version, which will allow Syria to use its own codes and letter frequencies and integrate the systems into its air defense network.