Archive for the On Foreign Affairs Category

A Pompous, Duplicitous, Souless, SCHMUCK!

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On Israel, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , on August 13, 2015 by playthell
Chuck-schumer
A Phony Windbag for Sale
 Chucky C shows his True Colors

Oy Vey!  How could I have been so wrong about a politician; especially one from New York City that I have been watching for years?  However in my defense I should point out that “watching” a public figure is not the same thing as covering them.  I have never covered Schumer during the years when I was an active member of the New York media.  There just always seemed to be more interesting subjects that commanded my time and attention.

However he is such a ubiquitous figure on the Big Apple political scene you can’t miss noticing him….kinda like the Empire State Building or the Brooklyn Bridge.  But I have always considered him to be a progressive New York Democrat, a champion of liberal policies cut from the same mold as Congressman Andrew Weiner – whose brilliant career as an uncompromising liberal progressive voice was abruptly ended because he couldn’t keep his pecker in his pants; alas Weiner flashed his weenie on the internet and Shazaam damn he was gone!

Although given the stranglehold pro-Israeli Jews have on New york politics, there is no guarantee that Weiner would have behaved any differently were he in the Senate.  Yet as things stand Schmuck Schumer’s sin is far worse than Weiner’s – who only engaged in “safe sex” from a distance, as I argued in my feeble defense of the flasher Congressman from Brooklyn – for Chucky has royally screwed us all.

When he rejected the arduously and creatively negotiated Iran nuclear deal, a great model of diplomatic acumen, he callously broke his dick off in us and we will suffer from this dastardly deed for many moons.  Furthermore, pompous Putz that he is, he had the unmitigated gall to try and play us for fools….to pile insult upon injury, when he tells us that his position on the deal is “a matter of conscience.”

What does he take us for anyway?  We are not the clueless untutored mob that call themselves the “Republican base” and dominate the presidential electoral process in the Grand Obstructionist Party; forcing even reasonably intelligent pretenders to the presidency to say embarrassingly stupid things.  We are New Yorkers Dog!  We are a different breed of animal from those “low information” churls.

The plain truth is that Schumer’s rejection of the Iran treaty is one of the most brazen, unprincipled and shameful acts of political opportunism I have ever witnessed in all my years of observing serious political actors on the stage of history.  What Schumer has tried to camouflage as an “act of conscience,” is in reality a shameless surrender to the demands of the Israel Lobby and its activist arm AIPAC: American Israel Political Action Committee, who is waging a relentless struggle to kill the deal.

Hence the question that begs to be asked of Senator Schumer is just what is he agonizing over, what are the issues at stake that has so deeply touched his moral core?  To listen to the Senator’s public expressions of angst one is not certain as to the source of his suffering.  Is it fear for the security of Israel, the USA? Or is there nothing more important at stake than salvaging his political career….a courser commentator indifferent to the imperatives good manners and unencumbered by the niceties of language, might just say that old Schmucky Chucky is just covering his ass!

Yet, as is characteristic of pompous poseurs driven by vanity, blind ambition and addiction to power, the Senator attempts to disguise his malignant motives with pious self-serving rhetoric.  However we are fortunate to be living in a nation with a free press, which means that reporters and pundits can say what they want.

Thus even in a city where it is dangerous to disagree with the aims of AIPAC, risking a possible career ending censure from Abe The Inquisitor over at the ADL, ala the great Helen Thomas, we sometimes get pearls of wisdom from thoughtful observers that can be employed in the service of an elusive truth that blind supporters of Israel wish to obfuscate.  They have often tried,  been often denied, but they are certainly willing to be tried again!   However Tom Freedman, the Three times Pulitzer Prize winning Foreign Affairs columnist for the New York Times wrote a very revealing column titled “If I Were An Israeli…”

Freedman poses his argument by viewing the deal through the eyes of three Israeli’s of different status and responsibility: a grocer, a general and the Prime Minister.  “If I were a grocer just following the deal on the radio,” says Freedman, “I’d hate it for enshrining Iran’s right to enrich uranium…If I were an Israeli general, I’d share my grocer’s skepticism, but end up somewhere else (as many Israeli military officers have).  I’d start by recalling what the Israeli statesman Abba Eban used to say when Israeli hawks would argue against taking risks for peace with the Palestinians, that Israel is not ‘a disarmed Costa Rica.’”  Freedman candidly points out a reality that the US and Israeli governments have gone to uncanny lengths to deny in order to maintain the dangerous fiction that the Middle East is a nuclear free zone, arguing that Israel “not only possesses some 100 to 200 nuclear weapons, it also can deliver them to Iran by plane, submarine and long range rocket.”  Even if we take the lowest estimate of 100 the Israeli arsenal would have 40 more nuclear weapons than Great Britain!

Freedman makes yet another point that Israel’s Islamic enemies understand well but is ignored by its all powerful ally the USA.  “Israel plays, when it has to, by what I’ve called ‘Hama rules’ –war without mercy.  The Israeli army tries to avoid hitting civilian targets, but it has demonstrated in both Lebanon and Gaza that it will not be deterred by the threat of civilian Arab casualties when Hezbollah and or Hamas launches its rockets from civilian areas.”

Freedman makes no attempt to disguise the ugly realities of this policy: “It is not pretty, but this is not Scandinavia.  The Jewish state has survived in an Arab Muslim sea because its neighbors know that for all its western mores it will not be out-crazied.  It will play by local rules.  Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah know this, which is why Israel’s generals know they possess significant deterrence against an Iranian bomb.” Given the great superiority of Israeli military might, and its demonstrated willingness to deploy it without restraint, it would take a collective fit of madness among Iran’s political and military leaders in order for them to attack Israel…a death wish.

Thus those who, like Senator Schumer, posit an Iranian attack on Israel as a real threat that should determine America’s posture toward the nuclear treaty negotiated by Secretary of State John Kerry at the behest of President Obama, are either ignoramuses or charlatans cavalierly playing Russian roulette with the fate of Middle East peoples.

As I have argued repeatedly: There is no evidence that the leaders of Iran are any more willing to commit national suicide than any other nation on earth.  Deterrence works, as is demonstrated by the fact that nation’s with huge nuclear arsenals have been restrained from using them by the knowledge that it would result in the nuclear obliteration of their nation.

This has held true for Russia, China, North Korea and even Pakistan, whose nuclear weapon was developed under the reign of General Muhammad Zia, who called it “the Islamic Bomb” and whose nuclear scientists have more than a few Muslim fanatics in its ranks.  Tom Freedman shares my view of the Iranian leadership’s disinclination to commit national suicide. “Iran’s ayatollahs have long demonstrated they are not suicidal. As the Israeli strategists Shai Feldman and Ariel Levite wrote recently in National Interests : It is noteworthy that during its noteworthy that during its thirty six year history the Islamic Public of Iran never gambled its survival as Iraq Saddam Hussein did three times.”

As for of Bibi Netanyahu’s attempts to kill the deal by getting the US Senate to vote against ratification-  an incredibly hubristic act – thereby checking the power of President Obama to carry out his constitutional responsibility to conduct US foreign policy, Freedman suggests an alternative strategy.    “I’d recognize that that if my lobbyist in Washington actually succeeded in getting Congress to scrap this deal, the result wouldn’t be a better deal. It would be no deal, so Iran would remain three months from a bomb – and with no intrusive inspectors, with collapsing sanctions and Israel, not Iran, diplomatically isolated. So rather than fighting with President Obama, as prime minister I’d be telling him Israel will support this deal but it wants the US to increase what really matters – its deterrence capability….”  Freedman goes on to suggest measures to accomplish this that strikes this writer as silly and redundant.

First of all, I consider the entire fuss about the consequences of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon much ado about nothing.  Should the Iranians get such a weapon they will pose no great danger to anyone because it will become part of Iran’s defensive arsenal not a weapon of aggression which, as we have already established, would be an act of national suicide. Secondly this charade around Iran is taking our attention away from dealing with the real nuclear threat to our existence – indeed the existence of all life on earth – is the creeping threat of an outbreak of war between NATO forces in Eastern Europe and Russia!

In my view the only real explanation for American hysteria about an Iranian bomb is the desire of Israel to maintain its nuclear monopoly in the Middle East, and to a lesser degree the fears of the medieval, corrupt, anti—democratic, Sunni monarchy Saudi Arabia.  Neither objective even comes close to justifying the war that will inevitably result from the scrapping of this nuclear deal with Iran should the Senate reject it, a war that will make the Iraq invasion look like a dress rehearsal for the real drama.

In view of the facts revealed in Mr. Freedman’s erudite and insightful commentary, and the additional points I have elaborated on, the thoughtful observer is forced to ask:” How is it that Mr. Freedman, a mere newspaper columnist, or an independent public intellectual like this writer, can understand these critical questions so much better than Senator Schumer; especially when we can only commentate while the Senator will deliberate…casting a vote that will affect the course of these historic events.

Since Schumer is not, by any objective measure, a fool or ignoramus, his actions suggest that he is a callous charlatan who places his political survival above any sense of a greater duty to support what is best for the people of Israel and America.  Are we to believe that Senator Schumer, a Harvard Law graduate with a well trained staff to brief him on important matters, does not understand the critical points Freedman so adroitly argues in this  Commentary.

Despite the denigration of a Harvard Law education by the brazen buffoonery of Senator Ted Cruz – who sometimes reminds me of the insane in the brain 20th century Democratic Senator Joseph McCarthy, and at other times Daffy Duck alas –we still have a right to expect Harvard Law grads to be armed with basic information about critical issues – not present us with transparently bogus moralizing cynically contrived to confuse the issue…issues of life and death.

I find this kind of cold blooded amoral political calculous beyond despicable!   It is so odious that I could find no words of invective, even employing the language of Chaucer and Shakespeare, powerful enough to fully express my contempt for his scurrilous decision!  This is why I have expended no effort in addressing Schumer’s specific complaints against the deal; I regard them as nothing more than a transparent attempt to justify a foregone conclusion that he knows in his heart and mind to be false.

Many progressive who have supported  Senator Schumer in the past are now running away from him as if he was diagnosed with Ebola.  People who have raised millions of dollars for him such as Moveon.org, whose 8 million members have pledged not to give him another nickel!   And I shall enthusiastically follow their lead!  Schmuck Schumer has permanently torn his ass with me…I wouldn’t vote for Chucky again even if the office up for grabs was village dog catcher!  It is high time that we support real progressives like Senator Bernie Sanders, and bid the homo sapien invertebrates that would try and confuse us by advertising cowardice as virtue,  adieu.

 Sneaky Rascal: Trying to hide his real motives!
Chuck Schumer
But we see you for what you really are!

*************************

  Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York 
August 13, 2015

 

Blundering Toward Doomsday!

Posted in On Foreign Affairs with tags , , , on July 5, 2015 by playthell
Putin-Missile-Test 1210
President Putin Observes Russian Missile Tests
Russia Expands Nuclear Arsenal for first time since End of Cold War

There are a lot of smart and reasonable people who cannot conceive of a nuclear war between Russia and NATO as a real possibility. The reasoning of my learned friend Bill Meissner is typical of this group; he is convinced that no rational leader would initiate a nuclear war.  And thus, as in the past, the MAD doctrine – Mutual Assured Destruction – will continue to restrain political leaders from taking actions that will also result in the destruction of their own nation.  Hence, they reason, there is no real danger of nuclear war with Russia despite the increasing decibel level of the saber rattling. They are wrong.  What they fail to understand is that both things can be true: No leader will give a command to launch a first strike but a nuclear war breaks out anyway.

This is why the obsession with whether the Iranians acquire a nuclear weapon is a fool’s errand that takes us down the road to nowhere in terms of dealing with the real issue concerning  nuclear weapons: the nuclear arsenals of the Russia, the US and NATO.  First of all, I am not convinced that the Iranian leaders are any more willing to commit national suicide than the leaders of any other country; although the fact that Iran is ruled by Islamic clerics that often behave like Mad Mullahs might suggest otherwise.  However even if some religious fanatic were to decide that it was the will of allah to initiate an act of national suicide, the weapons are under the control of military who are unlikely to launch an nuclear strike.  And even if they did, it would be a regional affair.

On the other hand, if the US and Russia fire their nuclear weapons it will spell the end of modern civilization for sure and probably the end of all life on this planet….depending on the extent of the exchange.  In my view, as one who has a solid knowledge of the destructive capability of the US nuclear arsenal by virtue of having served in our nuclear forces with a Top Secret security clearance, once a nuclear exchange commences between NATO – the USA and our nuclear armed allies Germany, France and England – all of the weapons on both sides will be fired.

Hence we are literally talking about snuffing out life forms that may well be unique in a universe composed of billions of galaxies.  It is more than a crime against humanity – which is already achieved by the mere possession of nuclear weapons – it would be a sin against all creation.

The authors of this narrative of nuclear terror that hangs over the people of the world are the leaders of the USA during the mid-twentieth century.  While no thoughtful observer can condemn the US government for initially building an atomic bomb, considering that they were in a war with Nazi Germany who was known to be working on an atomic weapon.   This is what attracted great scientist and humanitarians like Albert Einstein, Edward Teller and the swing dancing jazz loving George Kitakowski, et al to the Manhattan Project that created the bomb.  However it is what the US government decided to do with these weapons after ending World War II by the atomic bombing of Japan.

The leading scientists that worked on the Manhattan Project wanted knowledge of nuclear fission placed under the control of an international commission for safe guarding, otherwise, they predicted, if this technology remained the possession of the USA it would spark an international arms race.  Failure to heed this advice has led to the nuclear quagmire we are in today, when the threat of nuclear war is growing and nobody knows the way out.

I have repeatedly written treatises warning about the drift toward nuclear war, fueled by NATO expansion in Eastern Europe; which is a clear violation of the agreements that ended the Cold War as Stephen Cohen and other leading US Russian experts have repeatedly pointed out.  This danger now centers on the Ukraine Crisis, where the Russians have drawn a line much like the US did when Soviet Russia put missile silos in Cuba.  The world is lucky to have survived that crisis without a nuclear war between the US and Russia; we may not be so lucky this time; especially if any of the  candidates for President gain control of the White House and becomes Commander-In-Chief.                                                                                                                                       To those who think that I am being alarmist should consult the opinion of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, the world’s leading authority on nuclear War.   They are constantly monitoring relations between nuclear armed nations and the set the hands on their atomic clock in order to dramatize how close the world is to nuclear holocaust.  At present the hands stand at 3 minutes to Midnight!  While most people go about their business without giving a thought to the possibility of a nuclear catastrophe, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientist tells us:

Meanwhile, the United States and Russia have embarked on massive programs to modernize their nuclear triads—thereby undermining existing nuclear weapons treaties. “The clock ticks now at just three minutes to midnight because international leaders are failing to perform their most important duty—ensuring and preserving the health and vitality of human civilization.”

The extent to which their fears are based on real developments in the relations between Russia and NATO can be seen in events of the last few days.   First there was the near collision between a Russian Fighter plane that came within ten feet of a US Air Force spy plane attached to NATO over the Black Sea. Pentagon spokesman, Colonel Steve Warren, called the Russian maneuver an “unsafe intercept…unprofessional and inapproiate.”  Then he tried to play down the incident as possibly the result of “a lack of training” by the pilot.

The Black Sea is closer to Russia than the Caribbean Sea is to the US, yet the Caribbean Sea has been called an “American Lake” and defined by the Monroe Doctrine of 1830 as an inviolate US Sphere of Influence.  The fact that the US seeks to deny Russia, another great power, her natural Sphere of Influence in the Black Sea through the eastward expansion of NATO onto Russia’s door steps (see my writings on the Ukraine”)  when the US is located thousands of miles away, is the crux of the present conflict in US Russian relations.

Hence the Russians view the Americans as armed intruders, while the Americans intoxicated by the dazzling myth of “American Exceptionalism” as the protector of Eastern Europe from the ravages of the Russian Bear.   This vision led the United States to recruit former Republics of the Soviet Union into the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance…a western military alliance formed to prevent communist Russia’s expansion into the West.

The Black Sea
 Black Sea
 Hugging the Russian Shoreline
A Dangerous Encounter! The Russian and American Air Force planes

Russian fighter jet

The Russian Fighter Jet
The American Spy Plane
Airforce Spy Plane
Harassed  by Russian Jets

The admission of the Baltic States that were formerly a part of the Soviet Union is the most dangerous development in US/Russian relations since the Soviet Alliance with Cuba.  This is because a military conflict with Russia and any of these little Baltic States will plunge the US into a military confrontation with Russia.  Russian President Vladimir Putin has recently declared that anybody who thinks Russia would launch an unprovoked attack on NATO is “irrational” but he has also declared “We will be forced to aim our armed forces … at those territories from where the threat comes.”  If that perceived threat is from the USA then the forces he is referring to are intercontinental ballistic missiles.

This is the raison d’etre for Putin’s moves to expand the Russian nuclear missile arsenal, an effort fueled by the unilateral US abrogation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia, which expressly forbade building missile defense systems which NATO has been working to deploy.  Putin was unambiguous about the fact that his decision to expand Russia’s nuclear missile arsenal is a response to NATO’s actions:  “It is NATO that is moving towards our border and we aren’t moving anywhere.”  This comment was buttressed by a statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry:

The United States is inciting tensions and carefully nurturing their European allies’ anti-Russian phobias in order to use the current difficult situation for further expanding its military presence and influence in Europe. We hope that reason will prevail and it will be possible to save the situation in Europe from sliding toward a military standoff, which could entail dangerous consequences.”

Incredibly, both the US Secretary of State John Kerry and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg appeared to be surprised at the Russian reaction to their meddling in Eastern Europe. “We’re trying to move in the opposite direction,” said Kerry. “We have had enormous cooperation from the 1990s forward with respect to the structure of nuclear weapons in the former territories of the Soviet Union. And no one wants to see us step backwards.” 

Russian Intercontinental Missiles…..

Russian Missiles

Can  launched from Land

Russian Missles launched at Sea

…….or sea!

Jens Stoltenberg, speaking for the European allies in NATO responded with this comment:

“This nuclear saber-rattling of Russia is unjustified. “It’s destabilizing and it’s dangerous. This is something which we are addressing, and it’s also one of the reasons we are now increasing the readiness and preparedness of our forces. We are responding by making sure that NATO also in the future is an alliance which provides deterrence and protection for all allies against any threat.”

When this heated rhetoric is considered in the context of the rancid political relations and widening armed conflict in the Ukraine, it does not require a mental giant to conclude that we are stumbling into a war with Russia, and one need not be a military strategist in order to foresee that any war between Russia and NATO has the potential to go nuclear despite the initial intentions of our leaders.    That’s why the peoples of the NATO countries must insist that our leaders cease all efforts to develop a military relationship of ANY KIND with the Ukraine against Russia and allow these Slavic cousins to settle their own problems…the fate of our planet may well depend upon it!

 

****************************

Republican Warmongers take over the Senate!

Posted in On Foreign Affairs with tags , , on May 27, 2015 by playthell
Lindsey-Graham
Senator Graham from the backward state of South Carolina

 Beware of the Mad Men who want to start a War with Iran

`             Watching a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, now controlled by Republicans and chaired by the pugnacious militarist John McCain, the danger of having Republicans in charge of both houses of Congress becomes immediately clear.  It is also clear that if John McCain was President just now, and Lindsay Graham in charge of this Committee, we would be in full preparation for an invasion of Iran that would resemble a repeat of the invasion of Iraq over a decade ago.  This would be an unmitigated disaster!  We should thank the gods that Barack Obama is in the Oval office, although the forces pushing him into increasingly belligerent stances are numerous, powerful and ubiquitous. The Republicans in Congress are developing a justification for a scenario that calls for permanent war.

One is forced to wonder whether the Republican warmongers actually believe all of the things they say, or they are using foreign conflicts – especially the struggle against the Islamic Jihadists – in order to build political support for a Republican takeover of the White House in 2016.   What makes this situation so dangerous is that the struggle against the Islamic Jihadists – an armed radical movement that is reshaping the map of the Middle-East that has no connection to national states – is a real and present danger to the national security of the United States.  Hence what we need is a cold objective analysis of events that is not colored by partisan ideological concerns.  And that is not what I am hearing in Republican rhetoric or witnessing in their actions.

What I am hearing is an attempt to politicize intelligence in order to manufacture a justification to invade Iran, whom they have convinced themselves pose as great a danger to the US, if not greater, than ISIS.  Every time an administration politicizes intelligence it has gone badly; the Vietnam War, the overthrow of the popularly elected President of Iran, Muhammad Mossedech in 1953, and the misbegotten invasion of Iraq are three poignant examples. We are still dealing with the consequences of our interventions in Iran and Iraq and there is no end in sight. Listening to Lindsay Graham lead his right-wing “expert” witnesses, who rather timidly agreed with the twisted view of political reality in the Islamic world he was presenting, I can see this nation slouching toward war with Iran – which I am convinced would be a tragic mistake.

It seems that a distorted Republican view of events in the Middle-East that serves to disguise the realities in the region has also gripped some Democrats.  For instance we find Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, a former military man, calling ISIS “the most evil organization in history.”   This is a bizarre statement coming from a Jew who probably had family that was killed in the Nazi holocaust, since we can tell by his name that his family is of German origin.  It is a measure of the extent to which many Senators have substituted hyperbole for objective analysis.

What is clear is that nobody knows what to do about ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Al Shebob i.e the radical jihadist Islamic movement.  Some of the suggested strategies are laughable and as misguided as the assumptions Republican strategist held about how easy it would be to prevail in Iraq before the invasion of that small Muslim country.  For instance, the idea of arming various factions in the Islamic world, whether they are governmental or non-governmental armed forces, as the key to victory is extreme folly.

The other major delusion is that we can counter their commitment to radical Islamic theology by introducing them to the “American way of life;” which the Jihadists view as the values of a decadent, anti-Islamic, morally bankrupt, hypocritical, racist, Zionist outpost.  Proponents of this conversion thesis forget the fact that the father of the modern Jihad, Sayeed Guthb, studied for a graduate degree in the US heartland and was horrified and repulsed by American society!

Hence there is no reason to believe that any sizable number of militant Jihadist are going to lay down their weapons on the belief that American society can offer them something better, especially when every time they turnaround they are witnessing mass demonstrations against white policemen for murdering unarmed black men on Al Jazeera!  Many of the Jihadists look just like the murdered Afro-Americans; hence they identify with them and wonder “There but for the grace of God go I!”

Considering that the US has just been condemned for violating the Human rights of its citizens in a recent UN Resolution, for white Americans to think that they can win the young Jihadists over by painting rosy word pictures about the superiority of the American society is dangerous hubris.  The Republicans appear to be especially vulnerable to these fantasies as they search for a road to war with Iran.  But even more dangerous is their delusions about how the US can “win” the protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In a recent commentary in Al Jazeera America, Vietnam veteran Scott Beauchamp warns that we about to fall into the trap of believing the hype from Vietnam war revisionists.  The chief spokesman for the revisionist view was that old B movie actor and corporate TV pitchman Ronnie Reagan, who convinced the post-Vietnam generation that the war could have been “won” except for a failure of will.  Beauchamp tells us:

“The shifting goals and strategies not only betrayed the soldiers fighting in Vietnam, but also left a festering wound in the American psyche. By the 1980s, Ronald Reagan and Hollywood were all too eager to address this lingering cynicism, what had come to be called “Vietnam Syndrome,” with a medicine that was equal parts mindless optimism and willful misremembering.

How Reagan went about recasting Vietnam as a ‘winnable’ war that was lost because of a lack of will, even a lack of faith in America itself, stands as a warning about how we remember our most recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan…Haunting the pretense for Vietnam was a conflation of American ideals and American security interests. The two are not the same. For some, that was one of the lessons of the war in Vietnam — without popular support and strategic clarity, foreign adventurism is doomed to failure. And if that was the lesson, then Vietnam was unwinnable. Imposing our own desired political structure on a sovereign nation of people whose culture was completely alien to policy makers didn’t offer the chance of victory.”

One need only listen to the leading questions and conclusions proffered by the reactionary Republican warmongering Senator Lindsay Graham to the “expert” witnesses testifying before the Senate committee, a procedure that as a lawyer Graham knows would not be permitted in a courtroom, to see that the Republicans are going down that same road.

From the arguments they make one gets the impression that their knowledge of history is so twisted by wishful thinking they don’t recognize that both the Islamic revolution in Iran and the birth of ISIS are direct results of misguided American interventions!   They have obviously learned nothing from these disasters and are restrained in their self-destructive militaristic aims only by the presence of Barack Obama in the White House.  Had any of his Republican challengers won, we would be in wars all over the Middle-East with no end in sight…and we would be on the verge of nuclear war with Russia.

It is in this light that President Obama must be judged, and he walks away with flying colors when the alternatives are considered.   Anyone who is listening carefully to Republican rhetoric can harbor no doubt about the veracity of my prediction of permanent war everywhere if the GOP wins the Whitehouse and maintains control of both Houses of Congress.  The war drums they are beating for Iran sounds supiciously like an echo of the drums they beat for Iraq.  And with no pretense at originality, they are singing the same tune: Iran is on the verge of acquiring a nuclear bomb and that poses an existential threat to the USA, so we must strike them first!

Never mind the fact that the best possible ally in the fight against ISIS is Iran, just as the best ally against Osama bin Laden after 9/11 was Sadam Hussein and the Iranian Ayatollahs, both of whom had their own reasons for wanting al Qaeda wiped out.  The Republican warmongers have obviously refused to learn the lessons of these historical blunders and seems intent on repeating all of the mistakes of the Bushmen!

This is why those who suggest that we should sit out the 2016 election and let the chips fall where they may because the democrats have been unable to make all our dreams come true is either a fool, a charlatan, a paid agent provocateur of the reactionary right, or all three!

*******************

Click on link To View Lindsay Graham’s leading questions

https://youtu.be/UMpvCa_nUSY

https://youtu.be/uZzaRbC-s5g
Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
May 27, 2012

What to Do About ISIS?

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , , on February 5, 2015 by playthell
 ISIS murder of JapaneseAdvertising the murder of Japanese Citizens

 They Must be No Longer at Ease

These days I find myself of one heart with the ancient Roman Senator Cato the Elder, who ended every speech with the declaration: “Carthage must be Destroyed!”   The rational for the Senator’s demand was that the North African nation’s very existence posed a danger to Rome.  After all, Carthage had been the staging ground for the invasion of Rome by the great general Hannibal, who surprised and amazed the Romans by crossing the Alps with elephants. Today a rag tag group of armed Islamic zealots pose a clear and present danger to the international order by carving out a fanatical Islamic Caliphate in the sands of Syria and Iraq that refuse to recognize the legitimacy of international law, or man-made laws of any kind, especially if they are the product of a democratic process.

In their view only Sharia is valid, the laws dictated by God/Allah to the Islamic prophet Muhammad.  If God has given you the law it is perfect, they argue, how can man improve upon it? They see blasphemy in the thought.  Calling their desert stronghold the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq aka ISIS, their supreme leader Caliph Ibrahim, an Islamic theologian with a PhD in Sharia Law, is so convinced that he is carrying out the will of God/Allah he routinely orders gruesome murders of captives – citizens of sovereign states big and small – and films them for display on the internet.  These shocking crimes have provoked a howl across the globe, with multinational voices chanting: “Isis Must Be Destroyed!”

Indeed ISIS has left the citizens of the world little choice.  The pacifist may cry out for negotiation but their pleas are destined to fall on deaf ears.  It is clear to anyone who have been paying attention to the murderous antics of ISIS that negotiating with them is a fool’s errand…a pipe dream induced by ideological opiates.

Alas, one cannot negotiate with people who are led by a religious potentate with a doctorate in Islamic Law, and is convinced that he alone holds the blueprint for constructing the perfect world.  When this belief is accompanied by the idea that the end justifies the means and mass murder is an acceptable process for bringing about the new world order, plus they are recruiting Jihadists from among your populace and training them for attacks on their home land, the international community is left no choice but to destroy the aggressive state or movement.

The belief that ISIS must be destroyed has been declared by no less an Islamic authority than the theologians at the University of Al Azhar in Egypt, the land that gave birth to the modern Jihad. (see: *Of All the Places in the Islamic World, Why Egypt?)  After watching the video of Jordanian pilot Mouath al-Kasaesbeh being burned alive by ISIS militants, Muslim Scholars at the 1000 year old University of al Azhar, the most revered authority on Islamic doctrine in the Sunni world, denounced the Sunni militants in ISIS.

Their statement expressed deep anger over the lowly terrorist act” and called ISIS “a Satanic terrorist group.”  And the Qatar based International Association of Muslim Scholars, led by the widely respected theologian Youssef al-Qaradawi, called the burning a crime and issued this statement: The Association asserts that this extremist organization does not represent Islam in any way and its actions always harm Islam.”

Upon first hearing of these statements I was surprised that the Scholors at al Azhad finally spoke out on the theology of ISIS, as they have repeatedly refused to comment on the authenticity of ISIS’ interpretation of Islam.  Hence I naturally assumed that the issuing of collective statements on behalf of institutions provided a smokescreen by which the scholars could mask their individual identities….and for good reason given the murderous proclivities of ISIS.  However many scholars have courageously stepped forward and issued critical statements in defense of their religion under their own name and authority which amount to scathing denunciations of ISIS; declaring their beliefs and actions “un-Islamic.

First among these is Ahmed al-Tayeb, The grand sheikh of Al-Azhar, who said the ISIS militants ought to be “killed, crucified or to have their limbs amputated.”  Salman al-Odah, a prominent Saudi Imam, called the incineration an abomination and declared: It is rejected whether it falls on an individual or a group or a people, only God tortures by fire.” Most compelling of the condemnations is that of Abu Sayaf, a Salafist Imam from Jordan whose nom de plume among the Jihadists in al Qaeda is Mohamed al Shalabi.

Sayaf is no stranger to militant Islamic activity, having served ten years in a Jordanian prison for organizing an attack on US soldiers, but he views the actions of ISIS as a misrepresentation of Islamic teaching that is destructive to the Islamist movement. Sayaf argues:

“This weakens the popularity of Islamic State because we look at Islam as a religion of mercy and tolerance, even in the heat of battle, a prisoner of war is given good treatment.  Even if the Islamic State says Muath had bombed, and burnt and killed us and we punished him in the way he did to us, we say, ok. But why film the video in this shocking way, the method has turned society against them,’’

The principle theme in all of the condemnations of this type is the vindication of Islam through the rejection of ISIS’ atrocities, which the militants justify through the application of Islamic law.  However they have a big problem: Since there is no central authority that the billion Muslims in the world can look to as the final authority on Islamic doctrine – like the Catholic Pope or the Mormon Prophets – the matter of doctrine is open to various interpretations.  Which allows Caliph Ibrahim, who is an authority on Islamic law, to dismiss his critics as ignoramuses and charlatans, even worse they can be declared apostates and have their heads lopped off with a scimitar.

Apparently anticipating a theological dustup about their public torching of a Sunni Muslim pilot, ISIS issued a Fatwa; a religiously inspired death penalty that can be ordered by a high ranking religious leader against anyone deemed to have profaned the Islamic faith.  The Fatwa placed on the Indian Muslim novelist Salman Rushdie by the Ayatollah Homeni, leader of the Islamic revolution in Iran, is the most poignant case of a condemned man under Fatwa; he is still in hiding and running for his life after two decades!

In the Fatwa issue by ISIS, the theological justification for burning the Jordanian pilot is argued with a scholarly rigor that sets forth chapter and verse.   In a February 2, 2015 analysis titled, Fatwa: How Islamic State Justifies Burning Pilot Alive, written by Raymond Ibrahim, a widely respected expert on militant Islam, we are told:

 “The brief fatwa argues that “the Hanafis and Shafi‘is [two of Sunni Islam’s four orthodox schools of jurisprudence] permit burning’ people.  Next the fatwa quotes the eminent Hafiz ibn al-Hajar (d. 1449) who comments that ‘the deeds of the companions [of Muhammad] evince the permissibility of burning, and the prophet put out the eyes of the men of Urayna with a heated iron [he also cut their hands and feet off], and Khalid bin al-Walid burned some of the people who apostatized’… None of this is surprising…every atrocity IS has committed—whether beheading, crucifying, raping, enslaving, or now immolating humans—has precedents in Islam, whether in the deeds of Muhammad, that most “perfect” and “moral” man (Koran 33:21, 68:4) or his revered companions.”

 No Shame in his Game: Caliph Ibrahim believes ISIS is following Sharia
ISIS Burns Pilot 
The fire this time!

 As we can see by comparing this exegesis on the theological foundation of ISIS’s Fatwa, which justifies the burning of the Jordanian pilot, with the denunciations of the Islamic scholars cited above, there is no agreement on what the correct teaching of Islam is on the critical issue of human immolation.  The obvious consequence of this ambiguity of interpretation is that the preachments of those scholars who oppose ISIS will fall on deaf ears.  And I suspect that after some of these are deemed apostates and murdered it will be harder to find oppositional theologians who are willing to go on record.  All of this leads to one conclusion: ISIS must be destroyed with military might…and the sooner the better!

But how is this to be accomplished when the US President has promised the American people that he will never, ever, ever, send American ground troops to fight ISIS? Whatever solution President Obama decides on it cannot involve American “boots on the ground!”  But even if he were willing to order troops to the area right now victory would not be easily won.

This is because fighting ISIS requires getting involved in a quagmire of conflicting religious and ethnic grievances whose roots lay deep in centuries of tortured Islamic history.  Tom Friedman, the three time Pulitzer Prize winning Foreign Affairs columnist for the New York Times, provides an insightful summation of the problem in a September 2, 2014 essay titled “Ready, Aim, Fire. Not Fire, Ready, Aim.

 To defeat ISIS you have to address the context out of which it emerged. And that is the three civil wars raging in the Arab world today: the civil war within Sunni Islam between radical jihadists and moderate mainstream Sunni Muslims and regimes; the civil war across the region between Sunnis funded by Saudi Arabia and Shiites funded by Iran; and the civil war between Sunni jihadists and all other minorities in the region — Yezidism, Turkmen, Kurds, Christians, Jews and Alawites. When you have a region beset by that many civil wars at once, it means there is no center, only sides. And when you intervene in the middle of a region with no center, you very quickly become a side.”

Yet, even so,  given the increasing dangers posed by ISIS to everybody that disagrees with them, American intelligence agencies should be tasked with finding the factions that will work in a coalition with the limited objective of defeating ISIS.  And since bitter experience has demonstrated that giving weapons to any “side” in this complicated conflict usually results in them ending up in the arsenals of the Jidadist, prudence dictates that we seek another strategy. Here is the ideal opportunity to finally take the historic step of removing the restrictions placed on Japan in the aftermath of World War II, which prohibits them from deploying armed forces beyond their borders to resolve international disputes.

Many members of the US Congress have called for the lifting of this prohibition – which was written into their post-war constitution under American direction as part of their “unconditional surrender” after being devastated by American atomic bombs during World War II. And regional Pacific powers such as Australia, feeling threatened by the growing might of China, are also calling for Japan to play a larger military role in international affairs.  It is no secret that this would be to the liking of the Japanese Prime Minister Abbo, who has made no secret of his desire to strengthen Japan’s military posture…even  acquiring nuclear weapons.  The Prime Minister has openly questioned the reliability of the American “Nuclear Umbrella” by raising the critical question of whether Americans whould risk nuclear war with China to defend Japan.  However in my view, any deal that would allow Japan to become a nuclear armed nation would be a dangerous Faustian Bargain and the Devil will one day claim our bodies and souls….it would be just a matter of time.

Hence what I have in mind is a far less grandiose plan.  Although if other nations that are less developed and technically competent than Japan such as India, Pakistan, Israel, South Korea, et al are allowed to build nuclear arsenals it is just a matter of time before Japan joins the Nuclear club….to think otherwise is self-deceptive folly.  But for the time being Japan could supply an affective armed force to confront ISIS on the ground. The brazen public murders of Japanese citizens on the internet while the Japanese government pleaded for their lives as they tried to work out a deal, has created public support for a Japanese invasion force to take the field against ISIS.

They have all he means to do the job and I think this could be their moment to renter the international arena as a military power.  No nation in the world has a longer history of military distinction than Japan, and some of their most influential thought leaders have made it plain that they do not like being known as  “a nation that produces beautiful flower arrangements.”   And they are anxious to remind the world that they are a great warrior nation.  I say let the remind us by taking the field against ISIS and removing them from the face of the earth….with the full backing of the rest of the world!  What to do about ISIS?  Therein lies your answer.

 

**************************

Playthell The Elder
On the Road
February 4, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reaping What You Sow

Posted in On Foreign Affairs with tags on January 25, 2015 by playthell
Terrorists shootout in Paris
Islamic Jihadists firing assault rifles on Parisian Street

 Darkness in the City of Lights

If the terrorists attacks that struck Paris recently were not such tragic events, listening to the attempts by western journalists to explain the causes of the random slaughter of innocent patrons in a Kosher butcher shop and the planned assassinations of twelve workers at the Parisian magazine Charlie Hebdo that repeatedly published cartoons of Muhammad ibn Abdullah, the founding prophet of Islam – which millions of devout Muslims consider blasphemous – their vapid prattle would be funny.  More often than not their explanations boil down to the conclusion that it’s just some crazy Muslim terrorists who fell under the spell of mad mullahs that are jealous of the wealth and progress of western civilization, lost souls wilding on the streets of Paris with machine guns.

According to this narrative the shooters – native born French Muslims of Arab/African origin – are a murderous, misguided lot who are ungrateful to the French nation and people for graciously allowing their parents to settle in the affluent enlightened realm of French Civilization, rescuing them from the backwardness and poverty of their Arab homelands. Even Barack Hussein Obama, the son of an African Muslim, offered a paean to the superiority of French civilization and their “shared values” with American civilization – cherry picking the admirable ideals while conveniently forgetting the values that produced a history of oppression, slavery and genocide against people of color spanning centuries – helping to create the backward conditions in these countries. Viewed from the perspective of western commentators the terrorist actions are inexplicable; there is just no way to explain it logically.  This accounts for the endless stream of confusing prattle that masquerades as serious analysis from government officials and media talking heads.

However it is not ignorance alone that accounts for the low level of commentary, self-censorship is also at play.  For instance, President Obama is a brilliant man who is an astute observer of world affairs and knows this is self-serving BS, but he dare not admit that the Jihadists are motivated by any complaints that reasonable people can understand.  For to admit even the possibility of a rational motive would amount to challenging the master narrative that these terrorists are not inspired by any real grievance against western civilization but are driven to madness by a poisonous irrational Islamic theology.

The news anchors well understand that to admit the Jihadists have any legitimate complaint against domestic conditions in France, or the aggressive foreign policy of western nations against the Islamic world, could quickly end their careers.  Hence self-censorship is the rule…mum’s the word.  If it were not for the independent experts featured on these news shows we would have no understanding at all of what motivates the Paris assassins.

As I listen to the conversation I find myself reflecting on an encounter I had while strolling about the grounds of Notre Dame on a clear February morning during a visit to Paris in 1996, when the city was on high alert for terrorist attacks.  I had come to deliver a lecture on Wynton Marsalis at the Sorbonne.

The Gardens of Notre Dame
Notre Dame cover_image_492
Overlooking the Siene it is one of Paris’ grandest landmarks

As on previous trips I noticed the tentative somewhat downtrodden posture of black Parisians as they went about their business.  There was a kind of “hang dog” attitude that seemed to hover about them which was so different from the bold posture projected by black Americans as they strode about the streets of New York, exuding an attitude of confidence that the streets belonged to them as much as anyone. So when I happened upon a black man in the gardens of Notre Dame, and discovered that he had lived in the city for over twenty years, I pounced upon him with a barrage of questions about black life in Gay Paree.

Having been nurtured on tales about the French fascination with Black American music and dance; their racial tolerance, and the open cosmopolitan milieu of Paris that provided a safe haven for Afro-American artists and intellectuals – Josephine Baker, Sydney Bechet, Richard Wright, Chester Himes, et al. and produced the first black military aviator in the Ace fighter pilot Eugene Bulliard.  A people who cared so little about racial etiquette that the First lady of France had caused a major scandal in the US when she kissed the great Afro-American pugilist and elegant bon vivant “Sugar Ray” Robinson in the 1950’s.  I wondered how much of that racial good will remained.  It was hard to tell in the circles I was moving in because the only blacks I met were academics who dwelled in the rarified atmosphere of the academy.  So I put my questions about how the folk were faring to the brother in the garden.

Like Othello, he told “a round unvarnished tale.”  As it turned out his name was Trevor and he was of Jamaican origin.   He had migrated to Paris from London to pursue his profession as a thespian.  A triple threat actor, singer and dancer he initially found success and had a royal ball.  But then an anti-immigrant sentiment began to grow in France; the more that black Africans from Senegal, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Afro-Arabs from Algeria, Libya and Morocco poured into France the more intense anti-immigrant racism became.  He told me that the atmosphere had become so poisoned that he was moving to Berlin.  On the morning that I met him he was just walking about the city conjuring up fond memories before bidding the City of Lights adieu.

Trevor went on to explain that Paris was still a tale of two cities, only now it would have been more accurate to call it a “tale of three cities” because Charles Dickens’ reference in his classic novel was to the class divide; now the city was divided on the basis of class, race and religion.  He explained that you don’t see many blacks on the streets of Paris at night because they lived in the suburbs where the bulk of poor blacks and Arabs lived. They were out of sight and definitely out of mind.  Most had but little contact with the swells, the creme de la crème who dwelled in the city.  And what is worse, even Arabs and blacks who had acquired advanced university degrees in business and the professions often could not find employment commensurate with their training.  The situation sounded a lot what I had observed in London in 1981 (see: “On Being Black in London, ” posted on this blog, which is why Trevor had quit London for paris in the first place.

That same morning I noticed for the first time platoons of Africans in overalls and rubber boots washing down the streets and the monuments that adorn this sparkling squeaky clean city.  In such a social environment, where the life’s chances of young people are circumscribed by race and religion, there is bound to be a critical mass of alienated dispossessed youths seething with anger i.e. social dynamite.  Just nine years later, on October 27th 2005 these suburbs exploded and it took French authorities three weeks to quell the riots/rebellions.

The rioters, who were described as largely unemployed youths from the projects located over two hundred towns and villages ringing Paris, set fire to almost 10, 000 cars and many buildings of all sorts including daycare centers and schools.  Almost 30,000 people were arrested and over 100 policemen were injured.  A year later on October 1, 2006 in the same suburbs, and there have been violent flare ups as recent as 2013.  It is safe to say there will be more.  The poet Langston Hughes asked the essential question here: “What happens to a dream deferred….does it corrode or does it explode!”

What we are witnessing with the rise of home grown terrorists in France is an explosion of pent up anger and frustration whose causes lay not just in local conditions but in their identification with the wider world of Islam.  Hence their anger has taken on a sense of religious purpose which provided inspirational myths of a glorious past and a triumphant future through the establishment of a global Caliphate based on Sharia Law; which is the vision of Al Qaeda and ISIS.   The vehicle by which the New Islamic empire will be brought into being is the Jihad; it is a vision that limitless legions of young Muslim men are prepared to kill and die for.

 Wall Art in the Suburbs of Paris
Wall art in Paris Suburbs
An accurate reflection of the mood of many alienated Afro-Arab Youths

 Consider the statement of Boubakar al Hakim, a French Jihadists who fought American forces in Iraq, given to a French Radio station from the battle front in 2003 and reprinted in the New York Times on January 12, 2015.   “All of my friends…I tell them to come do the Jihad.  All of my brothers who are over there, come to defend Islam.  They are wimps, wimps and buffoons. The Americans aren’t anything.  I am ready to fight on the front line.  I am even ready to blow myself up, to put dynamite and Boom! Boom!  We will kill all of the Americans.  We are the Mujahedeen.  We want death.  We want paradise.”  We hear echoes of this declaration in the statements of the Kouachi brothers who attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo and announced that they sought “Martyrdom.”  It proved to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In a country with a Muslim population numbering in the millions there is obviously no easy solution to the problem of Jihadists.  The French President Francois Hollande has strongly denounced the terrorists and called for “moderate” Muslim clerics and scholars to repudiate the theology of the Jihadists, and for assimilated Muslims to engage with the youths to show them the error of Jihadist tactics.  Added to the police powers of the state these initiatives represent the core of government involvement with Muslim youths.  Central to their strategy is to vigorously deny that there is a “clash of civilizations” between Islam and the West; hence they must insist that the Jihadists are misrepresenting Islam.

The problem is that such a strategy has little chance of working with alienated youths fed up with the racism and economic discrimination heaped on them by white French society.  It is a policy that amounts to little more than a public relations offensive but offers no concrete solutions to the real problems faced by Africans and Arabs in France, which are exacerbated by the prolonged stagnation of the French economy and the rising racism expressed as anti-immigrant xenophobia fanned by the far right National Front Party headed by Marine Le Pen.

 Marine Le Pen
Marine Le Pen, National Front Leader
Is She the Next President of France?

During my 1996 visit to Paris I blundered into a demonstration by the National Front at which its founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, called “The Devil of the Republic” by his opponents, was the featured speaker.  It was a raucous affair and the hostility of the stares directed at me and my companion was palpable, because they had no way of distinguishing me from the hated Africans they wanted to drive out of the country.

A former intelligence officer and Paratrooper with battle decorations Le Pen witnessed the collapse of the French empire in Southeast Asia and North Africa symbolized by the French defeats in the battle of Diem Bien Phu and the Algerian War.  He is a ultra-right wing nationalist politician who champions the superiority of French culture and built a loyal political constituency among those who feel threatened by nonwhite immigrants.  Although he fought to preserve the French Colonial Empire he now demonizes their former colonial subjects who have immigrated to France.

 Jean-Marie Le Pen
Jean-Marie-Le-Pen
Purveyor of a racist xenophobic populist politics of rage

Back then they were a fringe party, now they are the largest party in France by some estimates.  Spurred by the Jihadist assault, a resurgent right wing political force is making their agenda crystal clear; there was no shame in their game.  Angered by not being invited to what many are saying was “the largest mass demonstration in French history,” Marine Le Pen sounded like Sarah Palin – the Alaskan Barbarian who almost became Vice President of the United States.

For instance, casting herself as an outsider, and her disparagement of Paris,  sounds quite familiar.  “Ms. Le Pen’s embrace of exclusion perfectly fits her politics.” Reports the New York Times.*  “Using old tropes of the far right in France, she took pride in avoiding the capital, Paris, which she and her supporters view as the center of political corruption an cynicism, for ‘La France Profounde,’ the ‘real France’ of genuine patriots tied to their land and their provinces.”

It is amazing how the right wing everywhere adopts these silly tropes of the virtuous provincials vs. the corrupt cosmopolites; sounds remarkable like the new Republican Senator from the hayfields of Iowa who delivered the Grand Obstructionist Party’s reply to President Obama – Columbia, Harvard, Chicago, the ultimate cosmopolite!  When coupled with her racist rants against the African and Arab population in France, Ms. Le Pen’s arguments echo Hitler’s appeal to the German Volk.  It’s just new wine in old bottles.

Alas this reactionary attitude will not, indeed cannot, bring peace and internal stability to France.  Confronted with clandestine Islamic Jihadist forces composed of soldiers who welcome death and thus are not deterred by the threat of dying, this is essentially a war of ideas….and Ms. Le Pen is propagating the wrong ideas.  It may make her followers feel good, just like Sarah Palin, but it won’t win the hearts and minds of the alienated Muslim youths of France who are joining the Jihad in increasing numbers.  In fact, should they take power in the next election, as many observers are predicting, Marie Le Pen and the National Front will make a powerful recruiting poster for ISIS.  And they shall reap what they sow.

******************

Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
Janurary 25, 2014

The Day After….

Posted in Cultural Matters, On Foreign Affairs with tags , , on December 19, 2014 by playthell
che_and_fidel_castro El Commandante Fidel and Comrade Che Guevara

 Cuba beyond Castro!

As the Cuban Revolution neared its 50th anniversary, much speculation occurred regarding what course Cuban society will take once its aging leader Fidel Castro passes from the scene. Any conjecture on the direction of Cuban society in the post-Castro era begs the question of what will be the character of US/Cuban relations in the future. Internal policy in Cuba has long been shaped by American foreign policy toward that Spanish-speaking Caribbean island ninety miles from the shores of Florida—the largest and most richly endowed island in the region in terms of natural and human resources.

It is impossible to understand the character of Cuban society today and seriously contemplate its future without taking the realities of the 1959 revolution and the American reaction to it into account. Whether we consider the poverty that plagues the island, the repressive internal policies, the refugees who brave the Florida straits, the ignorance of many young Cuban Americans about the motivations of the revolution that transformed the island in 1959 and the man who led it, any review is incomplete without an understanding of US policy toward the island nation. This is because the revolution, which has shaped contemporary Cuba more than any other event in the twentieth century, was in reaction to a system of social and economic relations largely determined by US interests.

In extensive interviews with American journalists Frank Mankiewicz and Kirby Jones, some fifteen years after the revolution, Castro spoke candidly about the conditions that gave rise to the revolution:

“To understand this it is necessary to understand Cuba as it was before the revolution. We had for example, close to 600,000 unemployed men out of a population of 6,000,000…We had a 30 percent illiteracy rate, more than a million illiterates. We lacked sufficient schools; more than 50 percent of the children did not attend school. We had a very bad public health situation, a high infant mortality rate, and other very serious problems, such as prostitution—close to 100,000 women lived off prostitution. We had gambling and beggars on the streets. In today’s Cuba you do not find any of these problems. Unemployment among the male population has disappeared and close to half a million women have joined the work force in addition to those already employed. Prostitution, begging, gambling, were eradicated. Illiteracy was overcome.”

Later, when Ballantine published these interviews as With Fidel, Arthur Schlesinger, a historian and former advisor to President Kennedy who had once supported aggressive policies toward Cuba remarked that “the time has come to rethink our policy toward Cuba.” His words ring true a quarter of a century later as the Bush Administration, driven by the local politics of the Miami based Cuban exile community, has returned to the aggressive policies Schlesinger rejected.

Saul Landau, American journalist and filmmaker, and professor emeritus at California State Polytechnic University,  has documented Castro in four separate films, corroborates the charismatic leader’s sentiments. “Infant mortality rate is equivalent to that of the U.S. and is certainly better than Washington D.C.; their life expectancy is the same as in the U.S. When the Cubans wash ashore, the “desperate” refugees have no cavities. [They] don’t suffer from diseases that people in the Third World tend to suffer from.” Literacy and infant mortality rates indicate how a society invests its resources, and the latter specifically correlate to the general health of the population. So in comparison to Brazil, the largest nation in Latin America that had five times more infant mortality—140 per thousand births vs. 27.4 per thousand—the stunning achievements of Castro’s regime in the area of developing human capital become evident.

 Sao Paulo: A Tale of Two Cities
Brazil's Darwinian class divide A Portrait of Brazil’s Darwinian Class Divide

Socialist order, people-oriented economic priorities, hard work, and discipline are the mainstays of Cuba’s achievements, but without Russian subsidization of their sugar production not nearly as much could have been accomplished. Russia’s economic support effectively shielded Cuba from the drastic fluctuations of the world market and the misguided protracted American economic embargo.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the loss of those subsidies, along with an American embargo which was reinvigorated under the Bush administration, are at the root of the present economic crisis in Cuba. As a result, Cuba has placed renewed effort on promoting the tourist industry, which was de-emphasized during the early years of the revolution – as the Jamaicans say: “Empty belly mek dog lick sore foot.”

The Cuban revolution began as a democratic nationalist movement. It was a struggle against economic exploitation of the laboring classes and the police-state tactics of the rich, corrupt Cuban oligarchy and their armed agents who were prepared to use as much force as necessary to maintain the status quo. In his book The Mafia in Cuba, award-winning Cuban historian Enrique Cirules documented the underworld’s involvement in Cuban life as going far beyond the influence of whores, gambling, cocaine, or even control of the major nightclubs, hotels and casinos.

The Mob also became a major force in politics and economics. Less than two years before the revolution, Cirules wrote that “the US press assured readers that Congress was accumulating evidence to imprison the principal Mafia leaders on home soil. In Cuba, however…they ran a network of untouchable businesses, in which semi-legal control merged with gang-style law…because the Mafia’s contacts reached everywhere, even to the presidential office.”   The American government was more than familiar with the Mafia presence in Cuba and there is irrefutable evidence that the CIA turned to heavyweight Mafia Don Sam Giancana to try and assassinate Castro, in an attempt to promote counterrevolution.

 Fulgencia Batista: Cuban Dictator and American Puppet
Cuban Dictator Batista His Corruption and Ruthless Oppression Sparked the Revolution!

 Added to the injuries suffered by the poor in Cuba was the outrage felt by those principled middle class nationalist intellectuals—like Fidel and his comrades, who became the theorists and organizers of the revolution  – about the pervasiveness of crime and corruption in their society.  Under Batista the Mob had free reign in Cuba. Indeed, they were major factors in Castro’s radicalization. Few Americans who criticize contemporary Cuban society and its suspicion of American intentions understand the powerful role of organized crime in pre-revolutionary Cuba.  Furthermore, “legitimate” American businessmen often conducted themselves little differently, making it a distinction without a difference for the Cuban people.

 Meyer Lansky: Notorious American Jewish Gangster

Meyer Lansky

 He was a very big man in pre-revolutionary Cuba

Castro was a bourgeois lawyer with a social conscience and a belief in democratic reform until General Batista overthrew the government and set up a military dictatorship in 1952, which led a disillusioned Castro to conclude that democratic reform in Cuba was impossible. This realization drove him to become a revolutionary, and sixteen months later, he led the attack on the Moncada Barracks that launched a years-long Cuban Revolution which would force Batista into exile and bring Castro to power on New Years Day in 1959.

Reflecting on her youth in the 1920’s, when the white Cuban upper class experienced a wave of prosperity due to the high price of sugar post-WWI, Fichu Menocal, the daughter of a banker and granddaughter of Mario G. Menocal, the US-backed president of Cuba from 1912 to 1920, paints a poignant picture of the corruption and decadence of the deeply racist white Cuban elite that was wiped away by the Revolution.

 The Precincts of Wealthy White Cubans
Cuba's San Souchi Hotel
The San Souci Hotel and Club

Fichu recalls that among the island’s wealthy families “…there was a rivalry—who was going to have the most fantastic party; Parties that could cost $50,000. At that time that was an incredible amount. I went to practically all those parties. And we forgot absolutely what was below. We drifted so high on that cloud of golden prosperity…everybody just went to Paris and bought their frocks. Summer frocks, winter things.” But their taste for French finery hardly stopped there. “Everybody, they either had a Florentine chateau, or a Versailles-like chateau and everybody was rolling in millions…when I look back on that display of wealth, who could think at the time that anybody in Cuba could be miserable.”

Her remembrances of those halcyon days for the clueless Cuban elite reminds me of the entries in the diary of Louis XVI of France on the morning before the revolutionary Jacobins stormed Versailles palace, took he and Marie Antionette prisoner, shipped them off to Paris and beheaded them in the Place de la Concord before a cheering crowd. When Fichu’s reveries of white upper class life in pre-revolutionary Cuba are contrasted with the remembrances of Nicholas Guillen, an Afro-Cuban and poet laureate of the nation, it is easy to see why there was a revolution. Guillen sums up the situation for the masses of working class Cubans, urban and rural, and black Cubans in particular, in his epic poem I Have: “I, John-only-yesterday-with-Nothing, and John-with-everything-today, with everything today, I glance around, I look and see / and touch myself and wonder / how it could have happened?”

 How The Poorest Blacks Lived in Pre-revolutionary Cuba
Afro-Cuban Poverty- HavanaSlums 1954 This is why Afro-Cubans Defended the Revolution!
 Yet Even Back in the Day, the Solid Working And Middle Classes

Afro-Cubans Dancing at an Afrocuban social club

 Gave elegant affairs at the Buena Vista Social Club

Still other white Cubans hearken back fondly to the days before Castro’s revolution. Mariano Molina, president and owner of a mechanical engineering firm in the U.S., left Cuba in 1959 to study at North Carolina State College in Raleigh. He describes his initial experience in the college town as “a big surprise to me. North Carolina in the 1960s [was] completely segregated; blacks and whites would not be together. I thought the south was very culturally primitive in terms of racial issues.” His memories of the culture he left behind are of “Cuban people [who] were really happy with the way things were, for the most part. Obviously, the wealthy ones were really happy.”

Alas, to my black American ears this sound like the white folks I  interviewed in Florida during 1988 about the 1950’s, they speak fondly of the civility of race relations and mourn the passage of “The Beloved Southern Negro after Dr. Martin Luther King came to town.”   However having grown up in Florida in the 1950’s I know that’s a fiction of silly deluded southern WASPS.  And Molina’s memories of a “really happy” Cuban people belong to the same class of fairy tale.

Those “Beloved Southern Negroes” Led Astray by Dr. King

Civil rights revolt on the Beach

Were did they Go?

I have interviewed many Afro-Cubans over the years who tell a very different tale.  And all of them who grew up in Senor Molina’s Cuba fervently supported the Revolution.  The blacks who deny this should be viewed through the same lens as Michael Steele, the black hustler who is the front man for a racist Republican Party that tries to convince the world that the racist elitist Republicans are friends of Afro-Americans.

I Heard About White Cuban Racism first Hand
 Me and dorothy
 From My Afro-Cuban Wife and her Family
And my Good friend, the Afro-Cuban master percusionist/composer/bandleader

img.411

Mongo Santamaria, who was a fierce defender of the revolution

Critics of the revolution often overlook areas of Cuba’s contemporary infrastructure that parallel or surpass the standards of more developed nations. This is particularly true for Cuba’s education system, which is without question one of the most advanced and resourceful in the world! Castro’s government approaches learning as a lifelong process and treats quality education,  like adequate health care, as the birthright of each Cuban citizen.

From pre-school care to educational programs for parents, citizens of all ages benefit from the demanding expectations and highly trained teachers that are the hallmark of Cuban learning. In fact,  an estimated 30,000 senior citizens will have graduated from Cuban universities as a result of the program for older adults initiated in 2000. And over 630,000 Cubans have received a free university education under Castro.

Cuba budgets nearly twice as much of its GDP for educational spending, more than any other Latin American nation, and its secondary schools consistently rank among the highest in the world in math and science performance. Likewise the island’s 48 universities are among the most highly respected in the Western hemisphere. More than 76,000 international students from 123 countries (including the U.S.) have received free educations from Cuban universities, and 6,000 will be granted scholarships next year alone. Cuba’s medical schools and the health care system they support are so highly regarded that each year over 100,000 foreign patients travel to Cuba for treatment. Moreover, Cuban ophthalmologists are universally considered to be among the finest in the discipline—all of this despite the island’s crippling economic crisis.

At the same time, Castro’s focus on cultivating a highly educated society created a potential thorn in his side.  “When you have an educated population of leaders and thinkers, you cannot expect them to be submissive,” notes Alejandro de la Fuente, author of A Nation for All: Race, Inequality, and Politics in 20th Century Cuba. “You cannot educate people and tell them—as they told us—‘Now you are educated can you please shut up.’ We wanted to say things. We want to debate. We didn’t want violence.

“When perestroika was happening in the Soviet Union we hoped there was going to be space for a free and open debate about the future of the country. That hope was very much crushed, foreclosed, and never allowed to happen. I felt we had no voice, and couldn’t have any voice. Anything we said could be seen as an attack; once you are in that position, you either leave, go to jail, or you conform and lower your head and take it. I was too young and not ready to lower my head or go to jail so I left.”  De la Fuente, now a professor of Latin American/Cuban History at the University of Pittsburgh, took his leave of the island in 1992. He says:

“Power has its own logic. [The government] realized it was easier to not have to respond to an active, critical citizenry. They don’t care if you complain about a lack of food or electricity as long as you don’t criticize Fidel and don’t do anything about it. Again, it is a question of power. Once you open that door it is hard to close. The experience of the Soviet Union terrified them, and they wanted to keep that door shut because if people were allowed to demand explanations they would have a lot of explaining to do. So it was better to impose silence.”

Not only has Castro’s insistence on widespread educational opportunity yielded unpredictable results, but state-sponsored arts initiatives have also seen periods of bounty and scarcity. “In the 60s the Cuban Revolution obviously had a huge impact on Latin American film,” notes María Cristina Saavedra, assistant professor of Spanish and English at the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown. “Film was really seen as an arm of the revolution and a way of fomenting revolution. After 1990 production went down incredibly; it was quite dramatic. The money just wasn’t there. This led to a lot of co-productions in many countries, one of those being Spain. That is one way people have gotten around the whole issue of a lack of funds.”

Lack of resources notwithstanding, Saavedra is impressed with what she calls a “much more committed cinema that stands in great opposition to the hegemony of Hollywood.” She directed the university’s recently aborted study abroad program in Cuba, which she had hoped would grow its relationship with the University of Havana, but she foresees little hope for the program’s revitalization given recent US governmental restrictions placed on study abroad programs in Cuba.

She points out that “filmmakers in Cuba have always tried to link the current social and cultural context of the revolution with the political processes on the island and revisionist view of colonial Cuba. In Suite Habana there is no dialogue; what you are hearing are the sounds of the city. It is a very stark view of the city and what daily life is like in Havana, sort of looking at things from a much more realistic and not ‘politically correct’ perspective.”

She also notes the 2001 award-winning film Video de Familia, which she says portrays “some of the issues that are confronting average Cubans in terms of the dynamics of family abroad. It is supposed to be set up as a family video to be sent to a family member in the States. In the context of the film family secrets come out…It’s a really fine work.”

 *******************

 Afro-Cubans have many festivals…..
Afro-Cubans -alacrantrumpets
That combine African and Spanish rituals
Afro-Cubans Are some of the World’s Greatest Musicians!
Afro-cuban Allstars II
The Afro-Cuban Allstars
Laura Lydia Gonzales
Afro-Cuban Bass Clarinetists Afro-Cuban Bass Clarinetists__Laura_Lydia_Gonzalez_and_Gilceria_Gonzalez
A virtuosso on the Bass Clarinet
Paying Homage to the World’s Greatest Pianist
Chucho and Me
Chucho Valdez: Ambassador of Afro-Cuban Music

That world-class art continues to spring from the small island is  incredibly surprising to many outsiders, especially the music and dance, which just as in the US is the gift of the neo-African culture of black Cubans. “You have got to keep one thing in mind: Cuba has been the cradle of salsa music. We could go back before Cuba and say we owe this to the Africans,” says Jesse Herrero, band leader and producer of Son Sublime, a Cuban charanga orchestra in the New York area

Herrero, who is a vice president at JP Morgan Chase, got his first instrument when he was nearly ten. “I lived under Fidel for five years, and things were rationed in a way that if you wanted something you had to get in line and sometimes you would sleep there and wait for a store opening. I was on line to buy a toy, but the people before me got everything. The only thing I could get was an accordion, which was probably better than any toy I could have gotten.”

Herrero’s passion for classic Cuban rhythms—Rumbadanzón, mámbo, chá-chá-chá, són, bolero, guaracha, and son montuno, all essential to the formhas brought him an appreciation of the work of contemporary Cuban artists like Los Orishas, a popular hip hop group whose style incorporates traditional Cuban rhythms, pays homage to the birthplace of hip hop in New York, and tackles themes familiar to Cubanos. “In one of their songs they did an arrangement that is wonderful, like chá-chá-chá. I think that rap is not easy to listen to, although it can be poetic.”

 Afro-Cuban Rappers

Afro-Cuban Rappers Los Orichas

 Cuban Hip hop voices address serious Afro-Cuban concerns

The legendary hip hop impresario Fab Five Freddy, who hosted the first rap show on MTV, Yo! MTV Raps was shocked by the rap scene he discovered in Cuba. “I met a brother there named Pablo Herrera who was the pivotal figure in the hip hop scene. Pablo was an incredibly knowledgeable cat who spoke English like he grew up in Brooklyn with me. And he knew the whole history of hip hop, all the old school stuff and everything. They even had tapes of my TV shows!”

Ariel Fernandez, founder and editor of Movimiento, a state-funded hip hop magazine, told me when I interiewed him on WBAI:

“Rap music is the voice of the Afro-Cuban in popular culture. It aggressively asserts our cultural identity as black people, which is not recognized in official government policy which asserts that ‘we are all Cubans.’ But we insist that we are culturally different from white Cubans in significant ways,  and this is based on our African heritage and centuries of historical experience with racism on the part of Hispanic Cubans. Although instititional racism has been outlawed, the ideology of white racism remains embedded in the culture. If you listen to Cuban hip hop you will see that the artists use rhythms from our Afro-Cuban musical culture.”

However this is not the first instance of cross-fertilization of Afro-Cuban and Afro-American musical forms.  During the first half of the 20th century, the virtuoso Afro-American trumpeter, bandleader and Jazz innovator John Berks “Dizzy” Gillespie collaborated with Mario Bauza, an Afro-Cuban multi-instrumentalist who was fluent in the language of European classical music, Jazz and the Afro-Cuban musical tradition. Together they produced a hybrid musical genre known as CuBop.

It was a blending of elements from the modern complex improvisational style invented by Gillespie and Saxophone genius Charlie “Yardbird” Parker, called BeBop, with the Son Montuno Afro-Cuban orchestral form.  CuBop is the basis for all “Latin Jazz.”  The Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra featuring the Afro-Cuban congero Chano Pozo became the signature American exponent of CuBop, while Machito and his Afro-Cubans became the Cuban vehicle for the new sound.  All Latin Jazz has its roots in CuBop, whether they know it or not.  It is a sound that continues to flourish.

I first heard Afro-Cuban music in 1959, the year the Cuban Revolution succeeded in overthrowing the fascist Batista military dictatorship. I was a student at the all-Black Florida A&M University and there were several Afro-Cuban students studying in the world-famous music school, which had produced the renowned saxophonists and trumpeter Julian “Cannonball” Adderley and his brother Nat.   The Afro-Cuban students would play Jazz with the Afro-American musicians, and on occasion they would get together and play the Son Montuno.

I fell in love with the music upon first hearing.  At the time I played the trap drums, but I would later ditch them and study the Conga drums, which led to my longtime friendship with the great Mongo Santamaria and my marriage to an Afro-Cuban woman.  I even became a good enough congero to substitute for Mongo himself with his great band – which featured the brilliant flautist Hubert Laws – in concert.  Mongo’s band created a new fusion of styles that combined  Afro-Cuban Music, Jazz, and Rhythm and Blues.  My love of playing the Conga drums remains undiminished after half a century; hence I am a living example of the power of Afro-Cuban culture and its influence on US culture.

 Sitting in For Mongo and playing his sequined Congas cica 1966

playing with mongo's band - Close Up Edit

 At Pep’s Show Bar in Philly: Hubert Laws is at Far right
 At Red’s Java Hut
Jamming with the functionaries 013
San Francisco  2009

************

In addition to a festering race problem, Cuba has failed to deal with the problem of rising expectations in an increasingly youthful population who do not remember the glory days of the revolution and are tired of the sacrifices it continues to demand. And considering the men who are most likely to succeed Fidel, this generation gap is bound to widen.

The Cuban Constitution decreed that the First Vice-President will succeed the President, which means that Fidel has been succeeded by his brother Raul, who as head of the party, military, and the state, thus controls all the instruments of power in the Cuban government. He can be expected to surround himself with the same kind of people who advised Fidel—people like Vice President Ricardo Alarcon, a foreign policy specialist who is committed to Castro’s vision for Cuba.

In the days following President Bush’s second inauguration, Alarcon was frank in an interview with Landau. “I think that there are discrepancies in his second inaugural address. He talked about carrying the fire of freedom throughout the world. Without sounding rude, I’d say this is, at the very least, an over-statement. He isn’t going to carry anything much further. He’s already having difficulty in maintaining this fire in Iraq. If he wants to do that around the world he will not succeed. Indeed, he’s not succeeding in Iraq.

“Cuba is one of the places mentioned, not by Bush but by [Secretary of State Condoleezza] Rice, the day before. I advise them not to try. It will cost a lot of lives if the Americans attack us, more than those dying in Iraq, because this is not a divided country or society that has been suffering under a dictatorial regime. The opposite is true. You will find here a free society, finally emancipated from half a century of oppression and corruption imposed by the US.

We attained our independence in 1959 from US domination. That is a fact of history. From an ethnic or cultural point of view we are a unified country, an island on which a common culture and common identity has evolved. We are prepared to make life impossible for an invader.”

The armed Cuban masses have always een Prepared to Defend Their Revolution
Afro-Cuban cuban soldiersistas
From Maids to Militants!

Castro has pointed to the sustained American embargo as the root cause of Cuba’s economic problems, while more and more of America’s allies are ignoring it. Most European and Latin American countries trade with Cuba, and Canada and New Zealand have publicly rejected the embargo policy as a violation of their national sovereignty. The decision of the Cuban government to relax its economic laws to encourage foreign investment has already resulted in hundreds of joint ventures with foreign companies that are reinvigorating the economy. Furthermore support for the embargo’s demise is growing in the American business community, Congress, and even among the younger generation of Miami’s Cuban-Americans. If sentiments continue to build in that direction, the embargo may well not continue after the Bush Administration.

“Everybody is waiting for the day Fidel dies and I think most people in and out of Cuba think that no significant changes are going to happen as long as Fidel stays in power,” says Professor de la Fuentes. “The big question is what happens afterwards. Most people believe there will be some sort of process of transition. For ordinary Cubans there are several important issues; first the social programs that have been established since the 1960s.

Cuba has fairly successful healthcare and education systems that by Third World standards are pretty good, and for people in the street, these are the things that matter. Then there is the issue of property; many people live in property that belonged to others in the 50s. What is going to happen to these people? There is also unemployment, which is fairly low in Cuba only because the public sector is inflated tremendously. Many people have jobs in public sector that would disappear under different conditions.”

“My hope is that when the change takes place it includes a combination of social and domestic policy freedoms with an emphasis on social programs, including care for the poor and disadvantaged in society. That is one thing that has kept Cuban socialism in power. Care for the poor and disadvantaged is not a bad thing.  My guess is committee government,” says Landau. “His brother will be the nominal president, and I am pretty sure there is no one else that will command consensus. Fidel said his brother will take over. They have been operating for 46 plus years; there is no reason to think there is much uncertainty. There is only one Fidel a century—for good or for ill. There is only one person who ‘when he walks into the room the wind does as well’. He is charismatic in the sense of going back to the root, meaning god-like attributes. He is not replaceable.”

 “I wanted with all my heart to paint the drama

of my country, but by thoroughly expressing

the Negro spirit, the beauty of the plastic arts of the blacks

In this way I could act as a Trojan horse that would spew forth

Hallucinating figures with the power to disturb,

The dreams of exploiters”

Wilfredo Lamb, Cuban artist
 An Evening At The Tropicana!!
At the Tropicana Club 
The Most Fabulous Night club in the World!
 **********************
Double Click to view  live show at the Tropicana
http://youtu.be/qzHFIu7WU_g
Double click on link to view Afro-Cuban Allstars

http://youtu.be/ayKsqYLvE0g

Double click to view Los Orichas Live!
http://youtu.be/nGReptnrN50
http://youtu.be/ZBoqCDSrWi8
Double Click to View Chucho Valdez
 http://youtu.be/VJi0KwXs6tE
Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
12/18/04
Originally published on 1o/26/09

In Suppressing Hong Kong Protestors

Posted in On Foreign Affairs with tags , on October 26, 2014 by playthell
Hong Kong Demnstrations II 
A Mass Demonstration in Hong Kong

 China is really aiming at the Elephant in the Bushes!

When China regained sovereignty over Hong Kong from British rule in 1997 – the city had been stolen by Britain and turned into a Crown Colony in 1842, under the terms of the Treaty of Nanking which ended the first Opium War – they didn’t envision the probability of the kind of mass demonstrations they are facing today; the implications of which spell real trouble for mainland China. Hence I would argue that the strategy employed by the Chinese Communist Party leadership in suppressing the “pro-democracy” movement led by students is really intended to send a message to the rest of China that mass demonstrations will gain them nothing.

In accepting the Basic Law, which amounts to a mini-constitution tailored for Hong Kong under which the city would be governed, the Chinese government announced a unique philosophy of governance based on a two tiered policy: “One Country two Systems.”  This policy was intended to reassure the banks and other financial institutions – the most powerful in Asia – located in the rich and beautiful sea side city that they had nothing to worry about from the Communist Party that ruled the mainland with an iron fist and promoted policies that are anathema to “free market” capitalism.

The Chinese rulers made it clear however, that there would be no attempt to nationalize the “private sector” that had generated so much wealth; indeed they would use it as an engine for generating foreign exchange and an instrument for financing business deals with the capitalist economies.  In other words they viewed the business acumen of Hong Kong as a boon to China’s paramount objective: to achieve a high degree of economic development and modernization in the shortest possible time.

China’s domestic and foreign policy is directed toward this aim. We can readily observe this in their policies on family planning as well as their foreign policy of strict non-interference in the affairs of other countries and their steadfast refusal to become involved in foreign military adventures, while building a formidable technological infrastructure designed to propel their economy into a dominant force in the 21st century, and a military machine that makes an invasion of China unthinkable!

The Chinese communist have shown a unique ability to tailor Marxist dogma to Chinese realities going back to Mao Tse Tung’s scrapping of a fundamental tenet of Marxist/Leninist analysis: that the industrial proletariat is the historically appointed class to lead the socialist revolution.  Instead Mao decided that in China, a quasi-feudal pre-capitalist society with no industrial proletariat to speak of, the revolutionary peasantry would assume the historic task of leading China to socialism. For Marxist this was like denying the theory of evolution to biologists; for the Marxist believes Marxism to be as scientific a method of analyzing the “laws of society” as biology is for analyzing the living world.  In fact, Frederick Engles – a biologist, close intellectual comrade and patron of Karl Marx – argued as much.

The adoption of a policy of allowing a bastion of unfettered capitalism to exist under the rule of a communist party was viewed as no less a heretical act by doctrinaire Marxist.  But as in the beginning the Chinese continue to shape Marxist theory to fit Chinese realities, rather than follow the Russian model of “dismissing reality when it didn’t fit our theories,” which the official ideological advisor to former premier Andropov gave as the major reason for the collapse of Russian communism.   I would argue that this willingness to adjust to reality and innovate is the major reason for the spectacular success of the Chinese Communist Party in converting China from a footstool of the western capitalist nations into a world power in just 66 years!   It also explains why they are still in power even as their would-be Russian Communist “tutors” have receded into history.

By any objective measure – i.e. free of ideological considerations – this is a remarkable achievement.  As I have written elsewhere, I believe the Chinese Communist Revolution is the greatest mass transformative movement in history.   However the Chinese Communist Party is now faced with an unintended consequence of their reclamation of Hong Kong, a spontaneous mass uprising demanding an unfettered democratic process where those who would rule over the people of Hong Kong must have the consent of the governed achieved through popular elections!

In the Basic Law governing Hong Kong agreed to by the Chinese government 19 years ago, the people were given the right to choose their officials through universal suffrage i.e. one person one vote. The present dispute centers around how the candidates will be selected.  The masses of people who have turned out in the pro-democracy demonstrations, led by Student Federation, just like the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee in the fight for Afro-American voter rights in the American south during the 1960’s, insist that the candidates who stand for office should be also selected by a popular vote like the US primary elections.

However the Leader of Hong Kong’s government C. Y. Leung, whose official position is Chief Executive and is backed by the Chinese government in Peking, views the matter differently.  Leung firmly supports the selection process now in place in which a selection committee appointed by Chinese premier Xi Ping will screen and pick the candidates for whom the people of Hong Kong may vote.  Ironically, despite all of the self-righteous chatter from the US State Department, this process resembles the “white primaries” that shaped racial politics in the American South which maintained “white supremacy” based on a legal racial caste system well into the twentieth century, in which black Americans could only choose between pre-selected white racist candidates.

And notwithstanding US denunciations of the Chinese interpretation of “universal suffrage,” the recent Supreme Court decision in “Citizen’s United” will increasingly have the effect of offering up candidates that have been pre-selected by the plutocrats.  Thus one could argue that in essence these two systems of selecting candidates represent a distinction without a real difference: Both are the antithesis of popular democracy. It took a mass movement to attain true universal suffrage in all regions of the US, in which blood was shed and lives were lost as a result of a collaboration between government and white terrorists, which bears a shocking resemblance to the goons now attacking the pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong who appear to have covert government backing.

On Tuesday representatives of the Hong Kong government sat down with leaders of the Hong Kong Federation of Students to explore the possibility of devising a solution to the crisis.  Alas, based on the statements issued by both sides to the press at the end of their meetings they were like Jack the Bear, made some tracks but got nowhere.  CEO Leung decided to play past the powowaltogether and dispatched his second in command, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, who offered the following statement to the press.  “”We should work within the system and enhance the transparency and competitiveness of the system as a whole.  This is a good opportunity and a meaningful dialogue. I hope the community will stay united.”

The student leaders made it abundantly clear that they weren’t buying what the government was selling.  Like all people who are about serious business Alex Chow wanted to establish a time table for reaching specific decisions.  To him this went right to the heart of the matter: deeds not words.   He asked: “Why did people come out? People felt like they had no choice. They had to come out and make their voices heard.”  Secretary Lam assured them that the government heard the voices of the students and added, “But no matter how lofty the sentiments, you must take legal means.”  This is evidently the party line issued from Peking because the Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, said almost the same thing to American Secretary of State John Kerry at a their recent meeting in the US.

However the Hong Kong students, just like the members of SNCC during Freedom Summer 1964, feel that the law does not address their just grievances and therefore they must petition the government for redress through mass protests by the citizenry.  The resemblance to the US student movement is uncanny.  For instance student leaders, led by their Secretary General Chow, even showed for the meeting with government officials dressed in black T shirts with a favorite slogan of SNCC “Freedom Now!” emblazoned across the front.

And like Afro-American students in the far more oppressive and murderous environment of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, et al – the entire southern half of the USA – the Hong Kong students are willing to pay the price for speaking truth to power. Lester Shum, an aide de camp to Mr. Chow, asked some poignant questions that went straight to the heart of the matter. “”Why are we willing to be arrested? Why are we willing to camp out for 24 days? Why are we willing to bear the risk of being tear gassed, smashed on the head with batons?   We just want the right for democracy.”

When Secretary Lam assured the student leaders that she was compiling a through report on all that has transpired since the demonstrations began, Mr. Chow asked “What concrete change will this report lead to?  Will it help lead to adjustment of the framework or the future direction of legislative council elections?”  His question went unanswered, and thus the stalemate.  However the students can garner some encouragement from the fact that four high ranking members of the government did meet with them to discuss their grievances, and it was broadcast live on television from an auditorium at the Hong Kong  college of medicine and many of the seven million residents of the city tuned in.

Yet when all is said and done the students did not achieve any of their demands from the government, all they got was hollow promises and spurious rhetoric. Hence when viewed in the light of present realities in Chinese politics I fear that the student movement is doomed to defeat.  If the issue was merely a matter of Hong Kong politics perhaps Peking could find a way to accommodate the student’s demands; it would be considered the price of peace.

But they will not make concessions to the demonstrators at the expense of destabilizing the mainland, which they justifiably fear would demonstrate to the billion and a half citizens across the vast expanse of China that government policies can be influenced by mass action.  That is the danger that Peking fears most.   They have witnessed the fall of the Russian Communist Party, and watched numerous well entrenched authoritarian governments all across the Middle-East collapse like paper tigers during the “Arab Spring,” and they do not intend to follow them into oblivion.

When we look at the major ally of the Communist Party in thwarting the popular democratic movement in Hong Kong, we find eloquent testimony to the enduring veracity of Lenin’s axiom: “politics makes strange bedfellows.”  For next to the Communist Party the folks who most want to crush the movement for a wider democracy through universal suffrage are the Hong Kong capitalist elites.  Consider the opinions of CEO Leung Chun Ying regarding true universal suffrage.  After making it abundantly clear that he had no intention of stepping down from his high office, despite student demands, and that he fully supported the committee method of selecting his successor, he offered some candid opinion.

According to the New York Times CEO Leung said: “You have to take care of all the sectors in Hong Kong as much as you can.  And if it’s entirely a numbers game and numeric representation, then obviously you would be talking to half of the people in Hong Kong who earn less than $1,800 a month.  Then you would end up with that kind of politics and policies.”  Shades of Marie Antoinette and Mitt Romney; these gluttonous cretins seem to always be the same wherever they pop up on the historical stage, which exonerates the insights and lends gravitas to CLR James axiom: “The rich can only be trusted when they are running for their lives.”

The Chinese communist understand this well as adherents to the communist vision of Marx, but they have made yet another deviation from classical Marxist dogma in their brazen collaboration with the class enemy in order to achieve a larger goal: maintaining the stability of Mainland China so that they can continue a steady march on the path to rapid modernization. Chinese President and General Secretary of the Communist Party Xi Jinping, who is considered the “Paramount Leader” – a title formerly reserved for the late father of New China Mao Tse Tung – is committed to the belief that in order for China to effectively carry out its modernization program the Party must be firmly in charge of the nation’s affairs. He has left no doubt that the Party leadership is totally committed to achieving their goals by any means necessary.  Hence when weighed against maintaining a stable disciplined society, crushing the Hong Kong student movement is no big deal.

 The Chinese are building a 21st Century Infrastructure
 Beijing_Capital_International_Airport_200908
American businessmen marvel over this Airport with high speed trains

 **********************

Playthell G. Benjamin

October 24, 2014

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,136 other followers