Friday, April 24, 2015

Kissinger and Shultz on 'The Iran Deal'

Kissinger and Shultz on 'The Iran Deal'
Thomas Riggins

For our edification The Wall Street Journal on 8 April turned over an entire editorial page to former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George Shultz so that we could understand why President Obama's negotiations with Iran over nuclear issues "will reinforce, not resolve, the world's challenges in the region." Let's take a look at what these two nonagenarians (who served under Nixon and Reagan respectively) present as the reasons for their prediction. 

We can ignore the first half of their article which consists of nothing more than pointing out the difficulties involved, should an agreement be reached, in inspecting and monitoring Iran's nuclear facilities. The subtext of this portion of the article is that the U.S. is naive and trusting and the Iranians are crafty and untrustworthy and are likely to cheat and cover up their bomb making progress. "In a large country with multiple facilities and ample experience in nuclear concealment, violations will be inherently difficult to detect." But what is the point of even entering into negotiations if your starting position is that the other side is dishonest and won't negotiate in good faith? 

The whole point of making a deal with Iran is to diffuse a dangerous and unstable situation and prevent a military confrontation over that country's ability to be a nuclear armed regional military threat. It is not just the US who wants to make a deal with Iran. There are six world powers involved-- the so called P5 + 1 (i.e., the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany). So let's not just focus on the U.S. and President Obama as our establishment media and the Republican - Israeli lobby alliance tend to do. It is not rational to think that the combined diplomatic corps of the P5 + 1 (no matter how bumbling the U.S. may be) can be bamboozled by the crafty Ayatollahs. 

We will now turn to the second half of the article where we will find the really substantive arguments against the Iranian deal as it now appears to be shaping up based on the much ballyhooed "Framework Agreement" announced on 2 April.
In analyzing this section of the Kissinger/Shultz paper it becomes clear that their only reason for thinking the deal with Iran won’t really work is that the Iranians will not  agree to submit to U.S. hegemony in the region. There is no compromise position available in which the  U.S. and Iran can give and take in such a way that both sides can have their interests protected. It is the U.S. way or the highway. Even though the negotiations are with the P5 + 1, Kissinger/Shultz completely ignore two of the P5 (Russia and China) and carry on as if only Iran and the West are involved, and by “the West” they mean “the U.S.”

The negotiations will only work if both sides cooperate to bring stability to the Middle East as well as resolve the nuclear issues and this requires “congruent  definitions of stability.”  Messrs. Kissinger and Shultz write, “There exists no current evidence that Iran and the U.S. are remotely near such an understanding.” I think Israel and the West Bank and Gaza is a good example. 

The U.S. supplied Israel with both weapons and political support during its military assault on Gaza last year and Israel succeeded, for the time being, in establishing “stability” with regards to its occupation of Palestinian territories. Can we realistically expect that Iran, a supporter of Palestinian rights, will accept this kind of “stability” and adopt “congruent” positions with the U.S. vis a vis Israel and the Palestinians? In fact the US position is not even “congruent” with other members of the P5 + 1. In this, and many other issues, the fact is that the positions of the U.S. are realistically untenable, rest on aggressive, hegemonic  behavior, and are the main causes of instability in the region. 

It is objectively the case that it has been and is U.S. actions that have destabilized Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, areas of Pakistan, worsens and prolongs the civil war in Syria, supported military dictatorship in Egypt, enables Israel to perpetuate the oppression and occupation of Palestine, and created the conditions that brought forth the Islamic State. So we must agree with Kissinger and Shultz that there are no “congruent definitions of stability” upon which the U.S. and Iran can cooperate.

 The U.S., due to deep ignorance of the cultures and the peoples of the Middle East (as elsewhere) combined with the fact that its policies are totally focused on the economic interests of its multinational corporations and their extensions and allies with little or no regard for the interests and rights of the local populations, is incapable of providing security and stability for the region. The best expression of this incapacity is demonstrated by the ignorant and unrealistic discussion presented by Kissinger and Shultz in their Wall Street Journal article. 

 Both men are former Republican U.S. secretaries of state and the best they can come up with to explain the present problems in the region is that Iran (the victim of a C.I.A. directed coup against their democratic government in the 1950s and the installation of the tyrannical government of the Shah, as well as the overt support of  a war against it launched by Iraq under Saddam Hussein, when he was our S.O.B., in the 1980s) is trying to create “a new Shiite empire.” 

They oppose  the Obama administration’s supposed desire to militarily disengage
in the region (no boots on the ground—maybe) which will leave the Sunni states at a disadvantage— especially our ally Saudi Arabia (a medieval tyranny second only to the Islamic State [ISIS] whose religious fanaticism it largely shares). They maintain that the region cannot become stable on its own (due to Sunni/Shiite rivalry). Therefore, since, according to the doctrine of “balance of power” theory of international relations which “suggests the need to bolster the weaker side” the U.S. has to remain engaged in the area and help out the Sunnis. But if either one of these so-called experts really believed in “bolstering the weaker side” to maintain stability they would also be advocating for the U.S. to support the Palestinians not the  Israeli Zionists.

As far as the problems in the Middle East are concerned, the article implies, the U.S. has clean hands. It is all the fault of Iran. “Stability requires an active American role. For Iran to be a valuable member of the international community, the prerequisite is that it accepts restraint on its ability to destabilize the Middle East and challenge the broader international order.” In other words, it must comply with the diktat of the U.S.

If the deal with Iran being negotiated with the P5 + 1 does not go far enough in making the Iranians come to heel to the demands of the neoconservatives in the U.S. and Israel, and the Framework Agreement indicates that it won’t, then the U.S. will likely become even more involved in the area in the future according to the authors of The Wall Street Journal article.

The only conclusion that can be reached, in my view, after reading this article, is  that neither Kissinger nor Shultz know what they are talking about and the sole purpose of the article is  to give aid and comfort to the enemies of peace in the Middle East and to strengthen politically those forces backing U.S. imperial domination of the region.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Conclusion: Fateful Steps That Led to the Crisis in Ukraine (Part Two)

Fateful Steps That Led to the Crisis in Ukraine (Part Two: Conclusion)
Thomas Riggins

This article picks up where Part One left off and explains in more detail the two conceptions of Ukrainian statehood discussed by Richard Sakwa in his new book Frontline Ukraine

First the 'monist' conception of Ukraine. In this view Ukrainian culture and statehood had been held back for the past several hundred years. In fact, ever since the Treaty of Pereyaslavl of 1654. This was a treaty between the ruler of much of what is now Ukraine and Russia in which Russian suzerainty became established. A program of Russification had been undertaken in the 1800s. Basing themselves on the primacy of the Ukrainian language as the official national language the monists seek to undo the Russification they think has been imposed on them in the past. This will entail their imposing monist values in turn on those segments of the population not sufficiently infused with their version of Ukrainian nationalism-- especially those who speak Russian as their first and preferred language.

One of the major influences on this outlook was Dmytro Dontsov (1883-1973). Dontsov had been a Marxist in his youth but morphed into an ultra-right Ukrainian nationalist after the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. He became a Russophobe who wanted Ukraine to become a major nation on the European model. Sakwa quotes him as follows: we want, "unity with Europe, under all circumstances and at any price -- that is the categorical imperative of our foreign policy."

The most important monist organization was (and is) the OUN (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists) a home spun fascist group which has integrated the teaching of Dontsov into their ideology. Dontsov was never a member but he wrote for them and provided a fascist outlook of his own creation distilled from the Italian and German (NAZI) models he had studied.

The OUN’s ideology is based on something called “integral nationalism.” This ideology views the nation as an organic whole— the state is supreme and superior to the individual. There is a supreme leader, a totalitarian one party state, and hostility to all forms of socialism (especially communism) as well as to bourgeois democracy. The Internet Encyclopedia of Ukraine describes it as follows : “The nationalists insisted on the primacy of will over reason, action over thought, and practice over theory. Their doctrine of nationalism was infused with aspects of the irrational, voluntaristic, and vitalistic theories popularized in Western Europe by such philosophers as Henri Bergson, Friedrich Nietzsche, Gustave Le Bon, Georges Sorel, and Oswald Spengler. In the place of objective scientific discovery the nationalists propagated myths and favored an ideologically ‘correct’ image of the Ukrainian past.”

 The same source describes their political program as follows: “The political order of the future Ukrainian state was to consist of a one-party system and would be based on a principle of supreme leadership (vozhdyzm). There would be only one political organization, which would consist of a supraclass of ‘better people.’ The state [i.e., the OUN] structure would be formed from a hierarchy of leaders under the supreme leader (vozhd), who would function both as leader  of the movement and head of state. Propaganda and educational materials for young cadres would consistently underline the role and authority of the leader.”

In the late 1930s Stepan Bandera became the leader of the OUN. During World War II the OUN alternated between working with the German occupation and participating in the massacre of Jews, Poles, and Russians, and fighting against it, depending on its perceptions as to whether or not the Germans would go along with an independent OUN run Ukraine or not. In 1943 Bandera’s followers massacred 70,000 Poles the majority of whom were unarmed men, women, and children (the future Ukrainian state was for Ukrainians). This mass killing took place in Volyn in the Western Ukraine. Also, Sakwa says, by 1945 the OUN had, in Eastern Galicia, killed 130,000. Many people had their eyes gouged out (including women and children) and were then hacked to death. This was the fate of suspected “informers” and their families.

This was massive ethnic cleansing. Russians and Jews were also targeted. One can perhaps understand why many Russian speakers in the eastern Ukraine took up arms in 2014 when they saw the flags of the OUN proudly displayed in Kiev after the overthrow of the elected government.

After WWII the OUN kept fighting against the forces of the USSR and People’s Poland until 1949. Bandera had been imprisoned by the Germans during the war when he was no longer useful and had started to fight against them when he saw they would not support an OUN run independent Ukraine but had been released towards the end of the war to fight against the USSR.  He stayed on in West Germany and was eventually hunted down and assassinated by the KGB in 1959. 

When Ukraine became independent in 1991 liberal-democratic forms of government and a market economy began to replace the Soviet forms that preceded them, but they have not really taken root. It turned out that all the old animosities and contradictions from the past had not been overcome but had only lain dormant.

After 2007 statues in honor of Bandera started cropping up in cities in the western Ukraine. The home grown fascism and ethnic hatred of the OUN was on the march again. The Maidan demonstrations in early 2014, which led to the overthrow of the legally elected Ukrainian government, even witnessed 15,000 people marching in celebration of Bandera’s 105th birthday. The Svoboda Party, a neo-fascist mass party tinged with anti-semitism along with the Fatherland Party of Yulia Tymoshenko (a right-wing anti-Russian pro NATO nationalist mass party) both supported this commemoration of the former Nazi ally and war criminal.

The Russian speakers in the eastern Ukraine who saw the Soviet era in a positive light were shocked. They were the core of the original Soviet Ukraine to which much of the western Ukraine was added as new territory after WWII and which had been been ruled until then as parts of other European states (Czechoslovakia, Romania, Poland). These new areas are part of the heartland of the OUN and are permeated with fascist ideology left over from their pre Soviet experiences. It is in these troubled waters that US imperialism and its NATO puppets are currently fishing.

Sakwa sees the core of the problem between the Donbas area rebellion (eastern Ukraine) and the western Ukrainian integral nationalists as primarily ideological. The Kiev government and rebels represent opposite world views. Basically, Kievian monism has an idealized conception of a pure Ukrainian nationalism that must be imposed on the country. It denies the reality on the ground of a pluralistic national population and seeks to make reality conform to its vision rather than adapt its political outlook to reality. (Sakwa points out this is also going on in the Baltic states.)

So what does the pluralist view entail? Due to all the changes in the boundaries of Ukraine over the last hundred years or so— territories switching back and forth due to wars and then to governmental policies-- the borders of the Ukraine today are very different than they were before WWII. 

There are other peoples, nationalities and languages in Ukraine besides the Ukrainians (even though they are the vast majority). About 78% of the people are Ukrainian, 17% Russian and 5% are others (about seventeen different ethnic groups). About 7 million Russians live in the country and they want their language and customs respected— as do the other ethnic groups as well. [The 2.4 million people in the Crimea are included in the above breakdown.]

The official national language is Ukrainian with 18 regional or territorial languages also recognized. The pluralists want Russian also recognized as a national language while also agreeing that Ukrainian has pride of place— i.e., should be taught to all. 

As Sakwa puts it, “The pluralist model argues that all the people making up contemporary Ukraine have an equal stake in the development of the country, and thus opposes the nationalizing strain, although without repudiating some of its concerns.”

The reason there is a rebellion going on in parts of the eastern Ukraine is that the extreme nationalists who are in the western Ukraine (although monists and pluralists are to be found everywhere they do predominate in some regions) feel that since they are the majority they can force their views on all the other people in Ukraine (the others are not “true” Ukrainians).

As V. Goldstein writes (pointed out by Sakwa) in Forbes magazine (5/19/14) “the culture, language and political thinking of western Ukraine have been imposed  upon the rest of Ukraine.” Dr. Goldstein (who teaches Slavic studies at Brown University) also explains why this imposition was attempted (rebellion was the backlash): “the objective has been to humiliate and put down Ukraine’s Russian speaking population. The radical nationalists of western Ukraine, for whom the rejection of Russia and its culture is an article of faith, intend to force the rest of the country to fit their narrow vision.”

It is this vision, with its roots in irrationalism, fascism and the anti-Semitism and ethnic massacres  of  WWII, that President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry and NATO along with the leaders of the EU, as well  our domestic right wing jingoists and puppet mass media are defending as “democracy, freedom, and national sovereignty.”  Blut und Bodin.

Congressional District 11 -- Why Donovan Must Be Defeated

 Congressional District 11:  May 5 Special Election-- Why Donovan Must Be Defeated

Thomas Riggins

The people of the newly revised Congressional District 11 covering Staten Island and adjoining parts of Brooklyn have an opportunity on May 5th to send a progressive pro working class politician to the House of Representatives to replace the felonious  Republican Michael Grimm who was forced to resign earlier this year. 

While several candidates will be on the ballot for this special election, only two have a realistic chance of winning. They are the Republican conservative Dan Donovan (currently Staten Island D.A. best known for trying to cover up the police murder of  Erik Garner with a secretive Grand Jury proceeding ) and the Democratic progressive Vincent Gentile (currently a member of the the City Council).

The media predicts a small turnout for this election and a Republican victory. A large turn out of motivated progressive people, however, could upset this prediction and send a progressive Democrat to Washington. I hope this article will help to motivate people to get out the vote as Donovan must be defeated.

He must be defeated because his party, the Republican Party, does not really represent the interests of the people either in his district or the nation as a whole.
It works constantly to undermine all the progressive social legislation enacted since the 1930s including social security, unemployment insurance, laws enacted to enable unionization drives, medicaid, medicare, food stamps, VA benefits, pre-school and infant care, civil rights laws, the Affordable Care Act, environmental protection, fair housing laws, public housing, tax relief for the poor, worker safety and protection laws, anti-pollution laws, immigration reform, voting rights, and by and large any legislation that benefits the masses of American people. But it does support any and all laws enacted to benefit banks, corporations, international conglomerates, CEOs and all members of the 1% of wealthiest Americans, and the military-industrial complex.

We do not need, and can ill afford, another Republican representative in the House to work against our interests and needs. What we need is a representative that will work for us as much as possible and who understands the needs of working people, minorities, children and seniors. The only real alternative to Dan Donovan and his conservative, reactionary party is to vote for the progressive Democrat Vincent Gentile. Not only vote for him but tell your friends and neighbors to vote as well because the Republicans are counting on a low turnout and hope that working people and their allies won't turn out for a special election scheduled for Tuesday, a work day.

Below is a list of some of the projects Vincent Gentile will prioritize if elected:

1. An increase in the minimum wage so working people can live on their earnings.

2. Fight for the maximum insurance payments from FEMA for the victims of  
    Hurricane Sandy.

3. Get funds for North Shore Rapid Transit, the Staten Island West Shore Railway 
     and increase express bus and ferry service in Brooklyn.

4. Close the loopholes created in the federal tax code that gives tax breaks and 
     incentives for corporations to move overseas and to ship jobs overseas as well.
     Gentile will back, instead, giving tax relief to those who create jobs domestically.

5. Gentile supports our efforts to work with our overseas allies to fight ISIS and
    Al-Qaeda but he opposes sending in American troops on the ground.

6. He will fight Republican efforts (or any other efforts) to weaken the Social 
     Security  and Medicare laws and benefits.

It is important to note that Vincent Gentile has also been endorsed by The Working Families Party and such unions as 1199 SEIU United Health Workers East and the
Hotel and Motel Trades Council (HTC).

So we have a clear choice in this election: a progressive Democrat or a reactionary 

Republican. Donovan must be defeated.