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Most of you don’t know war.  I certainly do not know what war is.  Nick Turse reports on it, but like reporters, can leave and return to the relative safety of home.  But an Libyan citizen nails down what its like in just a few short sentences:  “I drive by myself. I don’t know where I’m going and don’t have any place to go. My life has stopped. This is the only way to keep moving, but I’m not going anywhere.”

Crushing.  Exhausting.  Existential dread and uncertainty in a decidedly untidy package – all part and parcel of what war is.

 

“One hundred and fifty years after Henry became the first civilian casualty of the Civil War, Libyans began dying in their own civil strife as revolutionaries, backed by U.S. and NATO airpower, ended the 42-year rule of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Before the year was out, that war had already cost an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 lives.  And the killing never ended as the country slid into permanent near-failed-state status. The current conflict, raging on Tripoli’s doorstep since April, has left more than 4,700 people dead or wounded, including at least 176 confirmed civilian casualties (which experts believe to be lower than the actual figure). All told, according to the United Nations, around 1.5 million people — roughly 24% of the country’s population — have been affected by the almost three-month-old conflict. 

“Heavy shelling and airstrikes have become all too common since early April,” said Danielle Hannon-Burt, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross’s office in Tripoli. “Fierce fighting in parts of Tripoli includes direct or indiscriminate attacks against civilians and their property. It also includes attacks against key electricity, water, and medical infrastructure essential for the survival of the civilian population, potentially putting hundreds of thousands of people at risk.”

In this century, it’s a story that has occurred repeatedly, each time with its own individual horrors, as the American war on terror spread from Afghanistan to Iraq and then on to other countries; as Russia fought in Georgia, Ukraine, and elsewhere; as bloodlettings have bloomed from the Democratic Republic of Congo to South Sudan, from Myanmar to Kashmir. War watchers like me and like those reporters atop the Caravelle decades ago are, of course, the lucky ones. We can sit on the rooftops of hotels and listen to the low rumble of homes being chewed up by artillery. We can make targeted runs into no-go zones to glimpse the destruction. We can visit schools transformed into shelters. We can speak to real estate agents who have morphed into war victims.  Some of us, like Hedrick Smith, Michael Herr, or me, will then write about it — often from a safe distance and with the knowledge that, unlike Salah Isaid and most other civilian victims of such wars, we can always find an even safer place.

War has an all-consuming quality to it, which is at least part of what can make it so addictive for those blessed with the ability to escape it and so devastating to those trapped in it. A month of war had clearly worn Isaid down. He was slowly being crushed by it. 

In the middle of our conversation, he pulled me aside and whispered so his boys couldn’t hear him, “When I go to bed at night, all I can think is ‘What is going on? What does war have to do with me?’” He shook his head disbelievingly. Some days, he told me, he gets into his car and weaves his way through the traffic on the side of the capital untouched by shelling but increasingly affected by the war. “I drive by myself. I don’t know where I’m going and don’t have any place to go. My life has stopped. This is the only way to keep moving, but I’m not going anywhere.”

I kept moving and left, of course. Isaid and his family remain in Tripoli — homeless, their lives upended, their futures uncertain — pinned under the heavy weight of war. “

A timely historical refresher.

Interesting question.  The US is home to some of the largest social movements in the Western World, yet the US is also the farthest behind in terms of actual gains for the working class, women, and minorities.  How does this work?  describes the situation in the US and proposes that one of the key concepts missing from the American polity is a party, or even a politic that can bring people of the lower classes together to bargain for their interests collectively.  In other words, there is no real socialist option or ideological umbrella to foment behind in the political arena.  Most certainly there are groups and popular movements, each with individual muscle, but more strikingly evident, a lack of sinew and connective tissue to bind these various groups together in the polity.

This situation in which the progressive forces in the US are atomized is no mere accident.  The ruling classes have made it their project to remove socialist language and though from political discourse precisely because of how powerful class consciousness and solidarity are.  The success of the ruling classes venture is evident and brought to light by Navarro:

Moreover, the American business and conservative class, aware that the division of victims favors the victimizer, supports such division, hindering and impeding the transversality of such movements and showing great hostility toward the socialist project, which uses the concept of social class as the starting point of such transversality. This project—the alliance of the popular classes against the ruling class—is the most feared, since transversality would allow a union of actions that would weaken the ruling classes’ ability to exploit the rest of society. When the 1984 presidential candidate Jesse Jackson (whom I had the honor to advise) presented himself as the candidate of the black minorities, the New York Times (the voice of the political and media establishment) wrote an extremely laudatory editorial. Four years later in 1988, when he presented himself as the working-class candidate in the Rainbow Coalition, which united all races and genders of the working class, the same newspaper wrote an editorial accusing him of “wanting to destroy the USA.” When, in the last primaries of 1988, journalists asked Jesse Jackson how he was going to win the vote of the white worker from Baltimore (an industrial city), he answered: “by making him see that he has more in common with the black worker, for being workers, than with the owner and manager of the company, for being white.” Jesse Jackson won the primary of the Democratic Party in Baltimore and almost won nationwide, despite the enormous opposition and hostility of the political and media establishments, including the apparatus of the Democratic Party. More recently, during the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, the socialist candidate Bernie Sanders emphasized the need to unite the “working American families” in a coalition that cuts across identity differences. He almost won the primaries, despite the opposition of the Democratic Party apparatus (including the opposition of the feminist movement NOW, which supported Hilary Clinton as its favored candidate).

Following the rise of so-called populism based on identity causes, it is important to underline this point. Promoting populism with its great diversity of anti-establishment movements, celebrating such diversity without any criteria in terms of transversality that can unite such movements, is to reproduce what has happened in the United States, the country of social movements (except for the socialist movement) where the left (and women and the minorities) is enormously weak.

 

It doesn’t really matter who is at the helm in the US, the foreign policy remains the same.  Central/South America has been deemed within the sphere of influence of the United States and states resisting vassal status are punished for their crimes.

I’m guilty of not looking past the news coverage on this one was getting the impression that Maduro was not only suspect in this leadership of the country, but that his election was somehow illegitimate.  However the electoral system in Venezuela is quite doing well and possesses a fair amount of resiliency, if we are to take the Carter Centre’s word for it:

“Of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored,” said former President Jimmy Carter, whose Carter Centre is a respected monitor of elections around the world, “I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.” By way of contrast, said Carter, the US election system, with its emphasis on campaign money, “is one of the worst”.

The picture presented to us by more mainstream media doesn’t seem to reflect the Carter Centre’s statement.  There are other incongruities in coverage as well as evinced by much of what John Pilger writes in his article on Counterpunch.

“A war has been declared on Venezuela, of which the truth is “too difficult” to report.

It is too difficult to report the collapse of oil prices since 2014 as largely the result of criminal machinations by Wall Street. It is too difficult to report the blocking of Venezuela’s access to the US-dominated international financial system as sabotage. It is too difficult to report Washington’s “sanctions” against Venezuela, which have caused the loss of at least $6billion in Venezuela’s revenue since 2017, including  $2billion worth of imported medicines, as illegal, or the Bank of England’s refusal to return Venezuela’s gold reserves as an act of piracy.

The former United Nations Rapporteur, Alfred de Zayas, has likened this to a “medieval siege” designed “to bring countries to their knees”. It is a criminal assault, he says. It is similar to that faced by Salvador Allende in 1970 when President Richard Nixon and his equivalent of John Bolton, Henry Kissinger, set out to “make the economy [of Chile] scream”. The long dark night of Pinochet followed.

The Guardian correspondent, Tom Phillips, has tweeted a picture of a cap on which the words in Spanish mean in local slang: “Make Venezuela fucking cool again.” The reporter as clown may be the final stage of much of mainstream journalism’s degeneration.

Should the CIA stooge Guaido and his white supremacists grab power, it will be the 68th overthrow of a sovereign government by the United States, most of them democracies. A fire sale of Venezuela’s utilities and mineral wealth will surely follow, along with the theft of the country’s oil, as outlined by John Bolton.

Under the last Washington controlled government in Caracas, poverty reached historic proportions. There was no healthcare for those could not pay. There was no universal education”

The situation in Venezuela is indeed looking grim.  We are being misdirected (again) as to how and why events are unfolding as they are.   We not forget the lessons of Chile (1974) and should be wary of our media coverage that is filtered through the ideological lens of American foreign policy directives.

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