The seventeenth G20 Heads of State and Government Summit held in Bali, Indonesia, on 15–16 November stands out as a consequential event from many angles. The international politics is at an inflection point and the transition will not leave unaffected any of the institutions inherited from the past that is drifting away forever.
However, the G20 can be an exception in bridging time past with time present and time future. The tidings from Bali leave a sense of mixed feelings of hope and despair. The G20 was conceived against the backdrop of the financial crisis in 2007 — quintessentially, a western attempt to burnish the jaded G7 by bringing on board the emerging powers that stood outside it looking in, especially China, and thereby inject contemporaneity into global discourses.
The leitmotif was harmony. How far the Bali summit lived up to that expectation is the moot point today. Regrettably, the G7 selectively dragged extraneous issues into the deliberations and its alter ego, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), made its maiden appearance in the Asia-Pacific. Arguably, the latter must be counted as a fateful happening during the Bali summit.
What happened is a negation of the spirit of the G20. If the G7 refuses to discard its bloc mentality, the cohesion of the G20 gets affected. The G7-NATO joint statement could have been issued from Brussels or Washington or London. Why Bali?
The Chinese President Xi Jinping was spot on saying in a written speech at the APEC CEO Summit in Bangkok on November 17 that “The Asia-Pacific is no one’s backyard and should not become an arena for big power contest. No attempt to wage a new cold war will ever be allowed by the people or by the times.”
Xi warned that “Both geopolitical tensions and the evolving economic dynamics have exerted a negative impact on the development environment and cooperation structure of the Asia-Pacific.” Xi said the Asia-Pacific region was once a ground for big power rivalry, had suffered conflicts and war. “History tells us that bloc confrontation cannot solve any problem and that bias will only lead to disaster.”
The golden rule that security issues do not fall within the purview of G20 has been broken. At the G20 summit, the western countries held the rest of the participants at the Bali summit to ransom: ‘Our way or no way’. Unless the intransigent West was appeased on Ukraine issue, there could be no Bali declaration, so, Russia relented. The sordid drama showed that the DNA of the western world hasn’t changed. Bullying remains its distinguishing trait.
But, ironically, at the end of the day, what stood out was that the Bali Declaration failed to denounce Russia on the Ukraine issue. Countries such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey give reason for hope that G20 can regenerate itself. These countries were never western colonies. They are dedicated to multipolarity, which will ultimately compel the West to concede that unilateralism and hegemony is unsustainable.
This inflection point gave much verve to the meeting between the US President Joe Biden and the Chinese President Xi Jinping at Bali. Washington requested for such a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit, and Beijing consented. One striking thing about the meeting has been that Xi was appearing on the world stage after a hugely successful Party Congress.
The resonance of his voice was unmistakable. Xi underscored that the US has lost the plot, when he told Biden: “A statesman should think about and know where to lead his country. He should also think about and know how to get along with other countries and the wider world.” (here and here)
The White House readouts hinted that Biden was inclined to be conciliatory. The US faces an uphill challenge to isolate China. As things stand, circumstances overall work to China’s advantage. (here , here and here)
The majority of countries have refused to take sides on Ukraine. China’s stance amply reflects it. Xi told Biden that China is ‘highly concerned’ about the current situation in Ukraine and support and look forward to a resumption of peace talks between Russia and China. That said, Xi also expressed the hope that the US, NATO and the EU ‘will conduct comprehensive dialogues’ with Russia.
The fault lines that appeared at Bali may take new forms by the time the G20 holds its 18th summit in India next year. There is reason to be cautiously optimistic. First and foremost, it is improbable that Europe will go along with the US strategy of weaponising sanctions against China. They cannot afford a decoupling from China, which is the world’s largest trading nation and the principal driver of growth for the world economy.
Second, much as the battle cries in Ukraine rallied Europe behind the US, a profound rethink is under way. Much agonising is going on about Europe’s commitment to strategic autonomy. The recent visit of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to China pointed in that direction. It is inevitable that Europe will distance itself from the US’ cold war aspirations. This process is inexorable in a world where the US is not inclined to spend time, money or effort on its European allies.
The point is, in many ways, America’s capacity to provide effective global economic leadership has irreversibly diminished, having lost its pre-eminent status as the world’s largest economy by a wide margin. Besides, the US is no longer willing or capable of investing heavily in shouldering the burden of leadership. Simply put, it still has nothing on offer to match China’s Belt and Road Initiative. This should have had a chastening influence and prompted a change of mindset toward cooperative policy actions, but the American elite are stuck in the old groove.
Fundamentally, therefore, multilateralism has become much harder in the present-day world situation. Nonetheless, the G20 is the only game in town to bring together the G7 and the aspiring developing countries who stands to gain out of a democratised world order. The western alliance system is rooted in the past. The bloc mentality holds little appeal to the developing countries. The gravitation of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia toward the BRICS conveys a powerful message that the western strategy in conceiving the G20 — to create a ring of subaltern states around the G7 — has outlived its utility.
The dissonance that was on display in Bali exposed that the US still clings to its entitlement and is willing to play the spoiler. India has a great opportunity to navigate the G20 in a new direction. But it requires profound shifts on India’s part too –away from its US-centric foreign policies, coupled with far-sightedness and a bold vision to forge a cooperative relationship with China, jettisoning past phobias and discarding self-serving narratives, and, indeed, at the very least, avoiding any further descent into beggar-thy-neighbour policies.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Monday here during a meeting with his U.S. counterpart, Joe Biden, that as leaders of two major countries, they need to set the right course for bilateral ties.
From the initial contact and the establishment of diplomatic relations to today, China and the United States have gone through 50-plus eventful years, with gains and losses as well as experience and lessons, Xi said.
Noting that history is the best textbook, the Chinese president said that the two sides should take it as a mirror and let it guide the future.
Currently, the state of China-U.S. relations is not in the fundamental interests of the two countries and their people, Xi said, adding that it is not what the international community expects from the two countries either.
As leaders of two major countries, Xi said, the two presidents need to play the leadership role, set the right course for the China-U.S. relationship and put it on an upward trajectory.
A statesman should think about and know where to lead his country. He should also think about and know how to get along with other countries and the wider world, he added.
Emphasizing that in this time and age, great changes are unfolding in ways like never before, Xi said that humanity is confronted with unprecedented challenges.
“The world has come to a crossroads. Where to go from here? This is a question that is not just on our mind, but also on the mind of all countries,” Xi said, noting that the world expects that China and the United States will properly handle their relationship.
Noting that his meeting with Biden has attracted the world’s attention, Xi said that the two sides should work with all countries to bring more hope to world peace, greater confidence in global stability, and stronger impetus to common development.
Xi said that he stands ready to have a candid and in-depth exchange of views with Biden on issues of strategic importance in China-U.S. relations and on major global and regional issues, adding that he also looks forward to working with Biden to bring China-U.S. relations back to the track of healthy and stable growth to the benefit of our two countries and the world as a whole.
The United States has gambled big in its latest across-the-board sanctions on Chinese companies in the semiconductor industry, believing it can kneecap China and retain its global dominance. From the slogans of globalization and “free trade” of the neoliberal 1990s, Washington has reverted to good old technology denial regimes that the U.S. and its allies followed during the Cold War. While it might work in the short run in slowing down the Chinese advances, the cost to the U.S. semiconductor industry of losing China—its biggest market—will have significant consequences in the long run. In the process, the semiconductor industries of Taiwan and South Korea and equipment manufacturers in Japan and the European Union are likely to become collateral damage. It reminds us again of what former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once said: “It may be dangerous to be America’s enemy, but to be America’s friend is fatal.”
The purpose of the U.S. sanctions, the second generation of sanctions after the earlier one in August 2021, is to restrict China’s ability to import advanced computing chips, develop and maintain supercomputers, and manufacture advanced semiconductors. Though the U.S. sanctions are cloaked in military terms—denying China access to technology and products that can help China’s military—in reality, these sanctions target almost all leading semiconductor players in China and, therefore, its civilian sector as well. The fiction of ‘barring military use’ is only to provide the fig leaf of a cover under the World Trade Organization (WTO) exceptions on having to provide market access to all WTO members. Most military applications use older-generation chips and not the latest versions.
The specific sanctions imposed by the United States include:
- Advanced logic chips required for artificial intelligence and high-performance computing
- Equipment for 16nm logic and other advanced chips such as FinFET and Gate-All-Around
- The latest generations of memory chips: NAND with 128 layers or more and DRAM with 18nm half-pitch
Specific equipment bans in the rules go even further, including many older technologies as well. For example, one commentator pointed out that the prohibition of tools is so broad that it includes technologies used by IBM in the late 1990s.
The sanctions also encompass any company that uses U.S. technology or products in its supply chain. This is a provision in the U.S. laws: any company that ‘touches’ the United States while manufacturing its products is automatically brought under the U.S. sanctions regime. It is a unilateral extension of the United States’ national legal jurisdiction and can be used to punish and crush any entity—a company or any other institution—that is directly or indirectly linked to the United States. These sanctions are designed to completely decouple the supply chain of the United States and its allies—the European Union and East Asian countries—from China.
In addition to the latest U.S. sanctions against companies that are already on the list of sanctioned Chinese companies, a further 31 new companies have been added to an “unverified list.” These companies must provide complete information to the U.S. authorities within two months, or else they will be barred as well. Furthermore, no U.S. citizen or anyone domiciled in the United States can work for companies on the sanctioned or unverified lists, not even to maintain or repair equipment supplied earlier.
The global semiconductor industry’s size is currently more than $500 billion and is likely to double its size to $1 trillion by 2030. According to a Semiconductor Industry Association and Boston Consulting Group report of 2020—“Turning the Tide for Semiconductor Manufacturing in the U.S.”—China is expected to account for approximately 40 percent of the semiconductor industry growth by 2030, displacing the United States as the global leader. This is the immediate trigger for the U.S. sanctions and its attempt to halt China’s industry from taking over the lead from the United States and its allies.
While the above measures are intended to isolate China and limit its growth, there is a downside for the United States and its allies in sanctioning China.
The problem for the United States—more so for Taiwan and South Korea—is that China is their biggest trading partner. Imposing such sanctions on equipment and chips also means destroying a good part of their market with no prospect of an immediate replacement. This is true not only for China’s East Asian neighbors but also for equipment manufacturers like the Dutch company ASML, the world’s only supplier of extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography machines that produces the latest chips. For Taiwan and South Korea, China is not only the biggest export destination for their semiconductor industry as well as other industries, but also one of their biggest suppliers for a range of products. The forcible separation of China’s supply chain in the semiconductor industry is likely to be accompanied by separation in other sectors as well.
The U.S. companies are also likely to see a big hit to their bottom line—including equipment manufacturers such as Lam Research Corporation, Applied Materials, and KLA Corporation; the electronic design automation (EDA) tools such as Synopsys and Cadence; and advanced chip suppliers like Qualcomm, Nvidia, and AMD. China is the largest destination for all these companies. The problem for the United States is that China is not only the fastest-growing part of the world’s semiconductor industry but also the industry’s biggest market. So the latest sanctions will cripple not only the Chinese companies on the list but also the U.S. semiconductor firms, drying up a significant part of their profits and, therefore, their future research and development (R&D) investments in technology. While some of the resources for investments will come from the U.S. government—for example, the $52.7 billion chip manufacturing subsidy—they do not compare to the losses the U.S. semiconductor industry will suffer as a result of the China sanctions. This is why the semiconductor industry had suggested narrowly targeted sanctions on China’s defense and security industry, not the sweeping sanctions that the United States has now introduced; the scalpel and not the hammer.
The process of separating the sanctions regime and the global supply chain is not a new concept. The United States and its allies had a similar policy during and after the Cold War with the Soviet Union via the Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls (COCOM) (in 1996, it was replaced by the Wassenaar Arrangement), the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Missile Control Regime, and other such groups. Their purpose is very similar to what the United States has now introduced for the semiconductor industry. In essence, they were technology denial regimes that applied to any country that the United States considered an “enemy,” with its allies following—then as now—what the United States dictated. The targets on the export ban list were not only the specific products but also the tools that could be used to manufacture them. Not only the socialist bloc countries but also countries such as India were barred from accessing advanced technology, including supercomputers, advanced materials, and precision machine tools. Under this policy, critical equipment required for India’s nuclear and space industries was placed under a complete ban. Though the Wassenaar Arrangement still exists, with countries like even Russia and India within the ambit of this arrangement now, it has no real teeth. The real threat comes from falling out with the U.S. sanctions regime and the U.S. interpretation of its laws superseding international laws, including the WTO rules.
The advantage the United States and its military allies—in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, and the Central Treaty Organization—had before was that the United States and its European allies were the biggest manufacturers in the world. The United States also controlled West Asia’s hydrocarbon—oil and gas—a vital resource for all economic activities. The current chip war against China is being waged at a time when China has become the biggest manufacturing hub of the world and the largest trade partner for 70 percent of countries in the world. With the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries no longer obeying the U.S. diktats, Washington has lost control of the global energy market.
So why has the United States started a chip war against China at a time that its ability to win such a war is limited? It can, at best, postpone China’s rise as a global peer military power and the world’s biggest economy. An explanation lies in what some military historians call the “Thucydides trap”: when a rising power rivals a dominant military power, most such cases lead to war. According to Athenian historian Thucydides, Athens’ rise led Sparta, the then-dominant military power, to go to war against it, in the process destroying both city-states; therefore, the trap. While such claims have been disputed by other historians, when a dominant military power confronts a rising one, it does increase the chance of either a physical or economic war. If the Thucydides trap between China and the United States restricts itself to only an economic war—the chip war—we should consider ourselves lucky!
With the new series of sanctions by the United States, one issue has been settled: the neoliberal world of free trade is officially over. The sooner other countries understand it, the better it will be for their people. And self-reliance means not simply the fake self-reliance of supporting local manufacturing, but instead means developing the technology and knowledge to sustain and grow it.
This article was produced in partnership by Newsclick and Globetrotter.
In 1799, Marshall Alexander Suvorov led a Russian army and all its cannons across the Alps in the dead of winter. A plaque near Gotthard still commemorates this epic military feat.
In March 1814, Russia’s emperor Alexander I entered Paris at the head of his Imperial Guard, ending Napoleon’s rule.
In 1945, Russian forces under Marshalls Zhukov and Konev fought their way into Berlin. The Red Army destroyed 75% of all German and Axis forces.
Russians are great warriors. They are courageous, often heedless of death, and masters of the art of war.
So, what has happened to the Russian Army in Ukraine? It has fought poorly, moved at the speed of ox carts, blundered around and suffered heavy casualties and heavy loss of armored and air forces.
Start with Russia’s military hierarchy. It’s led by a civilian, Sergei Shoigu, a crony of Putin and a man without any military training or experience. But he’s loyal to Putin.
He reminds me of poor, old Egyptian field marshal, Abdel Hakim Amer, Nasser’s buddy, who misled his nation’s armed forces into the 1967 catastrophe. When Israeli warplanes attacked, using US satellite data, Amer was smoking dope in his airplane.
Putin was a KGB officer. He had no military background beyond ruthlessly crushing the second Chechen uprising – with US help. Chechen chief Ramzan Kadyrov has blasted Shoigu and called for his head. There has been far too much political interference with Russia’s military.
Putin wanted a limited ‘military action,’ not a full-scale war against what was not so long ago an integral part of Russia. Hence the once formidable Red Army was kept on a leash, deprived of Russia’s most modern weapons, and ordered to go easy on the rebellious Ukrainians.
Russia’s artillery, the Queen of battle, ran out of ammunition. The Red Air Force was ordered not to risk its expensive Sukhoi fighter-bombers. Its space-based targeting was jammed or degraded by the US and NATO.
Equally important, the conflict in Ukraine has already turned into a mini-World War Three as the US and its key allies struggle to deliver the coup de grace to the Russian federation.
This war is not about freedom for Ukraine – as potent western propaganda incessantly tells us. It’s about crushing the last remnants of former Soviet power and turning the fragments into docile mini states dominated by Washington and London.
Since CIA overthrew Ukraine’s pro-Russian regime in 2014 – which cost an estimated $50 billion – Moscow and Kiev have been at daggers drawn. Putin’s Russia refuses to recognize Ukraine as an independent state. Kiev, backed by tens of billions of dollars and a massive arsenal of arms from the west, rejects Russian hegemony.
The US wants to see the Balkanization of Mother Russia. The next targets may be Russia’s Far East or the Russian Urals. The war party in Washington, Republicans and Democrats alike, appears determined to crush the life out of what’s left of Russia and achieve the strategic goal of America’s neocons of eradicating any potential military opponent of absolute worldwide US power. Once Russia is laid low, China will be the next target – in fact, it likely already is.
The Biden administration has already poured close to $100 billion of aid and huge amounts of arms into Ukraine, a staggering and risky sum for a nation with a $31 trillion deficit. Add billions more from Canada and US allies in Europe who would prefer to see this war end.
The current wave of high inflation has been ignited in large part by Washington’s reckless spending over Ukraine. This is money the US Treasury does not have, and must borrow, fueling roaring inflation.
A decade ago, President Putin proclaimed that Russia would cut conventional military spending and increasingly rely on nuclear arms.
Yet we are surprised now that the Kremlin is rattling its nuclear weapons. We should not forget that before the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union, Ukraine held and produced substantial numbers of nuclear weapons and delivery systems. These were supposedly all junked, but Ukraine probably holds a few nukes in secret.
Meanwhile, western forces are openly operating in Ukraine against Russian forces. The full panoply of US power is witnessed there: space intelligence and air-born intelligence; naval operations blocking the Russian Black Sea Fleet; vast amounts of artillery, electronic warfare, conventional land warfare conducted by special units from Poland, the US, Britain and Germany.
As this column has been saying for years, the prime duty of the United States, the world’s premier power, is to avert any possible nuclear confrontation in Eastern Europe. Diplomacy, not more arms, is the answer.
The answer is clear: stop trying to draw Ukraine into NATO, stop trying to fragment Russia. Let the rebellious Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine join Russia if they so desire. Pull western forces out of the region and resume quiet diplomacy. Let France lead this sensible effort.
Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2022
The United Nations General Assembly recognized “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights” on July 28, 2010. Yet, 12 years later, this human right is still out of reach for millions across the globe, particularly in the Global South. Even in the United States, which has the largest gross domestic product globally, poor and working-class people, and in particular Black and Brown people, are denied this fundamental right. In several cities across the United States, residents struggle with system-wide neglect of water systems and the failure of the government to provide access to what is arguably the most essential resource.
The Struggle for Water Is a Struggle Against Racism
Dennis Diaz, a resident of the public housing project Jacob Riis Houses in the East Village, New York City, said that after he experienced nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, and migraine headaches around late August and early September, he took preliminary tests that revealed he had been exposed to arsenic.
As early as August 4, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) was alerted about cloudy water conditions at the Jacob Riis public housing complex. After apparently testing the water for E. coli and chlorine more than a week later, on August 16, NYCHA announced that the water was safe to drink. But after 11 p.m. on September 2, NYCHA revealed that there was arsenic in the water supply. According to an article in City and State, the city said that officials had known about the arsenic two weeks prior.
Diaz called New York “the greatest city in the world” and explained his frustration with the double standard that he feels local politicians allow to persist when it comes to quality-of-life issues between majority-minority neighborhoods like his own and wealthier, predominantly white residential areas. “Imagine if,” he said, arsenic was found in the water by residents in Manhattan’s “Fifth Avenue or Soho, or Williamsburg,” Brooklyn. “Maybe the outcomes would have been different for them. But for minorities in my community, we’re next to nothing to the politicians.” According to the 2016 data provided by NYCHA, 40 percent of the heads of the households living in public housing under the Housing Choice Voucher Program were Black, while 48 percent had Latin American ancestry.
The city of New York is now denying that there ever was arsenic in the water at Jacob Riis, claiming that the testing method “introduced trace levels of arsenic” to the sample they collected. But Dennis Diaz, who recently received his bloodwork results showing low levels of arsenic, is not convinced. “They’re lying,” he said while referring to the latest statement by the city officials. “They did it in Flint, Michigan, where they lied to them [the residents] for years. You can’t believe these people.”
Since NYCHA’s inception in 1934, New York City’s public housing has fallen into disrepair as the federal government drastically reduced funding for public housing in the 2000s. In 2018, 400,000 tenants sued NYCHA for squalid conditions. Also in 2018, then-U.S. Federal Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman sued NYCHA for health and safety violations, exposing children to lead paint, and training NYCHA workers to “deceive” federal inspectors.
In Baltimore, water in the western part of the city tested positive for E. coli on September 5. Affected neighborhoods included the area of Harlem Park/Sandtown-Winchester. Authorities advised residents in these areas to boil water before use due to the contamination.
By September 6, the “boil water advisory” stretched across West Baltimore and into the surrounding southwestern Baltimore County. The neighborhood of Sandtown-Winchester/Harlem Park is 96.7 percent Black, within the 62.8 percent Black city of Baltimore. This neighborhood also has a history of police brutality. In 2015, Freddie Gray died due to injuries sustained while in police custody after he was arrested in the area. A medical examiner ruled that his death was a homicide “because officers failed to follow safety guidelines.” In 2017, Harlem Park was locked down by police for nearly a week after a detective was murdered before testifying at a trial against other police officers. Some organizations questioned whether this action by the police was lawful.
Baltimore resident Rachel Viqueira was located in the boil water advisory zone. “While facing decades of underinvestment and neglect, these neighborhoods have simultaneously faced increasing racist police violence and surveillance,” she said. In 2020, Baltimore responded to the massive public protests surrounding George Floyd’s death by defunding the police budget by $22 million. But in 2021, Baltimore City increased police funding by $28 million. This not only canceled out the 2020 decrease but also tacked on an additional $8 million to the police budget.
“In Baltimore, and many other cities, the police budgets have ballooned at the expense of public investment in infrastructure, health, jobs, housing, and education,” Viqueira said.
Jackson, Mississippi, was under a boil water notice from July 29 to September 15. And from August 30 to September 5, the water stopped running for many of Jackson’s more than 150,000 residents, leaving public spaces like schools without running sinks or working toilets. Although water pressure has now been restored, the water remains contaminated.
Derykah Watts, who distributed water to Jackson residents as part of her student group Jackson Water Crisis Advocacy Team, said, “This is a reality that Jackson has faced for a very long time. I know growing up, I remember always hearing my mother say, ‘Oh, we’re on boil water notice this week, don’t use the water [straight from the tap].’”
Jackson is 82.5 percent Black, and this water crisis is only the latest in a chain of failures in the city’s underfunded water system. The roots of the water crisis originate in the era immediately following the racial desegregation of schools in Jackson in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Following desegregation, white residents left the city en masse. From 1960 to 1990, the white population residing in Jackson shrunk by 6,000. White departure meant that white residents, historically more well-off than descendants of Black people who were enslaved, would no longer constitute a large portion of the tax base for city funding.
Instead of finding concrete solutions to address the water crisis resulting from systemic racism, both the city of Jackson and the state of Mississippi have been considering privatizing the city’s water supply following the crisis. “We’ve already seen how privatization of Texas’ electrical grid meant massive shut-offs of heat in the middle of a winter storm,” said local activist Bezal Jupiter. “People lost their power, people froze, and some people even died [as many as 246]. Do we want the same future for Jackson’s water system?”
A Water Crisis That Never Ended
The majority-Black city of Flint, Michigan, made headlines in 2016 when it was revealed that for two years, the state government had been covering up the fact that residents were actively being poisoned by lead in their water supply. Six years later, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy said that the amount of lead in the water complies with state and federal standards, yet scientists insist that no amount of lead in water is safe. And as of April of 2022, the government was yet to replace 1,800 lead pipes.
“[Governments] will fund rich white communities for infrastructure upgrades, but they absolutely won’t do it for cities like Flint, Baltimore, and Jackson,” said Mitchell Bonga, a law clerk at Goodman, Hurwitz and James, a law firm that filed a class action lawsuit against former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder for his role in the Flint crisis.
‘They Could Have Done It All Along’
In the neighboring city of Detroit, which also has a majority-Black, low-income population, residents who cannot pay their water bills have been struggling against water shut-offs. “People can’t afford the water bill [in Detroit],” said local activist and Detroit resident Tharron Combs. “People sometimes owe hundreds of dollars in debt to the city for their water bill and when it gets shut off, obviously it’s a public health crisis.”
The city imposed a moratorium on water shut-offs for the pandemic, extending it through 2022. But although the mayor announced his intention to end water shutoffs “once and for all,” the moratorium will expire at the end of the year. “They actually put [shut-offs] on pause for the pandemic, which kind of exposed one of the contradictions of capitalism,” said Combs. “They could have done it all along, and just let people have access to clean water.
“[People] can’t afford their water, or their water is unclean when they can afford it. They don’t have access to food. And this is not a condition that’s really unique to Detroit. This is the case in really any major Black city in the country… Clearly, it’s environmental racism all the way down,” said Combs.
This article was produced in partnership by Peoples Dispatch and Globetrotter.
An inflationary tsunami is passing through the world economy, creating economic disorder—in some cases acute political crisis—in every country it touches. This is gathering momentum as the U.S., which is leading other Global North economies, attempts to control inflation by rapidly raising interest rates—forcing the Global North economies into recession.
The Global South economies have been thereby struck by a quadruple whammy producing still more severe stagflation, rising inflation, and slowing growth than in the Global North. First, rising U.S. interest rates force up the dollar’s exchange rate against the currencies of developing countries, increasing import prices that are usually set in dollars, thereby worsening inflation for these developing countries. Second, the dollar’s climb against the currencies of developing countries increases the cost in their currencies of repaying international debts, which are dollar-priced. Third, to attempt to prevent a very sharp fall in their exchange rates, and to try to prevent capital from flowing out of their economies into the U.S., the Global South countries raise interest rates—pushing their economies toward recession. Fourth, the Global North’s recession lowers the demand for Global South exports, putting further downward pressure on their economies.
Politically, this situation creates crises for several right-wing regimes in the Global South, but also adds negative pressure on the policies of progressive left governments and leads to the threat of “color revolutions.”
The U.S. claims that this global inflation, and the downward pressure on living standards it creates, is due to the Ukraine war—and that therefore, countries should blame and unite against Russia. But a brief look at the facts refutes this claim.
The Ukraine war started on February 24, 2022, but U.S. inflation had already been rising sharply for nearly two years before that. U.S. price rises were 0.1 percent in May 2020, but by January 2022, before the Ukraine war, prices had risen to 7.5 percent—U.S. inflation rose by 7.4 percent before the war. In August 2022, U.S. price rises were 8.3 percent, a rise of only 0.8 percent since the war began.
More than 90 percent of the U.S. price rises took place before the Ukraine war. Therefore, it is important to think critically when the U.S. blames Russia for the worldwide inflation and the resulting reduction in living standards. The huge U.S. inflationary wave, which spread globally with only a two- to-three-month delay, since the U.S. is the world’s largest economy, took place before the Ukraine war. As the Wall Street Journal editorial board noted: “This isn’t Putin’s inflation… This inflation was made in Washington.”
What Caused the U.S. Inflation?
It is easy to explain in technical economic terms why U.S. inflation soared—it was analyzed as it occurred by U.S. economists such as former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers. In May 2021 Summers warned: “We’re taking very substantial risks on the inflation side… The Fed’s idea used to be that it removed the punchbowl before the party got good… Now, the Fed’s doctrine is that it will only remove the punchbowl after it sees some people staggering around drunk… We are printing money, we are creating government bonds, [and] we are borrowing on unprecedented scales.”
The U.S. budget deficit rose to 26 percent of GDP and the annual increase in U.S. money supply reached 27 percent—both by far the highest in U.S. peacetime history. With a huge surge in demand taking place, and no major increase in supply, soaring U.S. inflation was inevitable.
What Was the Role of Inflation?
But more important than a technical explanation is understanding the social role of inflation. Inflation showed that demand was far higher than supply—putting upward pressure on prices of goods and services. So, with no increase in supply taking place, demand had to be cut back. The key social question was: Which U.S. spending would be cut?
Many U.S. reforms could be implemented by cutting demand and reallocating spending, thereby reducing inflationary pressures, while not reducing U.S. living standards—indeed, these reforms would improve U.S. economic efficiency and living standards. U.S. military expenditure is the highest in the world—more than the military spending by the next nine countries combined. This 3.7 percent of U.S. GDP spending could be reduced with no fall in U.S. living standards.
Equally, in 2020 U.S. expenditure on health care reached 19.7 percent of GDP—almost one-fifth of its economy. But the U.S. private health care system is very inefficient. The U.S. spends a higher proportion on health care as a share of its economy than any other economy in the world, but the U.S. life expectancy is only 77 years, compared to an average of 83 years in other high-income economies. The cost of private health care system in the U.S. comprises a higher proportion of the country’s economy for its citizens to live around six years less than comparable countries.
But reducing U.S. military expenditure, or rationalizing health care, would go against the vested interests of arms manufacturers and Big Pharma in the U.S., respectively. Reducing U.S. military spending would force a lessening of its aggressive overseas military policy. Rationalizing U.S. health care would entail a move toward a public health care system as more successfully used by other countries and would cut profits of big private health care corporations. The U.S. government’s vested interests in supporting arms manufacturers and Big Pharma means that no such actions will be taken.
But if no measures are taken against these vested interests, then the only alternative way to reduce spending is to cut working-class living standards. This is what happens during inflation. As John Maynard Keynes explained it is much easier to cut real wages by high inflation than by directly reducing money wages—it is a partially concealed cut and workers cannot negotiate with their employers over inflation levels.
The medium- and long-term inflation is destabilizing and must be controlled—normally in capitalism this is achieved through recession. But short-term inflation is a powerful tool to reduce real wages which is what is happening.
The average U.S. money wages are increasing—in August they rose by 4.6 percent. But prices increased more rapidly—by 8.3 percent during the same period. U.S. real wages therefore fell, as they have every month since April 2021. In August 2022, U.S. real weekly earnings were 3.4 percent lower than a year previously.
But this inflation, which is cutting U.S. workers’ real earnings, spills out into the rest of the world creating a crisis in the Global South. U.S. inflation, therefore, attacks both U.S. workers and the rest of the world.
This article was produced by Globetrotter.
This is a serious development.
As I have said over and over, the Kremlin’s go-slow limited military operation is a fatal mistake resulting in a wider war. An operation that should have been concluded in a week is now in its seventh month and seems destined to continue indefinitely as the Kremlin does nothing to disrupt the Ukrainian government’s war effort or the endless supplies of weapons that the West pours into Ukraine. The long-running conflict has allowed Western propaganda to portray the Russian military as unsuccessful and to convince Western decision-makers that Russia can be defeated in Ukraine. This conviction has led to ever higher states of Western involvement.
With the Pentagon’s creation of a “Ukraine Command,” we move closer to the introduction of US troops. In fact, US military forces are already involved. They train Ukraine’s soldiers at the US Army’s European Headquarters in Wiesbaden, Germany, thus committing Germany to the intervention in Ukraine. US military personnel provide targeting information for Ukraine’s attacks on Russian positions. Yet, despite the growing involvement of US/NATO, the Kremlin holds on to its limited operation, dangerous in its failure and miscalculation, as Russia’s dilly-dallying has convinced the West that the Kremlin has no stomach for real conflict, encouraging Washington to take another step toward sending troops by forming a “Ukraine Command.”
Putin’s emphasis on legalisms might be the undoing of Russia. The Kremlin could have avoided the Ukraine conflict by doing in 2014 what it is doing, belatedly, in 2022–accept the Donbass Russians’ request to be returned to Russia. The Kremlin could have avoided the US/NATO military commitment to Ukraine by knocking out Ukraine before the West had time to react.
Blunders have a cost, and the cost of the Kremlin’s blunders is developing into direct conflict between US and Russian soldiers.
As blood-red lighting stained the backdrop, the dark black sky rendered an eerie aura of despotism. Members of the military stood guard clutching their weapons in a show of power. Like a tyrannical allocution, US President Joe Biden lifted his hands clenched tightly into a fist and condemned his political opposition as being extremists and a threat to democracy. He propagated words of division to an already heavily-polarised population split along lines of party, politics and ideology.
Joe Biden took to the stage in downtown Philadelphia to issue a speech of mere opprobrium pointed bluntly toward the rivals of his political camp. His clenched fists thrown into the air complemented by his bared teeth and glare of hostility reminded the world of Hitler’s speeches at the Nazi conventions in WWII Europe.
By declaring that former President Donald Trump and his supporters are a threat to American democracy, Joe Biden essentially promulgated that over 77 million of his own people are extremists. “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic”, Joe Biden raged.
The timing of his schismatic speech is politically felicitous as it comes a few weeks before the 2022 mid-term elections – an event that could witness a return of the Republican party to control the House or Senate. The botched military withdrawal from Afghanistan, the immigrant crisis on the Southern border and the devastated economy are some of the principal talking points of the Republican camp.
White House officials termed Biden’s address as the ‘battle for the soul of the nation’ and Biden claimed that he speaks to America on ‘sacred’ ground. This sort of language reminds any political reader of the authoritative attributes of the famous Big Brother, in George Orwell’s classic; 1984. This is of course complemented by the widespread censorship of opposing political views on mainstream media and big tech platforms as well as the rampant cancel culture that seems to have infiltrated social life across the globe.
As the Biden-Harris administration plummets to become the second least popular duo in office, White House officials work hard to put on a dazzling show before the mid-terms. However, being flanked by Marines complemented by Nazi-like lighting behind the president is probably the worst backdrop that the strategists could come up with.
Biden’s comments on his political opponents come as a result of the forced entry of Trump supporters into the US Capitol on 06 January 2021 – for which court cases and trials are open to date. The US judiciary, politicians and legal system have arrested, are trying and will sentence scores of Trump supporters for storming their government buildings.
Yet the very sanctimonious posturing lies in the hypocritical statements of Western representatives with regard to the Sri Lankan Aragalaya regime change operation. While Biden condemned insurrectionists as ‘extremists’ threatening American democracy, his ambassador to Sri Lanka, Julie Chung, hailed the Sri Lankan insurrectionists as ‘peaceful protesters’. Why is it that the insurrectionists of Sri Lanka were defended as peaceful yet when America is threatened in the same way, their insurrectionists are castigated as a threat? Perhaps post-colonial neo-imperialism is the underlying impetus.
The Aragalaya movement in Sri Lanka was the propulsion of mob violence driven by behind-the-scenes political strategists. Kumar Gunaratnam’s Peratugami and the Anthare played pivotal roles in the planning, organising and executing of the protest-riot compilation. The raging mob violence left millions of rupees in damages in Galle Face alone. The same mobs burned down over sixty homes of lawmakers, destroyed over fifty public and private vehicles and waged incendiarism in the current President’s residence – but yes, according to Ambassador Chung, they are ‘peaceful protesters’.
When Sri Lanka attempted to protect her national assets by making the insurrectionists leave the invaded government buildings, including the Presidential Secretariat, Presidential Residence and Prime Minister’s Residence, the US and Western officials released tweets and reports against President Wickremesinghe’s actions. Yet when their own Capitol building was invaded by insurrectionists, the US government deployed over 26,000 National Guard troops to quell the demonstrations. The double standard in handling crises is not just appalling, but rather vituperative in the larger sense of geopolitical regard.
Of course, this sort of hypocrisy is not new to the table as the same Western governments that unfoundedly accuse Sri Lanka of unsubstantiated war crimes and manipulated ‘genocides’, enjoy immunity from condemnation for their crimes in wars across the world, especially during the Invasion of Iraq and the conflicts in Afghanistan and Syria.
Biden’s antagonist-like monologue lambasted the Trump-aligned population of America as being “a clear and present danger” who placed “a dagger at the throat of [American] democracy”. Does the US diplomatic community suggest that Sri Lanka is not in ‘clear and present danger’ from the politically charged regime change operation that transpired here?
The American state and people have been a friend of Sri Lanka for decades. The political bond that was enjoyed during the JR-Reagan period is one of diplomatic brilliance and political prosperity. Likewise, the US military has always had a cordial relationship with its Sri Lankan counterparts. Amongst several instances, the US Navy Pacific Command provided intelligence to the Sri Lankan government of LTTE terrorist activity to hunt down terrorist ships and crew during the war. Alternatively, the Sri Lankan military provided Jungle Warfare training to foreign troops. The potential inconvenience to this politico-militaristic relationship stems from mishandled diplomacy on both sides of the spectrum; including the double standard view of the US government as well as the failure of the Sri Lankan diplomatic corps in building a stronger relationship with its Western counterparts.
The LTTE international network carries out its compelling strategy of lobbying, litigation and lawmaking in the global arena. By lobbying foreign politicians with funds and votes, the LTTE international body attempts to achieve the vision of separatism through international geopolitics after having failed to achieve it through sheer brutal terrorism on the island. At the same time, the ongoing shift in US foreign policy away from the political ecosystem of the Middle East and towards the Indo-Pacific region signals a potentially intense power play in the region.
The Sri Lankan government and diplomatic corps must immediately understand the severity of this impending materialisation and prepare themselves at the earliest. The economic condition of the country and the failing political stability have rendered the nation a regional punching bag, as rightly commented by President Wickremesinghe. A punching bag will not survive the storm – only a ship with a sturdy sail and adept steering can make it through. It is time Sri Lanka builds her sail and firmly lays her hands on the helm. The storm is coming.
As the hands of the great chronograph of time strike to symbolise twenty-one years since that day of sheer terror in downtown New York, the world reflects upon the new type of war that has enkindled the world for all these years. As the haunting wails of victims pulsated across the globe, the extremist Islamist brand of terror took the centre stage of destruction.
9/11 marks a tragic memory of loss for the American people. People gathered at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in Lower Manhattan to observe an annual ritual of remembering the nearly 3,000 lives that were lost in the terror attacks. The crowd raised the popular slogan, “Never Forget” to pay tribute to the precious lives lost and to the resolve of the American nation against terrorism. Army General Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, remembered it as “an attack on the American nation as a whole” and the failure of terrorists in destroying the freedom of the nation. The attacks on 9/11 reflected a growing threat to the peaceful community of the world.
Bin Laden’s model of terror resembled an idiosyncratic fusion of politico-religious fundamentalism as well as anti-Americanist sentiment. The newspapers on 9th September 2001 reported, “America is under attack”. People watched in disbelief as the most powerful country in the world seemed vulnerable and helpless in the face of such blatant provocation. The unipolar world power of the 90s was struck in the heart by an ideological fiend of terror. The very magnitude of severity with which the mighty Global Power was assaulted shocked the ends of the earth. 9/11 is still regarded as the single deadliest attack on US soil.
As al-Qaeda openly and brazenly provoked the US, the latter vindictively declared a counterattack against al-Qaeda and their organisational haven in Kabul – the Taliban. Then-President George W. Bush announced that the US will “make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbour them”. This announcement materialised through the launch of Operation Enduring Freedom on October 07 of the same year, when US Army Special Forces, colloquially known as the ‘Green Berets’ were deployed into Afghanistan to decimate the al-Qaeda operational infrastructure and network. The operation also aimed to oust the Taliban government from Afghanistan due to the very national security threat that the country posed to the US. This operation which was launched with a clear aim in mind, soon turned into an ambiguous and controversial war – famously dubbed the War on Terror.
The War on Terror became the longest war ever fought by the US spanning over twenty years. The Taliban regime collapsed a month after the attack and Bin Laden fled Afghanistan and remained in hiding for close to a decade. When the war completed its first ten years, Bin Laden was finally struck down by Seal Team Six (DEVGRU) in 2011 in Abbottabad, Pakistan. With that, the primary goal of the US was accomplished which was to rout both Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. At this stage in 2011, the US had planted the pro-US government of Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan.
The remainder of their operations in Afghanistan was fought without any particular goals to accomplish – something that had been up for debate for several years with multiple high-profile figures advocating for withdrawal. The US claimed that its goal was to create a strong democratic government in Afghanistan so that the Taliban can never roll back into power. Fast forward to 2021, the Taliban rolled back to power stronger than before and with the mighty brunt of the US arsenal courtesy of the Biden-Harris administration.
The War on Terror was jointly supported by many countries. Although combat operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and other affiliated regions have greatly ceased, other aspects of the war like the prevention of financing terrorism persist. The successes of this war are plentiful on the operational dimension; however, it has also garnered multitudes of criticism on accusations of aggravating the threat. Various proxy campaigns, especially under the Obama administration have led to Made in USA weaponry getting into the hands of insurgents, terrorists and radicals. In the Syrian theatre, US funding and weapons strengthened rebel groups against President Bashar al-Assad, yet it irresponsibly led to the arming of the Islamic State in the region.
Due to the War in Afghanistan, the US not only faced external condemnation but internal criticism as well. As the war prolonged, the cost of the war increased over time, in the form of both human and financial losses. The US spent over USD 2.31 trillion with over 243,000 deaths in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theatre, neologistically referred to as AfPak within US foreign policy circles. This made the American public ‘war-weary’ and the war goals were seen as unworthy in the face of human and financial costs. On the other hand, the international community started calling out the US as this war had no end in sight. One of the most criticised aspects of war was the use of drones by the US. UN experts expressed this concern by calling drone strikes ‘counter-productive’ as they do more harm than good owing to heavy civilian casualties. Obama’s warfare strategy incorporated the launching of thousands of drone and air strikes in war zones in the Middle East and Central Asia, killing scores of civilians in the process. In addition, the countries whose territories were used in waging this war became the frontline against terrorists. For instance, a report by Nobel prize-winner concluded that around 80,000 people were killed, both directly and indirectly, in Pakistan alone as a result of the war on terror.
On the positive side, 9/11 and the War on Terror rapidly mobilised the Western security community to realise dormant terror cells within their borders. This enabled the dismantling of various foreign terrorist networks including Sri Lanka’s Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). In the mid-2000s, the Western security apparatus dismantled multiple funding links between the LTTE international network and the LTTE terrorists in Sri Lanka’s North and East. Numerous LTTE front organisations that disguised as cultural and charity institutions were raided, investigated and proscribed for terrorist financing, arms procurement and war taxes. Among these, the World Tamil Movement (Canada) and World Tamil Coordinating Committee (US) received much of the limelight.
The underlying impetus that al-Qaeda used to garner support from Muslim countries in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia was the prevalence of anti-Americanist sentiments. The Muslim world sees the US as a foreign force that attempts to enforce its rule over smaller nations. The unilateral invasion of Iraq, wars in Afghanistan, and the non-resolution of the Palestine issue are some of the major reasons for such sentiments. When the propagation of the thesis of ‘Clash of Civilisations’ was carried out by Western intellectuals and disseminated across Western media, a natural aura of insecurity engulfed the Muslim world, which was vaguely isolated in the world.
The US fighting wars in Islamic regions of the world was perceived as evidence of ‘US vs Muslim’ sentiments – something that was and is capitalised on by extremists across the world. Osama bin Laden exploited these sentiments to achieve his ulterior ambitions, just as Zahran Hasheem did in order to launch the 2019 Easter Sunday Attacks. Although the violent activities of terrorists should be unquestionably condemned, distorted strategies by the Western security community – especially the invasion of Iraq – should be condemned as well.
Even after fighting the beasts of terror for twenty long years, the US failed in its attempt to militarily stop the Taliban from gaining power in Afghanistan. The Doha Peace Deal between the US and the Taliban in 2020 was seen as the acceptance of this failure. By sitting at the same table with the Taliban and accepting them as major stakeholders in Afghanistan, the US fundamentally declared that the two decades spent on the war were a lost cause. After all this time, the Biden-Harris administration handed over the reins of power back to the Taliban – the very group that was denied rule in 2001. The relations between the US and the Taliban have seen many surprising changes; from being the supporters during the Soviet War in Afghanistan from 1979-1989 to being the cut-throat enemies after 9/11, the relationship evolved. Finally resulting in the most current development where both parties showcase a feigned acceptance of the co-existence of each other.
The Doha Peace Deal led to the total withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. After this withdrawal, Kabul fell on 15th August 2021 without any resistance from the US-trained Afghan army. US-backed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled Kabul before the Taliban terrorists entered the capital. This raised many eyebrows across the world as the CIA had predicted otherwise. Reports suggested that the United States has spent almost $83 billion on the training of the Afghanistan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF). Thus, the Marshall plan by the US to develop and equip the Afghanistan government’s resilience against terrorist organisations fell headfirst into the ground. Despite thorough attacks that often resulted in civilian casualties, the top militaries of the world were unable to dismantle a terrorist network that primarily operated from Afghanistan cave systems. Alternatively, the Sri Lankan military was able to decimate the most dangerous and deadly extremists in the world (FBI statement 2008) and that too after conducting the world’s largest hostage rescue mission by rescuing approximately 200,000 civilians from the trappings of the LTTE’s human shields.
Although 9/11 raised an outcry for action from every section of American society, the retrospective view of the decisions taken by the Bush administration reveals the very inefficiency and miscalculations of some of those actions. A very prominent example is the Patriot Act, which was passed 45 days after the attacks. It was passed under the cloak of combating terrorism but is accused of jeopardising the civil rights of people in America and proved that the ambitious US government even used 9/11 as an opportunity to achieve its goals.
9/11 is rightly described by analysts as the most striking event of the century that reverberated across space and time. Afghanistan became a war-torn country; Pakistan faced the spillover effect of terrorism in the neighbourhood and multiple affiliated regions were stuck in the vicious cycle of terrorism. On one side, 9/11 reinvigorated an exceptional sense of unity among the people of the US. On the other hand, it created havoc in Afghanistan that lost any semblance of stability and prosperity.
Whatever your feelings about former President Trump, there are reasons to be skeptical when government officials say it was necessary to raid his Florida home to recover classified documents that threatened national security.
Like the former president, I was once accused by the government of mishandling classified information connected to my representation of a detainee at Guantanamo Bay. There was nothing in my client’s file that posed any danger to national security. My client was an innocent shopkeeper who was sold to the Americans back in 2003 when the U.S. was paying bounties to corrupt Afghan warlords to turn in Al Qaeda or Taliban fighters, and then shipping those men 8,000 miles to our newly built prison camp in Cuba. The government decided to classify every document in the detainee files as “secret,” not to protect national security, but so it could lie with impunity and tell the American people that the prisoners at Gitmo were the “worst of the worst,” and “terrorists” captured on the battlefield.
I never revealed any classified information. I got into trouble after writing an article criticizing the government’s practice of classifying certain evidence above the security clearance level of the detainee’s lawyer, making it impossible to challenge. Following a hearing at the Department of Justice, I was allowed to keep my security clearance long enough to see my client released back to his home and his family after 12 years of unjust imprisonment.
I was never in serious legal jeopardy. But the experience opened my eyes to the ways that our government abuses its power to classify information as “secret” to protect its own officials from embarrassment or criminal exposure. Since 9/11, the people most aggressively pursued for mishandling classified materials are whistleblowers, not traitors.
Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange revealed official crimes such as the murder of unarmed Iraqi civilians and journalists. Daniel Hale revealed that our drone assassination program regularly slaughters innocent civilians, contrary to public statements about surgical strikes. John Kiriakou revealed inconvenient facts about our torture program. Edward Snowden revealed an illegal mass surveillance program. All these truth-tellers were aggressively pursued under the Espionage Act. Assange may die in prison for telling the truth about the crimes of our leaders.
While Trump may not fit the mold of a selfless whistleblower, there is still cause for concern. First, the official justifications for the raid on Mar-a-Lago are highly suspect. Initially we were told that Trump possessed “classified documents relating to nuclear weapons” that he might sell to a foreign government like Saudi Arabia. This shocking accusation has been quietly dropped. Now we are told that the government has “grave concern” that Trump might blow the cover on “clandestine human sources” described in the mainstream media as the “lifeblood” of our intelligence community. “Disclosure could jeopardize the life of the human source,” a former legal adviser to the National Security Council told the New York Times.
This second justification—to protect sources—is also dubious. The DOJ has been in negotiation with Trump’s lawyers since he left the oval office with his boxes of documents. If the government was just concerned about protecting its informants, a deal could have easily been struck wherein government lawyers would go to Mar-a-Lago and redact the lines in the documents that identify informants without the need for a full-blown raid.
The sudden concern in the mainstream media about protecting informants in order to take down Trump is short-sighted. The U.S. has a long and sordid history of using corrupt, lying informants to launch disastrous policies like the Iraq War. In 2002-03, we were told by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Powell that the government had “solid intelligence” that the Iraqi regime possessed mobile production facilities for biological and chemical weapons. Had ordinary Americans then had access to the intelligence reports—leaked years later, after the disastrous war was in full flight—we would have learned that the “solid intelligence” about mobile weapons labs came from a single informant named “Curveball,” who had been described by his handlers as “crazy” and “probably a fabricator” and his intelligence as “highly suspect.” Had some brave patriot leaked these reports in real time, millions more Americans would have taken to the streets in 2002 to stop the planned invasion of Iraq.
The media should be demanding more information from our government, especially about its use of informants, and not more secrecy. It is a basic rule of journalism that governments lie, and they often bribe (and sometimes torture) informants to support those lies.
Many innocent men, including my client, were sent to Guantanamo Bay on the word of informants who were bribed with large cash rewards. If these informants are the lifeblood of our intelligence service, then that service should be defunded.
A more plausible explanation for the Mar-a-Lago raid was provided by two high-level U.S. intelligence officials who told Newsweek’s William M. Arkin that the true target of the raid was a personal “stash” of hidden documents that Justice Department officials feared Donald Trump might weaponize. This stash reportedly included material that Trump thought would exonerate him of any claims of Russian collusion in 2016 or any other election-related charges. “Trump was particularly interested in matters related to the Russia hoax and the wrong-doings of the deep state,” one former Trump official told Newsweek.
This explanation is corroborated by former senior director for counterterrorism Kash Patel, who prepared a key House report that revealed “significant intelligence tradecraft failings” in connection with the Intelligence Community’s Assessment on Russian interference. But the CIA has blocked the release of Patel’s report by classifying it as “secret.”
Kash Patel, who is a current board member of Trump Media and Technology Group (TMTG), began his career in government under President Obama as a national security prosecutor and later held several positions in the Trump administration. In April 2017, he was picked to lead a team of investigators for the House Intelligence Committee, chaired by Republican Devin Nunes (now CEO of TMTG), and tasked with evaluating the “Intelligence Community Assessment” (ICA) on Russian interference. Although the media touted the ICA as the consensus view of all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies, it was in fact a rushed job completed in the final days of the Obama administration by a small group of CIA analysts led by then-CIA Director John Brennan.
Patel’s team obtained and reviewed the key documents underlying the ICA’s conclusions, and interviewed around 70 witnesses under oath. His demands that intelligence agencies produce relevant documents caused a stir among deep state officials unaccustomed to being called to account for their actions. As the Washington Post reported, “Democrats criticized the unusual direct requests to the agencies” by Patel’s team of investigators. Patel, a former public defender, apparently believed that even the intelligence community should be subject to the rule of law.
In March 2018, Patel’s team produced a report that found serious flaws in the CIA’s Russia investigation and called into question the intelligence community’s key claims that Russia ordered a cyber-hacking and interference campaign to help Trump. The CIA’s response to Patel’s report was to classify it as secret and block its release.
During the next three years, Patel and others, including then-President Trump and Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, pushed for declassification of Patel’s report on the ICA. But the heads of the intelligence agencies continued to obstruct, claiming that releasing the report “would compromise intelligence sources and methods” and cause “harm… to national security, including specific harm to the military.” Trump eventually backed down.
Then in December 2020, according to the Post, Trump tried to fire Gina Haspel as CIA director for “resisting efforts by Trump and Patel to declassify” Patel’s report. But once again, Trump backed down and the document still remains under lock and key. Not surprisingly, in its article about Patel’s battle with the intelligence community, the Washington Post sides with the CIA, describing CIA Director Haspel and her colleagues, who demanded that Patel’s report criticizing their work be kept secret, as “courageous officialswho sought to protect the government.”
Patel has publicly voiced his frustration with the CIA for blocking release of his report on the ICA. “I think there were people within the IC [Intelligence Community], at the heads of certain intelligence agencies, who did not want their tradecraft called out, even though it was during a former administration, because it doesn’t look good on the agency itself,” Patel said in an interview. Patel also said he has been threatened with criminal prosecution just for talking to the media about his classified report. The power of government officials to say, ‘we have classified your report and if you even talk about it to the media we might put you in jail,’ is the power of a despot.
In an interview with the Grayzone’s Aaron Maté, Patel disputed the claim that releasing his report harms national security, noting that his committee released similar reports of its other investigations and “we didn’t lose a single source, we didn’t lose a single relationship, and no one died by the public disclosures we made, because we did it in a systematic and professional fashion.”
For example, in January 2018, Patel authored a report that showed serious abuses by the FBI in the Carter Page investigation, which caused a former FBI lawyer to plead guilty to falsifying information that was used to apply for warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. This report criticizing the FBI was released to the public, suggesting that it is still permissible to criticize the FBI, but not the CIA.
Patel’s public statements suggest his agreement with Newsweek’s report that the true motivation for the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago was seizing documents relating to the Russia investigation that Trump took with him when he left the White House. In a recent interview with Real Clear Politics, Patel noted that “the same corrupt FBI government gangsters, the same agents that were involved in Russiagate, the same counterintelligence agents that were involved in making the bad false call on Hunter Biden’s laptop,” are also involved in the raid on President Trump’s home, with the intent to make sure the American public never gets the full story on Russiagate.
The saga of the Mar-a-Lago raid sheds some light on the important question of who really controls what we are permitted to see about the inner workings of our own government. While the sitting president may in theory have unilateral authority to declassify and release information to the American people, the deep state bureaucracy still holds the power to obstruct the president. As one former bureaucrat told CNN, the process for declassification must include signoff from the agency that classified the information in the first place “in order to protect the intelligence-gathering process, its sources and methods.”
Whatever one thinks of Trump, is it really in the public interest to have a deep state controlling what information gets out to the public? In 1953, the CIA directed a military coup that overthrew democratically elected Iranian leader Mohammad Mosaddegh, and in 1973, the CIA helped overthrow democratically elected Chilean leader Salvador Allende. These leaders were targeted not because they were unfriendly to the American people but because they were unfriendly to international oil and copper interests that wanted to exploit those countries’ resources. And while the people of Iran and Chile knew in real time who was responsible, the American people were kept in the dark for decades until key historical documents were finally declassified.
Many scholars believe the CIA was complicit in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Yet 60 years later, thousands of key documents remain redacted or under seal. President Trump came to office promising to release those records, as required by the JFK Records Act. But deep state bureaucrats opposed the release, claiming it would cause “potentially irreversible harm to our Nation’s security.” Trump backed down, quite possibly recalling the fate of the last president to go to war with the CIA.
It’s not necessary to side with Trump to oppose excessive secrecy. It’s our government. We have a right to see whatever secrets Trump had hidden in his basement. And if government bureaucrats are truly concerned that one of their informants might be outed, they can redact those few lines from the reports. But show us the rest.
This article is distributed in partnership with Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.