Dec 2, 2019
Since a few things became clear to me last year, I’ve consistently forecasted a significant worsening in U.S.-China relations and remained adamant that all the happy talk of trade deals and breakthroughs is just a lot of hot air.
What first appeared to be a unique quirk of Donald Trump has morphed into bipartisan consensus in Congress, and clear signs have emerged that the general public has likewise become alarmed at China’s growing global clout.
Due to this, as well as a litany of other factors outlined in prior posts, it’s highly unlikely the current trajectory will reverse course and result in a return to what had been business as usual. Instead, we’re probably headed toward a serious and historically meaningful escalation of tensions between the U.S. and China, with what we’ve seen thus far simply a prelude to the main drama. If I’m correct and the ship has already sailed, we should focus our attention on how we respond to what could quickly become a very dicey scenario filled with heightened emotions and nefarious agendas. There’s a good way to respond and a bad way.
In our individual lives we face various daily challenges, but every now and again something really big hits us, a personal crisis of sorts, and how we respond to these major events determines much of our future. The same thing happens to nation-states, particularly in the current world where virtually all human governance is structured in a highly centralized and statist manner. When such an event hits nation-states the public tends to be easily manipulated into a state of terror and coerced into granting more centralized power to the state, an unfortunate state of affairs that accurately summarizes the reality of 21st century America. With each crisis, the empire has grown stronger, the public weaker, and two decades later we find ourselves in a neo-feudal oligarchy where one half of the public is at the other half’s throat for no good reason. This is what happens when you respond poorly.
Three major crisis events have rocked the U.S. this century, and much of the public has embraced, or at least accepted, the worst possible response in all cases.
Three crises, three horribly destructive responses. This entire century has been an unmitigated march in the direction of stupidity.
What needs to be done is the exact opposite of this. We need to admit a country of 330 million people cannot, and should not, be governed like a gigantic uniform blob.
We need more decentralization/localism and less centralized state power/empire. https://twitter.com/ewarren/status/1201364350436593664 …
My goal is to get elected—but I plan to be the last American president to be elected by the Electoral College. I want my second term to be elected by direct vote.
I’ve become convinced the next major event that will be used to further centralize power and escalate domestic authoritarianism will center around U.S.-China tensions. We haven’t witnessed this “event” yet, but there’s a good chance it’ll occur within the next year or two. Currently, the front runner appears to be a major aggressive move by China into Hong Kong, but it could be anything really. Taiwan, the South China Sea, currency, economic or cyber warfare; the flash points are numerous and growing by the day. Something is going to snap and when it does we better be prepared to not act like mindless imbeciles for the fourth time this century.
When that day arrives, and it’s likely not too far off, certain factions will try to sell you on the monstrous idea that we must become more like China to defeat China. We’ll be told we need more centralization, more authoritarianism, and less freedom and civil liberties or China will win. Such talk is total nonsense and the wise way to respond is to reject the worst aspects of the Chinese system and head the other way.
If you’re horrified by China’s human rights abuses, then push for an end to murderous U.S. wars abroad based on lies. If the Chinese surveillance panopticon concerns you, we should move in the exact opposite direction with less corporate and state surveillance, not more. If China launches a state-sanctioned digital currency system designed to monitor, and if desired, restrict transactions, we should reject this approach and embrace open, decentralized and permissionless systems like Bitcoin. We should fight lack of freedom with more freedom.
The only reason any of us see the U.S. as a giant blob that must be governed uniformly from the top-down is propaganda. There’s no ethical or sensible logic behind such a position.
Given our track record this century, I’m skeptical Americans will respond in a positive and productive way to increased tensions with China, although perhaps I’ll be pleasantly surprised. I hope we can finally face a challenge without cowering in fear and surrendering more freedom in order to feel safe and powerful. I hope we can recognize that empire is not an asset, but a liability. That empire strengthens the state and weakens the public. I hope we can be wise enough not to embrace further authoritarianism to defeat authoritarianism. For once this century, I hope we can respond in a thoughtful and intelligent manner.
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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says Washington, “desperate” over its defeats, is resorting to acts of sabotage against the country’s power system, including a “high-tech electromagnetic” attack that resulted in a massive power cut Monday.
Caracas and other parts of Venezuela were hit by a massive power cut on Monday, a few months after a similar nationwide blackout, which Maduro blamed on Washington as well.
The Monday blackout was caused by a “high-tech electromagnetic attack,” Maduro said Wednesday while addressing the opening of military exercises.
Sabotage at a hydroelectric plant that provides 80 percent of the country’s power has caused the outage, Maduro suggested, adding that the electricity system has suffered “dozens of attacks” over the last four months.
“The US imperialism is desperate because of its defeats in Venezuela,” Maduro said in the speech carried on radio and television, pinning the blame for the outages on the US government.
The Monday blackout reportedly left chaos on the streets of the capital as traffic lights lost power, and the metro stopped running, forcing many people to walk home from work.
While the government said power has been restored in much of Venezuela on Tuesday, opposition leader Juan Guaido denied that, saying that 16 of the country’s 23 states were still facing at least partial outages.
The blackout came a few months after another major outage in March 2019, which affected at least 18 of 23 Venezuelan states. That blackout was also blamed by Venezuelan authorities on anti-government saboteurs working for the United States.
Fifteen Venezuelan kids with kidney disease reportedly died after being unable to get dialysis during the power outage as President Maduro said at the time a cyber attack prevented authorities from restoring power.
A former US intelligence officer has described the attempts by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to destabilize Iran through a massive network of Iranian moles — just busted by the Iranian Intelligence Ministry — as “an absolute act of war.”
“This is an absolute act of war,” said former American intelligence linguist Scott Rickard during an interview with Press TV’s The Debate show on Monday.
He also pointed to other hostile US attempts against Iran, such as waging cyber warfare to blow up Iranian centrifuges through the Stuxnet virus in collaboration with the Israeli regime and Germany, among others.
Rickard said he was not at all surprised by the news of the latest exposure of American destabilizing spying operations against Iran.
He said that ever since Washington’s “systemic [intelligence] operation[s]” in Iran were disrupted by the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the US “has maintained a systemic nature whereby they’ve worked with everything from humanitarian groups like Amnesty International [and] journalist outlets like Newsweek.”
He then recalled how US-based Newsweek’s native Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari attempted to distort events during post-election unrest in Iran in 2009.
The former US intelligence linguist further praised Iran’s “incredible resilience” in face of what he referred to as persisting efforts “to demonize Iran” by “the American media, the American government, and their Western allies… while they’re maliciously attacking the country with acts of warfare on a constant basis.”
Also participating in The Debate show was the founder of the American Institute for Foreign Policy, Michael Lane, who attempted to justify the all-out US spying efforts against Iran aimed at destabilizing the country as a normal undertaking against an adversary, saying, “It would shock me if CIA was not involved in that kind of activity.”
Lane said he expected to see in “a very near future” that “one or more of Iran’s adversaries” would engage in other sorts of “cyber attack against the nuclear assets of Iran and even to degrade their military in certain circumstances.”
The remarks came hours after Iran’s Intelligence Ministry announced the destruction of an integrated network of spies inside Iran working on behalf of the CIA.
The ministry’s director-general for counterintelligence said Monday that Iran had captured 17 professional spies working for the US spy agency throughout last year and some of those arrested had been handed death sentences.
“The identified spies were employed in sensitive and vital private sector centers in the economic, nuclear, infrastructural, military, and cyber areas… where they collected classified information,” the unnamed official said in a statement.
The official said that the suspects were operating in key organizations and institutions mainly in the private sector.
The United States military launched cyber attacks against Iranian missile control systems and a spy network on Thursday after Tehran downed an American surveillance drone, US officials have said.
US President Donald Trump ordered a retaliatory military attack against Iran after the drone shootdown but then called it off, saying the response would not be “proportionate” and instead pledged new sanctions on the country.
But after the drone’s downing, Trump secretly authorised US Cyber Command to carry out a retaliatory cyber attack on Iran, two officials told the Associated Press news agency on Saturday.
A third official confirmed the broad outlines of the attack. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak publicly about the operation.
US media outlets Yahoo News and The Washington Post also reported the cyberattacks.
The cyber attacks – a contingency plan developed over weeks amid escalating tensions – disabled Iranian computer systems that controlled its rocket and missile launchers, the officials said.
There was no immediate reaction on Sunday morning in Iran to the US claims. Iran has hardened and disconnected much of its infrastructure from the internet after the Stuxnet computer virus, widely believed to be a joint US-Israeli creation, disrupted thousands of Iranian centrifuges in the late 2000s.
“As a matter of policy and for operational security, we do not discuss cyberspace operations, intelligence or planning,” US Defense Department spokesperson Heather Babb told AFP news agency.
In recent weeks, hackers believed to be working for the Iranian government have targeted US government agencies, sending waves of spear-phishing emails, representatives of cybersecurity companies CrowdStrike and FireEye – which regularly track such activity – told AP.
This new campaign appears to have started shortly after the Trump administration imposed sanctions on the Iranian petrochemical sector this month.
It was not known if any of the hackers managed to gain access to the targeted networks with the emails, which typically mimic legitimate emails but contain malicious software.
“Both sides are desperate to know what the other side is thinking,” said John Hultquist, director of intelligence analysis at FireEye told AP.
“You can absolutely expect the regime to be leveraging every tool they have available to reduce the uncertainty about what’s going to happen next, about what the US’s next move will be.”
CrowdStrike shared images of the spear-phishing emails with the AP.
US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Christopher C Krebs said the agency has been working with the intelligence community and cybersecurity partners to monitor Iranian cyber activity and ensure the US and its allies are safe.
“What might start as an account compromise, where you think you might just lose data, can quickly become a situation where you’ve lost your whole network,” Krebs said.
The National Security Agency (NSA) would not discuss Iranian cyber actions specifically, but said in a statement to the AP on Friday that “there have been serious issues with malicious Iranian cyber actions in the past”.
“In these times of heightened tensions, it is appropriate for everyone to be alert to signs of Iranian aggression in cyberspace and ensure appropriate defences are in place,” the NSA said.
Tensions are high between the US and Iran once again following Trump’s move more than one year ago to leave a multinational accord curbing Iran’s nuclear ambition.
His administration has instead imposed a robust slate of punitive economic sanctions designed to choke off Iranian oil sales and cripple its economy.
On Saturday, Trump said the US would put “major” new sanctions on Iran next week. He said they would be announced on Monday.
Tehran said it shot down the US drone on Thursday after it violated Iranian airspace – something Washington denies.
Meanwhile, Iran has denied responsibility for the tanker attacks, and a top military official on Saturday pledged to “set fire to the interests of America and its allies” if the US attacks.
The rapid development of technology allows terrorists to “even more actively” use the internet for “recruitment, attracting funds, hacking and other cybercrimes,” the deputy secretary of Russia’s Security Council, Yury Kokov, said at a security-themed event in the city of Ufa in central Russia.
The official said the internet has become the “main mechanism” for various extremists to “control their scattered forces and resources,” while there are currently around 30,000 “extremist and terrorist websites” online.
This allows us to conclude that an age of technological and digital terrorism is approaching. In terms of consequences, [this type of terrorism] may be comparable to the weapons of mass destruction in the nearest future.
Kokov also highlighted the “unending attempts” of terrorists to gain access to “the data on making components of nuclear, chemical and biological” weaponry.
Another surprising tactic that he mentioned is that terrorist groups have begun training frogmen. Kokov said they use divers to “place mines in ports and seize civilian vessels, mostly oil tankers and gas freighters.”
Five years before Robert Mueller was appointed Special Counsel to investigate the allegation that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and had conspired with the Trump campaign, the Pentagon had been waging secret cyberattacks against Russia’s electrical grid. The cyberwar against Russia began in 2012. The timing of the cyberwar against Russia is significant. It was thus not triggered by Russia’s intervention in Syria (2015) or the Crimea referendum in June 2014 that resulted in Crimea leaving Ukraine and rejoining Russia.
During the past year the attacks have accelerated “with the placement of potentially crippling malware inside the Russian system at a depth and with an aggressiveness that had never been tried before,” according to a new report published by the New York Times based on three months of private interviews with Pentagon officials.
Officials in the Pentagon decided to conceal the details of the operation from Donald Trump out of fear that he might not allow the more advanced offensive attacks to take place. Barack Obama, according to the report, had initially not allowed a full out offensive cyberwar. Obama signed off on the less aggressive cyberwar tactics against Russia but feared that an escalation would make the U.S. infrastructure too vulnerable to counter-attack.
Was Bolton in the Pentagon’s loop?
Trump was kept in the dark but one could reasonably conclude that war lunatic Bolton and Mike Pompeo, the religious zealot who occupies the post of top diplomat, are fully plugged in by the military cabal that now functions as the real power in Washington.
“Mr. Trump had not been briefed in any detail about the steps to place “implants” — software code that can be used for surveillance or attack — inside the Russian grid,” two unnamed Trump officials told the NY Times [because] “he might countermand it…” Who are those two officials?
An important backdrop for this alarming revelation is the Pentagon new military strategy/doctrine announced in December 2017 that profoundly reorients U.S. military and foreign policy so as to prepare the country for “major power” conflict with Russia and China in the coming years.
This is offensive not defensive war
The New York Times article makes explicit that the cyberattacks against Russia are an offensive, not defensive, operation. They are an act of war. Using Orwellian language the commander of United States Cyber Command, Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, characterized the operation as a “defend forward” measure against Russia penetrating “deep in an adversary’s networks,” according to the Times.
During the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis President Kennedy barely held off the Pentagon brass who wanted to start a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. The world was at the brink. Those events should be studied. Kennedy told his closest advisors following the harrowing debates inside the government about how to deal with the crisis that the military leadership “was mad.”
Is it a democracy when the military makes the decisions?
The decision to not tell Trump that the Pentagon is waging offensive military operations against Russia’s infrastructure is one of the clearest signs, among many others, that the reins of power when it comes to matters of war and peace barely remain in the hands of the civilian government. The President is the commander in chief. This is the cornerstone of civilian rule demarcating democratic rule from a military regime. The conceit and arrogance of the uniformed brass’ decision to wage offensive operations against the infrastructure of a rival thermonuclear power – without informing the civilian commander in chief – indicates that they no longer fear accountability, much less retribution, for their seizure of powers that the Constitution insists belong to the elected representatives of the people and not unelected military strongmen.
Trump is such a vainglorious, insecure and ridiculous “leader” that he virtually invited this secret coup against his own authority. He surrounded himself with Pentagon generals in the Cabinet and green-lighted the “independence” of field commanders and their bosses in decision making about the issues of existential importance. “Mr. Trump issued new authorities to Cyber Command last summer, in a still-classified document known as National Security Presidential Memoranda 13,” according to the Times. Perhaps this buffoonish politician occupying the position of commander-in-chief didn’t expect or care those Pentagon commanders would make critical decisions, such as launching offensive cyberwar against Russia, without notifying him.
The Pentagon and Trump are not the only problem. The Democratic Party leadership too has done its part contributing to the looming debacle by spending the past three years whipping up the most vile hatred and demonization of Russia – even while the Pentagon was attacking Russia’s infrastructure — as a diversionary explanation for why such a scoundrel as Trump could win the electoral college. Meanwhile the craven politicians of both parties continue the looting of the national treasury for the enrichment and widening power of the U.S. war machine.
Before the Cold War there were real global wars
A crystal ball is not required to see that, unless the Pentagon war drive is stopped or curtailed, the future of the 21st century will look very much like the first half of the 20th century.
Venezuela is under attack. It’s electric grid crashed repeatedly and they accused the United States of sabotaging the system using its cyberwarfare capabilities. Cuba and Nicaragua are being targeted. Iran abided by an international nuclear deal only to see Trump shred the agreement and launch economic war against Iranians. The danger of another military conflict in the Middle East is threatened. And the Pentagon and all of its derivative D.C. think tanks are preparing the country for major power conflict – and it has already started. Congress is not a check nor is the so-called commander-in-chief.
“Major power conflict” is one of the mind numbing euphemisms used by the Pentagon to describe global conflict. This threat is real now and it has happened before. Capitalist powers prepared for such conflict and initiated it 1914-1918 and again between 1937-1945. The scourge of a third “major power conflict” has been avoided since 1945 largely because the Soviet Union developed a form of nuclear military parity that by the mid-1950s checked the Pentagon’s hyper-aggressive plans for unipolar domination.
When the Soviet Union suddenly collapsed in 1991, however, U.S. imperialism expected that the goal of uncontested global domination could be achieved without engaging in extensive ground operations and drawn-out occupations. As Russia got back on its feet in the last decade and as China emerged as a global power the Pentagon has returned to a game plan that is premised on defeating Russia and China through intensifying demonstrations of military threats in and around these countries and a campaign of systematic weakening of both countries on all fronts – both militarily and through a regime of sanctions and economic warfare. The stakes are high.
Militarism and U.S. capitalism are one and the same. The danger of catastrophic war emanates not from this or that politician but is rather rooted in the foundational structures of late-stage capitalism.