Pulitzer-prize winning Journalist, Author and Activist Chris Hedges, discusses modern day consumerism, totalitarian corporate power and living in a culture dominated by pervasive illusion.
Pulitzer-prize winning Journalist, Author and Activist Chris Hedges, discusses modern day consumerism, totalitarian corporate power and living in a culture dominated by pervasive illusion.
The U.S. Air Force is undergoing its biggest expansion since the end of the Cold War, and the reasons are clear.
The Air Force is undergoing its biggest expansion since the end of the Cold War, and the reasons are clear.
(FPIF Op-ed) — In September, at the Air Force Association’s annual Space & Cyber Conference, Heather Wilson — Donald Trump’s Secretary of the U.S. Air Force — presented the Trump administration’s new roadmap for the U.S. Air Force: the historic expansion of the already, by far, largest air force in the world.
Wilson identified the perceived context of the new expansionist developments right at the start of her 30-minute speech — Russia conducted its largest military exercise on “Russian soil in four decades,” she said, and China sent its first operational aircraft carrier into the Pacific and has “militarized” the South China Sea — and thus exposed at the same time the old dilemma of global security policy: The one’s defense looks quite like offense to the other, and vice versa.
Secretary Wilson explained that the U.S. Air Force will expand its current operational squadrons — which she martially called “the clenched fist of American resolve” — from 312 to 386 between 2025 and 2030. That’s an increase of 25 percent — the largest expansion ever since the end of the Cold War.
A squadron consists of 12 to 24 aircraft. Wilson’s expansion thus corresponds to well over 1,000 new bombers, fighter jets, and drones, as well as reconnaissance and refueling aircraft. Approximately $25 billion will be added to the annual Air Force budget, and no less than 40,000 additional staff will be needed. That amounts to the Trump administration reversing recent trends, as the Air Force has “drastically downsized in past years,” Military.com reports.
Foreign Policy received exclusive insight into the composition of these 74 new squadrons. The largest percentage increase among the various squadrons is attributed to the bomber squadrons: aircraft that can be equipped with nuclear weapons and, above all, aim at the destruction of stationary targets such as buildings or other massive infrastructure — but not mobile combat units — which is largely interpreted as a shift in strategic focus towards wars against nations, not terrorist groups.
There is also a massive increase in the number of refueling aircraft, which are currently deployed in support of the Saudi-Emirati war against the civilian population of Yemen — an air war, waged across the endless deserts of the Arabian Peninsula, that would be virtually impossible without U.S. air-refueling.
Another central theme in Wilson‘s speech was the creation of a Space Force as the sixth branch of the military. Donald Trump initially understood that project as a joke, but then quickly recognized it as a catchy slogan that was well received by his base. In March, he finally included the Space Force into the national security strategy.
“Space is a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air, and sea”, Trump stated, although his White House, the U.S. Air Force, and Secretary of Defense James Mattis have vehemently opposed this move in the past. “We can no longer view space as a function, it is a war-fighting mission,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told a crowd of applauding military staff in her speech in National Harbor, Maryland. The military, Wilson promised, is working to “put a war fighter’s focus on space operation.”
In recent years, NATO has carried out its largest troop deployment on its eastern flank — right at the Russian border — since the fading of the Cold War in the 1980s. At the insistence of German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, a new NATO headquarters is being set up in Germany for the purpose of coordinating the movement of these troops. And with the establishment of the “Military Schengen” area, the rapid and unbureaucratic deployment of troops across Europe’s borders should be guaranteed.
In the wake of this escalating militarization of the European continent, the U.S. Air Force massively increased its presence at Russia’s doorstep too.
In all NATO countries in Eastern Europe, the U.S. Air Force is investing multimillion-dollar sums in the expansion of its air bases: with more than $50 million pouring into a base in Hungary, more than $60 million allocated to the modernization of two air force bases in Romania, and two bases in Slovakia that will be upgraded with more than $ 100 million, besides various base upgrades in other countries in the region.
The majority of these funds are dedicated to explicitly war-related investments such as new hangars for fighter jets or facilities to store weapons and fuel. In addition to hundreds of soldiers, the U.S. Air Force also recently sent several dozens of new fighter jets to Romania alone, including twelve A-10 Thunderbolts, better known as “Warthogs,” that are armed with radioactive uranium munitions. Reaper combat drones have been stationed in Poland for months, and soon they will likely launch from Romania too.
Both the excessive deployment of air forces in Eastern Europe and the establishment of Trump’s Space Force — as well as the historic, long-term upgrade of the U.S. Air Force as a whole — reflect a tendency to slowly abandon the infamous “War on Terror” doctrine of the past 17 years. The relevance of the countless petty wars against al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and ISIS & Co. is slowly dwindling. Neither is North Korea, Iran, or Syria the prime target of this strategic realignment.
The historic upgrade of the U.S. Air Force, military experts agree, reflects a shift in focus in the military doctrine of the U.S. empire towards great power wars in the 21st century: wars against Russia or China.
It is one of the fundamental motives of strategic geopolitics that the present empire, in order to maintain its global power, must prevent the rise of other regional hegemons at any cost — especially in the three geostrategic core regions of East Asia, the Persian Gulf, and Europe.
This is the primary reason why the U.S. went to war against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan — and transformed the latter into a military colony that still exists today and whose own army is still under Washington’s command. It’s why NATO functions as a U.S. tool for military control of Europe’s armies and the alliance ceaselessly moves eastward to Russia’s borders, why Saddam was overthrown and Iraq obliterated, why Saudi Arabia’s military was brought into vital dependency on the U.S., why the war against Iran is currently being prepared, and why the U.S. empire has deployed 240,000 troops in 172 countries around the world.
A rising China, as an empire in its infancy, however, is of a completely different caliber than the other wannabe-hegemons. Washington’s policy of containment may have a certain time-delaying effect, but ultimately it is irrelevant: China will become the regional hegemon in East Asia in the not-too-distant future, and eventually overtake the U.S. as the world’s primary superpower on the planet in the decades to come.
This transition can either go ahead peacefully — or with a big bang, potentially in the form of World War III. Secretary of the U.S. Air Force Heather Wilson once again made it clear in her recent keynote speech which scenario Washington is working towards.
“America’s pretensions to rule supreme as the world’s unchallenged hyper-power have become a dangerous and unsustainable fantasy.”
With permission from
In 1987, Paul Kennedy, a British professor of history at Yale University, unleashed a political and intellectual firestorm with the publication of his great (677-page) book, “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers.” Kennedy produced a magisterial overview of the competition for global power over the past 500 years from 1500 AD to the present.
Kennedy proposed the thesis that any power that achieved, imagined it had achieved or sought to achieve and maintain a dominant hyper-power role of global dominance was doomed to lose it and then rapidly decline in overall power, wealth, prosperity and influence.
Kennedy argued – with a wealth of detail drawn from different nations over his vast period of half a millennium – that the very attempt to achieve and maintain such power forced every nation that attempted it into a ruinous pattern of strategic overstretch.
This demanded every major global empire in their turn to devote ruinously far too many economic resources to unproductive military power and ever more costly global commitments and conflicts.
The more ambitious the commitments, the quicker came military defeat, economic ruin and national collapse, Kennedy documented.
Kennedy published his book however at exactly the wrong moment for its abundantly documented conclusions and arguments to be taken seriously in the United States. The Cold War was just ending. The heroic actions of the Russian people in rejecting communism and leading in the dismantling of the Soviet Union were being misinterpreted as an eternal and lasting victory for the United States and for the forces of free market capitalism and minimum government regulation.
Kennedy was therefore subjected to a furious firestorm of abuse, especially from the emerging neoconservatives who under President George W Bush succeeded in imposing their reckless policies on nations across the Middle East and Eurasia. Kennedy, unlike his enraged critics was a gracious and tolerant gentleman as well as great scholar and took the firestorm in his stride.
Now more than 30 years after Kennedy published his great work, we can see how prescient, wise and visionary it truly was.
In 2016 President Donald Trump was elected on a platform of dealing with domestic crises raging from economic ruin and impoverishment to an out of control drug and opioid abuse epidemic and the collapse of law and order across the long US land border with Mexico.
That outcome provided telling testimony to the previous US policies of wasting at least $2 trillion on entirely unsuccessful nation-building and government-toppling projects ranging from Iraq to Afghanistan and since extended into such nations as Ukraine, Syria, and Libya
All the national pathologies of bankruptcy, exhaustion, decline and ever spreading human misery that Kennedy in his book traced in previous empires can now be clearly delineated in the policies of the post-Cold War United States.
The bottom line lesson to be drawn from Kennedy’s great book that so outraged neoconservatives at the time was a simple and stunning clear one: Unipolar Moments are just that and nothing more. They last for moments not ages.
Instead, the very attempt to maintain a unipolar moment of apparent global supremacy by any power automatically instead will raise up a host of challenges to that power that will rapidly exhaust and then doom it.
Kennedy traced this process of inexorable over – commitment and decline in 17th century Habsburg Spain. He followed it again in 18th century Bourbon France. He documented it once more in the rise, pride and inevitable fall of the British Empire and in the rash German attempts to create dominant global empires in both world wars of the 20th century.
A generation before Kennedy published his great work, British historian Correlli Barnett, focusing only on the British Empire, published in 1972 his own classic “The Collapse of British Power.” Barnett focused on a one, single unipolar moment – the 1920s and 1930s when the British ruling class, like their American successors today imagined that they were the divinely-appointed global policeman charged by Providence with maintaining their own conceptions of right and wrong over the whole world.
The British at least were reluctantly forced to cede independence to their vast global territories. It is doubtful whether the American people will be so lucky: The US Deep State establishment and their tame, unthinking media puppets remain blindly committed to inflexible expansion, conflict and strategic gambling with the peace and even survival of the world.
Thirty years after his magnum opus was published, Paul Kennedy’s message of warning remains unheeded. America’s Unipolar Moment is long since dead and gone. America’s pretensions to rule supreme as the world’s unchallenged hyper-power have become a dangerous and unsustainable fantasy.
A wakening to sanity is long overdue and the hour is late: National catastrophe can be the only other outcome.
“Sadly, we live in a period in history in which some of the nations that once held the greatest promise for the world are well on their way to becoming the most tyrannical…”
Periodically, I’ll encounter someone who has read one of my essays and has decided not to pursue them further, stating, “You’re one of those ‘End of the world’ guys. I can’t be bothered reading the writings of someone who thinks we’re all doomed. I have a more positive outlook than that.”
In actual fact, I agree entirely with his latter two comments. I can’t be bothered reading the thoughts of a writer who says we’re all doomed, either. I, too, have a more positive outlook than that.
My one discrepancy with such comments is that I don’t by any means think that the present state of events will lead to the end of the world, as he assumes.
But then, neither am I naïve enough to think that if I just hope for the best, the powers that be will cease to be parasitical and predatory out of sympathy for me. They will not.
For any serious student of history, one of the great realizations that occurs at some point is that governments are inherently controlling by nature. The more control they have, the more they desire and the more they pursue. After all, governments actually produce nothing. They exist solely upon what they can extract from the people they rule over. Therefore, their personal success is not measured by how well they serve their people, it’s measured by how much they can extract from the people.
And so, it’s a given that all governments will pursue ever-greater levels of power over their minions up to and including the point of total dominance.
It should be said that, on rare occasions, a people will rise up and create a governmental system in which the rights of the individual are paramount. This was true in the creation of the Athenian Republic and the American Constitution, and even the British Magna Carta.
However, these events are quite rare in history and, worse, as soon as they take place, those who gain power do their best to diminish the newly-gained freedoms.
Such freedoms can almost never be destroyed quickly, but, over time and “by slow operations,” as Thomas Jefferson was fond of saying, governments can be counted on to eventually destroy all freedoms.
We’re passing through a period in history in which the process of removing freedoms is nearing completion in many of the world’s foremost jurisdictions. The EU and US, in particular, are leading the way in this effort.
Consequently, it shouldn’t be surprising that some predict “the end of the world.” But, they couldn’t be more incorrect.
Surely, in 1789, the more productive people of France may have felt that the developing French Revolution would culminate in Armageddon. Similarly, in 1917, those who created prosperity in Russia may well have wanted to throw up their hands as the Bolsheviks seized power from the Romanovs.
Whenever a deterioration in rule is underway, as it is once again now, the observer has three choices:
There are many people, worldwide, but particularly in the centres of the present deterioration – the EU and US – who feel that, since the situation in their home country is nearing collapse, the entire world must also be falling apart. This is not only a very myopic viewpoint, it’s also quite inaccurate. At any point in civilization in the past 2000 years or more, there have always been empires that were collapsing due to intolerable governmental dominance and there have always concurrently been alternative jurisdictions where the level of freedom was greater. In ancient Rome, when Diocletian devalued the currency, raised taxes, increased warfare and set price controls, those people who actually created the economy on a daily basis found themselves in the same boat as Europeans and Americans are finding themselves in, in the 21st century.
It may have seemed like the end of the world, but it was not. Enough producers left Rome and started over again in other locations. Those other locations eventually thrived as a result of the influx of productive people, while Rome atrophied.
The US is going to extend its “combat operations” – the sanctions war aimed at reshaping the world – to Latin America.
This is less dreary than the above approach, but it is nevertheless just as fruitless. It is, in fact, the most common of reactions – to just “hope for the best.”
It’s tempting to imagine that maybe the government will realize that they’re the only ones benefiting from the destruction of freedom and prosperity and they’ll feel bad and reverse the process. But this clearly will not happen.
It’s also tempting to imagine that maybe it won’t get a whole lot worse and that life, although not all that good at present, might remain tolerable. Again, this is wishful thinking and the odds of it playing out in a positive way are slim indeed.
This, of course, is the hard one. Begin by recognizing the truth. If that truth is not palatable, study the situation carefully and, when a reasonably clear understanding has been reached, create an alternative.
When governments enter the final decline stage, an alternative is not always easy to accept. It’s a bit like having a tooth pulled. You want to put it off, but the pain will only get worse if you delay. And so, you trundle off to the dentist unhappily, but, a few weeks after the extraction, you find yourself asking, “Why didn’t I do this sooner?”
To be sure, those who investigate and analyze the present socio-economic-political deterioration do indeed espouse a great deal of gloom, but this should not be confused with doom.
In actual fact, the whole point of shining a light into the gloom is to avoid having it end in doom.
It should be said here that remaining in a country that is tumbling downhill socially, economically and politically is also not the end of the world. It is, however, true that the end result will not exactly be a happy one. If history repeats once again, it’s likely to be quite a miserable one.
Those who undertake the study of the present deterioration must, admittedly, address some pretty depressing eventualities and it would be far easier to just curl up on the sofa with a six-pack and watch the game, but the fact remains: unless the coming problems are investigated and an alternative found, those who sit on the sofa will become the victims of their own lethargy.
Sadly, we live in a period in history in which some of the nations that once held the greatest promise for the world are well on their way to becoming the most tyrannical. If by recognizing that fact, we can pursue better alternatives elsewhere on the globe, as people have done in previous eras; we may actually find that the field of daisies in the image above is still very much in existence, it’s just a bit further afield than it was in years gone by.
And it is absolutely worthy of pursuit.
(CD Op-ed) — Over 7 months have passed since WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was deprived of his ability to communicate with the outside world in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he was granted asylum with the risk of extradition to the US, relating to his organization’s publications. Recently, after UN Special Rapporteurs for Freedom of Expression and Refugees visited the country, it appeared that Ecuador would finally end this isolation of its refugee and own citizen, which Human Rights Watch general counsel described as being similar to solitary confinement.
Yet, injustice on Assange continues. President Lenin Moreno who was said to partially restore Assange’s communication, now with a special protocol, imposes prison-like surveillance and restriction on his free speech. Under the new rules, Assange is banned from expressing opinions that are considered political or could interfere with Ecuador’s relationship with other nations. Journalists, lawyers and anyone else who seek to visit Assange are required to disclose their private details including email accounts and links to their social media, which then will be shared with UK authorities.
On Monday, a judge in Ecuador ruled against the suit filed by WikiLeaks lawyer, the former Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon who argued that this Ecuadorian government’s inhumane treatment of Assange violates his basic human rights. This came while there is an increasing pressure from the US on Ecuador to evict Assange. Joining the aggression of the Trump administration, members of the US Congress urge the Ecuadorian President to persecute Assange, calling him a ‘dangerous criminal’ and a ‘threat to global security’.
Assange has become a high profile Western dissident. He has been arbitrarily detained for 6 years without charge, deprived of fresh air, sunshine and an access to a proper medical care. What made him be considered dangerous by the most powerful government in the world? WikiLeaks has published material that exposed the crimes and corruptions of governments and institutions. Their disclosure of secret documents challenged those in power. But this is not the only reason that made him become an enemy of the state. He has been silenced and attacked because of a particular voice he carries that is critical for a future of our civilization.
Assange, an Australian born computer programmer and journalist, together with a small group of dedicated people, launched a media outlet that radically altered the face of modern journalism. He is not just an excellent journalist or an editor in chief of a publisher that performs its job better than other media organizations. Over the years, through his work with WikiLeaks, Assange has become a champion of the oppressed, regarded as a hero around the world, especially by those who live under authoritarian and oppressive regimes, where human right abuses are rampant.
At its inception, WikiLeaks was conceived with aspiration of human civilization to better itself, which was manifested in common people’s desire for liberation. In his Oslo speech in 2010, where he spoke in front of an audience who was just about to witness a huge tide shift in the media landscape, Assange articulated the organization’s vision and its goal of achieving justice. He made it clear that the aim of WikiLeaks is to create intellectual records of how civilization actually works in practice, and by using that knowledge to stop abuse before it happens.
As the whistleblowing site has blazed into a mainstream spotlight with a series of sensational publications, Assange never wavered in his commitment to justice and ordinary people’s struggle for freedom. Until before he was cut offline, from a tiny room in the embassy, he spoke in defense of Catalans’ non-violent resistance against Spanish Central government’s abuse of their democratic rights. He called their peaceful self-determination in the face of police brutality “the most disciplined Gandhian project since Gandhi” and said that “its results will spread everywhere.”
In a sense, WikiLeaks has become a modern embodiment of the Gandhian project. Almost a century ago, Mohandas Gandhi, a spiritual and political leader led India’s independence from Britain. For Gandhi’s time, it was the colonial rule of the British Empire that his people fought against. Now, this old empire’s ambition for domination is carried on by American hegemony. It is this unaccounted Western power that WikiLeaks came to confront through a trove of original source documents with a pristine record of accuracy.
So, how does WikiLeaks make itself become a modern day Gandhian project? Gandhi put the principle of non-violence at a center of his efforts. He wanted to end wars and state abuse of power, not by the methods of oppressors, perpetuating further violence, but with different means. For this, he employed a non-violent civil disobedience as a way for people to engage in the peaceful resistance against injustice.
Now, in this digital age, WikiLeaks revived this Gandhian tradition of peaceful resistance online at a global scale. Assange saw potential in cryptography to offer a way for common people to non-violently resist the domination of powerful states. He once articulated the potent revolutionary force inherent in cryptography:
“Cryptography can protect not just the civil liberties and rights of individuals, but the sovereignty and independence of whole countries, solidarity between groups with common cause, and the project of global emancipation. It can be used to fight not just the tyranny of the state over the individual but the tyranny of the empire over smaller states.”
Specifically, with creative application of cryptography, Assange enabled a free speech right in a form that is resilient to government censorship and restriction. In the colonization of the past, the empire’s aggression was naked, where people who were oppressed by colonial masters were able to see their savagery and brutality. Now, the beast inside civilization hides its claws behind a façade of democracy and conspires to bring humanity down in secret.
Permissionless free speech that has been distributed across the Internet offered ordinary people a non-violent democratic weapon to combat against the patronage network that tries to control people through deception and secrecy. An invention of an online anonymous secure drop box made it possible for people anywhere in the world, regardless of their jurisdiction, to expose governments’ wrongdoing and corruption of institutions, without fear of political retaliation. They then could stop violence and mitigate the harm inflicted by those in power.
Gandhi has shown the world the effectiveness of his non-violence in opposing oppression. He characterized the revolutionary force inherent in his peaceful method with the term “satyagraha (from the Sanskrit for ‘truth-force’)” (as cited in Dear, 2002, p. 19). He noted satyagraha means “resisting untruth by truthful means” (p. 22) as well as “‘steadfast, nonviolent direct action for truth’ and ‘nonviolent civil disobedience’” (p. 83).
With the creation of WikiLeaks, Assange made an investigative journalism into a platform for pursuit of truth. He firmly believed that for justice to prevail, people ought to have an accurate knowledge about how the world works. He once noted, “If we are to produce a civilized society, a more just society, it has to be based upon the truth.”
In his engagement of people in this search for truth, Assange recognized how the media has become not a purveyor of truth, but of lies, actively promoting and defending the force that violates and destroys truth. Speaking in defense of the disclosure of classified US military documents on the Iraq War, Assange pointed out how “most wars that are started by democracies involve lying,” and noted how “the start of the Iraq war involved very serious lies that were repeated and amplified by some parts of the press.”
WikiLeaks, with its method of transparency steadily upheld a doctrine of satyagraha. Through scientific journalism, Assange found a way to resist governments’ perversion of truth by truthful means. Full archives of the original source material countered media propaganda that works to distort truth through censorship, omission and manipulation of information.
Gandhi reminded how “realizing Truth ‘means realizing that all human beings are one” (as cited in Dear, 2002, p. 84). For him, justice meant to restore this truth. Calling a person who is dedicated to truth a satyagrahi (p. 89), Gandhi noted how “the sword of the satyagrahi is love and the unshakable firmness that comes from it” (p. 93). For his fight for justice, Gandhi voluntarily submitted himself to suffering, being imprisoned and in the end was assassinated.
This Gandhi’s fierce commitment to truth ignited the minds and hearts of revolutionaries, inspiring movements for civil rights around the world. Political leader Nelson Mandela took up a sword of satyagrahi to bring unity between blacks and whites in South Africa. By uncovering the truth of human rights violations that had occurred during apartheid, he facilitated the country to attain restorative justice. The leader of the civil rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his stride toward freedom for African Americans, surrendered himself to the ethics of love to combat racist laws. Just like Gandhi who was willing to suffer for his cause, both out of their own volition chose to engage in speech and an action that would bring consequence. Mandela was being put on a US terrorist watch list and served 27 years in prison. Dr. King was put into jail and shot dead.
Similarly, WikiLeaks derives its courage from ordinary people around the world who are willing to take great risk on behalf of truth. What drives WikiLeaks scientific journalism is inspiration of its sources—their love for humanity, manifested in their concern for their fellow men and women that transcend nationality, color of skin and language. On April 5, 2010, with the publication of the collateral murder video, the sword of satyagrahi once again struck a chord on the Internet. The conscience of whistleblower Chelsea Manning cut through deception, shedding light on human affairs that were kept in the dark.
In uncensored images of modern war that depicted a US Army helicopter gunship killing innocent civilians in New Baghdad, American people were able to see the real face of those who are made into enemies, being kept on the other side of the barrel of the gun held in their name. Manning’s compassionate account of this forbidden landscape, seen from a perspective of not either American or Iraqis, but from a view of humanity opened up a vantage point of equality, where we were able to recognize our shared humanity and truly witness atrocities and violation of human rights committed by the powerful. For this courageous act to restore truth, she was condemned, being tortured and sentenced to 35 years in prison.
With the work of WikiLeaks, Assange took up a Gandhian tradition of peaceful resistance, instigating a worldwide non-violent movement on the Internet. Through publishing full archives, the organization made it possible for ordinary people to directly connect with the source of legitimacy and begin a quest for truth that has so long been obstructed by the media that functions as a gatekeeper of power.
WikiLeaks opened a path of redemption for our civilization. By enabling free speech rights, this Gandhian investigative journalism restored the laws of peace, helping people reconnect with the true impulse behind enlightenment ideas. The idea of free speech brought a departure from the old rule of the jungle and its logic of might and conquest. It made it possible for humanity to learn to solve problems through dialogue and diplomacy rather than violence.
As released documents began illuminating the way of peace, a shadow of a colonial past grows to resist this new light emanating from the conscience of ordinary people. In 2012, a small country of South America showed enormous courage to stand up to protect the journalist who was seeking refuge from Western governments’ persecution. Now, the US with the UK and Spain rekindles old colonialism, bullying this sovereign nation of Ecuador to go outside both international and Ecuador’s own constitutional law to act subservient to its power.
Recently, Ecuador indicated that it would no longer intervene in diplomatic talks with Britain on behalf of Assange. As the former Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa has spoken, there is a grave concern that his successor will hand over Assange to the British authorities. The UK government, by ignoring the UN ruling that indicated Assange’s situation at the embassy as arbitrary detention, refuses to give assurance that they will not extradite him to the US.
Assange is a revolutionary of our times. He sacrificed his liberty in order to give civilization a chance. He now has become a world-renowned political prisoner. Just as his forerunners who fought for emancipation were attacked by the empire states, he has been subjected to a political persecution at a scale that has never been seen before. In a tiny room of an embassy under heightened security, he now quietly suffers in solitude, fighting against character assassination that is now slowly turning into a real murder.
When the justice system is controlled in the hands of oppressors, justice of this founder of the publisher of last resort relies on the court of public opinion. As Julian Assange’s plight for freedom intensifies, we can remain silent, allowing tragedy brought upon all those legendary peacemakers to repeat itself. Or, we can act with moral courage to end oppression and change the course of history. Will humanity find strength to claim its own dignity to open democracy? Or, will crudeness and barbarianism take over, bringing a society into despotism? Future of civilization rests on each individual’s ability to seek in love to unite with those who struggle for the rights of ordinary people. Now it is up to us to carry out this great work of justice and realize the truth of liberty and equality for all people.
John Bolton, the national-security adviser to President Trump, was in Moscow this week meeting Russian leader Vladimir Putin and other senior Kremlin officials. Bolton huffed that the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty was obsolete from the US point of view.
“There’s a new strategic reality out there,” said the American official. The INF, signed in 1987, is “a bilateral treaty in a multipolar ballistic missile world.”
He was referring to countries like China, Iran and North Korea, which the US claims have built up arsenals of ballistic missiles prohibited by the INF. Those countries are not in violation of the said treaty because the INF was an agreement signed only by the US and the Soviet Union, later becoming the Russian Federation.
The INF banned ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with a range of between 500km and 5,500km.
By quitting the treaty, the US would, in theory, be free to deploy medium-range nuclear and non-nuclear ballistic missiles on the territories of European NATO members. That is, return to the situation of the early 1980s before the INF was agreed by then-president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The US would also be free to make similar deployments in its Pacific bases and allied countries, such as Japan and South Korea.
However, it is doubtful if Washington would be able to do this without causing major political problems with its allies. This week, European leaders strongly protested against the US plan to withdraw from the INF. Even the usually obliging Norwegian head of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, said European countries would not welcome the return of American nuclear missiles on their soil.
Washington for several years now has been accusing Russia of violating the INF, for allegedly developing a ground-based cruise missile. Moscow has repeatedly denied the claim, pointing out that the US has not presented any evidence to support its accusation.
For its part, Moscow says the US is the party that is in violation of the treaty from its installation of Aegis Ashore missile systems in Romania and Poland.
What could be the real cause of American concern is Russia’s new Kalibr cruise missiles that are launched from navy ships. The missile was used with devastating success against militant groups in Syria, launched from the Caspian Sea, and covering a distance of over 1,000km. Sea-launched missiles are not banned by the INF.
In any case, the missiles pertinent to the INF, whether belonging to Russia, China or some other nation, are only a threat to US forces because American military power is increasingly deployed closer to those countries.
The US military has troops in an estimated 150 countries around the world. That’s a global military footprint covering nearly 80 percent of all nations on the planet. Given that inordinate spread of US military, it is easy to see why American officials perceive “threats.” It’s a bit like a thief marauding outside homes and then complaining that the homeowners are installing “threatening” burglar protection systems.
By contrast, Russian and Chinese military forces are predominantly confined to their respective national territories. Last month, when Russia conducted its Vostok-2018 war maneuvers in Siberia and the Far East, they were described as the largest-ever military mobilization by Moscow since the end of the Cold War. But let’s not forget, Russia’s war drills are always held within its territory.
This week, the US-led NATO alliance is conducting its biggest-ever war drills since the Cold War in the North Atlantic, Scandinavia and Baltic Sea. More than 30 nations are participating with a total of 50,000 troops and hundreds of aircraft and warships. The Trident Juncture mobilization will be held for the next four weeks and comes within 500km of Russian territory.
The anomalous imbalance should be glaringly obvious. Russia conducts its war drills within its own borders, which is its sovereign right; while American and allied forces are conducting simulated offensive actions on Russia’s doorstep.
The same double-think applies to the Trump administration’s complaint that Russia and others are in breach of the INF. If American forces were not encroaching on the territory of Russia and China, then they wouldn’t have cause for perceiving threats.
The distance between Beijing and San Francisco on the US west coast is nearly 10,000km. At its closest, the American state of Alaska is about 6,000km from Beijing. Those ranges are beyond the 5,500km upper limit of the INF. The point is that INF-type missiles from China or North Korea do not threaten US mainland territory. The only reason why US interests are “threatened” is because American forces are deployed in the vicinity of these countries, such as in the South China Sea, or in South Korea and Japan.
The next category of missile up is the Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICMBs). They are covered by the New START treaty. American officials, including John Bolton, are showing a tepid regard about renewing START when it expires in 2021. Many observers, including Americans, are concerned that with the scrapping of the INF by the US, then the last remaining arms-control treaty will also be abandoned. That then could unleash a new global arms race and greatly increase the risk of a nuclear war.
Lamentably, the US is tearing up the INF, as it did previously with the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in 2002, based on irrational arguments.
US military forces are only “threatened” because its forces are in everyone’s face in far-flung corners of the planet. Short- and medium-range “threats” would not be threats if America kept its troops and war machines within its own borders.
Donald Trump was elected partly on the promise to scale back US overseas militarism. It has turned out to be an empty and futile promise. That’s because American militarism is a vital, incorrigible function of its ambitions for domination of the planet. Ripping up arms-controls treaties is the corollary of such a monstrous military machine. Ironically, the treaties are trashed because the poor little American monster says it is being “threatened.”
Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, he is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. For over 20 years he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organizations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. Now a freelance journalist based in East Africa, his columns appear on RT, Sputnik, Strategic Culture Foundation and Press TV.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.