......

em·pire
ˈemˌpī(ə)r/
noun
an extensive operation or sphere of activity controlled by one person or group

Which country has more foreign military bases than any country in world history?

Which country spends more on violence and domination than the rest of the world combined?

Which country has overthrown or attempted to overthrow some 60 governments, most of them democracies?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Study: Foreign Countries Intervene in Civil Wars 100 Times More Often when Afflicted Countries Have Oil

The Independent reports that a new study conducted in the Universities of Portsmouth, Warwick and Essex, and published in the Journal of Conflict Resolution, finds that “hydrocarbons play an even bigger role in conflicts” than “conspiracy theorists” ever imagined.
…foreign intervention in a civil war is 100 times more likely when the afflicted country has high oil reserves than if it has none.
…a third party is 100 times more likely to intervene when the country at war is a big producer and exporter of oil…
…suggesting hydrocarbons were a major reason for the [US/UK] military intervention in Libya … and the current US campaign against Isis in northern Iraq.
“After a rigorous and systematic analysis, we found that the role of economic incentives emerges as a key factor in intervention,” said co-author Dr Vincenzo Bove, of the University of Warwick. “Before the Isis forces approached the oil-rich Kurdish north of Iraq, Isis was barely mentioned in the news. But once Isis got near oil fields, the siege of Kobani in Syria became a headline and the US sent drones to strike Isis targets,” he added.
[The study] found that the decision to intervene was dominated by the third-party’s need for oil, far more than historical, geographic or ethnic ties.
The US maintains troops in Persian Gulf oil producers and has a history of supporting conservative autocratic states…
David Cameron was instrumental in setting up the coalition that intervened in Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya in 2011, a country with sizeable oil reserves.
It is also important to remember that often control over resources, rather than mere access, is more important to a regime seeking an illegal stranglehold over international affairs:
As The Guardian reports today:
The US is anxious to maintain the Saudi-driven oil price reductions that have buoyed the US economy but weakened strategic foes such as Russia…
CNN recently noted:
…the last time the price of oil fell like this, the Soviet Union collapsed…
And economics reporter Larry Elliot recently noted in The Guardian (“Stakes are High as US Plays the Oil Card Against Iran and Russia”:
…with the help of its Saudi ally, Washington is trying to drive down the oil price by flooding an already weak market with crude. As the Russians and the Iranians are heavily dependent on oil exports, the assumption is that they will become easier to deal with…
John Kerry, the US secretary of state, allegedly struck a deal with King Abdullah in September under which the Saudis would sell crude at below the prevailing market price.
The UN General Assembly reminds in an adopted resolution that:
…full observance of the principle of the non-intervention of States in the internal and external affairs of other States is essential to the fulfilment of the purposes and principles of the United Nations
…armed intervention is synonymous with aggression…
…direct intervention, subversion and all forms of indirect intervention … constitute a violation of the Charter of the United Nations…
[And there is an] imperative need to create appropriate conditions which would enable all States, and in particular the developing countries, to choose without duress or coercion their own political, economic and social institutions…
Robert Barsocchini is an internationally published researcher and writer who focuses on global force dynamics and writes professionally for the film industry.  He is a regular contributor to  Washington’s Blog.  Follow Robert and his UK-based colleague, Dean Robinson, on Twitter.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Series Sends Norwegian Fashion Bloggers to Observe Cambodian Garment Industry


Sweatshop: Dead Cheap Fashion, Aftenposten, sweatshops, sweatshop workers, sweatshop labor, forced labor, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style, workers rights, human rights, Norway, eco-fashion documentaries, eco-fashion films

This series, “Sweatshop: Dead Cheap Fashion”, consists of four episodes, ten to twelve minutes each, and is well worth watching.  It chronicles the reactions of three young Norwegian fashion bloggers when they go to Cambodia to see who is making the clothing they love to buy and talk about.
They are initially shocked and uncomfortable with the poverty, but fall back to the position that it is normal for Cambodians, so it is therefore fine and the workers are happy (or so the kids assume).  And at least, the Norwegians say, they have jobs.
But as the bloggers spend more time with the workers, talking to them and living just one short day in their shoes, things change fairly dramatically.
Along the way, the Norwegian kids get a firsthand look at the dynamic the USA worked to create in Indochina a few decades earlier: when starving workers try to organize protests for living wages, they are beaten by shock troops working de facto for international oligarchs.
The thinking behind such ideas as living-wages was the “virus”, the “rot”, that the USA went to great lengths to try to inoculate, dropping more bombs on Cambodia alone than the US side dropped in all of World War II combined.
The Yale University website documents that the bombing was begun by Johnson and escalated by Nixon, with Nixon’s lackey Henry Kissinger relaying, down the chain of command, Nixon’s call for genocide: “He wants a massive bombing campaign in Cambodia. He doesn’t want to hear anything. It’s an order, it’s to be done. Anything that flies, on anything that moves. You got that?”  To this day, Kissinger, as is said of petty criminals who pale in comparison, is out there walking the streets.
The US thus planted and detonated “2,756,941 tons” of bombs in Cambodia, a terrorist operation perhaps unprecedented in history, as Yale notes:
To put 2,756,941 tons into perspective, the [US side] dropped just over 2 million tons of bombs during all of World War II. Cambodia may be the most heavily bombed country in history.
It was initially “estimated that between 50,000 and 150,000 Cambodian civilians were killed” by the US terror campaign.  However, that was when the tonnage of bombs detonated was thought to be five times less than it was later discovered to be.  It follows that the actual “number of casualties is surely higher”, perhaps, as logic might suggest, five or more times higher.
Alternet notes:
Mr. Kissinger’s most significant historical act was executing Richard Nixon’s orders to conduct the most massive bombing campaign, largely of civilian targets, in world history. He dropped 3.7 million tons of bombs between January 1969 and January 1973 – nearly twice the two million dropped on all of Europe and the Pacific in World War II. He secretly and illegally devastated villages throughout areas of Cambodia inhabited by a U.S. Embassy-estimated two million people…
His aerial slaughter helped kill, wound or make homeless an officially-estimated six million human beings…
The Yale website further documents that the US bombing led directly to the rise of the Khmer Rouge regime:
…the bombs drove ordinary Cambodians into the arms of the Khmer Rouge, a group that seemed initially to have slim prospects of revolutionary success. Pol Pot himself described the Khmer Rouge during that period as “fewer than five thousand
poorly armed guerrillas . . . scattered across the Cambodian landscape, uncertain
about their strategy, tactics, loyalty, and leaders.”
And a former Khmer Rouge officer reported (depicting a scenario being created constantly by Obama’s executions of suspects by cruel and unusual means):
The ordinary people sometimes literally shit in their pants when the big bombs and shells came. Their minds just froze up and they would wander around mute for three or four days. Terrified and half crazy, the people were ready to believe what they were told. It was because of their dissatisfaction with the bombing that they kept on co-operating with the Khmer Rouge, joining up with the Khmer Rouge, sending their children off to go with them…. Sometimes the bombs fell and hit little children, and their fathers would be all for the Khmer Rouge.
Once the Khmer Rouge seized power, Vietnam intervened to try to stop them, but the US teamed up with the Khmer Rouge.  Henry Kissinger called the Khmer Rouge “murderous thugs”, and said the US “will be friends with them.”
The general problem in Indochina (specifically Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos) was that indigenous movements with overwhelming popular support (Ch. 18) would not “cede control to the local oligarchy”.
The “rot” of such thinking had to be, and was, inoculated, with results the Norwegian kids encountered, to their shock.
If only on a visceral and not an historical level (one of the bloggers deftly notes that “we are rich because they are poor”), the kids learn that the comfortable beds on which they sleep in the West, surrounded by luxuries, lie on the rotting corpses and hunched, aching backs of unknown millions of people with “as much value” as them.
Also see:
Contractors for Fruit of the Loom, Hanes and Levi’s worked in close concert with the US Embassy when they aggressively moved to block a minimum wage increase for Haitian assembly zone workers, the lowest-paid in the hemisphere, according to secret State Department cables.
Ultra-cheap labor is desired, sought, and maintained by massive violent force for the benefit and luxuriation of a few oligarchs.
The US and West developed by radically violating the arrangements they force on others.  These arrangements de-develop, drain, and hold down the victim countries as the dominant countries profit off them.  For example, India, before the British de-developed and set it up as a cheap labor/resource camp, was more developed and prosperous than Britain (271).  The victim countries finally begin to re-develop once they are able to throw off the yoke.
As The Guardian reports:
…the US lost most of its influence in Latin America over the past 15 years, and the region has donequite well, with a sharp reduction in poverty for the first time in decades. The Washington-based International Monetary Fund has also lost most of its influence over the middle-income countries of the world, and these have also done remarkably better in the 2000s.
Robert Barsocchini is an internationally published researcher and writer who focuses on global force dynamics and writes professionally for the film industry.  He is a regular contributor to  Washington’s Blog.  Follow Robert and his UK-based colleague, Dean Robinson, on Twitter.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Former Marine on Chris Kyle, American Sniper, and Social Implications

Ross Caputi, a former marine who participated in the US’s second siege of Fallujah, writes that the reason the American Sniper book and film have been so successful is that they “tell us exactly what we want to hear”: that US America is “benevolent” and “righteous”.  That, he says, is why the book and film are so popular; their popularity speaks volumes about US society, and signals more danger ahead for the rest of the world.
The killings for which Chris Kyle is idolized, Caputi notes, were perpetrated during his participation in the second US siege of Fallujah, which Caputi, from firsthand knowledge, calls an “atrocity”.
Specifically of the siege, Caputi notes:
  • All military aged males were forced to stay within the city limits of Fallujah” [while women and children were warned to flee through the desert on foot]
  • “…an estimated 50,000 civilians were trapped in [Fallujah] during this month long siege without water” [since the US had cut off water and electricity to the city]
  • “…almost no effort was taken to make a distinction between civilian men and combatants. In fact, in many instances civilians and combatants were deliberately conflated.”
  • “The US did not treat military action [against Fallujah] as a last resort. The peace negotiations with the leadership in Fallujah were canceled by the US.”
In modest conformity with international law originally flowing from the Nuremberg tribunal, he says that neither he or Kyle should receive any “praise or recognition” for their actions against Iraq.
Further, he notes that Clint Eastwood, director of the American Sniper movie, made many changes to Kyle’s accounts of what happened.  For one, Kyle, in his autobiography, recounts shooting a woman who was taking the legal action of throwing a grenade at invading forces.  Eastwood changes this so that the woman gives the grenade to her child to throw at the invaders.  “Did Clint Eastwood think that this is a more representative portrayal of the Iraqi resistance?” Caputi asks. “It’s not.”  (Caputi gives Eastwood the benefit of our lack of knowledge of his thought process; he could have asked if Eastwood did this to try to dehumanize Iraqi mothers or Iraqis in general, or whip up US American xenophobic hatred of foreigners, a not-so-difficult feat which Eastwood accomplished with flying colors.  See The Guardian’s “American Sniper: Anti-Muslim Threats Skyrocket in Wake of Film’s Release“; many who see the film “emerge from theatres desperate to communicate a kind of murderous desire.”)
The US invasion of Iraq, Caputi concludes, was “the imposition of a political and economic project against the will of the majority of Iraqis. … We had no right to invade a sovereign nation, occupy it against the will of the majority of its citizens, and patrol their streets.”
Caputi “holds an MA in Linguistics and … is working on an MA in English Studies at Fitchburg State University.”
Also see Professor of International Affairs Sophia A. McClennan’s piece, where she says the American Sniper movie is “a terrifying glimpse” of a “mind-set that couples delusion with violence”.