Uncommon Sense

politics and society are, unfortunately, much the same thing

How a committed socialist gave up the faith

original article: The Bolivarian God That Failed
February 1, 2019 by Clifton Ross

The day after Venezuela’s National Assembly voted to declare its president, Juan Guaidó, interim President of the Republic, I received a text from a former friend. “If the U.S. topples Vz [Venezuela],” he wrote, “I will hold you responsible.” I would have been happy to accept this responsibility had I done anything important enough to deserve it. But the idea was absurd and he knew it. If the Venezuelan regime falls—and I hope that it does—it won’t even be possible to credit (or blame) the United States. It is the Venezuelan people who finally are taking their destiny in hand and rejecting an intolerable status quo.

The message was not a serious attempt to apportion responsibility for Venezuela’s current upheaval; it was an attempt to shame me for my treacherous betrayal of the Bolivarian cause. An early supporter of the Revolution, I had traveled to Venezuela in 2013 to cover the April presidential elections. By the time I returned to the US, I was disillusioned and depressed. I decided I needed to start writing and speaking about what I had seen there. In an article I wrote for the radical magazine Counterpunch around that time, I argued that “the so-called ‘Bolivarian Revolution’ is bankrupt: morally, ideologically, and economically,” and I asked what we, as leftist solidarity activists, should do in response. “Should we continue to make excuses for incompetence, corruption, and irresponsibility and thereby make ourselves accomplices?” I asked. “Or should we tell the truth?”

I had resolved to tell the truth. Having been so wrong about something so consequential, I felt it was the least I could do. By then, Venezuela was already in a terrible mess. Many of those I had helped to convince of the possibilities offered by Bolivarian socialism were deeply suspicious of the mainstream media and deserved to hear what was going on from a writer they trusted. But, as it turned out, the people I wanted to reach didn’t want to hear such things. And the people I asked to publish my articles didn’t much want me to write about them either. As a result of my voltafaccia, former comrades and friends contacted my editors and publishers in (occasionally successful) attempts to have my articles spiked. I was denounced and slandered online and in print. Phone calls and emails to people I had thought of as friends now went unanswered. On those occasions when I encountered one of them in public, they looked the other way. Abruptly, I found myself excommunicated, and people I’d known for 30 or 40 years made it clear that they no longer wanted to be part of my life.

*     *     *

I’d originally come to California from the Bible Belt in the mid-’70s in search of enlightened neighbors. I knew what it was to live an isolated life. It had been lonely on my father’s farm in Southern Oklahoma. I had endured farm life for five years but, having grown up in the military, I longed for the company of diverse, worldly-wise people one often found among military brats. Having become a Christian a few years before, I hoped Berkeley would offer a deeper faith than I’d found in fundamentalist churches.

I hitchhiked west and in Berkeley I joined the “radical Christian” community of the House Church of Berkeley that had grown out of Christian World Liberation Front (CWLF). From the margins of that community I gradually found my way, through liberation theology, into the secular Left. For nearly a decade I did solidarity work with the Sandinista Revolution until that process came to a halt when its “vanguard” Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) was removed from power in the elections of 1990.

Following the collapse of communism, I ended up with the other “dead-enders” in Berkeley, scratching around in the depleted soil of radical politics for any worm of hope that might emerge. Those were desperate years. I soon hitched a ride on the Redwood Summer bandwagon, the joint IWW (Industrial Workers of the World, “Wobblies”) and Earth First! project to protect the last stands of old growth redwoods in Northern California from logging companies. I played a very minor role in that campaign, printing the flyers announcing the actions, but I was quickly drawn into working in the IWW. I was briefly an editor for the Bay Area Branch Bulletin and a co-editor of the Industrial Worker, and then I spent ten years in an IWW union job shop (New Earth Press) where my partner and I did a lot of ecological printing for local community organizations.

After we sold the business, I went to graduate school at San Francisco State University for a couple of very dismal years in academia. Then, after graduation, I spent the summer of 2004 in Nicaragua interviewing ex-Sandinistas who were now in opposition to the FSLN, the “glorious revolutionary vanguard,” which had been reduced over time to the status of a populist party serving the caudillo (strongman) Daniel Ortega. During the years of the Nicaraguan Revolution (1979-1990), I had translated and published the revolutionary poetry and writings of Sandinista militants—mostly farmers, low-ranking militia members, and even young children. As I was a poet, it seemed appropriate work to help spread the word about a process I found hopeful, and endangered by the hostile policies of the Reagan administration. I knew very little at the time of the Sandinistas’ responsibility for generating the war that would eventually tear their country apart. Most of us on the radical Left distrusted the media, and it was only recently that I returned to that period (in Chapter 11 of my 2016 memoir) to uncover details I had ignored during the years of that brutal civil conflict.

Foremost among the poets I’d translated during the years of the Sandinista Revolution was Ernesto Cardenal, a revolutionary priest and the Sandinista Minister of Culture. Cardenal and other “liberation theologians” were preaching a synthesis of Marxist revolutionary ideology and Christian theology, and they were my inspiration back then. By 2004, I no longer identified with Christianity, and my faith in Marxism was also in doubt. Nevertheless, I still considered myself some kind of socialist, and I thought Cardenal might be able to reassure me that there were embers of socialism still burning somewhere in Latin America. He duly obliged. Towards the end of our interview, when I asked him to name the projects in Latin America today which gave him hope, he didn’t mention (as I thought he would) the Zapatistas. “The Bolivarian Revolution,” he announced. President Hugo Chávez was doing some very interesting things down in Venezuela, he thought, and he encouraged me to visit and see for myself.

So, that December, eager to learn more, I flew down to Venezuela on Christmas break from Berkeley City College where I had been working as an adjunct English instructor. I immediately fell in with like-minded leftists in the small Andrean city of Mérida, who introduced me to a good part of the Bolivarian community there. I was so inspired by what I found that I decided to take a year off from teaching so I could follow the Bolivarian process first-hand.

It is as difficult as it is uncomfortable to enter into a previous state of mind from a later, more “evolved” or developed state. I don’t like to admit that I once believed Jesus rose from the dead, but I did. I also believed that socialism would make everyone brothers and sisters and end what my comrades and I called “capitalist oppression.”1 The available scientific and statistical evidence (not to mention common sense) weighs strongly against belief in bodily resurrection from the dead. History has delivered a verdict of comparable finality about socialism. This verdict is routinely dismissed on the grounds that only corrupted iterations of socialism have been tried; if socialism is designed to unite mankind, but all previous versions of socialism have failed to do so, then it follows that true socialism has yet to be successfully attempted.

Rarely do true believers stop to consider that there may be something wrong with the logic of socialism itself. In his 1993 book Post-Liberalism: Studies in Political Thought, the English philosopher John Gray wrote that Soviet socialism forced its subjects into a “vast Prisoner’s Dilemma, with each being constrained to act against his own interest and, thereby, directly or indirectly, to reproduce the order (or chaos) in which he is imprisoned. Thus Soviet subjects are compelled to compete with each other in climbing the rungs of the nomenklatura, pursuing the ordinary goods of life by party activism or, in extremis, by informing or denouncing one another, and so renewing daily the system that keeps them all captive.” These are not exactly optimal conditions for building community.

By 2004, I was already well aware of what Marxist-Leninist socialism had done to the twentieth century. So why did I fall for the socialism that Hugo Chávez proposed in Venezuela? The reasons were part push, part pull. The push came from the American invasion of Iraq less than two years earlier. After a rapid battlefield victory, the news from the Middle East seemed to be growing more dire by the day. A little over a month before I left for Venezuela, allegations began to emerge that the US military were committing war crimes in Fallujah. Surely a better way than this remained possible? As I wandered around Venezuela that December I was desperate for an alternative I could believe in, no matter how fragile.

The pull was what Hugo Chávez was proposing. He acknowledged the problems of  twentieth century socialism, and claimed to be offering something different—the Bolivarian version of “twenty-first century socialism.” This would be the “socialism with a human face” and quite unlike the repressive, totalitarian bureaucratic behemoth of Marxist-Leninism. As Chavista Gregory Wilpert insisted in his 2007 book Changing Venezuela by Taking Power, under Bolivarian socialism “ownership and control of the means of production must be collective and democratic.” Cooperatives were to play a large part in this and, after 2006, so would the local communal councils.

The money from the 2004 oil boom had saved Chávez from a recall referendum as he distributed the revenue flooding into the country among his followers. In this way, Chávez was able to fund his “revolution” from 2005 onwards. He ensured that the oil wealth would bypass the government, which he characterized as “corrupt” and (naturally) “counter-revolutionary.” Instead, money would be funnelled directly into a non-state-controlled corporate entity known as Fonden, the National Development Fund, over which, of course, Chávez personally presided. Fonden then parceled money out to cooperatives and the so-called “Missions” to the poor. During the oil boom, petroleum prices went from $10 a barrel to $100 and peaked at around $150 over the course of a decade. Given the astonishing amount of wealth generated, Chávez had a lot of money to throw at his pet projects. And, predictably, as the wealth trickled down, corruption increased since everyone had to get his or her piece of the patronage.

The cooperatives and community councils were among the many promising and inspiring initiatives dreamed up by Chávez in the early years of the boom. I witnessed these developments and documented them in my feature film, Venezuela: Revolution from the Inside Out. There really did appear to be great enthusiasm for these initiatives at the grassroots, especially as Hugo Chávez pushed them forward with massive funding. I quickly joined the chorus of supporters, first as invited poet to the Second World Poetry Festival of Venezuela in July 2005, then as a freelance (that is, unpaid) journalist for various left-leaning websites. When Chávez appeared on the scene, there were under 2000 cooperatives in the country. Once he came to power, that number skyrocketed to nearly 200,000, and I was there to document their ups and downs. I attended a few community council meetings and “political formation” training sessions, as well as a number of oil-funded projects like community kitchens, cultural events, and community development programs. It felt like something was really happening and that a fairer society was being built.

After the year I spent living in Venezuela (2005-2006), I returned as frequently as my schedule would allow, sometimes twice a year. Between 2008 and 2011, however, I became preoccupied with traveling across Latin America and conducting interviews with social movement activists for a book entitled Until the Rulers Obey that would be published in 2014. During that time, I was forced to become a “generalist” and didn’t have much time available to keep a close eye on what was happening in Venezuela. Nevertheless, from people who were watching, and from what I saw on my two visits there in 2011, I gathered that the situation was taking a bad turn. As even supporters were pointing out a few years later, by 2007 only about 15 percent of the 184,000 remaining cooperatives were active. If the distinction between earlier socialism and the Bolivarian version was that in the latter the “ownership and control of the means of production must be collective and democratic,” the new version wasn’t faring well at all.

Big questions began to arise about the financing of the community councils. Critics charged that these organizations were simply instruments that Chávez (and then Maduro) used to fund their supporters while denying access to the opposition. It was classic populism in the style of the Mexican PRI, which Mario Vargas Llosa once called “the perfect dictatorship.” By 2008, Chávez had suffered his first electoral defeat in a referendum that he had hoped would drive his socialist agenda forward. In response, he adopted a new approach to building twenty-first century socialism, and it looked very much like the twentieth century variety: nationalization of industries followed by the expropriation and redistribution of wealth and property. The “Bolivarian Revolution” was starting to look like any other rentier or petro-state—burgeoning corruption, a politics of clientelism, and a growing gap between the elite in control of the state (and, of course, the oil revenues) and the increasingly desperate mass of people at the bottom.

When the Arab Spring swept Gaddafi from power, I argued with my Venezuelan friends and felt the beginnings of a great divide opening up between us. I didn’t like the company Chávez was keeping—Gaddafi, Putin, Hezbollah, etc.—but neither was I ready to denounce him and his project as a fraud. Meanwhile, as my wife and I compiled the interviews with the social movement activists in Latin America, we began to notice themes and threads that confirmed what Raul Zibechi had told us when we visited him in Montevideo, Uruguay in the spring of 2012.

Zibechi was an astute analyst of Latin American politics with a focus on social movements. He explained that the so-called “Pink Tide” of leftwing governments that had risen to power on the wave of the commodities boom were in fact following the prescription of Robert McNamara, the former president of the World Bank and architect of the Vietnam War under Lyndon Johnson. In this scenario, moderately progressive governments were far more useful than their rightwing homologues to the world elite, because they provided a buffer between the transnational corporations and the social movements protesting the impact of resource extraction on communities and the environment. The testimony of our interviewees seemed to bear out Zibechi’s thesis. But surely this couldn’t be true of the more “radical” processes, like the one unfolding in Venezuela?

As I was writing the introductions to the Nicaraguan and Venezuelan chapters of our book, I investigated further, and what I discovered in the academic literature and reports by investigative journalists on both countries confirmed my doubts. By the mid-1990s, I’d already given up on the FSLN reforming itself. When I met Ernesto Cardenal again in 2004, he argued that there was no hope of any positive change from the “Ortega dictatorship.” My introduction to the Nicaragua chapter of our book was therefore fairly easy to write, since the direction the country was going under the Ortega mafia seemed clear. I quoted Dennis Rogers’s description of the Somoza dictatorship the FSLN had overthrown and remarked that it also described the present Ortega regime quite well: “A venal oligarchy run by a small elite satisfied to promote a form of what might be termed ‘hacienda feudalism.’” But Venezuela? Chávez? I had grown more critical, but I still believed in Chávez. As so many Chavistas in Venezuela had reassured me, “Chávez is clean, but all those surrounding him are corrupt.” This was a cult of personality—a One Man faith.

*     *     *

On the afternoon of March 5, 2013, I’d just finished another draft of my introduction to the Venezuela chapter when the phone rang and a friend told me that Hugo Chávez had died. I wrote a eulogy for Counterpunch that now, nearly six years later, I find embarrassing. I then decided to go back down to Venezuela for the elections. On the flight I caught up on my reading, including a fascinating biography of Hugo Chávez written by two well-known Venezuelan journalists, and some analyses of the massive problems in the Venezuelan economy, including the missing $29 billion dollars from the Fonden budget over which Chávez had presided.

Chávez, in the style of Latin American autocrats from time immemorial, had hand-picked his successor, Nicolás Maduro. Maduro was a fairly hard-core Leninist with a soft spot in his heart for Sai Baba, the Hindu guru-huckster accused of child molestation before he died in 2011. Compared to Chávez, Maduro is wooden and utterly lacking in the warmth and charm of his political “father.” But he had close relations with Cuba and was part of Chávez’s trusted inner circle and, most importantly, he was Chávez’s choice. Y punto, end of discussion.

Of the difficulties I faced over the next few days attempting to enter the country and cover the April 2013 presidential election between Maduro and Henrique Capriles, I have written elsewhere. Suffice it to say that I wasn’t granted entry until the day after the elections. Even then, due to the massive nationwide protests, I only managed to get to Mérida thanks to the generosity of oppositionists who gave me a ride. Over the course of the trip, they filled me in on the details of why Maduro had only won the elections by only slightly more than a single percentage point. This was despite using all the state resources at his disposal to (illegally) pay for and promote his campaign, including the state oil company PDVSA’s buses which drove state employees to the polls to vote for him. Chavistas simply hadn’t come out in large numbers to vote for him, and clearly many of the faithful had already gone over to the opposition.

Over the next few days and weeks, as I traveled through Venezuela, I began talking to the “counter-revolutionaries” and they offered evidence of their country’s deep problems to which my Chavista friends could only respond with rhetoric. In the industrial region of Guayana in the state of Bolívar, I interviewed union workers in the nationalized industries about the collapse of those industries. I was able to confirm their claims with secret footage shot for me by a worker using my own video camera, which showed the ruined interior of an enormous state factory where not a soul was to be seen on this particular work day.

In Caracas, I met with opposition human rights activists, union leaders, and leftwing academics for interviews. As the missing pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place, the reality of the Bolivarian catastrophe overwhelmed my resistance. Emilio Campos, then Secretary General of Carbonorca, the nationalized industrial coke plant, described the Bolivarian Revolution as nothing more than “a media show.” He called himself “a revolutionary for a plurality of ideas where a country seeks balance, not just for a party, or one sector of society. I believe in freedom of thought, in a diversity of ideas. But the hegemony of power makes you narrow-minded.”

The real turning point for me, however, was the interview I conducted with labor journalist Damian Prat, whose extraordinary book Guayana: El milagro al revés (Guayana: The Reversed Miracle) I had read over the two or three days it took me to get to Guayana from Merida by bus. The interview took place within a day or two of the shocking beatings of several prominent opposition National Assembly deputies by Chavista deputies during an official session. The state television cameras were turned off during the violence and afterwards, as the wounded were taken to the hospital. I was still shaken by the footage some brave parliamentarians had captured on their cell phones and leaked to the press.

I met Prat at his office at the Correo del Caroní, the Guayanesa daily paper. As I turned on my video camera, Prat smiled wryly. “Some of you in the critical, intellectual circles of Europe and the United States seem to think it’s fine that in the countries of our Latin America there are arbitrary governments and processes full of abuses that in your countries you wouldn’t consider allowing for a minute. No, in your own country you’d militantly reject the same things you seem to feel are perfectly fine to take place down here, so far away, where it’s exotic and interesting…” I felt my face redden with shame, and I suddenly felt my whole world capsize.

It would be months before I was able to return to Guayana to interview Rubén González, the former Chavista and Secretary General of Iron Mine Workers Union of the Orinoco (Sintra Ferrominera del Orinoco) about his own experience of imprisonment without trial “just for doing my job in the union and defending the rights of workers.” Referring to the claims of “sabotage” as the reason the industries were failing in the country, González told me that those in government “never thought of governing, but rather of enriching their little group in power. They never invested in these businesses, but totally bled them dry. They themselves are the saboteurs.” At the time of this writing, González is back in jail for organizing on behalf of workers in the state ironworks.

*     *     *

All of a sudden, I found myself in a strange world. I had drifted—at first gradually, but then definitively—into the camp of my former “enemies,” persuaded by their narrative and by the evidence before my own eyes. And, as I did so, I discovered that the editors of the news sites where I’d published my passionate defenses of the Bolivarian project for the past few years no longer responded to my pitches or my queries or my emails. As Venezuela disintegrated, I was lost and confused and alone.

And then, while I was grieving the loss of my innocent old life and its many friendships, something curious and unexpected began to happen. I discovered a great sense of excitement as I investigated “new” ideas for which I’d previously had nothing but contempt. I found myself reminded of Herbert Spencer’s quote at the end of the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book: “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance—that principle is contempt prior to investigation.”

For the next two years, I delved into the literature on Venezuela with renewed interest. Javier Corrales and Michael Penfold’s book, A Dragon in the Tropics, it turned out, was particularly well-researched and compelling. Since I could no longer get my writing published in any of the outlets for which I’d previously written, I redirected my energies into making a new film entitled In the Shadow of the Revolution with the help of a Venezuelan filmmaker and friend, Arturo Albarrán, and I wrote my political memoir for an adventurous anarchist publisher. But what preoccupied me more and more were the larger questions of socialism versus capitalism, and the meaning of liberalism.

I’d visited Cuba twice—in 1994 and again in 2010—and now, with my experience of Venezuela, I felt I’d seen the best socialism could offer. Not only was that offering pathetically meagre, but it had been disastrously destructive. It became increasingly clear to me that nothing that went under that rubric functioned nearly as well on any level as the system under which I had been fortunate enough to live in the US. Why then, did so many decent people, whose ethics and intelligence and good intentions I greatly respected, continue to insist that the capitalist system needed to be eliminated and replaced with what had historically proven to be the inferior system of socialism?

The strongest argument against state control of the means of production and distribution is that it simply didn’t—and doesn’t—work. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding—and in this case, there was no pudding at all. In my own lifetime, I’ve seen socialism fail in China, fail in the Soviet Union, fail in Eastern Europe, fail on the island of Cuba, and fail in Nicaragua under the Sandinistas. And now the world is watching it fail in Venezuela, where it burned through billions of petro-dollars of financing, only to leave the nation worse off than it was before. And still people like me had insisted on this supposed alternative to capitalism, stubbornly refusing to recognize that it is based on a faulty premise and a false epistemology.

As long ago as the early 1940s, F.A. Hayek had identified the impossibility of centralized social planning and its catastrophic consequences in his classic The Road to Serfdom. Hayek’s writings convinced the Hungarian economist, János Kornai, to dedicate an entire volume entitled The Socialist System to demonstrating the validity of his claims. The “synoptic delusion”—the belief that any small group of people could hold and manage all the information spread out over millions of actors in a market economy—Kornai argued, leads the nomenklatura to make disastrous decisions that disrupt production and distribution. Attempts to “correct” these errors only exacerbate the problems for the same reasons, leading to a whole series of disasters that result, at last, in a completely dysfunctional economy, and then gulags, torture chambers, and mass executions as the nomenklatura hunt for “saboteurs” and scapegoats.

The synoptic delusion—compounded by immense waste, runaway corruption, and populist authoritarianism—is what led to the mayhem engulfing Venezuela today, just as it explains why socialism is no longer a viable ideology to anyone but the kind of true believer I used to be. For such people, utopian ideologies might bring happiness into their own lives, and even into the lives of those around them who also delight in their dreams and fantasies. But when they gain control over nations and peoples, their harmless dreams become the nightmares of multitudes.

Capitalism, meanwhile, has dramatically raised the standard of living wherever it has been allowed to arise over the past two centuries. It is not, however, anything like a perfect or flawless system. Globalization has left many behind, even if their lives are far better than those of their ancestors just two hundred years ago, and vast wealth creation has produced vast inequalities which have, in turn, bred resentment. Here in California, the city of Los Angeles, “with a population of four million, has 53,000 homeless.” Foreign policy misadventures and the economic crash of 2008 opened the door to demagogues of the Left and the Right eager to exploit people’s hopes and fears so that they could offer themselves as the solution their troubled nations sought to the dystopian woe into which liberal societies had fallen. In his fascinating recent jeremiad Why Liberalism Failed, Patrick Deneen itemizes liberal democracy’s many shortcomings and, whether or not one accepts his stark prognosis, his criticisms merit careful thought and attention.

Nevertheless, markets do work for the majority, and so does liberal democracy, as dysfunctional as it often is. That is because capitalism provides the space for ingenuity and innovation, while liberal democracy provides room for free inquiry and self-correction. Progress and reform can seem maddeningly sluggish under such circumstances, particularly when attempting to redress grave injustice or to meet slow-moving existential threats like climate change. But I have learned to be wary of those who insist that the perfect must be the enemy of the good, and who appeal to our impatience with extravagant promises of utopia. If, as Deneen contends, liberalism has become a victim of its own success, it should be noted that socialism has no successes to which it can fall victim. Liberalism’s foundations may be capable of being shored up, but socialism is built on sand, and from sand. Failures, most sensible people realize, should be abandoned.

That is probably why Karl Popper advocated cautious, piecemeal reform of markets and societies because, like any other experiment, one can only accurately isolate problems and make corrections by changing one variable at a time. As Popper observed in his essay “Utopia and Violence”:

The appeal of Utopianism arises from the failure to realize that we cannot make heaven on earth. What I believe we can do instead is to make life a little less terrible and a little less unjust in each generation. A good deal can be achieved in this way. Much has been achieved in the last hundred years. More could be achieved by our own generation. There are many pressing problems which we might solve, at least partially, such as helping the weak and the sick, and those who suffer under oppression and injustice; stamping out unemployment; equalizing opportunities; and preventing international crime, such as blackmail and war instigated by men like gods, by omnipotent and omniscient leaders. All this we might achieve if only we could give up dreaming about distant ideals and fighting over our Utopian blueprints for a new world and a new man.

Losing faith in a belief system that once gave my life meaning was extremely painful. But the experience also reawakened my dormant intellectual curiosity and allowed me to think about the world anew, unencumbered by the circumscriptions of doctrine. I have met new people, read new writers and thinkers, and explored new ideas I had previously taken care to avoid. After reading an interview I had given to one of my publishers a year ago, I was forwarded an email by the poet David Chorlton. What I’d said in that interview, he wrote, “goes beyond our current disease of taking sides and inflexible non-thinking. I’m reading Havel speeches again, all in the light of the collective failure to live up to the post-communist opportunities. We’re suffering from a lack of objectivity—is that because everyone wants an identity more than a solution to problems?”

 

economics, foreign affairs, government, history, ideology, liberalism, poverty, public policy, reform, socialism

Filed under: economics, foreign affairs, government, history, ideology, liberalism, poverty, public policy, reform, socialism

Slaves sold in open market in 2017. Really?

original article:
Africans are being sold at Libyan slave markets. Thanks, Hillary Clinton.
November 27, 2017 by Glenn Harlan Reynolds

Black Africans are being sold in open-air slave markets right now, and it’s Hillary Clinton’s fault. But you won’t hear much about that from the press or the foreign-policy pundits, so let me explain.

Footage from Libya, released last week by CNN, showed young men from sub-Saharan Africa being auctioned off as farm workers in slave markets.

And how did we get to this point? As the BBC reported back in May, “Libya has been beset by chaos since NATO-backed forces overthrew long-serving ruler Col. Moammar Gadhafi in Oct. 2011.”

More: Social media threat: People learned to survive disease, we can handle Twitter

More: Hollywood, ESPN and other debacles: Why can’t our ruling class do its job?

And who was behind that overthrow? None other than then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Under former president George W. Bush in 2003, the United States negotiated an agreement with Libyan strongman Gadhafi. The deal: He would give up his weapons of mass destruction peacefully, and we wouldn’t try to depose him.

That seemed like a good deal at the time, but the Obama administration didn’t stick to it. Instead, in an operation spearheaded by Clinton, the United States went ahead and toppled him anyway.

The overthrow turned out to be a debacle. Libya exploded into chaos and civil war and refugees flooded Europe, destabilizing governments there. But at the time, Clinton thought it was a great triumph — “we came, we saw, he died,” she joked about Gadhafi’s overthrow — and her adviser Sidney Blumenthal encouraged her to tout her “successful strategy” to the press as evidence of her fitness for the highest office in the land.

It’s surprising the extent to which Clinton has gotten a pass for this debacle, which represents a humanitarian and strategic failure of the first order. (And, of course the damage is still compounding: How likely is North Korea’s Kim Jong Un to give up his nuclear weapons, after seeing the worthlessness of U.S. promises made to Gadhafi?)

Back during his brief stint in the Democratic Primary, former Sen. James Webb raised the issue, saying:  “We blew the lid off of a series of tribal engagements. You can’t get to the Tripoli Airport right now, much less Benghazi.” But as the Libya disaster continues to unfold, Clinton’s role in it gets surprisingly little attention.

Maybe it’s buried under the other Clinton/Obama debacles in the Middle East, like the botched Syrian policy that The Washington Post’s Fred Hiatt called ”a humanitarian and cultural disaster of epochal proportions.” Remember Obama’s “red line” that Syria crossed, and that Obama didn’t enforce?

That led to a destabilizing flood of refugees hitting Europe, too.

And, of course, there’s the Yemen policy, which Obama bragged about as a model for the war on terror. But now Yemen is another war-wracked humanitarian and strategic disaster.

Still, Libya is in a class of its own. In Syria and Yemen, at least, the situation was already bad. Libya, before Clinton got involved, was comparatively stable and no strategic threat to the United States or its allies. Now it’s a shambles, with people literally being sold in slave markets.

Back in the 2012 presidential campaign, former vice president Joe Biden told a group of African Americans that the GOP was going to ”put you all back in chains.” But it turned out that it was Clinton’s policies that led to black people being sold. As some ponder another Hillary Clinton run in 2020, that’s worth pointing out.

———————-
corruption, Democrats, foreign affairs, government, ideology, politics, scandal, tragedy, unintended consequences, war

Filed under: corruption, Democrats, foreign affairs, government, ideology, politics, scandal, tragedy, unintended consequences, war

The World Doesn’t Need the UN Population Fund

original article: The World Doesn’t Need the UN Population Fund
May 9, 2017 by SUSAN YOSHIHARA (The Stream)

When President Donald J. Trump cut U.S. funding to the U.N. Population Fund, abortion advocates howled. But Trump made the right call. The billion dollar-a-year agency has run out of reasons to exist, even by its own metrics.

The agency still relies on the same “overpopulation” gimmicks that justified its creation in 1969. In a 2011 media stunt in hot and crowded Manila, it “welcomed” the seven billionth human born. The world is indeed getting more crowded, but not with babies. Old people are expected to outnumber youth on the planet within sixty years.

From investment firms to national security analysists, experts agree: Many countries suffer not from overpopulation, but from a sharp decline in fertility. It took western countries a century to grow old. Developing nations are managing the feat in just one generation. Their ability to seize the promised “demographic dividend” is fading fast. The World Bank has identified a waning appetite for consumer goods in the geriatric West. They say today’s developing economies won’t be able to manufacture their way to economic growth like China did.

Demographers have been ringing the alarm bell for two decades. Yet the U.N. Population Fund has forged ahead with its mission to limit births.

A One Trick Pony

The Fund claims to help couples have the number of children they want. But the facts show the opposite. It does nothing to relieve infertility. It promotes education for women and girls, but does nothing to help women who want to have a large family. On the contrary. The UNFPA offers the same answer for every woman: Have fewer children.

Yes, the U.N. Population Fund has added to its portfolio to remain relevant. It opposes female genital mutilation, endorses maternal health, abhors the spread of HIV/AIDs, and promotes adolescent and women’s rights. But the U.N. already has agencies with these mandates, such as the World Health Organization, UNAIDs, UNICEF and U.N. Women.

Planned Parenthood said President Trump would “kill” thousands of women this year because they won’t get U.N.-funded contraception. But the Fund did not save a single life last year. Rather, it helped “avert” two thousand theoretical deaths in childbirth by providing contraception.

Hypocrisy

Even the U.N. Population Fund’s claim to the mantle of women’s rights is spurious. China’s abusive family planning program has persisted under its watch. Even Beijing has admitted it went too far. The Chinese National Health and Family Planning Commission now allows for two children. But it still exacts punishment on couples who have one more. That includes the threat of forced abortions, loss of livelihoods and homes. And still the U.N. Population Fund defends its partnership with the Chinese agency.

When shell-shocked Nigerian families welcomed back their daughters abducted by Boko Haram, they found that the girls had suffered unspeakable abuse. What did UNFPA recommend? Abortion. For this, its executive director was rightly rebuffed. But the organization’s leadership can’t seem to help itself. They act as if ridding the world of unintended pregnancies and unwanted children will help solve every problem.

What the U.N. Population Fund won’t admit is that “unintended” and “unwanted” are social science constructs, not the sentiments of parents. Such terms often contradict what women really say. A woman may tell a researcher that her beloved child was never “unwanted.” The researcher, however, may code her child as “unwanted,” due to a survey question she answered years earlier about desired family size.

Women are quite capable of making up their own minds. The U.N. Population Fund, however, often doesn’t like what they decide. Hence much of its spending goes to “advocacy.” Translation: Trying to convince women they should stop at two children.

The fact is that ninety five percent of women in the developing world say they already know about family planning. They just don’t opt for the methods the U.N. recommends. This fact should have the U.N. Population Fund declaring victory, not wringing its hands about “lack of uptake.”

Defying still more facts, the UNFPA insists that lack of access to contraception is a global crisis. Just like the “crisis” of overpopulation, the agency stretches credulity to the breaking point. It claims 225 million women want, but cannot get, contraception. It even posted the myth on a massive Times Square billboard. Yet the Guttmacher Institute assures us that only four or five percent of those 225 million women say they don’t have access. The rest don’t want it. In other words, the global family planning market is already nearly saturated.

It’s time for the United States and its partners to shut down the U.N. Population Fund. Its billion-dollar budget should be used to solve real problems, not chase the ghosts of the 1960s.

abortion, bureaucracy, crisis, culture, extremism, foreign affairs, funding, government, ideology, politics, public policy, reform, study

Filed under: abortion, bureaucracy, crisis, culture, extremism, foreign affairs, funding, government, ideology, politics, public policy, reform, study

Some refugees prefer to stay home. Who knew?

In the present environment of American politics, some say bringing refugees to the U.S. is THE solution to the Syrian crisis. But there are other perspectives, such as the perspective of some refugees themselves.

 

This refugee from Syria expresses gratitude for America’s military action in response to the gas attack on Syrian civilians, which appear to be the work of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. He also mentions the fact he and his fellow refugees don’t want to be forced out of their homes and into some foreign country. Some in the American media, such as CNN’s Brooke Baldwin, fish for criticism of President Trump and his immigration policies when interviewing refugees. Debora Heine at PJ Media wrote on this story in CNN Narrative Fail: Syrian Refugee Slams Clinton, Obama; Praises Trump.

“With all due respect, with all due respect,” Kassem began. “I didn’t see each and every person who was demonstrating after the travel ban…. I didn’t see you three days ago when people were gassed to death….I didn’t see you in 2013 when 1,400 people were gassed to death. I didn’t see you raising your voice against President Obama’s inaction in Syria that left us refugees,” he said, completely deflating her expectations.

“If you really care about refugees, if you really care about helping us, please — help us stay here in our country,” he continued.

Others who have looked into immigration have reached a similar conclusion. Rather than play politics and act as if racism or xenophobia are the motivation, those who are willing to make an intellectually honest assessment of the crisis recognize immigration is not the solution the refugees need. Just like the Syrian refugee who wants help remaining in his home, Roy Beck shows good reasons to question the open immigration narrative by discussing the practical details that actually affect the people involved.

bias, crisis, foreign affairs, government, ideology, immigration, military, news media, politics, president, public policy, tragedy, unintended consequences, victimization, video, war

Filed under: bias, crisis, foreign affairs, government, ideology, immigration, military, news media, politics, president, public policy, tragedy, unintended consequences, victimization, video, war

African migrants sold in Libya ‘slave markets’, IOM says

original article: African migrants sold in Libya ‘slave markets’, IOM says
April 11, 2017 by BBC

Gambian migrants who returned voluntarily from Libya stand in line with plastic bag from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) as they wait for registration at the airport in Banjul, Gambia April 4, 2017Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionReports of African migrants being bought and sold mark a new low in the crisis

Africans trying to reach Europe are being sold by their captors in “slave markets” in Libya, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) says.

Victims told IOM that after being detained by people smugglers or militia groups, they were taken to town squares or car parks to be sold.

Migrants with skills like painting or tiling would fetch higher prices, the head of the IOM in Libya told the BBC.

Libya has been in chaos since the 2011 Nato-backed ousting of Muammar Gaddafi.

Hundreds of young sub-Saharan African men have been caught up in the so-called slave markets, according to the IOM report.

Migrants ‘forced to starve’

A Senegalese migrant, who was not named to protect his identity, said that he had been sold at one such market in the southern Libyan city of Sabha, before being taken to a makeshift prison where more than 100 migrants were being held hostage.

He said that migrants held at the facility were told to call their families, who would be asked for money to pay for their release, and some were beaten while on the phone to allow relatives to hear them being tortured.

He described “dreadful” conditions where migrants were forced to survive on limited food supplies, with those unable to pay either killed or left to starve, the report adds.

African migrants gather at the Tripoli branch of the Anti-Illegal Immigration Authority, in the Libyan capital, 23 March 2017Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionMigrants have to survive on limited food supplies, according to the IOM report

Another witness, who was able to raise the funds needed for his release after nine months, was later taken to hospital with severe malnutrition, weighing just 5.5 stone (35 kg).

Women, too, were bought by private Libyan clients and brought to homes where they were forced to be sex slaves, the witness said.

The IOM’s chief of mission for Libya, Othman Belbeisi, told the BBC that those sold into slavery found themselves priced according to their abilities.

“Apparently they don’t have money and their families cannot pay the ransom, so they are being sold to get at least a minimum benefit from that,” he said.

“The price is definitely different depending on your qualifications, for example if you can do painting or tiles or some specialised work then the price gets higher.”

A migrant hangs from a boat as they wait to be rescued as they drift in the Mediterranean Sea, some 12 nautical miles north of Libya, on October 4, 2016.Image copyrightAFP
Image captionMany thousands of migrants each year try to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean

An IOM staff member in Niger said they confirmed the reports of auctions in Libya with several other migrants who had escaped.

“They all confirmed the risks of been sold as slaves in squares or garages in Sabha, either by their drivers or by locals who recruit the migrants for daily jobs in town, often in construction.

“Later, instead of paying them, [they] sell their victims to new buyers.”

Some migrants, mainly Nigerians, Ghanaians and Gambians are forced to work “as guards in the ransom houses or in the ‘market’ itself”, the IOM employee added.

The organisation has called the emergence of these markets “a disturbing new trend in the already dire situation for migrants in Libya”.

Map showing Central Mediterranean migrant routes

In February, the UN children’s agency Unicef released a report documenting – in sometimes horrific detail – stories of slavery, violence and sexual abuse experienced by large numbers of vulnerable children travelling from Libya to Italy.

The report, A Deadly Journey for Children, said that almost 26,000 children – most of them unaccompanied – crossed the Mediterranean in 2016, many of them suffering abuse at the hands of smugglers and traffickers.

abuse, foreign affairs, immigration, oppression, tragedy, victimization

Filed under: abuse, foreign affairs, immigration, oppression, tragedy, victimization

Stop Whining About Islamophobia And Focus On Jihadis

Stop worrying about Islamophobia and start asking why hundreds of millions of Muslims across the world say they support Islamist terrorism.

Source: Stop Whining About Islamophobia And Focus On Jihadis

bias, bigotry, culture, diversity, extremism, foreign affairs, ideology, indoctrination, islam, left wing, liberalism, pandering, philosophy, political correctness, progressive, propaganda, racism, relativism, terrorism

Filed under: bias, bigotry, culture, diversity, extremism, foreign affairs, ideology, indoctrination, islam, left wing, liberalism, pandering, philosophy, political correctness, progressive, propaganda, racism, relativism, terrorism

Officials Admit Released GITMO Detainees Have Killed Americans

original article: Obama Administration Makes a Shocking Admission About Released GITMO Terrorists
March 23, 2016 by JOE PERTICONE

An Obama administration official responsible for overseeing the closure of the Guantánamo Bay detention facility told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Wednesday that released detainees have killed Americans.

Paul Lewis, the Defense Department’s special envoy for the closure of the detainee program at GITMO, said to Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA):

“What I can tell you is unfortunately there have been Americans that have died because of [Guantánamo] detainees.”

“When anybody dies it is tragedy. We don’t want anybody to die because we transfer detainees,” Lewis added.

And while Lewis did not elaborate on the exact circumstances of specific deaths, nor did he say under which administration the deaths occurred, he did note that “most of the detainees transferred from Guantánamo were transferred by the Bush Administration[.]”

Despite acknowledging transfers have resulted in the loss of American lives, Lewis said in his opening statement that closing GITMO’s detention facility is a “national security imperative,” adding:

“The President and the leadership of his national security team believe that the continued operation of the detention facility at Guantánamo weakens our national security by damaging our relationships with key allies and partners, draining resources, and providing violent extremists with a propaganda tool.”

Currently, 91 detainees sit in the detention facility, many of whom are part of the too dangerous to transfer list. One of those individuals is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who the 9/11 Commission report identified as the principal architect of September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

While the facility cannot be officially closed without Congress repealing several laws that prevent such action, the large number of transfers and released terrorists has displayed blowback.

Still, the administration persists that the facility must close. “We believe the issue is not whether to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility; the issue is how to do it,” Lewis said.

bureaucracy, foreign affairs, government, military, national security, politics, terrorism, tragedy, unintended consequences

Filed under: bureaucracy, foreign affairs, government, military, national security, politics, terrorism, tragedy, unintended consequences

Post Paris: Liberals Can’t Blame Terror Attack on Muslims

Never let a tragedy go to waste: minutes after the Paris terror attacks, Liberals rushed to blame the attacks on everything but Islam

Trifecta: Bill Whittle, Stephen Green, Scott Ott

bias, bullies, crisis, elitism, extremism, foreign affairs, hate crime, ideology, islam, news media, terrorism, tragedy, video, war

Filed under: bias, bullies, crisis, elitism, extremism, foreign affairs, hate crime, ideology, islam, news media, terrorism, tragedy, video, war

Sister of Benghazi Hero Glen Doherty Shares Hillary Clinton’s ‘Very Strange’ Message to Her Family

original article: After ‘Never’ Speaking About It for a Long Time, Sister of Benghazi Hero Glen Doherty Shares Hillary Clinton’s ‘Very Strange’ Message to Her Family
October 23, 2015 by Jason Howerton

The sister of slain Benghazi hero Glen Doherty, Kate Quigley, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that she previously met with former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and, in retrospect, feels like the Democrat chose to “perpetuate what she knew was not true.”

Following the deadly Benghazi terror attacks, Quigley said Clinton told her family how “sad” they should feel for the Libyan people because they are “uneducated” and that “breeds fear, which breeds violence and leads to a protest.”

“I remember thinking at the time, ‘Wow, how selfish of me. I never really thought about the Libyan people, I’ve been consumed with my own grief, and loss, and concern,’” she recalled. “And when I think back now to that day and what she knew, it shows me a lot about her character that she would choose in that moment to basically perpetuate what she knew was untrue.”

Cooper said it seems “unusual” that Clinton would even make those comments while the victims’ families were grieving.

“It was very strange,” Quigley said. “I thought about it, and I never spoke about it for a long time.”

watch the video here

corruption, Democrats, foreign affairs, government, hypocrisy, lies, politics, scandal, terrorism, tragedy

Filed under: corruption, Democrats, foreign affairs, government, hypocrisy, lies, politics, scandal, terrorism, tragedy

Israel Haters Only Like The History That Suits Them

original article: Israel Haters Only Like The History That Suits Them
October 22, 2015 by David Harsanyi

The other day, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed Adolf Hitler only had plans to expel Jews from Europe until his infamous meeting with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, who instructed him to “burn them.”

You can imagine what happened next.

It was interesting watching some of the most stridently anti-Israel pundits—people who typically justify or ignore the stream of Holocaust-denying and Jew-hating that oozes from the Muslim world—pretending to be most insulted by this supposed cheapening of the memory of Holocaust. Others compared Netanyahu to a Holocaust denier. What really offended them, of course, was that someone had pointed out that intellectual and spiritual founder of Palestinian independence was an active Nazi. That is a fact that might be overlooked.

Now, it should be said that there’s zero historic evidence that Hitler’s conversation with al-Husseini instigated any change in Nazi plans for the Jews. Netanyahu should not have claimed otherwise. But it was a big speech, and Netanyahu’s larger point, as he later clarified, was just as important:

But this is what Haj Amin al-Husseini said. He said, ‘The Jews seek to destroy the Temple Mount.’ My grandfather in 1920 seeks to destroy…? Sorry, the al-Aqsa Mosque. So this lie is about a hundred years old. It fomented many, many attacks. The Temple Mount stands. The al-Aqsa Mosque stands. But the lie stands too, persists.

Netanyahu makes a case that much of the paranoia about Jews in the Middle East is not new. Long before any “occupation,” Husseini supported the Holocaust and had a desire to import Nazi tactics to the Middle East. In an effort to inflame violence and anti-Semitism, Arabs had, as they’re doing today, spread false rumors about the intention of Jews to occupy or expel Muslims from holy sites.  This is what Haj Amin al-Husseini did. This is what Yasser Arafat did. This is what Fatah is doing today, as Palestinians continue to stab Jewish civilians in another spasm of irrationally murderous and self-destructive behavior.

Before Israel ever existed, much less retook East Jerusalem, the mufti helped to personally engineer or incited massacres of Jews in 1920, 1929, and 1936. The Hebron massacre in 1929 saw 70 Jewish civilians killed, many of them students and teachers, after the mufti (like Fatah does today) spread rumors about Jews taking control of the Temple Mount.

It’s also worth noting that today the only people not allowed to openly pray at their holiest site in Jerusalem are the Jews. Israel protects holy sites of all faiths. Meanwhile, Joseph’s Tomb is being desecrated by a mob of Palestinians, which is apparently less newsworthy.

Husseini also directly participated in war on Jews during World War II. As a guest of Hitler, after a failed coup in Iraq, he helped recruit thousands of Muslims to join a division of the Waffen-SS—who then played an active role in the destruction of Yugoslavian Jewry. On Berlin radio, the mufti speeches would include lines like: “Kill the Jews wherever you find them—this pleases God, history and religion.” He personally, with the backing of Himmler, Eichmann, and others, intervened to stop the issuing of at least 400,000 visas to Jews trying to emigrate to British Palestine. Most of those people ended up in concentration camps.

In 1943, after hearing that some Germany allies were negotiating with the International Red Cross and others to transport thousands of Jewish children to Palestine to avoid death, he lobbied to prevent the rescue, pushing to have them sent to Poland to perish. Husseini was accused of war crimes by the Nuremberg tribunal. He escaped prosecution.

In Howard Sachar’s “A History of Israel: From the Rise of Zionism to our Time,” the author contends that al-Husseini wasn’t only effective in helping hasten the blood-soaked modern thinking that has infected the Arab world (to be fair, if it wasn’t him, it would probably have been someone else), but that he added another ingredient that would later make the conflict even more combustible: religious xenophobia.

“Unlike earlier Arab spokesmen,” writes Sachar, “the Mufti had no illusions that the British would cooperate in the suppression of the Jewish National Home. He taught his followers to regard the mandatory as an infidel tyranny in alliance with other, Jewish, non- believers.”

Today, Palestinian groups utilize comparable tactics and language to perpetrate their own violence. Justifications for those acts are churned out by the far Left and Right here and in Europe, and Husseini is still revered by Palestinian leaders. In the book “Icon of Evil: Hitler’s Mufti and the Rise of Radical Islam,” David Dalin and John Rothmann document in detail that Husseini is considered the “George Washington” of the Palestinian people. Should we be offended?

It is somewhat ironic that so many Palestinians deny the Holocaust when one of their founding fathers was intimately part of that ugly history. Netanyahu clarified his statement. But Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s 1982 dissertation, “The Other Side: the Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism” is one part Holocaust denialism and one part conspiracy theory, claiming that Zionists collaborated with Nazis as a way to spur Jewish immigration to British Palestine. Shouldn’t we be offended?

But back to Netanyahu. It’s completely plausible that the mufti would have asked Hitler to “burn them,” though it’s doubtful the Fuhrer would have cared very much what the mufti had to say or that he needed much prodding. But the two certainly shared a similar attitude towards the Jews. Yet we’re supposed to believe Netanyahu views Hitler as a “moderate,” as Glenn Greenwald preposterously claims? And Israel’s sins are never to be forgotten. Surely pointing out that Arab leadership played an active role in the Holocaust, and that its leadership today still venerates the man who led the charge, is worthwhile. too.

bias, corruption, elitism, extremism, foreign affairs, hate crime, history, hypocrisy, ideology, indoctrination, islam, political correctness, propaganda, racism, relativism, terrorism

Filed under: bias, corruption, elitism, extremism, foreign affairs, hate crime, history, hypocrisy, ideology, indoctrination, islam, political correctness, propaganda, racism, relativism, terrorism

Pages

Categories

September 2019
M T W T F S S
« Jul    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30