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The Sport of the Gods: what is the likely outcome of the Catalan referendum

Instead of leading the political and economic regeneration of Spain Catalonia’s leaders are taking their region down a reactionary blind alley

Haneul Na'avi

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Republished with the author’s permission; first published by Dialectic Productions

“This is the debt I pay/ Just for one riotous day,
Years of regret and grief/ Sorrow without relief.

Pay it I will to the end/ Until the grave, my friend,
Gives me a true release/ Gives me the clasp of peace.

Slight was the thing I bought/ Small was the debt I thought,
Poor was the loan at best/ God! but the interest!”

The Debt”, Paul Lawrence Dunbar

The October 1st Catalonian referendum, held across the region, quickly became marred with controversy following the Spanish Civil Guard’s violent crackdown, which quickly sowed antipathy between Catalans and the Spanish central government.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s brutal repression of voters at polling stations, which injured almost 900 people, and unilateral seizure of the referendum site, revealed a medieval, antiquated sentiment towards Catalonians unseen since the 1930s Francisco Franco dictatorship.

In his panic, Rajoy decried the referendum illegal (which it technically was, according to Section 148, Clause 1-32a of the Spanish constitution), his counterproductive actions merely emboldened Catalonians and incurred condemnation from the European bureaucracy.

As a result, 2.2 out of 5.3 million (29%) eligible Catalonians voted 90% in favour of independence, encouraging regional Prime Minister Charles Puigdemont to boldy call for secession within “a matter of days”.

The referendum comes years after the Spanish parliament retrenched parts of the Catalonian government’s 2006 Statute of Autonomy, to which, according to Catalonia Votes,

[…] was drastically altered by a controversial court ruling in 2010. Catalonia’s proposal for greater fiscal autonomy was then rejected [and attacks] against Catalonia’s education system and linguistic rights [also] increased and more and more recentralisation measures are being taken.

The Atlantic elaborates further,

Of the statute’s 223 articles, the court struck down 14 and curtailed another 27 [as well as] attempts to place the distinctive Catalan language above Spanish in the region [stating], “The interpretation of the references to ‘Catalonia as a nation’ and to ‘the national reality of Catalonia’ in the preamble of the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia have no legal effect.”

Despite the referendum’s initial successes and intense nationalist sentiments, inklings of dissent within Catalonia’s class strata have already begun to betray the populist revolution.

A day after the referendum, Deutsche Welle mentioned that,

[…] it would be highly unlikely that any EU state would recognize [Catalonia’s] independence. Such a direct attack on EU member state Spain would lead to a crisis within the bloc [and] why many EU diplomats in Brussels cannot imagine this scenario.

This analysis proved true as events took at turn for the worst, when European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans ignored Puigdemont’s pleas for an EU intervention.

Instead, he delegated this to European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas, who responded that,

For the European Commission … this is an internal matter for Spain that has to be dealt with in line with [its] constitutional order,” and “[we] trust the leadership of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to manage this difficult process.”

Most shockingly, however, was the Worker’s General Union (UGT) and Worker’s Commissions (CCOO) joint statement, which, contrary to popular opinion, did notcall for a general strike, but a

[…] ’go-slow’ of public transport services [at] 25 percent capacity during the morning and evening rush hours [and] Inter-regional transport services [at] 33 percent capacity.

It explains further,

UGT’s General Secretary, Pepe Álvarez, has reminded that “this is a political conflict and it needs political solutions.” […] Social mobilization in Catalonia has been unquestionable and it expresses, with no doubt, the existence of a political conflict which cannot be handled unilaterally by the Catalan Government, or exclusively from administrative and judicial points of view.

Russia Today also reports that,

The two most powerful national unions have called on workers to show solidarity in the face of “disproportionate” violence employed by the police and Guardia Civil but have not called for a Spanish general strike as the situation does not relate to a labor conflict but a political one.

Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau seconded this days before the referendum,

We are not just facing an institutional dispute but also a social and political conflict that clearly has to be resolved by political means. There are many non-separatists such as ourselves, who, while critical of the unilateral path taken by the Catalan regional government, are calling for a negotiated solution in accordance with the feelings of 82% of the Catalan population [and] it is my obligation [to] call on the European commission to open a space for mediation between the Spanish and Catalan governments to find a negotiated and democratic solution to the conflict.

This is because a month prior, the CCOO published a report lambasting the high levels of unemployment in Catalonia and diminished collective bargaining rights amongst its trade unions, which it blames on the 2012 National Appeals’ ruling and Labour Market Reform Act, stressing that it and UGT are currently in negotiations with the Spanish government to resolve this.

The think tank Worker Participation explains further,

A recent major tripartite agreement [signed] in February 2011 [was] an agreement on pensions, but it also [included] measures to reduce unemployment, industrial and energy policy, a promise by the government to reopen talks with the unions on the public sector, and reforming the collective bargaining system.

It continues,

In 2011, the socialist-led government introduced legal changes (RDL 7/2011) giving a greater role to company bargaining and the current centre-right government [added] legislation in 2012 (Ley 3/2012) – developments which the unions have opposed.

This gives rise to a massive contradiction within the independence movement, which is a conflict of interests between the Catalonian regional government and various bureaucracies within its wealthiest cities, whom, due to their class standing, could undermine Puigdemont in order to make a compromise with the Rajoy administration on its coveted pensions campaign.

The myth of immutable social systems

The Catalans, according to the media, are pushing for independence based on their ‘cultural repression’ by the Spanish central government. However, according to historical materialism, one cannot determine historical events based on culture alone.

Former USSR Premier Joseph Stalin defines the driving force of historical materialism as,

[the] method of procuring the means of life necessary for human existence, the mode of production of material values – food, clothing, footwear, houses, fuel, instruments of production, etc. – which are indispensable for the life and development of society.

Speaking on dialectics, he mentions that it,

[holds] that nature is not a state of rest and immobility [but] a state of continuous movement and change, [where] something is always arising and developing, and something always disintegrating and dying away.

What is ‘arising and developing’ in Europe is the supremacy of the European Union bureaucracy over the all affairs of its member states, and what is ‘disintegrating and dying’ is the superstructural relevance of its nation-states—subversion of the nation-state to the superstate.

Additionally, the seemingly intransigent ideologies of the Spanish central and Catalonian regional governments share a dialectical relationship to Spain’s means of production, which unfortunately are no longer Spanish, but the European Union’s—a new model of the international cartel.

Vladimir Lenin’s book “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism” elucidates,

International cartels show to what point capitalist monopolies have developed, and the object of the struggle between the various capitalist associations [which] shows us the historico-economic meaning of what is taking place; for the forms of the struggle may and do constantly change in accordance with varying, relatively specific and temporary causes, but the substance of the struggle, its class content, positively cannot change while classes exist. Naturally, it is in [the bourgeoisie’s] interests to obscure the substance of the present economic struggle (the division of the world) and to emphasise now this and now another form of the struggle.

Therefore, the true dialectic within Spain is not “Spanish vs. Catalan culture”, but the proportional division of the European bourgeoisie into the region, nation-state, and superstate; all whom, via finance capitalism, install its dictatorship of the bourgeoisie acting as the state force, wrest the means of production from the proletariat, reshape their relationships to the means of production through bureaucracy, and transform the social contracts within its authority.

Puigdemont and his ilk understand this perfectly and are using their massive reserve army of the unemployed—currently 22.7% of the Catalonian population—as a battering ram against Spain, using Rajoy’s tactless crackdown to garner sympathy from the international community.

Neither Puigdemont nor any of the Spanish trade unions have bothered to disclose the true source of their troubles—finance capitalism—where the bourgeoisie was directly responsible responsible for the greatest heist in human history. Instead, they scrounge opportunistically for piecemeal solutions rather than directly challenging the source of their conflict!

So, as this contest between these class strata continues, where Rajoy cites the “immutability” of the Spanish constitution, and Puigdemont cites the “immutability” of the right to self-determination, neither are as “immutable” as the EU—the primary force in European economics—which, like Rajoy and King Fillip VI, does not want a divided Europe.

A material assessment of Catalonia’s economic future

Although Puigdemont believes that Catalonia can secede from the Spanish state, it cannot relinquish the European Economic Area (EEA), but gambled this anyway with the referendum.

However, as the EU now sides with the Spanish central authorities, Puigdemont has completely changed his rhetoric to a vacuous, conciliatory call for dialogue, because he understands that the reigning bourgeoisie have called his bluff on his monumental gamble.

Also, since the EU bureaucracy has de jure monopolised Europe’s means of production, should Catalonia leave Spain, it would also leave the EU, but ultimately eviscerate all three economies, which are wholly interdependent and intertwined.

Catalonian-born Chief Economic Adviser for the World Economic Forum Xavier Sala-i-Martin highlighted that,

The EU accounted for 65.8% of Catalan exports in 2016, 7 percentage points more than in 2015. It is followed by the rest of Europe (7.4%) and Asia (6.5%), which moves to third place in terms of exported volume, ahead of Latin America (5.9%). France accounts for 16.1% of Catalan exports. Germany (11.9%), along with Italy (9.1%), Portugal (6.7%) and the UK (6.0%) represent nearly half (49.7%) of Catalan exports in 2016.

Therefore Catalonia would spend significantly more on tariffs alone and evaporate nearly half of its trade, giving rise to a crippling trade deficit and sinking into an economic depression.

According to Catalonia Votes (2013), 15.5 million tourists visited the region, 36.5% of its population are foreigners, and its economy achieved €63.8 mln. in exports—25% to Spain, and 65% to the EU member states. This is what helped Catalonia ‘thrive’ as a region—only inasmuch as it retains unmitigated access to the EU common market and ‘free movement’ of labour.

Unfortunately, the EU has socialised the divisions of labour through state-enforced capitalism—at gunpoint, penpoint, and PowerPoint—so much that Catalonia has few economic contingencies. Additionally, Spain knows that, without Catalonia, it would lose over one-third of its GDP and a significant portion of its diversified industrial base, whilst provoking the anger of its largest trading partners whom are the EU’s biggest economies, according to OEC figures.

He continues, making note of the Spanish debt question,

Even worse for Spain would be if the national government works to actively oppose a Catalonia that declares independence and therefore refuses to reach a debt transfer agreement […] If that were the case, then its debt-to-GDP ration would balloon to something approaching 125 percent […] With the richest region gone and with almost unsustainable debt, then Spain is in big trouble.

This is how Catalonia plans to blackmail both Spain and the EU; bursting their debt bubbles.

The Catalonian independence movement is, in fact, a bourgeois phenomenon which, like economic fascism, exploits the working class by with superstructural tactics-as-plan for the personal gain of that respective society’s bourgeoisie.

With Spain’s class strata competing for the blessings of the European Commission, one could deduce that King Felipe VI and PM Rajoy will remain the undisputed winner, but, to err on the side of caution, one could assume two potential outcomes:

  1. An admission of defeat for the Catalonian regional government, leading to PM Charles Puigdemont’s resignation (or head) and restored normalcy in the EU bureaucracy OR
  2. Catalonia’s complete breakaway from Spain, causing an economic and political crisis, which will embolden other secessionists, leading to a near-collapse in the European Union and a prolonged battle of attrition between regional, nation-state, and superstate power structures.

Rather than Catalonia attacking the very system of exploitation through its economic significance and revolutionary history to rally the Spanish proletariat, it has chosen to gamble its future away in a reactionary bid for ‘independence’. However, because the EU is a system of coercive interdependence, the most likely outcome is failure, bitter enmity between Catalans and Castilians, and a gradual return to socioeconomic ‘normalcy’, leaving the working class intact.

In his economic manuscripts, Marx sums up the Catalan question perfectly,

[…] Its idealism is fantasy, caprice and whim; and no eunuch flatters his despot more basely or uses more despicable means to stimulate his dulled capacity for pleasure in order to sneak a favour for himself than does the industrial eunuch – the producer – in order to sneak for himself a few pieces of silver […] out of the pockets of his dearly beloved neighbours in Christ. 

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Airline wars heat up, as industry undergoes massive disruption (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 145.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine the global commercial airline industry, which is undergoing massive changes, as competition creeps in from Russia and China.

Reuters reports that Boeing Co’s legal troubles grew as a new lawsuit accused the company of defrauding shareholders by concealing safety deficiencies in its 737 MAX planes before two fatal crashes led to their worldwide grounding.

The proposed class action filed in Chicago federal court seeks damages for alleged securities fraud violations, after Boeing’s market value tumbled by $34 billion within two weeks of the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX.

*****

According to the complaint, Boeing “effectively put profitability and growth ahead of airplane safety and honesty” by rushing the 737 MAX to market to compete with Airbus SE, while leaving out “extra” or “optional” features designed to prevent the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes.

It also said Boeing’s statements about its growth prospects and the 737 MAX were undermined by its alleged conflict of interest from retaining broad authority from federal regulators to assess the plane’s safety.

*****

Boeing said on Tuesday that aircraft orders in the first quarter fell to 95 from 180 a year earlier, with no orders for the 737 MAX following the worldwide grounding.

On April 5, it said it planned to cut monthly 737 production to 42 planes from 52, and was making progress on a 737 MAX software update to prevent further accidents.

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Via Zerohedge…

Step aside (fading) trade war with China: there is a new aggressor – at least according to the US Trade Rep Robert Lighthizer – in town.

In a statement on the USTR’s website published late on Monday, the US fair trade agency announced that under Section 301 of the Trade Act, it was proposing a list of EU products to be covered by additional duties. And as justification for the incremental import taxes, the USTR said that it was in response to EU aircraft subsidies, specifically to Europea’s aerospace giant, Airbus, which “have caused adverse effects to the United States” and which the USTR estimates cause $11 billion in harm to the US each year

One can’t help but notice that the latest shot across the bow in the simmering trade war with Europe comes as i) Trump is reportedly preparing to fold in his trade war with China, punting enforcement to whoever is president in 2025, and ii) comes just as Boeing has found itself scrambling to preserve orders as the world has put its orderbook for Boeing 737 MAX airplanes on hold, which prompted Boeing to cut 737 production by 20% on Friday.

While the first may be purely a coincidence, the second – which is expected to not only slam Boeing’s financials for Q1 and Q2, but may also adversely impact US GDP – had at least some impact on the decision to proceed with these tariffs at this moment.

We now await Europe’s angry response to what is Trump’s latest salvo in what is once again a global trade war. And, paradoxically, we also expect this news to send stocks blasting higher as, taking a page from the US-China trade book, every day algos will price in imminent “US-European trade deal optimism.”

Below the full statement from the USTR (link):

USTR Proposes Products for Tariff Countermeasures in Response to Harm Caused by EU Aircraft Subsidies

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has found repeatedly that European Union (EU) subsidies to Airbus have caused adverse effects to the United States.  Today, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) begins its process under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 to identify products of the EU to which additional duties may be applied until the EU removes those subsidies.

USTR is releasing for public comment a preliminary list of EU products to be covered by additional duties.  USTR estimates the harm from the EU subsidies as $11 billion in trade each year.  The amount is subject to an arbitration at the WTO, the result of which is expected to be issued this summer.

“This case has been in litigation for 14 years, and the time has come for action. The Administration is preparing to respond immediately when the WTO issues its finding on the value of U.S. countermeasures,” said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.  “Our ultimate goal is to reach an agreement with the EU to end all WTO-inconsistent subsidies to large civil aircraft.  When the EU ends these harmful subsidies, the additional U.S. duties imposed in response can be lifted.”

In line with U.S. law, the preliminary list contains a number of products in the civil aviation sector, including Airbus aircraft.  Once the WTO arbitrator issues its report on the value of countermeasures, USTR will announce a final product list covering a level of trade commensurate with the adverse effects determined to exist.

Background

After many years of seeking unsuccessfully to convince the EU and four of its member States (France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom) to cease their subsidization of Airbus, the United States brought a WTO challenge to EU subsidies in 2004. In 2011, the WTO found that the EU provided Airbus $18 billion in subsidized financing from 1968 to 2006.  In particular, the WTO found that European “launch aid” subsidies were instrumental in permitting Airbus to launch every model of its large civil aircraft, causing Boeing to lose sales of more than 300 aircraft and market share throughout the world.

In response, the EU removed two minor subsidies, but left most of them unchanged.  The EU also granted Airbus more than $5 billion in new subsidized “launch aid” financing for the A350 XWB.  The United States requested establishment of a compliance panel in March 2012 to address the EU’s failure to remove its old subsidies, as well as the new subsidies and their adverse effects.  That process came to a close with the issuance of an appellate report in May 2018 finding that EU subsidies to high-value, twin-aisle aircraft have caused serious prejudice to U.S. interests.  The report found that billions of dollars in launch aid to the A350 XWB and A380 cause significant lost sales to Boeing 787 and 747 aircraft, as well as lost market share for Boeing very large aircraft in the EU, Australia, China, Korea, Singapore, and UAE markets.

Based on the appellate report, the United States requested authority to impose countermeasures worth $11.2 billion per year, commensurate with the adverse effects caused by EU subsidies.  The EU challenged that estimate, and a WTO arbitrator is currently evaluating those claims

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Mueller report takes ‘Russian meddling’ for granted, offers no actual evidence

RT

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Via RT…


Special counsel Robert Mueller’s ‘Russiagate’ report has cleared Donald Trump of ‘collusion’ charges but maintains that Russia meddled in the 2016 US presidential election. Yet concrete evidence of that is nowhere to be seen.

The report by Mueller and his team, made public on Thursday by the US Department of Justice, exonerates not just Trump but all Americans of any “collusion” with Russia, “obliterating” the Russiagate conspiracy theory, as journalist Glenn Greenwald put it.

However, it asserts that Russian “interference” in the election did happen, and says it consisted of a campaign on social media as well as Russian military intelligence (repeatedly referred to by its old, Soviet-era name, GRU) “hacking” the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the DNC, and the private email account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta.

As evidence of this, the report basically offers nothing but Mueller’s indictment of “GRU agents,” delivered on the eve of the Helsinki Summit between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in what was surely a cosmic coincidence.

Indictments are not evidence, however, but allegations. Any time it looks like the report might be bringing up proof, it ends up being redacted, ostensibly to protect sources and methods, and out of concern it might cause “harm to an ongoing matter.”

‘Active measures’ on social media

Mueller’s report leads with the claim that the Internet Research Agency (IRA) ran an “active measures” campaign of social media influence. Citing Facebook and Twitter estimates, the report says this consisted of 470 Facebook accounts that made 80,000 posts that may have been seen by up to 126 million people, between January 2015 and August 2017 (almost a year after the election), and 3,814 Twitter accounts that “may have been” in contact with about 1.4 million people.

Those numbers may seem substantial but, as investigative journalist Gareth Porter pointed out in November 2018, they should be regarded against the background of 33 trillion Facebook posts made during the same period.

According to Mueller, the IRA mind-controlled the American electorate by spending “approximately $100,000” on Facebook ads, hiring someone to walk around New York City “dressed up as Santa Claus with a Trump mask,” and getting Trump campaign affiliates to promote “dozens of tweets, posts, and other political content created by the IRA.” Dozens!

Meanwhile, the key evidence against IRA’s alleged boss Evgeny Prigozhin is that he “appeared together in public photographs” with Putin.

Alleged hacking & release

The report claims that the GRU hacked their way into 29 DCCC computers and another 30 DNC computers, and downloaded data using software called “X-Tunnel.” It is unclear how Mueller’s investigators claim to know this, as the report makes no mention of them or FBI actually examining DNC or DCCC computers. Presumably they took the word of CrowdStrike, the Democrats’ private contractor, for it.

However obtained, the documents were published first through DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 – which the report claims are “fictitious online personas” created by the GRU – and later through WikiLeaks. What is Mueller’s proof that these two entities were “GRU” cutouts? In a word, this:

That the Guccifer 2.0 persona provided reporters access to a restricted portion of the DCLeaks website tends to indicate that both personas were operated by the same or a closely-related group of people.(p. 43)

However, the report acknowledges that the “first known contact” between Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks was on September 15, 2016 – months after the DNC and DCCC documents were published! Here we do get actual evidence: direct messages on Twitter obtained by investigators. Behold, these “spies” are so good, they don’t even talk – and when they do, they use unsecured channels.

Mueller notably claims “it is clear that the stolen DNC and Podesta documents were transferred from the GRU to WikiLeaks” (the rest of that sentence is redacted), but the report clearly implies the investigators do not actually know how. On page 47, the report says Mueller “cannot rule out that stolen documents were transferred to WikiLeaks through intermediaries who visited during the summer of 2016.”

Strangely, the report accuses WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange of making “public statements apparently designed to obscure the source” of the materials (p.48), notably the offer of a reward for finding the murderer of DNC staffer Seth Rich – even though this can be read as corroborating the intermediaries theory, and Assange never actually said Rich was his source.

The rest of Mueller’s report goes on to discuss the Trump campaign’s contacts with anyone even remotely Russian and to create torturous constructions that the president had “obstructed” justice by basically defending himself from charges of being a Russian agent – neither of which resulted in any indictments, however. But the central premise that the 22-month investigation, breathless media coverage, and the 448-page report are based on – that Russia somehow meddled in the 2016 election – remains unproven.

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Rumors of War: Washington Is Looking for a Fight

The bill stands up for NATO and prevents the President from pulling the US out of the Alliance without a Senate vote.

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Authored by Philip Giraldi via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


It is depressing to observe how the United States of America has become the evil empire. Having served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War and in the Central Intelligence Agency for the second half of the Cold War, I had an insider’s viewpoint of how an essentially pragmatic national security policy was being transformed bit by bit into a bipartisan doctrine that featured as a sine qua non global dominance for Washington. Unfortunately, when the Soviet Union collapsed the opportunity to end once and for all the bipolar nuclear confrontation that threatened global annihilation was squandered as President Bill Clinton chose instead to humiliate and use NATO to contain an already demoralized and effectively leaderless Russia.

American Exceptionalism became the battle cry for an increasingly clueless federal government as well as for a media-deluded public. When 9/11 arrived, the country was ready to lash out at the rest of the world. President George W. Bush growled that “There’s a new sheriff in town and you are either with us or against us.” Afghanistan followed, then Iraq, and, in a spirit of bipartisanship, the Democrats came up with Libya and the first serious engagement in Syria. In its current manifestation, one finds a United States that threatens Iran on a nearly weekly basis and tears up arms control agreements with Russia while also maintaining deployments of US forces in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and places like Mali. Scattered across the globe are 800 American military bases while Washington’s principal enemies du jour Russia and China have, respectively, only one and none.

Never before in my lifetime has the United States been so belligerent, and that in spite of the fact that there is no single enemy or combination of enemies that actually threaten either the geographical United States or a vital interest. Venezuela is being threatened with invasion primarily because it is in the western hemisphere and therefore subject to Washington’s claimed proconsular authority. Last Wednesday Vice President Mike Pence told the United Nations Security Council that the White House will remove Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro from power, preferably using diplomacy and sanctions, but “all options are on the table.” Pence warned that Russia and other friends of Maduro need to leave now or face the consequences.

The development of the United States as a hostile and somewhat unpredictable force has not gone unnoticed. Russia has accepted that war is coming no matter what it does in dealing with Trump and is upgrading its forces. By some estimates, its army is better equipped and more combat ready than is that of the United States, which spends nearly ten times as much on “defense.”

Iran is also upgrading its defensive capabilities, which are formidable. Now that Washington has withdrawn from the nuclear agreement with Iran, has placed a series of increasingly punitive sanctions on the country, and, most recently, has declared a part of the Iranian military to be a “foreign terrorist organization” and therefore subject to attack by US forces at any time, it is clear that war will be the next step. In three weeks, the United States will seek to enforce a global ban on any purchases of Iranian oil. A number of countries, including US nominal ally Turkey, have said they will ignore the ban and it will be interesting to see what the US Navy intends to do to enforce it. Or what Iran will do to break the blockade.

But even given all of the horrific decisions being made in the White House, there is one organization that is far crazier and possibly even more dangerous. That is the United States Congress, which is, not surprisingly, a legislative body that is viewed positively by only 18 per cent of the American people.

A current bill originally entitled the “Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act (DASKA) of 2019,” is numbered S-1189. It has been introduced in the Senate which will “…require the Secretary of State to determine whether the Russian Federation should be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism and whether Russian-sponsored armed entities in Ukraine should be designated as foreign terrorist organizations.” The bill is sponsored by Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado and is co-sponsored by Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey.

The current version of the bill was introduced on April 11th and it is by no means clear what kind of support it might actually have, but the fact that it actually has surfaced at all should be disturbing to anyone who believes it is in the world’s best interest to avoid direct military confrontation between the United States and Russia.

In a a press release by Gardner, who has long been pushing to have Russia listed as a state sponsor of terrorism, a February version of the bill is described as “…comprehensive legislation [that] seeks to increase economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on the Russian Federation in response to Russia’s interference in democratic processes abroad, malign influence in Syria, and aggression against Ukraine, including in the Kerch Strait. The legislation establishes a comprehensive policy response to better position the US government to address Kremlin aggression by creating new policy offices on cyber defenses and sanctions coordination. The bill stands up for NATO and prevents the President from pulling the US out of the Alliance without a Senate vote. It also increases sanctions pressure on Moscow for its interference in democratic processes abroad and continued aggression against Ukraine.”

The February version of the bill included Menendez, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina as co-sponsors, suggesting that provoking war is truly bipartisan in today’s Washington.

Each Senator co-sponsor contributed a personal comment to the press release. Gardner observed that “Putin’s Russia is an outlaw regime that is hell-bent on undermining international law and destroying the US-led liberal global order.” Menendez noted that “President Trump’s willful paralysis in the face of Kremlin aggression has reached a boiling point in Congress” while Graham added that “Our goal is to change the status quo and impose meaningful sanctions and measures against Putin’s Russia. He should cease and desist meddling in the US electoral process, halt cyberattacks on American infrastructure, remove Russia from Ukraine, and stop efforts to create chaos in Syria.” Cardin contributed “Congress continues to take the lead in defending US national security against continuing Russian aggression against democratic institutions at home and abroad” and Shaheen observed that “This legislation builds on previous efforts in Congress to hold Russia accountable for its bellicose behavior against the United States and its determination to destabilize our global world order.”

The Senatorial commentary is, of course, greatly exaggerated and sometimes completely false regarding what is going on in the world, but it is revealing of how ignorant American legislators can be and often are. The Senators also ignore the fact that the designation of presumed Kremlin surrogate forces as “foreign terrorist organizations” is equivalent to a declaration of war against them by the US military, while hypocritically calling Russia a state sponsor of terrorism is bad enough, as it is demonstrably untrue. But the real damage comes from the existence of the bill itself. It will solidify support for hardliners on both sides, guaranteeing that there will be no rapprochement between Washington and Moscow for the foreseeable future, a development that is bad for everyone involved. Whether it can be characterized as an unintended consequence of unwise decision making or perhaps something more sinister involving a deeply corrupted congress and administration remains to be determined.

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