Thursday, 31 March 2011


Will the current NATO campaign in Libya result in common EU foreign, defense and security policies, or will it expose the intense competition behind the cooperation of Western allies? The US has managed to use the Libyan crisis, as it did Iraq and Afghanistan, to keep the Europeans militarily divided and dependent on the leader of the free world by marginalizing the European Defense Agency (EDA), always with the help of UK, and strengthening NATO. As the world's hegemonic military bloc without a deterrent role in the absence of a Communist threat, is NATO's role one of rapid deployment in regional conflicts - mainly Islamic countries- and if so, what does this reveal about the reason for its post-Cold War role and EU as America's military partner?

In 2004, the EDA sparked a great deal of interest on both sides of the Atlantic and in Asia, in so far as its operations have broad geopolitical implications for the European and world balance of power. In the last six years, NATO has been restructured to reflect greater EU influence and the reality that Russia is not an imminent military threat.

As NATO's largest contributor, the US continues to use it as its private military bloc, as though the Cold War is continuing. One concern of the creation of EDA was that Europeans would divert resources from NATO, while another was the issue of greater EU foreign and defense policy independence from the US. After all, there was no Cold War, so why not create a post-Cold War defense agency to reflect changing conditions.

The enemy is  no longer Communism but Islamic countries, at least as far as the US is concerned and some Western European nations following the same policy. If the new Cold War has targeted mainly Islamic nations, is Europe following US foreign and defense policies instead of sharing in the decision making process? The EDA was intended as another instrument to define EU as independent from the US. Neo-isolationists in the US have tried to use the EDA as a pretext to demand that Europeans must pay entirely for their own defense. Other US defense experts cautioned that US political and military needs in Iraq and Afghanistan - now Libya, make cooperation with the EU indispensable.

But is the structure of the European Defense Agency a reflection of the EU political or economic integration model, or is it a NATO appendage, which in reality translates into US appendage? While the initial goal of France was to create a defense agency with a European post-Cold War identity separate from NATO, the UK vehemently objected and its view prevailed largely because the cost burden would have been enormous otherwise.

Although defense ministers from all EU members participate in the Defense Agency, in essence it is an Anglo-French entity, given that 2/3 of its budget comes from London and Paris. Just as France has a close working relationship and collaboration with Germany on financial, economic, and trade issues, it has a very close military relationship with England, something that appeals to the US that wanted to make certain the balance of power between Germany, France and England is not tilted toward one side or the other. Understanding how the EDA operates helps to place the US-UK, French (crusading trio) campaign in Libya into context, including intelligence operations before the air strikes of March 2011.

EU Defense Agency's purpose is to foster joint procurement, research and development, and rapid deployment, partly ­with the goal of moving toward a common EU military policy within the context of NATO cooperation. Despite the EDA and an estimated one-and-half million troops, despite the publicly stated goal of a common EU defense and security policy, Europe remains America's junior military partner not very different than it was during the Cold War, dragged into conflicts that the US initiates and/or is interested in carrying out.

Considering that only UK and France that are at the heart of EDA are staunchly behind the war in Libya, with Italy and Germany on the cautious side, NATO's lead role in the operations has exposed the myth that EU has a common defense or foreign policy. Playing a hawkish role in the Libyan campaign by joining UK and US, France has damaged its relations with Italy and Germany whose cooperation it needs for all other matters. Other than benefiting the US is strongly committed to NATO as the strongest military bloc on earth, exactly what will France gain by testing the strength of EDA only to expose its weaknesses?

Theoretically, the U.S. and EU would cooperate in managing the world militarily as they do the economy in the G-8, and divide the contracts for their national businesses after conflicts accordingly. This is what the cases in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now unfolding in Libya are supposed to prove. However, amid a very deep fiscal crisis for most NATO members, if conflicts like the one in Libya last a long time, we will discover that the European Union remains weak because it remains divided on foreign, defense and security policies. EU's weaknesses benefit the US as the world's sole military superpower, even if the bulk of post-Gaddafi businesses go to the Europeans as they would in any event.


The media has just revealed that French, UK and US secret service operations in Libya have been ongoing for a number of weeks, if not months. It is of course impossible to anticipate uprisings anywhere on the planet, and even if secret services are instigating to overthrow a government, it means nothing without popular and/or institutional support at some level. 

Apparently, the French have been in Libya since October 2010 trying to undercut the regime and collecting intelligence to determine how to help in the overthrow. The British operatives (MI-6) were parachuted into the country and caught trying to gather intelligence for air strikes and acting as liaisons for rebels. Could the situation in Libya be a creation of the 'Crusading Trio's' intelligence services?

Let us consider that the CIA worked with a very small group of group in implementing counterinsurgency operations in Iran in 1953, and it was successful in overthrowing reformist leader Mohammad Mosadeq. The following year, it used similar tactics and it overthrew Guatemalan president Jacobo Arbenz. Counterinsurgency operations are kept small and can rely on a segment of the population rising up against the regime that the operation intends to remove.

I want to make it very clear that both Arbenz and Mossadeq were by all indications genuine reformers and interested in promoting social welfare, whereas Gaddafi by all indications is nothing more than a dictator interested in wealth and power rather than public welfare. That Gaddafi is a self-interested corrupt dictator has nothing to do with the merits of the issue of the 'crusading trio's' secret and overt operations intended to serve the corporate interests of their nations at the expense of their own taxpayers who foot the bill for the war in Libya.

I wonder how Muslims world over will react when they discover that the CIA, MI-6 and French intelligence services have been active in Libya, supplying weapons to rebels. And what about Obama signing CIA authorization before NATO members had the opportunity to vote on military operations, indicative of the kind of move that is reminiscent of Nixon and Reagan. I wonder if Germany knew exactly what the 'crusading trio' was doing all along and felt that there was nothing in it for them? Could it be also the case that the 'crusading trio's' secret operations in Libya have become public because they want to quell uprisings in the pro-West Arab states by letting Muslim know that the uprisings have a Western hand behind them?

I am adamantly against conspiracy theories, unless of course they are substantiated by hard evidence. I always believed that conspiracy theories were the stuff from which mystery novels are written and movies made for commercial reasons. But how can anyone blame anyone else in the world for believing that the uprising in Libya, perhaps in other countries as well, has been engineered by the CIA, MI-6 and the French secret service?

Conspiracy theories have more weight when empirical evidence is provided to support them. The revelation that the 'crusading trio' secret services have been involved in Libya - working through Egypt, Tunisia and the Gulf states - can only undermine the rebels, even if they prevail as I expect that they will eventually. Of course, there are always surprises and who knows how long this will last. As the body count is rising on both sides, including victims of bombs dropped by the 'crusading trio', the question of legitimacy will be raised for the rebels who are now known to have CIA-MI-6 and French intelligence services behind them.

Meanwhile, the US that is cutting all kinds of social programs has spent over $500 million for Libya - the other $500 million by the EU allies - and if this thing lasts, who knows what the price tag will be to American workers and the embattled middle class? UK that has even worse economic problems than the US is also spending a great deal for the Libyan operations. Ultimately, these operations help to distract domestic public opinion from very serious social and economic issues, and it provides a temporary identification of the sitting government with the flag.

Therefore, besides the obvious purpose of launching such operations that would secure oil fields on the cheap, the goal is political for domestic consumption, and geopolitical as the aggressor intervenes in order to have a voice in determining the regional balance of power. All of this is easy to digest for those analyzing international relations, but here is something that may difficult to swallow even for hard-nosed analysts - why have the leaders of the 'crusading trio' Sarkozy, Cameron and Obama lying to their own citizens while insisting they were telling the truth? Why the Nixon syndrome all over again in the early 21st century? Could it be because the political economy is on shaky grounds with all the sociopolitical consequences for the popular base of bourgeois political parties?

Wednesday, 30 March 2011


I have often noted that bourgeois society and the 'liberal democratic' regime under which it operates may be undergoing change owing to the global economic recession in an epoch when there is no ideological/political/military rival like a Communist bloc that the bourgeois regime can use to retain public loyalty. That the evolution of social discontinuity is taking place in 'lesser capitalist' countries like Ireland is not as significant as the fact that it is taking place in the US that has projected itself as the model to follow. But what if the model does not live up to the image, and the gap between image and reality continues to grow? Will the rest of the world lose confidence in the US as the 'liberal democratic' leader and start searching for other models?

The Obama administration remains concerned that the American Dream is fading because the middle class is weakening. This was the assessment right before the 2010 congressional elections when it was obvious the Democrats would suffer major losses, and the jobless economic growth . Arguing that the “middle class dream” (synonymous with the American Dream) is fading fast, the Obama administration has a task force operating on the assumption that “everyone wants to and can be in the middle class.” How wonderful indeed, if it could only be supported by empirical evidence that shows a gradual decline of the middle class in the last four decades.

Clearly not the same definition as in 18th century France or England, a definition that underwent change since then in Europe that operates in America’s shadow since the 1940s, US government (media and mainstream institutions as well) defines middle class on the basis of: a) owning a home, b) car, c) college for the kids, d) retirement fund, e) health care, and f) family vacations. If you have these six things, you too are in the shrinking “middle class” as US government (and mainstream institutions) defines it.

Therefore you are happily conformed and the social order will continue to exist for a very long time. But what if you lack one or more of the six criteria? High-paying jobs in the secondary sector of production (manufacturing) have been going to Asia and Latin America.  With it a drop in salaries and benefits for Americans, followed by white-collar jobs in sectors from computer science to medical engineering, with higher indirect taxes and higher costs of living, is the middle class facing compression? The situation is not very different for many other advanced capitalist countries that have experienced downward social mobility under globalization that has been sold as the only way that capitalism can best serve society.

Although in the last three-four decades Americans and their European counterparts became two-income families, some taking second jobs, the cost of living rose sharply in the last two decades, while wages, salaries, benefits, and social security income could not keep pace. “For most of the 20-year period following 1990, the Commerce Department reports that real median income grew at a rate of about 20%, while the cost of a college education grew between 43% and 60%, the cost of housing rose 56% and health care costs jumped by 155%.” Vice President Joe Biden’s web site describing the task force notes that “A strong middle class equals a strong America.”

But was it not government policies regardless of political parties whether in the US or any of the advanced capitalist countries that led to the shrinking middle class since 1970? Is the solution to a strong middle class a fiscal and social policy that weakens it even more?  Is the social pyramid is becoming increasingly narrower at the top and wider at the bottom? Who knows what Biden will do to get Obama reelected against the background of a Tea Party Republicans who have no problem in further weakening the middle class by slashing benefits of public workers at the federal and state levels, and by going after social programs, including entitlements medicare and medicaid.

It seems any solution that proposes social and economic justice would be unacceptable for Tea Party Republicans who believe that they represent 'mainstream America' - the equivalent of what Nixon used to call the 'silent majority'. What is a more acceptable solution for Tea Party Republicans, Democrats, and mainstream businesses? Here is the consensus: a) find another job to supplement your income; b) work harder to prove your marketplace competitiveness; c) plan and invest better for your future; d) return to school for more education or re-training; and e) surrender to fate, and wait for “lady luck” to ring your doorbell!

If indeed the assumptions of the US government (and the entire mainstream institutional structure) that “securing a middle class” is the key the American Dream, how do we explain US public opinion polls indicating that the “happiness” level (granted the obvious difficult of quantifying it), has been under 50% and steadily declining since 1970? And how do we explain that in a global public opinion poll, the top four “happiest” countries in the world are Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, while the US ranks 14th, despite the largest GDP on the planet? If middle class Americans are not as happy as their counterparts in other nations, is it symptomatic of cultural factors alone and unrelated to a sense of pessimism about society and its institutions?

Even if we accept the American ubiquitous PR campaign, backed by political and financial elites, media and academia, is designed to project the image that upward mobility as the achievable American Dream, scholarly studies by individual academics and think tanks for the last three decades indicate that there has been downward mobility in America, spreading to the rest of the world with some exceptions. Global outsourcing under neo-liberal policies has resulted in a shrinking middle class likely to shrink more in this decade in the US and EU.

I have argued in the past that the middle class in most of the world during the last four decades has been created on paper because of the credit economy. As the middle class was built on a mound of debt under an unsustainable global credit economic structure designed to keep wealth concentrated, the public sector was also thriving on debt. But the bills have not come to be paid by the middle class and workers. Middle class people know where they stand in relationship to the image they project; they know that the 'dream' is fading for them and for their children; that the political and financial institutions do not represent them, no matter what they claim; that the social pyramid is becoming narrower because the 'liberal democratic' regime conducts policies that result in downward mobilization.

Should the six-point criteria developed by individuals who want to perpetuate consumerism be the basis of the American Dream, or should there be an re-examination of peoples’ values in the wake of this prolonged global recession–and I mean all people, not just the middle class that constitutes the popular base of bourgeois political parties? Are these the values America wants to continue exporting to the rest of the world so it can strengthen finance capitalism at the expense socioeconomic chasm and social polarization from which arise extreme right wing elements?

Is the essence of humanity predicated on the six points mentioned above? In the US government report, there was no mention of creativity, no mention of empathy in thought and deed for one’s fellow man, no mention of protection of nature, no mention of philosophical/spiritual self-reflection, no mention of greater social equality or collectivist action that alleviates suffering of the vast majority, no mention for lessening societal and institutional violence.

America is becoming more polarized as Tea Party politics indicates. If there is no future for a growing middle class, no chance for the realization of the American Dream, is 'liberal democracy' in danger and sociopolitical polarization inevitable no matter if the Democrats win or lose the White House in 2012? Is the Tea Party America's future if the middle class continues to become smaller and weaker? If this turns out to be America's future, what kind of model will it be for the rest of the world?

Tuesday, 29 March 2011


A number of years ago, I was invited to an international conference on war and peace. Participants were academics from different parts of the world. Next to me was sitting a colleague from the University of Arizona who happened to be Jewish and he and I saw 'eye to eye' on issues covered at the conference.  
One of the speakers who was a noted scholar on international relations stated very calmly that from the end of the Second World War until 2000 'X number of millions' had died in wars (the figure now is 51 million). With detachment as though the X number of millions were toys instead of human beings, he added that was not such a bad number all things considered. 
My colleague from Arizona who had a profound sensitivity to mass killings like the Jewish holocaust, turned to me and whispered: "I am sure none of the dead were his relatives". At that moment, it occurred to me that my colleague from Arizona may have lost relatives in concentration camps. 
Neither he nor I doubted that the speaker was trying to appear 'coldly realistic' and embrace the way things are. I wondered if he would have the luxury of such academic realism in a situation where his close relatives and loved ones were killed. I wondered if the luxury that his petty bourgeois academic status afforded him that kind of attitude, combined with the tangible rewards of his conformity to the reality that states are mass killing machines of innocent people.

We see similar attitudes today in connection with military campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya. There is something incredibly simple-minded if not downright barbaric and short-sighted - some would argue stupid - in advocating peace and social justice is unrealistic; that embracing a political solution instead of a military one is naive, no matter the evidence that shows the contrary is true. 
Claiming that discussion about peace-oriented political solutions must be relegated to the realm of intellectual exercise is indeed a manifestation of disregard to what best serves society - both the aggressor in war and those on the receiving end who must suffer the consequences. When studying foreign policy it helps to at least consider the consequences of power on the party (ies) who are at the receiving end. This is a very difficult lesson to learn even for great scholars throughout history that have been mesmerized by power.
Equally shortsighted and naive is to believe that the state is dominant over markets and to advocate that exploitation is 'normal' between countries on the model of 'old-style' neo-imperialism. Unless the apologist of such a view has shares in BP or another oil company operating in Libya and seeking better contract terms, is it wise to remain in the darkness of the Cold War? Regardless of ideological and political orientation, most scholars agree that markets enjoy hegemony over the state in many countries around the world. This is not the case for countries where quasi-statism is practiced, beginning with China, and to a lesser degree Cuba, Russia, India, Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, Norway, and a number of others. 
Certainly the goal of countries where markets dominate over the state, namely the G-7, it is easy for the casual observer or even professional analysts to be fooled by the neo-corporatism and to conclude that neo-corporatist model entails that the state, which is merely a tool for markets, is hegemonic. For example, one can make this observation about Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. As a tool of markets, however, the state conducts policy accordingly. For states like US, UK, France and Germany where markets determine policy, that may mean war when necessary to further market interests.

Why not have perpetual war and bombings, mass killings and mass destruction as a means of resolving conflict and strengthening markets? And why stop there. Why not disregard political solutions and go right to military options as a first choice because it is a testament of raw strength that is important for politically symbolic considerations, it helps strengthen defense contractors, and it creates demand amid contracting economic cycles on a world scale? 
For those who calmly and coldly adopt the attitude that it is merely an academic exercise to debate human rights, peace and social justice, and debate the merits of military solutions vs. political options, all so that the peace advocates can feel good about embracing 'love and peace', I wonder how they would feel if their country is bombed in the exact same manner as any of the Islamic nations - Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya - in the name of democracy, and if their loved ones were killed or injured in the process. 

This is a very harsh way of making the case against military solutions (dead-end solutions), but I believe people have to put themselves in the feet of those on the receiving end of bombs dropping on them. Why not have foreign military intervention every time a country experiences internal social strife? And why not go after the natural resources that the vanquished country has, and leave its population destitute, so that markets continue to enjoy preeminence? I suspect that very soon Portugal will have workers and middle class professionals demonstrating in Lisbon, just as Londoners did and will again in protest of wealth redistribution from the bottom up. 

Why not have NATO bombs drop on Lisbon to prevent the government from sending out the police to stop demonstrators? For the noble goal of strengthening markets, why shouldn't the state resort to military solutions first and ask questions later? Who is more delusional, the advocate of political solutions to sociopolitical conflict, or the warmonger policymakers and profiteers standing in line behind them as the only way to retain their privileged positions at the cost of mass destruction? Is it any wonder that advanced capitalist nations have the highest consumption of psychotherapy services and products on the planet not only because they can afford them, but because they really need them to cope with a culture of destruction?

Monday, 28 March 2011


An estimated 500,000 people turned out to demonstrate against unprecedented cuts that the Cameron government is introducing to reduce the budgetary deficit. The government in London has legitimate concerns that UK is not much better off in managing its public finances than Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Belgium or Spain. After all, UK has one of the world's largest debt-to-GDP ratios and its prospects do not look very good in comparison with Germany.

But the question is where to cut, how to manage fiscal policy that always determines what social class pays the bills and which one benefits. If the answer is to hit the middle class and workers once again as the Cameron government decided, then there is a price to be paid in terms of social unrest and political instability; developments that could destabilize the government and precipitate further weakening of the economy.

On 21 October 2010, I had posted an article on this blog about how the political economy of neoliberalism was creating a sociopolitical crisis across Europe, including England that tends to be less radical than the continent. The article was written against the background of very deep cuts affecting English labor and middle class as well as college students that have been radicalized amid the deepest cuts in the last fifty years.

At the time, I rhetorically asked:  "are we witnessing precursor conditions of social revolution, are we witnessing mere protests by disparate social elements otherwise unworthy to call themselves responsible citizens, or is the whole thing nothing more than a mere social cloud in an otherwise bright sky of a solid political economy that is undermined by social misfits protesting in the streets of European capitals?"

Now that the Cameron government has introduced a package amounting to about (80 billion pounds) $140 billion in additional cuts to bail out finance capitalism, we can say with a good degree of certainty that the English middle class, to say nothing of labor, will have to downsize for the duration. Who took part in the London protests? Ordinary working people teachers, firefighters, the disabled, students, mothers and their kids along with pensioners. This was a genuine grass roots movement that has legs and it will continue.
In October 2010, I explained that "under current social, economic, and political conditions the masses are unlikely to mobilize and rise up to overthrow any government now, but they very well could in the future."

The government in London, as those of Washington, Pairs, etc. have the choice to raise taxes from the top income earners, as there are many studies indicating that the Treasury is losing billions of pounds sterling in revenue from the rich through tax evasion. Fiscal policy designed to redistribute wealth from the bottom to the top has its limits and I believe it is reaching them for the British people who are no longer content to sit home watching on TV and web Arabs in the streets fight against injustice of their own regimes, but they are willing to express their views in Trafalgar Square and central London.

The neo-liberal policies designed to strengthen capital that has caused this crisis are responsible for the existence of grassroots movement in England, just as the authoritarian policies of Arab regimes are responsible for the existence of grassroots uprisings. I am not suggesting that the uprisings of North Africa and Middle East have reached Europe. Just as Arabs have a reason to fight against political authoritarianism, the people across Europe have their own reasons to fight in the streets against economic authoritarianism caused by finance capital and paid by middle class and labor thanks to policies of governments accountable only to finance capital.
Back in October 2010, I pointed out that "social discontinuity is very complex--whether we examine the transition from the ancient Roman era to the Medieval, or from feudalism/manorialism to the modern market economy." I believe that 2011 is not only a turning point for the Muslim countries, but for many countries around the world. Social unrest will continue as social justice is denied to citizens whether they live in England, Tunisia, or the US.

The amazing thing is that governments and institutions like IMF, OECD, World Bank, European Investment Bank, and others, are all working feverishly to strengthen the sickly economy using the exact same neo-liberal policies that caused the illness in the first place. Neo-liberal policymakers and apologists of the world, the specter of grassroots movements for social justice is already upon us!


The Vatican was on record opposing the US war in Iraq and Pope John Paul II had personally expressed his views to former President Bush. When the US-UK-French campaign to strike Libya by air started, the Vatican was officially neutral. Just as the air strikes were announced, La Stampa daily noted that the Catholic Church concurred with the 'legitimacy of humanitarian air raids' in Libya as it had also recognized the necessity for intervention in Afghanistan.

 On 27 March 2011, Pope Benedict XVI changed his earlier position and noted that the safety of civilians requires cease fire by all sides and a political solution. A number of Catholic charity organizations in cooperation with the UN have been helping refugees in North Africa and the Pope was briefed regularly about events. It seems that there was pressure on the Vatican to take a position, other than praying and providing relief aid. 

Now that his Holiness has come out against the NATO air campaign, which would have to become a ground campaign soon unless Gaddafi leave, would NATO have the same response to the Pope's plea as Joseph Stalin, namely, "how many tank divisions does the Pope have?"

If the logic for NATO intervention in Libya is to be applied for all such cases without discrimination, doesn't this mean that NATO should have been bombing Tel Aviv every time Israeli planes, tanks, and soldiers struck down Palestinian civilians? And would NATO follow the same policy toward Saudi Arabia and Gulf States when the time comes for mass uprisings, and it will?

Let us assume for the sake of argument that British police clash with protesters in the future and civilians are killed and injured the next time when mass demonstrations that reach over half a million in London as they did on 26 March 2011. Should NATO bomb London as it did Tripoli? Unthinkable and appalling indeed, but why is it so? Why the obvious Western hypocrisy behind which rests what many Africans as well as non-Africans describe as 'a racist neo-colonial policy'? 

No matter what categories we invent other than the terms that Africans use today, do semantics change the reality of a mode of operation by US-UK-France, the 'crusading trio' - bombs will kill people and destroy property? Isn't the net result on the ground the same whether Africans who have a history of white subjugation call it racist neo-colonialism or 'pursuit of democratic air raids'?  

Libya is a case of "White Man's Burden", something Africa has suffered from the 15th century when the Portugese set foot on the continent. That white-dominated governments are attacking non-white countries owing to racist and neo-colonial motives can be debated. Why are there Africans who insist that the goal of the air raids in Libya is to undercut Pan-African solidarity - never exactly very solid in any event - and to weaken and divide Africa?

At the very least, the goal of the 'crusading trio' is ultimately to have a pro-West regime that signs oil, investment and trade deals on better terms than Gaddafi has been offering. Where is the benevolence in this policy and why has the Pope failed to see it when he called for end to the war? Will the West heed the advice of the Vatican? If not, how is the 'crusading trio' any different than Stalin in his pragmatic attitude toward the Pope? 

How can the 'crusading trio' explain heavy bombing of Libya - and scheming in Syria now in the initial stages of protests - while at the same time allowing permanent Israeli war and occupation of Palestinians? I have seen no government intelligence that the 'crusading trio' will strike at Syria; at least not at a time that things are 'up in the air' in Libya where ground troops may be required. Do I believe that the 'crusading trio' will strike at Syria if conditions were right as they may become down the road? Absolutely, either directly or they could have Israel do it.Washington has denied such plans, but will they resist the temptation to remove Assad from power, no matter what he does to reform the regime?

Social unrest in Syria could be described as marginal (mainly in the cities of Latakia and Daara) in comparison with what took place in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and now Libya. In fact, the Syrian situation may not be as serious as the one in Jordan, but news reports are not the best from inside Syria and the uprising could change very rapidly. If it does, the 'crusading trio' will have no problem striking at Syria, or have Israel do it for them.

When Obama came to office, there were some efforts to ameliorate relations with Syria. At present, however, the Arab uprisings offer the opportunity for the US and Israel to see political change in Syria. If the Syrian people want Assad and his regime out, then they should be forced from power, but if regime change rakes place because the 'crusading trio' and Israel want it and they are willing to destabilize Assad amid widespread Arab unrest, that translates into foreign intervention and violation of national sovereignty, in short, neo-colonial schemes hiding behind the thin veil of 'democracy'. 

The one-party state should be terminated, if that is the will of the Syrians, and sooner or later that will take place. Sooner or later, Syria will have open and democratic institutions that will best serve them, assuming no foreign interference. But does the West have a history of delivering democracy to the Middle East, Africa, Latin America or Asia? Is the goal of the 'crusading trio' humanitarian, or is humanitarianism a pretext concealing tangible interests (economic and strategic) that have nothing to do with promoting democracy, social justice, economic development, or any other benevolent goal?

Sunday, 27 March 2011


            If only he minded his father’s admonition not to soar close to the inviting sun, the Aegean Sea would not have claimed Ikaros so tragically amid his glory. Had Apollo cast a cloud, had the sweltering sun not melted Ikaros’ wings of wax, would humanity not be deprived of yet another hero testing his will against the capricious wrath of gods? How can I peel back infinite layers concealing the complex web of an existence whose meaning has yet to be determined in a labyrinth journey of absurdity? Like Ikaros audaciously I must challenge nature's forces and make them my own, I must defy Poseidon’s perilous domain so that fear of gods and demons is no more. Anticipating Aphrodite’s spell will breathe eternity into my beleaguered spirit, dreaming of reaching into the vast blue sky’s eternal bliss and never again set foot on mortals’ path, to soar where Ikaros dared I eagerly await.
            By Apollo’s light against the warm Aegean wind and Poseidon’s salty waves entranced was the son of noble Deadalus who soared where Zeus’ eagles once searched for the center of the earth, where captive passion entranced the goddess’ longing for love of mortals. To fate’s unbending will the multitudes succumb, a few have brazenly dared to unmask yet another disguised layer of humanity to test nature's forbidding limits. To experience life's meandering paths leading to the essence of the spirit, Ikaros defied overwhelming forces for the glory of testing mortality temporarily deceiving nature. Must humanity celebrate or pity the amorphous masses for taking the safer road of worshipping nature's divine forces without a challenge that may lead to a clearer path mirroring their humanity?
            Inside my mother's womb am I floating on Aegean blue waters where Poseidon's maidens frantically danced atop tranquil waves sprinkled with the triumphs and tragedies of illustrious ancestors? Is this Aegean adventure about to test the limits of my uneasy psyche, or must I remain safely and silently in my serene existence as tradition and Church demand, as community whose blood runs through my veins expects? A still sensation flowing through me immersed in the crystal-blue frothy waves that gave birth to Aphrodite, vicariously I am living the legends from centuries past that continue to haunt and inspire. Ten thousand years before Poseidon’s waves caressed my body a civilization was born in these islands, spreading to the mainland where fortified walls protected the Acropolis in every city. Is there a place better suited to worship gods dancing in perfect harmony to the muses' tunes; is there a place more worthy to discover the intoxicating beauty of endless sky and open seas? 
"The devil in his eyes I saw,” the widow Daphne told the others listening attentively as though the Evil One was present and about to claim them. “No doubt his spirit had fled his body long before he plunged the knife into his heart. Like a ghost, the boy wondered about the village staring at the horizon without seeing a thing. Oh how the Devil finds his way through all who stray. I know only too well how Satan seeks out our weaknesses when we are least aware, how the Evil One takes us into his path where we lose ourselves in sin. Of sins I hear committed by brothers and sisters, fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, sins to keep the Satan alive among us for generations to come. May the Virgin Mary forgive me, but even now I have doubts about my husband’s lapses into sinful lust when my daughter bathes and he stands guard without shame.” The widow made the sign of the cross, and the others joined in to confirm that we were vulnerable and needed divine protection, whether it was on ‘Saturday of Souls’ or any other day of the year. 
"It’s not for me to know if it was the Holy Spirit’s dove or Satan’s horns that prevailed,” Aunt Irene added. “So it was written and so it had to end for Pege, Erato, and Aris; life ended for all of them that day, not just for the boy they buried. God bless his soul, the unfortunate Aris, half-wit from birth, was doomed to pay for his father's crimes. And that crazy girl never had much of a chance born into a large family where only the Lady of Mercy knows how they all survived on greens and game from the hills. Innocent children suffer because their parents strayed. May the dragon slayer saint help us drive the devil from this village whose tragedies have no end. May the saint protect our children from evil we carry inside.”
As I was attentively hanging from every word of wisdom and compassion that usually accompanies advanced age, I realized that the women of St. George had as many insights as wrinkles on their sun-baked faces garlanded by colorful scarves to prevent both the sunrays and men from temptation. Confused about what actually took place in St. George, I was unclear who was really at fault and why these horrific things happened on the edge of Eden, as some called the village. Mother and Aunt Irene wanted me to know only that villagers had a vivid sense of how God and Satan were perpetually dwelling to control our lives. Leaving me with misty impressions far more potent than knowledge rooted in featureless empirical facts that eluded all of us, unlike my father and other males, it was difficult to dismiss women’s discussions as the mutterings of brainless superstitious gossipers lacking logic that God awarded to males with far greater generosity upon creation.
Guarded by the palm tree's shade, she has resumes the statue-like posture. I stare at her body helplessly and imagine placing my arms around her to explain that she had cast a spell on me. Instead, my body feels like an ice statue melting of perspiration under the hot sun. I place my hand on her right shoulder as though to see what marble the gods used to make this nymph. Motionless with a soft smile, a mirror to my soul she seems as I feel her inside of me. My lips find their way over her right breast, allowing years of suppressed youthful passion and imagination to manifest itself. She takes me in her arms and holds me so tightly as to let me know that at last she felt my desire, or at least she pretended to acknowledge my existence. Am I here to help her forget secret pains of the heart? Is she here to help me understand the hidden aspects of mystified life?

            Stroking my face and touching my lips with her fingers, my face she places between her breasts, allowing me to simply rest like a baby she probably wanted instead of me. At last, I experience exaltation I could only dream of, even if I felt like her firstborn. Lying on her bosom, a blissful eternity overpowered me as I could hear her heart beat and felt I was inside of it where she wanted me. Enjoying her sweet embrace, she raises my head, and before I’m aware of what transpires, I feel lost inside her. “May this moment last all day and all night,” I whispered, “even if I have to spend eternity in Hellfire.” The intensity of her heartbeat against mine I feel and give thanks to Poseidon who raised the golden mermaid from the depths of the Aegean Sea. Nothing except her consuming essence concerns me now, forever.
            Like a massive lava eruption from the earth’s core, Aphrodite’s exhilarating aura rushes through my body and spirit, paralyzing my bemused mind. Although I would never achieve my lofty goal of spiritual unity with God and unlikely to ever try, the maiden and I mystically united into a single soul. At last, my quest for true love, the feeling of one with another, stops here with the mysterious golden-haired woman on the shore of St. George. Yet, I fear the hallowed dragon-slayer would emerge from the orchard farm on his horse and drive his spear into my heart for reveling in my sins on the sacred ground where he was revered.
            Gently closing her eyelids, “The Curse of Eros,” she whispers barely moving her lips. Despite her hypnotic words, my sempiternal quest I never believed possible is now a fleeting ecstasy. Frozen for eternity to have this experience, I would feel as exalted as pagan deities and heroes. Slowly I descend to kiss her red-colored lips still wide open with radiating excitement. As my lips barely touch hers, her body dissolves ever so slowly into hundreds of bees that sting me and leave me semi-conscious. I try to breathe and feel my heart stopping. Atop thousands of bright red puppy flower petals, bees are dancing. An imprint of a woman on the sand is formed, an imprint drenched with a wellspring of tears from a tragic love that never existed, tears that drain in the sea, tears of unfulfilled desire nourishing the palm trees, tears of adoring an ethereal image that reality could not possibly match if I lived a million years.
            I cry out and awake from yet another turbulent variation of an erotic dream that had seized control of me. Upon returning from St. May’s festival at Holy Mount, mesmerized by gypsy dancers, and still dizzy from the wine, I tried to go back to sleep to recapture the illusive alien woman on the beach. But her image vaporized from my head as though she was nothing more than mist emerging from the sea on a winter morning and burning off like thick fog unable to withstand the rising sun’s bright rays. All I could capture were sweet and fleeting memories of elation I experienced in Arabesque gypsy music, seductive dancing, and the collective aura of festival celebration.
Matched only by the diabolical swerving of gypsy girls, Violeta’s mesmerizing dancing and hypnotic stare into my ravenous eyes was still fresh in my mind. The captivating images of her striking paintings etched in my mind intertwined with my discovery of the complex hidden dimensions of her personality, love mattered to her as much as me and nothing beyond sacred or mundane. Perpetually a prisoner of the past anticipating a better future, the mysterious realm of dreams offered a wonderful escape from and connectedness to the present. Like so many dreams, I wanted a permanent feature of my existence. This too was nothing but a result of intense desire for “Satan’s daughter”, escape from the austerity of village life, another illusion among many. If only Pege was an illusion, a nightmare, if only the golden woman beneath the palm tree was real and as sweet and lyrical as Sappho’s poetry, as romantic as fleeting youth.

Saturday, 26 March 2011


Turkey has become the most important country in the Middle East on which the EU and the US can count, not just because it is a NATO member and a candidate for full membership in the EU, but because the balance of power in the Middle East has undergone dramatic changes as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the evolving uprisings of 2011. Despite these changes, neither the US not Western Europe see Turkey much differently today than they did during the Cold War, although Ankara has shifted its policy to reflect that its interests today are not the same as they were during the East-West conflict.

The US-UK-French-led air war against Gaddafi's Libya confirmed that the EU-US expected Turkey to support NATO against a fellow-Muslim nation. Regardless of the fact that Turkey has enjoyed long-standing cordial relations with Libya and has considerable interests in the country, including many Turkish nationalists working there, US, UK and France strong-armed Ankara into submission. Just days before agreeing to NATO involvement in Libya, Turkey had accused France of going to war against Libya for oil and natural resources. Nevertheless, as in the old days of the Cold War, the US and EU forced Turkey to do an about face on Libya - again exposing the gap of pro-Islamic rhetoric and pro-West actions.

Although Obama pledged a new foreign policy direction while campaigning, namely a direction of political instead of military solutions, the old Cold War mentality that prevailed under Bush and applied to Islamic nations is now unfolding with Obama. Did the Cold War foreign policy paradigm applied to Islamic countries work so well under Bush that the US is again resorting to it because "won" the Cold War, although it has accomplished nothing in Iraq or Afghanistan?

Just before the 2008 US presidential election, the Obama-Clinton team hinted of a new policy toward the Middle East, focusing on improving relations with the Islamic masses, seeking a permanent solution to the 50-year Israeli-Palestinian question, and counter-balancing Iran and Syria by strengthening ties with Turkey. The theory was that Turkey, a traditional ally of Israel, would moderate the conduct of Islamists and help de-radicalize militant Arabs, at least this is what the Obama-Clinton team believed. In short, against the background of the chaos in Iraq that inadvertently helped to strengthen Iran and Syria, Turkey was to become a US conduit in the Middle East, useful in helping US co-opt the more radical Arab elements.

This was a Cold War paradigm of course, with no relevance to the world of today, largely because Turkey has a problem with Kurdish nationalists, it has a strong regional economic interest, it is in its geopolitical interest to play the unifying role that Egypt once played under Nasser. Some have labeled Erdogan's policies as gravitating between neo-Kamialism and neo-Ottomanism, others see ambitious and pragmatic policies intended to pursue realignment that is based on rapid economic growth on which commensurate political and military strength rest.

While Turkey has been interested in filling the power gap in the Middle East and not allowing Iran the hegemonic role, Erdogan has turned out to be more pro-Islamist than the US, EU or Israel believed. Much of Erdogan's Islamist rhetoric is intended to mobilize nationalist sentiment, strengthen his own political base and further his image among Muslims.  After all, he has been on the side of the Palestinians more than any other Turkish leader in the postwar era, he has taken risks striking numerous economic and even nuclear program development deals with Iran and Syria, he has been supportive of Libya, while at the same time supporting rhetorically the mass uprisings across North Africa and Middle East.

After March 2010, when US Congress voted to declare the Armenian tragedy a "holocaust," Turkey responded in June by voting at the UN against the US on sanctions against Iran. As expected. Russia and China with strong interests in Iran did not go along with the US. Meanwhile, at the end of May 2010 , Israel launched a bloody attack on Turkey's vessels headed for Gaza with relief supplies--an attack that targeted ships from any country, though Turkey suffered casualties and a series of deteriorating diplomatic, military, economic and political chain of events. Then on the same day that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was visiting Athens in mid-August, the Financial Times published a story that Obama could not convince Congress to approve weapons sales to Turkey unless it moderated its policy toward Iran--ipso-facto an ultimatum, that unless Turkey adopted a more pro-Israel policy the US would halt weapons sales.

Using Greece to counter-balance Turkey may seem logical from a geopolitical perspective, but Greece can hardly carry out the role that Turkey could in filling the power gap left by Iraq. Nor is Greece a substitute for Turkey as a conduit for the Middle East. Israel and US agreed on direct talks with the Palestinians to determine the issue of an independent state existing side-by-side with Israel. The US weapons-sales to Turkey are a matter of national security because Ankara argues that they need them to fight terrorism (Kurdish rebels).

Operating under IMF-EU austerity measures, Greece had no choice but to play the Israel-US card of counter-balancing Turkey because of the promise of foreign investment in everything from energy to high tech and tourism. At the same time, it was an opportunity to weaken Turkey's regional role and marginalize it exactly as Tel Aviv and Washington wish, presumably, until Erdogan goes back begging to serve US foreign policy interests because of internal military and business pressures.

Syria and Iran are on Erdogan's side as long as he is on theirs at least on some issues, although the popular uprisings in Syria will test Erdogan as much as it will the rest of the Islamic world. Like Turkey, neither Syria nor Iran believe anything will come from the US initiative to have Israel negotiate directly with the Palestinians for a sovereign state, a position that some share in the Israeli media and public. The Palestinians will not and cannot come to an agreement with Israel in the absence of broader Islamic support that includes Turkey which has a reputation of playing all sides - both the traditional Cold War role as NATO member a country that projects solidarity with Muslims.

No matter how long the conflict lasts in Libya and no matter how the nascent uprising unfolds in Syria, it will be impossible for the US to determine the balance of power in the Middle East unless it has Turkey's cooperation, unless it reaches some compromise with Tehran and/or unless it convinces Moscow and Beijing to pressure Iran into negotiations. Turkey is willing to accommodate the West on a quid-pro-quo basis, and Iran is no different. As strange as it sounds, the US and EU may be faced with a very radical anti-West Middle East after all of the dust settles with the uprisings, and that may force NATO members to look to Turkey as the most important country in the region to forge stability and influence events. Turkey wants EU membership but France and Germany have categorically rejected its prospects, but for how long now that Turkey has become indispensable for the West and it has the ability to counterbalance NATO by forging stronger ties with Russia and China as well as Iran?

In short, pressuring Turkey without meeting its vital demands is shortsighted because it is based on anachronistic Cold War paradigms. Turkey will continue to play the conduit role the US and EU, a role that compromises Ankara's vital geopolitical interests but for a price. The US, France and Germany have chosen to compromise Ankara's role in the Middle East by forcing it to go against Libya and by having Israel play its traditional hegemonic role in the region as it did during the Cold War, a role unsustainable because Iran will become the regional power with the assistance of Russia and China, and because the US global reach will be in retrenchment mode in the future. The question for the US and EU is what will they do if the embryonic demonstrations in Syria evolve into a popular uprising that spread into Turkey, even if it is among the Kurdish minority? Who will be left in the Middle East to represent the interests of the West if Turkey becomes politically unstable and distances itself from the West?

Friday, 25 March 2011


From 1969 to 2010 the world's GDP has risen by 160%, and throughout the last four decades the US share of world GDP has remained steady at 25%, while Africa's share remains at around the 1970s levels. In 1976 Africa’s share of the world’s GNP was 1.2%, but its percentage of population stood at 7.5%. With about 4% of the world’s population the US enjoyed around 25% of GNP. Life expectancy is about 40 years for Africans, while it is almost twice that for Americans and most Westerners and Japanese. Why is this rich continent filled with the world's poorest people? Who owns the wealth of Africa, who enjoys the fruits of African labor and resources?

In the last four decades not much has changed in Africa or in the benign neglect at best, highly exploitative manner at worst, that the advanced countries deal with the continent. Even after Nelson Mandela’s triumphant return to power in South Africa that held the promise of systemic change in Sub-Sahara Africa, life is worse today than in the 1990s. In a speech before foreign diplomats in June 1978, Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere argued that neo-colonialism denied the people of Africa self-determination and sovereignty. Nyerere’s speech is as applicable today as it was then.

We must reject the principle that external powers have the right to maintain in power African governments that are universally recognized to be corrupt, or incompetent, or a bunch of murderers, when their peoples try to change. The peoples of an individual African country have as much right to change their corrupt government…as in the past the British, French, and Russian peoples had to overthrow their own rotten masters. Are African peoples to be denied that same right? Exactly three years before Nyerere’s speech, Mozambique’s President Samora Machel delivered a somewhat similar speech, warning that the institutions left behind by European colonialists were “profoundly retrograde and reactionary” and changing them was the challenge for Africans.

Besides the legacy of colonialism, Africa’s de-colonization took place during the Cold War when exploitation at all levels and for various reasons by both East and West made it even difficult to develop sovereign and healthy institutions. Both Machel and Nyerere made the exact same points that progressive African leaders and intellectuals from Kwame Nkrumah to Samir Amin have been saying for decades about the imperialist West that has been exploiting Africa’s natural resources and cheap labor for five centuries.

Breaking the continent’s monocultural dependence and export-oriented growth of the primary sector of production, Africa’s best bet in order to evolve toward self-sufficiency is a combination of continental integration, import-substituting industrialization, and inward-oriented primary sector – foodstuffs, building materials, and manufacturing production to meet the domestic population’s needs. None of this can be done unless government is committed to a) peaceful co-existence in the continent, and b) promotion of socioeconomic justice instead of serving the small comprador bourgeoisie, military, political elites, and of course foreign interests.

China and India could help Africa, but like their western counterparts India, which has a large community scattered throughout the continent and part of the elite, and China as a more recent trading partner will concentrate on merely purchasing raw materials from Africans and selling finished products to them at unfavorable terms of trade. China and India could play a constructive role to improve the declining terms of trade, especially given that the World Trade Organization (WTO) is so dominated by advanced capitalist countries and unlikely to introduce favorable terms for Africa. There is also a debt relief program that the IMF/World Bank Group have in place for a number of years; a program that applies to the poorest countries in the world.

Merely expanding that program during the current crisis to include more African countries would not be sufficient to make up for financial retrenchment by foreign multinationals and individuals who have taken money out and decapitalized the continent amid the current world economic crisis. Unlike advanced capitalist countries, African nations have a much weaker and more corrupt state and very anemic fiscal structure, while the multinational corporations and IFIs with international lending consortiums behind them enjoy enormous influence. In the absence of systemic societal change–political, social, and economic–the state in African countries cannot and will not rise to the level of the West.

After Movimento das Forcas Armadas staged a revolution in Portugal in April 1974, the USSR reached an agreement with Cuba to back Angolan rebels (1976), to support for the Soviet-backed regime in Ethiopia, and the rebel movement against the corrupt Zaire regime (1978). Robert Mugabe’s election in Zimbabwe in March 1980 was symbolically significant for all Africa, perhaps more so than that of Tanzanian president Nyerere. But with the exception of South Africa that is under majority rule and trying to make progress although very slowly in raising living standards for the majority population, where is the rest of the continent’s progress and where is it headed in this century?

What happened to all the idealist African leaders, and that includes Mugabe who started out so deeply committed to social justice but has ended up a tyrant like so many others that the West and/or East backed because they served their geopolitical and economic interests to the detriment of Africans? History in the last half century has taught that very little progress has been made in comparison with the rest of Southern Hemisphere: Asia and Latin America.

De-colonization, the USSR and US manipulating African countries and various tribes within countries during the Cold War and suffering the deadly consequences; African countries experimenting with varieties of regimes, everything from authoritarian/militarist to Marxian revolutionary; yet, nothing has worked to lift peoples’ quality of life comparable with any other continent on earth. China’s role in Africa today is commercial and geopolitical, rather than a campaign for Afro-Asian solidarity aiming to develop it toward a self-sufficient economic course under a socialist order as Chou En-Lai once proclaimed.

In the 1960s the Chinese came out strongly against white neo-colonialism in Africa and even opposed white European Socialist activities in the continent. Because China had suffered a legacy of Western imperialism, and internal strife and wars as a result, and because Mao was seeking Asian leadership before and during the Cultural Revolution, China enunciated principles of mutual respect for territorial integrity, peaceful co-existence, non-interference in the other nation’s internal affairs, and equality of relationships as the foundation for Afro-Asian solidarity against the Western international order (imperialism) rooted in capitalist integration and unequal relationships.

Africa’s future cannot be either with East or West, because China is no interested in the welfare of the African people than US or UK. In the absence of a leader like Nasser who tried to forge solidarity with Sub-Saharan as well as North African leaders, in the absence of a non-aligned bloc, in the absence of a UN that has the continent at the bottom of its priorities there does not seem to be much hope for Africa, except for grass-roots uprisings similar to those of northern Africa.

As long as there are tribal and ethnic conflicts that have resulted in hundreds of thousands dead and injured, and an estimated nine million refugees; destruction comparable to a third world war by European standards.
Grass roots movement and pan-African solidarity is the only way to compel African leaders to form a strong economic and political bloc to make a competitive play for East and West in the same manner as the old non-aligned bloc countries, the continent will remain the poorest and most exploited on the planet.
Africa will remain a continent exporting cheap raw materials to the more advanced countries, a continent where the narcotics trade will continue to flourish along with piracy, the weapons trade and other illegal activities like human trafficking. Africa will remain a continent in the grip of the chronic external dependence. Only if sub-Sahara Africa breaks the cycle of tribal and civil wars, and only if it follows the example of grass roots uprisings of the northern Islamic African nations is there hope for a better tomorrow.

Thursday, 24 March 2011


On 23 March 2011, all of Portugal's political opposition parties voted against Prime Minister Jose Socrates' proposed austerity measures - the fourth in less than a year - that would have paved the way for a bailout. Like Ireland and Greece, Portugal has gone after the middle class and workers with higher taxes, cuts in wages and jobs, and reductions in social benefits and programs. Never did it occur to the government in Lisbon, any more than those of Athens and Dublin, to at least threaten default as negotiating leverage that would have the creditors offer better terms or lose billions in payments. Admittedly, default would have very serious economic consequences for the short term as it did in Argentina ten years ago. But is Chinese water torture any better for millions of middle class and working people in debtor nations like Portugal?

The news of Socrates' abrupt resignation overshadowed the EU summit meeting (24 March 2011) in Brussels scheduled to discuss the sovereign debt crisis in Portugal, Ireland, Greece, and potentially Spain. Portugal's political crisis over fiscal and economic issues coincided with the US-UK-French-led air war against Libya that has NATO divided and the principals arguing about the millions of dollars/euros spent every day to topple Muammar Gaddafi.

Mass protests against EU leaders in Brussels about austerity measures imposed in varying degrees across Europe - much worse for Greece than for the rest - has not bothered heads of state who are preparing to place Portugal under rigid austerity as they have Ireland and Greece - essentially reducing them to financial dependencies of Germany and France. Government ministers and opposition adamantly deny that Portugal will resort to a bailout like Greece and Ireland, but Holland's prime minister Mark Rutte and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were categorical that the government after Socrates needs to put its public finances in order through a series of austerity measures as precondition to receiving loans.

The bailout may cost at least 80 billion euros, but it could as high as 110, while the price Portugal must pay is to surrender its financial and economic sovereignty along with trade, investment, labor and social policy to the creditors that demand fiscal austerity and neo-liberal policies. Unemployment is currently at 11.5% lower than Spain's 20% and lower than Greece's 14.5%. However, unemployment for all three southern European nations will be rising in 2011, with all the sociopolitical consequences of such a trend.

Having established the European Financial Stability Facility as a 'bailout' program, the question is whether that is sufficient to cover Spain if it follows Portugal, Ireland and Greece, the last two having borrowed a total of just under 200 billion. And what if Belgium and Italy need assistance, as many investment firms are speculating? Unlike Greece whose public debt to GDP ratio stands at 144%, Italy's at 118%, Belgium's 99%, and Ireland's at 94.5%, Portugal's is at 83%, or fifteen in the world - world average is 59%.

Part of the problem with Portugal was that it borrowed heavily under the encouragement of private banks and the EU in the last thirty years; a path that Greece and Spain followed as well. But this is exactly what most of the world was doing with the encourage of governments and banks that rewarded debt policies. Throughout the 1990s while pursuing monetary convergence under Maastricht treaty provisions, Portugal, like Spain and Greece sustained large budgetary deficits, although the productivity and investment increased and labor's share of GDP declined especially in the first half of the 1990s. The Bank of Portugal followed the policies of the Bank of Spain that provided low interest rates to stimulate growth and demand, in the absence of a sustainable development program that would generate growth. 

In the first decade of the 21st century, Portugal continued to borrow heavily as did all of southern Europe, but invested in questionable ventures, wasting a great deal of the borrowed money in public projects that had little value, using the public sector to reduce unemployment by creating redundancies, and raising salaries as a means of stimulating demand. All of the waste in the public sector would have gone unnoticed if there was a development component intended to generate jobs and sustainable growth. At the same time, private borrowing skyrocketed to unprecedented levels. In May 2010, Portugal's National Statistics Institute revealed that the average debt-to-equity percentage of companies was at 140%, debt that had not yielded commensurate results in sustainable growth and development to generate new jobs and higher incomes.

Portugal had slower growth than its southern European counterparts in the last three decades, and as a result of the recent global economic crisis GDP growth has come to a halt while public debt has mounted to the degree that it will be above 100% of GDP in two to three years. This would not be a problem as it certainly is not for Japan leading the world in GDP to debt ratio at 225%, if Portugal had development prospects like France or Germany, the two countries that determine the fate of the other EU members.  

Portugal, like Greece and Ireland, will surrender its sovereignty to the large banks and foreign investors which are the real beneficiaries of the current public debt crisis. Responsibility for the debt crisis in Portugal as in Greece and Ireland rests with the parasitic credit economy that encouraged debt policies as a scheme to generate greater profits for creditors without a component of growth and development. Bond speculators have now sent interest on the 10-year bond to just under 8% that is unsustainable for a country faced with unemployment above 11% and the slowest GDP growth in the EU along with Greece.

Why not default, given that the entire affair of financial insolvency is about bailing banks of debtor countries and transferring billions in interest payments to the banks and large investors of creditor nations. There are speculators betting not only that Portugal will default, but that Greece and Spain, perhaps Ireland as well, setting the stage for the eurozone's breakup. US investment firms have been buying credit default swaps (CDS) not just of Portugal, Greece, and Spain, but of Italy and Belgium and EU bank bonds.

Investment firms that jumped ship on Argentina when it defaulted in 2001 are also buying CDS for southern European countries, no matter the assurances of France and Germany about EU monetary solidarity. In many respects, Portugal, Greece, Spain, along with Ireland, Italy and Belgium appear to be worse off on paper than Argentina before the default, but Argentina was not part of a eurozone. But in this political game, everyone is gambling - those buying the swaps and those betting on EU bonds and the euro.

Ultimately, this financial crisis rests with political decisions of creditor countries invariably influenced by powerful banks that look at whether they are better off supporting the debtor nations or cutting their losses. In this political game, debtors have a lot more leverage than they realize. Although debt restructuring is unavoidable as much for Portugal as for Greece and Spain, perhaps Ireland, Italy and Belgium, default is out of the question for now because it would be too costly for all parties concerned, above all the creditors. If rapid growth - above 3% annually - does not come quickly and if the terms of restructuring are not such that they permit debtors to develop their way out of debt, investment firms betting on default will have a huge payday, while the Argentinian-style crisis across southern Europe would send the world economy back into another recession.

The market economy as it currently operates will sink this generation of Portugal's people as well as the next into downward mobility as a result of the debt crisis - a situation that also exists in Greece, Ireland, Spain and other debtor nations operating under the gun of creditors. A world economy based on hedge funds, derivatives, collateralized debt obligations, CDS (credit default swaps), structured investment vehicles, and other such parasitic investment schemes that derailed the world economy four years ago have not gone away. On the contrary, governments have not taken steps to prevent future crises, and for that reason only mega-defaults by several countries at once may send a sufficient shock into the system so that governments change course from remaining guardians of capital to protecting the welfare of all citizens.


After it was completely destroyed during WWII (1940-45), followed by a civil war and foreign military intervention (1946-1949), Greece endured a broader tragedy that had political, economic, and social dimensions during the Cold War; namely, endemic corruption, oligarchic/baksheesh-style capitalism, and military, economic, and political external dependence - on the US from the Truman Doctrine to the 1970s, and on the EU and US since the 1980s. If the tragedy of modern Greece was confined to the past, all would well and for historians to analyze. However, that Greece has a bleak future for the 21st century as a society that operated under the illusion of living the 'European Dream' (somewhat like the American Dream) is where the contemporary tragedy rests.
Throughout its modern history (Revolution of 1821 to the present), Greece has been financially dependent on the Great Powers, especially on Great Britain from the 1830s to 1940s, on the US from the late 1940s until the 1970s, and on France and Germany from the 1980s to the present. The price Greece has paid for financial dependence is structural underdevelopment. Financial dependence entails economic dependence that includes trade and manufacturing dependence. External financial dependence is continuing despite the fact that Greece is an EU member, which presumably projects the image of a First World country protected by the euro as a reserve currency and by EU trade and other regulations.

Structurally, Greece remains an externally dependent society that has raised living standards in the past four decades largely through public and private borrowing instead of sustainable economic development. A couple of years ago, I baptized the Greek economy “Baksheesh Capitalism” to distinguish it from “social welfare capitalism” practiced in the Scandinavian countries, or corporate welfare capitalism that prevails in the US. At the time, I noted that Greece is one of the most corrupt countries in the world, considering that about one-third of its GDP is in the category of “informal economy” and that every sector from banking and health care, to education and religion has been operating at some level under the rules of “Baksheesh Capitalism.”

There is no doubt that “Baksheesh Capitalism,” deeply ingrained into the country’s culture, is a major part of the problem, but even if Greece had “Icelandic-style capitalism,” the EU and IMF would still impose austerity measures. Under pressure to satisfy finance capital, which imposed credit card-style interest rates on Greek bonds, the EU compelled Greece to undertake a series of deficit-reduction measures that are as harsh as those that the IMF imposes on all borrowing members.

The fundamental prescription for austerity measures has not changed in the past fifty years, and those measures that target slashing the public sector and reducing working class and middle class incomes are essentially the same for all IMF borrowers. That bond rates rose sharply in order for Greece to borrow is an indication of its lack of creditworthiness, speculation by bond traders and Hedge Funds, and the extremely tight global market for loans at a time that most of the world suffers staggering budgetary and balance of payments deficits. Portugal and Spain are currently facing similar problems and are now at the center of bond speculators.

Austerity or IMF-style stabilization is not about the funds applied to a country that needs to meet its domestic requirements, but about fiscal and economic policies that the country adopts which make it attractive for domestic and foreign capital investment. It is indeed ironic that those behind monetarist policies include politically affiliated Socialists like the head of the IMF as well as top EU officials and of course the Greek Prime Minister–further evidence that the mirage of the two-party system of right and center (or center-left) serves the same master, namely, finance capital. More political than they are economic, stabilization programs are a pretext for unpopular privatization/liberalization policies designed to replace the social welfare state with the corporate welfare state.

While IMF austerity entails cutting public sector spending, wages and benefits, and providing incentives for capital investment, the unique aspect about Greece having to resort to the IMF as Germany demanded is that it is a full member of the EU, thus a stab at the monetary union’s integrity. It now seems certain that Greek bonds (now Portuguese and Spanish bonds) were the vehicle speculators used to hit at the real target, which is the euro. German politicians belatedly recognized this reality and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s speeches indicate, but some of their own banks are making money in the process.

The mass demonstrations and riots on 5 May 2010 in Athens and other cities were not just against the government that has become a mere caretaker for the EU and IMF as guardians of finance capital. In the recent past amid mass demonstrations, destruction to property and injuries to people are invariably carried out by anarchists and/or extreme right-wingers. It is estimated, however, that mass demonstrations on May 5th included more than 200,000 people who were workers and middle-class people protesting austerity and a bankrupt regime that has surrendered national sovereignty to finance capital. EU-IMF austerity measures are responsible for the death of the three people, including a four-month pregnant woman.

EU-IMF measures are responsible for the lower living standards that Greece and Southern Europe will suffer during the course of this decade. EU-IMF measures are responsible for the short-term strengthening of finance capital at the expense of inevitable sociopolitical instability that will plague the EU in the next few months and perhaps years unless monetarism and neo-liberalism designed to destroy the social welfare state are balanced with progressive policies. Tested under the extreme economic contracting conditions of 2008-2011, the EU inter-dependent integration model is not nearly as cohesive as it had promised in the past decades.

On the contrary, the EU inter-dependent integration model ostensibly more egalitarian than the US patron-client model proved rather tenuous because for the first time the IMF-style monetarist policies are imposed on a country with a reserve currency. This means that Germany opted to pursue the US patron-client integration model applied to Latin America and other economic satellites since the Spanish-American War. Meanwhile, the entire eurozone area has proved more vulnerable against intense global competition and it remains to be seen if it can survive attracts on more members currently watching how the stronger members weaken lesser countries like Greece.

The irony of the EU-IMF program is that its publicly stated goal to help Greece achieve equilibrium will not be achieved. On the contrary, at the end of the program’s course in 2013, Greece, whose public debt now stands at 300 billion euros or about 115% of GDP, will have total public debt of half-trillion euros or about 150-160% of GDP–unless of course Greece discovers massive reserves of oil or natural gas. In three years, the country’s socioeconomic structure will be weaker than it was during the early 1970s when the military dictatorship was in charge. About 8000 individuals who own about 80% of the wealth owe 20 billion euros in taxes in a country where tax evasion is rampant.

The small percentage of people who own most of the wealth and owe most of unpaid taxes have taken out of the country an estimated 20 billion in the past six months. They realized that the PASOK regime elected six months ago would pursue tax reform and pursue tax evaders. Besides tax evasion by the elites and street vendors alike, Greece spends about 4.5% of GDP on defense, a staggering percentage owing in part to NATO commitments–and to defend what exactly other than its borders from its old nemesis Turkey. The EU and IMF do not address defense spending.

While they do address tax evasion, the IMF-EU-dictated policies target labor and middle class, as they encourage government to offer tax incentives to finance capital to attract investment. Monetarist policies fifty years ago that the IMF imposed on borrowing nations in Latin America, Asia and Africa resulted in mass income distribution from the bottom of the social ladder up and from the borrower (invariably underdeveloped) to the creditor (developed) countries.

In their quest to preserve and strengthen finance capitalism and uneven economic development justified by the same neo-liberal ideology that caused the crisis of 2008-2011, IMF policies working to strengthen the advanced capitalist countries will continue to precipitate social unrest on a global scale and to undermine fragile democratic institutions in semi-developed and underdeveloped countries. After the Great Depression resulted in financial retrenchment from the less developed to the advanced capitalist countries, the latter squeezed as much capital as they could from the former to help strengthen their economies. Today we see the exact same process unfolding on a world scale. The question is what price is the G-7 willing to pay if/when social and political instability begins to spread throughout the world?

Offered in periodic installments, the IMF-EU package for Greece amounts to 110 billion euros, but the government in Athens has granted 100 billion to banks, a number of them foreign-owned; 100 billion in loans and guarantees that have come from the middle class and labor. Although the EU-IMF agreed to modestly lower the interest rate and extend the payment period for the loans because it is impossible for Greece to service the loans, the public debt to GDP ratio will be more than 160% in two years.

If we calculate the combined sovereign debt with that of pension funds, public enterprises, and private debt, the aggregate debt is just under one trillion euros, while the GDP is less than one-third that amount. The tragedy of contemporary Greece is that the generation now in the labor force, as well as the next four generations are condemned to work so their government can pay off mostly foreign creditors instead of building their future under a socially just society. The financial and political elites of Greece, the US and EU have stolen their future; a situation not much different that the ones in Ireland, Portugal and Spain.


On 20-22 September 2010, the UN celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) program. This was with the intention of taking stock of the progress made thus far and to urge governments and the private sector to help meet the ambitious goals by the target date of 2015. The eight goals that 140 leaders from around the world came together to discuss in New York, include: \
a) end poverty and hunger;
b) universal primary education;
c) gender equality and empowering women;
d) reduce child mortality;
e) maternal health;
f) combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases;
g) environmental sustainability;
h) global partnership for development.

In all eight goals some progress has been made in the past decade. Guide and guardian of finance capital, the IMF proclaimed that the key to meeting MDG program targets is economic growth - always under the neo-liberal economic model whenever possible with minimal state intervention. Former President Bill Clinton has been soliciting financial assistance from high-profile individuals in Hollywood, businesses and governments. All efforts are better than watching more than 2 billion people go hungry and without medicine when there is more than enough food, water, and medicine to take care of their basic needs.

But is it profitable to provide basic needs for two-thirds of the world's population, or do we confine ourselves to thanking billionaires and multi-millionaires who give a part of their wealth to charity, as nice as that is on their part to return wealth they have appropriated, wealth they accumulated by investing in corporations doing business in less developed countries where labor values are low and in part at least account for endemic poverty?

Is the market economy based on capital concentration and accumulation of capital, as well as social and geographic inequality undergoing transformation from its neo-liberal phase under globalization to an “enlightened capitalist phase,” or is this merely a very elaborate exercise in convincing world public opinion that capitalism can solve human rights problems?

The ultimate irony in this UN project is that the countries that MDG is designed to help possess most of the world’s natural resources, but the same are exploited directly or indirectly by the 20 richest nations mostly for the benefit of multinational corporations. For UN secretary-general Koffi Annan, who led the initial MDG effort, accused the rich nations of failing to meet their obligations. Even if rich nations heed his advice, the North-South divide will not be solved by MDG because its ambitious goal to eradicate poverty runs counter to the political economy of capital concentration on a world scale.

Considering that the recession of 2007-2011 has created greater poverty not only in the G-7 but throughout the world, with the exception of very few countries; considering that most countries even within the G-7 are diluting the social welfare state and strengthening corporate welfare, what is the best hope for MDG targets to be realized and for the poor countries not to have the problems that the UN has identified as chronic?

Let us consider the empirical reality that market economy in rich nations, including the US, is weakening the middle class and creating greater gap between rich and poor social classes, as evidenced by the fact that the US has 1 in 7 living below the poverty line; adjusted for inflation, the average weekly pay has dropped 13% since 1973–the base line for the end of upward middle class mobility in the US. Within the US the creation of a 'Third World' segment has been growing in the last three decades and it will grow even faster in the current decade. Why would a country like the US whose policies are creating poverty help other countries eradicate it by introducing the same policies to the others?

The fact that roughly 80% of the world’s wealth is concentrated in the G-20 and within those countries the majority of wealth is in the hands of a small minority, entails there is no hope for UN’s MDG program to be realized not by 2015 but not even in the next 100 years! What are some other obstacles to progress that go to the heart of contradictions of the market economy itself? The economies of the rich nations are inward-oriented, catering first to the domestic market and selling the surplus to foreign markets, especially to semi- and less developed countries where labor values are low and profits high. By contrast, the economies of the semi- and less developed countries where poverty is widespread are outward-oriented, based on few exports from which most of the revenue emanates. The rhetoric notwithstanding, there is no sustainable development; a concept that has been co-opted by multinationals as a backdoor channel to continue the dependency pattern of underdeveloped countries.

Because the export sector in underdeveloped countries is invariably owned directly of through local contractors by multinationals, national capitalism and the state as a support mechanism are very weak in comparison with the rich nations. This makes it easier for the multinationals to manipulate through bribery and legal methods using the World Bank, IMF, and the services of their government in the underdeveloped countries that need capital. The result is less stringent legislation (environmental, labor relations, health codes, etc.) affecting foreign companies, lower taxes than they pay in their own countries, and of course easy terms for repatriating profits. This situation entails perpetual movement of capital from the semi and less developed countries to the core or rich nations.

Trade dependence is directly linked to deteriorating terms of trade at the expense of the less developed countries with low labor values and low consumption. Former Indian government official Shashi Tharoor, who took part in the initial MDG conference in 2000, commented: “Many countries are prevented from trading their way out of poverty by the high tariff barriers, domestic subsidies, and other protections enjoyed by their rich-country competitors. The European Union’s agricultural subsidies, for example, are high enough to permit every cow in Europe to fly business class around the world. What African farmer, despite his lower initial costs, can compete?” 

Another very significant area of structural weakness is what Chancellor Angela Merkel identified when she blamed governance in the debtor nations as part of the problem. Indeed it is true that the state structure in a semi- and less developed nation is weak, especially the fiscal system that is needed to support national capitalism, in comparison with the rich nations. But why is the state structure weak and do rich nations and international organizations like IMF and World Bank have any role in contributing to its weakness today and in the past? Debtor countries are in eternal need of loans–monetary (currency stabilization) or development (project).
 To secure such loans they must meet criteria that the rich nations and/or IMF, European Central Bank and FED establish, all instruments for strengthening private capital. Such criteria is designed to maintain a very strong market economy, namely, domestic and foreign capital enjoy the support and protection of the state because 'national interest' and economic development is equated with private capital, while the enemy is the public sector and labor. Poorer countries are invariably perpetual debtors and financially dependent on the rich nations. Financial dependence is invariably linked to trade, manufacturing, transportation, and service sectors dependence, which does not permit for the less developed nations to emerge from perpetual poverty that a substantial segment of their population is suffering.

This does not mean that Merkel’s comment is not to be taken seriously, especially after the revelation that India falsified maternal death reports to meet MDG targets, or the fact that local politicians and military officials use foreign aid to enrich themselves. Indeed corruption in semi and less developed countries is a large part of the problem. However, even if corruption were to disappear by magic in a single day, the chronic problems that the UN has identified will remain for as long as the political economy is based on the principle of capital concentration and accumulation flowing outward from the less developed nations to the rich nations, and from labor to business.

The larger question to ponder in the UN's MDG program is why the political and business establishment is behind this effort, why the same elites largely responsible for the calamities of chronic poverty are insisting they wish to eradicate it? One answer is that MDG is morally correct and that businesspeople and government and non-government organizations like the IMF and World Bank that support MDG are motivated by humanitarianism, compassion for the poor, for tens of thousands of children dying each day of hunger.

My answer to MDG and its supporters is that there are interesting parallels between the British ending slavery and UN’s MDG. Did the British end slavery out of consideration for non-white people, did they do it owing to pressure from minister of the church, or was there another motive that was rooted in the changing economy? British policy to retain the population in their colonies as the economy was changing from commercial to industrial capitalism thus the slave trade (ACT OF 1807) followed by the Abolition Act of 1833 was based on the realistic need for labor in the colonies to supply the mother country with raw materials for global trade. Industrial capitalism was based on free labor as it was on free trade, therefore the institution of slavery was anachronistic, for it was the product of commercial capitalism that was overtaken by industrial and finance capitalism.

Today, we have the evolution of globalization that needs a solid work force in the semi- and less developed countries where labor values are low, otherwise the growth and expansion of capitalism cannot continue. The UN is offering the forum and the means for governments of the rich nations serving the market economy to create a more viable work force in the semi- and less developed nations, and to continue the thorough geographic and economic integration of every inch on the planet in order to realize the goal of capital concentration.