Saturday, 16 December 2017

Petrodollars, Petroyuan, and the Ongoing Erosion of American Hegemony

The World Financial Review has published our latest piece, “The Rise of the Petroyuanand the Slow Erosion of Dollar Hegemony.”
–In it, we explain how, for four decades, the dollar’s standing as the world’s most important currency—which has undergirded much of America’s post-World War II primacy in international affairs—has rested largely on the greenback’s dominant role in international energy markets.  In explaining this, we underscore that Washington’s ability to leverage the security concerns of Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf Arab states to influence their decision-making on how their oil exports are priced and their petrodollar surpluses recycled has been central to consolidating and maintaining the dollar’s unique role in international energy markets.
–We also explain how China’s rise, as a global economic power and as Persian Gulf energy producers’ most important incremental market, poses the biggest challenge yet to the indefinite prolongation of dollar dominance, in international energy markets and more generally.  In this regard, the emergence of the “petroyuan” alongside the petrodollar will almost certainly accelerate the ongoing erosion of America’s wider hegemony.
While we don’t explore this in great detail in the article, there is an important Iranian angle to our story:  for over four decades, ruling elites in Saudi Arabia and some of its Persian Gulf Arab neighbors have feared the rise of a modern, economically advanced Iran; this grounds a large share of the concerns felt by Gulf Arab elites that the United States has leveraged to create and perpetuate the oil-dollar nexus.
– In the 1970s, Persian Gulf Arab states watched as late imperial Iran grew richer from higher oil prices, converted much of its wealth into a large, sophisticated, and mostly U.S.-supplied military apparatus and began to assert Iranian power around the Persian Gulf.
–From the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the Saudis and some of their Gulf Arab neighbors have been even more worried about the Islamic Republic of Iran.  While Iran’s conventional military capabilities have atrophied severely since the revolution, the Islamic Republic’s model of participatory governance combined with indigenous technological advancement and foreign policy independence represents a different sort of “threat” to Gulf Arab polities.
–More recently, as we note in our article, in many ways the petroyuan got its start in Iran; for several years now, China has paid for some of its oil imports from the Islamic Republic with renminbi.
To read the article, please go to or click here for the PDF.  We’ve also appended the text (with links) below. 
The Rise of the Petroyuan and the Slow Erosion of Dollar Hegemony
by Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett
 For seventy years, one of the critical foundations of American power has been the dollar’s standing as the world’s most important currency.  For the last forty years, a pillar of dollar primacy has been the greenback’s dominant role in international energy markets.  Today, China is leveraging its rise as an economic power, and as the most important incremental market for hydrocarbon exporters in the Persian Gulf and the former Soviet Union to circumscribe dollar dominance in global energy—with potentially profound ramifications for America’s strategic position.             
Since World War II, America’s geopolitical supremacy has rested not only on military might, but also on the dollar’s standing as the world’s leading transactional and reserve currency.  Economically, dollar primacy extracts “seignorage”—the difference between the cost of printing money and its value—from other countries, and minimises U.S. firms’ exchange rate risk.  Its real importance, though, is strategic:  dollar primacy lets America cover its chronic current account and fiscal deficits by issuing more of its own currency—precisely how Washington has funded its hard power projection for over half a century.    
Since the 1970s, a pillar of dollar primacy has been the greenback’s role as the dominant currency in which oil and gas are priced, and in which international hydrocarbon sales are invoiced and settled.  This helps keep worldwide dollar demand high.  It also feeds energy producers’ accumulation of dollar surpluses that reinforce the dollar’s standing as the world’s premier reserve asset, and that can be “recycled” into the U.S. economy to cover American deficits.
Many assume that the dollar’s prominence in energy markets derives from its wider status as the world’s foremost transactional and reserve currency.  But the dollar’s role in these markets is neither natural nor a function of its broader dominance.  Rather, it was engineered by U.S. policymakers after the Bretton Woods monetary order collapsed in the early 1970s, ending the initial version of dollar primacy (“dollar hegemony 1.0”).  Linking the dollar to international oil trading was key to creating a new version of dollar primacy (“dollar hegemony 2.0”)—and, by extension, in financing another forty years of American hegemony.
Gold and Dollar Hegemony 1.0 
Dollar primacy was first enshrined at the 1944 Bretton Woods conference, where America’s non-communist allies acceded to Washington’s blueprint for a postwar international monetary order.  Britain’s delegation—headed by Lord Keynes—and virtually every other participating country, save the United States, favoured creating a new multilateral currency through the fledgling International Monetary Fund (IMF) as the chief source of global liquidity.  But this would have thwarted American ambitions for a dollar-centered monetary order.  Even though almost all participants preferred the multilateral option, America’s overwhelming relative power ensured that, in the end, its preferences prevailed.  So, under the Bretton Woods gold exchange standard, the dollar was pegged to gold and other currencies were pegged to the dollar, making it the main form of international liquidity.
There was, however, a fatal contradiction in Washington’s dollar-based vision.  The only way America could diffuse enough dollars to meet worldwide liquidity needs was by running open-ended current account deficits.  As Western Europe and Japan recovered and regained competitiveness, these deficits grew.  Throw in America’s own burgeoning demand for dollars—to fund rising consumption, welfare state expansion, and global power projection—and the U.S. money supply soon exceeded U.S. gold reserves.  From the 1950s, Washington worked to persuade or coerce foreign dollar holders not to exchange greenbacks for gold.  But insolvency could be staved off for only so long:  in August 1971, President Nixon suspended dollar-gold convertibility, ending the gold exchange standard; by 1973, fixed exchange rates were gone, too.
These events raised fundamental questions about the long-term soundness of a dollar-based monetary order.  To preserve its role as chief provider of international liquidity, the U.S. would have to continue running current account deficits.  But those deficits were ballooning, for Washington’s abandonment of Bretton Woods intersected with two other watershed developments: America became a net oil importer in the early 1970s; and the assertion of market power by key members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in 1973-1974 caused a 500% increase in oil prices, exacerbating the strain on the U.S. balance of payments.  With the link between the dollar and gold severed and exchange rates no longer fixed, the prospect of ever-larger U.S. deficits aggravated concerns about the dollar’s long-term value.
These concerns had special resonance for major oil producers.  Oil going to international markets has been priced in dollars, at least since the 1920s—but, for decades, sterling was used at least as frequently as dollars in order to settle transnational oil purchases, even after the dollar had replaced sterling as the world’s preeminent trade and reserve currency.  As long as sterling was pegged to the dollar and the dollar was “as good as gold,” this was economically viable.  But, after Washington abandoned dollar-gold convertibility and the world transitioned from fixed to floating exchange rates, the currency regime for oil trading was up for grabs.  With the end of dollar-gold convertibility, America’s major allies in the Persian Gulf—the Shah’s Iran, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia—came to favour shifting OPEC’s pricing system, from denominating prices in dollars to denominating them in a basket of currencies.
In this environment, several of America’s European allies revived the idea (first broached by Keynes at Bretton Woods) of providing international liquidity in the form of an IMF-issued, multilaterally-governed currency—so-called “Special Drawing Rights” (SDRs).  After rising oil prices engorged their current accounts, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab allies of the United States pushed for OPEC to begin invoicing in SDRs.  They also endorsed European proposals to recycle petrodollar surpluses through the IMF, in order to encourage its emergence as the main post-Bretton Woods provider of international liquidity.  That would have meant Washington could not continue to print as many dollars, as it wanted to support rising consumption, mushrooming welfare expenditures, and sustained global power projection.  To avert this, American policymakers had to find new ways to incentivise foreigners to continue holding ever-larger surpluses of what were now fiat dollars.
Oil and Dollar Hegemony 2.0
To this end, U.S. administrations from the mid-1970s devised two strategies.  One was to maximise demand for dollars as a transactional currency.  The other was to reverse Bretton Woods’ restrictions on transnational capital flows; with financial liberalisation, America could leverage the breadth and depth of its capital markets, and it could cover its chronic current account and fiscal deficits by attracting foreign capital at relatively low cost.  Forging strong links between hydrocarbon sales and the dollar proved critical on both fronts.
To forge such links, Washington effectively extorted its Gulf Arab allies, quietly conditioning U.S. guarantees of their security to their willingness to financially help the United States.  Reneging on pledges to its European and Japanese partners, the Ford administration clandestinely pushed Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab producers to recycle substantial parts of their petrodollar surpluses into the U.S. economy through private (largely U.S.) intermediaries, rather than through the IMF.  The Ford administration also elicited Gulf Arab support for Washington’s strained finances, reaching secret deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for their central banks to buy large volumes of U.S. Treasury securities outside normal auction processes.  These commitments helped Washington prevent the IMF from supplanting the United States as the main provider of international liquidity; they also gave a crucial early boost to Washington’s ambitions to finance U.S. deficits by recycling foreign dollar surpluses via private capital markets and purchases of U.S. government securities.
A few years later, the Carter administration struck another secret deal with the Saudis, whereby Riyadh committed to exert its influence to ensure that OPEC continued pricing oil in dollars.  OPEC’s commitment to the dollar as the invoice currency for international oil sales was key to broader embrace of the dollar as the oil market’s reigning transactional currency.  As OPEC’s administered price system collapsed in the mid-1980s, the Reagan administration encouraged universalised dollar invoicing for cross-border oil sales on new oil exchanges in London and New York.  Nearly universal pricing of oil—and, later on, gas—in dollars has bolstered the likelihood that hydrocarbon sales will not just be denominated in dollars, but settled in them as well, generating ongoing support for worldwide dollar demand.
In short, these bargains were instrumental in creating “dollar hegemony 2.0.”  And they have largely held up, despite periodic Gulf Arab dissatisfaction with America’s Middle East policy, more fundamental U.S. estrangement from other major Gulf producers (Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and the Islamic Republic of Iran), and a flurry of interest in the “petro–Euro” in the early 2000s.  The Saudis, especially, have vigorously defendedexclusive pricing of oil in dollars.  While Saudi Arabia and other major energy producers now accept payment for their oil exports in other major currencies, the larger share of the world’s hydrocarbon sales continue to be settled in dollars, perpetuating the greenback’s status as the world’s top transactional currency.  Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab producers have supplemented their support for the oil-dollar nexus with ample purchases of advanced U.S. weapons; most have also pegged their currencies to the dollar—a commitment which senior Saudi officials describe as “strategic.”  While the dollar’s share of global reserves has dropped, Gulf Arab petrodollar recycling helps keep it the world’s leading reserve currency.             
The China Challenge
Still, history and logic caution that current practices are not set in stone.  With the rise of the “petroyuan,” movement towards a less dollar-centric currency regime in international energy markets—with potentially serious implications for the dollar’s broader standing—is already underway.
As China has emerged as a major player on the global energy scene, it has also embarked on an extended campaign to internationalise its currency.  A rising share of China’s external trade is being denominated and settled in renminbi; issuance of renminbi-denominated financial instruments is growing.  China is pursuing a protracted process of capital account liberalisation essential to full renminbi internationalisation, and is allowing more exchange rate flexibility for the yuan.  The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) now has swap arrangements with over thirty other central banks—meaning that renminbi already effectively functions as a reserve currency.
Chinese policymakers appreciate the “advantages of incumbency” the dollar enjoys; their aim is not for renminbi to replace dollars, but to position the yuan alongside the greenback as a transactional and reserve currency.  Besides economic benefits (e.g., lowering Chinese businesses’ foreign exchange costs), Beijing wants—for strategic reasons—to slow further growth of its enormous dollar reserves.  China has watched America’s increasing propensity to cut off countries from the U.S. financial system as a foreign policy tool, and worries about Washington trying to leverage it this way; renminbi internationalisation can mitigate such vulnerability.  More broadly, Beijing understands the importance of dollar dominance to American power; by chipping away at it, China can contain excessive U.S. unilateralism.
China has long incorporated financial instruments into its efforts to access foreign hydrocarbons.  Now Beijing wants major energy producers to accept renminbi as a transactional currency—including to settle Chinese hydrocarbon purchases—and incorporate renminbi in their central bank reserves.  Producers have reason to be receptive.  China is, for the vastly foreseeable future, the main incremental market for hydrocarbon producers in the Persian Gulf and former Soviet Union.  Widespread expectations of long-term yuan appreciation make accumulating renminbi reserves a “no brainer” in terms of portfolio diversification.  And, as America is increasingly viewed as a hegemon in relative decline, China is seen as the preeminent rising power.  Even for Gulf Arab states long reliant on Washington as their ultimate security guarantor, this makes closer ties to Beijing an imperative strategic hedge.  For Russia, deteriorating relations with the United States impel deeper cooperation with China, against what both Moscow and Beijing consider a declining, yet still dangerously flailing and over-reactive, America.
For several years, China has paid for some of its oil imports from Iran with renminbi; in 2012, the PBOC and the UAE Central Bank set up a $5.5 billion currency swap, setting the stage for settling Chinese oil imports from Abu Dhabi in renminbi—an important expansion of petroyuan use in the Persian Gulf.  The $400 billion Sino-Russian gas deal that was concluded this year apparently provides for settling Chinese purchases of Russian gas inrenminbi; if fully realised, this would mean an appreciable role for renminbi in transnational gas transactions.
Looking ahead, use of renminbi to settle international hydrocarbon sales will surely increase, accelerating the decline of American influence in key energy-producing regions.  It will also make it marginally harder for Washington to finance what China and other rising powers consider overly interventionist foreign policies—a prospect America’s political class has hardly begun to ponder.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

واشنطن تقايض الرياض بالقدس

واشنطن تقايض الرياض بالقدس

ديسمبر 15, 2017

ناصر قنديل

– تستطيع أي نظرة متفحّصة لما يجري في ملفي فلسطين وسورية تبيّن الخيط الرفيع الرابط، وهو المصالح «الإسرائيلية»، ومضمون هذه المصالح واضح بتجميد أي حلّ سياسي في سورية مبنيّ على حقائق الميدان العسكري، يسهّل عودة الدولة السورية وتعافيها، منعاً لما يشكّله ذلك من مكاسب فورية لمحور المقاومة كقوى وحكومات تستعدّ لجعل فلسطين أولويّتها، وإسقاط القرار الأميركي حول القدس عنوانها المباشر، فبقاء الارتباك والتشوش في مستقبل سورية هدف «إسرائيلي» دائم، ويصير أكثر حيوية في زمن المواجهة المتفجّرة في فلسطين ومساعي محور المقاومة للتفرّغ لهذه المواجهة.

– يعرف الأميركيون أن دوام الحال من المحال، وأن تعقيد مسار جنيف لن يُقفل طرق البدائل الميدانية والسياسية، لذلك فهم يبيعون إنجاز التعقيد للسعودية، كطرف يرعى وفد التفاوض للمعارضة بسقوف لا تراعي المتغيّرات، فمنح واشنطن للتغطية للتعقيد السعودي مبني على مصلحة انتقالية، يجري خلالها البحث بمستقبل الوجود الأميركي في سورية قبل أي تسهيل للحل السياسي. وهو في الوقت نفسه مسعى لمبادلة الوجود الأميركي بضوابط تقييد لقوى المقاومة في سورية بما يحقّق بعض الاطمئنان لـ«إسرائيل ، لكن الرهان الأصلي يبقى على إطلاق مسارات تطغى على قرار القدس الذي أطلقه الأميركيون، ومساعدة الإسرائيليين على هضم نتائجه في الميدان.

– التفاهم الأميركي السعودي الإسرائيلي عميق، ولا يُحرِج الرياض القول علناً إنها على ثقة بأن واشنطن وسيط إيجابي ومقبول في عملية السلام، رغم قرار القدس، وأنّ لديها خطة للسلام يجري إنضاجها بالتنسيق مع السعودية، كما قال وزير خارجيتها عادل الجبير، الذي غاب عن مؤتمر القمة الإسلامية في اسطنبول هو وملكه وولي عهده، ليمثلهم وزير الثقافة، باعتبار قرار اعتماد القدس عاصمة لـ«إسرائيل قراراً ثقافياً، يتصل بالتراث لا بالسياسة والسيادة، وكان الجبير في باريس لرشوة فرنسا بتمويل مشروعها السياسي في الساحل الأفريقي مقابل تقبّل عدم صلاحيتها كوسيط للعملية التفاوضية تتطلع إليه قمة اسطنبول، بقوله الصريح ومن باريس أثناء انعقاد القمة، إن اوروبا يمكنها أن تساعد، لكنها لا تستطيع الحلول مكان واشنطن التي تبقى وحدها المؤهلة لإدارة العملية التفاوضية، وفقاً لقول الجبير.

– المسار الذي تُعِدّه واشنطن وتستعدّ الرياض وتل أبيب للتعاون تحت ظلاله، كشفت النقاب عنه ممثلة واشنطن في الأمم المتحدة، نيكي هايلي، بقولها إن الأولوية الأميركية هي تشكيل حلف دولي للراغبين بمواجهة إيران، وسارعت كل من السعودية وإسرائيل للإعلان عن جهوزيتهما للانضمام لهذا الحلف ورهان الثلاثي الأميركي السعودي الإسرائيلي هو نجاح مزدوج، الأول بجعل العداء لإيران يتقدّم على العداء لـ«إسرائيل ومصير القدس، فيرى الشارع العربي أن إسرائيل التي تهوّد القدس وأميركا التي تبيعها شركاء وحلفاء، لأنّهم يرفعون لواء العداء لإيران، والنجاح الثاني هو في تمكّن الثلاثي الأميركي السعودي الإسرائيلي من احتواء الانتفاضة الفلسطينية بالجمع بين القوة الإسرائيلية والمال السعودي والتلاعب السياسي الاستخباري المشترك بأوراق القيادات الفلسطينية، والسعودية أمام إغراء تغطية مواصلة عدوانها على اليمن مقابل تغطية تهويد القدس جاهزة للمقايضة.

– قوى محور المقاومة تقرأ وتدرك ما يجري من حولها، وتضع الخطط مقابل الخطط، ولذلك عطّلت القنبلة المفخّخة في جنيف بفضح اللعبة. وهذه المهمة تولاها رئيس الوفد السوري المفاوض السفير بشار الجعفري، بينما الساحة الفصل التي ستقول كلمتها هي فلسطين، حيث سيثبت أن إسرائيل لا تزال هي العدو، والقدس هي العنوان، وأن ساحات المواجهة لن تهدأ، والمسارات المفتعلة ستُحرق أيدي أصحابها، والقطار السوري سيمضي من دون أن ينتظر طويلاً نضج الآخرين للركوب في المقصورة المخصّصة لهم، والوجود الأميركي في سورية ليس تحت حماية إلهية، طالما أن الحرب على الإرهاب قد انتهت مهمته المزعومة فيها، وصار احتلالاً مكشوفاً، وطالما أن الصواريخ اليمنية قد اختبرت قدرتها على إنشاء توازن رعب وردع في مواجهة الوحشية السعودية في الحرب على المدن اليمنية.

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The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

Yes, the FBI is America’s secret police


By James Bovard – The Hill – 12/11/17
Politifact delivered a “pants on fire” slam to Fox News on Friday because one of its commentators asserted that the Federal Bureau of Investigation “has become America’s secret police.” The FBI has legions of new champions nowadays among liberals and Democrats who hope that its probes will end Donald Trump’s presidency. This is a stunning reversal that may have J. Edgar Hoover spinning in his grave.
In order to boost the credibility of the FBI’s investigations of the Trump team, much of the media is whitewashing the bureau’s entire history. But the FBI has been out of control almost since its birth.
A 1924 American Civil Liberties Union report warned that the FBI had become “a secret police system of a political character.” In the 1930s, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court feared that the FBI had bugged the conference room where justices privately wrangled over landmark cases, as Tim Weiner noted in his “Enemies: A History of the FBI.” In 1945, President Harry Truman noted that “We want no Gestapo or Secret Police. FBI is tending in that direction.” And FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover compiled a list of 20,000 “potentially or actually dangerous” Americans who could be rounded up and locked away in one of the six detention camps the federal government secretly built in the 1950s.
From 1956 through 1971, the FBI’s COINTELPRO program conducted thousands of covert operations to incite street warfare between violent groups, to get people fired, to smear innocent people by portraying them as government informants, to sic the IRS on people, and to cripple or destroy left-wing, communist, white racist, antiwar, and black organizations (including Martin Luther King Jr.). These operations involved vast numbers of warrantless wiretaps and illicit break-ins and resulted in the murder of some black militants. A Senate Committee chaired by liberal Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho) issued a damning report on FBI abuses of power that should be mandatory reading for anyone who believes the bureau deserves deference today.According to Politifact, the FBI is not a “secret police agency” because “the FBI is run by laws, not by whim.” But we learned five years ago that the FBI explicitly teaches its agents that “the FBI has the ability to bend or suspend the law to impinge on the freedom of others.” No FBI official was fired or punished when that factoid leaked out because this has been the Bureau’s tacit code for eons. Similarly, an FBI academy ethics course taught new agents that subjects of FBI investigations have “forfeited their right to the truth.” Are liberals so anxious to get Trump that they have swept under the rug the 2015 Washington Post bombshell about false FBI trial testimony that may have sentenced 32 innocent people to death?
Politifact absolved the bureau because “The FBI doesn’t torture or carry out extrajudicial executions.” Tell that to the Branch Davidians — 80 of whom died after the FBI assaulted their ramshackle home with tanks and pyrotechnic devices and collapsed much of the building on their heads even before fires burst out.
Politifact quotes a professor who asserts that “any use of unnecessary violence (by the FBI) would be met with the full force of the criminal law.” Is that why an internal FBI report claimed that every one of the 150 shootings by FBI agents between 1993 and 2011 was faultless?
FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi gunned down Vicki Weaver in 1992 as she stood in her Idaho cabin doorway holding her baby. After I accused the FBI of a coverup in a Wall Street Journal oped, FBI chief Louis Freeh denounced me for twisting the truth. But after a confidential Justice Department report leaked out revealing the FBI’s deceits and unconstitutional rules of engagement, the feds paid a $3 million wrongful death settlement to the Weaver family. When an Idaho County sought to prosecute the FBI sniper, the Justice Department invoked the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution to torpedo the case.
Politifact asserts that “just because the FBI sometimes operates in secret does not mean that it’s a ‘secret police.’” But the FBI’s secrecy is profoundly skewing American politics. More than a year after the 2016 election, Americans still have no idea the true extent of the FBI’s manipulation of the presidential campaign. Did the FBI wrongfully absolve Hillary Clinton on the email server issue? What role did the FBI have in financing or exploiting the Steele dossier? Will we ever learn the full truth?
The so-called fact checkers insists that any comparison of the FBI and KGB is “ridiculous” because the FBI is “subject to the rule of law and is democratically accountable.” But there is little or no accountability when few members of Congress have the courage to openly criticize or vigorously cross-examine FBI officials. House Majority Leader Hale Boggs admitted in 1971 that Congress was afraid of the FBI: “Our very fear of speaking out (against the FBI) … has watered the roots and hastened the growth of a vine of tyranny … which is ensnaring that Constitution and Bill of Rights which we are each sworn to uphold.” The FBI is currently scorning almost every congressional attempt at oversight. Thus far, members of Congress have responded with nothing except press releases and talk show bluster.
Politifact repeatedly scoffs at the notion that the FBI is “a secret police agency such as the old KGB.” And since the FBI is not as bad as the KGB, let’s mosey along and pretend no good citizen has a right to complain. A similar standard could exonerate any American president who was not as bad as Stalin.
In the 1960s, some conservatives adorned their cars with “Support Your Local Sheriff” bumper stickers. How long until we see Priuses with “Support Your Secretive All-Powerful Federal Agents” bumper stickers? But those who forget or deny past oppression help forge new shackles for the American people.
James Bovard is a USA Today columnist and the author of 10 books, including “Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty” (St. Martin’s Press, 1994).
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The U.S. is Not a Democracy, It Never Was

By Gabriel Rockhill

Regarding elections, they are run in the United States as long, multi-million dollar advertising campaigns in which the candidates and issues are pre-selected by the corporate and party elite.”
Photo by Daniel Huizinga | CC BY 2.0
One of the most steadfast beliefs regarding the United States is that it is a democracy. Whenever this conviction waivers slightly, it is almost always to point out detrimental exceptions to core American values or foundational principles. For instance, aspiring critics frequently bemoan a “loss of democracy” due to the election of clownish autocrats, draconian measures on the part of the state, the revelation of extraordinary malfeasance or corruption, deadly foreign interventions, or other such activities that are considered undemocratic exceptions. The same is true for those whose critical framework consists in always juxtaposing the actions of the U.S. government to its founding principles, highlighting the contradiction between the two and clearly placing hope in its potential resolution.
The problem, however, is that there is no contradiction or supposed loss of democracy because the United States simply never was one. This is a difficult reality for many people to confront, and they are likely more inclined to immediately dismiss such a claim as preposterous rather than take the time to scrutinize the material historical record in order to see for themselves. Such a dismissive reaction is due in large part to what is perhaps the most successful public relations campaign in modern history. What will be seen, however, if this record is soberly and methodically inspected, is that a country founded on elite, colonial rule based on the power of wealth—a plutocratic colonial oligarchy, in short—has succeeded not only in buying the label of “democracy” to market itself to the masses, but in having its citizenry, and many others, so socially and psychologically invested in its nationalist origin myth that they refuse to hear lucid and well-documented arguments to the contrary.
To begin to peel the scales from our eyes, let us outline in the restricted space of this article, five patent reasons why the United States has never been a democracy (a more sustained and developed argument is available in my book, Counter-History of the Present). To begin with, British colonial expansion into the Americas did not occur in the name of the freedom and equality of the general population, or the conferral of power to the people. Those who settled on the shores of the “new world,” with few exceptions, did not respect the fact that it was a very old world indeed, and that a vast indigenous population had been living there for centuries. As soon as Columbus set foot, Europeans began robbing, enslaving and killing the native inhabitants. The trans-Atlantic slave trade commenced almost immediately thereafter, adding a countless number of Africans to the ongoing genocidal assault against the indigenous population. Moreover, it is estimated that over half of the colonists who came to North America from Europe during the colonial period were poor indentured servants, and women were generally trapped in roles of domestic servitude. Rather than the land of the free and equal, then, European colonial expansion to the Americas imposed a land of the colonizer and the colonized, the master and the slave, the rich and the poor, the free and the un-free. The former constituted, moreover, an infinitesimally small minority of the population, whereas the overwhelming majority, meaning “the people,” was subjected to death, slavery, servitude, and unremitting socio-economic oppression.
Second, when the elite colonial ruling class decided to sever ties from their homeland and establish an independent state for themselves, they did not found it as a democracy. On the contrary, they were fervently and explicitly opposed to democracy, like the vast majority of European Enlightenment thinkers. They understood it to be a dangerous and chaotic form of uneducated mob rule. For the so-called “founding fathers,” the masses were not only incapable of ruling, but they were considered a threat to the hierarchical social structures purportedly necessary for good governance. In the words of John Adams, to take but one telling example, if the majority were given real power, they would redistribute wealth and dissolve the “subordination” so necessary for politics. When the eminent members of the landowning class met in 1787 to draw up a constitution, they regularly insisted in their debates on the need to establish a republic that kept at bay vile democracy, which was judged worse than “the filth of the common sewers” by the pro-Federalist editor William Cobbett. The new constitution provided for popular elections only in the House of Representatives, but in most states the right to vote was based on being a property owner, and women, the indigenous and slaves—meaning the overwhelming majority of the population—were simply excluded from the franchise. Senators were elected by state legislators, the President by electors chosen by the state legislators, and the Supreme Court was appointed by the President. It is in this context that Patrick Henry flatly proclaimed the most lucid of judgments: “it is not a democracy.” George Mason further clarified the situation by describing the newly independent country as “a despotic aristocracy.”
When the American republic slowly came to be relabeled as a “democracy,” there were no significant institutional modifications to justify the change in name. In other words, and this is the third point, the use of the term “democracy” to refer to an oligarchic republic simply meant that a different word was being used to describe the same basic phenomenon. This began around the time of “Indian killer” Andrew Jackson’s presidential campaign in the 1830s. Presenting himself as a ‘democrat,’ he put forth an image of himself as an average man of the people who was going to put a halt to the long reign of patricians from Virginia and Massachusetts. Slowly but surely, the term “democracy” came to be used as a public relations term to re-brand a plutocratic oligarchy as an electoral regime that serves the interest of the people or demosMeanwhile, the American holocaust continued unabated, along with chattel slavery, colonial expansion and top-down class warfare.
In spite of certain minor changes over time, the U.S. republic has doggedly preserved its oligarchic structure, and this is readily apparent in the two major selling points of its contemporary “democratic” publicity campaign. The Establishment and its propagandists regularly insist that a structural aristocracy is a “democracy” because the latter is defined by the guarantee of certain fundamental rights (legal definition) and the holding of regular elections (procedural definition). This is, of course, a purely formal, abstract and largely negative understanding of democracy, which says nothing whatsoever about people having real, sustained power over the governing of their lives. However, even this hollow definition dissimulates the extent to which, to begin with, the supposed equality before the law in the United States presupposes an inequality before the law by excluding major sectors of the population: those judged not to have the right to rights, and those considered to have lost their right to rights (Native Americans, African-Americans and women for most of the country’s history, and still today in certain aspects, as well as immigrants, “criminals,” minors, the “clinically insane,” political dissidents, and so forth). Regarding elections, they are run in the United States as long, multi-million dollar advertising campaigns in which the candidates and issues are pre-selected by the corporate and party elite. The general population, the majority of whom do not have the right to vote or decide not to exercise it, are given the “choice”—overseen by an undemocratic electoral college and embedded in a non-proportional representation scheme—regarding which member of the aristocratic elite they would like to have rule over and oppress them for the next four years. “Multivariate analysis indicates,” according to an important recent study by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page, “that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic-Elite Domination […], but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy.”
To take but a final example of the myriad ways in which the U.S. is not, and has never been, a democracy, it is worth highlighting its consistent assault on movements of people power. Since WWII, it has endeavored to overthrow some 50 foreign governments, most of which were democratically elected. It has also, according the meticulous calculations by William Blum in America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy, grossly interfered in the elections of at least 30 countries, attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders, dropped bombs on more than 30 countries, and attempted to suppress populist movements in 20 countries. The record on the home front is just as brutal. To take but one significant parallel example, there is ample evidence that the FBI has been invested in a covert war against democracy. Beginning at least in the 1960s, and likely continuing up to the present, the Bureau “extended its earlier clandestine operations against the Communist party, committing its resources to undermining the Puerto Rico independence movement, the Socialist Workers party, the civil rights movement, Black nationalist movements, the Ku Klux Klan, segments of the peace movement, the student movement, and the ‘New Left’ in general” (Cointelpro: The FBI’s Secret War on Political Freedom, p. 22-23). Consider, for instance, Judi Bari’s summary of its assault on the Socialist Workers Party: “From 1943-63, the federal civil rights case Socialist Workers Party v. Attorney General documents decades of illegal FBI break-ins and 10 million pages of surveillance records. The FBI paid an estimated 1,600 informants $1,680,592 and used 20,000 days of wiretaps to undermine legitimate political organizing.” In the case of the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement (AIM)—which were both important attempts to mobilize people power to dismantle the structural oppression of white supremacy and top-down class warfare—the FBI not only infiltrated them and launched hideous smear and destabilization campaigns against them, but they assassinated 27 Black Panthers and 69 members of AIM (and subjected countless others to the slow death of incarceration). If it be abroad or on the home front, the American secret police has been extremely proactive in beating down the movements of people rising up, thereby protecting and preserving the main pillars of white supremacist, capitalist aristocracy.
Rather than blindly believing in a golden age of democracy in order to remain at all costs within the gilded cage of an ideology produced specifically for us by the well-paid spin-doctors of a plutocratic oligarchy, we should unlock the gates of history and meticulously scrutinize the founding and evolution of the American imperial republic. This will not only allow us to take leave of its jingoist and self-congratulatory origin myths, but it will also provide us with the opportunity to resuscitate and reactivate so much of what they have sought to obliterate. In particular, there is a radical America just below the surface of these nationalist narratives, an America in which the population autonomously organizes itself in indigenous and ecological activism, black radical resistance, anti-capitalist mobilization, anti-patriarchal struggles, and so forth. It is this America that the corporate republic has sought to eradicate, while simultaneously investing in an expansive public relations campaign to cover over its crimes with the fig leaf of “democracy” (which has sometimes required integrating a few token individuals, who appear to be from below, into the elite ruling class in order to perpetuate the all-powerful myth of meritocracy). If we are astute and perspicacious enough to recognize that the U.S. is undemocratic today, let us not be so indolent or ill-informed that we let ourselves be lulled to sleep by lullabies praising its halcyon past. Indeed, if the United States is not a democracy today, it is in large part due to the fact that it never was one. Far from being a pessimistic conclusion, however, it is precisely by cracking open the hard shell of ideological encasement that we can tap into the radical forces that have been suppressed by it. These forces—not those that have been deployed to destroy them—should be the ultimate source of our pride in the power of the people.
Gabriel Rockhill is a Franco-American philosopher and cultural critic. He is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Villanova University and founding Director of the Atelier de Théorie Critique at the Sorbonne. His books include Counter-History of the Present: Untimely Interrogations into Globalization, Technology, Democracy (2017), Interventions in Contemporary Thought: History, Politics, Aesthetics (2016), Radical History & the Politics of Art (2014) and Logique de l’histoire (2010). In addition to his scholarly work, he has been actively engaged in extra-academic activities in the art and activist worlds, as well as a regular contributor to public intellectual debate. Follow on twitter: @GabrielRockhill
This article was originally published by Counterpunch

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Friday, 15 December 2017

قمة السلاجقة والأعراب لن تبيعوا القدس مرّتين انتظروا المنازلة الكبرى في فلسطين

محمد صادق الحسيني

ديسمبر 14, 2017

انتباه انتباه انتباه

يُجمع العارفون بخفايا الأمور بأن ما حصل في اسطنبول يوم أمس، في ما سُمّي بقمة التعاون الاسلامي إنما هو في الواقع تآمر وتواطؤ سلجوقي سعودي مصري على الفلسطينيين ومبايعة مبطّنة لترامب، وكل ما عدا ذلك تضليل، قولوها صراحة ولا تضحكوا على الناس…!

المنافقون في قمة السلاجقة عندما يقولون بالقدس الشرقية عاصمة لفلسطين دون ذكر حدود 4 حزيران 67 يعني تخلياً عن كامل المقدّسات الإسلامية والمسيحية…!

قمة السلاجقة في اسطنبول خطيرة جداً.

وهي اعتراف بـ أبو ديس عاصمة لفلسطينهم. هذا ما اتفق عليه السيسي وسلمان وأبو مازن بأمر عمليات أميركي مبكر صادق عليه صائب عريقات ومدير المخابرات الفلسطينية قبل نحو ثلاثة أسابيع في أميركا…!

وإليكم تبعات وتداعيات هذه القمة التي يرى فيها البعض أشبه بنكبة ١٩٦٧ جديدة:

أولاً: لقد حققت القمة السلجوقية، التي عقدت أمس 13/12/2017 في اسطنبول، لـ«إسرائيل» أكثر بكثير مما حققه ترامب لها عندما اعترف بالقدس عاصمة لـ«إسرائيل». إذ إن هذه القمة قد سجلت اعتراف 57 دولة إسلامية بالقدس الغربية عاصمة لـ«إسرائيل» من دون أن تحدّد حدود القدس الغربية…!

ثانياً: فيما لم يعترف قرار الأمم المتحدة القاضي بتقسيم فلسطين والصادر في 29/12/1947 بالقدس عاصمة لـ«إسرائيل» وإنما أخضعها لنظام التدويل، أي أن تصبح مدينة دولية مفتوحة للجميع وخاضعة لإدارة دولية.

ثالثاً: وبما أن مفهوم «إسرائيل» للقدس الشرقية يقضي باقتصارها على ضاحية أبو ديس، الواقعة خارج سُور الفصل العنصري «الإسرائيلي» وخارج البلدة القديمة في القدس، فإن الاعتراف بالقدس الشرقية عاصمة لفلسطين ومن دون ذكر لحدود عام 1967 فهذا يشكل تماهياً مع المفهوم «الإسرائيلي» الأميركي للقدس…!

وبالتالي موافقة عملية على مفهوم القدس في صفقة ترامب التي يطلق عليها صفقة القرن…!

رابعاً: وهذا يعني تنازل القمة السلجوقية عن القدس الشرقية الأصلية أيضاً، أي البلدة القديمة، وما فيها من مقدسات مسيحية وإسلامية، لـ«إسرائيل»…!

إضافة الى القدس الغربية التي احتلت عام 1948، وهي بالأساس جزء من مدينة القدس العربية الفلسطينية التي كان يفترض أن تصبح خاضعة لإدارة دولية، حسب القرار الدولي 181 القاضي بتقسيم فلسطين.

خامساً: إن كل ما عدا ذلك من كلام أُطلق في هذه القمة لا قيمة له على الإطلاق ولا يتعدّى كونه أرضية لمزيد من الضياع الفلسطيني في غياهب المنظمات الدولية وغيرها لهاثاً وراء عضوية هنا وهناك.

علماً أن الدول التي شاركت في القمة المذكورة هي أعضاء في جميع هذه المنظمات ولَم تقدّم عضويتها أي خطوة على طريق تحرير فلسطين. كما أن هذا الوقت الذي سيذهب هدراً في الركض وراء سراب المنظمات الدولية وقراراتها، التي لم تحترمها لا «إسرائيل» ولا الولايات المتحدة ولو مرة واحدة..!

إن هذا الوقت إنما هو وقت من ذهب بالنسبة لـ«إسرائيل» والتي ستستغله لتعزيز عملياتها المتواصلة في تهويد القدس وإفراغها من أهلها الفلسطينيين بمختلف الوسائل والسبل.

سادساً: أما هدير أردوغان وتصريحاته النارية حول عدوانية «إسرائيل» وعنصريتها، فما هي إلا ذَر للرماد في العيون وتغطية على تآمره مع «إسرائيل» والولايات المتحدة. إذ إن الموقف لا يتطلّب كل هذا الضجيج الفارغ وإنما التوجه إلى العمل الجدي المنظم وعلى الطريقة الإيرانية المتمثلة في تقديم الدعم المباشر، العسكري والمالي واللوجستي لكل فصائل المقاومة التي تقاتل الكيان الصهيوني، لو كان صادقاً..!

وهذا ما لن يقوم به أردوغان، فمنذ انطلاقة الثورة الفلسطينية المعاصرة وحتى الْيَوْمَ لم يسجل التاريخ تقديم سلاجقة تركيا، ومنذ عام 1965 وحتى الْيَوْمَ بندقية واحدة للثورة الفلسطينية، سواء من قبل أردوغان أو من أسلافه من سلاحقة تركيا العلمانيين والإسلاميين، في الوقت الذي سارع الى إقامة قواعد عسكرية تركية في قطر التي لا تواجه أي تهديد خدمة للتحشيد الاستراتيجي ضد إيران وروسيا والصين…!

فأين هي قوات أردوغان التي كان يُفترض فيها أن تهبّ لمساندة المقاومة الفلسطينية في غزة لمواجهة الاعتداءات الإسرائيلية المستمرة والتي كان آخرها عدوان عام 2014!؟

سابعاً: نقول هذا ونحن نستذكر المسؤولية العثمانية/التركية عن ضياع فلسطين، التي دخلها الجنرال اللنبي بتاريخ 11/12/1917 وقامت الادارة الاستعمارية البريطانية بتسليمها للعصابات الصهيونية في العام 1949. أي أن تركيا ملزمة وطبقاً لأحكام القانون الدولي بمساعدة الشعب الفلسطيني في إعادة الوضع في فلسطين الى ما كان عليه قبل احتلالها من قبل القوات البريطانية و«الإسرائيلية» لاحقاً.

وهذا يعني بالتحديد تقديم كل الدعم اللازم للمقاومة الفلسطينية لاسترجاع فلسطين كاملة والاعتراف بالقدس الموحدة عاصمة لها، وكما كانت عندما وقع قائد القوات التركية وثيقة استسلام قواته لقائد الجيوش البريطانية يوم 29/12/1917 وفِي القدس التي كانت عاصمة فلسطين، وليس في القدس الشرقية أو أبو ديس، حسب المفهوم الأميركي «الإسرائيلي».

ثامناً: إن ما صدر عن هذا الاجتماع البائس في اسطنبول الْيَوْمَ لا يرقى إلى الحد الأدنى من مطالب الشعب العربي الفلسطيني الذي لا يعوّل شيئاً على هذا السيرك الاستعراضي المنعدم الفائدة والمعنى.

إن ما يهم الشعب الفلسطيني ويرسم الطريق الصحيح لتحرير بلاده فلسطين وإعادة وتثبيت القدس عاصمة لها هو نداء الانتفاضة الأول الذي صدر من غزة، ونداؤها الثاني أي أمر العمليات التنفيذي الذي صدر في بيروت على لسان سماحة السيد حسن نصر الله يوم أول أمس، والذي بدأ تنفيذه عبر الاتصالات الهاتفية التي أجراها اللواء قاسم سليماني، قائد قوة القدس في الحرس الثوري الإيراني، مع قادة الميدان في قطاع غزة، وتلك التي أجريت مع قادة ميدانيين في الضفة الغربية والتي لم يُعلَن عنها، مما دفع قوات الاحتلال «الإسرائيلي» لتنفيذ حملة اعتقالات واسعة في الضفة الغريبة الليلة الماضية بهدف منع كوادر المقاومة بتنفيذ ما تمّ التوافق عليه في تلك الاتصالات…!

ورغم كلّ ذلك يظلّ الأمل كبيراً على الذين يوصلون الليل بالنهار، وهم يُعدّون للمنازلة الكبرى، التي ستكون أقرب ما يكون بعلامات الساعة أو يوم القيامة، واليد العليا لن تكون إلا لهم.

بعدنا طيّبين، قولوا الله…

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Records of Jerusalem Deeds Found in Ottoman Archives: The Deeds Prove that Palestine Belongs to Palestinians.

Featured image: Sultan Abdul Hamid II (Source: Pinterest)
There are 171,306 deeds recorded in 46 registries of Jerusalem in Ottoman archive records. Of these, 133,365 are private property and 37,671 belong to foundations. In addition to this, Turkey’s archives also have records of Jerusalem between the hijri years 950 and 1917.
Among the records of private property were 139 deeds belonging to Sultan Abdul Hamid II,137 of which were transferred to the treasury in the past. The remaining two are in Jerusalem’s Erihav region. The records show that there is a plot of land approximately 30,000 square meters in size that is recorded under the name of Sultan Abdul Hamid II.
Source: Truthaholics
The deeds proving that Palestine belongs to Palestinians were handed to Palestinian officials. Israel did not ask for deed records from Turkey. Had Israel requested these records, it would mean that Israel would be accepting that it is occupying Palestine.
A memorandum was signed between Palestine and Jordan. Procedures such as the maintenance and repair of foundations in Jerusalem were transferred to Jordan. Therefore, in 2016, upon the request of Jordan, Turkey provided copies of the deeds of foundations in Jerusalem to Jordan.
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Taking Thirty pieces of silver, advocating for israel pays well: Salaries of nonprofit heads

Advocating for Israel pays well: Salaries of nonprofit heads

If Americans Knew | December 12, 2017
Rabbi Marvin Hier (center) and his wife Marlene with actor Dustin Hoffman at the premiere of “Against the Tide” on February 4, 2009 in Los Angeles. The Hiers and their son receive total annual compensation of $1.4 million.
If Americans Knew | December 12, 2017
Heads of nonprofits that support Israel receive compensation in the hundreds of thousands of dollars up to, in a few cases, over a million dollars.
Politicians reaping money from the Israel lobby (e.g. Tom Cotton received close to a million dollars from the Emergency Committee for Israel; Haim Saban and his wife donated $11.5 million to pro-Clinton super PACs, along with large sums to the Clinton Foundation) are not the only ones to benefit from supporting Israel.
Executive directors of nonprofits that support Israel receive compensation in the hundreds of thousands of dollars up to almost $2 million.
The Forward recently compiled a list of their earnings. It reportedthat Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center received $818,148 and that his spouse and his son also work for the center, giving them an annual total $1.4 million.
According to the Forward the Hiers were not alone in surpassing a million dollars compensation – in 2016, the CEO of the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland received compensation of $1.3 million, and in 2014 the CEO of Boston’s Jewish federation received almost $2 million.
Below are some members of the Forward’s list for 2016
(All the individuals below head up organizations that spend part or all of their time in activities supportive of Israel):
Simon Wiesenthal Center
American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
American Israel Public Affairs Committee
The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore
Jewish Federations of North America
Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston
Republican Jewish Coalition
Birthright Israel Foundation
Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metro Chicago
Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland
Anti-Defamation League
American Jewish Committee
UJA Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York
Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles
Greater Miami Jewish Federation
Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County
Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life
Jewish Federation of Greater Washington
Foundation for Jewish Camp
The Israel Project
Conference of Presidents Of Major Jewish Organizations
Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco
Zionist Organization of America
Jewish Community Centers Association of North America
Jewish National Fund
Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia
B’nai Brith International
United Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh
United Jewish Communities of MetroWest New Jersey
American Jewish World Service
Center for Jewish History
Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit
Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs
CLAL (National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership)
Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta
CLAL (National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership)
J Street
Stand With Us
ORT America
Bend The Arc
Americans for Peace Now
Agudath Israel of America
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Israeli-American Council
For full list go to The Forward.
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