black agenda report, sep 30

Breonna Taylor and Black Life
Margaret Kimberley, Black Agenda Report, Sep 30 2020

Reactions to the Breonna Taylor murder, settlement and verdict all have one thing in common: Black people’s inability to protect our lives. Regardless of life circumstances, income, or educational levels, discerning black people know that misfortune befalling anyone else in the race could easily be theirs. That is one reason that the killing of Breonna Taylor at the hands of Louisville, Kentucky police resonates so deeply. Ms Taylor was shot to death by police executing what is called a “no-knock” warrant seeking evidence against a former boyfriend. It is rare for a criminal to be such a threat to the public that a no-knock warrant, police bursting in unannounced with guns drawn, is ever justified. It is just another tool that guarantees jobs for law enforcement and jail for black people. There is drug dealing in every part of the country and among every racial group. Only black people have to fear death because of personal connections. Her current boyfriend returned fire upon hearing the police breaking down the door. Police shot Breonna Taylor five times and then left her to die. They made no effort to call an ambulance or take any action to save her life. The case ended the way that police killings of black people usually do. Only one of the three officers involved was indicted, and on a minor charge because a bullet he fired went into a neighbor’s apartment. No one was charged with killing Taylor.

Shortly before the grand jury decision was announced, Taylor’s family received a $12m settlement from the city of Louisville, a deal brokered by attorney Benjamin Crump. The size of the payment was an indicator that the police would get away with the crime. Black people remain angry about Ms Taylor’s death. The anger is felt not only on her behalf, but on behalf of Sandra Bland and Eric Garner and Tamir Rice and the 300 black people killed by police every year. Most of them remain anonymous. The statistic which informed us that one such killing occurs every 28 hours is an indication of our powerlessness as a group. Of course there is anguish and trauma among people who still do not have a say in how they are treated and who can expect the legal system to act against their interests. There is even anger directed at the family, because they accepted the money, and dubious legal opinions are expressed regarding Crump’s ability to do anything but win settlements.

There is another, far more dangerous reaction that blames Taylor for her own death. Self-haters and others predisposed to blame black people, even when they are murder victims, absolve corrupt policing and blame her relationship with a former boyfriend. The police who killed Breonna Taylor committed an extra-judicial killing, and if there is any condemnation to be made, it should be laid at their feet. Judgement and finger-wagging are cloaked in respectability politics and absolve a racist system of any culpability. Black communities are over-policed, residents are targeted for arrest for any offense, sentenced unfairly, and killed for any reason. Prosecutors are cozy with police. They work together to fill the jails and keep the mass incarceration system running. Even if a killing occurs on camera the only hope is that a family may get some financial restitution. Benjamin Crump, Lee Merritt and other attorneys who take on these high-profile cases can do little except negotiate for settlements, which are in fact paid for by the public. Cities sell bonds for liability awards. We end up paying to support brutality committed against us, while Wall Street reaps the benefits.

Some of the finger-pointers despise their own people. Others hope that following the rules will save them from the modern-day slave patrol. It is painful to contemplate that our lives can be snuffed out for any reason at all, because we are black. Blaming the victim is an out, and in this case gives some measure of comfort, in the belief that our behavior will keep us safe. Reactions to the settlement, the verdict and Ms Taylor’s life choices all have one thing in common. Our inability to protect our lives and to successfully confront the system has created great confusion amongst us. We turn on each other in judgement, blame lawyers, families and even victims because we have made so little political progress. Reactions to Taylor’s death are a litmus test. Do we side with our people when they are victimized, or do we rationalize murder in order to feel superior? Do we blame publicity-seeking lawyers, or do we understand why justice for us is so rare? All of these questions must be taken seriously. We are all Breonna Taylor.

The China and Africa Connection US Imperialism Does Not Want You to Know About
Danny Haiphong, Black Agenda Report, Sep 30 2020

The following remarks were given by this writer at a symposium organized by the Black Alliance for Peace on Sep 24, entitled “Full Spectrum Dominance: From AFRICOM to the Indo-Pacific Command.”

Greetings Comrades,

It is an honor to be speaking at this symposium organized by the Black Alliance for Peace on behalf of the No Cold War campaign. I am also humbled to be a co-coordinator of BAP’s Supporter Network and to assist in whatever capacity possible to strengthen Black and African-led organizations such as BAP working toward peace and liberation. We have a monumental problem on our hands. The issue of the US’ policy of Full-Spectrum Dominance is one that is connected to a host of contradictions afflicting the US imperial order at this time. For nearly a decade, US military power has made an enormous strategic shift to both the Asia Pacific and to Africa. At the center of the transition is the growth of China as an economic world power and the decline of the US as a global hegemon.

China has much to offer Africa and the Global South at this time. China shares a common history of colonialism and imperialist humiliation with Africa. It has the experience of successfully carrying out a struggle for national liberation and defending that struggle from the challenges of a hostile global context. And now, China is in possession of an economic miracle that it is committed to sharing with African nations as well as nations in Latin America and Asia. That miracle comes with advanced infrastructure such as high-speed rail  and 5G technology, both of which are a necessity for breaking down some of the barriers to economic sovereignty that colonial underdevelopment has placed on much of the Global South, Africa included.

The “China threat” mentioned so often by US officials in all quarters of Washington DC is a different kind of projection of power, a psychological projection of the coming end of the US’ ability to dictate global affairs without any significant challenge. The US, unlike China, has little to offer Africa or the rest of the Global South. The US share in the global economy has shrunk, and the economic crisis precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic will only accelerate this trend. Many nations in the Global South, especially African nations, have experienced generation after generation of poverty and underdevelopment under the US-dominated financial arrangements of the IMF and World Bank. US imperialism has deployed much of its military arsenal to Africa and Asia to arrest the possibility of South-South cooperation replacing US and Western domination.

The US ruling class is not in complete agreement over how to carry out the related tasks of containing China and suppressing the self-determination of African nations. Obama expanded AFRICOM to all but a single African country principally to gain political and military influence over African governments and persuade them over time to reject China. AFRICOM’s growth also aligned with the Obama administration’s “Pivot to Asia,”, which ultimately laid the basis for the massive militarization of the Asia Pacific that Trump now oversees. China’s containment was primarily regarded as a project of military coercion where nations in Africa and Asia would bow to the dictates of the United States without needing to engage in direct conflict with China.

Large sections of the Pentagon were not satisfied with this strategy. Out of the lust for a more confrontational approach with China came the strategy of “Great Power competition”. This strategy did not neglect the “Pivot to Asia,” but rather buttressed the military encirclement of China with a host of maneuvers. Even more military assets have been shifted to INDOPACOM, once called PACOM, to the point of potentially draining AFRICOM of its own military resources. This would, as AFRICOM Commander General Stephen Townsend pointed out in his testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, leave the US vulnerable to losing access to rare earth minerals and other vital resources on the continent that “America needs.”

The disagreement within the military-industrial complex over how to best contain China is a matter of form, not substance. Full-spectrum Dominance is where the entirety of the US political and military apparatus has reached a uniform consensus. China and Africa are thus not only connected by their hundreds of billions worth in trade arrangements, but also by their shared experience as targets of imperialism. INDOPACOM is currently in possession of over half of all US military assets, with more coming. 400 US military bases surround China in countries such as Japan, South Korea, and the US colony of Guam. While AFRICOM may be partially reduced to strengthen the US’ military presence in the Asia-Pacific, there is no doubt that the US will continue to undermine African sovereignty and use China, and to a smaller degree Russia, as justification.

The last and perhaps most important point I want to make is that the struggle for self-determination of oppressed nations is always an ideological struggle. Full-spectrum Dominance is a racist project. US and Western media portray Africa and China in much of the same light. Africa is portrayed as a chaotic and backward continent where corruption is endemic and inherent to political life. Africans need the US military, to be safe and secure from themselves. China, on the other hand, is the chief “authoritarian” country in the world for its supposed suppression of Muslims in Xinjiang, protestors in Hong Kong and, according to the Economist, people in mainland China by way of its campaign to alleviate poverty. Asia therefore needs the US military to be safe and secure from China. These jingoistic portrayals of China and Africa provide fertile ideological ground for the US empire to maintain and expand military operations under the guise of stamping out terrorism or countering the “China threat.”

The transformation of Africa into a terrain for US militarism has also brought about an ideological shift in the US, from a white savior industrial complex attitude of charity to a return of the White Man’s Burden mentality of recivilizing the continent through force. Just as we know AFRICOM to be a coordinated military assault in the broader project of US-led neocolonialism in Africa, so too is the US’ military build-up in the Asia-Pacific part of a broader project to establish US-compliant governments in Asia, including China. China is no longer just a convenient scapegoat for the hollowing out of the US economy. Lockheed Martin and Raytheon directly fund think-tanks like the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, to villainize China so that the US can ban their social media apps, close their consulates, and sanction Chinese government officials in the name of the US’ military strategy of Great Power competition.

A key task in developing a united movement to eradicate US military expansionism in Africa and in Asia is to be very clear about its severe consequences for the future of humanity at large. The US-led overthrow of Libya in 2011 paved the way for the death and displacement of millions in Africa and the Middle East, as well as an explosion in the expansion of AFRICOM. US attempts to gain political and military control of the Asia-Pacific mean that nations in the region will be subject to the same economic and political development model employed in Africa. China and Africa are targets of the same criminal system that produces conditions of economic and political instability all over the world. And while the US would be foolish to provoke a hot war with China, anti-imperialist forces the world over must understand that to leave the cause of peace and self-determination up to the aggressors is akin to political suicide. We have but one enemy, comrades, and that is US imperialism and its mission of Full-Spectrum Dominance. A dying empire is a dangerous empire. China will continue to rise as a global power and will not be bullied into submission. China’s connections to the Global South and Africa in particular cannot be arrested. The people of China and the people of Africa must be free to determine their destinies without interference from the US military. It is thus our duty to demand that INDOPACOM withdraw its forces from the Asia-Pacific region, and AFRICOM withdraw from the African continent, wholly and completely.

Why We Focus on Africa
Black Alliance for Peace, Sep 30 2020

With reports each week of yet another Black victim of police violence, there is for many an ever-growing desperation. As activists search for a way forward, Africa’s plight does not find its way on to the movement agenda. But there is good reason to be concerned about what goes on in Africa. The problems there and the problems here are related. Africa has long been the focus of foreign exploitation of the continent’s land, resources, and people. As everyone knows, Africans find themselves in the Western Hemisphere because of slavery and its exploitation of the labor of those who were enslaved. But the interest in Africa of those foreign to that continent was not limited to human trafficking. There was an even greater interest in Africa’s gold, diamonds, cobalt, oil, and other natural resources too numerous to list. Because Africa was colonized by western capitalist interests and robbed of its wealth, Africans resisted and drove the colonizers from the continent, or so they thought. In the years since independence came to Africa, it has become painfully clear that European colonizers have managed to retain their grip on the continent by various means, including the manipulation of corrupt African public officials.

The US always had its hand in the exploitation of Africa, but it has never been widely regarded as a colonizer. The US likes it that way because it is helpful to its global image as a benevolent justice-loving democratic nation. However, under cover of darkness the US has played a leading role in maintaining an iron western grip on Africa. Observers note that in 2019, SOCOM were deployed in 22 African countries, and in recent years these troops engaged in active combat in at least 13. In addition to direct combat, US military forces conduct joint training operations with the military forces of most of the countries on the African continent. These operations are carefully designed to serve US interests. If the interests of the host African countries are also served, it is coincidental. All of this military activity is sponsored and coordinated by AFRICOM. The public statements made by AFRICOM about its work are crafted to portray the command as an armed Peace Corps that digs wells, delivers medicine, and builds hospitals while simultaneously protecting African villages from international terrorists. The reality is that the mission is to advance and protect the operations of western corporations. When it comes to that job the US is eclipsed only by the French. France has maintained an active and aggressive military presence in Africa for years, and the US has been an enthusiastic supporter. AFRICOM makes no secret of this fact. Its commander said:

France is the US’ oldest ally, and a leader in the counter-terrorism fight in Africa. We share common threats, mutual concerns, and a commitment to fighting violent extremist organizations.

That comment translated means the US teams with France to protect western corporate interests and brands anyone who gets in their way a terrorist. This can sometimes have fatal consequences. In 2017 four US soldiers were killed in Niger. The reason for their presence in that country was not clearly explained by the Pentagon, but it is likely that their mission was related to the fact that for decades the French company Areva has mined uranium in Niger for French consumption and established extensive operations in the Nigerien town of Arlit. In 2013 France began to fear attacks on these facilities, and they deployed troops to protect them. The US had troops in the region too, probably to assist the French. Four soldiers paid the price with their lives. Libya too was the site of French and US military meddling that ultimately plunged the country into total violent chaos. The objective was to frustrate the late Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi’s efforts to establish a Pan-African currency (that would devalue the French franc); and, to gain control of Libya’s oil fields.

Western domination of Africa’s wealth by military force hurts Africa, but it also hurts African people in the US. Although many harbor stale beliefs that the people of Africa care nothing about their stolen African family members in the United States, the contrary was proven dramatically by Africa’s outpouring of support and solidarity in the aftermath of the George Floyd murder. Imagine the changes that would have occurred if those demonstrations of support had been accompanied by financial support to the movement, diplomatic arm-twisting and economic pressure. Africa cannot demonstrate that type of independence and power because the entire continent has a giant US military boot on its neck. It falls to those of us who are up-close and personal to AFRICOM to untie the laces of that boot and cause the US military operations in Africa to trip and crash. This is what we intent to with the International Day of Action on AFRICOM and our ongoing campaign to shut down AFRICOM. The International Day of Action on AFRICOM (Oct 1 2020) aims to raise the public’s awareness about the US military’s existence in Africa, and how the presence of US forces exacerbates violence and instability throughout the continent. We are calling on our friends to endorse this day as an individual or organization and to organize an educational event, for which we have provided materials on our webpage.

Fear and Russia-Loathing in the National Lawyers Guild
Riva Enteen, Black Agenda Report, Sep 30 2020

I returned from a delegation to Russia a year ago, so am now more sensitive to the pervasive and persistent anti-Russia propaganda in this country. To prepare for my trip, I read Stephen Cohen’s War with Russia?, which I believe is an unimpeachable source of information. So I was dismayed to learn of his recent death, because he was a voice of reason amidst the salivating war fever. Caitlin Johnstone does justice to his memory:

We should heed the dire warnings that Cohen spent his last breaths issuing. We should call for détente with Russia and China. We should begin creating an opposition to this world-threatening flirtation with armageddon before it is too late.

The delegation was led by Sharon Tennison, founder of Center for Citizens Initiatives, which has been taking citizen diplomacy delegations to the USSR and Russia since 1983. On her recent 84th birthday she published a letter about where she sees current US/Russian relations, including the risk of nuclear war. I posted her letter to a listserv of the National Lawyers Guild, an organization I have been a member of for 37 years. Although I have previously exposed the NLG for losing its political compass, I was shocked at the virulent animosity to anything Putin, or even Russian, in the emails it generated. Unfortunately, this anti-Russia bias is not unique to the Guild. Trump’s election, Russiagate, and the smear campaign against Julian Assange have deluded and disoriented many organizations and individuals with profoundly critical and activist traditions, including the Pacifica radio network, DSA and Democracy Now. Since COVID, China is now in the US crosshairs as well, with increased risk of catastrophe. The intent of this article is to expose this extremely dangerous political tendency, with the Guild as but one example, because it is increasing international hostilities at our peril. What we desperately need is an anti-war movement. I shared with a retired lawyer and fellow-member of the Russia delegation that a Guild member said I would create more chaos than clarity on the left if I exposed the Guild. She responded:

’You will create more chaos than clarity on the Left’ sounds like old-time 1930’s communism, when it was politically incorrect to criticize any defects in the party. Any organization or any individual that lacks the backbone to stand up to criticism and to examine itself to see if that criticism is warranted, and to self-correct if it is or to vigorously defend itself if it isn’t, is weak, an empty box echoing platitudes it cannot defend.

Tennison received many positive responses to her birthday letter, such as:

I thank you for the gift of that wonderfully thoughtful letter! I liked your perspectives on President Putin. I think you make a persuasive case. I am forwarding your message to others.

Apparently, it’s controversial to publish group emails anonymously without the author’s consent. I told Tennison that the many Guild responses were largely hostile to her point of view and asked if it was ethical to expose them. She said:

I think you should expose them on their ungrounded biases. Tell them to go see the country that was collapsing from communism and then robbed blind by the oligarchs in the 90s, then finally began to get up on its knees by the early 2000s and today is in amazing shape. What do you mean when you ask ‘what are the ethics?’ You should tell the truth! That’s the height of ethics!!!

Guild responses, which echo what many “progressive” groups are saying, include:

This is garbage propaganda. Anyone with a small amount of knowledge of Russia knows this article is absolutely not true.
No matter what you think of the current state of our government, we have nothing to gain from Putin. There is nothing admirable about him as a leader, and there is nothing admirable about his government.
I can’t even fathom the motivation for disseminating this.
I am hardly a lover of American MSM propaganda, but I am getting tired of seeing knee-jerk reactions to any criticism or negative news about Putin or RT.
I don’t know if Tennison’s piece is propaganda (implying some intent), but it certainly is misguided.
I (and probably a fair number of other folks on this list) have not met Putin and am not particularly invested in this debate. Move this offlist, or set up a ‘debates about politicians foreign and domestic’ sublist.
I was disputing the accuracy of the author’s description of Putin’s character and questioning why Putin’s character is being defended on an NLG listserv.

A former comrade, who still probably calls himself a socialist, claimed it is an electoral issue:

Riva doesn’t give a damn if Trump is re-elected by the electoral college. She even attacked the NLG for failing to oppose Russia Today having to register as a foreign agent. The discussion is a total turn-off to new and veteran members alike.

Others voiced election concerns:

Support for Putin is support for Trump. When I see an article like this come, apparently, out of the blue and unrelated to the NLG’s mission, I wonder who benefits from propping up Putin’s character? It’s difficult for me to believe that there are NLG members who want to rehabilitate Putin’s image in order to help the Trump Administration. My fears are that the election is the motivation for the email supporting Putin.

A Guild member of over 30 years said:

When nonsense like that is sent out by Guild members, it contributes to making the Guild irrelevant.

Several others claimed the wisdom of age and Red-rearing:

My own father was in Local 1199 In the 1930s and recruited and covered for the absences of NYC Health workers sent to Spain as medics and ambulance drivers in the Spanish Civil War. What could be more «pinko» than that! Putin and his boss Leningrad Mayor Anatoly Sobchak visited Los Angeles in the 1980s on a visit arranged by the LA-St Petersburg Sister City Committee , on which I served along with the CEO of Lockheed and other major LA area companies. A fruit of their visit was booking a float in the Rose Parade featuring tourism in St Petersburg! Can’t make this up!

What is wrong with that? I wish we could build more sister city relationships in Russia. I recently tried to get San Francisco to consider having a sister city in Russia, and was told it wasn’t a good time to do so. Another long-term socialist comrade said:

In defending, as you do, Putin and Putin’s Russia, you lose credibility with Guild folks who, I suspect, also share our desire to not see a US-Western World conflict with Russia. It is one thing to defend against red-baiting. As one called before HUAC during Vietnam, believe me, I am deeply opposed to red-baiting. It is another to present a picture of Putin which, quite frankly, does not square with reality. I know you believe the western press gives us a false picture of Putin. But there are plenty on the left, and in the left media, that have a very different assessment of Putin than the woman writing that letter you sent around.

It is remarkable that people who challenge my questioning of the groupthink on Russia, refuse to offer a coherent, written counter to my perspective or a defense of the groupthink. And the younger generation:

These kinds of threads are the reason people unsubscribe from lists and/or are turned away from the NLG altogether. I’m a very new member and am very disheartened to see this exchange from Guild members who set the example for my generation. This is setting a bad precedent for the Next Gen by putting this BS on the NLG List. Well, speaking for myself, this Next Gen member is unsubscribing, having applied my own judgment values and critical thinking skills to the situation. This is a barrier to the Guild’s outreach and membership development, and has encouraged me to channel my energy into other organizations.

And of course people use the danger of fascism:

Many of us generally support radical or left ideals. With the rise of fascism in this country, now, more than ever, we need to promote inclusion and allyship rather than sectarianism and exclusion?

Does principled debate, let alone simply posting a letter, imply “sectarianism and exclusion” and foreclose “inclusion and allyship?” Others said there is an “expectation that we be collegial” and “good to each other.” One of the very few positive responses came from a member who recently visited Russia:

I must say I agree with many of those who criticize Tennison’s piece on Putin, but very much oppose the notion that this list should be reserved for local Guild work. People who are offended by or oppose comments posted by NLG members shouldn’t be able to shut down contentious discussions. It’s easy enough to simply delete a thread that you consider irrelevant, although I would hope most Guild members would want to engage in discussion about the countries and leaders that our governing elites and the MSM are attacking in promotion of US imperial power (Russia, China, Venezuela and Iran for starters). The Guild is an organization of internationalists, and not limited to local struggles.

And there was this qualified support:

I agree that we should be very suspect of Red-baiting news stories on general principle, while holding the nuance of resisting authoritarianism includes using a critical lens.

A democratic organization requires open discussion and voting on controversial positions. Until recently, since its founding in 1937, that occurred at the Guild’s annual conventions. It was through such a process that the Guild improved its position on Palestine. I have no problem being a vocal minority in a democratic organization, but there must be debate for positions to be clear. I have tried, unsuccessfully, several times over the Trump years, and the New McCarthyism, to have such discussions. If there had been, I would have kept these issues internal to the organization. The squashing of debate was the catalyst for my airing dirty laundry, as well as its implications for the broad progressive community. I was told that I will create “fissure” and “NLG folks will be on the defensive,” presumably about being called out on their anti-Russia bias, and an old comrade says he will not respect me if I expose the Guild’s anti-Russia bias by pulling anonymous quotes from Guild members’ emails. As to ethics, my Russia delegation comrade says:

Your old comrade favors quashing the truth in order to present a good face. A false face, in fact. Is it ethical to do that? You are in the boat that many of us are struggling to stay afloat in. Going against popular opinion becomes a whole lot more than just a quaint quirk when the stakes are raised, as they are right now with the election in view and the Dems seriously worried. It is getting really nasty out there.

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