exemplary articles from wsws (when many ‘anti-imperialist’ authors are producing mere trivia)

Biden’s secretary of state nominee endorses lies about Chinese “genocide” of Uyghurs
Peter Symonds, WSWS, Jan 23 2021

Pompeo (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

In one of his final acts as Sec State, Pompeo this week branded the Chinese regime’s treatment of its Muslim Uyghur minority as “genocide,” a false and hypocritical statement that is part of the propaganda of US imperialism as it prepares for war against China. The new Biden administration has all but officially endorsed this highly provocative language. In the course of Biden’s presidential election campaign, as he sought to demonstrate that he would be tougher on China than Trump, he already branded the actions of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) against the Uyghurs as “genocide.” Likewise, in the course of his Senate nomination hearing this week, Biden’s choice for Sec State Anthony Blinken expressed support for Trump’s aggressive confrontation against China. He specifically agreed, when asked, with Pompeo’s statement lashing out at China over the supposed genocide of the Uyghurs.

These statements are a sure demonstration that the Biden administration will escalate the war drive against China, which began with the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia” and was accelerated under the Trump administration. The American political establishment as a whole, even as it is enmeshed in the profound economic, political and social crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, is determined to prevent, by all available means, China from challenging US global hegemony. Without providing a shred of evidence, Pompeo declared in his statement that the “Chinese party-state” was engaged in ongoing genocide and “the systematic attempt to destroy Uyghurs.” He accused Beijing of crimes against humanity, including the arbitrary detention of more than one million civilians, forced sterilisations, torture and heavy restrictions on other democratic rights.

None of these claims has ever been proven. The US figures on the number of forced detentions in Xinjiang has risen and risen without the slightest explanation or evidence. The annual China report published last week by the Congressional Executive Commission, run by anti-China hawks such as Senator Marco Rubio, puts the figure at 1.8m, a number plucked from thin air without any indication as to how the total jumped from 1m. The statements by Pompeo and other anti-China propagandists, recycled endlessly and uncritically in the US and international media, are based on the dubious research of right-wing, anti-communist academics and unsubstantiated claims of prominent, and often wealthy, Uyghur exiles who run the American Uyghur Association and World Uyghur Congress, both of which receive funding from the CIA front body, the National Endowment for Democracy. One such “expert,” German academic Adrian Zenz, who is repeatedly cited, is a denizen of a network of right-wing think tanks in Europe and the US, including the European School of Culture and Theology in Germany and the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington, which specialises in the concoction of anti-communist propaganda. Zenz’s tendentious papers form much of the so-called evidence referenced in the latest Congressional report.

The Beijing regime is notorious for its police-state methods, and is undoubtedly responsible for the abuse of democratic rights in Xinjiang as it seeks to suppress separatist sentiment among Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities. Its extensive state apparatus is above all directed at crushing any opposition in the working class as the pandemic continues to take its toll, including in China, and raises social tensions. However, Blinken and Biden, following on from Trump and Pompeo, have not the slightest concern for the democratic rights of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang and certainly not for Chinese workers, whose exploitation is a source of huge profits for American corporations. Rather this US “human rights” campaign, like the many others, is aimed at furthering the economic and strategic interests of US imperialism. US administrations have repeatedly drummed up allegations of human rights abuses to justify regime-change operations, as well as neo-colonial wars, while turning a blind eye to the atrocities of allies and strategic partners such the autocratic monarchical regime in Saudi Arabia. Moreover, no one in Washington has been held accountable for monstrous crimes such as the slaughter of a million Iraqi citizens in its illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003.

The accusation of “genocide” is particularly grotesque. Whatever the abuses being carried out by the CCP in Xinjiang, it is not engaged in mass murder or the destruction of the Uyghur population. To describe the alleged human rights violations as genocide is to trivialise the term and belittle the monstrous crimes of the 20th century, such as the Nazi holocaust, to which it can be applied. The charge of “genocide” is tantamount to a declaration of war. Indeed, in 1999, the US and its NATO allies used false accusations of Serbian “genocide” of Kosovars as the pretext for launching a months-long bombing that rained death and destruction on Serbia and its people. Its purpose was to ensure American hegemony in the key strategic Balkans region. Likewise, the US decision to focus attention on the Uyghur population of Xinjiang, rather than as in the past on Tibetans, is bound up with strategic considerations. China’s westernmost province is adjacent to the oil and gas reserves of Central Asia as well as having energy resources of its own. Xinjiang is also the route for many of the transport and communication links associated with President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative, aimed at countering US attempts to encircle China.

More broadly, the US is pushing its phony human rights campaigns not only with regard to Xinjiang but also Hong Kong, Tibet and Mongolia, in a bid to undermine and ultimately fracture China. The confrontation that began under the Obama administration was intensified across the board by the Trump administration, including the imposition of sweeping trade war measures against China, a rising number of US naval provocations in the South China and East China seas, closer ties and increased arms sales to Taiwan and moves toward a quadrilateral military alliance of “democracies,” embracing the US, Japan, Australia and India. The deployment of 60% of the US naval and air assets to the Indo-Pacific, first mooted under Obama, has been completed. Far from overturning any of these measures, Biden has made clear that he intends to further consolidate alliances and partnerships to confront China head-on. The reckless foreign policies that characterised the Obama and Trump administrations will continue under Biden, intensifying the danger of all-out war between nuclear-armed powers and global catastrophe.

For second time in four years, Senate confirms ex-general as US defense secretary
Bill Van Auken, WSWS, Jan 23 2021

Austin being sworn in

Retired General Lloyd Austin was sworn in Friday as the new US secretary of defense following an overwhelming 93-to-2 Senate confirmation vote. The rise of Austin, the first African-American to occupy the top post at the Pentagon, has been hailed by the Democrats and the corporate media as a historic milestone and manifestation of social progress. Newspapers and news web sites carried headlines about the “First Black Defense Secretary.” Typical was the statement of Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer who stated on the Senate floor Friday:

Mr Austin will be the first African-American to ever helm the Defense Department in its history, a powerful symbol of the diversity and history of America’s Armed Forces.

Others suggested that installing a black defense secretary would serve in itself to counter the threat of right-wing extremism in the US military, reflected in the fact that fully one fifth of those arrested in connection with the Jan 6 attempted coup at the US Capitol are ex-military personnel.

For all the promotion of Austin’s racial identity as proof of progress, what is most significant in terms of the relations between the military and the civilian government in the US is not that he is the first African-American in the post, but rather that he is the second retired four-star general in four years whose nomination required that both houses of Congress pass a waiver of a law barring recently retired officers from occupying the top civilian position at the Pentagon. In 2017, retired General James “Mad Dog” Mattis became Donald Trump’s first secretary of defense. It is hardly a coincidence that Mattis was Austin’s predecessor as the chief of CENTCOM, which oversees all US operations in the killing fields of Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan and the war buildup in the Persian Gulf. Like Mattis, Austin was also a combat commander in Iraq, leading Army troops in the bloody invasion of the country and ultimately commanding 150k US troops occupying the country. Biden, who as a US senator voted for the criminal war of aggression, as vice president cemented his ties with Austin during his command there.

Leading the charge for the waiver vote in the US Senate was Senator Jack Reed, the incoming Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. In 2017, then the ranking Democrat on the committee, Reed also voted in favor of a waiver for Trump’s nominee, Mattis, while insisting:

I will not support a waiver for future nominees.

Approval of the waiver passed by comfortable margins in both the House and the Senate: 326 to 78 and 69 to 27, respectively. The waiver by both houses of congress is required under the National Security Act of 1947, which stipulated that no ex-officer would occupy the top civilian position at the Pentagon until 10 years after leaving the military. This was changed by the US Congress to seven years in 2008. Austin retired from the military in 2016. The act was meant to defend the fundamental democratic principle of civilian control over the military. It was passed during the same period some six decades ago when outgoing Republican President and former five-star general Dwight Eisenhower warned the American people to “guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence by the military-industrial complex,” adding:

The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

The growth of this “unwarranted influence” and “misplaced power” today is far beyond anything that Eisenhower could have imagined some 60 years ago. Austin, the ex-general and multimillionaire board member of the arms contractor Raytheon, is taking charge of the largest branch of the US government with a budget of close to $750b. That two administrations in a row have nominated a former chief of US imperialism’s most militarily active “combatant command” as defense secretary is an undeniable symptom of the unrelenting militarization of the entire US government. This has only been deepened by the events surrounding Trump’s failed bid to overturn the election, culminating in the Jan 6 coup attempt. The Biden camp relied heavily upon the military command to oppose the overthrow of US constitutional government. Meanwhile, Washington remains an armed camp, with plans for keeping armed national guardsmen deployed in the US capital until mid-March. Schumer and other members of the House and Senate leadership pushed for the speedy confirmation of Austin on the grounds that there could be no vacuum of leadership in the sprawling US military and intelligence apparatus. Schumer warned:

Foreign adversaries will seek to exploit this period of transition, and we cannot allow America’s military, intelligence and national security policy to be disrupted by staffing delays.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith declared:

The disruption President Trump brought to the Pentagon cannot be underestimated. They need a fully confirmed secretary of defense, immediately, to begin to thoroughly clean up that mess and get the Pentagon back to being as effective as it needs to be.

There were similar expressions of urgency over the confirmation of Avril Haines as the “first woman Director of National Intelligence,” which took place the day before the vote on Austin, with a vote of 84 to 10 in the Senate. Right-wing Senator Marco Rubio, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, urged the swift confirmation of Haines, who as DDCI under Obama, was one of the architects of the drone assassination program that claimed countless victims in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa. Rubio said:

Our adversaries will not stand by and wait for the new administration to staff critical positions.

The urgency expressed by both Democrats and Republicans over filling the top posts in the US military and intelligence apparatus stands in stark contrast to their plodding indifference to the mass unemployment, hunger and evictions plaguing ever growing sections of the US population There is no such rush to passing even the meager $1.9t pandemic relief package proposed by Biden, an amount that will no doubt be whittled down as his administration accommodates the Republican right. This contrast is a clear warning as to the character of the incoming administration, which will pursue escalating militarism abroad along with social reaction at home.

International filmmakers demand end to Israeli ban on Mohammad Bakri’s ‘Jenin, Jenin’
Jean Shaoul, WSWS, Jan 23 2021

Filmmakers around the world have denounced an Israeli court decision outlawing the screening and distribution of the documentary film ‘Jenin, Jenin’ and called for the ban to be lifted. The 54-minute film was made in 2002 by the renowned Palestinian film-maker and actor Mohammad Bakri. An Israeli citizen, Bakri has won numerous awards for his acting and film-making, which often reflects the plight of Palestinians inside Israel and in the occupied territories. He has appeared in around 70 films as an actor, including Wajib in 2017. His sons Saleh (‘The Band’s Visit,’ ‘The Time that Remains,’ ‘When I Saw You,’ ‘Wajib’), Ziad (‘Miral,’ ‘Screwdriver’) and Adam (‘Omar,’ ‘Official Secrets’) are all distinguished actors and/or directors.

Mohammad Bakri in 2010 (Photo: Eman)

Despite heavy pressure from Israel to censor it, ‘Jenin, Jenin’ won two international film awards. Bakri’s documentary is available to watch here, as well as on Vimeo. Bakri called his film Jenin, Jenin after the calls Palestinian taxi drivers make touting for fares at Israeli checkpoints. It deals with the incursion by IOF in Apr 2002 during the second intifada into the Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin in the West Bank, illegally occupied by Israel since the 1967 Arab Israeli war. Israel’s declared aim was “cleansing known areas that harboured terrorists.” Jenin was subject to a strict lockdown and curfew, with no media, medical or human rights personnel allowed near the city. Israel’s prime minister at the time was Ariel Sharon, who as defence minister was found responsible for the massacre of Palestinians in the refugee camps at Sabra and Shatila in Lebanon in Sep 1982 at the hands of Israel’s Phalangist allies. There were fears of another atrocity on the scale of the 1982 massacre. IOF killed at least 52 Palestinians in Jenin, including women, elderly people and children, injuring scores of others, and shelled 150 buildings, leaving 450 families homeless. The fighting was so fierce that 23 Israeli soldiers died in the operation.

Jenin, Jenin

Bakri courageously decided to film what was going on inside Jenin when an IOF soldier opened fire on the protesters, injuring a friend of Bakri’s, a young actress who was standing next to him. He entered the refugee camp before the curfew ended and interviewed dozens of witnesses, capturing with his camera the wanton death and destruction perpetrated by IOF. After journalists and human rights groups entered the camp and spoke to survivors, they accused Israeli troops of war crimes. An HRW report found “prima facie evidence” of Israeli war crimes during its assault on the Jenin refugee camp. Bakri’s film begins with a dedication to Ivad Samoudi, the film’s executive producer who was shot dead by the IOF at the end of the filming. It does not use any commentary or voice-over, leaving the Palestinian residents of Jenin’s refugee camp to tell their story of the 11 days of carnage carried out by the Israeli military. Among those supporting Bakri are British film directors Ken Loach and Asif Kapadia, Finnish screenwriter and director Aki Kaurismaki, Palestinian filmmakers Michel Khleifi and Annemarie Jacir and Israeli director Eyal Sivan, who said they had received the news of the ban with “consternation and outrage.” The Palestine Film Institute has started an online petition calling on the Israeli state to lift its ban on the screening of the film.

The film has been subject to lawsuits and censorship efforts ever since its release more than 18 years ago. In 2016, Nissim Meghnagi, a reservist soldier who appears on archival footage in the film alongside two other soldiers for just a few seconds and is not named, filed a defamation suit. He claimed he was accused in the film of stealing money from an elderly Palestinian man, an allegation he denied, that his “good name has been harmed, his honour has been smashed,” and that the film libelled Israeli soldiers by presenting them as war criminals. In a highly unusual move, Avichai Mandelblit, the Attorney General and a former Military Advocate General, announced he had decided to support the civil suit against Bakri because of public interest in the case. It followed requests from Meghnagi and from the then IOF Chief of Staff, Lt-Gen Gadi Eisenkot, the author of the infamous Dahiya Doctrine that advocates the destruction of the civilian infrastructure of regimes deemed to be hostile to Israel. Bakri denied that his film made any accusation against Meghnagi, saying:

The camera panned the plaintiff for mere seconds, and he cannot be identified as the person behind the deeds described in the movie.

The purpose of the suit was persecution and political silencing. Last week, the Lod District Court Judge Halit Silash ruled in Meghnagi’s favour, ordering Bakri to pay more than $50k to Meghnagi and another $15k in court fees. He said Meghnagi had been “sent to defend his country and found himself accused of a crime he did not commit” and that some of the statements in the film were untrue. Silash ordered a ban on the screening of the film in Israel and the confiscation of the 24 copies of the film. Announcing his intention to appeal, Bakri said the decision was “unfair” and that the judge had acted on instructions “from above.” Hussein Abu Hussein, his lawyer, said the ruling was a “political decision” aimed at “silencing any voice that differs from the Israeli narrative.” Palestinian Authority Minister of Culture Atef Abu Seif denounced the court’s decision, saying it was an attempt to fight the Palestinian narrative and hide “racist and fascist” practices of the “occupation.” Writing about the film in Ha’aretz in October, Bakri explained:

Ever since the release of ‘Jenin, Jenin,’ I have been wandering the corridors of Israeli courthouses – years of harassment and tendentious persecution that can only be explained by the fact that I am an Arab, who is forbidden to touch sacred cows such as the IOF or national security. An Arab who must be a good Arab and tell only the Israeli story, otherwise he is a traitor and an enemy of Israel who pisses into the well from which he drinks. I am 66 years old. I have devoted most of my life to making a better life for everyone. I’ve told the stories of the oppressed — the Armenians, the Kurds, the Italians, the Jews and the Holocaust, and of the Palestinians. I don’t have much left. Time is short and the work is long, the coronavirus looms, the lunatic right rules the world and has tried to lead us astray. So if not now, when?

Mohammad and Saleh Bakri in Wajib

The court’s gross infringement of Bakri’s freedom of expression is part of Israel’s broader attacks on cultural efforts to portray the realities of Palestinian life. Finance for Palestinian cultural and artistic work is sparse, with Palestinian Israelis, who constitute 20% of the population, receiving just 3% of the government’s culture budget. The Rabinovich Foundation for the Arts, one of the largest film funds in Israel, makes funding conditional upon signing a “declaration of loyalty” to Israel. The court’s ban on Jenin, Jenin is bound up with Israel’s efforts to outlaw all efforts aimed at exposing its brutality and flagrant violations of international humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territories. Any such exposure is completely unacceptable to Binyamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government. That Bakri has faced 18 years of harassment, intimidation and legal actions, including criminal prosecution, expresses Israel’s determination to provide immunity for those involved in violating Palestinians’ rights. Earlier this week, the Education Ministry summoned the principal and the managing director of a Haifa high school for a disciplinary hearing. This followed a lecture to students by Hagai El-Ad, the director of B’Tselem, the human rights organisation that had for the first time referred to Israel as practicing “apartheid.” The lecture was given despite a ministry order barring schools from hosting representatives of organisations “that treat IOF soldiers with contempt and call Israel an apartheid state.”

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