Drugs, Propaganda, and the Party of God

The news is abuzz with Politico’s new article that claims that Obama derailed an investigation in alleged drug trafficking and money laundering done by Hezbollah in Lebanon. The Politico article linked above charges Obama with dismantling “Project Cassandra” in order to make the “Iran Deal” possible.

I would, from the outset, question the veracity of these claims, considering a lot of the content of the article is regurgitated from allegations made back in 2011 (when Obama was president).

Of course, as usual, a little bit of reasoning ought to put the official Politico story into question. Whether or not Obama put up roadblocks against investigations is something that I do not and cannot know, beyond what the media reports (even at the end of the Politico article, they seem to call everything they’ve just said into question).

However, I do have three points that show something is very wrong with the propagandists’ rendering of Hezbollah and the fundamentals of the organization.

hezbollah

Hope and Change

1.) Hezbollah is, at least partially, a religious-confessional organization. Hezb-Allah (the Party of God) is an organization that was established in the draw-down of Lebanon’s bloody civil war, fought mostly along sectarian lines.

Hezbollah emerged as the primary representative of Lebanon’s Shi’a (although slowly, due to the competition from the Amal Movement).

The Politico article seems to suggest that Hezbollah is receiving money from both drug trafficking and Iran, or, alternatively, both Hezbollah and Iran are receiving funds from drug trafficking. The article leaves the reader guessing.

On the face of it, that would seem a bit odd, considering mainstream Islam’s pretty tight restrictions on drug use. Indeed, both Hassan Nasrallah (the leader of Hezbollah) and Ali Khamenei (the Supreme Leader of Iran) have explicitly forbade the use of drugs.

Aren’t these people supposed to be so incredibly religious that they’re unreasonable and impossible to negotiate with? Isn’t that the main line of the propaganda against them: Amerikkka can’t “trust” Iran, because they’re insane religious extremists?

Like Iran could ever trust Amerikkka!

Someone has their propaganda mixed up. It’s a jumbled policy of “throw everything at them and see what sticks”.

If you want to say that the leaders are lying and that they’ll take money from drug trafficking, then clearly they’re pragmatists and can negotiate. If you want to say they’re religious fundamentalists, then there is no way that they’re getting money from the drug trade.

2.) The Politico article centers around the drug trade in Latin American and Africa, apparently through some key business traders who have been able to secretly fund some transnational anti-Amerikkkan network.

In the past, Hezbollah’s alleged drug trafficking enterprise has been linked to the so-called Tri-Border Area. The Tri-Border Area is along the borders of Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil. Supposedly accounting for a significant portion of weapon, drug, and human trafficking, the Tri-Border Area is notoriously mysterious, with very little reliable information regarding the market there.

TBA

It’s sort of a similar situation to North Korea, right? We don’t know anything, but everything we do know is bad and, therefore, we can extrapolate a lot of nonsense from that.

Apparently, every “terrorist” organization gets funding from the Tri-Border Area, if we’re to believe the reports. According the U.$. media and the U.$. government, both Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda receive funds from illicit trading through South America.

That seems a little strange, considering the war in Syria, where Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda are killing each other.

The Politico article does not directly mention the Tri-Border Area. It does, however, bring up the supposed “cocaine corridor” from South America up through Mexico, where the funds are not only apparently used to support Hezbollah, but also governments in Latin America that stand up against imperialism – Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador.

CocaineTrafficking

What’s the connection? Well, according to Politico, we can find it in the relationship between Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:

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Another claim with absolutely no evidence!

Isn’t it interesting that according to “interviews and documents”, Hugo Chavez is also responsible for everything bad in the world. After all, Politico says that Hezbollah has “for decades” been engaging in “narcoterrorism”?

Why is it that all of the evidence that comes up in the article is from simple testimonies and anonymous sources if this is an unquestionable fact?

If Hezbollah gets all its funding from illicit sources, then why does it even need funding from Iran?

If Hezbollah is so ubiquitous on the black market, then why isn’t there hard evidence of such trading?

Why is everything just hearsay and word-of-mouth?

This brings us to my third point.

3.) All of the supposed linchpins in the Hezbollah-drug trafficking connection conveniently work with everyone the U.S. doesn’t like right now, according to Politico. They even have this other picture in the article to drive home their point:

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Three presidents who are way better than Trump.

The article is fascinating for who make up this apparent narco-terrorist network around the world. It seems to be a blend of Russians and Lebanese businessmen traveling around the globe in search of ways to fund Putin and Hezbollah.

Isn’t it all just so convenient!

At one point, the article basically celebrates when, in 2008, “the CIA and Israeli intelligence detonated a bomb in [Imad] Mughniyeh’s car as he was leaving a celebration of the 29th anniversary of the Iranian revolution in Damascus, Syria. He was killed instantly. ”

How is this treated unproblematically in this story about Hezbollah? This was pretty big news in 2015, after seven years of Israel and the U.$. denying responsibility for the murder.

The Politico article accuses Imad Mughniyeh, who was a Hezbollah commander, of the bombing of a U.$. military barracks (by a different organization) during the Lebanese Civil War. However, notably, there is very flimsy evidence on which to blame him of any of his alleged crimes.

Also, no one seems to question the presence of a U.$. barracks on the outskirts of Beirut during a civil war.

Luckily, we don’t have to regard anything in the text with much seriousness, because the idea of “objectivity” on any level is thrown out the window. The Politico article reveals its pro-Amerikkkan bias very clearly with the following paragraph:

“Meanwhile, Hezbollah — in league with Iran — continues to undermine U.S. interests in Iraq, Syria and throughout wide swaths of Latin America and Africa, including providing weapons and training to anti-American Shiite militias. And Safieddine, the Ghost and other associates continue to play central roles in the trafficking of drugs and weapons, current and former U.S. officials believe.”

That last line is the most crucial – current and former U.$. officials believe. What does that mean? No evidence. None. Zero. Zilch.

And what is Hezbollah’s real crime? The fact that it continues to “undermine” the U.$.

This isn’t about drugs or about the black market or about terrorism (or about some bizarre used-car money-laundering scheme in Benin).

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Really!?

This is about the fact that Hezbollah has stood up, time and time again, against U.$. imperialism.

Hezbollah has defended Lebanon from invasion by Israel. Hezbollah has defended Syria against terrorist organizations like ISIS and Al-Qaeda. And Hezbollah continues to defend the Middle East from the threat of Saudi and U.A.E. influence.

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The Role of the U.S. In the Rwandan Genocide and the Congo Wars

In my last post comparing the death tolls under Joseph Stalin and Bill Clinton, I decided to include the deaths of the Rwandan Genocide and the Congo Wars.

I took the position here that Clinton and the administration in Washington acted (or failed to act) out of either gross negligence or perhaps out of interest in allowing both the genocide and the wars to occur (at least in the way that they did).

Clinton Kagame

“I won’t tell if you won’t!”

With regards to the Rwandan genocide, there are generally two competing narratives. The dominant narrative has been very public: the administration (and Clinton himself) expressed time and again that they made an egregious mistake by not intervening. So, if we accept this narrative, then I think it’s fair to include the deaths that they admit that they didn’t stop.

However, if we accept an alternative narrative, presented in books like The Politics of Genocide by Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, then the U.S. intervened fairly heavily. For example, according to Herman and Peterson, the United States was very involved in helping the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) assassinate Habyarimana in 1994 and then militarily conquer the country and subsequently massacre Hutus, Pygmies, and even Tutsis in reprisal killings, which, they argue, probably outnumber the 800,000 killed in the genocide. By accepting this narrative, although much more controversial, we would be able to attribute far more deaths to Paul Kagame and, by extension, Bill Clinton.

This is why I decided to include the death toll of the events in Rwanda under Clinton’s name.

Following this, Kagame and Yoweri Museveni in Uganda decided to invade Zaire in order to remove Mobutu from power. This is what is referred to as the First Congo War. As is discussed very in depth in Africa’s World War by Gérard Prunier, the U.S. very heavily backed Kagame and Museveni during the First Congo War. Prunier argues that Clinton saw an opportunity to get rid of Mobutu, of whom the U.S. was embarrassed for supporting throughout the Cold War. In fairness, pretty much everyone was in favor of ousting Mobutu in 1996/1997 and Kagame and Museveni got support from pretty much everyone except France.

"Our Guy" in Africa

“Our Guy” in Africa

Rwanda and Uganda installed Laurent-Désiré Kabila as president, who renamed the country as the Democratic Republic of Congo and who proved to be an uncooperative puppet in Kinshasa.

The Second Congo War began when Kagame and Museveni agreed to get rid of puppet #1 and try to set up puppet #2. This war, however, was much more complicated and the sides were much more convoluted – with Angola, Zimbabwe, and Sudan maintaining their support of Kabila. The big players officially took a much more hands-off approach during the Second Congo War. Nevertheless, both the RPA and the Ugandan government were able to rely on their backing of the U.S.

This is obvious, because Clinton could have roped in Kagame and Museveni (both during the genocide and the subsequent wars). Or he could have continued to give aid to the DRC. But instead he traveled himself to Rwanda in 1998 and sent officials to Kigali and Kampala after the most brutal parts of the wars. Bill Clinton could have made sure that the United Nations thoroughly investigated Kagame and the Rwandan Patriotic Army. But instead, he actively blocked UN investigations to continue with regards to RPA’s massacres in the Kivus and their reprisal killings.

Those are the reasons I decided to include his involvement as sharing responsibility for the deaths in Rwanda and the DRC.

Ultimately, comparing the death tolls was an exercise in showing the absurdity of “death counts” in the way they are commonly used. When I was teaching, I often heard students repeat the completely ludicrous claim that “Stalin was responsible for more deaths than Hitler”. This, of course, is nonsense. Nazi Germany, as shown by even anti-communist historians, killed many millions more than the Soviet Union.

It seems to me that a huge fallacy is being made when we decide to attribute deaths to state leaders. When we analyze deaths, both as the direct and indirect result of state policy, they need to be placed in their greater context – especially during the 20th century, where “death counts” often lead to counter-intuitive assessments.

The highest example of this is shown by Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze in their book Hunger and Public Action, where they argue that there have been more deaths from low-level hunger in India than from the largest famines under Mao and that fewer people would have died if India had pursued similar (communist) policies as the People’s Republic of China. They even conclude “that every eight years or so more people die in India because of its higher regular death rate than died in China in the gigantic famine of 1958-61. India seems to manage to fill its cupboard with more skeletons every eight years than China put there in its years of shame.”

Who Killed More People: Joseph Stalin or Bill Clinton?

Who is responsible for more deaths?:

Joseph Stalin or Bill Clinton

Stalin Clinton
Prison deaths (including during the war years): 86,582 Executions: 4141
Executions: 786,098 Sanctions on Iraq: >500,0002 (plus adults)
Kulak resettlement: 389,521 Rwandan Genocide: >800,0003 (plus those killed after the RPF came to power)
GULAG deaths (including during the war years): 1,053,829 Al-Shifa Pharmaceutical Plant (Sudan) Bombing: >20,0004 (“several tens of thousands” – 20,000 is a low estimate)
First/Second Congo War5: ~2,700,0006
Turkey’s war against the Kurds7: >40,0008
Bombing of Yugoslavia: 1,5009
First Battle of Mogadishu ~50010
Total: ~2.3 million11 Total ~4 million*

By tallying things in this way, we are preceding from two assumptions:

  1. State leaders bare responsibility for deaths while they are in office
  2. Deaths caused directly or indirectly from state policy can be attributed to state leaders

Therefore, following this methodology, we can conclude that both Joseph Stalin and Bill Clinton hold responsibility for the excess deaths caused under their respective terms in office. However, this methodology leads us to conclude that, contrary to popular belief, the death toll under Bill Clinton’s leadership between January 20, 1993 and January 20, 2001 is higher than the death toll under Joseph Stalin’s leadership between ~1929 and March 5, 1953.

5 The Second Congo War continued on to 2003, so not all deaths happened during Clinton’s time in office. However, the vast majority of the fighting and the major campaigns occurred before Joseph Kabila became president of the DRC in 2001.

7 Similarly, not all of the deaths occurred while Bill Clinton was president.

11 All statistics regarding Stalin taken from: Getty, John Arch, Gabor T. Rittersporn, and Viktor N. Zemskov. “Victims of the Soviet Penal System in the Pre-War Years: A First Approach on the Basis of Archival Evidence,” n.d. https://web.archive.org/web/20080611064213/http:/www.etext.org/Politics/Staljin/Staljin/articles/AHR/AHR.html.

 

*Conflicts not included, due to difficulty of finding reliable numbers for the time period: Indonesia’s genocide of East Timor under General Suharto, the invasion of Bosnia in 1992, KLA terrorism in Yugoslavia throughout the 90s, bombing of Iraq in 1998, the situation in Somalia following the First Battle of Mogadishu, support for the military dictatorship in Haiti, support for Israeli Apartheid, consequences of NAFTA in Mexico, extension of sanctions on Cuba, bombing of Afghanistan at the same time as Al-Shifa in Sudan, bombing of Iraq in 1993, support for the Colombian government throughout the 90s.

Just sayin’.

Stalin

The Liberation of Afghanistan

I once heard a description of the recent history of Afghanistan begin, “Under the communists, women appeared on television uncovered. Under the Mujahideen, women appeared on television covered. Under the Taliban, there were no televisions.”

The dominant narratives regarding Afghanistan in the West possess the unfortunate characteristic of neglecting basic facts. Instead, the timeline goes a little something like this:

1. I don’t know anything about Afghanistan before I need to.

2. The evil Soviet Union invaded.

3. The heroic United States supported the freedom fighters.

4. Something, something, something.

5. TALIBAN!

6. The heroic United States kicked out those bad Taliban and gave Afghanistan democracy.

This timeline might even be giving too much credit to people (including the numbskull in the white house) who feel qualified to talk about Afghanistan, despite knowing next to nothing about one of the countries that has defined so much of last century (directly and indirectly).

That should terrify you. It should also give us a moment to think about the Liberation of Afghanistan and what that ought to mean.

At different points in history, one might point to an Afghanistan that has been called “liberated”. In 1919, Afghanistan wins its independence from the British Empire. Many have called this “liberation”. As the Kingdom of Afghanistan, the country is pushed through slow waves of modernization and conservative push-back. In 1978, the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan takes power and pushes through real modernization efforts. Many have called this “liberation”. Under quick succession, Nur Muhammad Taraki, Hafizullah Amin, and Babrak Karmal try to push through sweeping land reforms, women’s rights, and social programs. This is, of course, met with terrible resistance from the “traditional” power structures and clan networks throughout the country.

It was during this period, by admission of Zbigniew Brzezinski, that Amerikkka begins funding the Mujahideen, who fight against the socialists on behalf of these misogynistic, feudal power structures.

After the Mujahideen receive support from the U$, the Soviet Union decides to send troops on December 24th, 1979 to intervene in the budding civil war. Many have called this “liberation”. Following the establishment of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, the country is pulverized by becoming a flashpoint of the Cold War.

From 1979 on, there has essentially been endless civil war up until today.

In 1996, the Pakistan-backed Taliban (remember Benazir Bhutto) gains power and uses that power to destroy huge swaths of the country. Many have called this “liberation”. The remaining parts are destroyed by the U$-backed Northern Alliance. Many have called this “liberation”. And, most spectacularly, the full-fledged Amerikkkan imperialist occupation begins in 2001. Indeed, many have called this “liberation”.

At every major point in Afghan history, we’ve heard many say that “this (finally, this!) is the Liberation of Afghanistan.” However, pretty much every time, the deception became apparent almost immediately. To paraphrase Zizek in one of his essays after 9/11, one of the most grotesque and tragic states of existence is that of the family in Afghanistan who, when a plane passes overhead, does not know if it will drop bombs or containers of food and supplies in some faux humanitarian gesture.

The few bright moments in Afghanistan over the past century were always quickly dimmed by bullets and bombs. Afghanistan has been thrown into chaos and tragedy unequivocally due to the Amerikkkan Empire – anyone who doesn’t admit this is either lying or stupid. As Malalai Joya said in her interview above with Democracy Now!: “Imperialism and Fundamentalism have joined hands.”

The Liberation of Afghanistan, if it is ever to be a reality (rather than merely a name without that reality), will never come about as long as Amerikkka is involved. The Liberation of Afghanistan will come from the Afghan people alone, not from imperial machinations designed for the benefit of oil and gas pipelines and regional instability.

Imperialist occupation is never the solution to any problem.

When the incoherent fascist in Washington spews his bile, we should keep in mind that when he says, “The Amerikkkan people are weary of war without victory” – he means that he intends to continue this occupation by any means necessary.

We should fight exclusively for the Liberation of Afghanistan and against Dumbass Trump’s infinite stupidity.