This week, CounterPunch Radio host Eric Draitser sits down with journalist and author Pepe Escobar to talk geopolitics and the emerging conflicts of the 21st Century. Eric and Pepe discuss the much publicized tensions between the US and China in the South China Sea, examining some of the principal motivations of China and its neighbors and competitors. They go in depth about the Chinese New Silk Roads strategy and what it means for political and economic development and integration in Eurasia. Eric and Pepe also explore the vast implications of the Chinese and Russian moves, and the ways in which the West is attempting to counter some of these developments, including Washington’s corporate-sponsored power grabs of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). All this and much much more on Episode 7 of CounterPunch Radio.
Eric Draitser of StopImperialism.org appears on RT (June 16, 2015) to provide his analysis of Russia’s nuclear arsenal expansion and the motivation behind it. Draitser argues that Russia sees its nuclear assets as a vital deterrent to US-NATO military aggression throughout the former Soviet space. He explains that while NATO portrays Moscow as belligerent, it is in fact the policies of US-NATO escalating conflicts in the region which have brought tensions to this point.
The East African country of Eritrea is once again being demonized internationally as a systematic violator of human rights. The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has issued an allegedly damning report detailing what it claims are “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations” taking place in Eritrea. Media coverage has similarly echoed those claims, presenting Eritrea to a western audience as a backward and “brutal dictatorship,” playing on the traditional stereotypes of totalitarianism from East Germany to Stalin’s Soviet Union.
However, a closer and more critical analysis of both the report, and the true agendas of the western institutions promoting its narrative, reveals a vastly different motivation to this report and the continued anti-Eritrean narrative. It could be called politically motivated propaganda, and that would be correct. It could be called a distorted and biased perspective rooted in fundamental misunderstandings of both politics and history, and that would also be correct. It could, quite simply, be called abject neo-colonialism of the worst sort, and that too would also be correct.
For while the UN and western media portray Eritrea – a country most westerners know nothing about, if they’ve ever even heard of the country at all – as little more than a “Third World dictatorship” because of its alleged violations of human rights, they conveniently ignore the actual human rights issues that Eritrea champions, making it a leader on the African continent, and a country that in many ways should be held up as a model of human development and adherence to true human rights.
Eritrea leads the way in Africa on issues ranging from the prevention and treatment of malaria, HIV/AIDS and other preventable diseases, to access to clean drinking water, literacy promotion, and countless other issues. But none of this is deemed worthy by the UN for inclusion in a report about “human rights.”
This is of course not to suggest that Eritrea, like every other country in the so called “developing” and “developed” worlds, is without problems, as that would be simply false. Rather, it is to note that a truly objective report that actually sought a substantive analysis of human rights in Eritrea, rather than a politically motivated propaganda campaign, would have revealed a country busy transforming itself and its people, leaving behind the decades of colonial oppression and subjugation, beating an independent path for itself.
But of course, this is the gravest sin of all in the eyes of the western ruling class and the institutions it controls. Abject poverty, malnutrition, illiteracy, death from preventable diseases, and many other hallmarks of African underdevelopment – these are all fine in the eyes of the West, so long as you follow their IMF, World Bank, UN rules of the game; so long as you “respect opposition,” “respect democracy,” and act “inclusively.” But, when a country chooses to create its own system, and pursue its own national development (white neocolonial opinions be damned), it is immediately cast as the great villain. So too with Eritrea.
But don’t take my word for it. Let’s look at the facts.
Eric Draitser of StopImperialism.com appears on RT (June 11, 2015) to provide his analysis of the US decision to deploy troops to Iraq and the potential of US military bases in the country. Draitser explains that the US agenda has been, and remains, to divide Iraq’s military forces along sectarian lines in order to be able to maintain effective control over them and over Iraq’s political structures. He notes that, from the strategic perspective, this move has more to do with weakening Iranian influence than it does counter-terrorism.
The recent shelling of Donetsk and surrounding areas, carried out by Kiev’s military forces, has effectively ended the ceasefire and whatever illusions still remained of the Minsk 2 agreements. While there had been instances of violence before that of recent days, the level of intensity and bloodshed has undoubtedly escalated.
Although the Ukrainian military and Nazi paramilitary units have been targeting civilians – a flagrant war crime by any measure – there is a near total media blackout in the West. Meanwhile, the United States continues to argue that the “overwhelming majority of ceasefire violations” are as a result of anti-Kiev rebel activity, despite providing no evidence to substantiate these utterly false claims. Indeed, in the midst of an ongoing bloody war waged by Kiev against the people of Donbass, Washington continues to hold up President Poroshenko and his government of oligarchs and fascists as a force for peace.
Kiev Ratchets up the War, Rebels Respond
Despite droning propaganda to the contrary, the reality is that Kiev’s forces have ended the ceasefire and resumed shelling of civilian and military targets. As of June 9, 2015, there have been dozens of accounts of Kiev attacking the city of Donetsk and smaller towns at or near the contact line (the separation zone agreed to during the Minsk negotiations.) The important point is that these attacks have been ongoing, and are not merely the resumption of hostilities in the last week.
Despite its unwillingness to publicly acknowledge and condemn the actions, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has in fact documented a staggering number of ceasefire violations by Kiev’s forces. According to OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) summary table of ceasefire operations on April 23, 2015 for instance, the observers documented that a majority of the uses of heavy artillery came from Kiev-controlled territory, and that any uses outgoing from rebel-controlled territory were, according to the timeline, retaliatory strikes. In fact, a close examination of the timeline reveals that nearly all of the early morning shelling was outgoing from Kiev-controlled territory, suggesting that Ukrainian military forces initiated shelling and then came under fire later in the day.
Of course, one should be careful to draw too many conclusions from the incomplete OSCE data as the scope is limited, and the SMM has been reticent to assign blame or responsibility to Kiev’s forces, even in instances where their aggression is blatant. Earlier in April, Ukrainian military and/or paramilitary forces shelled Donetsk City Clinical Hospital No. 21 where, luckily, no patients were injured as the building hit was not in use. As journalist Roger Annis reported after returning from Donetsk in April, “Due to the escalation of shelling in the past several weeks, adults and children are once again spending nights underground in dank and cramped basement shelters. We toured one neighbourhood near the shattered Donetsk airport as shells were falling a few kilometers away. The resumption of daytime shelling is new.”
But of course, despite the repeated violations of the ceasefire agreement, the last several days have seen a significant escalation, one that has effectively ended the ceasefire and renewed the active engagement phase of the war.