domingo, 1 de marzo de 2015

Africa, hoy como ayer


Se trata de bronces cuya belleza corta la respiración, sencillamente. Era evidente que tamañas bellezas no podían quedar en manos de esos negritos roñosos del Africa Occidental, allá en Benin, al Oeste de Nigeria. Por suerte los ingleses pusieron lo que hay que poner para salvar estas obras. Pasó hace tiempo, sí, pero permite trazar paralelismos precisos con los sucesos de hoy en el mismo continente, las mismas regiones, los mismos pueblos. Así lo cuenta Michelle Yaa Asantewa para el sitio web africano Pambazuka News:


Título: Crimes of Empire: The Invasion of Benin Kingdom

Texto: British colonial soldiers committed genocide in the Kingdom of Benin in 1897. They then looted some 4,000 pieces of art which have never been returned. A Nigerian film recreates the invasion, exposing the bestial brutality of Empire.

On Saturday 7 February, a packed British Film Institute (BFI) audience attended African Odyssey’s hosting of ‘Grand Theft Africa: History of the Benin Bronzes.’ It opened with a one-hour presentation by historian and Pan-Africanist Dr Ama Biney on the historic and continuing ‘scramble for Africa.’ The focus of her presentation and theme for the film that followed was the 1897 invasion of Benin, which contributed to the greater African holocaust enshrined in our experience of enslavement, colonialism and neo-colonialism. The brutal desecration of Benin lives and culture through the theft of over 4,000 of its artefacts by Western Europeans seems to be a known but yet untold story. It led to the demise of the Great Benin Kingdom, marking a most significant period in the continuing scramble for African resources. During the invasion the Oba (King) was deposed and deported to Calabar on 13 September 1897 where he died 16 years later. The Nollywood director, Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen’s film captures the horrific invasion in which Benin’s well organised governmental system, cultural and spiritual traditions, kept in place for thousands of years, were callously disrespected by the British invaders. The event at the BFI was well timed to correspond with the anniversary on 10 February of the invasion. What follows is a reflection of the event as I attempt to capture the impression it left on me.



The past is present

One of the lasting messages of Dr Biney’s presentation was that the ‘past is not dead – that it lives on in the present.’ This is how she perceives the impact of history. The infamous ‘Scramble for Africa’ in which 14 European powers voraciously supped around the 1884-1885 Berlin Conference table is a haunting and living legacy impeding the struggle for sovereignty and self-determination for many African states. Yet their lack of self-determination is linked to the unnaturalness of their construction, as these states represent the demographically modified appendages of the European imperialist project. Since the Conference preceded the invasion of Benin by over a decade it might appear accidental – or fortuitous. Likewise since the conference was held 130 years ago the social, economic and political instabilities associated with these states might suggest some natural inability to self-govern. Clearly this would be an ill-conceived perspective ignoring the deliberate and lasting impact of the Scramble.

This historical appendage made it possible for the Malian president to request help from France, its former colonial ruler, to intervene in the political crisis a couple years ago. Such interventions, whether sanctioned by African leaders or not, do not necessarily improve the conditions of the people they are supposedly called to assist; nor do they help to advance the sovereignty of African states. Historically, the image of ‘anarchy’ and destabilisation through the creation of proxy wars has been used by Western governments to justify interference in the affairs of other sovereign states. Similarly, parallels can be made of the moral arguments about fighting Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria and the 1897 invasion by the UK government. Some chaos or anarchy has to be created/detected for which the burden to solve becomes that of the all-saving Europeans. Their military power would give them unfair advantage and means to occupy. The ‘humanitarian’ guise of rescuing 300 school girls provided a perfect opportunity for the US-European military expansion to West Africa. Excessive foreign troops stretched across large areas of Africa means a military occupation that has little to do with ‘saving girls.’ The question is whether Western intervention is necessary or is this interference part of their imperialist strategy? In other words: Are matters made worse or better by their intervention?

In her talk, Dr Biney reminded us which European countries were among those 14 powers at the conference: France, Britain, Germany and Portugal. The map she used to more visibly imprint the dissection of the continent showed the dominance of the French and British. She allowed a resonant beat to sink into our hearts the poignant fact that around this inglorious table no African leader was present. Therefore it remains to be said that Africans should be left to resolve their own internal affairs. Their self-determination will always be blighted by the interventionist strategies of Western governments whose interests lie in the control of our resources.



Circumstances of the invasion

What was striking from Dr Biney’s account was that prior to the 1897 invasion, between 1850-1880 there was a small European presence in Africa. They had coastal outposts from which they were exercising legitimate trade, particularly in palm oil and groundnuts. This trade had replaced the Trans-Atlantic Trade in human beings as slaves. The wanderlust of explorers, the crusading of missionaries and the avaricious traders combined to reshape the course of Africa’s history. The European countries involved in the trade sought to advance and protect their own interests, establishing military outposts that would later double as holding forts for enslaved Africans literally bound for the Atlantic. These outposts (forts) remain, as I observed during a trip to Cape Coast and Elmina Castles in Ghana. But those erected on the other side of the Atlantic also remain in the Caribbean islands. During a visit to some of these at the end of 2013 there was a sense that Africans (in the diaspora) had little claim to the land/islands but were forced to import everything and instead focus their economic interest on tourism – another way of saying exploration. At every corner of these islands there are churches – since the missionary project was supported by the respective European states.

Whilst they protected their claim along the coast, the real loot and ventures lay in the interior, which for many were yet unexplored. The increasing competition to discover and exploit Africa’s wealth naturally led explorers deeper into the interior. The Berlin Act, furthermore made it necessary for each European power to ‘inform each other of its claim’ to a portion of territory and establish the claim legitimately by ‘occupation.’ As we see today the interventionist strategy has its base in history whereby European governments used the internal disputes of African micro-states to push moral arguments about why they needed to be governed by external intermediaries. Some of the moral arguments were founded on the alleged principle of civilising Africans from their fetishisms and traditional practices, including human sacrifice. As Dr Biney noted, Europeans exaggerated these customs and practices in order to serve their own interests. Although the Europeans claimed to be concerned about internal slave trade and general conflicts in Africa, with the exception of the Yorubas no mention was made of internal slavery in the Berlin Act. Dr Biney argued that contrary to the supposed anarchy in Africa, most of West Africa was peaceful with well-organised states and strong rulers.



A sinister agreement

By the time of the invasion, Benin was expanding, having subsumed smaller states into its Kingdom through military force. The Edo region, in which the City of Benin was situated, was discovered by British explorers venturing deeper into the hinterland. The impressive cultural artefacts, along with the discovery of vast amounts of rubber leant fervour to the mission to totally colonise the region.

Oba Ovonramwen, who had inherited a kingdom at war not only with other states but with its own internal struggles, had to establish firm leadership but was loved and respected by his people. The British knew this. In 1891 the British Vice Consul H.L. Gallwey took a spurious treaty to Oba Ovonramwen. He didn’t sign the treaty but instead authorised one of his chiefs, who clearly couldn’t read English, to do so. According to Dr Biney the terms afforded protection for the Oba by Queen Victoria in return for loyalty to Britain; he could not entertain any other foreign power. There also had to be free trade with Britain and the kingdom had to receive missionaries. When the Oba flouted these terms a new treaty was devised aimed at forcing the Oba to submit to the British Empire.



Genocide: calling it by its name

Following his own orders, and perhaps owing to some despotic trait and loyalty to the British Crown, the Acting Vice Consul James Phillips ignored warnings not to enter Benin, when at this time a sacred ceremony was in swing. But he persisted to enter the City. This was regarded by the Benin chiefs as a challenge to the sovereignty of the kingdom for which they retaliated by killing Phillips and six other British men. This presented Britain with the opportunity of war against the kingdom and 1,500 soldiers primarily made up of Africans from other colonised territories were dispatched to avenge the killing of the seven Britons; two of them had escaped. The defeat of Benin, as Dr Biney explained, was due to the ‘superior technology’ of British weaponry. The Africans were admirable adversaries but their machetes, bows and arrows couldn’t compare. Though available on the continent, there was limited access to machine guns which would have aided their combat. Even if they could obtain the machine guns, there weren’t enough soldiers trained to use them. The outcome of this unfair advantage was genocide in which thousands Africans lost their lives. Shamefully this wholesale sacking of the Benin Empire also culminated in the grand theft of cultural artefacts bestowing the history and heritage of the Benin people.




‘The totality of the plan’

Another striking observation in Dr Biney’s presentation was the citation by fellow historian, Toyin Falola, who attributed the defeat of Nigeria (Benin) to the series of ‘so-called little wars’ waged by Britain as a decided method that ‘boosted the idea of imperialism.’ In other words, these little wars were by design part of a bigger plan for total domination. Former African leaders, like Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah and Ahmed Sékou Touré of Guinea Republic, posited pan-African unity, calling for a level of consciousness that would recognise the ‘totality of the European plan’ – a systematic, well-practiced strategy of divide and rule. Colonialism was replaced by neo-colonialism after extending pretentious arms of independence.

When Ghana gained its independence in 1957 as the first country in sub-saharan Africa to do so, Nkrumah made it clear that unless all African territories were liberated, none were. The vision of total liberation of its people and of all the macro and micro African states would be the appropriate response to this ‘totality of the plan’ by Britain, US and other Western European nations still intervening in African affairs.



Invasion 1897, the film

It fulfilled a lifetime ambition of the Nollywood director Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen to produce a film about the invasion of Benin but also to screen it in the City of London. His diminutive figure was overshadowed by lofty aspirations and confidence as he beamed from the BFI podium. That the film, a Nollywood production, was even being screened at the BFI was another achievement he credited. In September last year filmmaker Nadia Denton curated a weekend centred on the rise of Nollywood. This was held in conjunction with the launch of her book, ‘The Nigerian Filmmaker’s Guide to Success: Beyond Nollywood’. This film builds on the commitment by the African Odyssey’s programme of ‘inspirational films by and about the people of Africa.’

The film opened with harrowing scenes of violence, with heads cleanly swiped by machetes and lobbed across my unsuspecting imagination early on. We were forewarned about the violence but I wasn’t prepared for the immediacy of it. These scenes of violence were interspersed in the film, building particularly during the invasion itself where graphic depictions of cannon explosions, bodies burning, machine gun killings, machete executions that exposed the impact of the devastation to African lives. Though the ‘white men’, as they were called in the film, lost their lives, this was disproportionate because Africans were fighting both for and against the British.


Dubious cast

Apart from the recognisable Rudolph Walker and Charles (Chucky) Venn (both from Eastenders) most of the cast were unknown to UK audiences or were acting for the first time. This might explain the awkward staccato diction of some of the actors, especially those playing English soldiers who hardly seemed committed to the process. I wondered if this was to do with cultural allegiance – the difficulty or pressure to show one’s culture in its true (in this case negative) light. For me the most remarkable acting was by Mike Omoregbe who played Oba Ovonramwen. He was committed to portraying the strength, complexity and anxieties of the Benin leader. He brought to life the image of this proud, powerful warrior king that Dr Biney barely had time to show us during her talk. He was convincing in embodying the spirituality and beliefs in ancestral traditions that underscored the King’s life and that of his people. Surprisingly, we were later told it was Omoregbe’s first acting role and that he was a priest whose faith wouldn’t approve of the traditional spiritual practices the film promoted so well. This shows the open-mindedness of Omoregbe and further reveals the daringness of Imasuen who cast him.



The role of the British Museum

After the brutal opening scene, the film moved into present day to encapsulate the umbilical link with the past. A Nigerian descendant attempts to retrieve one of the Benin Bronzes from the British Museum. During the court hearing he refuses to plead guilty of theft, because he claims that he was restoring the items, stolen by the British, on behalf of his family. It wasn’t intended to be but this was somewhat comical. Yet, I imagine many Africans who visit the British Museum feel the same compulsion. I do. To mark the centenary of the invasion in 2014, the film was screened at the museum, amidst some security anxieties about protests and demonstrations. This is another of Imasuen’s accomplishments and speaks of the unabashedness of the British authorities about their grand theft of African resources. Perhaps they consider this screening some kind of concession. I see it the way Dr Biney regards the presentness of the past which will continue to speak until justice is done. Indeed, the penultimate scene in the film in which Oba Ovonramwen is captured was ominous. Throughout the film his speeches were deliberately elevated by the use of proverbs and allegories in contrast to the bland exchanges between the British soldiers. In his last speech he expressed prophetic sentiments of exacting justice.



The African perspective

From the BFI podium and to welcome audience response Imasuen said he wanted to make a film that was unapologetically from the African perspective. He achieved this by privileging the views and motivations of the Africans, showing particularly that they were concerned with preserving their cultural heritage and protecting their sovereignty. The invaders on the other hand were ignorant, blood thirsty and greedy; ready to wage an unjust war to strengthen their own empire thousands of miles away. The visualisation of African courage during the invasion reinforced Dr Biney’s account about their bravery during combat; that they were not passive bystanders but ready warriors to defend their kingdom. Although many of the soldiers in the British army were Africans, I think the film was making a point in depicting this. The stark blue uniforms worn by the soldiers vividly conveyed a problem. As long as Africans see themselves as separate and divided, each state can be manipulated by the colonisers to commit soldiers to fight against the other. I’m trying to imagine a day I’d see a film whereby European soldiers (white) are en mass fighting on the side of Africans against another European aggressor. Africans need to be committed to identifying a unity of interest. When it comes to advancing their interests European leaders, as the film depicts, are two-faced and two-tongued. They conspire together, though they don’t always agree, to protective their collective and nationalistic aims. Somehow they’ve convinced African leaders they need to act differently.

Though he said the film was unapologetically from the African perspective there was a massive oversight by the director. In the last scene, in which the African descendent achieves victory in court for his alleged attempted larceny of the Benin Bronzes he is embraced by his European partner fully clad (in the court) in the cultural orange beading, including a crown, found in Nigeria. They hugged, once, twice and then they kissed long. I was disappointed by this seemingly out of place addition – gutted that after all the pronouncements against the ‘white men’ and the blatant caricaturing of Queen Victoria that Imasuen felt he needed to close the film with this lasting image. Throughout the film and in keeping with social history of the day there was lack of agency in the depiction of the African women. However, I wonder at the insensitivity to African women by reinforcing a tired stereotype of a successful African man (symbolised by the raised hand of victory, mirroring Nelson and Winnie after the former’s release from prison) and his European (white) woman. Imasuen tried to pass it off as a ‘cultural marriage’ claiming that he didn’t want to be seen to be preaching hate. But for me this scene was a wasted effort, no love angle of this kind was necessary. It seemed as though it was about compromise and a lack of total conviction.

The same could be said of the decision not to use a Nigerian language and maintain the subtitles (which were in English despite all the actors speaking in English). His rationale for this was about trying to ‘reach’ a wider audience. One wonders how far that reach needed to be given the 170 million population of Nigeria. The ‘reach’ ought to be seen as coming from those who are interested in evolving cultural representations, not our complicit perpetuation of cultural imperialism through the predominance of the English language. Still respect is due to him for producing a film that tells this true story intrinsically from the worldview of Africans.



The artefacts and the grand theft

We saw clipped scenes of not only British but other European soldiers grabbing the loot from the decimated City of Benin. As well as Britain Dr Biney mentioned Sweden, Holland, Germany and the US as being beneficiaries of this looting. Imasuen related a story about seeing one of the Benin pieces on sale in the US for $54,000 and tried to compute how this sum would transform the lives of contemporary Edo artisans. With regard to the artistic feel of the film, there was a moderate attempt at this. There were some shots of the landscape; the red earth beautifully contrasting the tropically green trees gave a sense of the place. This was complimented by simple yet striking cultural costumes like the white puffy bottom half robes of the chiefs, the elaborate warrior vestments, including the visible crafting of their machetes and the impressive garments worn by the Oba. The achievement of this is commendable especially because the project was self-funded.

Imasuen commented during the Q&A that the craft and skill of creating those stolen artefacts has not been lost. There were shots of the bronze smelting, as homage to the skill and craft involved in producing the looted Benin bronzes.



Reparations

In her final remarks Dr Biney emphasised a call for reparations and restitution to account for the devastating loss of African life and the grand theft of thousands of Benin artefacts residing in the European museums and private collections Chicago. Despite attempts by the Edo people to secure the return of these treasures there has been no recognition of their claim. Imasuen recounted that during the build up to screening the film at the British Museum items were returned to the Benin Royal family by a descendant of one of the British men who looted the wares during the invasion. The emphasis on reparations highlighted the necessary and humane response in the 21st century to ameliorating the devastation of African cultural heritage under colonialism. This is part of a wider movement for reparations with which Dr Biney recommended young people to become involved.



Conclusion

The past does not only intrude but makes certain demands on the present. As I contemplate the stern face of Oba Ovonramwen, the confidence in his stature, I perceive an irrepressible spirit that will not rest until justice in some form is achieved for his people. In this way he can be said to embody the ancestral spirit of millions of Africans who perished during the holocaust or maafa (genocide). The combination of historical documentation from Dr Biney’s presentation and the artistic and cultural representation by Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen’s film provided excellent insight about the circumstances of the invasion. This was followed by lively debate during the Q&A which included on the panel along with Dr Biney and Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen, Nadia Denton, Mike Omoregbe (the Oba) and BFI’s David Somerset, Chairing.

I agreed with two memorable remarks. One stressed that the director didn’t have to pander to any suggestion he might be preaching hate in his film; that after all Africans were treated inhumanely in our brutal encounters with Europeans and we had nothing to apologise to them for; that in fact we’re still awaiting apology from them. The second asked that Imasuen took more care in the way he spoke about the value of African art. There was some miscommunication that suggested he would rather have compensation for the total value accumulated over one hundred years of theft, rather than having the artefacts themselves returned. The point was that we must appreciate both the artefact and their monetary worth, because if we didn’t and any slackness in our expressions about this would potentially send the wrong message and further hamper the campaign for reparations. I commend the effort of the African Odyssey team who brought the event to us in collaboration with Tony Warner of Black History Walks. Sponsors of the film, including Sapetra and Greenwich TV, and promoters j2 knosults were represented and to them too I express gratitude. Overall it was good to be there, the pre-screening presentation was great and despite some of its contradictions the film, as Nadia Denton summed up contributed to a necessary debate about the importance of history to the question of sovereignty and self-determination.


[Nota biográfica:] Dr Michelle Yaa Asantewa formerly taught English Literature, Editing and Creative Writing at London Metropolitan University and currently facilitates writing workshops as an Independent Scholar. Her first novel Elijah and poetry collection The Awakening and Other Poems were self-published and are the launch publications for Way Wive Wordz Publishing. A Pan-Africanist and writer activist her blog waywivewordzspiritualcreative fuses social, spiritual and cultural experiences with artistic expression.


sábado, 28 de febrero de 2015

Mensajes desde Kiev



El blog “Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis” viene posteando seguido sobre la situación económica en Ucrania, claramente fuera de control en estos últimos días. Acá va una seguidilla de mensajes que le envían los lectores desde Kiev (http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com). El primero es del 25 de Febrero:


Título: Ukraine Hyperinflation; Currency Plunges 44% in One Week! Actual Black Market Rates; Poroshenko Gives "Ultimatum" to Central Bank to Fix Exchange Rate

Texto: I hear various reports of what the hryvnia actually trades for on the black market in Ukraine. I believe the reports, but they come in piecemeal.

Today, I have an actual black market link to share thanks to reader Oleg from Crimea. In response to “Ukrainian Currency Comparison: Budget Rate vs. Official Rate vs. Interbank Rate vs. Street Rate”, reader Oleg Writes:

-Hello Mish! There's more to the black exchange rate than meets the eye in Ukraine.

First of all if you use the "legal" currency exchange places you can only exchange up to 3000 hryvnias per day. Then there is an extra tax on the exchange.

None of that applies at the black market of course. Often black market outfits operate from the same official currency exchange kiosks, you just need how an what to ask for.

A number of "online exchanges for people" sprang up where people say how much of what they have and what they ask for it. Of course, such sites are subject to manipulation.

I am from the Crimea originally, and I am grateful it's no longer at the top of the news.

Oleg

  
Currency Limits

The official foreign exchange limit is 3000 hryvnias per day, down from 15,000 a year ago. That's less than $100 a day. That limit is posted in Changes in Currency Control Rules (in English).

The Exchange Tax, not in English, is up from 0.5% to 2.0%.

In a second email Oleg comments: "It's a pretty widespread practice to ask around when you need to sell dollars/euros because there are tons of willing buyers at a very competitive price compared to official exchange places. Of course, going straight to the black market is risky in many respects. However, importers frequently turn to such exchanges because they need currency and cannot obtain it by official means."



Black Market

As I said previously, no one gets the "official" rate exchanging hryvnia for dollars other than corrupt banks officials taking advantage of the rigged system.

I am not sure who gets the interbank rate and in what quantities. But anyone who needs hard currency above and beyond what they can get at the interbank rate has little choice other than the black market sites that have sprung up.



Black Market Exchange Site

Please consider the appropriately named Black Market Exchange.

The site amusingly warns "Please note that the violation of the order and conditions of sale and purchase transactions of foreign currency, the perpetrators of such violations shall be liable in accordance with Art. 162 of the Code of Administrative Offenses, according to which the illegal purchase, sale, exchange, use of currency values ??as a means of payment or collateral - entail a warning or a fine of thirty to forty-four times the income of citizens with confiscation of currency values."

The way it works is by phone. You see an exchange rate you like, make a call to the posted phone number, meet and do a deal.

The word "course" translates as "exchange rate". Some of the offers are nonsensical. Scroll down to offers that have a strike-through. Those allegedly represent completed transactions at the shown rate.

I do not believe some of the executed transactions. Others look reasonable.



Currency Converter

The Currency Converter, part of the same website, seems more reasonable.



Rates Revisited

Yesterday, I noted The Dollar on the Interbank Market was Fixed at Around 33.5/USD.

Ukraine's international newspaper, The Mirror (available in English), reported on February 16, Ukrainian Government Changes Rate to UAH 21.7/USD in 2015 Budget.

The "official" rate yesterday was 28.29/USD.

I can now complete a table whose last line yesterday read like this "Street: Unknown but assuredly higher". We can now reasonably quantify "unknown".



Exchange Rates

2015 Budget: 21.1
Official: 28.29
Interbank: 33.5
Street: 38.5

All of the above for Monday, 2015-02-24.



Hyperinflation?

At the beginning of 2014, the exchange rate was 8.21 per dollar. From 8.21 to 38.5 is a decline of 78.6% in just over a year.

This morning in Emails From Kiev: Free Speech Vanishes, Total Media Thought Control; US Radar System Falls Into Rebel Hands? I quoted "Ellen" who lives in Kiev.

Ellen, who lives in Kiev writes "Today $1 is worth 36 hryvnias on the black market. A Week ago it was 20 hryvnais. No one knows where the bottom is. People buy anything just to get rid of hryvnias."

That's a decline of 44.44% in one week! And if you use the 38.5 black market rate, the weekly decline is 48%.

In my book, that is hyperinflation, complete with that attitude that does with it: "People buy anything just to get rid of hryvnias."

And where will it stop?



Full Scale War

Ukraine's deputy foreign minister announced a "Full Scale War" on Saturday.

For details, please see "Prepare for Full-Scale War" says Ukraine Deputy Foreign Minister: "With What?" asks Mish; Ukraine Lie of the Day.

Ukraine is broke. It has no means to fight a war. Nonetheless, Ukraine is dedicated to fighting the impossible to win war, with foreign currency reserves dwindling.

Insistence on more fighting will produce more of the same results. Except now the US is involved in a not-so clandestine way (See Emails From Kiev: Free Speech Vanishes, Total Media Thought Control; US Radar System Falls Into Rebel Hands?)



Poroshenko Gives "Ultimatum" to Central Bank to Fix Exchange Rate

To put the finishing touches on the hyperinflation story, at a live press conference on the currency market, Poroshenko ordered the Chairman of the National Bank and the Finance Minister to Stabilize the Hryvnia at the "Budget" Rate of 21.5 hryvnia per dollar.

During an online broadcast, Poroshenko issued an ultimatum demanding the head of the National Bank of Ukraine, Valerie Gontareva, stabilize the hryvnia at a level which was guided by Cabinet in approving changes to the 2015 budget.

Poroshenko is not only a military fool, this rate change by mandate while fighting a stupid war proves he is an economic fool as well. Of course Mish readers knew that long ago.

I advise Hontaryevoyi to get out of Ukraine while she still can.



Addendum - Street Rates in Lviv

Reader John, who speaks Ukrainian, and whose father payed a key role in the Ukrainian resistance in WWII, has a sister who lives in Lviv, a beautiful town in Western Ukraine. He got "street" rates from his sister, just moments after I posted the above.


John writes: Hello Mish, My sister just returned from grocery shopping and advised that prices have further skyrocketed and are getting outrageous. The population will be subsisting on potatoes and beets and not much more.


Street Rates

SELL 1 USD = 25.00 UAH
SELL 1 EURO = 28.00 UAH
BUY  1 USD = 39.00 UAH
BUY  1 EURO = 45.00 UAH


Ukraine faces an IMF funding decision on March 11. Clearly it's not going well. I knew that was the purpose of the ultimatum. John provided the date.

Black market street rate in Lviv is now 39-to-1 if you want to buy dollars.


El post que sigue también es del 25/ 2:


Título: Emails From Kiev: Free Speech Vanishes, Total Media Thought Control; US Radar System Falls Into Rebel Hands?


Subtítulo: Free Speech Vanishes - Total Media Thought Control


Texto: I have a couple emails from Ukraine to share, one from two days ago, one from yesterday. Both are from "Ellen" who lives in Kiev (name changed).

Two Days Ago From Ellen: “As you know, the Debaltsevo pocket situation is resolved. It's not as bad as it could have been in terms of casualties. However, this was a crashing defeat of Poroshenko's generals.

I don't know how many more losses our society can take, but people are very angry. Currency keep plunging every day. Today it takes 30 hryvnias to buy one US dollar. It seems we have default without official announcement of it.

There is a new problem: total media thought control. In Ukraine we used to have free speech, but not any longer. War propaganda is everywhere and if someone doubts official policy, the journalist will be cast out or put in prison.

It is worse now than under Yanukovych. There is an atmosphere of fear everywhere. Today, a new law was passed, and now the president can switch off any TV news channel, any paper.
 
Total mobilization is underway. Anyone who refuses to join the army will go to jail.

Putin opened the border for Ukrainians who don't want to join the army. Millions of men from Ukraine went to Russia. Not many want to go to war. One defeat after another discourages people.

Many think Debaltsevo was breaking point. Some say separatists will take new areas with less resistance from Ukrainian army. Hard to say. Many think Mariupol, a city of 400,000 people is next. If separatists storm Mariupol it will be a bloody mess world haven't seen for long time.”
Ellen



UAE Sells Arms to Ukraine, Currency Plunges More

Yesterday From Ellen: “News today is Ukraine will buy arms from UAE, perhaps arms that Americans previously sold to UAE. Poroshenko signed the contract, but we do not know what exactly Ukraine is buying.

It seems pretty much like Ukraine is in default. Today $1 is worth 36 hryvnias on the black market. A Week ago it was 20 hryvnas. No one knows where the bottom is. People buy anything just to get rid of hryvnias.

The only thing missing from a default is the announcement. I guess Poroshenko waits for bail out money from IMF and America. No one is in a hurry to bail us out because they know the money will be stolen by our corrupt officials.

We never seen prices rise so fast. Poroshenko came to power with 1 dollar around 9-10 hryvnias and now it's 36. Meanwhile his chocolate factory profit has gone up 8 times. His friends are also doing very well. People in Ukraine are very angry. Maybe this anger will be out on the streets soon.

Best regards, Ellen



No-So Clandestine US Weapons Shipments

Colonel Cassad describes UAE anti-tank offerings in Arms supplies to Ukraine.

“Given that Obama, despite pressure from the Pentagon and the Senate, has not yet taken a decision, it seems that a "buffer" scheme has been activated, whereby a country dependent on the U.S. is prepared to ship arms to Ukraine, essentially becoming a sort of middleman through which American weapons systems are sent to Ukraine. These can come in the guise of "arms from the UAE", with the U.S. seemingly uninvolved.

Specifically, the UAE has the BGM-71 TOW US antitank system, long ago discussed in relation to the pumping up junta troops' defensive lethal weapons.”



TOW Anti-Tank Missiles

BGM-71 TOW Description: Wikipedia describes the BGM-71 TOW as a "Tube-launched, Optically tracked, Wire-guided" anti-tank missile. First produced in 1970, the TOW is one of the most widely used anti-tank guided missiles."

An optical sensor on the sight continuously monitors the position of a light source on the missile relative to the line-of-sight, and then corrects the trajectory of the missile by generating electrical signals that are passed down two wires to command the control surface actuators.



Lethal Aid

On February 7, Stratfor wrote US Considering Lethal Aid to Ukraine:

“A significant portion of the anti-tank weapons Ukraine owns are old and likely inoperable. Moreover, only a few effective weapons such as the 9K115-2 Metis-M, indigenous Skif missile and RPB-29 are in its stockpiles. If the United States or its NATO allies were to transfer Javelin anti-tank guided missiles or heavier crew-served TOW missiles to Kiev, it could give Ukrainian troops a credible capability against separatist and Russian heavy armor.”

That just happened. Expect Russia to respond in kind. And expect more deaths.



Renewed Fighting Around Mariupol

Earlier today Yahoo! News reported Ukraine Rebels Fill Hospital as Clashes Flare Around Mariupol: http://news.yahoo.com/ukraine-rebels-fill-hospital-clashes-flare-around-mariupol-193156428.html



US Radar System Falls Into Rebel Hands?

One of the problems in sending top-notch equipment to Ukraine is what happens to it. For example Colonel Cassad reports:

"Among the trophies in the Debaltsevo area was a damaged American mortar counter-battery radar system.  The junta claims that during the flight of the 128th Brigade its soldiers were able to wreck it. But there is some doubt seeping through these claims. It is likely that the radar, in one condition or another, passed into the hands of the Novorossia Armed Forces, which means that it will get to Russia and be studied, as happened with American hardware captured during the Olympic (2008 Russia-Georgia) war."

I do not know the equipment, or the significance, but if Cassad thinks it happened, history suggests it probably did.



Say Something Against the Draft - Go to Jail

Ellen commented "Total mobilization is underway. Anyone who refuses to join the army will go to jail".

It's a bit worse than that. If you call for a boycott of mobilization, you will be arrested.

Please consider Prosecutor Calls for Arrest of Journalists who Protest Mobilization.

“In mid-January, journalist Ruslan Kotsaba recorded a video in which called for the abandonment of the mobilization.

His wife reported that he had been arrested on suspicion of "SBU gosizmene". The adviser to the chairman of the SBU Markiyan Lubkivsky commented on the detention of journalist as follows: "Given that the actions R.Kotsaby there are signs of a crime under Part 1 of Article 111 and Part 1 of Article 114 of the Criminal Code, he announced that suspicion."

I need a better translation of "??" vs. Google translation of "suspicion of SBU gosizmene".

I suspect that phrase and/or Part 1 of Article 111 and Part 1 of Article 114 pertain to treason or subversion.



Anti-Draft Agitation - Eight Years in Prison

Here's a literal headline translation that's easy to understand: "For Agitation in Social Networks Against Mobilization Can Collect Up to 8 Years".



Conscription of Minivan

Here's a final post that shows who we are supporting.

The prosecutor's office in Kharkov starts Criminal Proceedings on a Corporation's Refusal to Turn Over Minivan for Military Use.

“In Kharkov, prosecutors opened criminal proceedings on the failure of one of the companies within the mobilization region to transfer a minivan for the needs of the APU.

The prosecutor's office of the Frunze district of Kharkov started criminal proceedings under Part. 1, Art. 364-1 (abuse of authority by an official of the legal entity of private law) of the Criminal Code against the leadership of one of the machine-building enterprises of Kharkov.

According to the District Attorney Stanislav Pieve, officials Ltd. refused to give within the framework of the mobilization for the needs of the Armed Forces of Ukraine technique.

"At the request of the district military office to provide vehicles in the company announced its absence. However, as it turned out, the management of concealed information about the presence of a van," - said Pieve.



Hiding a Minivan

Sheesh. From the last paragraph above, it appears this company was charged because it concealed a minivan.

For now, I believe this type of thuggery is primarily happening in Eastern cities not under separatist control. I don't think they would dare do this in Kiev yet.

If they did, I would expect an uprising if not takedown of Poroshenko. Recall that Ellen said "Maybe this anger will be out on the streets soon."

The problem is, the asshats associated with Poroshenko are even worse than he is.

Read more at http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/2015/02/emails-from-kiev-free-speech-vanishes.


Este último post, a su vez, es de ayer:


Título: Panic in Ukraine Over Food, Empty Stores and Protests; Strategic Food Reserve Empty


Texto: Here's a brief update from "Ellen" who lives in Lviv, a city in Western Ukraine.

“Hello Mish

We have quite a panic over the collapse of currency. People buy any food product that can be stored. Everyone wants to rid of Hryvnia. We haven't seen anything like this since 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed. Stores are empty.

It is hard to say what exchange rate this days, somewhere between 34 and 42

There were riots in downtown today. A group of protesters was beaten up by police. They marched through downtown and gave a last warning to government officials. Next time they said they will shoot some officials.

Ukraine is on a brink, but the West is not in a hurry to give us money. Perhaps they want something.  Maybe they know the money will end up with corrupt officials who will steal it.

Either way, the few billion dollars they promised in March won't save our economy, not after this panic started.

Best wishes, Ellen”



Strategic Food Reserve Empty

A curious thing happened today. To quiet protests over food, president Petro Poroshenko ordered the minister of the food reserve to fill the shelves of stores with flour, sugar, canned meat, and buckwheat from the reserve.

Well guess what? There was no food in the reserve. It has either been looted (like the vanishing gold), or it was fed to the army.

Here is a nice translation from Russian by J. Hawk: Ukraine's Strategic Food Reserve... Runs Out Of Food.

“Ukrainian food prices are rising at a rate faster than in the ‘90s. But the Yatsenyuk government is still blaming the situation on the ignorance of the population and speculation by supermarket chains.

They used to blame currency exchangers, now they are blaming supermarket directors. However, you can’t feed the people with such tales.

The government’s “economy block” hastily summoned the director of the Ukrainian State Reserve Vladimir Zhukov. They demanded that he open the storehouses and fill the shelves with flour, sugar, canned meat, and buckwheat from its stores. In response the keeper of Motherland’s strategic stores revealed a terrible military secret to Yatsenyuk and Poroshenko: the storehouses are empty.

It would seem Ukraine’s Black Hour is here.

J.Hawk's Comment: There indeed were earlier reports that the strategic reserve was being "unsealed" to support military operations on the Donbass. The army has to eat, after all, and maintaining several tens of thousands of soldiers for nearly a year is likely to make a dent. The second factor was the junta's desperate need to earn hard currency to somehow plug up the many budget holes opened up by its adoption of "European Choice" neoliberal economic policies. Therefore anything that could be sold, was sold, including Mariupol's huge grain reserves. Finally, there's the small matter of corruption. One gets the impression Ukraine is a giant organized style "bust-out" operation, whose objective is to stash as much loot in foreign accounts and then leave the mess for someone else to clean up. To say that the Kiev junta has some kind of a strategy would be giving them entirely too much credit. It's a collection of loosely coordinated individuals pursuing their own venal agendas and living hand-to-mouth, without any thought given to Ukraine's long-term prospects.

Here is a link to the original article that J. Hawk translated: Ukraine State Reserve Doesn’t Even Have Buckwheat. Everything was Stolen.

Buckwheat is a Russian staple. I believe, "out of buckwheat" would be the equivalent of Japan being out of rice.

Mish note: One person accused me of bias over the word "junta". I did not choose the word. I quoted someone, just as I quote Colonel Cassad.

In context, it certainly appears J. Hawk went out of his way to not just translate, but to mention the possibility reserves were unsealed to feed the army.


Read more at http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/2015/02/panic-in-ukraine-over-food-empty-stores.


Libia, la guerra olvidada de la NATO


A medida que se acerca el cuarto aniversario de la “intervención humanitaria” de la NATO en Libia, el estado lamentable en que quedara ese sufrido país promueve las reflexiones de todo tipo. Reproducimos un reporte de Michael Krieger para LibertyBlitzkrieg (http://libertyblitzkrieg.com) en donde se comenta en detalle un artículo previo sobre las consecuencias del desastre llevado a cabo por la NATO en Libia.


Título: The Forgotten War – Understanding the Incredible Debacle Left Behind by NATO in Libya

Epígrafe: “In retrospect, Obama’s intervention in Libya was an abject failure, judged even by its own standards. Libya has not only failed to evolve into a democracy; it has devolved into a failed state. Violent deaths and other human rights abuses have increased severalfold. Rather than helping the United States combat terrorism, as Qaddafi did during his last decade in power, Libya now serves as a safe haven for militias affiliated with both al Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The Libya intervention has harmed other U.S. interests as well: undermining nuclear nonproliferation, chilling Russian cooperation at the UN, and fueling Syria’s civil war.?

“As bad as Libya’s human rights situation was under Qaddafi, it has gotten worse since NATO ousted him. Immediately after taking power, the rebels perpetrated scores of reprisal killings, in addition to torturing, beating, and arbitrarily detaining thousands of suspected Qaddafi supporters. The rebels also expelled 30,000 mostly black residents from the town of Tawergha and burned or looted their homes and shops, on the grounds that some of them supposedly had been mercenaries. Six months after the war, Human Rights Watch declared that the abuses “appear to be so widespread and systematic that they may amount to crimes against humanity.”?

“As a consequence of such pervasive violence, the UN estimates that roughly 400,000 Libyans have fled their homes, a quarter of whom have left the country altogether.” ?

– From Alan Kuperman’s excellent Foreign Affairs article: Obama’s Libya Debacle


Texto: Regular readers will be somewhat familiar with the total chaos NATO left behind in the wake of its so-called “humanitarian” intervention in Libya, but I doubt many of you are aware of just how enormous the disaster actually has become.

Alan J. Kuperman, an Associate Professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, wrote an incredible article in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs, which is an absolute must read. If the American public and politicians actually wanted to learn from their mistakes and avoid making them in the future, this piece could serve as a comprehensive warning about what not to do.

That said, after reading this article the unfortunate truth becomes apparent; that there are only two logical conclusions that can be reached about American foreign policy leadership in the 21st century.

1) American leadership is ruthlessly pursuing immoral wars all over the world with the intent of creating outside enemies to focus public anger on, as a conscious diversion away from the criminality happening domestically. As an added bonus, the intelligence-military-industrial complex makes an incredible sum of money. The end result: serfs are distracted with inane nationalistic fervor, while the “elites” earn billions.

2) American leadership is completely and totally inept; being easily manipulated into overseas conflicts by ruthless corporate interests and cunning foreign “rebels” in order to advance their own selfish interests, which are in conflict with the interests of the general public.

I can’t come up with any other logical conclusion. Either way, such people have no business running the affairs of these United States, and their actions are merely increasing instability and violence across the planet. The longer they remain in charge with no accountability, the more dangerous this world will become.


From Foreign Affairs:

“In March 17, 2011, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1973, spearheaded by the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, authorizing military intervention in Libya. The goal, Obama explained, was to save the lives of peaceful, pro-democracy protesters who found themselves the target of a crackdown by Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi. Not only did Qaddafi endanger the momentum of the nascent Arab Spring, which had recently swept away authoritarian regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, but he also was poised to commit a bloodbath in the Libyan city where the uprising had started, said the president. “We knew that if we waited one more day, Benghazi—a city nearly the size of Charlotte—could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world,” Obama declared. Two days after the UN authorization, the United States and other NATO countries established a no-fly zone throughout Libya and started bombing Qaddafi’s forces. Seven months later, in October 2011, after an extended military campaign with sustained Western support, rebel forces conquered the country and shot Qaddafi dead.

“In the immediate wake of the military victory, U.S. officials were triumphant. Writing in these pages in 2012, Ivo Daalder, then the U.S. permanent representative to NATO, and James Stavridis, then supreme allied commander of Europe, declared, “NATO’s operation in Libya has rightly been hailed as a model intervention.” In the Rose Garden after Qaddafi’s death, Obama himself crowed, “Without putting a single U.S. service member on the ground, we achieved our objectives.” Indeed, the United States seemed to have scored a hat trick: nurturing the Arab Spring, averting a Rwanda-like genocide, and eliminating Libya as a potential source of terrorism. ?

“That verdict, however, turns out to have been premature. In retrospect, Obama’s intervention in Libya was an abject failure, judged even by its own standards. Libya has not only failed to evolve into a democracy; it has devolved into a failed state. Violent deaths and other human rights abuses have increased severalfold. Rather than helping the United States combat terrorism, as Qaddafi did during his last decade in power, Libya now serves as a safe haven for militias affiliated with both al Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The Libya intervention has harmed other U.S. interests as well: undermining nuclear nonproliferation, chilling Russian cooperation at the UN, and fueling Syria’s civil war.?

“Despite what defenders of the mission claim, there was a better policy available—not intervening at all, because peaceful Libyan civilians were not actually being targeted. Had the United States and its allies followed that course, they could have spared Libya from the resulting chaos and given it a chance of progress under Qaddafi’s chosen successor: his relatively liberal, Western-educated son Saif al-Islam. Instead, Libya today is riddled with vicious militias and anti-American terrorists—and thus serves as a cautionary tale of how humanitarian intervention can backfire for both the intervener and those it is intended to help.?

“Optimism about Libya reached its apogee in July 2012, when democratic elections brought to power a moderate, secular coalition government—a stark change from Qaddafi’s four decades of dictatorship. But the country quickly slid downhill. Its first elected prime minister, Mustafa Abu Shagour, lasted less than one month in office. His quick ouster foreshadowed the trouble to come: as of this writing, Libya has had seven prime ministers in less than four years. Islamists came to dominate the first postwar parliament, the General National Congress. Meanwhile, the new government failed to disarm dozens of militias that had arisen during NATO’s seven-month intervention, especially Islamist ones, leading to deadly turf battles between rival tribes and commanders, which continue to this day. In October 2013, secessionists in eastern Libya, where most of the country’s oil is located, declared their own government. That same month, Ali Zeidan, then the country’s prime minister, was kidnapped and held hostage. In light of the growing Islamist influence within Libya’s government, in the spring of 2014, the United States postponed a plan to train an armed force of 6,000–8,000 Libyan troops.?

“By May 2014, Libya had come to the brink of a new civil war—between liberals and Islamists. That month, a renegade secular general named Khalifa Hifter seized control of the air force to attack Islamist militias in Benghazi, later expanding his targets to include the Islamist-dominated legislature in Tripoli. Elections last June did nothing to resolve the chaos. Most Libyans had already given up on democracy, as voter turnout dropped from 1.7 million in the previous poll to just 630,000. Secular parties declared victory and formed a new legislature, the House of Representatives, but the Islamists refused to accept that outcome. The result was two competing parliaments, each claiming to be the legitimate one.?

“In July, an Islamist militia from the city of Misurata responded to Hifter’s actions by attacking Tripoli, prompting Western embassies to evacuate. After a six-week battle, the Islamists captured the capital in August on behalf of the so-called Libya Dawn coalition, which, together with the defunct legislature, formed what they labeled a “national salvation government.” In October, the newly elected parliament, led by the secular Operation Dignity coalition, fled to the eastern city of Tobruk, where it established a competing interim government, which Libya’s Supreme Court later declared unconstitutional. Libya thus finds itself with two warring governments, each controlling only a fraction of the country’s territory and militias.?

“As bad as Libya’s human rights situation was under Qaddafi, it has gotten worse since NATO ousted him. Immediately after taking power, the rebels perpetrated scores of reprisal killings, in addition to torturing, beating, and arbitrarily detaining thousands of suspected Qaddafi supporters. The rebels also expelled 30,000 mostly black residents from the town of Tawergha and burned or looted their homes and shops, on the grounds that some of them supposedly had been mercenaries. Six months after the war, Human Rights Watch declared that the abuses “appear to be so widespread and systematic that they may amount to crimes against humanity.”?

 “As a consequence of such pervasive violence, the UN estimates that roughly 400,000 Libyans have fled their homes, a quarter of whom have left the country altogether. ?

“Libya’s quality of life has been sharply degraded by an economic free fall. That is mainly because the country’s production of oil, its lifeblood, remains severely depressed by the protracted conflict. Prior to the revolution, Libya produced 1.65 million barrels of oil a day, a figure that dropped to zero during NATO’s intervention. Although production temporarily recovered to 85 percent of its previous rate, ever since secessionists seized eastern oil ports in August 2013, output has averaged only 30 percent of the prewar level. Ongoing fighting has closed airports and seaports in Libya’s two biggest cities, Tripoli and Benghazi. In many cities, residents are subjected to massive power outages—up to 18 hours a day in Tripoli. The recent privation represents a stark descent for a country that the UN’s Human Development Index traditionally had ranked as having the highest standard of living in all of Africa.”?

So intervention actually destroyed a country that was doing very well compared to the rest of Africa, and turned it into a violent, economic disaster zone/terrorist camp.

“Although the White House justified its mission in Libya on humanitarian grounds, the intervention in fact greatly magnified the death toll there. To begin with, Qaddafi’s crackdown turns out to have been much less lethal than media reports indicated at the time. In eastern Libya, where the uprising began as a mix of peaceful and violent protests, Human Rights Watch documented only 233 deaths in the first days of the fighting, not 10,000, as had been reported by the Saudi news channel Al Arabiya. In fact, as I documented in a 2013 International Security article, from mid-February 2011, when the rebellion started, to mid-March 2011, when NATO intervened, only about 1,000 Libyans died, including soldiers and rebels. Although an Al Jazeera article touted by Western media in early 2011 alleged that Qaddafi’s air force had strafed and bombed civilians in Benghazi and Tripoli, “the story was untrue,” revealed an exhaustive examination in the London Review of Booksby Hugh Roberts of Tufts University. Indeed, striving to minimize civilian casualties, Qaddafi’s forces had refrained from indiscriminate violence.”?

Saudis lying as usual to get a war going. No surprise there.

“Moreover, by the time NATO intervened, Libya’s violence was on the verge of ending. Qaddafi’s well-armed forces had routed the ragtag rebels, who were retreating home. By mid-March 2011, government forces were poised to recapture the last rebel stronghold of Benghazi, thereby ending the one-month conflict at a total cost of just over 1,000 lives. Just then, however, Libyan expatriates in Switzerland affiliated with the rebels issued warnings of an impending “bloodbath” in Benghazi, which Western media duly reported but which in retrospect appear to have been propaganda. In reality, on March 17, Qaddafi pledged to protect the civilians of Benghazi, as he had those of other recaptured cities, adding that his forces had “left the way open” for the rebels to retreat to Egypt. Simply put, the militants were about to lose the war, and so their overseas agents raised the specter of genocide to attract a NATO intervention—which worked like a charm. There is no evidence or reason to believe that Qaddafi had planned or intended to perpetrate a killing campaign. ?

“This grim math leads to a depressing but unavoidable conclusion. Before NATO’s intervention, Libya’s civil war was on the verge of ending, at the cost of barely 1,000 lives. Since then, however, Libya has suffered at least 10,000 additional deaths from conflict. In other words, NATO’s intervention appears to have increased the violent death toll more than tenfold.?

“Since NATO’s intervention in 2011, however, Libya and its neighbor Mali have turned into terrorist havens. Radical Islamist groups, which Qaddafi had suppressed, emerged under NATO air cover as some of the most competent fighters of the rebellion. Supplied with weapons by sympathetic countries such as Qatar, the militias refused to disarm after Qaddafi fell. Their persistent threat was highlighted in September 2012 when jihadists, including from the group Ansar al-Sharia, attacked the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, killing Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three of his colleagues. Last year, the UN formally declared Ansar al-Sharia a terrorist organization because of its affiliation with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.?

“NATO’s intervention also fostered Islamist terrorism elsewhere in the region. When Qaddafi fell, the ethnic Tuaregs of Mali within his security forces fled home with their weapons to launch their own rebellion. That uprising was quickly hijacked by local Islamist forces and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which declared an independent Islamic state in Mali’s northern half. By December 2012, this zone of Mali had become “the largest territory controlled by Islamic extremists in the world,” according to Senator Christopher Coons, chair of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Africa.

“The harm from the intervention in Libya extends well beyond the immediate neighborhood. For one thing, by helping overthrow Qaddafi, the United States undercut its own nuclear nonproliferation objectives. In 2003, Qaddafi had voluntarily halted his nuclear and chemical weapons programs and surrendered his arsenals to the United States. His reward, eight years later, was a U.S.-led regime change that culminated in his violent death. That experience has greatly complicated the task of persuading other states to halt or reverse their nuclear programs. Shortly after the air campaign began, North Korea released a statement from an unnamed Foreign Ministry official saying that “the Libyan crisis is teaching the international community a grave lesson” and that North Korea would not fall for the same U.S. “tactic to disarm the country.” Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, likewise noted that Qaddafi had “wrapped up all his nuclear facilities, packed them on a ship, and delivered them to the West.” Another well-connected Iranian, Abbas Abdi, observed: “When Qaddafi was faced with an uprising, all Western leaders dropped him like a brick. Judging from that, our leaders assess that compromise is not helpful.”?

“The intervention in Libya may also have fostered violence in Syria. In March 2011, Syria’s uprising was still largely nonviolent, and the Assad government’s response, although criminally disproportionate, was relatively circumscribed, claiming the lives of fewer than 100 Syrians per week. After NATO gave Libya’s rebels the upper hand, however, Syria’s revolutionaries turned to violence in the summer of 2011, perhaps expecting to attract a similar intervention. “It’s similar to Benghazi,” a Syrian rebel told The Washington Post at the time, adding, “We need a no-fly zone.” The result was a massive escalation of the Syrian conflict, leading to at least 1,500 deaths per week by early 2013, a 15-fold increase. ?

“NATO’s mission in Libya also hindered peacemaking efforts in Syria by greatly antagonizing Russia. With Moscow’s acquiescence, the UN Security Council had approved the establishment of a no-fly zone in Libya and other measures to protect civilians. But NATO exceeded that mandate to pursue regime change. The coalition targeted Qaddafi’s forces for seven months—even as they retreated, posing no threat to civilians—and armed and trained rebels who rejected peace talks. As Russian President Vladimir Putin complained, NATO forces “frankly violated the UN Security Council resolution on Libya, when instead of imposing the so-called no-fly zone over it they started bombing it too.” His foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, explained that as a result, in Syria, Russia “would never allow the Security Council to authorize anything similar to what happened in Libya.”

“Despite the massive turmoil caused by the intervention, some of its unrepentant supporters claim that the alternative—leaving Qaddafi in power—would have been even worse. But Qaddafi was not Libya’s future in any case. Sixty-nine years old and in ill health, he was laying the groundwork for a transition to his son Saif, who for many years had been preparing a reform agenda. “I will not accept any position unless there is a new constitution, new laws, and transparent elections,” Saif declared in 2010. “Everyone should have access to public office. We should not have a monopoly on power.” Saif also convinced his father that the regime should admit culpability for a notorious 1996 prison massacre and pay compensation to the families of hundreds of victims. In addition, in 2008, Saif published testimony from former prisoners alleging torture by revolutionary committees—the regime’s zealous but unofficial watchdogs—whom he demanded be disarmed.”?

The “alternative would have been worse” is the shallow response told by status quo criminals the world over when it comes to defending their crimes. It’s the same response peddled by the architects of the “too big to fail” taxpayer bailout of financial oligarchs.

“Even after the war began, respected observers voiced confidence in Saif. In a New York Times op-ed, Curt Weldon, a former ten-term Republican U.S. congressman from Pennsylvania, wrote that Saif “could play a constructive role as a member of the committee to devise a new government structure or Constitution.” Instead, NATO-supported militants captured and imprisoned Qaddafi’s son.

Obama also acknowledges regrets about Libya, but unfortunately, he has drawn the wrong lesson. “I think we underestimated . . . the need to come in full force,” the president told the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman in August 2014. “If you’re gonna do this,” he elaborated, “there has to be a much more aggressive effort to rebuild societies.”?

Humanitarian intervention should be reserved for the rare instances in which civilians are being targeted and military action can do more good than harm, such as Rwanda in 1994, where I have estimated that a timely operation could have saved over 100,000 lives. Of course, great powers sometimes may want to use force abroad for other reasons—to fight terrorism, avert nuclear proliferation, or overthrow a noxious dictator. But they should not pretend the resulting war is humanitarian, or be surprised when it gets a lot of innocent civilians killed.”

Think about all of this very carefully and deeply. A conflict initiated based purely on lies and propaganda destroyed the lives of millions, destabilized several nations, created a terrorist breeding ground, crushed all incentives for nuclear disarmament, escalated the conflict in Syria, and damaged the U.S.-Russian relationship. Yet, despite all of this, the lesson Obama gleaned from the debacle was:

“I think we underestimated . . . the need to come in full force. If you’re gonna do this there has to be a much more aggressive effort to rebuild societies.”?


Which is precisely why America will continue to gear up for war after war after war…