Part 4 begins by introducing Bernard Kouchner, a French politician and doctor who cofounded Doctors Without Borders in 1971. Kouchner first came to public attention in 1979, when he hired a ship to rescue boat people who fled Communist Vietnam following the fall of Saigon. Kouchner was one of the first elites to declare concepts of Left and Right meaningless because “we are all one world linked as individuals.”
In 1999, the UN appointed him interim president of Kosovo, an Albanian enclave inside Serbia created via a CIA destabilization campaign* and illegal NATO bombing campaign ordered by Clinton in 1999.** At present, only 98 UN member states recognize Kosovo independence.
Curtis moves on to advent of Deng Xiaoping to the Chinese presidency in 1977 and the murder trial of Mao’s widow Jiang Xing for the deaths she instigated during the Cultural Revolution. Deng would a brief experiment with a Democracy Wall, where citizens were allowed to anonymously notices critical of government corruption, greed and nepotism. The wall was removed when someone anonymously called for Deng’s removal as president.
The film briefly traces the rise of the Chinese pro-democracy movement, which the film links to a spree of rape cases the government refused to prosecute. With the death of Hu Yaobang, the sole pro-democracy advocate withing the party leadership, the movement shifted into Tienanmen Square.***
Meanwhile in Russia, Boris Yeltsin shut down democracy in 1993 (with Clinton’s support) when he dissolved Parliament and allowed the growing oligarchy take total control of government.
According to Curtis, Clinton was the first politician to recognize the collapse of mass movements in the US (ie people had stopped joining political parties and unions) and to consciously hand over power to bankers, financial managers and corporate executives.
This supposedly represented a growing consensus among the ruling elite that the power of politicians. This was due to their unfortunate tendency to make short term decisions under pressure from their political base. What followed would be a major expansion of “non-majoritarian institutions” that were accountable to voters (eg the EU, the WTO, the IMF, World Bank, World Economic Forum)
Sky and Ground is about two refugee families from battle torn Aleppo who illegally smuggle themselves from Turkey to Germany, where they are eligible to apply for asylum. Due to archaic and tortuous EU law, they are unable to apply for political asylum unless they run the gauntlet and illegally cross a number of countries to reach German soil.
Using smugglers to cross the Mediterranean, they decide to leave Greece after a hepatitis A outbreak in their refugee camp. An uncle, a filmmaker, captures their journey on his Smartphone. He also uses the phone to communicate with brothers in Germany, who track them via GPS and advise them of the best routes to take.
In 2016, Macedonia has just closed their border, which means they must find an unguarded wilderness crossing point. They seek medical help when one of the women sprains her ankle. The Red Cross turns them into the police – who return them to the Greek refugee camp.
On their second attempt they walk mainly at night across Macedonia. They openly cross the Serbia border, where police transport them to a hostel in Belgrade.
They stay in a refugee camp on the Serbian-Hungarian border, where the Hungarian police demand a $50 bribe not to return them to Greece. As a single man, their uncle is forced to remain in the refugee camp for 28 days. A relative from Germany flies to Hungary to assist the other family members in traveling by train from Hungary to Austria. There, they are taken to the police station, where they are issued a 14-day permit.
Eventually the entire group reaches Germany, where they apply for, and receive, temporary asylum.
This documentary concerns a recent investigation into a gun smuggling operation in which the Pentagon contracts with Miami arms dealers to procure Soviet-style weapons from Bulgaria, Croatia and Serbia and secretly ship them to “moderate” rebels in Syria. Once they arrive in Syria, the “moderate” rebels frequently hand the weapons on to Al-Nusra (al-Qaeda) and ISIS militants who fight alongside them.
The investigation reveals that the US Department of Defense has a preference for old Soviet-style weapons because a) they are cheaper and easier to operate and b) they are harder to trace back to the US government. Thus it would appear the US government is fully aware their weapons are ending up in the hands of ISIS terrorists. The US government even has a technical term – “operational necessity” – for this type of subterfuge.
The Pentagon also uses private companies to train the Syrian rebels in the use of these weapons.
This secret arms smuggling network first came to public attention after one the private special operations contractors (involved in training Syrian rebels) sued the US government for injuries he received in a freak explosion.
This documentary demonstrates how people of multiple religions and ethnicities were able to coexist peaceably for over four centuries in the Ottoman empire. This flies in the face of western propaganda about the inevitably of genocidal violence when various religions and ethnicities share the same geographic space.
According to the filmmakers, the long peaceful coexistence of multiple religious and ethnic groups (the main ones being Roman Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Christians, Jews, and Sunni, Shia and Sufi Muslims) relates mainly to the Ottoman creation of semi-autonomous regional “millets.” These were under the administrative control of local religious leaders.
The democratic ideals that arose from the 1789 French Revolution would pose the first major challenge to this stability, in triggering a whole series of rebellions. In 1821, Greek rebels would launch a full scale war of independence. Russia, France and Britain, keen on expanding their empires into the Balkans and Middle East, supported the rebellion. Greece would ultimately win independence in 1829.
Over the coming decades, the Russian and Austro-Hungarian empire fomented similar rebellions by ethnic Serbs, Romanians and Bulgarians. In 1877, Russia declared war on the Ottoman Empire – under the pretext of protecting its Christian subjects – which ended with the 1878 Congress of Berlin. The latter divided up the Balkans and placed the minority Armenians in the Anatolia peninsula under the protection of the European powers. Russia was granted control of Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro and the Austro-Hungarian empire control of Bosnia-Herzegovina. This peace agreement, which led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Balkan Muslims, signaled the dawn of the modern age of refugees.
For me the most intriguing part of the film concerned the intelligence role of archeologist Thomas Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia), who was actually a British secret agent sent to mobilize the Arabs in the Arabian peninsula to revolt against their Ottoman rulers. Lawrence, on behalf of Britain, promised Arab fighters their own Arabian kingdom in return for their military support – a promise Britain conveniently broke in 1920.*
This documentary leaves absolutely no question that the real agenda in World War I was 1) disrupting the growing German-Ottoman alliance and 2) for the European powers who initiated the war to divide up the Ottoman empire. Following the 1918 armistice and 1920 Treaty of Sevres, Britain would win colonial control of Egypt, Mesopotamia (Iraq and Kuwait) and Palestine and the French control of Syria and the newly created Christian enclave of Lebanon.
After Britain gained colonial control over Palestine in 1920, they immediately revved up ethnic tensions by requiring Jerusalem residents to reside in distinct religious zones an
This talk, one of my favorites, is 1999 talk about about US empire. It offers quite a stark depiction of a US foreign policy consisting primarily of continual wars of aggression against democratic governments that thwart Wall Street Interests in exploiting their natural resources and labor force.
Parenti begins with a brief overview of colonization, starting with Western Europe’s colonization of the Slavic peoples and England’s colonization of Ireland. He goes on to to describe how India and Africa both enjoyed advanced and wealthy (far more wealthy than Europe) civilizations until they were invaded by European armies and their economies destroyed.
He proceeds with a detailed inventory of America’s continual invasions, bombing campaigns and covert wars around the world. The last half of the presentation focuses on the deliberate break-up of Yugoslavia by the US security state, demolishing the myth perpetuated by the Clinton administration and the US media that ethnic conflict was the cause of the Balkan wars.
Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, Wall Street elites tolerated a socialist state in Yugoslavia (with free health care, education and public transport and housing) because they viewed Yugoslavian president Josip Tito’s independent socialism as a buffer against the Soviet Union.
The initial US attack against Yugoslavia was economic, when Bush senior, in 1990, persuaded Congress to end lending credits to the Yugoslav government. The legislation they passed stipulated that US banks could only loan money to autonomous Yugoslav regions (Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia, etc) provided they declared independence and formed autonomous republics.
Parenti notes the new law was implemented somewhat unevenly, so that only right wing fascist governments qualified for loans. By 1992, internal sanctions against Serbia had resulted in 70% unemployment, widespread malnutrition and collapse of the health care system.
He goes on to provide fresh insight into the background of Slobodan Milosovic – who Clinton described as the “new Hitler” – an anti-communist banker who was the CIA’s first choice to run Serbia. When Milosovic refused to fully embrace US colonization, he was systematically demonized by the Clinton administration and corporate media. In 2006, he would die in prison in the Hague.* The war crimes he was accused of were never substantiated.
Parenti also details the NATO carpet bombing of Serbia (designed to maximize civilian casualty by targeting life support infrastructure, such as power and water filtration plants), the CIA penetration of the Kosova Liberation Army (enabling them to corner the European heroin market), Noam Chomsky’s support for Clinton’s war against Serbia, and the notorious Sarajevo false flag operation (actually carried out by Muslim extremists) used to justify the NATO war against Serbia.
The deliberate demonization of the Serbian people by the Clinton administration has been a special interest ever since I cared for Serbian PTSD victims in the mid-nineties. At the time there were rumors the US was after oil in the Caspian basin. Until I saw this documentary, I was unaware of the bloodthirsty ruthlessness of US policy in Yugoslavia. Nor that Clinton, like his successors George W Bush and Barack Obama, was guilty of war crimes. The film also sheds important light on current US policy in Ukraine.
The Weight of Chains is about the deliberate break-up of Yugoslavia in the 80s and 90s to enable its transformation into a US colony, like Iraq and Afghanistan. The cover story blaming Serbian barbarism for the conflagration in Bosnia and Kosovo was pure fabrication by the Clinton administration and US media.
Under Marshall Tito (1943-1980), Yugoslavia enjoyed an ethnically diverse society in which Muslim Turks, Croatians, Serbians, Hungarians, Albanians and other ethnic minorities lived side by side and intermarried. It was a very prosperous nation, thanks to a mixed economy that combined central economic planning with private enterprise, worker cooperatives and a generous welfare state. Tito, who stubbornly resisted Russian pressure to join the Soviet bloc, was one of the founders of the non-aligned movement.*
Enter the NED
Shortly after Tito’s death in 1980, President Reagan signed a secret memorandum declaring his intention to transform Yugoslavia into a “market economy” (translation: US colony for Wall Street investors). The first salvo in this campaign was to send in the CIA-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED), to finance pro-US opposition groups, journalists, trade unionists and the G17. The latter was a group of World Bank economists who seized control of the Yugoslavian economy by inducing corrupt officials to enter into unpayable loans. By the late 1980s, the G17 had imposed deep cuts on all social services and forced 1,100 industries into bankruptcy. Those that weren’t totally wiped out were sold to foreign investors at rock bottom prices.
Thanks to these austerity cuts, by 1990 Yugoslavia’s unemployment rate had soared to 20%. When the government appealed to the US for debt relief, Bush senior cut off all aid to Yugoslavia. Under US pressure, the IMF only agreed to fund right wing ultranationalist groups in six autonomous regions (Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Bosnia) – provided they declared independence from Yugoslavia. The Bush senior administration also illegally supplied arms to Croatian fascists who would seize control of Croatia and the Muslim Bosniaks who controlled Bosnia.
Accordingly Slovenia and Croatia declared independence in 1992 and Bosnia in 1992.
US-Inspired Ethnic Cleansing
Despite constant denunciation of the Serbian people (as fascist thugs) by the Clinton administration and Senator Joe Biden, the real culprits were fascist American thugs. In 1995, the Clinton administration financed and armed the Croatian government to carry out the largest act of ethnic cleansing in history in the Serbian enclave of Krajinia. Thanks to the American-inspired Operation Storm, 2,000 Serbs were killed and 250,000 were driven from their homes over a period of 84 hours. One of my patients, whose sister was massacred during Operation Storm, only survived because his Muslim neighbors hid him and his children from the Croatian army.
The Weight of Chains also deconstructs the alleged Serb atrocities committed at Srebrenica (where equal numbers of Serbs and Muslims died), which the US would use to justify NATO intervention.
Enter Osama bin Laden
Following Serbian independence, Clinton armed and trained the terrorist Kosovo Liberation Army,** with the assistance of Osama bin Laden and heroin-trafficking Mujahideen from Afghanistan. The President’s chief motivation was to further destabilize Serbia to open it up to US investment.
When Slobodan Milosevic refused to sign a peace agreement accepting US occupation of Serbia, Clinton committed further violations of international law by using NATO aircraft to bomb Serbian civilians and deliberately target civilian infrastructure that included power grids, schools, hospitals and water filtration plants.
Enter George Soros
Following Milosevic’s surrender in June 1999, the World Bank immediately sent in an army of World Bank lawyers to privatize Serbia’s most valuable state-owned assets. Soros and his cronies were particularly keen on getting the Trercha mining interest into western hands, with its rich coal, copper, zinc, cadmium, gold and silver resources.
The film concludes by examining the dire economic consequences (ie massive debt, industry closure and joblessness) for Eastern European countries whose business elites opt to join the EU and NATO. For example, the EU forced the Czech Republic to close their sugar industry because it was more profitable to import Cuban sugar. While the French destroyed the Hungarian vineyards by dumping cheap wine into their market, forcing Hungarian wine growers to sell their vineyards to English investors at bargain basement prices. After Slovenia joined the EU in 2004, they experienced massive layoffs after most of their factories were privatized and moved overseas. In 2009, Croatia (like Greece) was forced to start selling their islands to pay off their debt.
*The Non-Aligned Movement is a group of states which aren’t formally aligned with or against any specific power bloc.
**Kosovo is a disputed territory within Serbia in which ethnic Albanians make up 80-90% of the population.
(The 3rd of 8 posts about my decision to emigrate to New Zealand)
I had to move overseas before it sank in that Americans owe their high standard of living to US military domination of third world resources. The concept of economic imperialism isn’t new to me. I have known for years that the US maintains a monopoly on cheap third world labor and resources via military support of puppet dictators, CIA destabilization campaigns, currency manipulation and Wall Street and IMF/World Bank debt slavery schemes.
Yet for some reason, I placed the entire blame on the bloated US military-industrial complex and the immense power defense contractors wield via their campaign contributions and ownership of US media outlets. I conveniently overlooked the financial advantages ordinary Americans enjoy as a result of world military domination – namely low priced consumer goods. It took the physical reality of living in a smaller, poorer, non military nation and paying higher prices for for gasoline, books, meat, fish and other products – on a much lower income.
Americans Love Cheap Gasoline, Coffee, Sugar and Chocolate
I think most Americans are profoundly ambivalent about the concept of empire. In public opinion polls, Americans consistently oppose foreign wars, except where “US interests” are at stake. And policy makers and the mainstream media are deliberately vague in defining “US interests.” Prior to 1980, a threat to American interests meant a clear threat to America’s democratic system of government or the lives of individual Americans. When Ronald Reagan invaded Grenada in 1984, the official pretext was to evacuate American students at the medical school at St George University (the real reason was to oust pro-Cuban prime minister Bernard Coard).
With the current wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere, “US interests” have expanded to include the millions of barrels of cheap foreign oil required for the health of the US economy. Americans love their cheap gasoline, coffee, sugar and chocolate. Few are consciously aware that they owe these cheap luxuries to covert and overt military operations. If they did know, I believe the percentages supporting war would rise significantly.
What Americans Sacrifice for a Bloated Military
I like to think I would be willing to make the sacrifice. In essence I have, by moving to a much smaller, poorer country where tax dollars are used to fund universal health care, subsidized child care and housing and long term unemployment benefits. Because New Zealand feels no compulsion to invade and occupy other countries, they still provide a fairly generous safety net for unemployed, disabled and elderly Kiwis.
Social services were never quite so robust in the US. However prior to Reagan’ election in 1980 and the ballooning of US military expenditures, I could rely on federally funded jobs, vocational rehabilitation and subsidized housing to assist my clients into employment. By 1990 this was no longer possible. The great majority were desperate to get jobs, which would have been far more cost effective for taxpayers. However in the absence of any state or federal support, prospective employers refused to take a chance on hiring them. Thus most remained trapped on Social Security disability.
The systematic dismantling of the American safety net began under Reagan and Bush, as they cut taxes on the rich and redirected tax revenues toward military priorities – a phenomenally expensive missile defense system (aka the Strategic Defense Initiative or Star Wars) and military interventions in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Grenada, Panama, the Philippines, Somalia and Iraq.
Instead of restoring the social safety net programs his Republican predecessors abolished, Clinton continued to shred the safety net by ending the welfare entitlement for single mothers Franklyn Roosevelt introduced in 1935. Meanwhile he cut taxes even further, continued the SDI and declared war against Serbia – presumably to assist US oil companies to access oil and gas in the Caspian Sea basin.