A thief always thinks everyone else is a thief

This Danish saying is quite appropriate in light of the following report from Xinhua News: a thief always thinks everyone else is a thief (see also here).

BEIJING, June 10 (Xinhua) — Most of the cyber attacks targeting Chinese networks in 2018 have originated from the United States, according to an annual report released by China’s National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team (CNCERT) on Monday.

In terms of Trojan and botnet activities, CNCERT found that 3.34 million computers on the Chinese mainland were controlled by more than 14,000 Trojan or botnet command and control servers (C&C servers) in the United States in 2018, up 90.8 percent from the C&C server number in 2017.

It also reported that 3,325 IP addresses in the United States, up 43 percent from 2017, planted Trojans in 3,607 websites on the Chinese mainland.

In the above two categories, the United States topped the list of overseas sources of cyber attacks targeting computers and websites on the Chinese mainland, according to the organization.

Established in 2002, the CNCERT is a non-governmental organization of network security technical coordination.

 

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Is it time to dump Google?

Last week my gmail account was cancelled without notice. Why? No reason was given.

But it happened the day after the United States regime announced it had blacklisted Huawei from engaging with the United States – arbitrarily and on the basis of vague and groundless accusations. The regime has also been using ham-fisted tactics to try and stop others from working with Huawei, although this will only mean that the USA will have even fewer friends in the world.

Interestingly, a number of US companies – including Google – enthusiastically threw themselves into the fray, indicating that the US regime actively intervenes in, directs and is supported by the major tech companies in the United States. The irony is obvious: they are actively doing what the regime is accusing Huawei of doing. A Danish saying comes to mind: a thief always thinks everyone else is a thief.

However, I do not use Huawei products, although I will make sure to get some from now on. Instead, I use a Xiaomi phone and laptop, which are far better than anything you can get from Apple or Samsung or whatever. I do use Chinese systems on these items, and I do so in China and other parts of the world. (In the current situation, they are the only global products that you can use everywhere.) The only reason that I can come up with for the cancellation of my gmail is that Google is targeting all Chinese products and systems.

Let us be clear, Google is banned in China, not only because it refuses to follow Chinese law for responsible internet management, but also because it willingly hands over its big data to the privatised spy agency in the United States, the NSA. So there is no great loss to China from Google cutting off its limited engagement. But to cut off anyone who as any engagement with China is another step.

Then again, I have never been a fan of Google. I used to have its search engine on my computer, but deleted it. My gmail had only a few addresses and was used for personal matters (I do not use it in China). Google maps is a notoriously bad product and often misleading. And I do not use Facebook, Twitter or the many other useless products US companies use to mine information from their users.

But I do know that many people use Google products, whether its search engines, gmail, maps, phones (they are terrible) or even a whole Google account. It has relied on its pervasiveness in the ‘Western’ world to dominate, manipulate, gather information, and – now – to act as an agent of US capriciousness.

The conclusion for me is clear: it is time to dump Google.

China will not be humiliated again

More than two centuries ago, high quality Chinese goods were in heavy demand. Back then, the goods were porcelain, silk and tea, which the peoples of North America and Western Europe were unable to produce. Gold and especially silver flowed into China, including most of the stuff extracted from mines in Central and South America.

Back then, capricious Western regimes began decrying the ‘trade imbalance’ with China, saying it was the result of ‘unfair’ practices and ‘despotic’ restrictions on ‘legitimate’ Western trade.

From that point on, these same regimes began trying all sorts of tricks to force the Chinese to act ‘fairly’. The British began smuggling opium to China, against which China resisted, especially under Lin Zexu in 1839, who seized and burnt more than 20,000 chests of opium in Guangzhou. The British then initiated the first of the two Opium Wars (1840-1842), providing not only a textbook example of  ‘gunboat diplomacy’, but also the first of a series of unequal treaties. This was the Treaty of Nanjing of 1842, which was not so much a treaty as a unilateral imposition of British imperial demands on the Chinese (including, among other items, the occupation of Hong Kong).

For the Chinese, this was the beginning of a century of humiliation.

Sound familiar?

It should, since the United States is trying the same tactics now. The specifics might be different. Back then it was high quality goods such as porcelain, silk and tea; now it is high-technology, railway expertise, navigation equipment, quantum communication and so on. Back then, the Chinese were accused of using ‘unfair’ practices to develop a ‘trade imbalance’. And back then, a more powerful empire imposed its arbitrary will on the Chinese.

With this kind of history, you can see why China simply will not accept the unilateral and arbitrary demands of the United States in the so-called ‘trade war’. China will not be humiliated again.

Why? One crucial factor is now different: China is strong enough to resist, fight back and insist on its own integrity. Or rather, two factors are different: now the United States is a drug-addled country, tearing itself apart internally and in noticeable decline.

Self-harm by the United States, or, why Chinese news services are the most reliable

The following article is copied from Xinhua News, which I have for some time now found the most reliable, well-resourced and balanced of the many news services I have read over the years. The article is good example. Why? To begin with, it is based on careful research, with contributions from a number of journalists. Further, they see no need to rush in with some ‘scoop’, which usually turns out to be unverified rumour and gossip.

But I also like it since it shows how the Unites States is accelerating the process of its own decline through what can be called self-harm. And this process is based on stunning ignorance and misunderstanding of the rest of the world. Once you do this, you make one mistake after after another – note especially the section called ‘Groundless Accusation’.

(As an aside, this groundless accusation against Huawei was originally made in Australia, but there is a clear reason: Australian telephony has always been woeful and overpriced, so much so that people have become used to this situation. So you cannot have telephony and internet services that actually work, are efficient and relatively low-cost. That would be too much of a shock to the system. How will Australia roll out 5G? It will simply rename 3G as ‘5G’ and charge the earth for it.)

Restricting Huawei backfires on U.S. interests, disrupts global telecom industry

by Xinhua writer Gao Wencheng

BEIJING, May 24 (Xinhua) — Millions of Americans in rural areas may be denied access to faster and lower-priced broadband connections because of Washington’s restrictive moves against Huawei, a Chinese company which has offered equipment to U.S. rural telecom operators for years.

The U.S. government last week announced it would “prohibit transactions posing an unacceptable risk” to the country by declaring a national emergency over what it claimed are technological threats, and announced restrictions on the sale and transfer of U.S. technologies to Chinese company Huawei.

The ban would force small and independently-owned telecom operators such as Eastern Oregon Telecom and Union Wireless in Wyoming to spend their limited funds buying more expensive gear from Huawei’s competitors, according to an article in The New York Times by Chen Lifang, Huawei’s group board director.

Though accusing Huawei of being able to use its network equipment to spy on foreign nations for the Chinese government, the U.S. government has not produced any hard evidence to support its accusation. However, innocent victims in the global chains of the telecom industry would bear the consequences.

BACKFIRE ON U.S. INTERESTS

“A ban will not make American networks more secure. Instead, it will hurt ordinary Americans and businesses by denying them access to leading technology, reducing competition and increasing prices,” Chen said in the article.

“The ban will financially harm the thousands of Americans employed by the U.S. companies that do business with Huawei, which buys more than 11 billion U.S. dollars in goods and services from U.S. companies each year,” said Chen. “A total ban on Huawei equipment could eliminate tens of thousands of American jobs.”

The recent U.S. move to add the Chinese telecom company to a trade blacklist has already taken a toll on Wall Street. Shares of Huawei’s major suppliers, including Google, Qualcomm and Broadcom, were pressured.

Washington’s plan has also drawn resistance from domestic telecom carriers, especially those in rural areas, where the optical cable infrastructure is weak and the cost-effective Huawei equipment is considered as a better option.

James Kail, chief of LHTC Broadband, a digital service provider in rural Pennsylvania, told Xinhua that the ban could have an adverse effect on their business since they have a significant investment at stake as well as potential funding that could be jeopardized.

“About a quarter of small rural U.S. broadband providers use Huawei equipment, which is … at lower prices and better customer service,” Roger Entner, founder and lead analyst at U.S. telecom research firm Recon Analytics, told Xinhua via email.

Banning Huawei in the United States has the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in a conundrum, Entner tweeted. “Is the FCC going to accept slower broadband build-out?”

GROUNDLESS ACCUSATION

According to some German media, after years of review, Britain, Germany and the European Union failed to find any backdoor in Huawei products.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said in response that “the conclusions of Europe’s scrutiny have proven Huawei innocent, and showed the U.S. suppression against other countries’ enterprises with state power is unjustified.”

“We’d like to see the U.S. comment on the findings,” Lu said at a press briefing, adding that since the coming into light of the U.S. secret surveillance program Prism, the United States has remained silent over evidence alleging its illegal practices of cyber attacks and thefts.

Likewise, the 2019 annual report compiled by the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Center Oversight Board, staffed by representatives from Huawei and Britain’s government including the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and telecommunications sector, detailed concerns about Huawei’s software engineering capabilities, but stated that the “NCSC does not believe that the defects identified are a result of Chinese state interference.”

Such conclusions came as a result of putting Huawei under a microscope.

“I don’t think any of the other vendors have been on such level of scrutiny to find out whether or not security risks exist in their software,” Stephane Teral, technology fellow and advisor for Mobile Infrastructure and Carrier Economics at the consultancy IHS Markit Technology, told Xinhua.

The United States has also been unsuccessfully trying to rally other countries to abandon Huawei products, citing security threats.

“Our perspective is not to block Huawei or any company,” French President Emmanuel Macron told the VivaTech conference in Paris.

The Department of Information and Communications Technology of the Philippines said that there was no incident of a national security breach from the local telecommunication network using Huawei equipment.

Major Malaysian mobile operators like Maxis, Celcom and U Mobile also said their cooperation with Huawei is not affected by the recent U.S. ban.

“ECONOMIC BULLYING”

With the use of state power, Washington’s groundless crackdown on Chinese private company Huawei is typical “economic bullying,” Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said.

Such an egocentric approach by the United States will not win the recognition and support of the international community, said Wang.

Blameless companies around the world, including Huawei’s U.S. suppliers, could lose business, face disruptions and incur significant new costs, while China will only redouble its efforts to produce advanced technologies domestically, according to an editorial article published by Bloomberg.

As Huawei is deeply embedded in the global supply chain, “there might be other manufacturers that will be caught up in it,” Foad Fadaghi, an Australian technology analyst and managing director of Telsyte, was quoted by local media as saying.

The U.S. restrictions on Huawei would also hold back the launch of 5G networks and earnings of the tech sectors across the world, Swiss leading investment bank UBS said in its latest research report.

The Huawei ban in the long term “would also make network equipment more expensive because it could reduce the number of suppliers in what is already a small pool,” according to Standard Investment Bank’s note on Kenya’s telecom operator Safaricom.

In response to the U.S. restrictions, Ren Zhengfei, founder and president of Huawei, said Huawei had recently received widespread global support.

Huawei never wants to “walk alone” in the global markets, but has made good preparations for any extreme circumstances, he said.

Ren also appreciated the support of a large number of U.S. components suppliers over the years, and they were also lobbying for the easing of U.S. government-imposed restrictions.

“As long as the U.S. government allows U.S. companies to export the components, Huawei will continue to buy while sticking to its own research and development,” he said.

(Xinhua reporters Zhou Zhou in Washington, Ma Qian, Yang Shilong and Pan Lijun in New York, Wang Zichen in Brussels, Yuan Mengchen in Manila, Lin Hao and Jonathan Edward in Kuala Lumpur, Wang Xiaopeng in Nairobi, Guan Jianwu in Bishkek and Hao Yalin in Sydney also contributed to the story.)

Why are a small number of former colonisers so afraid of Huawei?

A rather insightful article from the Global Times, which is copied below. According to this article, it is the United States’ ability to monitor 90 percent of the world’s communications that is under threat by Huawei – hence the failing campaign to discredit Huawei.

I would add the following: for a decade or more, United States tech companies have been actively trying to spy on Huawei and other Chinese companies in a desperate effort to keep up with Chinese innovation. That they have failed is increasingly obvious. At the same time, other international big tech companies (think of Vodaphone and 02, among others) know this and are ignoring the regimes of a few countries (a dozen or so former colonisers) in order to work with Huawei to develop what they do not have.

Further, Huawei is only a label for what is happening in China as a whole. For example, the relatively unheralded Xiaomi is outstripping Huawei with its integration of artificial intelliegence, 5G and the best products one can get anywhere in the world.

In other words, the horse has clearly bolted on this front, for the Chinese are increasingly way in front.

Let me add, as a footnote, that the Australian government is desperately trying to block the development of a workable system in that country for the simple reason that Australians have become used to paying exorbitant prices for some of the worst telephony and internet services in the world. The regime there is very concerned that people may find out that such basic necessities can work very well indeed and that they are cheap. Shhh … cannnot let people know this. It would be too much of a shock.

Here is the article from the Global Times, entitled ‘How Can the US Monitor the World if We All Use Huawei?

Why does the US government always crack down on Huawei? To achieve this, it even uses some disgraceful measures, including slandering the company by exerting its national power. The US moves have sparked questions as to why the US fears the Chinese company so much. Why does the company annoy the US?

A most persuasive answer is that if everyone uses Huawei, how can the US monitor the world?

Three network experts shared their opinion. Shen Yi, deputy director of the cyberspace management center at Fudan University said: The US National Security Agency’s (NSA) “Echelon” surveillance system, which monitors 90 percent of the world’s communications, remains active, according to the Intercept.com.

In the early years of the 21st Century, US intelligence agencies have reportedly developed surveillance technology to monitor different products of the main communication companies.

Americans have two effective approaches to monitor the communication field. One is the introduction of laws to justify their eavesdropping on domestic and foreign communications. The other is to build a very powerful monitoring system and network, and constantly improve their ability to listen.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was signed by US President Jimmy Carter on October 25, 1978. In 2008, Americans added Section 702 that specifically “allows the government to obtain the communications of foreigners outside the United States, including foreign terrorist threats,” as laid out in the House Intelligence Committee FAQ sheet, according to Jessica Schneider, CNN. Section 702 of FISA sparked widespread controversy as this provision empowers US intelligence agencies to conduct secret surveillance of foreigners outside the United States, collecting communications, emails and text messages without the court’s permission.

US politicians say it is a “very important mandate” that allows US intelligence agencies to intercept “foreign terrorist threats.” However, there is no specification of how many foreign terrorist threats have occurred as the clause was blocked in the past.

Meanwhile, the scandal of US surveillance abuses has continued unabated in recent years. Edward Joseph Snowden revealed that the NSA monitored phone calls of 35 foreign leaders and used technology to track and intercept mobile phone information around the world, collecting up to 5 billion records a day, the Washington Post reported. Airbus’s secret past published on The Economist, which revealed that in the early 1990s, the NSA intercepted the communications between the European aerospace company Airbus and a Saudi Arabian national airline.

In 1994, Airbus lost a $6 billion contract with Saudi Arabia after the NSA, acting as a whistleblower, reported that Airbus officials had been bribing Saudi officials to secure the contract. As a result, the American aerospace company McDonnell Douglas (now part of Boeing) won the multibillion-dollar contract instead of Airbus.

The NSA used an “Echelon” surveillance system to monitor conversations between airbus and Saudi negotiators. The European parliament set up a special committee to investigate this case in 2001.

According to an American media report, the NSA “Echelon” surveillance system acts as the main monitoring tool of Five Eyes, which is an anglophone intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The system monitors 90 percent of communications all over the world.

The US surveillance network was founded in 1966. The network is divided into two sub-programs: a communication satellite launched specifically for the former Soviet Union, and the “Echelon” surveillance system, whose main objective is to monitor the electronic signals of Western powers.

After the wake of 9/11, the Americans have expanded their surveillance.

In March 2017, nearly 9,000 documents about the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) hacking tools were exposed. The documents showed that the CIA has a strong hacking ability to secretly access mobile phones, computers, smart TVs and many other smart devices. This is the worst surveillance scandal in American history.

However, Americans argued that the US has the best companies and technology. But the competitors are dirty, so they have to use this method to protect their interests and the ugly side is being uncovered.

The collaboration between the US intelligence agencies and American companies are delicate. Few companies would dare to admit that they cooperated with the intelligence agencies in fear of damaging their reputations as they need to be accepted by the market. However, the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) helped the NSA monitor and collect information of netizens and even monitored the phones of the United Nations headquarters, the New York Times reported in August 2015.

If telecom service providers and related equipment in different countries all change to use the products of Chinese companies, it will influence the monitoring effects of the US.

Although how much influence is still unclear, the Americans want to nip it in the bud.

It is an actually economically unfair competition under the excuse of national security, just like the American crackdown on Toshiba Electronic Devices & Storage Corporation before.

The goal is to neutralize the Chinese leading enterprises in industry, deny the access to Western high-end markets and then discredit Chinese corporate champions. This approach could strike any transnational marketing enterprises.

An expert on the communication network industry who prefers to be called Om said: I have paid attention to the security of communications for more than 20 years. It has always been said that some countries are using leading technologies to eavesdrop on other countries. And until Snowden’s exposure, people began to realize that the US had always been doing this.

The international security standard that was set by the US and the NSA is probably behind this. Not only China, but US allies, including Japan and Canada, do not believe the US, since they know that they could also be under surveillance of the US.

The US also uses clever ways of eavesdropping on other countries. Security experts from Germany pointed out during an international meeting that the US intentionally brings weakness when setting standards on cryptographic algorithms. By interfering with the establishment of the international standards on network security, the NSA is working for its own country’s benefits.

In the field of networking protocol development, the US is the only and super power that leads to establishing the international standard. The UK, France, Germany, Japan and China belong to the second group. Among these countries, China is the only one to have the capability to develop and compete with the US on networking protocol.

Some Chinese experts appealed to revise some security standards on network protocol years ago, which annoyed the US. But it had to cooperate under the pressure of international morality.

This is the background of the US cracking down on Huawei.

China has annoyed the US for two reasons, by challenging it on setting the technology standard and competing with the US on the leadership of information technology. The technology of 5G is one aspect of information technology, which shows that China is catching up with the US in this field.

Lead by Huawei, China’s 5G technologies have exceeded Europe for more than a year and the European countries have to adopt Huawei’s technology. However, the US is hyping the public opinions in the media on the so-called security concerns, experts, politicians and elites and Europe knows well that these are political biases. An anonymous internet expert said: The core of the US surveillance system was network infrastructure technology, including submarine cables that were mastered by US companies. It enables the US to copy the information they want and extend the surveillance globally.

Why does the US call the information sharing allies agency the Five Eyes? It actually is a platform to monitor the whole world. The PRISM plan exposed by Snowden revealed the vicious side of the US as it spies on the whole world with a backbone network and termination equipment.  Cellphones are one form of this termination equipment. The IOS system used by iPhones is closed while the Andriod system is open for revising.

I always oppose civil servants to use iPhones since all the data is stored on the phones and sensitive information can be analyzed. However, if cellphones made by Huawei occupy the majority of the market, the previous ways of collecting information will not be easy. And the cost for collecting data would be huge.

The Emperor has no clothes: The myth of United States military might

‘The emperor has no clothes’ – this is the assessment of more and more parts of the world concerning the United States.

It is most notable on the Korean Peninsula, where the two parts have been actively working towards reunification and leaving the USA out of the loop. But one can find it throughout eastern, central and western Asia, as they work out their own regional problems. Russia, Eastern Europe, Africa, Latin America, even the Pacific increasingly have the same sense. This leaves a very small number of countries – perhaps 12 or at most 15 – who would count themselves as ‘Western’; they seem to hold onto the myth of the invincibility of the United States.

Until quite recently, the United States has relied heavily on maintaining this myth. The threat of economic largesse or the cold shoulder – most bluntly manifested through sanctions – has cowed one country after another in the past. But no longer: the more the United States arbitrarily imposes sanctions on all and sundry, the more ineffective they become. Global reserves and transactions in US dollars, which are the hard edge of sanctions, continue to decline (only 39 percent in 2018). And once you do not use US dollars, you can sidestep the sanctions (as is the case with the DPRK).

We may add to this the following facts: the United States internally is tearing itself apart, as it rapidly destroys all of the post-Civil War agreements and thereby the unstable truce of the internal Cold War; it is falling further and further behind in technological know-how, so much so that it is technologically backward; it has been largely de-industrialised since 1989 and its infrastructure is crumbling; its political model – a peculiar version of bourgeois democracy – is not merely a shambles, but a laughing stock of the rest of the world.

Here I would like to focus on another dimension. Many who would agree to some extent with this assessment will still say, ‘But the United States has the best military force in the world, which can defeat anyone’. While pondering this, I began to think back, trying to find a war that the United States has actually won.

Syria: it failed in its effort to topple the government.

Islamic State: this was defeated largely by the Russians, who know how to finish a job.

Afghanistan: ongoing failure.

Iraq (Gulf War): clearly a failure, at immense cost.

Libya: disaster, leaving a country in chaos.

Grenada and Panama (invasions in 1983 and 1989): perhaps these may seem like ‘successes’ over tiny countries, much like its earlier efforts in Latin America, but the result was a significant turn to the Left in Latin America and increasing rejection of US interference.

Cambodia: defeated.

Vietnam: a major loss.

Laos: lost again.

Cuba (Bay of Pigs): clear loss.

Korea: all they could manage was an armistice.

Second World War: while the Soviet Red Army clearly defeated Hitler’s Germany (with the western front a sideshow), one may argue that the United States ‘won’ the Pacific War against Japan. But they struggled mightily to do so, and – as historians point out – the Japanese began to sue for peace only when the victorious Red Army began to move east. The nuclear bombing of Japan was a rushed job to make it look like the United States was on top. What the United States did do – since its war losses were relatively minor – was make the most of the situation and impose its economic model on a Western Europe bled dry by the war. The United States did so by relying on the long post-war economic depression in Europe to assert economic control.

First World War: reluctant to enter into what they saw as a European problem, they arrived late and sustained few losses.

United States Civil War: at last, we can find a major conflict, but is this a loss or a win?

American War of Independence: they did indeed win this one, but it is some time ago now.

In fact, we need to go back to the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to find wars that were won – such as the ‘Indian’ wars of extermination, internal rebellions, those with immediate neighbours (for example, Mexico, Canada and Latin America, as part of expansion and local domination), or occasional raids in the Pacific, to find actual examples of ‘victories’. Hardly glorious.

One may suggest that the United States has managed somewhat better when it has used someone else to do the dirty work. A good example here is the funding and arming of the Taliban in Afghanistan in order to resist the Soviet Union’s invasion of the 1980s (an effort to quell a restless border country). This example could be multiplied, but it came at immense cost, manifested above all in the successful attack on the World Trade Centre in New York in 2001. If anything was a symbol of US military weakness, this was it.

The question remains: why has the United States consistently lost wars for more than a century? One answer is the simple fact that United States ground troops are of inferior quality. As Stalin already observed in relation to the Atomic Bomb: weaponry is one thing, but the key is the quality of the ground troops. Thus, the United States loves firing missiles, dropping bombs and (more recently) using drones on all and sundry – Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and so on – but when it sends in ground troops they fail again and again. Of course, the use of weaponry ensures that the military industry keeps humming along (as also the sale of such weaponry), but it is never able to win wars.

To be added here is the avoidance of getting too deeply involved in major conflicts – the two ‘world wars’ of the twentieth century being the best examples. In these cases, it has preferred to let others take the brunt and then step in afterwards to impose its will.

In light of all this, why do some people still play up United States military might? This is partly an old line, which follows a well-worn narrative. It is also relatively comfortable: under United States hegemony, the world is a bad place, but it provides a level of known comfort. And one can always feel a little better by harping on about the emperor’s evils. More significantly, it is a myth upon which the United States has relied for more than 70 years. The propaganda machine has been hard at work advancing this myth: Hollywood movies; museum displays for children of United States military hardware; pure spin dressed up as ‘history’ concerning its ‘pivotal role’ in the Second World War; a compliant ‘Western’ media; and so on.

The reality is somewhat different. As Wallerstein already put it some time ago: imperial hegemony works only when no one challenges it. As soon as someone does, one dare leads to another. A little later (2003), he observed that the United States is ‘a lone superpower that lacks true power, a world leader nobody follows and few respect, and a nation drifting dangerously’. These days, this is even more the case. In fact, it is no longer a ‘super’ power, but merely a power.

Perhaps it is time we realised – as the majority of the world has already realised – that the emperor really has no clothes.

The Resumption of the American Civil War

‘All of the post-war agreements and compromises are being torn up’, he said.

In reply to my puzzled look, he added: ‘Post-American Civil War’.

With that observation, a whole new angle opened up on what is happening in the ‘United’ States of America. Forget using a certain Mr Donald Trump as a scapegoat, for he is a symptom of a far deeper malaise. Forget the idea that things were going relatively well until the current anomaly in the system appeared.

Instead, the ‘United’ States has always been based on a compromise. The organs of governance, the institutions of society, the structure of the ‘sacred’ constitution,  if not the infamous American version of liberal democracy, all witness to the compromises and efforts to ameliorate a fundamental contradiction.

Let me put it in more philosophical terms: the much-vaunted ‘freedom’ championed by US ideologues is based on a structural unfreedom. As Losurdo has shown so well, the freedom in question is based on slavery.  The early liberals of the United States argued that a basic right of a ‘free man’ was to own slaves. The ‘all men are created equal’ of the Declaration of Independence restricts the meaning of ‘all’, for it excluded slaves, let alone women and indigenous people. You cannot have an idea of freedom within this framework without unfreedom. In some respects, American liberal democracy expresses the ultimate truth of ancient Greek democracy: the first European development of a robust category of freedom was enabled by a structural slavery, so much so that the Greeks could simply not imagine a world without slaves.

How does all this bear on the civil war? It is the obvious manifestation of this contradiction. We may distinguish between the ‘hot’ war of 1861-1865 and the ‘cold’ war since 1865. As with ‘cold’ wars, actual skirmishes are frequent. Think of the lynch mobs after 1865 (which can be seen as the ultimate expression of the self-governance of civil society), the prison system with its millions of inmates, the almost daily massacres in one part or another, the incredibly high death toll from handguns, if not the sea of poverty and lack that surrounds islands of obscene wealth and power … One can easily argue that the civil war has never really abated.

If you care to look at what passes for ‘news outlets’ in the United States, you will find quite a bit of discussion about a new civil war. It is nearly always framed as a war to come (soonish). Obviously, this misses the whole point I have been proposing.

What form might a resumption of the ‘hot’ civil war take? Perhaps it would once again be a move to secession, as happened in the 1860s. Wait a moment: are there not already multiple secession movements, challenging directly the constitution’s efforts to rule out precisely this possibility? Indeed, a 2017 poll found that ‘nearly four in ten (39%) agree that each state has the ultimate say over their destiny and that secession is a right’. Region by region, the poll found ‘high support for secession within the South, Northeast, and out West (48%, 43%, and 43% respectively)’.

Or perhaps it is the comment from a forlorn liberal: ‘they hate us’.

Or the Rhode Island’s resident’s wish that all the ‘deplorables’ in the central west and south would be moved to cities to learn how to work, die off or be killed by a foreign power.

Or the observation from an ex-pat: ‘This is just like Pakistan, so I am used to it’. But this is somewhat unfair to Pakistan, is it not?

The Deindustrialisation of the United States

The situation in which the United States currently finds itself – a lone superpower that lacks true power, a world leader nobody follows and few respect, and a nation drifting dangerously (Wallerstein 2003, 17).

One of the consequences of the supposed ‘end of the Cold War’ in eastern Europe and Russia has been the process of deindustrialisation. With the aggressive ‘shock therapy’ of the 1990s, industries in one country after another in that part of the world were bought up by western European companies and promptly shut down.

On the many occasions I have been in that part of the world, I have passed by former factories, now crumbling and overgrown. Even locals who have no sympathy for communism lament this deindustrialisation. As a consequence, there has been a re-agriculturalisation along with significant temporary or permanent immigration to other parts of the world as people seek work. If the country is large enough, like Russia, it has become a major exporter of raw materials. In Russia at least, there is vigorous debate as to what a re-industrialisation might look like and who would drive it.

But I have a bit slow in picking up that the United States has become increasingly deindustrialised in the last 30 years or so. I do not mean some ‘loss’ – more or less – of manufacturing to overseas locations, but wholesale deindustrialisation. It hit me only recently as I was reading some local Chinese news about the growing trade wars the United States is waging with nearly all countries in the world. As I looked more closely, I saw that the main items exported by the United States are in fact agricultural products. China has been until recently a major importer of soy beans, among other produce. To be sure, there are a few niche industries that continue, such as aircraft manufacture. But Boeing’s main focus is the production of military machines, so it receives significant government support. Further, China – to take one example – has mostly been buying from Airbus, so much so that Airbus has eclipsed Boeing as the leading manufacturer of domestic aircraft in the world. Another niche industry is in some areas of high-technology. Even this is fading, since more new breakthroughs happen in China than in the United States, and China is a net exporter of high-tech products.

There are many angles on this aspect of decline, more than I can mention here. One is the heavy focus in recent years on the ‘financialised market’ (which Marx already foresaw in the third volume of Capital). In this case, money apparently produces more money (M-M1), so much so that wealth is made through speculation and not through actually making anything much. For example, in the first decade of this century a third of manufacturing jobs disappeared, so that now less than ten percent of employment is in manufacture. Meanwhile, financialisation took hold in more and more areas. The catch is that the crucial mediating role of making commodities (M-C-M1) is either concealed or goes elsewhere. By contrast, the Chinese socialist market economy focuses clearly on production, having already been the world’s largest manufacturer for almost a decade. A major feature is significant infrastructure investment and construction. So sustained has this focus become that Chinese technology now outstrips that found elsewhere. No wonder Chinese bids for international projects are usually the best available – blocked occasionally by bumbling politicians elsewhere keen to make themselves look strong.

Another factor is the longer-term decline of the United States. In 2003, Immanuel Wallerstein published The Decline of American Power. It was written immediately in response to the successful attack on the World Trade Centre in 2001, but the idea runs further back. In fact, Wallerstein argues that it began with the defeat in Vietnam, in which the communists defeated the vastly superior United States armed forces. It was not even that someone dared to challenge that power, but that they did so successfully. The decline has been economic, ideological and political. At the time he published the book, many dismissed the suggestion that ‘the eagle has crash landed’, but since the Atlantic economic crisis of 2008, many have begun to take notice. Crucially, it is clear on this matter that Trump simply continues the trajectory since the first Bush presidency: a declining power never does so happily. Increasingly, it uses or threatens to use the only thing it has left: military power.

All of which brings me back to deindustrialisation. Not only is the United States becoming mainly a producer of primary materials, but it also has crumbling infrastructure. The cracks become wider, the worn machinery more and more dinted. The place is literally falling apart – materially, socially and politically. By comparison, even Pyongyang has been able to build a shiny new airport.

United States War Crimes in Korea

With the Korean peninsula in the daily news, it is worth recalling a few facts behind the situation today.

Let us begin with the Korean War, with none other than an observation from the U.S. air force. General Curtis LeMay, head of the U.S. Strategic Air Force Command, openly admitted in an interview in 1984:

So we went over there and fought the war and eventually burned down every town in North Korea anyway, some way or another, and some in South Korea, too …. Over a period of three years or so, we killed off – what – twenty percent of the population of Korea as direct casualties of war, or from starvation and exposure.

Or as Dean Rusk, later U.S. secretary of state, put it: we bombed “everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another.” After running low on urban targets, U.S. bombers destroyed hydroelectric and irrigation dams in the later stages of the war, flooding farmland and destroying crops. To do so, the U.S. dropped 650,000 tons of bombs, including 43,000 tons of napalm bombs (more napalm than they subsequently dropped on Vietnam).

But did the Korean War actually begin in 1950, with an “invasion” from the north? To begin an answer, on my visit to the DPRK, they maintained strongly that it was in fact the U.S. forces in the south that attacked first.

So who is correct? The situation is complex, of course, but as this article points out:

The attack by North Korea came during a time of many border incursions by both sides. South Korea initiated most of the border clashes with North Korea beginning in 1948. The North Korea government claimed that by 1949 the South Korean army committed 2,617 armed incursions. It was a myth that the Soviet Union ordered North Korea to attack South Korea.

But a fuller answer would point out that the Korean War actually ran from 1945 to 1953, coming to a crescendo in 1950. And that means war crimes extend throughout this period.

At this point, two useful accounts may be read. I copy here from one of them:

On August 15,1945, the Korean people, devastated and impoverished by years of brutality from Japanese occupation forces, openly celebrated their liberation and immediately formed the Committee for the Preparation of Korean Independence (CKPI). By August 28, 1945, all Korean provinces on the entire Peninsula had established local people’s democratic committees, and on September 6, delegates from throughout Korea, north and south, created the Korean People’s Republic (KPR). On September 7, the day after the creation of the KPR, General Douglas MacArthur formally issued a proclamation addressed “To the People of Korea.” The proclamation announced that forces under his command “will today occupy the Territory of Korea south of 38 degrees north latitude.”

The first advance party of U.S. units, the 17th Regiment of the 7th Infantry Division, actually began arriving at Inchon on September 5th, two days before MacArthur’s occupation declaration. The bulk of the US occupation forces began unloading from twenty-one Navy ships (including five destroyers) on September 8 through the port at Inchon under the command of Lieutenant General John Reed Hodge. Hundreds of black-coated armed Japanese police on horseback, still under the direction of Japanese Governor-General Abe Noabuyki, kept angry Korean crowds away from the disembarking US soldiers.

On the morning of September 9, General Hodge announced that Governor-General Abe would continue to function with all his Japanese and Korean personnel. Within a few weeks there were 25,000 American troops and members of “civil service teams” in the country. Ultimately the number of US troops in southern Korea reached 72,000. Though the Koreans were officially characterized as a “semi-friendly, liberated” people, General Hodge regrettably instructed his own officers that Korea “was an enemy of the United States … subject to the provisions and the terms of the surrender.”

Tragically and ironically, the Korean people, citizens of the victim-nation, had become enemies, while the defeated Japanese, who had been the illegal aggressors, served as occupiers in alliance with the United States. Indeed, Korea was burdened with the very occupation originally intended for Japan, which became the recipient of massive U.S. aid and reconstruction in the post-war period. Japan remains, to this day, America’s forward military base affording protection and intelligence for its “interests” in the Asia-Pacific region.

Seventy-three-year-old Syngman Rhee was elected President of “South Korea” on May 10, 1948 in an election boycotted by virtually all Koreans except the elite KDP and Rhee’s own right-wing political groups. This event, historically sealing a politically divided Korea, provoked what became known at the Cheju massacre, in which as many as 70,000 residents of the southern island of Cheju were ruthlessly murdered during a single year by Rhee’s paramilitary forces under the oversight of U.S. officers. Rhee took office as President on August 15 and the Republic of Korea (ROK) was formally declared. In response, three-and-a-half weeks later (on September 9, 1948), the people of northern Korea grudgingly created their own separate government, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), with Kim II Sung as its premier.

Korea was now clearly and tragically split in two. Kim Il-Sung had survived as a guerrilla fighter against the Japanese occupation in both China and Korea since 1932 when he was twenty years old. He was thirty-three when he returned to Pyongyang in October 1945 to begin the hoped-for era of rebuilding a united Korea free of foreign domination, and three years later, on September 9, 1948, he became North Korea’s first premier. The Rhee/U.S. forces escalated their ruthless campaign of cleansing the south of dissidents, identifying as a suspected “communist” anyone who opposed the Rhee regime, publicly or privately. In reality, most participants or believers in the popular movement in the south were socialists unaffiliated with outside “communist” organizations.

As the repression intensified, however, alliances with popular movements in the north, including communist organizations, increased. The Cheju insurgency was crushed by August 1949, but on the mainland, guerrilla warfare continued in most provinces until 1959-51. In the eyes of the commander of US military forces in Korea, General Hodge, and new “President” Syngman Rhee, virtually any Korean who had not publicly professed his allegiance to Rhee was considered a “communist” traitor. As a result, massive numbers of farmers, villagers and urban residents were systematically rounded up in rural areas, villages and cities throughout South Korea. Captives were regularly tortured to extract names of others.

Thousands were imprisoned and even more thousands forced to dig mass graves before being ordered into them and shot by fellow Koreans, often under the watch of U.S. troops.

The introduction of U.S./UN military forces on June 26,1950 occurred with no American understanding (except by a few astute observers such as journalist I.F Stone) that in fact they were entering an ongoing revolutionary civil war waged by indigenous Koreans seeking genuine independence after five years of U.S. interference. The American occupation simply fueled Korean passions even more while creating further divisions among them.

In the Autumn of 1950, when U.S. forces were in retreat in North Korea, General Douglas MacArthur offered all air forces under his command to destroy “every means of communication, every installation, factory, city and village” from the Yalu River, forming the border between North Korea and China, south to the battle line. The massive saturation bombing conducted throughout the war, including napalm, incendiary, and fragmentation bombs, left scorched cities and villages in total ruins. As in World War II, the U.S. strategic bombing campaign brought mass destruction and shockingly heavy civilian casualties. Such tactics were in clear violation of the Nuremburg Charter, which had, ironically, been created after World War II, largely due to pressure from the U.S. The Nuremburg Tribunal defined “the wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages” to be a war crime and declared that “inhumane acts against any civilian population” were a crime against humanity.

From that fateful day on September 8, 1945 to the present, a period of 72 years, U.S. military forces (currently numbering 37,000 positioned at 100 installations) have maintained a continuous occupation in the south supporting de facto U.S. rule over the political, economic and military life of a needlessly divided Korea. This often brutal occupation and the persistent U.S. support for the repressive policies of dictatorial puppets continues to be the single greatest obstacle to peace in Korea, preventing the inevitable reunification of the Korean Peninsula.

Until 1994, all of the hundreds of thousands of South Korean defense forces operated under direct U.S. command. Even today, although integrated into the Combined Forces Command (CFC), these forces automatically revert to direct US control when the US military commander in Korea determines that there is a state of war.

This account is really the short version. For the most insightful analysis, it is worth reading carefully Steven Gowans’s detailed account (I was drawn to this piece by Prole Center).

All of this makes sense of one of my initial impressions when I visited the DPRK. Time and again, they referred to the “brazen American imperial aggressors.” While this initially may have seemed like hyperbolic propaganda, our visit to the DMZ was revealing. We were free to walk about, joke and take photographs from the northern side. By contrast, on the southern side were but two forlorn South Korean soldiers. They were surrounded by numerous U.S. soldiers.