Chris Hedges: The revengeful suffering orchestrated by the American empire on Afghans will be of Biblical proportions
worker | September 2, 2021 | 7:28 pm | Afghanistan, Fascist terrorism | Comments closed

https://www.rt.com/op-ed/533640-american-empire-afghans-suffering/

Chris Hedges: The revengeful suffering orchestrated by the American empire on Afghans will be of Biblical proportions

Chris Hedges: The revengeful suffering orchestrated by the American empire on Afghans will be of Biblical proportions
Washington, humiliated in Afghanistan as it was in Iraq, Syria, and Vietnam, is blind to its declining strength, ineptitude, and savagery, but still capable of murderous retribution against those who expose these truths.

The Carthaginian general Hannibal, who came close to defeating the Roman Republic in the Second Punic War, committed suicide in 181 BC in exile as Roman soldiers closed in on his residence in the Bithynian village of Libyssa, now modern-day Turkey. It had been more than thirty years since he led his army across the Alps and annihilated Roman legions at the Battle of Trebia, Lake Trasimene, and Cannae. Considered one of the most brilliant tactical victories in warfare, centuries later it inspired the plans of the German Army Command in World War I when they invaded Belgium and France. Rome was only able to finally save itself from defeat by replicating Hannibal’s military tactics.

It did not matter in 181 BC that there had been over 20 Roman consuls (with quasi-imperial power) since Hannibal’s invasion. It did not matter that Hannibal had been hunted for decades and forced to perpetually flee, always just beyond the reach of Roman authorities. He had humiliated Rome. He had punctured its myth of omnipotence. And he would pay. With his life. Years after Hannibal was gone, the Romans were still not satisfied. They finished their work of apocalyptic vengeance in 146 BC by razing Carthage to the ground and selling its remaining population into slavery. Cato the Censor summed up the sentiments of empire: Carthāgō dēlenda est (Carthage must be destroyed). Nothing about empire, from then until now, has changed.

Imperial powers do not forgive those who expose their weaknesses or make public the sordid and immoral inner workings of empire. Empires are fragile constructions. Their power is as much one of perception as of military strength. The virtues they claim to uphold and defend, usually in the name of their superior civilization, are a mask for pillage, the exploitation of cheap labor, indiscriminate violence, and state terror.

The current American empire, damaged and humiliated by the troves of internal documents published by WikiLeaks, will, for this reason, persecute Julian Assange for the rest of his life. It does not matter who is president or which political party is in power. Imperialists speak with one voice. The killing of thirteen US troops by a suicide bomber at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Thursday evoked from Joe Biden the full-throated cry of all imperialists: “To those who carried out this attack … we will not forgive, we will not forget, we will hunt you down and make you pay.” This was swiftly followed by two drone strikes in Kabul against suspected members of the Islamic State in Khorasan Province, ISKP (ISIS-K), which took credit for the suicide bombing that left some 170 dead, including 28 members of the Taliban.

ALSO ON RT.COMGeorge Galloway: Do Britain and the US secretly want Julian Assange to commit suicide?The Taliban, which defeated US and coalition forces in a 20-year war, is about to be confronted with the wrath of a wounded empire. The Cuban, Vietnamese, Iranian, Venezuelan, and Haitian governments know what comes next. The ghosts of Toussaint Louverture, Emilio Aguinaldo, Mohammad Mossadegh, Jacobo Arbenz, Omar Torrijos, Gamal Abdul Nasser, Juan Velasco, Salvador Allende, Andreas Papandreou, Juan Bosh, Patrice Lumumba, and Hugo Chavez know what comes next. It isn’t pretty. It will be paid for by the poorest and most vulnerable Afghans.

The faux pity for the Afghan people, which has defined the coverage of the desperate collaborators with the US and coalition occupying forces and educated elites fleeing to the Kabul airport, begins and ends with the plight of the evacuees. There were few tears shed for the families routinely terrorized by coalition forces, or the some 70,000 civilians who were obliterated by US air strikes, drone attacks, missiles, and artillery, or gunned down by nervous occupying forces who saw every Afghan, with some justification, as the enemy during the war. And there will be few tears for the humanitarian catastrophe the empire is orchestrating on the 38 million Afghans, who live in one of the poorest and most aid-dependent countries in the world.

Since the 2001 invasion, the United States deployed about 775,000 military personnel to subdue Afghanistan and poured $143 billion into the country, with 60 percent of the money going to prop up the corrupt Afghan military and the rest devoted to funding economic development projects, aid programs, and anti-drug initiatives – with the bulk of those funds being siphoned off by foreign aid groups, private contractors, and outside consultants.

Grants from the United States and other countries accounted for 75 percent of the Afghan government budget. That assistance has evaporated. Afghanistan’s reserves and other financial accounts have been frozen, meaning the new government cannot access some $9.5 billion in assets belonging to the Afghan central bank. Shipments of cash to Afghanistan have been stopped. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced that Afghanistan will no longer be able to access the lender’s resources.

ALSO ON RT.COMAmericans have long claimed Afghanistan helped end ‘Soviet empire’ – now it’s their turn?Things are already dire. There are some 14 million Afghans – one in three – who lack sufficient food. There are two million Afghan children who are malnourished. There are 3.5 million people in Afghanistan who have been displaced from their homes. The war has wrecked infrastructure. A drought destroyed 40 percent of the nation’s crops last year. The assault on the Afghan economy is already seeing food prices skyrocket. The sanctions and severance of aid will force civil servants to go without salaries, and the health service, already chronically short of medicine and equipment, will collapse. The suffering orchestrated by the empire will be of biblical proportions. And this is what the empire wants.

UNICEF estimates that 500,000 children were killed as a direct result of sanctions on Iraq.  Expect child deaths in Afghanistan to soar above that horrifying figure. And expect the same imperial heartlessness Madeleine Albright, then the US ambassador to the United Nations, exhibited when she told ‘60 Minutes’ correspondent Lesley Stahl that the deaths of half a million Iraqi children because of the sanctions were “worth it.” Or the heartlessness of Hillary Clinton, who joked, “We came, we saw, he died” when informed of Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi’s brutal death. Or the demand by Democratic Senator Zell Miller of Georgia, who after the attacks of 9/11 declared: “I say, bomb the hell out of them. If there’s collateral damage, so be it.” No matter that the empire has since turned Libya, along with Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, into cauldrons of violence, chaos, and misery. The power to destroy is an intoxicating drug that is its own justification.

Like Cato the Censor, the US military and intelligence agencies are, if history is any guide, at this moment planning to destabilize Afghanistan by funding, arming, and backing any militia, warlord or terrorist organization willing to strike at the Taliban. The CIA, which should exclusively gather intelligence, is a rogue paramilitary organization that oversees secret kidnappings, interrogation at black sites, torture, manhunts, and targeted assassinations across the globe. It carried out commando raids in Afghanistan that killed a large number of Afghan civilians, which repeatedly sent enraged family members and villagers into the arms of the Taliban. It is, I expect, reaching out to Amrullah Saleh, who was Ashraf Ghani’s vice president and who has declared himself “the legitimate caretaker president” of Afghanistan. Saleh is holed up in the Panjshir Valley.  He, along with warlords Ahmad Massoud, Ata Mohammad Noor, and Abdul Rashid Dostum, are clamoring to be armed and supported to perpetuate conflict in Afghanistan.

ALSO ON RT.COMWayne Dupree: Biden will NEVER accept responsibility for his botched evacuation of Afghanistan“I write from the Panjshir Valley today, ready to follow in my father’s footsteps, with mujahideen fighters who are prepared to once again take on the Taliban,” Ahmad Massoud wrote in an opinion piece in the Washington Post“The United States and its allies have left the battlefield, but America can still be a ‘great arsenal of democracy,’ as Franklin D. Roosevelt said when coming to the aid of the beleaguered British before the U.S. entry into World War II,” he went on, adding that he and his fighters need “more weapons, more ammunition and more supplies.”

These warlords have done the bidding of the Americans before. They will do the bidding of the Americans again. And since the hubris of empire is unaffected by reality, the empire will continue to sow dragon’s teeth in Afghanistan as it has since it spent $9 billion – some estimates double that figure – to back the mujahideen that fought the Soviets, leading to a bloody civil war between rival warlords once the Soviets withdrew in 1989 and the ascendancy in 1996 of the Taliban.

The cynicism of arming and funding the mujahideen against the Soviets exposes the lie of America’s humanitarian concerns in Afghanistan. One million Afghan civilians were killed in the nine-year conflict with the Soviets, along with 90,000 mujahideen fighters, 18,000 Afghan troops, and 14,500 Soviet soldiers.  But these deaths, along with the destruction of Afghanistan, were “worth it” to cripple the Soviets.

Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, along with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, oversaw the arming of the most radical Islamic mujahideen groups fighting the Soviet occupation forces, leading to the extinguishing of the secular, democratic Afghan opposition. Brzezinski detailed the strategy – designed, he said, to give the Soviet Union its Vietnam – taken by the Carter administration following the 1979 Soviet invasion to prop up the Marxist regime of Hafizullah Amin in Kabul:

We immediately launched a twofold process when we heard that the Soviets had entered Afghanistan. The first involved direct reactions and sanctions focused on the Soviet  Union, and both the State Department and the National Security Agency prepared long lists of sanctions to be adopted, of steps to be taken to increase the international costs to the Soviet Union of their actions. And the second course of action led to my going to Pakistan a month or so after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, for the purpose of coordinating with the Pakistanis a joint response, the purpose of which would be to  make the Soviets bleed for as much and as long as is possible; and we engaged in that effort in a collaborative sense with the Saudis, the Egyptians, the British, the Chinese, and we started providing weapons to the Mujaheddin, from various sources again — for example, some Soviet arms from the Egyptians and the Chinese. We even got Soviet arms from the Czechoslovak communist government, since it was obviously susceptible to material incentives; and at some point we started buying arms for the Mujahideen from the Soviet army in Afghanistan, because that army was increasingly corrupt.

ALSO ON RT.COM‘Over-the-horizon’ is just the newest buzz phrase for American incompetence – as proven by recent drone strikes in AfghanistanThe clandestine campaign to destabilize the Soviet Union by making it “bleed for as much and as long as is possible” was carried out, like the arming of the contra forces in Nicaragua, largely off the books. It did not, as far as official Washington was concerned, exist – a way to avoid the unwelcome scrutiny of covert operations carried out by the Church Committee hearings in the 1970s that made public the three decades of CIA-backed coups, assassinations, blackmail, intimidation, dark propaganda, and torture. The Saudi government agreed to match the US funding for the Afghan insurgents. The Saudi involvement gave rise to Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda, which fought with the mujahideen. The rogue operation, led by Brzezinski, organized secret units of assassination teams and paramilitary squads that carried out lethal attacks on perceived enemies around the globe. It trained Afghan mujahideen in Pakistan and China’s Xinjiang province. It shifted the heroin trade, used to fund the insurgency, from southeast Asia to the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

This pattern of behavior, which destabilized Afghanistan and the region, is reflexive in the military and the intelligence community. It will, without doubt, be repeated now in Afghanistan, with the same catastrophic results. The chaos these intelligence agencies create becomes the chaos that justifies their existence and the chaos that sees them demand more resources and ever greater levels of violence.

All empires die. The end is usually unpleasant. The American empire, humiliated in Afghanistan as it was in Syria, Iraq, and Libya, as it was at the Bay of Pigs and in Vietnam, is blind to its own declining strength, ineptitude, and savagery. Its entire economy, a “military Keynesianism,” revolves around the war industry. Military spending and war are the engine behind the nation’s economic survival and identity. It does not matter that with each new debacle the United States turns larger and larger parts of the globe against it and all it claims to represent. It has no mechanism to stop itself, despite its numerous defeats, fiascos, blunders and diminishing power, from striking out irrationally like a wounded animal. The mandarins who oversee our collective suicide, despite repeated failure, doggedly insist we can reshape the world in our own image. This myopia creates the very conditions that accelerate the empire’s demise.

The Soviet Union collapsed, like all empires, because of its ossified, out-of-touch rulers, its imperial overreach, and its inability to critique and reform itself. We are not immune from these fatal diseases. We silence our most prescient critics of empire, such as Noam Chomsky, Angela Davis, Andrew Bacevich, Alfred McCoy, and Ralph Nader, and persecute those who expose the truths about empire, including Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Daniel Hale, and John Kiriakou. At the same time a bankrupt media, whether on MSNBC, CNN, or Fox, lionizes and amplifies the voices of the inept and corrupt political, military and intelligence class including John Bolton, Leon Panetta, Karl Rove, H.R. McMaster and David Petraeus, which blindly drives the nation into the morass.

ALSO ON RT.COMIf Biden worried less about the optics of communicating with the Taliban, the IS-K carnage may not have happenedChalmers Johnson, in his trilogy on the fall of the American empire – ‘Blowback’, ‘The Sorrows of Empire’, and ‘Nemesis’ – reminds readers that the Greek goddess Nemesis is “the spirit of retribution, a corrective to the greed and stupidity that sometimes governs relations among people.” She stands for “righteous anger,” a deity who “punishes human transgression of the natural, right order of things and the arrogance that causes it.” He warns that if we continue to cling to our empire, as the Roman Republic did, “we will certainly lose our democracy and grimly await the eventual blowback that imperialism generates.”

“I believe that to maintain our empire abroad requires resources and commitments that will inevitably undercut our domestic democracy and, in the end, produce a military dictatorship or its civilian equivalent,” Johnson writes. “The founders of our nation understood this well and tried to create a form of government – a republic – that would prevent this from occurring. But the combination of huge standing armies, almost continuous wars, military Keynesianism, and ruinous military expenses have destroyed our republican structure in favor of an imperial presidency. We are on the cusp of losing our democracy for the sake of keeping our empire. Once a nation is started down that path, the dynamics that apply to all empires come into play – isolation, overstretch, the uniting of forces opposed to imperialism, and bankruptcy. Nemesis stalks our life as a free nation.”

If the empire was capable of introspection and forgiveness, it could free itself from its death spiral. If the empire disbanded, much as the British Empire did, and retreated to focus on the ills that beset the United States, it could free itself from its death spiral. But those who manipulate the levers of empire are unaccountable. They are hidden from public view and beyond public scrutiny. They are determined to keep playing the great game, rolling the dice with lives and national treasure. They will, I expect, preside gleefully over the deaths of even more Afghans, assuring themselves it is worth it, without realizing that the gallows they erect are for themselves.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Jesus Christ was world’s first COMMUNIST, Russian Marxist leader Zyuganov says, repeating claim holy savior was really a socialist
worker | September 2, 2021 | 7:24 pm | Gennady Zyuganov | Comments closed

https://www.rt.com/russia/533767-zyuganov-jesus-first-communist/

Jesus Christ was world’s first COMMUNIST, Russian Marxist leader Zyuganov says, repeating claim holy savior was really a socialist

Jesus Christ was world's first COMMUNIST, Russian Marxist leader Zyuganov says, repeating claim holy savior was really a socialist
From casting out the moneylenders to feeding the masses and healing the poor for free, Jesus Christ’s revolutionary zeal matches up with almost all of Communism’s ideological values, one of Russia’s top politicians has claimed.

Gennady Zyuganov, the leader of Russia’s communist party, the KPRF, made the explosive comments in an interview with KP Radio on Thursday. According to him, “the first communist on the planet… was Jesus Christ.”

“Put Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and the moral code of the builder of communism side by side, and you’ll simply gasp,” the politician said. “You need to study the Bible, then you will understand a lot.”

ALSO ON RT.COMRussia’s Communists to stage nationwide protests against ‘political repression’ after popular party figure is BANNED from electionZyuganov heads the country’s second-largest parliamentary group, the successor to the Communist Party that governed the Soviet Union. However, not everyone disagreed with his diagnosis, with the spokesman for the Moscow branch of the Orthodox Church saying that “we do not consider it correct and appropriate to compare God incarnate with any political and economic teachings, including communism.” However, he added, the Church opens its doors to supporters of all parties.

READ MORE: Russia is becoming ‘fascist’ state due to political ‘repression’ & ‘cannibalistic’ reforms, veteran Communist leader tells Putin

The question of whether Jesus’ radical opposition to established authority and his message of humility, charity and love for mankind makes him a left-wing figure is still hotly debated. However, the Orthodox Church, and religious belief in general, faced tough restrictions from the state during the Soviet era. The intellectual founder of the communist ideology, German philosopher Karl Marx, branded religion “the opium of the people,” arguing that faith in an afterlife was designed to placate those living downtrodden existences.

Last year, Zyuganov proposed including a reference to ‘God’ in the Russian constitution, raising eyebrows among some who are used to seeing Russia’s communists adhere to strictly secular lines. “Actually, in many ways, the moral code of a builder of Communism is built on the Bible,” he said at the time.

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Texas Governor Says Will Sign Republican Voting Rights Bill Into Law
worker | September 1, 2021 | 7:51 pm | Local/State | Comments closed

https://sputniknews.com/us/202108311083762956-texas-governor-says-will-sign-republican-voting-rights-bill-into-law/

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WASHINGTON (Sputnik) – Texas Governor Greg Abbott said in a press release he will sign the Republican-supported voting rights bill into law that passed the state legislature earlier in the day.

“Senate Bill 1 will solidify trust and confidence in the outcome of our elections by making it easier to vote and harder to cheat,” Abbott said on Tuesday. “I look forward to signing Senate Bill 1 into law, ensuring election integrity in Texas.”

In July, more than 50 Democrats from the Texas legislature arrived in Washington, DC as part of a second attempt to deny Republicans a quorum to pass the bill, which seeks to ensure the integrity of the election system.

The Republican legislation will limit early voting hours, ban drive-through voting, further restrict voting by mail, ban public officials from sending unsolicited absentee ballot applications, make it easier to overturn an election based on fraud allegations and provide poll watchers more access where election activity takes place. 

Texas is one of 48 US states that have introduced or proposed 408 voter bills of May 19th. So far, 25 have been signed into law.

What Next After US Defeat?
worker | September 1, 2021 | 7:47 pm | Afghanistan | Comments closed

https://sputniknews.com/columnists/202108311083759727-what-next-after-us-defeat/

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There may no longer be US military boots on the ground in Afghanistan, but there are still plenty of Afghan boots that Washington can mobilize to destabilize the country and, more importantly, the region.

Already there are tribal leaders in the Panjshir province declaring the beginning of anti-Taliban resistance. One of them, Ahmad Massoud, the young leader of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan, wrote an opinion column in the Washington Post last week in which he appealed to the US for weapons and support to “once again take on the Taliban”.

Another allied leader is former Vice President of Afghanistan, Amrullah Saleh, who is also based in Panjshir province – the only area not under the control of the Taliban* – and who has vowed that he will never share the same roof as the dominant militant group.

U.S. Army Major General Chris Donahue, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, steps on board a C-17 transport plane as the last U.S. service member to leave Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan August 30, 2021 in a photograph taken using night vision optics
© REUTERS / US ARMY
U.S. Army Major General Chris Donahue, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, steps on board a C-17 transport plane as the last U.S. service member to leave Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan August 30, 2021 in a photograph taken using night vision optics

This week marks a historic and shameful defeat for the United States in Afghanistan after 20 years of futile, destructive military occupation. Two decades since launching a war in the country to oust the Taliban rulers, the latter is back now in power. And what’s more, they are militarily stronger than ever after inheriting entire arsenals of American weaponry abandoned by the fleeing US troops.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, trying to put a positive spin on the debacle, said the military mission was over and “a new chapter” of diplomacy was opening. We can safely bet that “diplomacy” here is a euphemism for Washington’s political sabotage and machinations to ensure Afghanistan feels the full wrath of Uncle Sam’s vindictiveness for years, if not decades, to come.

 

Early signs indicate the form. Since the Taliban took control of Kabul on August 15, Washington has frozen some $7 billion in foreign assets belonging to the state of Afghanistan. The Americans have also ordered the International Monetary Fund to cut off nearly $400 million in immediate funds that were due to Kabul. This suggests that the US is shaping up for a new chapter of economic warfare against the Taliban in much the same way that it has inflicted on Iran following the Islamic Revolution in 1979 against the US-backed Shah, and also more recently against Syria following the defeat of America’s proxy war for regime change. 

Many other nations that defy the US militarily end up incurring economic terrorism from Washington. Cuba, Nicaragua, North Korea, Venezuela, among others.

However, in addition to economic warfare, the United States could also exercise the option of fueling a proxy military conflict – a civil war – in Afghanistan by sponsoring the anti-Taliban factions. These factions can be traced to the Northern Alliance and the Haqqani Network which the US-backed in the proxy war against the Soviet Union during the 1980s. No doubt, the CIA and Pentagon still maintain contact lines with these warlords. The fact that one of them was given a high-profile platform in the Washington Post last week to appeal for weapons to fight against the Taliban is a clear sign of such deep state influence.

It is significant that Russia, China and other regional countries are wary of security repercussions stemming from an unruly Afghanistan. Russia has rebuked the US over its freezing of Afghanistan’s assets, saying that the country needs international support, not isolation, in order to aid war reconstruction and stability. Likewise, China has engaged with the new Taliban authorities with promises of massive economic investment to develop infrastructure and industries in return for guarantees of regional security.

 

This alludes to a wider strategy by Washington. Fomenting proxy conflict in Afghanistan through military and economic means is not just a matter of narrow vindictiveness against the Taliban conquerors who gave Uncle Sam a bloody nose for all the world to see. Such machinations provide the US with opportunities to cause regional security problems for Russia and China. One can reasonably surmise that the Americans have been exploiting Afghanistan as a spoiler against Russia and China for at least 40 years, not just the last two decades.Afghanistan could potentially become a linchpin in China’s global economic development plans. The country sits at the crossroads of China’s new silk routes crisscrossing between Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Given that the Biden, Trump and Obama administrations have all prioritized “containing” China and Russia as “great power rivals”, it seems that postwar Afghanistan presents a different opportunity for American imperial ambitions.

From Washington’s cynical point of view, such a new phase of proxy war in Afghanistan and, more widely in the region, would be a lot less costly compared with the full military occupation over the past 20 years involving $2 trillion expenditure. Plus there are no disturbing scenes of bodybags arriving back on American soil.

Thus, celebrating the defeat of the US in Afghanistan comes with caution. The next chapter could be an even more murky and sinister story.


*The Taliban is a terrorist group banned in Russia and many other countries.

The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

Afghanistan Follies
worker | August 31, 2021 | 8:50 pm | Afghanistan | Comments closed
A new posting –

Afghanistan Follies

– from Greg Godels is available at:
http://zzs-blg.blogspot.com/

In twenty years, the US occupiers succeeded in fostering unimaginable corruption, in installing cynical leaders completely detached from the Afghani people, in introducing a swarm of NGOs parasitically feeding on Western funding, and in finally restoring Afghani acceptance of the Taliban… To read more, please go to: https://zzs-blg.blogspot.com/2021/08/afghanistan-follies.html
Mozambique/Global: “Most Egregious Corruption Case of the 21st Century”
worker | August 31, 2021 | 8:49 pm | Africa | Comments closed

Mozambique/Global: “Most Egregious Corruption Case of the 21st Century”

AfricaFocus Bulletin
August 26, 2021 (2021-08-26)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor’s Note

“In my view the hidden debt scandal is the most egregious corruption case of the 21st century.  In dollar terms, the Malaysian 1MBD case is larger, but Malaysia is far wealthier than Mozambique, ranked 47th out of 185 countries on GDP per capita whereas Mozambique ranks 180.“ – Richard Messick, senior contributor to the Global Anticorruption Blog and pro bono legal counsel to the Budget Monitoring Forum, a civil society coalition in Mozambique.

“The damage the scandal has done to Mozambique,” Messick continued, “has been incomparably greater than that 1MDB caused in Malaysia. Not only did it throw millions into poverty but it clipped several billion dollars off cumulative GDP.”

Among global corruption scandals, a listing by Transparency International does include many adding up to even larger sums, but those are the results of multiple years of corruption by ruling regimes and their collaborators, rather than specific instances such as the Mozambican and Malaysian cases.

The trial of 19 defendants in the transnational $2 billion corruption case began on Monday, August 23, followed intensely by Mozambicans at home and abroad, as well as all others with ties to that country. It was expected to continue for at least 2 months. The court proceedings are being streamed live on Mozambican television, which is available on YouTube (see, for example, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6aDwTkMBUI, reporting on today’s proceedings).

Despite the open proceedings and the presence of many journalists, however, the case has so far drawn relatively little international attention, apart from an initial article by the BBC. To date it has not been covered by the Washington Post, the New York Times, or even The Guardian or Al Jazeera.

Full reporting by Mozambique specialist Joseph Hanlon, with background documents and daily updates both in Portuguese and in English, is available on his Google Drive.

Yet, as noted in the summary articles by the Mozambique News Agency included below, the case is a dramatic illustration of the transnational character of corruption and illicit financial flows, implicating intermediaries, multinational companies, and banks from New York to Abu Dhabi. There has already been one trial in New York, and another in New York not yet concluded.

Just last month, A judge in London ruled that a case could also proceed there.

This will be a super-trial in 2023 of claims and counter-claims between the Mozambican state, the shipbuilding giant Privinvest and others in relation to the “hidden debts” scandal.

For a summary of background on the hidden debts, as of May 2021, see http://www.africafocus.org/docs21/moz2105b.php. And for background on the war in Cabo Delgado province, see http://www.africafocus.org/docs21/moz2105a.php.

The two issues are closely linked, both deriving from the high expectations of earnings from natural gas production in the far northwest of Mozambique. Most recently in the war, the entry of Rwandan troops, with support from France and approval from many other global and regional countries, has for now changed the dynamic of the conflict. It remains to be seen, however, if those military advances will benefit the population rather than only serve to protect the natural gas production zone.

For much additional documentation on the $2 billion debt scandal, from the leading Mozambican anti-corruption organization Center for Public Integrity, in both English and Portuguese. see https://www.cipmoz.org/pt/documentos/

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Mozambique, visit http://www.africafocus.org/country/mozambique

For previous Bulletins on Illicit Financial Flows and Corruption, visit http://www.africafocus.org/intro-iff.pho

For an overview of the issue of illicit financial flows and tax justice, see

https://www.us-africabridgebuilding.org/tax-justice/tax-justice/, https://www.us-africabridgebuilding.org/tax-justice/movement/, and https://www.us-africabridgebuilding.org/tax-justice/local-and-global-action/

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Hidden Debts: Massively Corrupt Scheme Will Be Tried As From Monday

Mozambique News Agency (AIM)
August 22, 2021

Available on Google drive

Maputo, 22 Aug (AIM) – The definitive charge sheet from the Public Prosecutor’s Office against 19 people accused of involvement in Mozambique’s largest ever financial scandal gives exhaustive details of bribes paid by the Lebanon-based company Privinvest, and of the involvement of senior Mozambican government officials, particularly from the country’s security and intelligence service (SISE).

The fraudulent scheme involved setting up three security-linked companies, Ematum (Mozambique Tuna Company), Proindicus and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management). The companies eventually borrowed, in 2013 and 2014, over two billion US dollars from the banks Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia.

Loans on this scale to recently formed companies with no track record, and run by SISE, were only possible because government officials, notably Finance Minister Manuel Chang, signed loan guarantees – pledging that, if the companies did not repay, the Mozambican state would be liable. All three companies are now bankrupt, and the country’s highest court, the Constitutional Council, has declared the loans and their guarantees unconstitutional. But that does not stop the creditors from demanding their money back.

The case comes to trial in Maputo on Monday, and the trial is expected to last for at least 45 days.

But not all the key figures will be in the dock – Chang himself has been under police custody in South Africa since December 2018, while the Justice Minister, Roland Lamola, decides whether to extradite him to Mozambique or to the United States.

The three corrupt bankers from Credit Suisse, who arranged the loans in exchange for huge bribes from Privinvest, are also not showing their faces in Maputo. Andrew Pearse, Detelina Subeva and Surjan Singh, when before US prosecutors, all admitted to taking bribes as part of plea bargaining. But they have not yet been sentenced.

The Privinvest official who distributed the bribes, Jean Boustani, is also avoiding Mozambican justice after he was acquitted in New York in 2019 when smart lawyers convinced a jury, quite wrongly, that the US court did not have jurisdiction in the case.

While the loans and their guarantees were ruinous for Mozambique, they were very good business for Privinvest, which became the sole contractor for the three fraudulent companies, providing them with boats and other assets at vastly inflated prices. According to the 2017 independent audit of Proindicus, Ematum and MAM, Privinvest overcharged Mozambique about 713 million dollars for equipment of dubious value.

But, initially, it was not clear that the Privinvest scheme would win Mozambican political approval. So, according to the prosecutors, one of the Mozambicans working on the project, Teofilo Nhangumele, contacted his old friend Bruno Langa, a SISE officer, to ask how to unblock matters. Langa turned to his friend and business partner, Ndambi Guebuza, the oldest son of the then President, Armando Guebuza. He agreed, provided he received adequate “thanks”. He took the project to his father, who did indeed give the green light. Then the bribes began to flow.

The largest bribe paid by Privinvest was 33 million US dollars, paid to Ndambi Guebuza, the prosecution says. The money was paid, partly into an account he had opened in the Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, in the United Arab Emirates, and partly via various South African companies. The first major payment from Privinvest was for 14 million dollars, deposited on 26 March 2013, inThe first major payment from Privinvest was for 14 million dollars, deposited on 26 March 2013, in Guebuza Junior’s Abu Dhabi account.

In order not to alert the Mozambican financial authorities to what was going on, Ndambi Guebuza opted to use South African companies as middlemen. Hence on 18 June 2013, Privinvest transferred 2.55 million rands (about 167,000 US dollars, at current exchange rates) to the account of the law firm Jouberts Attorneys in South Africa’s First National Bank (FNB).

The money was then used to acquire real estate, automobiles and for other expenditure. Thus Guebuza Jr acquired one property in South Africa for 11.6 million rands, and 2.9 million rands were transferred to the company Imperial Collection, which trades in luxury cars.

On 17 June 2013, Privinvest transferred a further 700,000 dollars to Jouberts Attorneys, at Guebuza’s request. That money was used to buy a Ferrari luxury sports car. Privinvest then, on 23 April 2014, transferred 10.5 million rands to the South African company Pam Golding Properties. Ndambi Guebuza used this money to buy at least 15 vehicles in South Africa, some for himself and some to offer to friends. None of this had anything to do with coastal protection or tuna fishing, the supposed purposes of the Credit Suisse and VTB loans

The Mozambican prosecutors, sifting through Guebuza Jr’s financial records, drew up a long list of people and companies who received some of the Privinvest money. Among these was a transfer Guebuza Jr ordered of seven million rands from Pam Golding Properties to Apple Creek Real Estate Trust. The latter company received instructions from Ndambi to transfer three million rands to a second law firm, Nochumsoth Teper Attorneys, to buy a property for his sister, the late Valentina Guebuza.

In order not to alert the South African financial authorities, this payment was broken into three parts, each for a million rands.

Teofilo Nhangumele and Bruno Langa each received 8.5 million dollars from Privinvest. The prosecutors found that the two men used the bribe money to buy properties, luxury cars and livestock, among other expenditure, inside Mozambique and abroad.

Nhangumele will be among the first defendants to be heard on Monday. Before Nhangumele, the court will question Cipriano Mutota, the former director of the Studies and Projects Office of SISE. The prosecution says he received bribes of 980,000 dollars from Privinvest. He was the SISE officer who received the Privinvest proposal (supposedly for the protection of Mozambique’s Exclusive Economic Zone) via Nhangumele.

Both Nhangumele and Mutota face charges of corruption, abuse of trust, money laundering and membership of a criminal association.

The prosecution is asking the court, in addition to any custodial sentence, to order the defendants to pay compensation to the Mozambican state of 2.9 billion dollars.

That sum is not enough. The loans themselves were for about 2.2 billion dollars. But since they were contracted, the costs for Mozambique have spiraled upwards.

In a detailed study published in May, the anti-corruption NGO, the Centre for Public Integrity (CIP) calculated that the “hidden debts” have already cost the country at least 11 billion dollars, and have plunged an additional two million people into poverty.

The CIP report puts the direct cost of the loans so far incurred, up to and including 2019, at 674.2 million dollars, in payment of interest and capital. If Mozambique is obliged to go on servicing the debts, there will be an additional 3.93 billion dollars to pay up to 2031.

But the indirect costs of the scandal are much higher. The secrecy and corruption surrounding the loans dealt devastating blows to Mozambique’s credibility and reputation.

The report notes that “When rumours about hidden loans began to circulate, Mozambican ministers lied to the IMF and ambassadors of Mozambique’s development partners, denying the existence of any loans. When the Wall Street Journal revealed the hidden debt in April 2016, the anger was extreme. Donors and lenders had kept the country afloat, and they pulled the plug”.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), angered that the Mozambican government had concealedThe International Monetary Fund (IMF), angered that the Mozambican government had concealed the true size of its foreign debt, suspended its programme with Mozambique in April 2016. All the 14 donors and funding agencies who had provided Mozambique with direct budget support, suspended further disbursements, and to this day, more than five years later, they have not resumed.

The loss of this foreign aid in 2016 cost Mozambique 831 million dollars, in comparison with 2015, and these losses have continued to cascade down the years.

The CIP report notes that the ensuing financial crisis meant that “the government became unable to pay its bills, there was a major currency devaluation, foreign debt became unpayable, the economy slowed down sharply, real GDP per capita fell, unemployment soared and poverty increased”. The report puts a figure on this damage. It calculates the fall in the value of Mozambique’s GDP at 10.7 billion dollars between 2015 and 2019. This is a loss that cannot be recovered, and it will continue to grow, year after year.

The report puts the total economic losses over this four year period at 11.33 billion dollars – or a loss of 403 dollars for every man, woman and child in the country.

The report noted that “the sudden rise in inflation in 2016 and rising prices drove 2.6 million people below the threshold of consumption-based poverty”. It estimates that, because of the hidden debt scandal, at least 1.9 million people had fallen below the consumption-based poverty line by 2019.

The prosecutors have been tracking all the bribes paid by Privinvest, leading to the discovery of more goods purchased with the bribe money, and more bank accounts. Although the properties can be seized, the money raised in this way comes nowhere near meeting the true costs of the scandal.

(AIM) Pf/ (1505)

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Hidden Debts: Intelligence Officer Admits Negotiating Huge Bribes with Privinvest

Mozambican News Agency (AIM)

August 24, 2021

Available on Google Drive

Maputo, 24 Aug (AIM) – A high-ranking Mozambican intelligence officer on Tuesday, admitted that he had negotiated bribes of millions of dollars with Lebanese businessman, Jean Boustani, a salesman for the Privinvest group.

Cipriano Mutota, the former head of the Studies and Projects Office of the Mozambican State Security and Intelligence Service (SISE), is one of 19 people on trial in Maputo for their role in the country’s largest financial scandal, the case of the so-called “hidden debts”.

This involved obtaining loans of over 2.2 billion dollars from the banks Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia for three fraudulent, security linked companies, Proindicus, Ematum (Mozambique Tuna Company) and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management).The loans were only possible because the government of the time, under the then President Armando Guebuza, issued illegal loan guarantees so that, if the companies proved unable to repay the loans, the Mozambican state would become liable.

Privinvest was the sole contractor for the three companies and, according to the investigations by both Mozambican and US prosecutors, diverted at least 200 million dollars of the loan money into bribes and kickbacks.

Mutota, the first of the defendants to testify, told the court how, at the request of SISE general director Gregorio Leao, he had drawn up a report in 2009 or 2010, on the main threats facing Mozambique – including terrorism, piracy, illegal fishing, drug trafficking and illegal migration.

A meeting was held at the Ministry of Science and Technology, where Boustani, representing the company Abu Dhabi Mar, which is part of Privinvest, put forward proposals supposedly for the protection of the Mozambican coastal waters (the Exclusive Economic Zone). This was the start of what would eventually become the first of the fraudulent companies, Proindicus.

Mutota worked on the project with a friend, businessman Teofilo Nhangumele, who came to act as a middleman between the Mozambicans and Boustani.

He said that the first estimate of the cost of Proindicus was 302 million dollars, eventually rising to 370 million. But on top of this was the “fee” (the polite term for a bribe) that was to be paid to the Mozambican fixers. Initially, said Mutota, this was to be 50 million dollars, divided among the Mozambicans involved.

But the Proindicus project stalled, with no go-head from the government. So Nhangumele contacted his old friend, Bruno Langa, who was a business partner of Ndambi Guebuza, the oldest son of President Armando Guebuza. Ndambi was persuaded to ask his father to give Proindicus the green light.Once this happened, the loan from Credit Suisse could be arranged, and the money began to flow. But initially, none of it found its way into Mutota’s pockets.

In 2013, Angela Buque, the wife of Gregorio Leao, asked Mutota if he had received his share of the money. He had received nothing, and when he turned to Boustani, the latter told him to ask Nhangumele for the money.

Mutota knew that Nhangumele, Langa and Guebuza Junior had all received some of the bribe money, but where was his part? (According to the prosecution, Privinvest paid Ndambi Guebuza 33 million dollars and Teofilo Nhangumele and Bruno Langa 8.5 million dollars each).

Mutota went to Nhangumele’s office and demanded his cut, but got nothing. When he contacted Boustani again, he said that Nhangumele, Langa and Guebuza should each give Mutota half a million dollars, so that this SISE agent would pocket 1.5 million dollars.

This too did not happen, and when Mutota complained to Boustani, the Lebanese told him to come to Abu Dhabi where Privinvest would open a bank account for him and deposit the money.

Mutota refused to travel to Abu Dhabi, and insisted the money be sent to Mozambique. When Boustani flatly refused to transfer money to Mozambique, an alternative was found whereby the money went via friends of Mutota in South Africa.

One of these friends, whom Mutota named as Russell Edmonds, sent him seven trucks in part payment, which Mutota then sold. A second friend, named as Chis Bruno, transferred 656,000 dollars, in three instalments, to Mutota’s account in the largest Mozambican commercial bank, Millennium-BIM.

When the bank wanted to know where this money came from, Mutota said it was the proceeds from the sale of his shares in a company in London. He admitted to the court that this was a lie.

When prosecuting attorney Sheila Marrengula asked Mutota how he had used the 656,000 dollars, he replied “I spent it”. He claimed there were no purchases of sizeable items, such as houses or cars – yet Marrengula noted there were several very large withdrawals from his account, including one for 155,000 dollars in 2014. Mutota said he could not remember why he had made that withdrawal.

In all, Privinvest paid Mutota the equivalent of 980,000 dollars, a far cry from the promised two million.

Marrengula asked Mutota to explain why his friend Nhangumele was so deeply involved in setting up Proindicus, even though he was not a SISE agent and seemed to have nothing to do with the defence and security forces. “I can’t answer that without authorisation”, replied Mutota.

(AIM) Pf/ (858)

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London judge sets Mozambique Privinvest showdown for 2023

Zitamar

21 July, 2021

A London court will hold a super-trial in 2023 of claims and counter-claims between the >Mozambican state, shipbuilder Privinvest and others in relation to the so-called “hiddendebts” scandal, a judge ordered today.

Mr Justice Robin Knowles ordered that the trial would combine three separate sets of issues brought before the court, namely:

1) the Mozambican state’s legal action against Privinvest, bank Credit Suisse, Privinvest owner Iskander Safa and others, in which it is seeking damages and the cancellation of agovernment guarantee on a $622m loan taken out by state-owned company ProIndicus to

pay for a contract with Privinvest, which it says was obtained by bribery;

2) The question of whether Privinvest’s claim that the claims brought by theMozambican state should be dealt with through an arbitration tribunal is correct; and

3) The Mozambican state’s application to reject legal action brought by banks such as VTB Capital, United Bank of Africa and Portuguese bank BCP on the grounds of sovereign immunity, and whether or not the state is entitled to claim it. The judge said that he expected the hearing to be completed within three months and that President Filipe Nyusi would be a “fourth party” in the first set of issues.

The ruling means that Privinvest has failed in its bid to exclude from the trial of the econd set of issues, the question of whether the payments Privinvest made to government officials were bribes. It has also failed to delay the court’s consideration of those issues until after an arbitration has taken place. The Mozambican state’s request to initially exclude the question of whether payments to the Credit Suisse bankers who carried out the loan deal were also bribes was also rejected by the judge.

Privinvest denies the Mozambican state’s allegations that it paid bribes to government officials in order to secure contracts. The case continues.

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Fascism: A History
worker | August 31, 2021 | 8:47 pm | Fascist terrorism | Comments closed

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Fascism: A History

A vicious ideology before and after Hitler

On September 19, 2019, the European Parliament declared it was the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany who paved the way for WWII. However, the secret files revealed both of the USSR’s allies had signed several pacts with Hitler, while the US also lent Wehrmacht economic support. The UK and the US tried to enter into a separate peace agreement with Germany and hang the Soviet Union out to dry. Their further plans went even further and could’ve had disastrous consequences. What was going on in the allies camp?