Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
March 28, 2020

It Is A Time Of Crisis And U.S. Foreign Policy Is Becoming Unhinged

The Trump administration is reacting to the pandemic stress by lashing out at perceived internal and external enemies. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is leading the external onslaught.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called for an "immediate global ceasefire" to focus on fighting Covid-19. He has appealed for the "waiving of sanctions that can undermine countries' capacity to respond to the pandemic."

But Washington is not listening.

Requests from Venezuela and Iran for emergency IMF loans to buy medical supplies were blocked by U.S. interventions.

Just a month ago Pompeo announced an increase of sanctions against Iran. The sanctions block money transfers. They make it impossible for Iran to import the medical equipment it urgently needs to counter the epidemic.

While the U.S. renewed the sanction waiver which allows Iraq to import electricity and gas from Iran the waiver is now limited to only 30 days. One third of Iraq's electricity depends on those imports from Iran and, if the waiver is not renewed, its hospitals will go dark just when the epidemic will reach its zenith.

Parts of the Trump administration are even pressing for a wider war against alleged Iranian proxy forces in Iraq:

The Pentagon has ordered military commanders to plan for an escalation of American combat in Iraq, issuing a directive last week to prepare a campaign to destroy an Iranian-backed militia group that has threatened more attacks against American troops.

But the United States’ top commander in Iraq has warned that such a campaign could be bloody and counterproductive and risks war with Iran.
...
Some top officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Robert C. O’Brien, the national security adviser, have been pushing for aggressive new action against Iran and its proxy forces — and see an opportunity to try to destroy Iranian-backed militia groups in Iraq as leaders in Iran are distracted by the pandemic crisis in their country.

Military leaders, including Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have been wary of a sharp military escalation, warning it could further destabilize the Middle East at a time when President Trump has said he hopes to reduce the number of American troops in the region.

The plan is lunatic. One can not "destroy" Kataib Hezbollah and other Iraqi Shia groups which Iran helped to build during the war against ISIS. These groups are part of political parties with deep roots in the Iraqi society.

France, Italy and the Czech Republic have started to withdraw from Iraq. Denmark is also leaving and the UK is removing 50% of its force. There are less than 5,000 U.S. soldiers in Iraq and a war on Kataib Hezbollah could mobilize hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to fight against the U.S. occupation. Such a war would also involve Iran and the U.S. would certainly lose it.

The U.S. has currently two aircraft carrier groups in the Arab sea to threaten Iran. But those ships are of no use right now. They are 'cruise ships with guns'. Nuclear powered five billion dollar petri dishes for novel coronavirus outbreaks. Two U.S. carrier groups in the Pacific are already out of action because they have larger outbreaks on board. It is only a question of time until the other carriers follow.

It is not only Iraq and Iran the U.S. is aiming at. The U.S. State Department cut its contributions to health care in Yemen just in time of the highest need:

Officials with the United States Agency for International Development said the decision to halt funding, reported earlier by The Washington Post, included exceptions for “critical, lifesaving activities, including treatment of malnutrition as well as water, sanitation and hygiene programs aimed at keeping people healthy and staving off disease.”

But humanitarian officials said the agency’s exceptions did not provide for continued funding of basic health care programs, which are heavily reliant on foreign aid, and did not seem to take into account what might occur when the coronavirus begins to spread.

Not happy with only messing up the Middle East the State Department also renewed its assault on Venezuela. On Thursday the Justice Department announced charges of 'Narco-Terrorism, Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Crimes' against President Nicolas Maduro and 14 former or current officials. It put up a $15 million reward for Maduro's arrest.

It alleges that Maduro worked with Columbian cartels to smuggle cocaine through Venezuela.

But here is a map of smuggling routes from U.S. ally Columbia where most of the cocaine is produced. It was shown during a Congress hearing. Whatever is smuggled through Venezuela is a tiny share compared to the huge stream that comes through the Pacific.


bigger

Whoever wrote and signed of the indictment also made a huge mistake. The charges included Clíver Antonio Alcalá Cordones, a former General in the Venezuelan armed forces, and put a $10 million reward on his head.

Alcalá Cordones is no friend of Maduro. He retired in 2013 when Maduro was elected after Hugo Chávez had died. Alcalá Cordones fled to Colombia from where he supported the U.S. chosen clown Juan Guaidó as self proclaimed president of Venezuela.

After the Justice Department indictment against him he came out and revealed that he was involved in coup plans in support of Juan Guaidó:

Alcalá is implicated in a recent plot to attack the Maduro government. On March 24, Colombian authorities seized a truck full of weapons and military equipment, including 26 assault rifles, worth $500,000. Venezuelan intelligence services linked the weapons to three camps in Colombia where paramilitary groups of Venezuelan deserters and U.S. mercenaries are training to carry out attacks against Venezuela. According to Venezuela’s Communication Minister Jorge Rodríguez, these groups were planning to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to attack military units and plant bombs. He also linked the groups to Alcalá.

These allegations proved to be correct, as Alcalá, in a video he posted online hours after the indictments, admitted that the weapons were under his command. He further admitted that the weapons were purchased with funds given to him by Juan Guaidó, with whom he allegedly signed a contract.  Additionally, Alcala claimed that the operation was planned by U.S. advisors, with whom he supposedly met at least seven times. Aclalá also alleged that Leopoldo López, the founder of Guaidó’s party Voluntad Popular who was sprung from house arrest during Guaidó’s April 30 attempted insurrection, had full knowledge of the terror plot.

As a result of these videos, Venezuela’s Attorney General has opened an investigation into Juan Guaidó for an attempted coup.

The U.S. blew it by accusing the one man that was willing to help its chosen clown and by not informing him before the indictment came out. That man then freaked out and blew the whistle. This is now threatening the whole opposition plan the U.S. concocted with Guaidó and the men behind him.

On Friday Alcalá Cordones decided it was unsafe for him to stay in Colombia. He 'called up' the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and gave himself up. He was extradited to New York and will now become a 'witness' against Maduro who he has publicly opposed in the first place. 

This chaos was certainly created by Elliott Abrams, the neoconservative U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela. Abrams has a talent for messing things up.

U.S. foreign policy during the crisis has been abysmal. The U.S. angered China, the biggest producer of urgently needed masks and drugs, by calling the virus  "Wuhan virus" or "Chinese virus", a practice that stopped only after a phone call between Trump and Xi Jinping. It angered Germany when it tried to buy exclusive rights for a potential vaccine that is being developed there. Requests for support by multiple European allies were left unanswered while China and Russia mobilized to help over 80 countries. Meanwhile Pompeo chastised Italy for accepting Cuban drugs and doctors.

There will be a large cost to pay for this when the pandemic is over. The U.S. has exposed itself as unreliable ally, as war mongering moron that does not shrink from damaging its own best interest and as incapable of helping its own citizens.

China on the other hand has defeated the epidemic at home and now helps defeating it wherever it can. This is going to be its century. 

Posted by b on March 28, 2020 at 15:13 UTC | Permalink

Comments
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Rob @ 52 (previously 51):

"There seems to be a theme running through the comments thread that the COVID-19 national lockdowns are essentially political in nature, which is pure nonsense. Lockdowns, quarantines and the like have been standard practice during epidemics dating back to the Middle Ages. And they actually work to reduce the spread of infection and all that goes with it. B. has been making this very point for weeks ..."

Because lockdowns and quarantines apparently worked in the past, in an age when cities and towns were less inter-connected than they are today, public sanitation in the West was either non-existent or was dependent on the presence of a nearby river, and the origins of disease were poorly known, that in itself does not mean such practices are still ideal today to deal with epidemics when we have the knowledge and the technologies to deal with disease epidemics.

Every disease epidemic is different and depends on the nature of the disease itself, how it is spread, how infectious it is and (more importantly) how prepared communities and governments are to tackle it. What measures work for one epidemic may not work for another.

If governments had taken notice of China's alert to the WHO in January this year that COVID-19 had broken out in Wuhan and was spreading, they would have done testing of incoming travellers to their countries much earlier, and lockdowns could have been avoided. As it is, in many countries around the world, lockdowns are destroying thousands of jobs, sending small and medium-sized businesses to the wall, shutting down cultural venues, increasing the possibility of mental health problems, domestic violence and suicides in households. Vacant shops and offices become targets for vandalism and break-ins.

If and when lockdowns end, will all those thousands of businesses and jobs ever come back? Or will the services and things they provided be taken over by companies and corporations that survived the lockdowns thanks to government bailouts?

How effective does that sound to you?

Posted by: Jen | Mar 29 2020 22:40 utc | 201

William Gruff @171:

Yes, hyperinflation is a real possibility, but only after serious deflation. The whipsaw effect is necessarty to wipe out everyone except the propertied megarich.

Posted by: corvo | Mar 29 2020 23:03 utc | 202

Uncle Tungsten 143

Thousands of people have been trained in CPR--Cardio-Pulmonary Respiration (or perhaps that stands for resuscitation).

Granted, mouth to mouth resuscitation is not called for in the COVID-19 context, but surely this basic technique could be replicated in some kind of DIY technology that wouldn't be too hard to put into service.
Maybe something based on a simples bellows idea, as you mention.
See, e.g., https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vi7ebrpR20Q

Posted by: Really?? | Mar 30 2020 0:04 utc | 203

Really?? @ 203:

Portable resuscitators already exist but depending on where you live they may or may not be available to the general public or individuals.

Mouth-2-mouth resuscitation isn't necessary if you have to go just hands-on (literally): just keep pressing on the chest, up and down, rhythmically because the main thing is to keep the lungs going and the heart beating. Sometimes a portable defibrillator is needed too.

Posted by: Jen | Mar 30 2020 1:17 utc | 204

Some in power are seeking out scapegoats and harnessing Covid-19 for political purposes. But the pathogen does not replace other threats to our survival, threats those who seek to exploit it are blind to.
https://www.ghostsofhistory.wordpress.com/

Posted by: peter mcloughlin | Mar 30 2020 10:51 utc | 205

- This shows IMO that the US State Department no longer is interested in diplomacy. It is loosing its credibility when it comes to diplomacy and is more and more ideology driven. #SAD.

Posted by: Willy2 | Mar 30 2020 11:56 utc | 206

Jen:
Indeed on both your last points.
Efficient border controls early on and systematic testing or quarantine of everyone suspected of having passed through China since Dec. 2019 might have worked and could've avoided the current mess. This is the key point when we refer to "Quarantine works": not quarantining your entire country, but closing it down and quarantining everyone who wants in - this is how cities survived the Black Plague and later epidemics. Current global lockdowns are a last-resort measure to avoid letting the pandemic run free across the country and kill 2% of all the population, because our governments are bloody criminals who couldn't get arsed to do their job when their countries most needed it.
As for resuscitation, I was taught in my first-aid course that mouth-to-mouth was a big no-no. Usually, chest-pressing should be preferred (granted, if you want to be really effective, you come close to breaking the ribs...), and if necessary, mouth-to-nose (though this should probably also be a no-no in Covid times).

Posted by: Clueless Joe | Mar 30 2020 13:30 utc | 207

@ Posted by: corvo | Mar 29 2020 23:03 utc | 202

Not for the USA.

The USA can only suffer hyperinflation in two occasions:

1) if the USD standard falls, in which case the USA becomes a "normal country";

2) if the rest of the world completely collapses, so that it cannot sustain the USD as the universal fiat currency anymore. But that would be a literal collapse, not just a "crisis".

Since the USD is the universal fiat currency, the rest of the world is forced to sustain it, no matter how much the USG prints it. Therefore, we can say that, each time the USG prints USD, it is "recalling" capital from the rest of the world in order to sustain its own payments.

That's why the American people is able to consume much above what they really produce.

Posted by: vk | Mar 30 2020 14:03 utc | 208

Has China or South Korea defeated the virus?

Or will the virus end up infecting half or more of the global population no matter the lockdowns?

When a virus is highly contagious and widespread already,it recurs in waves after lockdowns, as B acknowledges.

So, inducing a Great Depression is not an effective strategy in the end.

Free testing and face masks, along with isolation for the vulnerable, is the only viable policy here.

Posted by: Liberty Blogger | Mar 30 2020 14:16 utc | 209

LB,
The virus can stay for days on plastic and metal. Therefore you are right. Will niqab-s be allowed instead of masks?

Posted by: Mina | Mar 30 2020 14:30 utc | 210

Seeing this marker of infection cases evolution, I got perplexed seeing that in spite of having suffered the first cases way before Spain ( in fact, one of the first cases in Spain was precisely a German citizen who traveled to Canary Islands..), the rates of infection remains incredibly low in Germany with respect Spain...
Of course, the presence of quite more hospital beds per 100.000 habitants in Germany is a factor, but not enough to explain this, in my view.

Then, just when was reading some essays by Alexander Dugin ( of whom I do not regard ideological simpathies at all, but consider him a smart man ) on the pandemic, caught my attention this sentence:

"The vaccine is in the province of those who most likely developed the virus, and is therefore an unreliable solution".

Then, recalled that it was a German lab which was developing the vaccine Trump wished in exclusivity for the US...

Also recalled that previously to the pandemic, Spain was growing again but there were increasingly strong rumours on that the Deutsche Bank was on the verge of debacle...

In the last meeting of the Eurogroup on strategies to fight the Coronavirus epidemic´s outcome, they were Germany and Holland the two countries oppossed to any solidarity with the most affected countries in the EU, to the extent Holland representative needed to be called out by the representative of Portugal on his unsolidary, bordering the amoral, statements with respect Spain...

Could it be the Coronavirus epidemic a way for the supposedly wealthy countries of the EU to solve their own banking and economic imbalance by burying Spain and Italy again in debt by profitting from it?

Wondering whether Germany and his allies in the "Hanseatic League" have not designed the Eurozone to plunder and ransack the southern countries any time they rise their heads after a decade or os sweating...the same way the US is doing since the end of WWII thorugh the petro-dollar scam with the rest of the world....

Why the economic responsible for one of the wealthiest German regions would have taken his own life just yesterday?

Posted by: H.Schmatz | Mar 30 2020 22:52 utc | 211

vk @208:

"The USA can only suffer hyperinflation in two occasions: 1) if the USD standard falls, in which case the USA becomes a "normal country";"

--just a matter of time before this happens

"2) if the rest of the world completely collapses, so that it cannot sustain the USD as the universal fiat currency anymore. But that would be a literal collapse, not just a "crisis"."

--likewise. Of course if the USD goes down the toilet, other central banks will devalue their currencies as well for as long as they can keep up that act. But this doesn't mitigate the hyperinflation of domestically produced products -- and a lot of the USA's food is still produced domestically. We're not importing potatoes or Kraft Macaroni & Cheese from China or Mexico . . . not yet at least. And once migrant farm laborers start dropping like flies due to COVID-19, who's going to do the harvesting anyway? Result: massive food shortages and hyperinflation of prices of dwindling food supplies.

Posted by: corvo | Apr 2 2020 14:31 utc | 212

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