This week, Nancy Pelosi and other members of the US House of Representatives tried to pass a publicity stunt, toothless resolution to prevent President Trump from lifting sanctions on three companies owned by Russian aluminum tycoon Oleg Deripaska, because Deripaska had contact with Paul Manafort or something. A joint letter written by 7 EU ambassadors to the US predicted that at least 75,000 Europeans would lose their jobs if the sanctions weren’t lifted. So, in case you’re not following along, most Democrats and some Republicans in congress were prepared to tell 75,000 Europeans to go fuck themselves just to punish one Russian guy for talking to Paul Manafort or something.
Deripaska’s net worth is estimated at $3.3 billion. He owns the biggest yacht in the world. With or without those sanctions, he will continue to live a life that is lavish beyond your wildest dreams. On the other hand, those 75,000 people’s lives would be turned upside down.
The house vote was symbolic since the Senate had already failed to pass the same resolution. It’s not clear how the House would have voted if the measure was an actual vote that mattered, especially since Wall Street and the Treasury were against the sanctions. What’s disturbing is that this political stunt actually worked with their base. As usual, regular consumers of MSNBC and The New York Times were siting this as proof that Trump is Putin’s puppet.
Interestingly, Manafort first came into contact with Deripaska while working for professional warmonger and #Resistance saint John McCain. Here’s a picture of McCain boarding Deripaska’s yacht to spend his 70th birthday with Deripaska and, oddly enough, the actress Anne Hathaway. But we’re not supposed to talk about that.
But let’s get back to the main point: the ugly side of sanctions. Sanctions are the US’s favorite first plan of attack to get countries to acquiesce to their business interests. The claim is always that they are targeted at the ruling elite to try to get them to treat their people better, but, the problem is, the people whose interests the US claims to be protecting are the ones who take the brunt of the hit.
In the 1990s, The US wanted to punish Saddam for dropping the dollar and invading Kuwait, so they starved half a million children to death. By all accounts, Saddam’s life style wasn’t affected too much.
One good thing about the Trump administration is that they aren’t good at masking their evil under fluff and platitudes. When asked why he is still selling Saudi Arabia arms as the commit the biggest genocide of the century in Yemen, he replied, “They give us a lot of money.” Meanwhile, Secretary Pompeo told the BBC that “Iranian officials must listen to Washington if they want their people to eat. ” The current sanctions regime targeting Iran could be as deadly as the one that targeted Iraq in the 90s, but thankfully we live in a multi-polar world now, and the US can’t starve a country on its own; Russia and China could easily keep it afloat. But now that we know how they really feel, the Trumpians can’t pretend to care about the well-being of people around the world. They can’t go from, “Do what we say, or your people will starve,” to, “You’re abusing human rights. How dare you.” The average jingoistic Fox News viewer is probably too indoctrinated to see the contradiction, but hopefully this type of thing will cause some independents to scratch their heads.
Another thing that makes sanctions useful for the US is that once the target economy starts to fail, they can get their propaganda system to blame it all on the country’s government. This is what we are seeing now in Venezuela as I talked about in The Reality of Venezuela. Every corporate news outlet in America can’t wait to remind you about the hyperinflation in Venezuela, but they’re not going to tell you the cause; you’re not supposed to think about that.
It is literally impossible for a national economy to function in the 21st century without the cooperation of other countries. Because of the massive global population and the rapidly expanding complexity of technology, materials, and processes that keep societies functioning, the globe is much more interconnected than most people realize. Watch this great little video called I, Pencil and see how many people and countries have to cooperate just to produce a simple number 2 pencil.
There is no such thing as a ‘targeted’ sanction. An attack on a single industry, product, or person can have repercussions on an entire entire economy.
If the US wants to punish Deripaska or someone else, there are other ways. I’m sure they could use their immense global influence to get him banned from interring around 60% of countries in the world. A man of that stature does not have all his eggs in one basket; he’s got to have foreign bank accounts. Have those accounts closed. You can put people on travel bans. But of course that is not the real point. The problem is not with Deripaska personally. He’s their buddy. The point is to make Trump look bad and to weaken Russia’s economy until they acquiesce the US.
Even if you believe the provably false claim that Iran is the number one state sponsor of terrorism, (see Biggest State Sponsor of Terrorism: Iran or Saudi Arabia?) the claim is still that it is the state that is doing the sponsoring, not regular people, so why should regular people have to suffer? And if you think they should, then you’re just a horrible person who is plagued with crippling insecurity about your own accomplishments, so you are making up for it by attaching your ego to your country in the form of misplaced patriotic pride and dehumanization of the other. There there fella, everyone’s good at something.
I see good people all the time supporting sanctions. I’ve heard well-intentioned people say things like, “I don’t support a war on country X, but we should at least sanction them.” People look at me like I’m crazy when I say I don’t support any government sanctions. But it’s the truth; I don’t. Sanctions are inherently immoral. They are enemies of humanity. And it’s about time we started recognizing them for what they are: an act of war.
The only sanctions that are a bit more complicated are those of the BDS movement. These are not government sanctions, but are done by a people who feel powerless to affect the actions of their governments towards Israel. And because Israel already gets so much unnecessary foreign aid, it can survive the hit. I’m still against all government sanctions. If I was president of the US, I would take all the aid we give to Israel and Egypt and redirect it to Palestine. I would send the navy to forcefully break the blockade of Gaza, and every time Israel dropped a bomb on one of its neighbors, as pacifistic as I am, I would drop a bomb on an Israeli base. Tit for Tat. And AIPAC would have to leave the country in 48 hours. But since I’m powerless, maybe sanctions are the only option in this case. They may hurt innocent Israelis, but they also may help to end the madness sooner.
I’m in favor of lifting all sanctions against Russia. The average American would assume that means I’m a Putin supporter. No. I’m a humanity supporter. In taking this stance, I’m not considering what Putin, Trump, Deripaska or anyone else wants. I simply don’t want regular Russians and other people to have to needlessly struggle in a world of plenty. Is that so bad? Could you get on board with that?