The “public” that allegedly “protested” against this billboard in Ann Arbor, as reported by the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, were not the only folks watching DYR.
The SPLC has now included DYR on its Hate Map.
Dan McGowan responds:
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) recently criticized Deir Yassin Remembered (DYR) by including it on the so-called Hate Map, purportedly for the high crime of Holocaust denial.
Apparently if the SPLC disagrees with you, it will label you as a racist or a hatemonger. There is no discussion, no defense, and no chance of winning a defamation suit against it.
The SPLC is the cash cow of the civil rights movement. Last year it took in over $58 million, some of which was added to its bloated endowment of over $328 million held in questionable investments, some in off shore accounts.
Its two chief executives together received over $800,000. Of its nine top executives, none come from minorities.
The SPLC claims to reject hate, embrace diversity, and respect differences. But often the SPLC and the people who believe their fear mongering behave exactly the opposite. The SPLC campaigns to deny free speech and freedom of association to groups of Americans with whom they disagree, often doing so to pander to other groups for more contributions all in the name of promoting “tolerance.” For example, if the British historian David Irving plans a lecture in Syracuse, the SPLC will protest any venue he might select, leaflet cars at his hotel saying, “There is a Nazi staying here,” and photograph and shout at anyone who might try to attend.
SPLC slime is not reserved solely for skinheads and members of the KKK. Dr. Ben Carson got a dose for opposing same sex marriage. SPLC later apologized but the charge never completely goes away, leading Carson to say that fear of being on the SPLC’s list serves to shut people up.
The SPLC makes money out of fear mongering and promoting the idea that Americans are inundated with hateful people, particularly on the radical right. The favorite target is the KKK and white supremacists.
The Baltimore Sun characterizes SPLC operations this way: “Its business is fundraising, and its success at raking in the cash is based on its ability to sell gullible people on the idea that present-day America is awash in white racism and anti-Semitism, which it will ﬁght tooth-and-nail as the public interest law ﬁrm it purports to be.”1
It is understandable that the SPLC will run out of rocks under which to look for old KKK members and skinheads, but why criticize Deir Yassin Remembered, a small not-for-profit organization of Jews and non-Jews working to build a memorial for Palestinians murdered in 1948 on the west side of Jerusalem? DYR is certainly not the radical right. DYR practices and preaches tolerance; it has agreed to the advice of none other than the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem that its memorial show the Christian tenet of forgiveness. Its advisory board boasts diversity; it is composed of half men, half women, half Jews, half non-Jews. It has worked continuously since 1994 for Palestinian human rights, including equal rights of citizenship, with no compensation for any executive and with less than $5,000 of reserves.
The answer lies in the writings of some of the DYR members who have questioned the use of the Holocaust as both the sword and shield of Israel. The Holocaust has been used to justify the need for a Jewish state and its expropriation of Palestinian land; the Holocaust is used to monopolize victimhood and defend Israel from criticism of its brutal and unending occupation.
But it is more than that. The Holocaust has morphed from a historical event to a religion, which must not be contradicted for fear of being branded an apostate or a hater or a denier or an anti-Semite. Religious faith is self-validating, impervious to reason, and regards proposals to scientifically validate its claims as profane in all senses of the word.
So, anyone who is skeptical about the number “six million,” about mass extermination in gas chambers, or about Nazi orders for extermination is to be named and shamed and hated. For this topic, there can be no diversity of opinion and no respect for inquiry or debate.
Don’t tell us that the United States government claimed Hitler murdered over 20 million people until the late 1970s when that number was officially revised downwards and carved in stone at 11 million. Don’t tell us that Jewish historians today claim the 5 million number of non-Jewish victims is overstated. Don’t remind us that the lampshade and the soap-from-human-fat stories were simple gruel propaganda and have no historical significance. Don’t remind us that Elie Wiesel took his violin to Auschwitz and that none of his family was gassed. Don’t remind us that Elie chose to retreat with the Nazis rather than be liberated from Auschwitz as was the father of Anne Frank.
Fear mongering and sliming little organizations like DYR is fake news. It is ridiculous disinformation to keep SPLC campaign money coming in. It foments hate and bigotry and intolerance by the very hypocrites who claim the opposite.
- “The truth about ʻhate crimesʼ and the racial justice racket” by Ron Smith, Baltimore Sun, December 3, 2008.
The Nuclear Question is becoming increasingly obfuscated by spin and lobbying as the West sleepwalks into Cold War II — a walk made all the more dangerous when the loose lips of the U.S. tweeter-in-chief announced that another nuclear arms race is a great idea (see link and link). Two Cold War II issues are central and almost never addressed: What will be the Russians’ understanding of all the propaganda surrounding the Nuclear Question and the looming American defense spendup? And how might they act on this understanding?
Barack Obama first outlined his vision for nuclear disarmament in a speech in Prague on 5 April 2009, less than three months after becoming President. This speech became the basis for what eventually became the New Start nuclear arms limitation treaty. But Mr. Obama also opened the door for the modernization of our nuclear forces with this pregnant statement:
“To put an end to Cold War thinking, we will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, and urge others to do the same. Make no mistake: As long as these weapons exist, the United States will maintain a safe, secure and effective arsenal to deter any adversary, and guarantee that defense to our allies –- including the Czech Republic.”
Why call for nuclear disarmament while opening the door to nuclear rearmament?
Obama’s speech paved the way to his Nobel Peace Prize in October 2009, but he was also trying to manipulate the domestic politics of the Military – Industrial – Congressional Complex (MICC). By 15 December 2009, 41 Senators sent a letter to President Obama saying that further reductions of the nuclear arsenal would be acceptable only if accompanied by “a significant program to modernize our nuclear deterrent.”
Viewed in retrospect, it is clear that the new President — either naively or cynically — acquiesced to that senatorial spending demand in order to keep the powerful nuclear laboratories and their allies in the defense industry and Congress from lobbying against his new arms limitation treaty. In April 2009 Obama took the first steps that launched a huge spending plan to modernize U.S. nuclear forces across the board. Eight years later, during his first call to President Putin on 28 January 2017, President Trump locked that program in place by denouncing Obama’s New START as a “bad deal,” saying it favored Russia.
A particularly dangerous component of the Obama nuclear spending plan is the acquisition of low-yield precision-guided nuclear bombs/warheads. These weapons only make sense within a radical strategy for actually fighting a nuclear war — as opposed to the almost universally accepted idea that our nuclear arsenal exists only to deter any thought of using these weapons — since actual use is unthinkable, with profoundly unknowable consequences. Last December, the prestigious Defense Science Board — an organization replete with members closely connected to the nuclear labs and their defense industry allies — added its imprimatur to this radical strategy by resurrecting the old and discredited ideas of limited nuclear options (LNOs). LNOs are based on the unproven — and unprovable — hypothesis that a president could actually detonate a few nukes to control a gradually escalating nuclear bombing campaign, or perhaps to implement a psychological tactic of encouraging deterrence with a few small “preventative” nuclear explosions.
Adding to Obama’s expansion of our nuclear posture is President Trump’s intention to fulfill his campaign promises to strengthen all nuclear offensive and defensive forces, with particular emphasis on spending a lot more for the ballistic missile defense (BMD) program — which implies expanding the current deployments of BMD weapons in eastern Europe within a few hundred miles of the Russian border.
Early cost estimates — really guesses — for Obama’s entire nuclear modernization program are for one trillion dollars over the next 30 years. No missile defense costs are included in this estimate — nor are the costs of Trump’s promised expansions.
The components of the currently authorized program — e.g., a new bomber, a new ballistic missile carrying submarine, a new ICBM, a new air-launched cruise missile, a complete remanufacturing upgrade of the existing B-61 dial-a-yield tactical nuclear bomb that also adds a precision guidance kit, a new family of missile warheads, new nuclear warhead production facilities, and a massive array of new large-scale intelligence, surveillance, command and control systems to manage these forces — are all in the early stages of development. Assuming business as usual continues in the Pentagon, the one-trillion dollar estimate is really a typical front-loaded or “buy-in” estimate intended to stick the camel’s nose in the acquisition tent by deliberately understating future costs while over-promising future benefits.
The money for all of these programs is just beginning to flow into hundreds of congressional districts. As the torrent of money builds up over the next decade, the flood of sub-contracting money and jobs in hundreds of congressional districts guarantees the entire nuclear spend-up will acquire a political life of its own — and the taxpayer will be burdened with yet another unstoppable behemoth.
Readers who doubt this outcome need only look at how the problem-plagued F-35 Strike Fighter lives on, resisting reductions in money flows and even receiving congressional add-ons, despite mind-numbing effectiveness shortfalls, technical failures and unending schedule delays (e.g., see this recent 60 page report by the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation).
Locking hundreds of congressmen and senators into this nuclear modernization program guarantees that the money flow and cost overruns will increase without interference for the next thirty to fifty years. Our many years of observing and analyzing DoD’s largest politically-engineered acquisitions makes it obvious that the initial buy-in guess of a trillion dollar total will turn into at least a three trillion dollar price tag by the end of three decades. In short, the Pentagon is planting the seed money for another F-35-like disaster, only this time on steroids.
But there is more. Once this multi-trillion dollar, self-sustaining money gusher is sluicing steadily into the boiler rooms of the Military – Industrial – Congressional Complex (MICC), U.S. force deployments, alliances, treaties and threat assessments will be shaped even more heavily than now to support the domestic politics of ever-increasing spending for the MICC. Despite this, our nation’s foreign policy mandarins seeking to steer the ship of state from their perch on Mount Olympus will remain oblivious to the fact that their “policy” steering wheel is not connected to the ship’s rudder.
As one perceptive Pentagon wag succinctly observed years ago, “In the real world, foreign policy stops at the water’s edge,” i.e., the domestic politics of the MICC always trump foreign policy. President Eisenhower understood this, though he did nothing about it before leaving office.
As of now, no one in the MICC really gives a damn how the Russians (or the Chinese) might actually react to America’s looming nuclear (and non-nuclear) spending binge. This is clearly seen in the cognitive dissonance of the Obama Defense Department: It was torn between insisting the Russians are not the target of the nuclear program but at the same time justifying the nuclear build up as a means to counter Russian conventional aggression. Equally revealing, an 8 February editorial in the Pentagon’s favored house organ, Defense News, described President Trump’s upcoming Nuclear Posture Review without once mentioning the Russians or Chinese nor how they might react to the looming American spending spree. On the other hand, the editorial took great pains to explain in detail how the forces of domestic political consensus will ensure steady funding for Obama’s nuclear spending plans throughout the Trump Administration years.
Do Actions Trigger Reactions (1)?
So, how might the Russians react to the threat of increased American defense budgets?
Let’s try to look at the nuclear modernization program — and the looming defense spendup — from the Russian leadership’s point of view.
The Russians, particularly those internal political and industrial factions that benefit from Russian defense spending, are very likely to characterize the American spending program as an aggressive sharpening of the U.S. nuclear sword and a strengthening of its nuclear shield, synchronized with a threatening buildup of America’s conventional force. And that will be used to argue that Russia is spending far too little on defense because it faces an existential threat due to increased American spending.
Don’t laugh, this is a mirror image of the argument used successfully by President Ronald Reagan in a televised address to the nation on 22 November 1982. His subject was also nuclear strategy, as well as the need to increase America’s entire defense budget. Reagan said [excerpted from pp. 3-5],
“You often hear that the United States and the Soviet Union are in an arms race. The truth is that while the Soviet Union has raced, we have not. As you can see from this blue US line in constant dollars our defense spending in the 1960s went up because of Vietnam and then it went downward through much of the 1970s. Now, follow the red line, which is Soviet spending. It has gone up and up and up. …
“The combination of the Soviets spending more and the United States spending proportionately less changed the military balance and weakened our deterrent. Today, in virtually every measure of military power, the Soviet Union enjoys a decided advantage” …
If my defense proposals are passed, it will still take five years before we come close to the Soviet level.
Mirror imaging Reagan’s argument, Russian defense advocates emphasizing the dangers of the U.S. spendup are likely to point out that the United States and its allies are already spending far more on their military forces than Russia is spending. Moreover, America certainly intends to rapidly increase the size of this spending advantage, because the large new American nuclear modernization program is only part of a yet-larger long term spending buildup.
After all, have not President Trump and Senator McCain proposed huge increases to President Obama’s defense budget to rebuild what Messrs. Trump and McCain claim is a “depleted” military (see link 1 and link 2 respectively)? Advocates of increased Russian defense budgets might also ask, are not Messrs. Trump and McCain declaring an emergency by calling on Congress to exempt defense spending from the spending restrictions imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011?
Indeed, Russian politicians, echoing Mr. Reagan in 1981, might construct a graphic using the West’s own numbers to prove their points, beginning perhaps with something like this (Chart 2):
A Russian defense advocate using the Janes’ metric in Chart 2 could argue that (1) Russia is now spending slightly less than Saudi Arabia, less than India, and less than the UK; (2) the size of Russia’s budget is only a quarter of China’s; and (3) the size of Russia’s defense budget is an astonishing one-twelfth of that of the United States!
Add to the U.S. defense budget the contributions of its allies and close friends and the spending balance in favor the U.S. and its allies to that of Russia alone becomes an astounding 21 to 1! Even if Russia could trust China to be a reliable ally — which it can’t — the current spending imbalance is over four to one in favor of the U.S. and its allies on the one hand and Russia and China on the other.
Advocates of increased Russian defense spending might even argue their comparison does not suffer from the gross distortions created by Reagan’s earlier chart because (1) the Ruble was not convertible into dollars in 1982 (whereas it is today), and Reagan’s comparison severely overstated Soviet spending levels using an artificial exchange rate; and (2) the dollar numbers in their Chart 2 comparison start from zero, unlike the deliberately truncated dollar scale (100 to 275) Reagan used in Chart 1 to exaggerate his point.
Do Actions Trigger Reactions (II)?
Of course, from a Russian leader’s point of view, the strategic threat goes well beyond the madness implied by the asymmetries in defense budgets.
They might see the Trumpian expansion of both nuclear offense and missile defense as evidence the U.S. is planning to dominate Russia by preparing to fight and win a nuclear war — a radical shift from America’s 50+ years of building nuclear forces only for deterrence (often referred to as Mutually Assured Destruction or MAD).
Faced with such a threat, militarist factions inside Russia are likely to insist on a rational application of the precautionary principle by the Russian nation.
That principle will dictate a response, presumably a massive Russian nuclear arms race with the United States. The obvious fact that the politically engineered U.S. nuclear program cannot be reined in or terminated by politicians in the U.S. is almost certainly understood by the Russians. But that appreciation would serve merely to magnify the sense of menace perceived by patriotic Russian leaders.
Bear in mind, the Russians are unlikely to view the emerging nuclear menace in isolation. For one thing, there is the toxic question of NATO’s expansion and the mistrust it created.
The vast majority of Russians, including former President Gorbachev, President Putin, and Prime Minister Medvedev, believe strongly that the U.S. and the West violated their verbal promises not to expand NATO eastward in return for the Soviet Union’s acquiescence to the unification of Germany as a member of NATO. Many leaders of the West have either denied any promises were made or downplayed the import of any such understandings. But reporters from the German weekly Der Spiegel discovered documents in western archives that supported the Russian point of view, and on 26 November 2009 published an investigative report concluding …
“After speaking with many of those involved and examining previously classified British and German documents in detail, SPIEGEL has concluded that there was no doubt that the West did everything it could to give the Soviets the impression that NATO membership was out of the question for countries like Poland, Hungary or Czechoslovakia.”
One thing is beyond dispute: The impression or understanding or promise not to expand NATO was broken by President Clinton — largely for domestic political reasons — making a mockery of President Gorbachev’s hopeful vision of a greater European home.
Clinton announced support for NATO expansion in October of 1996, just before the November election, to garner conservative and hawk votes, the votes of Americans of Eastern European descent, and in response to an intense NATO expansion lobbying campaign mounted by the MICC — and to steal the issue from his conservative opponent Senator Robert Dole.
The expansion of NATO eastwards combined with President Bush’s unilateral withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in June 2002, followed by the deployment of ABM systems to Eastern Europe certainly increased the Russians’ sense of mistrust and menace regarding U.S. intentions. To this day, Putin’s speeches repeatedly refer to the broken American promises.
There is more to an appreciation of the Russian point of view. In parallel with the NATO expansion, the European Union (EU) expanded eastward, precipitously like an expanding cancer, beginning in 1995 and continuing to 2013. The EU’s exclusion of Russia from the “greater European home” further fueled an atmosphere of mistrust and menace.
From a Russian perspective, the NATO and EU expansions worked to deliberately isolate and impoverish Russia — and the potential (though to date frustrated) expansion by the West into Ukraine and Georgia intensified the sense that Russia had been hoodwinked by the West.
The perception of a deliberate U.S. and EU campaign to cripple Russia has a history dating back to the end of the First Cold War in 1991: Russian leaders, for example, are unlikely to forget how, during the Clinton Administration, U.S. NGOS combined with American pressure, supported the extraordinarily corrupt privatization of the former Soviet state enterprises in the 1990s (aka “Shock Therapy”). In the words of the Nobel Prize winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz (16 June 2000):
“In the early 1990s, there was a debate among economists over shock therapy versus a gradualist strategy for Russia. But Larry Summers [Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs, then Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, now Secretary] took control of the economic policy, and there was a lot of discontent with the way he was driving the policy.
The people in Russia who believed in shock therapy were Bolsheviks–a few people at the top that rammed it down everybody’s throat. They viewed the democratic process as a real impediment to reform.
The grand larceny that occurred in Russia, the corruption that resulted in nine or ten people getting enormous wealth through loans-for-shares, was condoned because it allowed the reelection of Yeltsin.”
And in a touch of irony, given the current hysteria over President Putin’s alleged meddling in the U.S. presidential election, it gets worse. Russian leaders are also unlikely to forget American intervention on behalf of Boris Yeltsin in the Russian elections of 1996, including using American control of the International Monetary Fund to float a $10.2 billion loan in March to 1996 to help the corrupt and malleable Boris Yeltsin to win the election in June.
So, from a Russian perspective, the recent increasingly severe U.S. sanctions are not only hypocritical, they certainly reinforce the view that the U.S. led campaign to cripple the Russian economy is ongoing and perhaps endless.
Moreover, the rapid, opportunistic expansion of NATO and the EU created a kaleidoscope of internal frictions. Now both institutions are in trouble, riven by contradictions and disharmonies. Great Britain is leaving the EU but will remain in NATO. Northern Europe and the EU bankers are imposing draconian austerity measures on Southern Europe, particularly Greece. Turkey, long a key NATO ally, is turning to Russia while being rejected by the EU. The destruction of Libya, Iraq and Syria, under U.S. leadership with European participation, has created an unprecedented flood of refugees into the EU, deeply threatening the EU’S organizing principle of open borders. The increasing tide of European instability and chaos, accompanied by the looming specter of growing Fascist movements from Spain to Ukraine, inevitably add to the traditional Russian sense of being endangered and encircled.
That sense of endangerment is certainly heightened by a recent creepy piece of nuttiness coming out of Poland, perhaps the most Russophobic member of the EU and NATO. The German daily DW says Jaroslaw Kaczynski, a very conservative former prime minister of Poland, chairman of the ruling nationalist-conservative Law and Justice party (PiS), has called for a massive EU nuclear force — trading on Polish fears that the United States will not sacrifice Chicago to save Warsaw. That France and Britain already have nuclear weapons and are members of NATO is, of course, left unsaid in Kaczynski’s demagoguery.
Russian leaders cannot ignore the fact that Kaczynski called for a nuclear EU shortly after the U.S. 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division (3,500 troops and 2,500 vehicles) deployed to Poland. Even worse, the commanding officer promptly declared the brigade is “ready to fight,” though it is intended to “deter” any threat to Poland. One brigade is a trip wire … or a kind of blank check that might be exploited for nutty reasons to trigger a shooting war — and as Kaczynski just demonstrated, nuttiness is afoot in that part of the world.
Now, if you were a Russian; and
(1) you remembered the West’s destruction to your homeland beginning in 1812, 1914, and 1941 together with the recent string of broken promises, economic exclusion, and destructive meddling in Russian internal affairs that made a mockery of the ideal of a post-Cold War common European home; and …
(2) you faced a country that excluded you from Europe, suborned your election and is intent on crippling your economy, a country already outspending you on defense by a factor of twelve to one while expressing an intent to increase that lopsided ratio in a major way; and …
(3) that country has already started a nuclear arms race with a hugely expensive across-the-board modernization program to buy atomic weapons some of which can be justified only in terms of fighting and winning nuclear wars;
What would you do?
To ask such a question is to answer it. For patriotic Americans interested in increasing their real national security (rather than their national security budget), the nuclear issue boils down to a question of understanding the powerful impact of America’s spending decisions and actions on patriotic Russians. In other words, it is a question of reasoned empathy and pragmatic self-interest.
Yet the mainstream media and the politicians of both parties in thrall to our MICC are working day and night to pump up anti-Russian hysteria and hype fear to ensure Americans remain completely oblivious to the powerful, dangerous impact of our senseless Obama-Trump nuclear spend-up on the Russians — or on anyone else, for that matter.
Chuck Spinney and Pierre Sprey, between them, have over 75 years of Pentagon and industry experience in engineering weapons as well as in analyzing military systems effectivness and defense budgets. Sprey was one of the early whiz kids in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) in the 1960s. He led the Air Force’s concept design team for the legendary A-10 attack aircraft and, together with colonels Boyd and Riccioni, fathered the enormously successful F-16 fighter. Working in OSD in the 1980s, Spinney’s critical analyses of the Pentagon’s defective planning and budgeting landed him on the March 1983 cover of Time. Leaving the Pentagon in 2003, he did an in-depth interview on the military-industrial-congressional complex with Bill Moyers which resulted in a special Emmy Award winning edition of Bill Moyers’ Now that aired on 1 August 2003. Sprey and Spinney have testified before Congress on many occasions and were founding members of the Military Reform Movement led by their close colleague, the renowned American fighter pilot and strategist, Colonel John Boyd.
If there ever was the sound of a doomsday clock chiming midnight, the signal moment probably occurred last fall, though the alarm went almost unnoticed by the press. In October, major observatories across the world simultaneously recorded that atmospheric carbon levels globally breached what has long been considered the “redline” of 400 parts per million and are likely to keep rising inexorably for the foreseeable future. The 400 parts per million mark has long been considered, even by climate optimists, a fatal tipping point, beyond which there is little hope of return.
One person who probably did take note, however, was Exxon’s CEO Rex Tillerson. I don’t know if Tillerson cracked an evil grin at the time, but I’m sure he must have felt that this grim milestone validated his strategic thinking for the past ten years as mastermind of the world’s largest oil conglomerate.
Despite what you may have heard from the Sierra Club, Rex Tillerson is not a climate change denier. He is something far more dangerous. Tillerson knows climate change is taking place. He was in position to possibly do something about it, evaluated his options and coolly chose not to change course.
Rex Tillerson took over Exxon in 2006, at a fraught time for the oil giant. Its longtime CEO, Lee Raymond, had just stepped down, handing the keys to the kingdom to his protégé, a star player on what the company called the “upstream” team, scouting and securing new oil fields to plunder. During his 12-year term as head of Exxon, Raymond ran the company with a dictatorial and dogmatic hand. He was hostile towards environmentalists and unflinching in his dismissal of climate science. Raymond sluiced tens of millions in company money into anti-environmental front groups, pro-oil politicians and industry-friendly scientists. But by 2005, there was a mini-rebellion brewing inside Exxon’s corporate headquarters in Irving, Texas. Like the French Revolution, this revolt was led by lawyers. (See Steve Coll’s definitive Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power.)
The company’s attorneys feared that through Raymond’s belligerence Exxon was making itself vulnerable to a legal attack for covering up and distorting the threats posed by climate change. The concern here wasn’t from lawsuits by outside groups, such as Greenpeace, but from the company’s own shareholders and investors who might claim that Exxon had concealed a looming financial risk to the company’s bottom line.
One of the big problems confronting Tillerson the day he took over the reins was the fact that the very scientists at MIT and Stanford who had been cashing Exxon’s checks for decades to churn out white papers questioning whether fossil fuel emissions were a driving force beyond climate change, had begun to change their tune. In fact, in 2003 MIT’s Global System Model, largely underwritten by Exxon, forecast a 2.4-degree-centigrade rise in global temperatures over the next hundred years. By 2006, those same scientists had more than doubled that estimate. Exxon faced the prospect of being betrayed by their own bought science.
Organizationally, Exxon changes course about as quickly and adroitly as its Valdez tanker did while trying to navigate Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound. But Tillerson is a pragmatist. A Texas boy, Tillerson idealized the Boy Scouts and when he became head of the Exxon behemoth he began handing out merit badges to company executives who met their production quotas. He set to work with an Eagle Scout’s pious determination to quietly recalibrate the company’s position on climate change. It was, in Tillerson’s mind, a concession to reality.
During the early days of the Iraq War, Exxon set up a special team to run war games on how the invasion would affect the oil industry in terms of pricing, supply and distribution networks. It sent the results of these scenarios to Dick Cheney through Cheney’s factotum Douglas Feith, and so war planning and oil development proceeded in harmony. Tillerson was familiar with the Iraq war gaming and decided to use a similar technique to help chart the company’s new climate change strategy.
Tillerson wanted his secret squad of climate change gamers to answer four questions: 1. Is climate change real? 2. Is the threat serious? 3. Are there any effective actions that can be taken to halt or reverse climate change or mitigate the damage? 4. Are the world’s leading carbon emitters likely to impose binding limits on emissions in time to prevent runaway climate change? The answer to the first two questions was “yes”. The answer to the third question was “maybe” and the fourth “no”.
The lesson Tillerson took from this assessment was that climate change is a serious threat and no government has the will or perhaps even the means to confront it. Thus, the only responsible thing to do for the shareholders of Exxon was to push forward aggressively with exploration and development of new oil fields and ventures, from Amazonia to Russia, before some other company captured the reserves. Internally, this became known as the “end game” scenario.
As CEO of Trump’s foreign policy enterprise, Tillerson seems likely to impose this cynical template on the world at large by forging new alliances with old rivals in kind of a Pax petroliana, where the body count of hot wars will be replaced by the hidden, slow deaths caused by an atmosphere gone lethal.
* * *
+ Rarely has a political drag queen come off as such a whiney bore as Milo Yiannopoulos. But Milo’s fleeting moments of fame melted faster than a Hollywood snowflake, losing his book deal, speaking slot at CPAC and editorial gig at Breitbart all in a few short hours. Then he suffered the added humiliation of having the equally boorish Bill Maher seize credit for his downfall, when it was, in fact, a case of manufactured suicide, as Milo hung himself on his own quest for the outrageous.
Give Milo a little credit, though, he finally showed us where Republicans draw a red line: Koran-burning, pussy-grabbing, school shootings, rallies by Swastika-wearing goose steppers, all just good old American fun. But they won’t tolerate jokes about the sexual molestation of 13-year olds. Finally, some clarity. Thus we say farewell to one of the most rancid media curiosities of our torpid times.
As a final salute to Milo, President Trump signed an Executive Order overturning Obama’s rule on transgendered bathrooms. No word on whether Trump adorned himself in a single strand of Melania’s pearls for the occasion.
+ Trump: “We’re getting really bad dudes out of this country … it’s a military operation.” Military Operation, eh? So much for Posse Comitatus Act, which Bill Clinton incinerated at Waco.
+ This just in from CPAC, during a speech by the American Conservative Union’s Dan Schneider who denounced “the alt-right is a hateful left-wing fascist group.” Chew on that, Muchachos.
+ For years, the Washington Post toiled in the service of John Podesta. Now the Post is returning the favor. Jeff Bezos’s rag has just hired Podesta as a columnist. Let’s hope he focuses on his two favorite topics: food and (space) aliens. I’m up for some new risotto recipes and perhaps Podesta will be able to link aliens to the abduction of those Pizzagate kids.
+ Nathaniel St. Clair and I spent a fascinating hour with Oliver Stone at his offices in Los Angeles this week. Our talk ranged from the deflating spectacle of the Left’s incessant Russia-bashing to the deplorable state of the mainstream media, particularly the daily treacle streaming from the New York Times. Stone reprimanded me for my “questionable taste in movies.” I took his punch like a big boy, staggered but not floored. Then I counterpunched by saying how much I admired a couple of his lesser known films, especially Heaven and Earth, a movie which tells the story of the Vietnam War from a Vietnamese point of view. Stone concurred, still somewhat aggrieved that American film-going audiences had little interest in hearing about the experience of the Vietnamese people themselves. Deténte was established between us.
Stone is a true American auteur. Most of his projects are his from conception through execution. Some films are more successful than others, but none fail to be intriguing on some level, largely because they are projections of a coherent sensibility. Stone comes at film primarily as a writer, but he rarely lets the words overwhelm the movie. Film is, after all, a visual medium. I watched Platoon again a couple of weeks ago and it remains the best American film on that merciless exercise in imperial brutality. If you watched Platoon and Kubrick’s Full-Metal Jacket, you’ll learn more about the real experience of Vietnam than you’ll get the 18 platitudinous hours that the insipid Ken Burns is about to inflict upon the unsuspecting viewers of PBS. (One can only hope that Trump cuts off funding for CPB by September to spare us from having to endure Burns’s banal boilerplate.) More and more, I’ve come to think that Nixon stands as Stone’s greatest achievement. Shorn of the high-octane conspiracies of JFK, Nixon moves at a deliberate pace over the course of three hours, a deep character study of an enigmatic and malevolent mind, as it sinks into darkness and dread.
Stone’s recent film, Snowden, is equally vital. Snowden is not only one of the year’s best films, it is also perhaps the most important, a film that should be mandatory viewing in every American high school, especially those under the supervision of Betsy DeVos. Stone said Snowden took three years to research, digging that was all the more demanding because of the computer science and math. Stone doesn’t do math. I sympathize fully.
It’s no surprise that Snowden was largely ignored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. But Stone’s fellow writers appreciated how well he told that complex story of surveillance, government criminality and courageous resistance and tapped him for the Laurel Award for best screenplay. His acceptance speech is an unsparing critique of the savageness of American foreign policy.
+ Net immigration from Mexico ended years ago, now more people are returning to Mexico than entering the US. Is Trump’s wall really designed to keep people in?
+ To the tune of the “Gorka Waltz“…
If you’re unable
to tell if they’re unstable
as they’re blabbing away on cable
just look for that Nazi label…
They praise it loudly
They wear it proudly
So look for their fascist tell–
+ Speaking of Hitler, Trump’s new science advisor, William Happer, the Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor of Physics at Princeton University, is a 77-year old climate change denier with a predilection for Teutonic metaphors. Happer claims that carbon has been “demonized” by Nazi-like greens, as if the harmless little molecules were “poor Jews under Hitler.” He sees himself as the Oskar Schindler of fossil fuels…
+ Three Texans go on a hunt near the Mexican border: a guide and his two clients. Paranoia sets in. The guide suspects that someone has hijacked his truck and is hightailing it to the Hill Country. He fires his gun. The people in the truck return fire. Two are wounded. Turns out they are his clients, who had, for some reason probably involving alcohol consumption, commandeered his ride.
A cover story is concocted.
When the sheriff arrives, the men claim they encountered a trio of Mexican interlopers, of the undocumented variety, who tried to hotwire their truck. These were some very bad hombres and a gun battle ensued resulting in minor casualties on both sides. In the end, the heroic Texans prevailed and the invaders scattered back toward the border having learned a harsh lesson about messing with our boys.
Lamentably, this tall tale soon unraveled and the truth emerged, followed by charges of the legal kind. But no doubt these three gallant specimens of Texas manhood will be deputized by ICE upon their release from prison….
+ Perhaps this was the “Swedish Incident” that got Trump so fired up?
+ Time spent on the golf course (25 hours and counting) is time not spent ordering ICE raids on grandmothers and toddlers…
+ Trump just appointed Lt. Gen. HR McMaster–a Russia-hating, Cold War-loving, neocon hawk–as his National Security advisor. Will the Prez get the endorsement of the MSDNC crowd now?
+ Thank Gaia for fake news, so we don’t have to fret about the fact that the crippled and not yet-perhaps never to be-fixed Fukushima nuclear plant is now more radioactive than at any point since the triple-core meltdown in 2011. Over to you, George Monbiot.
+ Bono the Banal met with Mike Pence, hailed him as the “2nd busiest man on the planet.” Achtung Baby!
+ Betsy DeVos’s brother Eric Prince, the mercenary entrepreneur, is setting up two private army bases in China. Unarmed. Or so he claims. His track record in the veracity department is a little shaky.
+ No charges in Anaheim. I was down in Long Beach, Cal., sitting in a Mexican bar last night watching this unfold on Univision. Even though my Spanish is limited, I knew exactly what the police union rep and police chief were saying, the same thing they always say when they are covering up for an act of violent madness by one of their own.
And this from my old stomping grounds in Baltimore, a 16-year-old student, who was being threatened by a knife-wielding girl, was “rescued” by the cops in the following manner….
So, yeah, Fuck da Police, RAtM-style...
+ “You play with my world like it was your little toy….”
What I’m listening to this week…
What I’m reading this week…
Sticking only to the narrow choices offered by the official nominations, here are my picks:
Best Film: Moonlight
Best Actor: Denzel Washington (Fences)
Best Actress: Isabelle Huppert (Elle)
Best Supporting Actor: Mahersala Ali (Moonlight)
Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis (Fences)
Best Animated Feature: Kubo and the Two Strings
Best Cinematography: James Laxton (Moonlight)
Best Costume Design: Consolata Boyle (Florence Foster Jenkins)
Best Director: Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)
Best Documentary Feature: I am Not Your Negro (Raoul Peck)
Best Documentary Short: 4.1 Miles (Daphne Matziaraki)
Best Editing: Nat Sanders and Jai McMillan (Moonlight)
Best Foreign Language Film: The Salesman (Asghar Farhadi)
Best Screenplay (Adapted): August Wilson (Fences)
Best Screenplay (Original): Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water)
Consciousness of Guilt
Assata Shakur: “If you are deaf, dumb, and blind to what’s happening in the world, you’re under no obligation to do anything. But if you know what’s happening and you don’t do anything but sit on your ass, then you’re nothing but a punk.”
If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.
— Martin Luther King, Jr. April 4, 1967
On Jan. 25, 26 and 27, the new president repeated falsely that “torture works.” Claiming to have spoken with high-level intelligence officers, Trump said they told him torture works “absolutely.”
This implausible story flies in the face of the 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee report which concluded that torture is not merely illegal but worthless. The 6,000+-page report found that torture produced “fabricated information, resulting in faulty intelligence.” This common knowledge has been settled law for so long that torture has been prohibited by international treaties and US statutes. Historian Michael Kwass reminds us that as early as 1764, Cesare Beccaria called for abolishing torture because it is immoral and doesn’t work. For good measure, the Senate again voted to ban torture in 2015.
On Feb. 17 last year at an event in Bluffton, S.C., Trump said, “Don’t tell me it doesn’t work — torture works,” and, “Half these guys [say], ‘Torture doesn’t work.’ Believe me, it works. … I would bring back waterboarding. And I would bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.” At a big rally Nov. 23, 2015, he said, “Would I approve waterboarding? You bet your ass I would, in a heartbeat, in a heartbeat. And don’t kid yourself folks, it works, okay, it works. Only a stupid person would say it doesn’t work. It works.” At a Republican debate last March he said, “Waterboarding is fine, and if we want to go stronger I’d go stronger too. We should go for waterboarding and we should go tougher than waterboarding.” In a televised chat with South Carolina State Rep. Bill Herbkersman, Trump said that if elected he would “immediately” resume waterboarding and “much worse,” calling waterboarding a “minor form” of interrogation.
Asked about military personnel refusing such an unlawful order, Trump has said, “I’m a leader. If I say ‘Do it,’ they’re gonna do it.” Trump even threatened atrocities late last November at a rally in Columbus, Ohio, where he said, “If it doesn’t work they deserve it anyway, for what they’re doing,” indicating he would use torture for publicity or propaganda.
Door left wide open
When president Obama chose not to pursue criminal charges of torture against George Bush, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld and other administration officials including Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, and the CIA’s Gina Haspel, the principle outcry was that Obama’s negligence left the door open to future torture programs. With Trump in the White House, it’s certain that Obama’s decision was an inexcusable blunder. If Trump keeps his promise to commit atrocities like those committed under Bush/Cheney/Haspel, President Obama will be partly to blame.
On Feb. 2, Trump appointed Ms. Haspel deputy director of the CIA, a move that telegraphs his intentions. Haspel personally oversaw the torture of two men at her secret CIA prison in Thailand. Haspel’s torture sessions were videotaped — as were many others — and when the tapes’ existence became known, the CIA destroyed them — in violation of court orders to preserve evidence. One name appearing on the order for destruction was Gina Haspel, Matthew Rosenberg reported in the New York Times.
By 2007, the CIA’s videotape destruction was a full-blown scandal, and even then-Senator Joe Biden publicly charged that the tapes’ destruction and the war crimes they documented called for a Special Prosecutor. Biden evidently dropped this thought as Obama’s VP.
Because Trump does not read books, and learns what he “knows” from television alone, his idea of torture may not go beyond the fictional TV torture promo called “24.” Of course the strategists whispering in Trump’s ear may remind him that torture “works,” not in the TV sense, but in the sense that when the public knows that its government tortures opponents, the opposition tends to cower and shrink. Torture works to terrify your own people.
Obama himself continued for years to allow the force-feeding of hunger strikers at Guantanamo Bay, an excruciating and sometimes bloody practice involving a plastic tube being painfully forced into the nose and down the throat of the prisoner. In 2013, at least 35 prisoners at Guantanamo were being force-fed, according to the Miami Herald. The UN Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights ruled in May 2013 that force feeding was “cruel, inhuman and degrading” and as such a “flagrant violation of international human rights law.” Prof. Steven Miles at the U. of Minn. told reporters that considering its long-term use and the military’s methods, Obama’s force-feeding “constitutes torture.”
Jenna Johnson, reporting in the Washington Post, noted last summer that “Trump’s call for waterboarding and more extreme measures is always met with warm applause and cheers at his rallies.” It is thanks to Trump’s chant “torture works,” thanks to TV’s fictionalized treatment of torture, and thanks to Obama’s euphemisms like “force-feeding” that in December 2016 the Red Cross could report that 46 percent of the US adults it surveyed said torture could be used to obtain information from enemy soldiers.
Today, unless the public confronts torture in all its permutations, the new administration may again drag the United States further “down the long, dark and shameful corridors.”
52 years-ago on February 21st, the world lost the great anti-colonial fighter, Malcolm X. Around the world, millions pause on this anniversary and take note of the life and contribution of Brother Malcolm. Two years ago, I keynoted a lecture on the legacy of Malcolm X at the American University in Beirut, Lebanon. While I had long been aware of the veneration that Malcolm inspired in various parts of the world, I was still struck by the love and appreciation that so many have for Malcolm beyond activists in the black world.
There are a number of reasons that might explain why 52 years later so many still pay homage to Malcolm. For those of us who operate within context of the Black Radical Tradition, Malcolm’s political life and philosophy connected three streams of the Black Radical Tradition: nationalism, anti-colonialism and internationalism. For many, the way in which Malcolm approached those elements account for his appeal. Yet, I think there is something else. Something not reducible to the language of political struggle and opposition that I hear when I encounter people in the U.S. and in other parts of the world when they talk about Malcolm. I suspect it is his defiance, his dignity, his courage and his selflessness. For me, it is all of that, but it is also how those elements were reflected in his politics, in particular his approach to the concept of human rights.
The aspects of his thought and practice that distinguished the period of his work in that short year between his break with the Nation of Islam (NOI) in 1964 and his assassination in 1965 included not only his anti-racism and anti-colonialist stance but also his advocacy of a radical approach to the issue of human rights.
Human Rights as a De-Colonial Fighting Instrument
Malcolm – in the tradition of earlier black radical activists and intellectuals in the late 1940s – understood the subversive potential of the concept of human rights when philosophically and practically disconnected from its liberal, legalistic, and state-centered genesis.
For Malcolm, internationalizing resistance to the system of racial oppression in the U.S. meant redefining the struggle for constitutional civil rights by transforming the struggle for full recognition of African American citizenship rights to a struggle for human rights.
This strategy for international advocacy was not new. African Americans led by W.E. B. Dubois were present at Versailles during the post-World War I negotiations to pressure for self-rule for various African nations, including independence from the racist apartheid regime in South Africa. At the end of the World War II during the creation of the United Nations, African American radicals forged the possibilities to use this structure as a strategic space to pressure for international support for ending colonization in Africa and fight against racial oppression in the United States.
Malcolm studied the process by which various African American organizations – the National Negro Congress (NNC), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Civil Rights Congress (CRC), petitioned the UN through the Human Rights Commission on behalf of the human rights of African Americans. Therefore, in the very first months after his split with the NOI, he already envisioned idea that the struggle of Africans in the U.S. had to be internationalized as a human rights struggle. He advised leaders of the civil rights movement to “expand their civil rights movement to a human rights movement, it would internationalize it.”
Taking a page from the examples of the NNC, NAACP and CRC, The Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU), one of the two organizations Malcolm formed after leaving the NOI, sought to bring the plight of African Americans to the United Nations to demand international sanctions against the U.S. for refusing to recognize the human rights of this oppressed nation.
However, there was something quite different with Malcolm’s approach to human rights that distinguished him from mainstream civil rights activists. By grounding himself in the radical human rights approach, Malcolm articulated a position on human rights struggle that did not contain itself to just advocacy. He understood that appealing to the same powers that were responsible for the structures of oppression was a dead end. Those kinds of unwise and potentially reactionary appeals would never result in substantial structural changes. Malcolm understood oppressed peoples must commit themselves to radical political struggle in order to advance a dignified approach to human rights.
“We have to make the world see that the problem that we’re confronted with is a problem for humanity. It’s not a Negro problem; it’s not an American problem. You and I have to make it a world problem, make the world aware that there’ll be no peace on this earth as long as our human rights are being violated in America.”
And if the U.S. and the international community does not address the human rights plight of the African American, Malcolm is clear on the course of action: “If we can’t be recognized and respected as a human being, we have to create a situation where no human being will enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Malcolm’s approach to the realization of human rights was one in which human agency is at the center. If oppressed individuals are not willing to fight for their human rights, Malcolm suggested that “you should be kept in the cotton patch where you’re not a human being.”
If you are not ready to pay the price required to experience full dignity as a person and as members of a self-determinant people, then you will be consigned to the “zone of non-being,” as Fanon refers to that place where the non-European is assigned. Malcolm referred to that zone as a place where one is a sub-human:
“You’re an animal that belongs in the cotton patch like a horse and a cow, or a chicken or a possum, if you’re not ready to pay the price that is necessary to be paid for recognition and respect as a human being.
And what is that price?
The price to make others respect your human rights is death. You have to be ready to die… it’s time for you and me now to let the world know how peaceful we are, how well-meaning we are, how law-abiding we wish to be. But at the same time, we have to let the same world know we’ll blow their world sky-high if we’re not respected and recognized and treated the same as other human beings are treated.”
People(s)-Centered Human Rights:
This approach to human rights struggle is the basis of what I call the People(s)-Centered approach to human rights struggle.
People(s)-Centered Human Rights (PCHR) are those non-oppressive rights that reflect the highest commitment to universal human dignity and social justice that individuals and collectives define and secure for themselves through social struggle.
This is the Black Radical Tradition’s approach to human rights. It is an approach that views human rights as an arena of struggle that, when grounded and informed by the needs and aspirations of the oppressed, becomes part of a unified comprehensive strategy for de-colonization and radical social change.
The PCHR framework provides an alternative and a theoretical and practical break with the race and class-bound liberalism and mechanistic state-centered legalism that informs mainstream human rights.
The people-centered framework proceeds from the assumption that the genesis of the assaults on human dignity that are at the core of human rights violations is located in the relationships of oppression. The PCHR framework does not pretend to be non-political. It is a political project in the service of the oppressed. It names the enemies of freedom: the Western white supremacist, colonial/capitalist patriarchy.
Therefore, the realization of authentic freedom and human dignity can only come about as a result of the radical alteration of the structures and relationships that determine and often deny human dignity. In other words, it is only through social revolution that human rights can be realized.
The demands for clean water; safe and accessible food; free quality education; healthcare and healthiness for all; housing; public transportation; wages and a socially productive job that allow for a dignified life; ending of mass incarceration; universal free child care; opposition to war and the control and eventual elimination of the police; self-determination; and respect for democracy in all aspects of life are some of the people-centered human rights that can only be realized through a bottom-up mass movement for building popular power.
By shifting the center of human rights struggle away from advocacy to struggle, Malcolm laid the foundation for a more relevant form of human rights struggle for people still caught in the tentacles of Euro-American colonial dominance. The PCHR approach that creates human rights from the bottom-up views human rights as an arena of struggle. Human rights does not emanate from legalistic texts negotiated by states—it comes from the aspirations of the people. Unlike the liberal conception of human rights that elevates some mystical notions of natural law (which is really bourgeois law) as the foundation of rights, the “people” in formation are the ethical foundation and source of PCHRs.
Trumpism is the logical outcome of the decades long assault of racialized neoliberal capitalism. Malcolm showed us how to deal with Trumpism, and the PCHR movement that we must build will move us to that place where collective humanity must arrive if we are to survive and build a new world. And we will – “by any means necessary.”
The war party is back in power and the odds of normal relations with Russia have dropped to zero.
The appointment of Army Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster to the position of national security adviser indicates that Trump has done an about-face on his most critical foreign policy issue, normalizing relations with Russia. General Michael Flynn– who recently stepped down from the post following allegations of lying to Vice President Mike Pence –was the main proponent of easing tensions with Moscow which is a position that had been enthusiastically embraced by President Donald Trump. But McMaster does not support normalizing relations with Russia, in fact, McMaster sees Russia as a “hostile revisionist power” that “annex(es) territory, intimidates our allies, develops nuclear weapons, and uses proxies under the cover of modernized conventional militaries.” So, what’s going on? Why has Trump put a Moscow-hating hawk like McMaster in a position where he’ll be able to intensify the pressure on Russia, increase the provocations and, very likely, trigger a conflagration between the two nuclear-armed superpowers?
The appointment of McMaster is an attempt by Trump to placate his enemies in the Intel agencies and foreign policy establishment. Trump is signaling to his adversaries that he will cooperate in carrying out their strategic agenda provided they allow him to finish his term. Trump doesn’t want to end up like Flynn nor does he want to do battle with the all-powerful deep state operatives who can launch one demeaning propaganda blitz after the other followed by years of excruciating investigations leading inevitably to a lengthy and humiliating impeachment that leaves Trump a broken, discredited shambles. That’s not how Trump wants to end his career in politics. He wants to end it on a high note, riding a wave of burgeoning affection and love.
That’s why he picked McMaster. The neocons love him, the liberal interventionists love him, the media loves him and the entire political establishment loves him. Everyone loves him. He’s the “warrior-scholar” who ‘speaks truth to power’ and writes futuristic books on ‘generation warfare’, ‘information superiority’ and ‘predictive battlespace awareness’ all of which delight his devoted admirers. The downside of McMaster is that he is a hard-boiled militarist with a driving animus towards Russia. Judging by his writing on the topic, I would expect a broader and more lethal conflict to flare up in either Syria or Ukraine as soon as he gets settled in his new job.
Bottom line: The removal of Flynn has convinced Trump that powerful elements within the national security state have him in their crosshairs. As a result, Trump has relinquished control of foreign policy and handed the whole mess over to gladiator McMaster who will coordinate with Sec-Def General James Mattis on a new strategy to deploy US troops to East Syria and West Iraq to establish a permanent military presence in “occupied” Sunnistan. (The area will also be used for natural gas pipeline corridors connecting Qatar to the EU) The strategy in Ukraine will focus primarily on luring Russia into a long and resource-draining war that will further depress the ailing Russian economy precipitating political instability, social unrest and regime change. That is the hope at least, that Russia’s wars abroad will lead to the ousting of Vladimir Putin.
Here’s a few clips from a presentation McMaster gave at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on May 4, 2016. They help to clarify the man’s ominous world view:
“…what I’d really like to talk to you about is (the) period we’re in right now, a period of increasing risks…risks to our nation, to our allies, and really all of humanity……….
globally – the situation in connection with U.S. vital interests and security – .. is changing really in a direction that’s going to raise additional challenges to the U.S. and U.S. national security…. what we’re seeing is a shift in geopolitics in a way that imposes great dangers and has elevated the risk of a major international military crisis to the highest level in the last 70 years. A number of scholars are writing about this – Jakub Grygiel and Wess Mitchell in particular in their great recent book “Unquiet Frontier,” where they describe revisionist powers, Russia and China in particular on the Eurasian landmass, that are surrounded by weak states which are now becoming battlegrounds, areas of competition at the far reaches of American power.” (“Harbingers of Future War: Implications for the Army with Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster”, The Center for Strategic and International Studies)
We have discussed the “pivot to Asia” ad nauseam in this column. McMaster’s comments help to underscore the fact that the struggle to control the “Eurasian landmass”, the center of economic growth for the next century, is at the heart of the US imperial crusade which is now entering a new and more dangerous phase.
McMaster: “I also think Margaret MacMillan’s great essay written in 2014 making the analogy between 2014 and 1914, and really making the point that geopolitics is back; maybe our – what we might call our holiday from history in the post-Cold War period is over.”
So in McMaster’s mind, another global conflagration on a par with World War 1 is now in the making. Unlike most people, he sees this as a challenge rather than an apocalyptic event that should be avoided at all cost.
McMaster: “I think what might have punctuated the end of the post-Cold War period is Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea. Now, this was – this was not really a new development in terms of Russian aggression. I think you can go back to the denial-of-service attacks on the Baltic states in 2007, certainly the invasion of Georgia in 2008.”
McMaster is extremely well read and follows the news closely. He knows that Georgia attacked South Ossetia and that Putin –who was at the Olympics at the time– merely responded. Why is McMaster deliberately misleading his audience about the details? And why doesn’t he explain how the elected government of Ukraine was toppled in a CIA-State Department coup? Those facts are readily available to anyone who has seriously researched the incident.
It seems obvious that McMaster is twisting the truth to make his case against Russia.
“…even though it may have been apparent at least since 2008 that Russia was changing its geostrategic behavior … what we’re seeing now is we’ve awakened to, obviously, this threat from Russia, who is waging limited war for limited objectives – annexing Crimea, invading Ukraine – at zero cost, consolidating gains over that territory, and portraying the reaction by us and allies and partners as escalatory.”
The “threat from Russia”? In other words, NATO is not responsible for its relentless push eastward expanding its grip on all the former Soviet satellites in east Europe, deploying its tanks, heavy artillery, troops and missile systems right onto Russia’s doorstep. No. Instead, Russia should be blamed for its fictitious invasion of Crimea.
McMaster is basing his argument on fake facts and a convoluted interpretation of events that doesn’t square with reality. Russia is the victim of US-NATO aggression not the perpetrator.
McMaster then offers a remedy for so called ‘Russian aggression’: “…what is required to deter a strong nation that is waging limited war for limited objectives on battlegrounds involving weaker states … is forward deterrence, to be able to ratchet up the cost at the frontier, and to take an approach to deterrence that is consistent with deterrence by denial, convincing your enemy that your enemy is unable to accomplish his objectives at a reasonable cost rather than sort of an offshore balancing approach and the threat of punitive action at long distance later, which we know obviously from – recent experience confirms that that is inadequate.”
“Forward deterrence”? This needs to be clarified.
What McMaster is saying, is that, instead of threatening to retaliate at some time in the future, the US should use ‘deterrence by denial’, that is, make it as hard and as costly as possible for Russia to achieve its strategic objectives. By defeating ISIS in Eastern Syria and establishing permanent US military bases, McMaster intends to prevent Russia from restoring Syria’s sovereign borders which is one of the primary goals of the mission. The “safe zones” that Trump has talked about recently, fit perfectly with this same strategy as they undermine Moscow’s efforts to reunify the state and bring the conflict to an end.
This appears to be the plan that McMaster will pursue as national security adviser. Expect US ground troops to be deployed to Syria as soon as the details are worked out.
More from McMaster:
“… what Russia is employing…is a sophisticated strategy…that combines conventional forces as cover for unconventional action, but a much more sophisticated campaign involving the use of criminality and organized crime, and really operating effectively on this battleground of perception and information, and in particular part of a broader effort to sow doubt and conspiracy theories across our alliance. And this effort, I believe, is aimed really not at defensive objectives, but at offensive objectives – to collapse the post-World War II, certainly the post-Cold War, security, economic, and political order in Europe, and replace that order with something that is more sympathetic to Russian interests.”
The Russian strategy employs “criminality and organized crime” to effect “perception and information”?
This is just more demonization of Russia intended to make the case for war. Putin does not want a war with the US nor does he want to “collapse the post-World War II order… and replace that order with something that is more sympathetic to Russian interests.”
Putin is a firm believer in capitalism and still participates in the G-20 and WTO. What Putin objects to is the US using its extraordinary power to topple regimes it doesn’t like spreading death and instability across the planet. That’s what he opposes, the persistent meddling that undermines global security. Is that so unreasonable?
“So what do all these conflicts have in common is they’re about the control of territory, people and resources. ….what we need is that synergy between the joint force, where our forces have the capability and the capacity to deter conflict and, if that fails, to resolve conflict in our interest – to protect our security and our vital interests. And that may entail imposing outcomes without the cooperation of the enemy, and that has significant implications for the Army in particular.”
In other words, we are going to continue to fight for oil and markets (our “vital interests”), we’re going to go it alone if necessary, and if somebody tries to stop us, we’re going to annihilate them.
Isn’t that what he’s saying?
You know it is. There’s not going to be normal relations between Russia and the US on McMaster’s watch. The man believes we are in a life or death struggle with an evil enemy that wants to do us harm. That’s not the basis for building peaceful relations. It’s a justification for war.
“An Arrogant Clod” Harkening the “Downfall of Our Nation”
Three weeks ago, two longtime campus-town Democrats published a commentary in the Iowa City Press-Citizen condemning Donald Trump and his right-wing billionaire nominee (since confirmed) for United States Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos. It was a bitter assault, combining standard liberal denunciations of for-profit charter schools and educational privatization (DeVos champions both) with attacks on Trump as “an arrogant, ignorant, narcissistic clod leading us into a New Dark Age.” The two virulent liberals who penned the column wrote that Trump “does not do much reading” and “may well be responsible for the ultimate downfall of our nation” (emphasis added). They also denounced DeVos for having attended private schools and sending her children to private schools.
I hold no brief for the vicious and idiotic Donald Trump, his terrible Education Secretary, corporate “school reform,” or the charter school crowd, God knows. At the same time, however, I have no love for Democrats who work themselves into a lather about right-wing neoliberal policy when such policy is advocated and conducted by Republicans but who remain creepily silent when it is carried out by their own preferred major capitalist party.
“Presiding Over a Further Dismantling of Public Education”
The Press-Citizen column sparked my curiosity. Did the authors dash off a similarly angry and personal assault on the “vacuous to repressive neoliberal” Barack Obama’s appointment of the militant charter school advocate and corporate schools hero Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education in early 2009? Duncan’s record as CEO of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) from 2001 to 2009 as a chilling reminder that the neoliberal era Democrats have not very far behind Republicans when it came to assaulting public education in alliance with corporate interests. As Henry Giroux and Kenneth Saltman reflected, Duncan “presided over the implementation and expansion of an agenda that militarized and corporatized the third largest school system in the nation, one that is about 90 percent nonwhite. Under Duncan, Chicago took the lead in creating public schools run as military academies, vastly expanded draconian student expulsions, instituted sweeping surveillance practices, advocated a growing police presence in the schools, arbitrarily shut down entire schools, and fired entire school staffs.” The blog Schooling in Capitalist America provided a useful take on Obama’s hoops buddy Arne Duncan’s Big Business ties and service in Chicago:
“Prior to his role as Chicago schools chief, Duncan has been the education program coordinator at Ariel Capital Management, sponsor of a Chicago charter school that boasted of its desire to ‘make the stock market a topic of dinner table conversation.’ Duncan headed the infamous Chicago ‘Renaissance 2010’ plan. Established by the Commercial Club, a century-old Chicago institution comprised of the largest and most powerful corporations in the city. With the help of the corporate consulting firm A.T. Kearny, the Commercial Club unleashed one of the most ambitious school privatization schemes since the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Renaissance 2010 called for the closing of one hundred public schools and reopening them as privatized charter schools. It was a page taken directly out of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) playbook. NCLB, passed in 2001, created a host of unattainable achievement goals measured through massive amounts of high-stakes standardized tests. Under these new unachievable targets, schools are set up to fail and when they do the federal government swoops in and ‘restructures’ them. Like NCLB, Renaissance 2010 targeted schools that have ‘failed’ to meet Chicago’s accountability standards as defined by high-stakes standardized tests and turned them over to non-profit and often for-profit charters.”
“Another integral part of the plan is to hand control over schools away from teachers, their unions, and community residents and into the hands of the business sector. At least two-thirds of the newly opened schools will be nonunion. The Commercial Club raised $25 million from the corporate sector to close public schools and reopen them under the governance of an unelected board called the New Schools for Chicago organization. The NSC is appointed by the Commercial Club and composed of leading corporate representatives and Chicago Public Schools executives. The ‘civic leaders” on what the Chicago Sun-Times dubbed a ‘shadow cabinet’ include the chairs of McDonald’s Corporation and Northern Trust Bank, the retired chair of the Tribune Corporation, and the CEO of the Chicago Community Trust—a major corporate foundation…Before he became the [U.S.] education secretary, Arne Duncan was an enthusiastic advocate for the Commercial Club’s scheme, privatizing Chicago public schools at a rate of about twenty schools per year. Revealing his corporate-minded orientation to schooling, Duncan told a room full of businessmen at the Commercial Club’s ‘Free to Choose, Free to Succeed: The New Market in Public Education’ symposium in May of 2008, ‘I am not a manager of 600 schools. I’m a portfolio manager of 600 schools and I’m trying to improve my portfolio.’”
Consistent with his earlier history and with his boss’s militantly neoliberal world view , Duncan’s six- year reign atop the Department of Education was marked by consistent support of charter schools, a relentless obsession with standardized testing, and endless arguments with teacher unions. The Chicago-based education professor Pauline Lipman summarized Duncan’s federal legacy on the Real News Network in the fall of 2015:
It’s really the Chicago model that Duncan has expanded as a national education agenda…the main features of that are…Increased testing, expansion of charter schools through the Race To The Top initiative, paying teachers based on student test scores. And in general shifting education more and more towards business methods, business people in charge of education, creating more influence for corporate think tanks, neoliberal think tanks, venture philanthropies like the Gates Foundation and the Broad Foundation in the national education agenda. And shifting public education increasingly toward preparing students for corporate workforce needs rather than a broad public education….So really, if we look at Duncan’s legacy, we can see that he has presided over a further dismantling of public education in the U.S.
Private School Histories
Since the Press-Citizen commentators condemn prospective public school authorities for having private school histories and loyalties, I will add for what it’s worth that both Duncan and Obama are products of elite private schools. They are also both parents of students sent to such schools. Duncan attended the prestigious and expensive University of Chicago Laboratory School (UC Lab) from kindergarten through twelfth grade and finished his schooling with a bachelor’s degree at Harvard College. With his “school reform” work done in Washington, Duncan returned to Chicago, where he has joined the board of Aerial Capital Management and enrolled both of his children in UC Lab, where high school tuition is $33,558.
Obama attended the elite private Punahou Academy in Honolulu. He went on to complete his formal education at two top private institutions: Columbia University, and Harvard Law. Before he moved into the White House in 2009, Obama’s two daughters attended UC Lab. During his presidency, the Obama girls attended the expensive and private Sidwell Friends School ($39,360 per student each year including hot lunch for middle and high school). Maybe Barack’s new kite-surfing buddy, billionaire playboy Richard Branson, will help the Obamas send their daughters to Oxford.
(Full disclosure: I am a product of UC Lab from kindergarten through sixth grade. My parents paid $800 a year to send me there during the second half of the Nineteen Sixties – that scary decade the deeply conservative presidential candidate Obama made sure to distance himself from while praising Ronald Reagan. It was all public schools after that, replete with a descent into Marxism.)
Now You’re Mad? This Ain’t “Late-Shaming”
I searched the archives of the Iowa City Press-Citizen and the local University of Iowa’s Daily Iowan to see if either of the anti-Trump/anti-Devos commentary authors (locally prolific editorial and letter-to-the-editor writers for many years) published any comparably critical commentaries either when Duncan was appointed or afterwards in relation to Obama and Duncan’s neoliberal education policies. No such commentaries by either of the local “left” Op Ed writers could be found. This is consistent with the fact that one of authors could be seen driving around Iowa City in a pickup truck bearing an Obama bumper sticker as recently as 2014. It is consistent also with the other writer’s response when a local antiwar leftist asked her what she thought about Obama’s relentless child-killing drone attacks across the Muslim world (what Noam Chomsky has rightly called “the most extreme terrorist campaign of modern time”): “if Obama hadn’t done it, a Republican president would have.”
On “social media,” I have been admonished not to “late-shame” young left-leaning liberals who have come to oppose policies advanced by Trump that liberals did not oppose under Obama. It’s sound advice, I think, but this isn’t about late-shaming. It’s about double-standards and hypocrisy. I’m not talking about folks in their late teens and early twenties here. What, really, are we on the actual Left supposed to say to senior liberals and progressives who have shown again and again that they simply won’t get serious about criticizing and opposing a corporatist, Wall Street-captive, neoliberal, militarist, and imperial presidency unless that presidency is headed by a Republican like George W. Bush or Donald Trump? The partisan double-standard they have demonstrated again and again makes them dubious allies in the struggle for peace, justice, democracy, and environmental sanity. As I recently wrote in an online note to such older and situationally selective, morally suspect “progressives”:
Don’t like war? Why did you keep your mouth shut when Obama plunged Libya into chaos, when he bombed Bola Boluk, and as he conducted the arch-terrorist targeted-assassination drone campaign?
Don’t like high financial corporatism and economic inequality? Why didn’t you hit the streets against Obama’s epic bailout of the reckless Wall Street parasites in 2009? Why didn’t you fight at least for a financial transaction tax or for the nationalization of the leading financial institutions? Why didn’t you denounce the fake-progressive neoliberal corporatist so-called Affordable Care Act and struggle on behalf of single-payer national health insurance, or at least a public option? Why didn’t you join the Occupy Movement, the great populist anti-Wall Street uprising that Obama helped crush in the fall and winter of 2011, even as he stole some of its rhetoric for the 2012 presidential campaign…this even while economic disparity climbed during to the absurd point where the top tenth of the upper U.S. 1 Percent has a much wealth as the bottom U.S. 90 percent? (In Obama-mad Iowa City, middle-class liberal Democrats responded to the local Occupy chapter with arrogant disdain.) Where were you when we learned that 95 percent of the nation’s new income went to the top 1 percent during his first term?
Want to defend workers? Great, but why didn’t you do anything to press Obama to honor his campaign pledge to push for the re-legalization of union organizing through card-check authorization (the rapidly abandoned and forgotten Employee Free Choice Act)? Why didn’t you demand progressive action when we learned that 94 percent of the jobs created during Obama’s presidency were part time and/or temporary contract positions (“McJobs”)?
Excited against Trump’s assault on immigrants? You said little about Obama’s status as a stealth record-setting Deporter-in-Chief.
Don’t like border walls built to keep out Mexican immigrants? Then why didn’t you push Obama to tear down the extensive walls that already exist on the U.S. southern border – walls that have channeled untold thousands of desperate migrants into hazardous and often fatal desert treks? (As Tod Miller reported on TomDipatch and AlterNet last August, “one of the greatest ‘secrets’ of the 2016 election campaign [though it should be common knowledge] is that the border wall already exists. It has for years and the fingerprints all over it aren’t Donald Trump’s but the Clintons’, both Bill’s and Hillary’s.” The neoliberal Democrat Bill Clinton and his Republican allies in Congress initiated southern border wall construction in 1994 to contain migration sparked by their North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which displaced millions of Mexican farmers with federally subsidized U.S. agricultural exports. U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton voted along with Republicans for the 2006 Safe Fence Act. Many hundreds of miles of border wall have gone up since then, with construction continuing through the Obama years).
Do you seriously believe Barack ‘All of the Above’ Obama was some kind of great leader on the climate issue?…what, because he acknowledged the validity of climate science? Did you take to the streets against his pro-drilling and pro-fracking policies as the planet got dangerously warmer during each of his years in office? No, liberals, you did not, for the most part. On this and so many other issues, the very great majority of just sat and clucked about what a great victory it was in and of itself to have a smooth-talking, silver-tongued, outwardly sophisticated, Harvard Law-minted first half- white president and you moaned about the “obstructionist” Republicans who supposedly prevented (the arch-neoliberal and deeply conservative) Obama from being the true progressive he (you foolishly insisted) really wanted to be (this even though Obama tacked to the corporate and imperial right from the beginning of his presidency, when he had Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress).
Blame Russia, Avoid Self-Criticism
Arrogant liberals’ partisan hypocrisy, overlaid with heavy doses of bourgeois identity politics and professional-class contempt for working class whites, is no tiny part of how and why the Democrats have handed all three branches of the federal government along with most state governments and the white working class vote to the ever more radically reactionary, white-nationalist Republican Party. Ordinary people can small the rank two-facedness of it all, believe it or not. They want nothing to do with snotty know-it-all liberals who give dismal dollar Dems a pass on policies liberals only seem capable of denouncing when they are enacted by nasty Republicans.
Contrary to my online rant, much of the liberal Democratic campus-town crowd seems to feel if anything validated – yes, validated. of all things – by the awfulness of Herr Trump. It exhibits no capacity for shame or self-criticism, even in the wake of their politics having collapsed at the presidential, Congressional, and state levels.
It is being assisted in that egregious failure by a media-fed mania for citing dubious reports from the “intelligence community” to blame Trump’s victory on alleged Russian interference in “our [purported great] democracy.” Screaming “Russia did it” while citing the CIA (of all sources) is apparently liberals’ favorite new way of avoiding any serious confrontation with how their corporate and imperial party of choice (the dismal demobilizing dollar Democrats) opened the barn door to Trump and the GOP. The formula is this: say “Russia elected Trump” along with racism, sexism and “stupid uneducated white people” and feel both confirmed and superior. Resume your privileged life as usual, protesting on occasion in pink pussy hates and hoping for presumed friends of democracy in the arch-authoritarian Deep State to unseat Trump from above.
Along the way, liberals are aiding and abetting an authoritarian threat even worse than the quasi-fascistic (though thankfully incompetent) and orange-haired beast and his band of slimy billionaires and white-nationalist swamp creatures. I do not share Glenn Greenwald’s hope that the Democratic Party will restore itself as an “effective political force,” or his sense that that such restoration would be the most important way to resist Trump, or even his belief that Trump was “democratically elected.” Still, even with those significant qualifications, I must for the most part heartily endorse his following recent comments on Democracy Now!:
“…the Trump presidency is extremely dangerous. They want to dismantle the environment. They want to eliminate the safety net. They want to empower billionaires. They want to enact bigoted policies against Muslims and immigrants and so many others. And it is important to resist them. And there are lots of really great ways to resist them, such as getting courts to restrain them, citizen activism and, most important of all, having the Democratic Party engage in self-critique to ask itself how it can be a more effective political force in the United States after it has collapsed on all levels. That isn’t what this resistance is now doing. What they’re doing instead is trying to take maybe the only faction worse than Donald Trump, which is the deep state, the CIA, with its histories of atrocities, and say they ought to almost engage in like a soft coup, where they take the elected president and prevent him from enacting his policies. And I think it is extremely dangerous to do that. Even if you’re somebody who believes that both the CIA and the deep state, on the one hand, and the Trump presidency, on the other, are extremely dangerous, as I do, there’s a huge difference between the two, which is that Trump was democratically elected and is subject to democratic controls, as these courts just demonstrated and as the media is showing, as citizens are proving. But on the other hand, the CIA was elected by nobody. They’re barely subject to democratic controls at all. And so, to urge that the CIA and the intelligence community empower itself to undermine the elected branches of government is insanity. That is a prescription for destroying democracy overnight in the name of saving it. And yet that’s what so many, not just neocons, but the neocons’ allies in the Democratic Party, are now urging and cheering. And it’s incredibly warped and dangerous to watch them do that (emphasis added).”
“Who’s in a Position to Execute” the World
A final quibble with the Iowa City Press-Citizen column quoted and cited at the beginning of this essay: what would be so bad about “the ultimate downfall of our nation” (were the “narcissistic clod” Trump able to bring that about)? Most of the world would be happy to see that collapse – with good reason. The United States has been a rapacious, mass-murderous, and expanding empire from its birth as a nation. Responsible for the death of many millions the world over and the overthrow of dozens of governments since 1945, the U.S. has long and quite properly been understood by a plurality of politically and morally cognizant humanity as the top threat to peace and stability on Earth. Since well before Trumpenstein walked into the White House (on a path greased by the dollar Democrats’ relentless neoliberal demobilization of their onetime popular New Deal and Great Society base), it has been leading the world over the ecological cliff with its relentless advance of global fossil-fuel addicted and wastefully, environmentally and spiritually disastrous mass-consumerist capitalism.
I sometimes can’t help but think that a lot of the complaining you hear from liberals when Republicans hold the White House comes down to a belief that the wrong party and the wrong type of people are in nominal charge of an American System that is “leading us into a New Dark Age.” Liberals just want us to descend into Hell under the visible state leadership of slick and sophisticated, Ivy League law school graduate Democrats like Obama and the Clintons, not “ignorant, narcissistic clod” Republicans like George W. Bush and Donald Trump.
Which reminds me of what then state senator Barack Obama said to the Chicago Tribune regarding the Bush administration’s arch-criminal and mass-murderous invasion and occupation of Iraq during the 2004 Democratic Party National Convention. “There’s not that much difference between my position and George Bush’s position at this stage,” Obama told the Tribune, adding that “The difference, in my mind, is who’s in a position to execute.”
Just before he was inaugurated as the U.S. President, Donald Trump laid out some principles of what appeared to be his non-interventionist foreign policy. “We will stop racing to topple foreign regimes that we know nothing about, that we shouldn’t be involved with,” he said in North Carolina. “Instead our focus must be on defeating terrorism and destroying ISIS, and we will.” What Mr. Trump implied is that his administration would not conduct regime-change operations — such as against Iraq in 2003 during the George W. Bush administration — and certainly not indulge in nation-building outside the United States. He promised nation-building within the United States and to enhance the military “not as an act of aggression, but as an act of prevention”.
The tenor of Mr. Trump’s statements suggested that the United States would have a much less interventionist foreign policy. It would not be overthrowing governments or struggling to rebuild them into a liberal, market-friendly paradise. The concepts of regime change and nation-building — so fundamental to the consensus within the U.S. since the 1990s — now seem to be in retirement. Mr. Trump’s main concept — America First — suggests that he would take the country into an isolationist period, with foreign adventures off the table and with the United States gradually pulling out of alliances such as NATO.
The U.S. President’s agenda is part of the emergence of a cruel populism that has emerged across the West, inaugurated by the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom. The heart of this cruel populism is that the people of the West have been ignored by their ‘globalist’ leaders, who care more for free trade deals than for the haemorrhaging of jobs in their own homelands. In this they are correct. What makes them cruel is that rather than actually get to the heart of joblessness — which is partly due to unshared productivity gains through mechanisation — they offer a harsh cultural agenda to solve an economic problem. It is hatred of Muslims and other religious, sexual and ethnic minorities that focus the attention of Mr. Trump and France’s Marine Le Pen, Holland’s Geert Wilders and Germany’s Frauke Petry. They want to do such things as ‘de-Islamise’ their countries, ban minarets and secure their borders against refugees.
Building walls against migrants — simple campaign fodder — will not address the economies of the West, which are fundamentally integrated with the rest of the world. The global commodity chain has enabled Western corporations to enjoy large profits as countries in the chain struggle to underbid each other on wages and regulations.
To secure and control this global commodity chain, the West has used its vast military footprint — from bases to aircraft carriers — and it has used its military and political power to pressure countries to honour intellectual property rights and to fix currencies to advantage the global elites. No wonder, then, that the eight richest persons have as much wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population. This global 1%, with a majority in the West, has truly benefited from globalisation.
Isolation from this global commodity chain would seriously threaten the reproduction of wealth for this small minority. It is unlikely that the cruel populists — for all their ranting against free trade regimes — would be able to move an agenda that undermines this global footprint. Their isolationism is more rhetoric than policy. Economic sovereignty is not possible for their states, which is why they strive for cultural sovereignty. Demagogy is the prize for this kind of populism. ‘Keep out the Muslims’ stands in for economic policymaking.
We have not entered into a period of isolation. Nor is the old doctrine of humanitarian intervention alive and well. It has certainly been set aside. Our new period, with the cruel populists in power, is defined by ruthless inhumane intervention. Bombs will fall, no doubt, but these will not be dropped to draw countries into the global order. Their purpose will be to encage areas seen to be lesser and inherently dangerous.
The doctrine of humanitarian intervention came into its own in the 1990s, when the United States began to justify its military operations based on the idea of ‘human rights’. Wars against Iraq and Yugoslavia as well as designations of Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Libya and Syria as ‘rogue states’ set the terms for humanitarian or liberal interventionism. The general idea was that these states were holdouts against globalisation and that pressure against them — sanctions or armed force — was utterly justified. A notion of universal humanity guided this theory, since it was assumed that violence would tutor lesser societies into the global commodity chain. The idea of ‘regime change’ required the idea of ‘nation-building’ to complete its task. Not only would governments be overthrown, but they would be replaced by regimes that acceded to the neo-liberal policy slate and to the institutions of globalisation.
The cruel populists do not accept the theory of universal humanity. For them, the world’s people are divided along the axis of culture — Christendom, on one side, against Islam, on the other. Mr. Trump has vowed to rebuild the U.S. military so that “no one will ever mess with us”. What is this military to be used for? “I would bomb those s******,” Mr. Trump said of the Islamic State and its oil infrastructure. “I’d blow up every single inch,” he said, so that “there would be nothing left”. But the use of force does not end there. “And you know what, you’ll get Exxon to come in there, and in two months — you ever see these guys? How good they are, the great oil companies. They’ll rebuild it brand new.” It is suggestive that Mr. Trump’s Secretary of State is Rex Tillerson, who ran ExxonMobil for 10 years. Would ExxonMobil re-build the oil infrastructure for Iraq? No. “I’ll take the oil,” Mr. Trump said brashly and against international law.
The U.S. President’s instinctual militarism is evident with his appointment of Generals to his cabinet and his habit of continuing to call them by their military rank. These are not ordinary Generals. They have demonstrated a virulent anti-Muslim streak, which is in keeping with the cruel populism of the Trump agenda. Such prejudice blinds them from reality. Against all logic, Defence Secretary James Mattis said, “I consider ISIS nothing more than an excuse for Iran to continue its mischief.” That Iran and the Islamic State are fierce adversaries is of no consequence. For this General, they are both in the camp of Islam. War against them is instinctual. It will not be to draw the people in their societies into the global order. Inhumane intervention serves as a prophylaxis against the fantasy of cultural sovereignty.
This article originally appeared on The Hindu.
Israel has created a terrible problem which it is incapable of solving. That is why it has always been the case that the United States must pretty much dictate a solution, but it is unable to do so, paralyzed as it is by the heavy influence of Israel and America’s own apologists and lobbyists.
Trump’s suggestion of a one-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict is welcomed by some because Israel’s settler policy is said to have made two states impossible, as it was most certainly intended to do. However, a little reflection on hard facts makes it clear that a one-state solution is just as impossible.
A single-state solution would be acceptable to all reasonable minds, but you only have to follow the news to know that Israel contains a good many unreasonable minds. Its early advocates and founders were, quite simply, fanatics, and its policies and attitudes were shaped by that fanaticism.
The Israeli establishment could simply not accept a Palestinian population with equal rights and the franchise as part of Israel. They could not do so because they have embraced an almost mystical concept of Israel as “the Jewish state.” Of course, the de facto reality of today’s combined population of Israel and its occupied territories is that Palestinians, who importantly include not just Muslims but many Christians, are already about half of the total.
And there are physical realities forming huge barriers against a single state, things of which many people are not aware. Very importantly, fertility rates in Arab populations are considerably higher than in the European Ashkenazi population which forms Israel’s elite. That has nothing to do with ethnic characteristics. It is a result of much lower levels of affluence influencing the behavior of people having children. It is a universal reality we see.
That’s why Arabic populations are such relatively young populations with a high proportion of children. When Israel bombs a place like Gaza or Lebanon, as it does periodically, it always kills many hundreds of children because they make a big share of the population. An advanced country like Japan has low fertility and traditionally is averse to much migration. It faces a future with an aging and declining population.
All older European and North American countries have fertility rates too low to replace their otherwise declining populations. America or France or Israel or similar states simply do not have enough babies to replace their populations. That’s a fundamental reality of advanced, affluent society. People with rich, demanding lives do not have large numbers of children, anywhere, knowing, as they do, that the few they do have will almost certainly survive and will better thrive with more concentrated resources.
That’s the real reason behind most countries’ immigration policies, not generosity or kindness. But, of course, Israel has a serious problem with immigration, too. As the “Jewish state” it is open to only one category of migrant, and that category of people makes a tiny fraction of the world’s population. Further, most of that tiny fraction live in comfortable, affluent places, far more desirable to live in than Israel – places like America, Canada, Australia, Britain, France, etc.
A single-state Israel would combine low fertility Europeans with higher fertility Arabic people, thus creating a long-term trajectory for a minority-Jewish state, a reality which would be repellent to all conservative Jews and many others, in light of the founding notion of Israel as a refuge from believed widespread anti-Semitism, plus the vaguely-defined but emotionally-loaded notion of a “Jewish state,” and, still further, the biblical myths of God’s having given the land exclusively to Jews.
You simply cannot make rational sense out of that bundle of attitudes and prejudices, yet you cannot get a rational solution to a massive problem otherwise, a problem, it should be noted, of Israel’s own deliberate making in the Six Day War. Likely, when Israel’s leadership started that war, they calculated that Palestinians would come to feel so miserable under occupation that they’d just pick up and leave over time. Moshe Dayan, one of the architects of the war, actually spoke along those very lines of keeping the Palestinians miserable so they would leave. But their calculations were wrong. Most people, anywhere, do not pick-up and leave their native place. Otherwise the world would a constant whirlwind of migrations.
Although Israel does not discuss the relative population growth rate situation in public, authorities and experts there are keenly aware of the reality. It is difficult to imagine them ever embracing a single state for this reason. When you found a state on ideology and myths, as Israel was founded, you very soon bump up against some unhappy realities.
So, if there is not to be a Palestinian state, what are Israel’s other options? There seem to be only two.
One is to deport all or most Palestinians, an ugly idea which is probably also unworkable, although it has very much seriously been discussed among educated Israelis periodically. Apart from the Nazi-like connotations around such an act, who, on earth, is going to take literally millions of people from Israel? In the past, Israeli ideologues have seriously suggested both the country of Jordan and parts of Egypt contiguous with Israel as possibilities.
Can any realistic person believe those states stand ready to take millions of people in? No, of course not, but that hasn’t stopped the ideologues of Israel from going back to the idea again and again. Of course, there is the pure ethical problem of moving millions against their wills and seizing all their property, but ethics have not never featured large in Israel’s policies from the beginning.
The other solution is to re-create apartheid South Africa’s Bantustans, little enclaves of land with often undesirable characteristics into which you crowd all the people that you don’t want and declare that these are their new countries. We see this already in Israel, notably in Gaza, which really is a giant refugee camp much resembling a concentration camp with high fences and automated machine-gun towers surrounding it, the residents being permitted almost no freedom of movement or even economic activity, as for example Gaza’s fishermen being fired on by Israeli gunboats if they stray even slightly beyond tight boundaries in the sea.
The world would not long tolerate that approach no matter how much influence the United States might unfairly exert. After all, for a long time, the United States protected and cooperated with apartheid South Africa, always regarding it as an important bulwark against communism, anti-communism being the fervent secular religion of the day in America. This was so much the case that it even overlooked what it absolutely had to know about, apartheid South Africa’s acquisition of a small arsenal of nuclear weapons with the assistance of Israel, Israel always being keen to keep good access to South Africa’s mineral wealth.
Clearly, those two options are not solutions. Realities absolutely demand either a legitimate two-state solution – which Israel’s leaders have never truly accepted while giving it time-buying lip-service – or a one-state solution which is probably even more unacceptable to Israel’s leaders and much of its population, guaranteeing, as it does, the eventual minority status of Jews.
Israel has itself created a terrible problem which it is incapable of solving. That is why it has always been the case that the United States must pretty much dictate a solution, but it is unable to do so, paralyzed as it is by the heavy influence of Israel and America’s own apologists and lobbyists.
So, in effect, the world just goes around and around on this terrible problem, never doing anything decisive. The macabre dance of Israel and the United States we’ve had for decades yields today’s de facto reality of Israel as nothing more but nothing less than a protected American colony in the Middle East, one in which all kinds of international norms and laws are completely suspended, one where millions live with nor rights and no citizenship. But, after all, colonies have never been places where the rule of law and human rights prevail, have they? Never.