The US Empire Has up to 1,000 Military Bases in 80 Countries

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On the weekend of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Baltimore University hosted more than 200 activists in the peace, environment, and social justice movements to launch a new initiative known as the Coalition Against US Foreign Military Bases, the Nation reported.

In a series of panels that lasted over two days, the conference attendees highlighted the horrors of American foreign policy despite the fact Martin Luther King warned against these horrors over 50 years ago, a fitting reminder to heed the warnings of Dr. King.

According to the panel, the U.S. has over 800 formal military bases in 80 countries, “a number that could exceed 1,000 if you count troops stationed at embassies and missions and so-called ‘lily-pond’ bases, with some 138,000 soldiers stationed around the globe,” the Nation notes.

According to David Vine, author of Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Overseas Harm America and the World, maintaining bases and troops overseas cost $85 to $100 billion in 2014, while the total for bases and troops in war zones was between $160 billion and $200 billion.

The Nation also highlighted Vine’s claim that only some 11 other countries have bases in foreign countries, around 70 altogether. Russia is believed to have at least 26 bases in nine countries. They are mainly in former Soviet states, as well as Syria and Vietnam. The U.K., France, and Turkey have around four to ten bases each, and a handful of global bases are occupied by India, China, Japan, South Korea, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands. This might all change in the years to come, however, as China may be looking to build bases of its own in the Middle East.

Once the U.S. establishes itself militarily in a nation, it rarely leaves. Consider that after the defeat of Germany in World War II, the U.S. never left the country. It has maintained its bases there ever since. Germany’s Ramstein base is now the “hub” for America’s global drone assassination program throughout the Middle East.

The British spy agency, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), has been using a base in North Yorkshire called Menwith Hill to assist with America’s targeted killings in the Middle East, using an unknown number of employees.

This is but one example of how American bases overseas can be used to commit mass suffering in the Middle East, and the effects of these bases on the local populations are far too many to document.

For example, in Okinawa, Japan, the U.S. was suspected of housing and burying Agent Orange at its unpopular base in Futenma. Protests are not uncommon, with a specific sit-in protest lasting more than 5,000 consecutive days, as reported by the Japan Times at the end of last year. Rapes, theft, assaults, and murders committed by U.S. personnel there are all rather common.

The most famous incident involved the rape of a 12-year-old girl by three U.S. servicemen in 1995. The Okinawans have been protesting the U.S. military presence ever since, but the U.S. refuses to budge (with the exception of its proposal to relocate the base to a separate location, which is yet to appease the locals’ concerns).

“U.S. bases in Korea and Japan are vehicles of the Cold-War threat of China. Bases are not the spoils of the past war as some believe; they are the purpose of the war,” Satoko Oka Norimatsu, editor of the Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus and author of Resistant Islands: Okinawa Confronts Japan and the United States,told Anti-Media. Norimatsu also said resisting the U.S. base presence and its plans to relocate is important for Okinawa because “U.S. bases concentrated in Okinawa are a form of colonial oppression by Japan that’s continuing for over four centuries.”

“Some people in Okinawa believe that if Japan as a whole wants to maintain the U.S.-Japan military alliance, it should be Japan who carries these bases and not Okinawa,” she added.

Okinawa is just one instance of anti-U.S. sentiment brought on by its unwelcome military presence. In Okinawa, the U.S. reportedly takes up about one-fifth of Okinawan land. In 2004, Gangnam Style singer Psy released a song that was heavily critical of the U.S. military after an incident caused by a military vehicle that killed two young Korean girls. According to CNN:
“CNN was able to translate the lyrics as saying, ‘Kill those f–ing Yankees who have been torturing Iraqi captives and those who ordered them to torture,’ and going on to say, ‘Kill them all slowly and painfully,’ as well as ‘daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law and fathers.’”
It may be for this reason that the Nation, one of the few outlets to document this issue over the past few years, is highlighting the movement to bring an end to this disastrous and unnecessary foreign policy, which at its heart turns local populations against the U.S. across the globe.

Reprinted with permission from TheAntiMedia.com.

Two Minutes to Doomsday

Not since 1953, when the U.S. and the Soviets exploded thermonuclear bombs, has the world been such a powder keg!

Only recently, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the Doomsday Clock forward 30 seconds. It now registers two minutes to midnight. Verily, it’s lights out when the clock strikes 12:00 midnight. Ka-boom, it’s over!

What’s going on?

Hitherto, in the aftermath of the Cold War, the clock was set all the way back to 17 minutes to midnight. Thereafter, it wasn’t until 1998, when India and Pakistan staged back-to-back nuclear weapon testing, that the famous timepiece moved forward into single digits once again. It’s important to note that resetting the clock is not a frivolous undertaking. A group of distinguished scientists make that decision.

Here’s the rationale for the move closer to the dreaded midnight hour: Upon the election of Trump, the Science and Security Board for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists reset the Doomsday Clock to 2 ½ minutes to midnight. That was based upon extraordinarily provocative nasty destabilizing verbiage from the president himself. Indeed, he is commander in chief, ahem.

Thereafter, following the self-crowning glory of Trump’s inauguration, which was an absolute bust, especially as worldwide protests in the streets vastly outnumbered the inauguration, global risks have measurably increased with leaders Trump and Kim exchanging simplistic infantile barbs at every opportunity.

Not only, it’s also a fact that global risks have compounded via U.S.-Russian relations, featuring more conflict than cooperation, as the two Super Powers crank up tensions: (1) continuing NATO military exercises along borders, (2) undermining the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, (3) upgrading nuclear arsenals, and (4) eschewing arms-control negotiations. Truly, America is in conflict within all categories that ricochet into holocaust.

On a Global basis, tensions have increased over the South China Sea. Pakistan and India continue building larger nuclear weapon arsenals. And, in the Middle East, the U.S. is driving a stake into the heart of the Iranian nuclear deal.  Meanwhile, and increasingly so, cyber threats risk outages of infrastructure power grids and water sources.

Exasperating this perilous world scenario, there is the real threat of fundamental breakdown in the international order because of U.S. behavior, torpedoing trustworthiness amongst nations whilst also undermining, and, in fact, ridiculing, a very sober Paris 2015 climate accord.  In point of fact, U. S. leadership has turned deceptive and unreliable to predict or discern between sincerity and mere rhetoric, inter-meshed within goofy twitter messages. Confusion and conflicting policy statements confront allies with despair.

Further endangering the world community, it is all too evident that the Trump administration is true grit for neoliberal spirits. In fact, it is speculated that if the Science and Security Board for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists computed risks of holocaust based upon the tenets behind rampant neoliberal capitalism, the clock would be reset to one minute before midnight. Indeed, especially under Trump, and especially with a big tax cut combined with rejection of any effort whatsoever to tame global warming. The biosphere is at a heighten level of risk under Trump.

The case can be made that the planet is at peak risk because of neoliberal socio-politico-economic policies that are equal in weight to the threat of nuclear holocaust. Neoliberal capitalism runs roughshod over the social contract and ignores ecological responsibility. For certain, there is no profit to be found in social contracts or ecological caretaking.

As a result, after 35 years of hardcore neoliberalism, the ecosystem is exhausted, frayed, and starting to collapse. Indeed, neoliberal principles of privatization of public assets, rugged individualism, and free-market dicta scrunch every class below the one percent whilst tossing aside ecological concerns into the gutter. Similar to a hefty steamroller, neoliberal ascendency literally flattens the social contract and tosses aside care for the biosphere.

The brand spanking new tax cut leveled at propping up corporations and the super rich exposes $1.5T in new governmental debt. Ipso facto, government must be cut to the bone to satisfy Republican dogma. Hence, the middling classes will be screwed, as the poor get decimated. Socially conscious and ecologically beneficial government will be, and is already, ripped apart. The checks and balances that keep the ecosystem humming, like the EPA, are systematically ravaged via executive order whilst giving the finger to the Paris 2015 climate accord.

This ongoing massive unraveling of guardianship for the ecosystem is smack dab in the crosshairs of a mean-spirited Ayn Rand-type conspiracy, taking full control over America. Rule via decadence is taking America back to late 19th century socio-politico-economic principles, “when men will be men.” As it happens, Trump is turning loose the most boorish elements of the transnational elite.

Meanwhile, the planet simmers with overheating symptoms, and emits an orang-ish glow because of massive chemical saturation, threatening civilization down to its core. The biosphere can ill afford the world’s largest economy rejecting remedial efforts. If the Science and Security Board for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists gave equal weight to ecosystem debasement as it does nuclear threats, the Atomic Clock would bust a spring.

Alas, because of excessive levels of CO2 emitted by humans with resultant global warming, which the Trump group exacerbates, the planet is weak in the knees, especially where people don’t see it, as for example,  (1) The all-important Atlantic ocean conveyor belt circulation pattern, aka: Thermohaline, has already started to slow down way ahead of schedule because of global warming, (2) Oceans have lost 40% of plankton production over the past 50 years, threatening loss of one of the major sources of oxygen for the planet, (3) In 2017, the Gulf of Mexico’s Dead Zone, where oxygen is so weak that fish die, is the largest ever at 8,800 square miles, (4) Kelp Forests in the ocean, the equivalent of terrestrial Rain Forest, are being wiped out from Tasmania to California, (5) Greenland experienced total surface melt for the first time in scientific history, (6) The massive Arctic meltdown threatens runaway global warming (“RGW”) as methane hydrates are exposed, bringing in its wake burn-out agriculture, (7) Irreversible Antarctica ice sheet collapse has commenced.

But still, overshadowing all threats to civilization, positive climate feedbacks are starting to influence the global warming process, meaning the planet itself is on autopilot, emitting one molecule of CO2 via hands-free positive feedbacks for every two molecules of CO2 emitted by human activity.1 This one fact alone is reason enough to move the Doomsday Clock much, much, much closer to midnight.

Postscript:  “There are growing signs that the Pentagon and the CIA are pressing ahead with preparations for a preemptive war against North Korea, including the use of nuclear weapons. There have been multiple reports in the American corporate media of behind-the-scenes discussions between the US military and intelligence apparatus and the Trump administration of the feasibility of a so-called “bloody nose” attack, involving US air strikes on North Korean nuclear facilities, with the expectation—however ill-founded—that they would not provoke a full-scale war.2

  1. Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
  2. Alex Lockie, news editor, Business Insider: “US Stealth Bombers in Guam Appear to be Readying for a Tactical Nuclear Strike on North Korea,” Defend Democracy Press, January 28, 2018.

Making America Great…Or Poorer? Dissecting The State Of The Union Speech

President Trump called for much more military spending in last night's State of the Union speech. He also called to keep Guantanamo open and to even add new prisoners. More money for nuclear weapons "modernization." And he wants $1.5 trillion to spend on infrastructure projects. He takes credit for a booming economy, but will he take blame when the Fed's bubbles begin to burst? Today's Liberty Report looks at the policy behind last night's "feel good" speech...

Capitalize on the Olympic Truce, Formalize a Freeze for Freeze with North Korea

Photo by UNC – CFC – USFK | CC BY 2.0

Poor Rex Tillerson. Secretary of State must have sounded like an awesome job to the former Chairman and CEO of Exxon/Mobil, it certainly would to most people. The massive pay cut must have given him at least some pause, as he made more than $25 million in 2016.

Now he finds himself working for a “very stable genius,” or an (expletive) moron depending on Trump’s or his own description of our president, with no discernible direction coming from the White House as to how to handle the very serious crisis with North Korea.

Recently Tillerson has sounded very much adrift or at least inconsistent in his public statements on the Korea situation, at times somewhat optimistic, and at other times pretty downbeat. He does come across as serious, appearing to be someone who would like to succeed at his job (assuming he keeps it, though he has survived rumors of his imminent ouster for several months now).

At the recent Vancouver meeting of foreign ministers from countries that (mostly) participated in the UN Command in the devastating 1950-53 war on the Korean peninsula, Tillerson threw cold water on what might be the most promising starting point for negotiations with North Korea, a “freeze for a freeze.” Under this approach, North Korea would pause its nuclear and ballistic missile testing in exchange for the U.S. and South Korea postponing their twice annual military exercises, which involve more than 200,000 troops rehearsing for war with the North, including simulated nuclear bombing runs and “decapitation strikes.” It’s no wonder the North loathes these exercises, hence their potential value as a bargaining chip.

Tillerson stated, “Let me be clear: We will not allow North Korea to drive a wedge through our resolve or our solidarity. We reject a ‘freeze-for-freeze’ approach in which legitimate defensive military exercises are placed on the same level of equivalency as the DPRK (North Korea)’s unlawful actions.”

The equivalency of nuclear and ballistic missile tests and massive war games is an interesting question, legally, morally, geo-strategically, and where one stands might well depend on where one sits. It’s certainly possible to imagine Pyongyang, faced with the massive military, political and economic might of the U.S.-South Korea (and Japan) alliance thinking it needs nuclear weapons to ensure its survival, observing how the U.S. invaded Iraq and Libya and overthrew Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi after they gave up their nuclear weapons programs. In his New Year’s address, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un announced the North had achieved its goals for its nuclear program and intended to spend more resources on developing its economy.

Still, the U.S., South Korea and Japan cannot guess at his intentions. They must be prepared for North Korea’s nuclear capabilities, and are justifiably alarmed at the thought of a nuclear strike on Seoul, Tokyo or Los Angeles, which could kill millions and wreck the global economy. They could also reasonably argue the massive war drills are meant to make Pyongyang think twice about any military aggression.

The question of equivalency is perhaps unanswerable, and ultimately moot, if it provides a place to start negotiations. And, while Tillerson might not admit it, there is a de facto freeze for freeze in place right now. North Korea has not tested nuclear weapons or missiles recently (there could be any number of reasons for that), and the U.S. agreed to South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s request to postpone the war exercises until after the Winter Olympics and Paralympics, so practically speaking, through March.

One could go even further; not only is there in reality a freeze for a freeze in place, but also an Olympic Truce, a tradition that dates to the ancient Greek games and is officially recognized by the United Nations and International Olympic Committee. The U.N. vote on the current Olympic Truce was supported by both Koreas. The recent thaw in North-South tensions and initial talks resulting in agreements for North Korea’s participation in the PyeongChang Games beginning February 9 are certainly steps, perhaps small, back from the brink of war—a marked departure from the awful threats Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump have volleyed at each other.

Effective negotiators build on any points of agreement the parties to a dispute have at the outset. So why not ditch the “non-equivalency” argument and state the U.S.-South Korea war drills are on indefinite hiatus as long as North Korea continues to observe a moratorium on nuclear and missile testing? That would be solid footing on which to begin real diplomacy. South Korea isn’t afraid to talk to the North, why is the U.S.? If Tillerson can’t do his job, the least he can do is support the North-South talks, and let Koreans make peace.

The People v. Trump: Is There a Case for the 25th Amendment?

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The media is of one mind: Donald Trump is mentally incompetent and must be removed from office before he blows us all to hell. It says so on Vox, New York Review of BooksCNNThe InterceptCNBCThe NationBill MoyersSalon, and theNYT. A new book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President, concludes “Trump’s mental state presents a clear and present danger to our nation and individual well-being.”

The solution is in the 25th Amendment to the Constitution. The 25A creates a mechanism aside impeachment to remove an “incapacitated” president, and Trump’s mental state, some believe, qualifies him. Is there a case?

Dr. Bandy Lee, one of the editors of The Dangerous Case of Donald Trumpsays yes. Her primary evidence is tweets Trump sent threatening Kim Jong Un. She really has no other ammunition: no doctor who says Trump is insane, including Lee, has examined him. No doctor that has examined him says he is insane. Third party anonymous accusations of incompetence are shot through with gossip. A book written by a Hollywood trash reporter is otherwise held up as critical evidence of the inner workings of the president’s mind.

So is there a case without the tweets? Not really. Lee adds while Trump has not committed violent acts against himself or others, his “verbal aggressiveness, history of boasting about sexual assault, history of inciting violence at his rallies, and history of endorsing violence in his key public speeches are the best predictors of future violence” and thus concludes he will destroy the world. Lee also weakly points to Trump “being drawn to violent videos.” Oh my.

We might instead look at the actual decisions Trump has made, and those of his predecessors. One president used nuclear weapons to decimate two cities worth of innocents, and a set of presidents squandered hundreds of thousands of American lives watering Vietnam with blood. Ronald Reagan was famously caught over an open mic saying he was going to start bombing the Soviet Union in the next few minutes. Another president lied about WMDs to launch an invasion of Iraq in part to avenge his dad. The same guy mocked North Korea’s leader as a pygmy. Obama said he “will not hesitate to use our military might” against the North, knowing that meant Armageddon. Historical psychiatrists say half of our past presidents may have suffered some sort of mental illness. If Trump is dangerous as president, he seems to have company.

But how can we know? Trump will never voluntarily undergo a mental competency exam, though courts can order people to submit. But even Lee, who met with Congressional representatives to press the case Trump is insane, admits this is unlikely to happen. “Many lawyer groups have actually volunteered to file for a court paper to ensure that the security staff will cooperate with us,” Lee said. “But we have declined, since this will really look like a coup, and while we are trying to prevent violence, we don’t wish to incite it through, say, an insurrection.”

There doesn’t seem much of a case. Still, people arguing Trump is insane and must be removed from office point to the 25th Amendment to the Constitution as just what the doctor ordered.

The Constitution did not originally lay out (Article II, Section 1, Clause 6) what happens if a president dies or becomes incapacitated. It was just assumed the Vice President would serve as “Acting President.” The 25A, passed after the Kennedy assassination, created the first set of rules for this sort of situation.

The 25A has four short subsections. If the presidency goes vacant (for example, fatal heart attack), the vice president becomes president. If the vice-presidency goes vacant, the president chooses a new VP. If the president knows he’ll be incapacitated (unable to carry out his job, for example, due to scheduled surgery), he can voluntarily and temporarily assign his duties to the vice president. If the president is truly incapacitated (unconscious after an assassination attempt) and can’t voluntarily assign away his duties, the VP and cabinet can do it for him, with a two-thirds majority confirming vote of the House and Senate.

In the minds of the “Trump is Insane” crowd what matters most is that never-used fourth subsection, the incapacitation clause. People claim because Trump is insane he is unable to carry out his duties, and so Mike Pence, et al, must step in and transfer power away from him today. Trump would legally exist in the same status as Grandpa Simpson in the nursing home, and Pence would take over. Among other problems, this thinking imagines the 25A’s legally specific term “unable” means the same thing as the vernacular “unfit.” An unconscious man is unable to drive. A man who forgot his glasses is unfit, but still able, to drive. The 25A only refers to the first case.

The use of the 25A to dethrone Trump is the kind of thing non-experts with too much Google time can convince themselves is true. But unlike much of the Constitution, where understanding original intent requires the Supreme Court and a close reading of the Federalist Papers, the 25A is modern legislation. We know the drafters’ intent was an administrative procedure, not a political thunderbolt. The 25A premises the president will almost always invoke succession himself, either by dying in office, or by anticipating he will be unable to discharge his duties, as in 2007 when George W. Bush went under anesthesia for his annual colonoscopy and signed things over to his vice president for a few hours.

The reason the 25A is not intended to be used adversarially is the Constitution already specifies impeachment as the way to force an unfit president out against his will, his unfitness specifically a result of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” The people who wrote the 25A did not intend it to be an alternate method of impeachment or a do-over for an election.

It has to be so; the Constitution at its core grants ultimate power to the people to decide, deliberately, not in panic, every four years, who is president. Anything otherwise would mean the drafters of the 25A wrote a back door into the Constitution that would allow a group of government officials, many of whom in the Cabinet were elected by nobody, to overthrow an elected president who they simply think has turned out to be bad at his job.

Accusations of mental illness are subjective, unprovable in this case, and alarmist, perfect fodder to displace the grinding technicalities of Russiagate. Denouncing one’s political opponents as crazy was a tried and true Soviet and Maoist tactic, and a movie trope where the youngsters try to get the patriarch shut away to grab his fortune. We fear the mentally ill, and psychiatric name calling against Trump invokes that fear. “The 25th Amendment would require, for mental incapacity, a major psychotic break,” said one former Harvard Law School professor. “This is hope over reality. If we don’t like someone’s politics we rail against him, we campaign against him, we don’t use the psychiatric system against him. That’s just dangerous.”

People saying the president is mentally ill and the 25A is the cure know they have no rational basis for their position. They know the 25A is not a work-around for impeachment proceedings they are unlikely to see. They are aware they are unethically trying to medicalize bad leadership, damning it with the taint of mental illness. They know Mike Pence and Trump’s own cabinet will never sign off on a power transfer, and they don’t want Pence in the Oval Office anyway. They know this is all kabuki, liberal fan fiction, a shadow play. The talk of mental illness and the 25A is simply political sabotage ahead of the 2018 mid-term elections.

Trump’s time in office is finite, but what happens around him will outlast his tenure. It is dangerous to mess with the very fundamentals of our democracy, where the people choose the president, replacing that with a kabal called into session by pop psychologists. This is an attack on the process at its roots; you yokels voted for the wrong guy so somebody smarter has to clean up.

Reprinted with permission from WeMeantWell.com.

“Whitewashing” Genocide in Myanmar

Although the genocide of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar has gathered greater media attention in recent months, there is no indication that the international community is prepared to act in any meaningful way, thus leaving hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees stranded in border camps between Myanmar and Bangladesh.

While top United Nations officials are now using the term ‘genocide‘ to describe the massive abuses experienced by the Rohingya minority at the hands of the Myanmar army, security forces and Buddhist militias, no plan of action to stem the genocide has been put in place.

In less than six months, beginning August 2017, an estimated 655,000 Rohingya refugees fled or were pushed out across the border between Myanmar and Bangladesh. Most of the ‘clearance operations’ – a term used by the Myanmar military to describe the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya – took place in Rakhine state.

In a recent report, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) relayed the harrowing death toll of Rohingya during the first month of the genocidal campaign.

At least 9,000 Rohingya were killed between August 25 and September 24, according to MSF. This number includes 730 children under the age of five.

Eric Schwartz of Refugee International described these events in an interview with American National Public Radio (NPR) as “one of the greatest crimes in recent memory – massive abuses, forced relocations of hundreds of thousands of people in a matter of weeks.”

Coupled with numerous reports of gang rape, outright murder, and mass burning of villages, Rohingya are left defenseless in the face of unspeakable atrocities.

Worse still, a recent agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh has been reached to repatriate many of these refugees, with absolutely no guarantees for their safety.

With no safeguards in place, and with the Rohingya having been stripped of their legal status as citizens or legal aliens in Myanmar, going back is as risky an endeavor as is fleeing.

The plan to repatriate Rohingya refugees without any protection, or the guaranteeing of their basic rights is part of a larger campaign to whitewash the crimes of the Myanmar government and to, once more, defer the protracted crisis of the Rohingya.

Although the cruelty experienced by the Rohingya goes back decades, a new ethnic cleansing campaign began in 2012, when 100,000 Rohingya were forced out of their villages and towns to live in prison-like makeshift refugee camps.

In 2013, more than 140,000 were also displaced, a trend that continued until last August, when the bouts of ethnic cleansing culminated into all-out genocide involving all security branches of the government, and defended by Myanmar officials, including Aung San Suu Kyi.

The latter was celebrated for decades by western media and government as a democracy icon and human rights heroine.

However, as soon as Suu Kyi was freed from her house arrest and became the leader of Myanmar in 2015, she served as an apologist for her former military foes. Not only did she refuse to condemn the violence against the Rohingya, she even refuses to use the term ‘Rohingya’ in reference to the historically persecuted minority.

Suu Kyi’s support for the military’s relentless violence has earned her much contempt and criticism, and rightly so. But too much emphasis has been placed on appealing to her moral sense of justice to the point that no strategy has been formed to confront the crimes of the Myanmar military and government, neither by Asian leaders nor by the international community.

Instead, an unimpressive ‘international advisory board’ was set up to carry out recommendations by another advisory council led by Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary General.

Expectedly, the advisory board is proving to be nothing but an instrument used by the Myanmar government to whitewash the crimes of the military. In fact, this is the very assessment of former US cabinet member and top diplomat, Bill Richardson, who recently resigned from the board.

“The main reason I am resigning is that the advisory board is a whitewash,” he told Reuters, asserting that he did not want to be part of “a cheerleading squad for the government.”

He, too, accused Suu Kyi of lacking ‘moral leadership.”

But that designation no longer suffices. Suu Kyi should be held accountable for more than her moral failings but, considering her leadership position, she should be held directly responsible for crimes against humanity, together with her top security and army brass.

Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch is one of the leading voices among rights groups who are calling for the UN Security Council to refer Myanmar to the International Court of Justice (ICC) in The Hague. Even though Myanmar is not a signatory of the Rome Treaty, such a referral is the only way to take a non-ratifying state to the ICC.

This step is both legally defensible and urgent, as the Myanmar government has showed no remorse whatsoever towards the horrible violence it has meted to the Rohingya.

Robertson also called for ‘targeted sanctions’, which will most certainly get the attention of the country’s rich and powerful elites that rule over the military and government.

In recent years, Myanmar, with the help of the US and other Western powers, was allowed to open up its economy to foreign investors. Billions of US dollars of foreign direct investments have already been channeled into Myanmar and six billion US dollars more are also expected to enter the country in 2018.

That, too, is a great act of moral failing on the part of many countries in Asia, the West and the rest of the world. Myanmar should not be rewarded with massive largesse of foreign investments, while whole communities are being killed, maimed or made into refugees.

Without sanctions that target the government and military – not the people – coupled with legal action to prosecute Myanmar’s leaders, including Suu Kyi, before the ICC, the genocide of the Rohingya will continue unabated.

Weather Terrorism, W.T.F.?

Photo by The National Guard | CC BY 2.0

As the predicted storm pounded the narrow canyons in the hills above Montecito early in January, a rumble began to overtake the percussion of hard rain on scorched earth. It built, once the torrent of water had dislodged first soil, pebbles, small rocks, then boulders, into a mighty thunder as the mud gathered speed over the resin-slicked surface of the newly burned wild lands.

From out of the Wildland-Urban-Interface, the mudslide drove down into the leafy suburbs of Montecito and tangled with the fragile infrastructure that supports the life-styles of the rich and famous, the merely rich, and all those others who call this Santa Barbara suburb home.  It smashed through homes, businesses and, most critically, fractured the system of pipes, suspended across the naturally occurring drainages, that link a chain of reservoirs that serve as the community’s water source.

The broken pipes unleashed a sea of nearly ten million gallons of fresh water released from the reservoirs because their electrically operated control valves were inoperative in the storm related blackout. Much of the mud and water found its way to U.S. Route 101 which runs from Los Angeles to the Oregon border. The section that runs through Montecito, a few hundred yards east of the beach, was transformed into a rock and tree strewn delta where water ran twelve feet deep in places and over 100,000 tons of debris were spread along its length. The highway was reopened recently after a two-week closure. Restoration of the area’s water supply will take longer. Both were the collateral damage of extreme weather events.

We are a species in retreat. Pusillanimous descriptions of our geo-historical circumstances such as ‘climate change’ are daily challenged by the occurrence of extreme weather events that disrupt society, destroy infrastructure, and obliterate human life. Twenty lives were lost in Montecito and two others remain missing, buried perhaps, beneath mud or swept out to sea. These events might be more effectively described as Weather Terrorism. However, the ascription of such an inflammatory label to acts of ‘Nature’ – to grant weather agency – requires a profound philosophical re-orientation.

It is this task to which philosophers such as Bruno Latour and Timothy Morton, among others, are currently devoted. Latour takes the position that humanity’s place in the biosphere is now fundamentally altered by its industrial age activities, most notably the burning of fossil fuels, such that it is now a global, geo-historical force which expresses itself in species’ extinction and in its power to change the weather. We are in an age he characterizes as the New Climatic Regime when our political institutions have become entirely incapable of protecting their citizens from extreme weather events and thus risk their own irrelevance. He fully recognizes the unconstrained powers of the non-human to shape our destinies.

Morton, in arguing for the agency of the non-human takes a swipe at the academic humanities (fields in which he toils at Rice University) in which it is conventionally suggested “that there are no accessible things in themselves…. only things insofar as they relate to some version of the (human) subject…. thinking which is called correlationist”. But, he argues, “the screen on which these correlations are projected isn’t blank after all”.  Both Latour and Morton acknowledge that ‘Nature’ has traditionally served as the big screen upon which human activities are seen to play out. Each philosopher urges us to begin to understand that this erstwhile passive backdrop has a life of its own, composed of what Morton provocatively calls ‘non-human people’ existing alongside ‘hyperobjects’, all-subsuming phenomena like global warming or the weather that are, in part, reflections of the violence done to the biosphere by humanity.  Our species, fully constituted as a geophysical force, now contends with the terrifying consequences of engaging with other biospheric forces.

Within such heady realms we must negotiate the minutiae of our political positions. In the present duopoly, only tepid distinctions are offered within the powerful brew of neoliberalism which drives American political support of globalization and excessive consumption in the West whilst ensuring, by heavy-handed military and financial means, the complicity of other, recalcitrant regions. Consumed with a Coke versus Pepsi ideological battle, framed within an uncontested arena of historicized nationalism, most Americans, and the political parties to which they owe allegiance, are magnificently unprepared to grapple with their nation’s irrelevance in defending them from the unfolding realities of our geo-historical moment; even less, to comprehend the apparent acts of war being waged by non-human forces – forces with which we must now find an accommodation.

This message may resonate differently depending on where you live.  For instance, with as many as one in three Americans living in the Wildland-Urban-Interface, defined by geographers as places where indigenous landscapes impinge significantly onto the ever-widening perimeters of suburbia and exurbia, wild fire looms as an existential threat.  These are landscapes increasingly stressed by historically unusual drought regimes with expanding anthropogenic ignition sources. On these exurban frontiers, endemic wild fires may begin to erode the perimeters of our species’ range – despite the current post fire-event philosophy of re-build and return. At some point, the frequency of attack will change behaviors, just as repeated Jihadi bombing of market places eventually inhibits their function as viable locations for buying and selling.

Rising sea-levels and coastal inundation, storm surges and heightened wind and rain events may similarly impinge on the habitability of coastal regions. The inexorable loss of land at the coastal perimeter of Louisiana is likely more indicative of the future than the delaying strategies of sea-walls, dikes and floating storm surge barriers.  Like Baghdad’s Green Zone, where blast barriers and barbed wire were no security against rocket attacks or, finally in 2016, the uprising of the street, flood defense strategies will not, in the end, alter the geographical imperatives of global warming.  Thus, few in the USA, or elsewhere on the planet, can truly be safe from the impacts of Weather Terrorism.

The urban destruction that has become a signature of the kind of asymmetrical wars being waged by Imperialist powers across the planet – fought to the local architectural and societal death – routinely results in the tragic loss of historically, economically and socially significant human habitat. Weather Terrorism threatens to wreak damage on an incomparably larger scale.

You cannot outrun a wind-driven wildfire. We cannot double down on Modernity and stake our future on geo-engineering, or as Latour warns, “to increase still further the dosage of megalomania needed for survival in this world”. Fighting wild fires, hot-shots know that to find safety they have to outflank the fire and run ‘into the black’ – where the fire has consumed the earth and left it carbonized – where there is no longer fuel to support the other two legs of the incendiary triad, heat and air. Morton counsels a retreat to a time before ‘agrilogistics’, the term he uses to describe the algorithms humans run to facilitate farming, that hierarchical and ecologically damaging means of food production which he damns as “the slowest and perhaps most effective weapon of mass destruction yet devised”. This retreat, he imagines, will bring us to a more fully animated world, endemic before the rise of agriculture, where we might achieve safety in a solidarity with the non-human beings with whom we share the biosphere.

We live in an environment of extinction. We have subjected the planet to a pernicious miasma of global warming which we continue to exacerbate by our selfish actions, initiating rates of change in biospheric systems that offer non-human life-forms few options of adaptation other than death. Now, in refusing the accommodation of the non-human and the possibilities for coexistence, we must suffer the consequences – phenomena that it is quite reasonable (and politically useful) to call Weather Terrorism.

The True State of the Union: A House Divided, Enslaved & Mired in the Mistakes of the Past

Photo by A Yee | CC BY 2.0

A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”

—Abraham Lincoln

History has a funny way of circling back on itself.

The facts, figures, faces and technology may change from era to era, but the dangers remain the same.

This year is no different, whatever the politicians and talking heads may say to the contrary.

Sure, there’s a new guy in charge with a talent for stirring up mayhem and madness, but for the most part, we’re still recycling the same news stories that have kept us with one eye warily glued to the news for the past 100-odd years: War. Corruption. Brutality. Economic instability. Partisan politics. Militarism. Disease. Hunger. Greed. Violence. Poverty. Ignorance. Hatred.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Brush up on your history, and you’ll find that we’ve been stuck on repeat for some time now.

Take the United States of America in the year 2018, which is not so far different from the United States of America during the Civil Rights era, or the Cold War era, or even the Depression era.

Go far enough afield, and you’ll find aspects of our troubled history mirrored in the totalitarianism of Nazi Germany, in the fascism of Mussolini’s Italy, and further back in the militarism of the Roman Empire.

We’re like TV weatherman Phil Connors in Harold Ramis’ classic 1993 comedy Groundhog Day, forced to live the same day over and over again.

Here in the American police state, however, we continue to wake up, hoping this new day, new president and new year will somehow be different from what has come before.

Unfortunately, no matter how we change the narrative, change the characters, change the plot lines, we seem to keep ending up in the same place that we started: enslaved, divided and repeating the mistakes of the past.

You want to know about the true State of our Union? Listen up.

The State of the Union: The state of our union is politically polarized, controlled by forces beyond the purview of the average American, and rapidly moving the nation away from its freedom foundation. Over the past year, Americans have found themselves repeatedly subjected to egregious civil liberties violations, invasive surveillance, political correctness, erosions of free speech, strip searches, police shootings of unarmed citizens, government spying, the criminalization of lawful activities, warmongering, etc.

The predators of the police state have wreaked havoc on our freedoms, our communities, and our lives. The government has not listened to the citizenry, refused to abide by the Constitution, and treated the citizenry as the source of funding and little else. Police officers shot unarmed citizens and their household pets. Government agents—including local police—remain armed to the teeth and act like soldiers on a battlefield. Bloated government agencies continue to fleece taxpayers. Government technicians spy on our emails and phone calls. And government contractors make a killing by waging endless wars abroad.

Consequently, the state of our nation has become more bureaucratic, more debt-ridden, more violent, more militarized, more fascist, more lawless, more invasive, more corrupt, more untrustworthy, more mired in war, and more unresponsive to the wishes and needs of the electorate. The policies of the American police state have continued unabated.

The Executive Branch: All of the imperial powers amassed by Barack Obama and George W. Bush—to kill American citizens without due process, to detain suspects indefinitely, to strip Americans of their citizenship rights, to carry out mass surveillance on Americans without probable cause, to suspend laws during wartime, to disregard laws with which he might disagree, to conduct secret wars and convene secret courts, to sanction torture, to sidestep the legislatures and courts with executive orders and signing statements, to direct the military to operate beyond the reach of the law, to act as a dictator and a tyrant, above the law and beyond any real accountability—were inherited by Donald Trump.

Trump has these powers because every successive occupant of the Oval Office has been allowed to expand the reach and power of the presidency through the use of executive orders, decrees, memorandums, proclamations, national security directives and legislative signing statements that can be activated by any sitting president. Those of us who saw this eventuality coming have been warning for years about the growing danger of the Executive Branch with its presidential toolbox of terror that could be used—and abused—by future presidents. The groundwork, we warned, was being laid for a new kind of government where it won’t matter if you’re innocent or guilty, whether you’re a threat to the nation or even if you’re a citizen. What will matter is what the president—or whoever happens to be occupying the Oval Office at the time—thinks. And if he or she thinks you’re a threat to the nation and should be locked up, then you’ll be locked up with no access to the protections our Constitution provides. In effect, you will disappear.

Our warnings went unheeded.

The Legislative Branch:  Congress may well be the most self-serving, semi-corrupt institution in America. Abuses of office runs the gamut from elected representatives neglecting their constituencies to engaging in self-serving practices, including the misuse of eminent domain, earmarking hundreds of millions of dollars in federal contracting in return for personal gain and campaign contributions, having inappropriate ties to lobbyist groups and incorrectly or incompletely disclosing financial information. Pork barrel spending, hastily passed legislation, partisan bickering, a skewed work ethic, graft and moral turpitude have all contributed to the public’s increasing dissatisfaction with congressional leadership. No wonder 84 percent of Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing.

The Judicial Branch: The Supreme Court was intended to be an institution established to intervene and protect the people against the government and its agents when they overstep their bounds. Yet through their deference to police power, preference for security over freedom, and evisceration of our most basic rights for the sake of order and expediency, the justices of the United States Supreme Court have become the guardians of the American police state in which we now live. As a result, sound judgment and justice have largely taken a back seat to legalism, statism and elitism, while preserving the rights of the people has been deprioritized and made to play second fiddle to both governmental and corporate interests. The courts have empowered the government to wreak havoc on our liberties. Protections for private property continue to be undermined. And Americans can no longer rely on the courts to mete out justice.

Shadow Government: Donald Trump inherited more than a bitterly divided nation teetering on the brink of financial catastrophe when he assumed office. He also inherited a shadow government, one that is fully operational and staffed by unelected officials who are, in essence, running the country. Referred to as the Deep State, this shadow government is comprised of unelected government bureaucrats, corporations, contractors, paper-pushers, and button-pushers who are actually calling the shots behind the scenes right now.

Law Enforcement: By and large the term “law enforcement” encompasses all agents within a militarized police state, including the military, local police, and the various agencies such as the Secret Service, FBI, CIA, NSA, etc. Having been given the green light to probe, poke, pinch, taser, search, seize, strip and generally manhandle anyone they see fit in almost any circumstance, all with the general blessing of the courts, America’s law enforcement officials, no longer mere servants of the people entrusted with keeping the peace but now extensions of the military, are part of an elite ruling class dependent on keeping the masses corralled, under control, and treated like suspects and enemies rather than citizens. As a result, police are becoming even more militarized and weaponized, and police shootings of unarmed individuals continue to increase.

A Suspect Surveillance Society: Every dystopian sci-fi film we’ve ever seen is suddenly converging into this present moment in a dangerous trifecta between science, technology and a government that wants to be all-seeing, all-knowing and all-powerful. By tapping into your phone lines and cell phone communications, the government knows what you say. By uploading all of your emails, opening your mail, and reading your Facebook posts and text messages, the government knows what you write. By monitoring your movements with the use of license plate readers, surveillance cameras and other tracking devices, the government knows where you go. By churning through all of the detritus of your life—what you read, where you go, what you say—the government can predict what you will do. By mapping the synapses in your brain, scientists—and in turn, the government—will soon know what you remember. And by accessing your DNA, the government will soon know everything else about you that they don’t already know: your family chart, your ancestry, what you look like, your health history, your inclination to follow orders or chart your own course, etc. Consequently, in the face of DNA evidence that places us at the scene of a crime, behavior sensing technology that interprets our body temperature and facial tics as suspicious, and government surveillance devices that cross-check our biometricslicense plates and DNA against a growing database of unsolved crimes and potential criminals, we are no longer “innocent until proven guilty.”

Military Empire: America’s endless global wars and burgeoning military empire—funded by taxpayer dollars—have depleted our resources, over-extended our military and increased our similarities to the Roman Empire and its eventual demise. Black budget spending has completely undermined any hope of fiscal transparency, with government contractors padding their pockets at the expense of taxpayers and the nation’s infrastructure—railroads, water pipelines, ports, dams, bridges, airports and roads—taking the hit. The U.S. now operates approximately 800 military bases in foreign countriesaround the globe at an annual cost of at least $156 billion. The consequences of financing a global military presence are dire. In fact, David Walker, former comptroller general of the U.S., believes there are “striking similarities” between America’s current situation and the factors that contributed to the fall of Rome, including “declining moral values and political civility at home, an over-confident and over-extended military in foreign lands and fiscal irresponsibility by the central government.”

I haven’t even touched on the corporate state, the military industrial complex, SWAT team raids, invasive surveillance technology, zero tolerance policies in the schools, overcriminalization, or privatized prisons, to name just a few, but what I have touched on should be enough to show that the landscape of our freedoms has already changed dramatically from what it once was and will no doubt continue to deteriorate unless Americans can find a way to wrest back control of their government and reclaim their freedoms.

So how do we go about reclaiming our freedoms and reining in our runaway government?

Essentially, there are four camps of thought among the citizenry when it comes to holding the government accountable. Which camp you fall into says a lot about your view of government—or, at least, your view of whichever administration happens to be in power at the time.

In the first camp are those who trust the government to do the right thing, despite the government’s repeated failures in this department.

In the second camp are those who not only don’t trust the government but think the government is out to get them.

In the third camp are those who see government neither as an angel nor a devil, but merely as an entity that needs to be controlled, or as Thomas Jefferson phrased it, bound “down from mischief with the chains of the Constitution.”

Then there’s the fourth camp, comprised of individuals who pay little to no attention to the workings of government. Easily entertained, easily distracted, easily led, these are the ones who make the government’s job far easier than it should be.

It is easy to be diverted, distracted and amused by the antics of politicians, the pomp and circumstance of awards shows, athletic events, and entertainment news, and the feel-good evangelism that passes for religion today.

What is far more difficult to face up to is the reality of life in America, where unemployment, poverty, inequality, injustice and violence by government agents are increasingly norms.

The powers-that-be want us to remain divided, alienated from each other based on our politics, our bank accounts, our religion, our race and our value systems. Yet as George Orwell observed, “The real division is not between conservatives and revolutionaries but between authoritarians and libertarians.”

The only distinction that matters anymore is where you stand in the American police state.

In other words, you’re either part of the problem or part of the solution.

America is at a crossroads.

History may show that from this point forward, we will have left behind any semblance of constitutional government and entered into a militaristic state where all citizens are suspects and security trumps freedom.

Certainly, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we have moved beyond the era of representative government and entered a new age: the age of authoritarianism. Even with its constantly shifting terrain, this topsy-turvy travesty of law and government has become America’s new normal.

As long as we continue to put our politics ahead of our principles—moral, legal and constitutional—“we the people” will lose.

And you know who will keep winning by playing on our prejudices, capitalizing on our fears, deepening our distrust of our fellow citizens, and dividing us into polarized, warring camps incapable of finding consensus on the one true menace that is an immediate threat to all of our freedoms? The government.

When we lose sight of the true purpose of government—to protect our rights—and fail to keep the government in its place as our servant, we allow the government to overstep its bounds and become a tyrant that rules by brute force.

Rule by brute force.

That’s about as good a description as you’ll find for the sorry state of our republic.

The list of abuses being perpetrated against the American people by their government is growing rapidly: SWAT teams crashing through doors. Militarized police shooting unarmed citizens. Traffic cops tasering old men and pregnant women for not complying fast enough with an order. Resource officers shackling children for acting like children. Citizens being jailed for growing vegetable gardens in their front yards and holding prayer services in their backyards. Drivers having their cash seized under the pretext that they might have done something wrong.

Brace yourselves. We are approaching critical mass.

 

A Margaret Thatcher Statue in Parliament Square?

Photo by R Barraez D´Lucca | CC BY 2.0

This week it was announced that London’s Westminster council, which has jurisdiction over the statues placed in Parliament Square, decided against having a statue of Margaret Thatcher in the square.

The reason given by the council was that her statue would almost certainly be vandalized, and that it was too soon after her death for this to be done.

Both the reasons given by the council are probative, but the council tactfully omitted mention of the elephant in the room when they made their decision– Thatcher does not merit having such a monument to her name (unless one believes parliament needs to be fronted by an array of statues of undeserving individuals, which of course is already the case).

As the years of her time in office move increasingly into the past, the release of public records and the publication of memoirs by her colleagues and advisers, confirm the view that Thatcher was probably the most destructive prime minister in British history.

The roster of British prime ministers shows the overwhelming majority to be undistinguished, a great many to be inept (some beyond belief), and even when deemed to be “distinguished”, to have so many failings that few merit having their statue in front of parliament.

Perhaps not even the vaunted Churchill, who was an unmitigated scoundrel in many ways not connected with the war that gave him his reputation.  Where the war is concerned, Churchill’s merciless carpet bombing of Dresden, a target of no military significance, should have brought him before an international tribunal for war crimes, just as Kissinger’s similar carpet bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam war warrants the same.

The case against Thatcher builds year by year.

She was of course a pal of Chile’s murderous dictator Pinochet, who embarked on Chicago School neoliberal experiments, which Thatcher was later to emulate, as soon as he seized power.

In her memoirs Thatcher said Pinochet had shown that “liberal economics works”.  It worked, but only for Chile’s economic elite, as was to be the case with the UK’s elite when Thatcher repeated the dictator’s experiments.  (The connection between Pinochet and Thatcher is described in detail in Andy Beckett’s excellent Pinochet in Piccadilly).

Thatcher’s experiments destroyed British industry, beginning with coal.  Resolved to defeat the miners’ union during its lengthy strike in 1984-85, Thatcher turned parts of the UK into a police state.  The miners’ leader Arthur Scargill was a poor strategist and played into Thatcher’s hands, though his intuition that her ultimate intention was to destroy the entire coal industry and not just defeat the strike proved to be correct– even those coalfields which opposed Scargill and broke the strike were closed down by Thatcher in post-strike “reforms”.  The UK now imports coal from Poland.

Thatcher, believing the UK could succeed economically on tourism and the financial sector with hardly any industry, implemented policies which wound-down British industries as if checking off a list (steel, car manufacturing, ship building, and electrical goods all bit the dust).

There is no denying that these industries were facing serious problems.  Robert Brenner and others have argued that the US and UK, with older capital-assets, were losing ground to Germany and Japan, flush with brand new more productive capital-assets generated by extensive postwar rebuilding.

The UK’s industries tried to keep up, unsuccessfully in the longer term, by upgrading what were basically prewar industrial resources and technologies.  The UK was exhausted economically after the war, but what it needed was massive industrial renovation, and this was not forthcoming.  The immediate postwar Labour government rightly focused on establishing the welfare state, but subsequent governments of both parties basked complacently in the improved living standards that followed the creation of the welfare state and the renewal of housing stock and infrastructure severely depleted and damaged by the war.  Thatcher, when it came to her turn, decided that the union-dominated industrial sector was not going to be a priority, and from then on an extensive industrial overhaul ceased to be on the UK’s economic agenda.  The collapse of this sector resulted inevitably.

Another outcome of Thatcher’s neoliberal experiments was a doubling of the unemployment rate.  Thatcher had campaigned on the slogan “Labour is not working” in the 1979 election, when unemployment stood at 5.9% (1 million) in 1978 under Labour.  Thatcher’s campaign effectively rebranded the Conservatives as the party of employment, and she won the election.

Once in office, Thatcher imposed her monetarist dogma, and unemployment jumped predictably to 3 million in 1982, despite constant massaging of the employment figures by her employment secretary Norman Tebbit.  Inflation, in double figures for most of the 1970s, did fall to 4% in 1983, but rose again to nearly 8% in 1985.

Thatcher had no interest in reducing unemployment, apart from the purpose of rebranding her party in order to win the election.   Her economic adviser Sir Alan Budd let the cat out of the bag in a future article:

The Thatcher government never believed for a moment that [monetarism] was the correct way to bring down inflation. They did however see that this would be a very good way to raise unemployment. And raising unemployment was an extremely desirable way of reducing the strength of the working classes. […] What was engineered – in Marxist terms – was a crisis of capitalism which re-created the reserve army of labour, and has allowed the capitalists to make high profits ever since.

(An article by Carl Shapiro and Joseph Stiglitz, ‘Equilibrium Unemployment as a Worker Discipline Device’, The American Economic Review 74(1984), 433-44, provides the theoretical underpinning of the re-creation of the reserve army of labour, albeit without mentioning Marx.)

The Thatcherite Alan Budd is right– British capitalists have made high profits ever since, not so much by reviving British industry, but by focusing their efforts on the financial sector.  Here again Thatcher was instrumental.

In a sudden deregulation of financial markets on 27 October 1986 (dubbed the “Big Bang”), Thatcher abolished the distinction between commercial or high-street banks and investment houses, and made electronic trading possible.  This deregulation also made it possible for banks to “invest” their depositors’ savings, thereby putting these at risk.  Even Nigel Lawson, Thatcher’s longtime finance minister (Chancellor of the Exchequer), conceded that the “Big Bang” helped pave the way for the 2007-2008 financial crisis.  Overnight, the City of London (London’s financial district akin to Wall Street) started to become Rip Off City.

Along with deregulation of the financial sector came privatizations of public utilities and the railways (the latter was Thatcher’s aim, though the implementation was left to her successor John Major).

The available evidence shows that the privatization of state enterprises in the UK has brought few if any economic benefits.  Excessively high commissions and fees were paid to private banks to oversee the privatizations in what many describe as a boondoggle.

State monopolies became private oligopolies or cartels after privatization, now mostly owned by overseas firms.  The civil servants who ran the state monopolies on relatively modest fixed salaries gave way to CEOs and managers who lavished upon themselves exorbitant bonuses typical of the private sector, regardless of the performance of their enterprises.  Underperforming enterprises still required taxpayer subsidies, and with no price controls, consumers now got stiffed as well as taxpayers, as prices are raised above the prevailing rate of inflation.

Massimo Florio, in The Great Divestiture: Evaluating the Welfare Impact of the British Privatizations 1979-1999 (MIT Press), concludes that “the changeover to private ownership per se had little effect on long-term trends in prices and productivity in Britain and contributed to regressive redistribution”.

A 2015 poll by Survation showed that only 17% of respondents wanted to keep privatized railways, as against 40% who want renationalization and 23% who want to some franchises brought back into the public sector.

Polls for the other Tory privatizations yield consistently similar results to the Survation poll on the railways, and renationalization of the railways, postal service, and utilities is now a central feature of Labour’s manifesto for the next election.

Another disastrous step take by Thatcher was her sale of council or social housing to private buyers.  Much taken by the notion of a “property-owning democracy”, Thatcher allowed social housing to be bought by tenants at rock-bottom prices.  Tenants who did not buy their rented dwellings were forced out by steep rent increases.

What followed in the course of time was anticipated by critics of Thatcher’s policy.  These properties would reappear on the market when their owners died, or moved into assisted living, or simply traded-up in the housing market.  Once on the market, first-time buyers seeking to buy these properties would be outbid by well-heeled private landlords, who would then rent out the “investments” they purchased at “market values”.  Rents skyrocketed, as did property prices.  Diminishing housing-market affordability and housing supply shortfalls meant the Generation Buy of the baby boomer generation was supplanted inexorably by the Generation Rent of recent decades.

Thatcher’s housing legacy is not a “property-owning democracy”, quite the opposite, but a series of house-price inflation bubbles.

Her own personal housing was not a problem for Thatcher– on her retirement she ensconced herself in posh multi-million-pound Central London mansion.  When the terms of her will were disclosed after her death, it turned out that the mansion was registered in an offshore tax haven.  The Mirror newspaper, which reported this, carried the story under the caption “This lady’s not for taxing” (a riff on the Iron Lady’s own self-regarding “This lady’s not for turning”).

Thatcher’s dolt of a son Mark was always a problem for her and her husband Denis.  Mark acquired sudden and conspicuous wealth while she was in office, largely by being “an intermediary” in trade and arm’s deals she made with foreign countries.  In ways analogous to Ivanka Trump and her father, Mark would accompany his mother on official trips, to undertake his responsibilities as an “intermediary”.

It was reported this week that government records relating to Mark Thatcher will be withheld from the public until 2053—despite the fact that under the 30-year-rule the National Archives are now releasing records of cabinet meetings from 1986-88, when Thatcher was at the peak of her influence as prime minister.

One news outlet reporting the delay in releasing these records, thelondoneconomic.com, said:

Charles Moore’s biography of Mrs Thatcher quotes Robin Butler, her private secretary at the time, [who] commented Mrs Thatcher’s involvement ‘conveyed a whiff of corruption’. Coming from her own private secretary that raises even more questions as to why her son’s files are not accessible to the nation.

Cynics will doubtless have ready answers to these questions about the withholding of the Mark Thatcher files until 2053.

The afore-mentioned Lord Robin Butler was not the only Whitehall mandarin in the news this week.    The former head of the Diplomatic Service, Sir Patrick Wright, is about to publish his diaries, and made a number of newsworthy claims about Thatcher’s time in office in extracts published in a national newspaper.   According to the Independent:

Sir Patrick also said that Ms Thatcher “loathed” Germans and wanted to “push” Vietnamese boat people into the sea.

In the diary entry, Sir Patrick writes the conversation [on South African apartheid] took place over a lunch he was invited to with Ms Thatcher. “She opened the conversation by thrusting a newspaper cutting about Oliver Tambo [ANC president] in front of us, saying that it proved that we should not be talking to him… She continued to express her views about a return to pre-1910 South Africa, with a white mini-state partitioned from their neighbouring black states.”

When Sir Patrick questioned the desire and said it would be an extension of apartheid, he said “she barked: ‘Do you have no concern for our strategic interests?’”

Thatcher’s support for a “whites only” mini-state was entirely consistent with her other positions on South Africa:  she had always opposed sanctions against the apartheid state, and described Nelson Mandela in public as a “terrorist”.

A statue of Mandela already stands in Parliament Square.  If the British Establishment erected a statue of Thatcher in the same location, it would be a supreme testimony to its cynicism or “value free” relativism.  It would be akin to the US putting up statues of Robert E Lee and Frederick Douglass in the same square.

Thatcher’s children, Mark and Carol, could perhaps have a subliminal sense of this possible incongruity (Mark Thatcher has been living in South Africa, and Carol in Australia, for a while) — when asked by Westminster council if they wanted a statue of their mother in front of parliament, they failed to reply.

Kenneth Surin teaches at Duke University, North Carolina.  He lives in Blacksburg, Virginia.