All posts by Gary Leupp

Can a Socialist Win in the U.S.A.?

It’s a stretch to assume, the way all cable news anchors do, that a self-avowed socialist cannot become U.S. president, due to a supposedly inherent, gut-level American antipathy to socialism. The talking heads posit this in an attempt to convince the viewers that any hopes they have for fundamental change are hopeless if they challenge the omnipotent capitalist system. Don’t even think about it!

The fact is, Bernie Sanders was the most popular politician in the country in 2016; he would likely have won the Democratic nomination had the Democratic National Committee not skewed the primaries in Hillary’s favor. (Committee chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz herself declared in a leaked memo to staff that it would be “silly” to think Sanders would ever become president. Recall how she had to resign in disgrace when the rigging was revealed, at the Democratic National Convention, once the sabotage had been done. Her punishment? She’s a Representative of Florida in the Congress.)

But since Bernie has again declared his candidacy, taking off with a fundraising roar, the talking heads agree that Bernie’s time is past. Okay, we’ll grant that he put up a good effort last time, and can be credited with placing certain issues like health care for all, student debt relief, tuition-free colleges, and income inequality on the table. But last time there was a narrow Democratic field, and this time it’s crowded with “progressive” candidates who will steal some of Sanders’ fire. He is thus unnecessary and redundant.  The good parts of his message are echoed by his rivals, who meanwhile repeat the loyalty oath: “I’m a capitalist.”

Elizabeth Warren boasts: “I’m a capitalist.” Echoes Beto O’Rourke: “I am a capitalist.” “I am not a democratic socialist,” says Kamala Harris, “I believe that capitalism has great strengths when it works for all people equally well.” “I’m a capitalist,” says soon-to-declare Joe Biden. These are the safe candidates who could win the next presidential election against Trump.

So socialism is a big Sanders negative. Senior correspondents and analysts agree that association with socialism is “toxic” in America, that it’s Kryptonite for the Democratic Party.

Then there’s his age. He appears in good health and has stamina. He is not a typical 77-year-old U.S. male, as his socialist identity shows, and indeed he has admirable, understated history of anti-racist activism that contributes to his appeal among youth. But his critics listing his problems include this one.

Worse than being old, Sanders is white; and “experts” on cable news say that being white may be a negative in the race. And he’s male–an old white male whose staff last time included some men who sexually harassed women. (So he’s possibly a secret sexist?) Worse, he’s Jewish–and not the religious sort beloved of the Zionist Christian Evangelicals but probably an atheist.

So, obviously a hopeless cause. Not because of his age, really: the establishment’s favored candidate Biden is 76. Nor because of his whiteness, really; again, the media fawns on Biden and O’Rourke. Nor because of Sanders’ Jewishness (and his progressive politics which are rooted in New York City Jewish activism). No, it’s his (supposed) socialism that makes him a necessary target.

As Counterpuncher Paul Street noted in his excellent piece March 13, MSNBC has in particular raged against the prospect of a socialist running for president (again). The network is as a matter of policy promoting capitalism as the national creed, the key to American prosperity (such as it is), the socio-economic embodiment of Freedom. Joe Biden positively demands from his guests their endorsement of the system; when Joe Scarborough asked Col. Governor John Hickenlupper, who co-founded a Denver brewing company, if he was a capitalist, and Hickenlupper hedged on the matter, Scarborough was horrified. The clip of Hickenlupper declining to boast about being a capitalist was repeated endlessly on MSNBC to underscore the seriousness of the problem of anti-capitalist sentiment.

To such a state have we fallen! When over half of young people see socialism positively, and capitalism negatively. And some presidential candidates might calculate that they’re better off not advertising themselves in what many see as negative terms.

Last week MSNBC commentator and advertising executive Danny Deutsch fumed on Morning Joe: “I find Donald Trump reprehensible as a human being, but a socialist candidate is more dangerous to this company, country, as far as the strength and well-being of the country, than Donald Trump.  I would vote for Donald Trump, a despicable human being… I will be so distraught to the point that that could even come out of my mouth, if we have a socialist [Democratic presidential candidate or president] because that will take our country so down, and we are not Denmark.”

Wow. As a capitalist, Deutsch’s lot is with despicable Trump, versus Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib (and Denmark). He wants to draw the line there.

This is in a way an enlightening time to live, when things that were not discussed clearly before now come out into full sight. During my childhood, we were taught that the big struggle in the world was Communism versus Democracy, it being understood that democracy includes free market principles. (The term “capitalism” was avoided, associated as it was with Marxist discourse.) But with the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the USSR, the triumph of capitalism was shouted from bourgeois rooftops. What a revolutionary force in the world, so superior to the discredited, defeated socialism!

But since 1991 global capitalism has not succeeded very well, at least not in producing the positive changes people want. Certainly in this country today, young people live less affluently than their parents’ generation did; things are not getting better in many ways. It makes sense for youth to feel attracted to socialism, in the broadest sense, and ideally, to study some theory and engage in activism. The youth have not been successfully brainwashed to associate socialism automatically with  gulags, ideological conformity, and political oppression.

It is precisely because capitalism is in deep crisis that its high priests must insist on its inherent, eternal superiority and chide the youth for their foolish idealism.

I’m reminded of how, in 1925, just as the voting franchise in Japan was expanded suddenly to include all adult males, the existing law forbidding any questioning of the doctrine of the kokutai (the “national essence” of Japan as a country created by the gods, led by an unbroken line of emperors “coeval with Heaven and Earth” descended from the Sun Goddess) was augmented with a ban on criticism of the “system of private property.”  Of course it was already impermissible to criticize the emperor, or the Meiji Constitution he had given the people out of his benevolence. Now criticism of capitalism itself

was also firmly banned and harshly punished with prison terms.

Think of that. The emperor had been viewed as sacred, beyond criticism. Now capitalism was placed on a par with the kokutai, as something to revere.

Danny Deutsch wants us all to love capitalism. MSNBC does in general. CNN too, and Fox. They are, after all, capitalist networks whose advertisers impact the content of what they sponsor. Joe and Mika should alert the viewer each morning: “This is a capitalist network, paid for by capitalists who use 15 minutes per hour to sell their products and services. We accordingly report the news from a pro-capitalist, American point of view.” But that would be too blatant.

It’s good in any case that lines are being drawn, vaguely though they are; the commentators agree that young voters’ perceptions of socialism are unsophisticated. Sanders’ socialism is not that envisioned by Lenin but the type of welfare-state capitalism that has succeeded best in Scandinavia. Those who support socialism have many different ideas about what it is or should be, but they are clear on the fact that capitalism is one mode of production, very creative historically but not eternal, not the “end of history” but a mere stage beyond which humans can progress.

That’s really the key point of Marxist thought: the understanding that socio-economic structures are historically transitory. They come and go. There is still slavery in the world, but it has diminished over centuries. There are still millions chained to the soil and controlled like serfs, but wage-labor is more and more the global norm. The relationship between the worker and the capitalist employer, on the rise in Europe from the sixteenth century, constitutes capitalism. It had a birth in time, and will die in time.

What follows will probably be called socialism.  It will draw upon the Soviet and Chinese experiences of centralized planning, learning from successes and failures, but with a much deeper understanding of how markets work. Capitalism will be recalled as the dominant system in an era of  several hundred years, during which as Marx observed, the bourgeoisie played a revolutionary role. But today’s Danny Deutsches are no revolutionaries but reactionaries horrified that Capital is being questioned. “The soul of the capitalist is capital,” Marx observed. Threatened at the soul-level, the bourgeois commentariat takes aim at the Democratic Socialists, socialism in general, tuition-free college, medicaid for all.

Good, good. Let them attack. Let there be discussion. May capitalism and socialism become household words and debate rage. It’s high time.

Paul Manafort and the Crime of Not Provoking Russia

Paul Manafort has been convicted and sentenced to four years in prison for what the judge calls “white collar crimes” unrelated to “Russian collusion.” The mainstream press is in a state of shock. Surely, the morning cable anchors protest, he should have gotten 20 years!

He was friends with (“pro-Russian”) Ukrainian businessmen and politicians! He took fees for political consulting work with foreigners—that he never reported to the IRS! He committed bank fraud and tax fraud! And he may have had a role in the decision of the Republican National Committee at the Republican convention in July 2016, to modify a section of the program to remove reference to the provision of U.S. lethal military aid to Ukraine!

For two years that last accusation has been treated by the press as the truly damning one, the clear proof of a conspiracy to help Russia. There’s been a deliberate effort to generate outrage, where none really smolders in the masses’ breasts. How many people in this country feel strongly about the issue of Ukraine, could find the country on the map, have any knowledge in its history or any strong feelings about the matter of who should have sovereignty over Crimea?

The implicit argument is that not to give offensive weapons to the government in Ukraine at the time (then headed by Arseniy Yastenyuk, who had attained power through a U.S.-supported violent coup and the documented sponsorship of grotesque neocon beast Victoria Nuland) was anything other than the height of irresponsibility, if not treason. (“What more do we need than that?” demands the angry CNN “foreign policy analyst” or “national security analyst” while the hosts nod in agreement.), But this new regime in Kiev was riddled with fascists, was engaged in an effort to impose its armed authority over a rebellious ethnic Russian Donbas region, and might potentially be at war with Russia at any moment.

One could interpret the platform change as a rational retreat from an unnecessary provocation of Moscow. Why should that be so controversial or mysterious?

But to the talking heads of MSNBC and CNN, and maybe some on Fox, the minor move was sure, clear proof of Russian collusion. The party committee couldn’t have been applying mere common sense, and deference to a presidential nominee who’d expressed hope for normal relations with Russia. No, it had to have been hijacked by Russian agents.

In the real world, it’s just possible that Manafort (for whatever reasons) had educated Trump to some basic facts: Ukraine has long been ethnically divided between Ukrainians and (ethnic) Russians. The regime that seized power in February 2014 (toppling the democratically elected if highly corrupt one that Manafort had served) had completely alienated the Donbas region from the outset by its anti-Russian discriminatory measures, provoking the rebellion. As for the Crimean Peninsula, it had been Russian from 1785 to 1954, and the base of the Russian Black Sea Naval Fleet since the 1780s, so it wasn’t surprising that Moscow would want to re-assert sovereignty to prevent the very real prospect of losing its base to the relentlessly expanding NATO.

(It would have made sense for Bernie Sanders, had he won the Democratic nomination—that is, had we had a fair, not rigged, Democratic primary process—-to have stricken out any such language from a Democratic Party platform.)

I wrote a number of columns about Ukraine after the 2014 putsch opposing U.S. intervention in Ukraine and the U.S. effort, involving about $ 5 billion invested in what Victoria Nuland and Madeleine Albright both referred to publicly as “support for the Ukrainian people’s European aspirations.” (This was code for the drive of right-wing politicians in Ukraine to join EU after following the well-established pattern of former east bloc countries first joining NATO, then the European trade bloc.) Some of these were re-posted on Russian media. Am I thus guilty of collusion?

This matter of the non-support for military involvement in Ukraine, as a bad thing, is at the heart of the collusion case. The Manafort judge T.S. Ellis has been right to be skeptical, and to suspect that the prosecutors have been trying too hard to pin on Manafort a conspiracy charge implicating Trump and Russia. (Or a Trump staffer and a Russian businessman. Or a Trump aide and a Ukrainian businessman, or Russian-Ukrainian businessman, or Russian-American businessman.)

The fact of the matter is, as Graham Stack, a Fusion GPS researcher once hired to gather dirt on Manafort, pointed out last year: “Manafort was nothing like a pro-Kremlin influence on the former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych… Instead, Manafort was one of the driving forces pushing Yanukovich towards signing the agreement with the EU. The Kremlin has every reason to hate him.”

That is, Manafort for his own business reasons wanted Ukraine to join the European Union, just like Victoria Nuland wanted to use the Ukrainian people’s (supposed) yearning to join the organization—that was then squeezing the life out of the Greeks and was subsequently rejected by the British—-as part and parcel of Ukraine’s planned entry into the anti-Russian military alliance. (This had been announced in 2008, the same year as NATO unveiled plans to welcome Georgia as well in the near term. That plan is on hold after the Russo-Georgia War of that year, just as plans to admit Ukraine are permanently on hold for fear—by the Germans, if not the U.S.—of provoking Russia.)

The motives of Nuland and Manafort were very different. She wanted a cause that would unite the opposition and facilitate regime change; he wanted a deal that would personally aggrandize him, given his investments in EU countries and in Ukraine. But  Russia was as of February 2014 opposed, for reasons Moscow stated clearly. (Basically, the cross-border economies are so deeply integrated, the cultures so similar and movement between the two countries so free that EU goods once in Ukraine would flow uncontrollably into Russia, damaging the Russian economy. Was the Russian stance unreasonable? Moscow offered Kiev a generous aid package, which Yanukovych accepted; meanwhile, Russia indicated it had no problem with Ukraine’s eventual EU membership once certain issues were resolved, and reiterated Putin’s aspiration for a Eurasia-wide free market to extend from Vladivostock to Lisbon. (Was this reasonable? Or does it “threaten our national interests” somehow?)

The Russians perhaps convinced Yanukovych that the austerity measures Ukraine would have to accept even for associate NATO membership would be destabilizing. So he withdrew from the provisional deal that had been pushed by Manafort.The  U.S.-backed  opposition declared Yanukovych a traitor loyal to Russia, and the government fell giving way to the current dysfunctional regime that lionizes fascists like Stephan Bandera.

One should definitely condemn Manafort for his past “consulting work”—with the likes of Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bob Dole, Gerald Ford, Ferdinand Marcos, Mobutu Sese Seko, and Jonas Savimbi. (This list of clients includes at least five mass murderers.) But why single him out for assisting the former, democratically elected Ukrainian president in his negotiations with the EU? (Oh, because he didn’t report the income…the tax fraud thing…  Terrible indeed.)

The fact is, Manafort would not have been on trial had there not been an effort to seize on any kind of link between anyone around Trump and any one or thing Russian to substantiate the charge of “Russian interference” in the U.S. election. The thinly researched and argued January 2017 “Assessing Russian Activities”intelligence report on that “interference” was followed by a drive to investigate Trump campaign collusion with Russia, with a clear political mission to explain Hillary’s loss by attributing it to Trump’s (treasonous, secret) relationship with Putin.

It hasn’t led to anything yet but a meeting in a Manhattan cigar bar Aug. 2, 2016 between Manafort, his deputy Mike Gates and Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian business partner of Manfort’s since 2005 (“thought to be linked to Russian intelligence”) that might have involved  the sharing of some polling data that by law should have been kept secret (or only shared with U.S. political operatives seeking to legitimately influence the outcome of the U.S. election).

Maybe some Russians used the information to influence targeted U.S. minds, using Facebook to throw the election result in Wisconsin. That would see horrible, would it not? An attack by other people on our democracy?! (While we never interfere, anywhere!)

The message is in any case clear. We should be outraged that “the Russians” “interfered” in “our election” tainting its result. We should view “our” elections as sacrosanct affairs, and be outraged that Trump staffers were willing to talk to Russian officials or private citizens, about the election or lots of other things, neglecting to report any contact with nationals of a country that (for some reason) we’re supposed to regard as an “adversary.”   Indeed, the overriding historical import of the movement to drive Trump from office is its re-enforcement of Russophobia in this country.

Trump is depicted as evil less due to his bigotry, misogyny, racism, Islamophobia, or corrupt business practices than due to his failure to do the right thing: take a hard line on Russia.

That means denouncing Putin, the way Hillary did. (Clinton as top U.S. diplomat called Putin a new Hitler, for re-annexing Crimea.) It means continuing to demand, as Obama did, that Russia withdraw from Crimea and cease whatever material support it provides to the separatists in the Donbas region or face continuing U.S. (and EU) sanctions. (These are hopeless demands, and are hurting Europe as well as Russia. Yet their maintenance is depicted as the only responsible route forward, and suggestions they be lifted portrayed as capitulation to evil.)

And it means howling in indignation when Paul Manafort, the closest thing to a “smoking gun” about collusion between Russia and Trump, only gets four years behind bars. It means disparaging Judge Ellis, noting his expressed concern about special prosecutors’ overreach and the possibility of the case becoming a “political weapon.”

News anchors visibly consternated by the sentence length seem troubled too by the likelihood that the Mueller probe will conclude with no real evidence. The dream of Trump being exposed as a Russian agent—promising sanctions relief after his victory in return for advance Russian notice about Wikileaks’ hacked emails publication schedule—-is fading.

In its place is the dream of replacing Trump in 2020 with an (appropriately) anti-Russian leader. This would mean one committed to NATO (which is still officially on track to include Georgia and Ukraine, to better encircle and provoke Russia); committed to the sanctions designed to hobble the Russian economy and prevent other countries from trading with it; committed to challenging Russia’s influence in the Middle East and depicting any such influence as “foreign interference” in a region that ought by rights be dominated by the U.S. as the world’s “exceptional” nation; and the insistence on the myth that the U.S. has “national interests” transcending class interests that need to be protected from Russia pursuing its own.

The appropriately anti-Russian leader the mainstream media seeks must of course be, preeminently, a proud capitalist. The restoration of normality must combine the new Russophobia (which has nothing to do immediately with anticommunism—since the Russian state is thoroughly capitalist and Putin’s party is both pro-market and pro-Orthodox religion—but draws on Cold War specifically anti-Russian tropes) with a clear repudiation of socialism.

*****

Saturday: Dave Gura on MSNBC expressing puzzlement that John Hinckenluper in a Joe Scarborough interview refused to call himself a capitalist (recognizing the negative connotations of that word among many young people).

Shame! the bipartisan panelists all agree; he should have proudly broadcast his capitalist status, and promoted the market as the key to creating jobs. If the Dems go with a “socialist” message, Trump will win! The very word socialism is Kryptonite!

These two phenomena—the mainstream ruling-class disappointment that the “Russian collusion” case is collapsing, and alarm at the soaring popularity of “socialism”—are related. To bring him down, one accuses the president of collusion with a country vilified throughout the Cold War; the USSR was targeted for its “socialism” but also attacked on the basis of ethnic stereotypes that remain useful to the anti-Russian propagandist. To make sure his successor is committed to the post-Cold War strategy of maintaining global hegemony and preventing the emergence of any rival, one must insure that someone who accepts capitalist imperialism takes office.

The morning TV news anchors, makers of public opinion, unite in agreement that it is unacceptable to question the motives of legislators who always vote in favor of Israel. (In this they in fact unite with Trump, who’s opportunistically charging the Democrats with antisemitism.) They also unite in agreeing it’s good the Hanoi summit between Kim and Trump failed, because it would be against U.S. interests to reduce sanctions until Pyongyang gets rid of it’s nukes (which it’s not going to do without sanctions relief, so the anti-Trump position is a virtual demand for war). These are some of the responsible positions of the anti-Trump mainstream.

My, what an awful, awful man! Such a Russian stooge! Jeopardizing our national security, serving Russian interests, by pulling out of Syria! (When did insistence on indefinite deployment of U.S. forced illegally in Syria become so mainstreamed?) And by talking about an Afghan pullout!

And his campaign chairman was meeting Russians! (Let us recall Manafort was chairman all of three months.) And Manafort was secretly meeting Russians, our adversaries!

Such outrage. Such unanimity. Such slavish devotion to capitalism, imperialism, “our heroes” in the U.S. military, sterile political correctness plus unquestioned devotion to Israel, and of course the systematic vilification of Russia. The trashing of both socialism and Russia, the latter having nothing to do with the former anymore, but what difference does it make?  We’re supposed to believe that both of them are Kryptonite, and that the choice before us is between the responsible capitalist and Russophobe (such as Joe Biden) and the capitalist and imagined Russophile traitor Donald Trump.

The Chickens Come Home to Roost

The fact is, the U.S. interventions in the Middle East since 9/11–especially the illegal, immoral war on Iraq based on lies—has, as regional leaders predicted it would, generally “destabilized” the area, and nearby regions.

The ruination of the Baathist Iraqi state has by this point produced a Sadrist-led regime that must maintain a degree of friendship with the U.S. that ushered in its ascent to power but is closer to Iran and will, defying the U.S., maintain that relationship based in part on religious commonality. This is an awkward situation, in that a regime produced by U.S. imperialist aggression chooses to ally itself with a regime that the U.S. (by bipartisan consensus) wants to topple.

U.S. military aggression in Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Libya has flooded Europe with refugees, provoking multiple political crises and producing gains for the anti-immigrant right. Europeans properly blame the refugee problem on the U.S. and its arrogant imperialist adventures.

Each invasion has produced spinoffs. Al-Zarqawi, driven from Afghanistan, relocated in Iraq, forming a new Al-Qaeda franchise (that became ISIL). The occupation of Iraq led directly to ISIL’s spread into Syria (and the U.S. military’s pursuit). One thing leads to another. The destruction of Libya spread chaos into Niger and Mali and gains for local al-Qaeda and ISIL forces now chased by French and U.S. special forces.

Meanwhile U.S. pressure on Middle East allies to embrace (at least show-window) “democracy”—really a neocon afterthought to lend some bogus moral content to the effort to control the region, to justify the war-based-on-lies—led to electoral victories by Hamas in Palestine (2006), Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (2012), and Hizbollah in Lebanon (2018). These were followed by U.S. efforts to topple the (annoyingly victorious) parties in those democratic exercises (and of course further instability).

U.S. (rhetorical) allegiance to democratic principles may have encouraged the mass rebellions of the “Arab Spring” (2011), during which the Obama administration gave erstwhile allies (like Ali Saleh in Yemen and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt) their marching orders, and (with NATO) destroyed the Libyan state facilitating the grotesque murder of (recent friend) Muammar Gaddafi. And U.S. support for Saudi Arabia—possibly the world’s very worst violator of human rights, although the U.S. corporate press treats it with kid gloves—allowed for the crushing of the Bahraini Shiite mass protests by Saudi-led Sunni forces, and the ongoing Saudi destruction of Yemen.

The U.S. has done absolutely no good in the so-called “Greater Middle East” since its imbecilic leadership in 2001 proclaimed a vague “War on Terror” aimed mainly at Islamist forces seen as terrorists—but open-ended enough to include North Korea (in the stupidly conceptualized “Axis of Evil”), Filipino Maoists, or units of the Iranian military. (By the way, note that the author of that stupid term, Bush speechwriter—now a respected CNN “political news analyst”—David Frum, is a Canadian interfering in the U.S. political process. But nobody cares. Imagine if he were Russian.)

Repeat: absolutely no good. No more good than the Nazis did when they launched their comparable immoral, unjustifiable imperialist invasions. (We should never thank the purveyors of mass murder for their “service” as is the norm, indeed required etiquette on corporate cable news.) All the war on terror and its spin-offs has produced is human misery.

The “War on Terror” label was dropped under Obama, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s latest pronouncements in Cairo indicate that the U.S. retains its drive to destroy “radical Islamism” in the Middle East. He even warned the Lebanese people about voting for Hizbollah, which has many members in parliament and holds posts in the Lebanese cabinet, lest they raise the U.S.’s wrath. Quite likely his crude efforts to meddle in foreign elections will backfire.

And of course in Pompeo’s list of terrorists to destroy is the Iranian leadership, and the Islamic Republic as currently structured. This puts the U.S. in conflict with Europe and the world in general, which wants to have normal relations with Iran and mutually beneficial trade.

Turkey, a close U.S. ally and NATO member—indeed the NATO member with the second largest army within the alliance—is one of these countries wanting normal relations with Iran. The two countries have differences, including in Syria, but are working (with Russia) to reduce those differences through the “Astana Process.” And now Turkey’s differences with its old ally Washington are strained as never before.

The problem is the Kurds and the prospect of an independent Kurdish nation. This was the Turkish concern (that is, the concern of the Turkish ruling class) all along. The current president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, supported the illegal U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 (while the Turkish parliament failed to support it)—but only if it allowed for the deployment of Turkish forces in northern Iraq to suppress any prospect of Kurdish independence (that might encourage Turkish Kurds in their drive to acquire independence). He feared that the toppling of Saddam Hussein would, if not coupled with the suppression of any Kurdish independence hopes, threaten Turkey.

The U.S. State Department, to say nothing of the political class in general, was clueless about the distinction between Kurds and Arabs, as it was of the distinction between Shiites and Sunnis, or Turks and Iranians. Now the inevitable has happened. The U.S. in an effort to “destroy” ISIL (Obama’s language) made common cause with the only people in Syria willing to join with its (discredited, hated, exposed, imperialist) self: the Kurdish Peshmergas. It has used them to whittle down the ISIL forces, whose existence is a painful embarrassment to the U.S. since its actions obviously produced it in the first place. But it has wanted to use them ultimately to bring down the Assad government and replace it with a pro-U.S., Israel-friendly puppet regime.

Trump (for whatever reasons, which will probably involve no moral reflection) seems to have given up on the latter ambition. He sounds content to accept an independent Syria enjoying cordial ties to Russia, Iran, Lebanon, India, Pakistan, China, etc. (The U.S. always depicts states targeted for regime change as “isolated” from what they call “the international community” which somehow routinely excludes major countries not subject to U.S. hegemony.)

Still, there’s that problem of the 2000 Special Forces there in Syria, operating alongside Kurds that Turkey sees as “terrorists.” And since Trump wants to withdraw them, Erdogan wants to move in to eradicate what he sees as a national security threat. Which is to say: the U.S. imperialist orgy in the Greater Middle East has finally reached the crisis-point in which its interests conflict with those of a close ally, and there may be war between its NATO pal and its Syrian Kurdish clients.

This is very, very embarrassing. And since the president is an unstable, unpredictable fool—alternately stubborn and malleable—his national security advisor John Bolton (the very worst man imaginable in the current situation—a lying, amoral, opportunistic, crazed thug) has to go off to Israel to promise Benjamin Netanyahu that Trump, having announced a Syrian withdrawal, won’t in fact withdraw troops unless Turkey and Israel agree on the specifics.

Meanwhile the Kurds themselves, with long experience of U.S. betrayal, have reached out to the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad, which is willing to negotiate with the Peshmerga for an autonomous Rojava region. It is possible that the horrific Syrian tragedy will end with the re-consolidation of the secular state, including that plan for autonomy, with security assurances to Turkey and support from Russia and Iran, leaving the U.S. aside (as an unhelpful, indeed toxic, partner).

It’s also possible that the Turkish leader, who has had an on-again, off-again friendship with the mad president and who pointedly snubbed Bolton during his visit the other day, will break with Washington, realign with Russia (from whom he has already agreed to purchase billions in armaments, to the consternation of NATO leaders) and make it finally clear to the world that the criminal U.S. invasion of Iraq produces some very heavy karma.

In attempting to reconfigure and dominate the Middle East, the neocon-led George W. Bush administration triggered a process that now leads—perhaps inevitably—to division within the U.S.’s own camp. The obvious, embarrassing division between idiot Bolton’s iterations in Cairo and Tel Aviv, and his boss’s idle blabbering about pulling out of Syria, results from the illogic of the whole U.S. enterprise in the first place.

You cannot simply announce that you—as the world’s “exceptional” nation—are entitled to impose your (myth of) “democracy” (= smiling submission to capitalist-imperialist domination) on all other nations, in which effort your nurtured allies since the 1940s are supposed to collude.

But no, dumb-ass! You cannot reconcile the differences between Turkey and the Kurds, or any of the other fundamental conflicts in the Middle East, on the basis of your warped consciousness of “national interests” and contemptuous ignorance of history. You cannot prevent the vicious assault of the Bush-Cheney regime on the Middle East—continued by the cowardly continuance of Bush-Cheney policy by Barack Obama and his bloodthirsty secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, throughout the region culminating in the absolute wreckage of North Africa’s most advanced, affluent state—from leading the chickens home to roost.

You cannot prevent your unforgivable, savage interventions in the Middle East from shattering your own long-cherished alliances with client states whose interests actually now oppose your own. Welcome to imperial decline, you dumb-ass Bolton, you moronic sociopath Donald Trump. Chickens are jumping up and down in the chicken-coop, agitated, reorienting. The sky is falling, this time, really.

Good!

Whitewashing Murder is Simply Wrong

Last Tuesday, within about an hour of his announcement on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, in the heat of the moment, I commented on the president’s acceptance of the Riyadh royals’ explanation of the Istanbul consulate incident. I called his statement “crude” and “buttheadedly amoral.”  I should have stated the obvious broader point: It was wrong.

Marxists have historically inveighed (appropriately) against capitalism, imperialism, semi-feudalism etc.—neutral moral categories—using such terms as “reactionary” and “opportunist” when desiring to add a moral edge. And certainly capitalist profit and imperialist hegemony factor into Trump’s response to the cold-blooded crime. But sometimes it’s best to go back to the basics, and draw upon primordial human vocabulary. The murder of the dissident Saudi journalist was pure evil.

The prohibition on killing occurs in the earliest law codes and taboo lists. It’s understood to have limited application; rulers can use military force to maintain power and “preserve order.” But generally speaking humans concur that it’s wrong to kill someone. It’s wrong. This is basic. For those arriving from outer space it is Humanity 101. It is, of course the Sixth Commandment in the Bible. It is fundamental to the contrat social of Rousseau.

Killing means something different to those who believe in an afterlife and those who believe we die and disappear. Those of us who believe the latter perhaps value life more since it’s all we expect. The taking of another’s life seems especially presumptuous when you cannot, for example, pray for the soul of the person you’ve slain encouraging its rebirth somewhere, like in the Pure Land of Amida. The warrior Kumagae supposedly prayed for Atsumori after killing him during the Genpei War in Japan in the 1180s, to alleviate his sorrow and guilt.

But I don’t believe in afterlives. I don’t believe in Amida’s Paradise, or the Christian one, or the Paradise (Garden of Eden) described in the Quran as one of “gardens under which rivers flow…and beautiful mansions in gardens of everlasting bliss” (9:72). Here there  “will be thrones raised high, and cups set at hand. And cushions set in rows, and rich carpets (all) spread out” (88:10-16). I wonder in Muhammad bin Salman believes this, or whether he thinks it important to observe Muslim burial practices that include washing the body as soon as possible after death, enshrouding it in white linen, praying over it, and burying it without a coffin. (The Turkish police speculate that the Saudis dissolved Khashoggi’s body parts, which would be a terrible violation of Muslim law, but they might have been transported to Saudi Arabia.)

What they did in that consulate was final. I think again of Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s poem “People,” a wistful appeal for people’s right to exist.

In any man who dies there dies with him
his first snow and kiss and fight.
It goes with him.

There are left books and bridges
and painted canvas and machinery.
Whose fate is to survive.

But what has gone is also not nothing:
by the rule of the game something has gone.
Not people die but worlds die in them.

Such savages, those who kill thus crushing worlds. Worse savages, those who empower them.

Killing in wars has historically been tolerated so long as the war can be justified in order to preserve the above mentioned “order.” So, for example, the Saudis and their U.S. backers depict the ongoing war in Yemen as an effort to thwart Iranian proxies, the Houthis, from imposing a Shiite dictatorship over the country. (This depiction of the situation would be laughable were it not so accepted by the gullible talking heads on cable news.) There has been little popular outrage in the U.S. at the war crimes of Saudi Crime Prince Muhammad bin Salman.

No, the focus is on his responsibility for Jamal Khashoggi’s death. It feels more wrong than the mega-death theater raging on the Saudi border—because there’s a face on it and the relentless reminders from the writer’s Washington Post peers that their colleague was brutally murdered by the Saudi state.

The drama of it, if we can believe the Turkish press reports! The Crown Prince and his brother, the ambassador to the U.S., discussed luring Khashoggi to the Istanbul consulate. Indeed, the brother, Saudi ambassador to the U.S. Prince Khalid called Khashoggi telling him to report to the consulate to get his documents to marry his Turkish fiance. Someone in the court in Riyadh ordered the dispatch of a team (“hit-squad,” the Turkish police call it) of 15 identified Saudis, including several members of the prince’s security detail and the kingdom’s top forensic doctor armed with a bone saw, to apprehend his body and smuggle out his parts while a doppelgänger dressed in his stolen clothes walked to a nearby mosque to discard the clothing. All that’s just basically wrong.

It’s wrong in such detail you’d think anyone would recoil in horror at those responsible. Anyone with a modicum of morality.

And think about this. As in the days after Khashoggi’s disappearance October 5, the Saudi ambassador in Washington (again, a brother of the Crown Prince, who had been on the phone to Khashoggi) told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Khashoggi had left the consulate but the surveillance cameras had been turned off. We know the Saudis spent a special team to sanitize the consulate and consul-general’s home before Turkish police were allowed to investigate. The Saudi explanation has repeatedly changed and the Europeans have so far rejected it. The Saudis have given no explanation for the missing body.

This is wrong at so many levels, not the least in its very obviousness. The Saudis are lying. And yet Trump said Thanksgiving Day at his golf course in Florida: “I hate the crime, I hate what’s done, I hate the cover-up. I will tell you this: the crown prince hates it more than I do.”

What? Trump wants the people of the world to think the Crown Prince hates the murder and dismemberment of Khashoggi more than he himself does? What is the point of saying that, while continuing to admit that maybe the prince did it? That’s both wrong and stupid. The worst possible combination. “Who should be held accountable?” he was asked at Key Largo.  “Well,” he replied, as though addressing small children, “maybe the world should be held accountable, because the world is a vicious place. The world is a very, very vicious place.” he added, raising his eyebrows and rolling his eyes as if to suggest this viciousness is beyond mortal ken.

Yes, Trump said that Thursday. This too is just wrong. Feigning ignorance is morally wrong. Any small child knows this is wrong. It’s wrong to whitewash murder, especially when it’s designed to protect billions in arms contracts that spell death to tens of thousands of civilians. If Trump can get away with this, and the Saudis emerge unscathed, then morals mean nothing in this world, anything goes, brute force guided by hate and resentment should prevail. Sheer lies should compete with empirical reality, on an equal basis; reportage of fascism should recognize good on both sides.

More Trump: “…and we have 100s of 1000s of of [sic] jobs [from Saudi Arabia] and frankly if we went by this standard [of punishing calculated state-sponsored murder] we would not have any allies because look at what happens all over the world.” In his inarticulate, semi-comprehensible comments he pronounces the truth unknowable, acknowledges that his interest in the case is low, notes matter-of-factly that Saudi Arabia is not unusual as a brutal, murderous U.S. ally and that continued arms sales to the murderous kingdom is this nation’s (“nationalist”) primary aim.

America first! Standing boldly at the head of the world, or trying to, it embraces Saudi Arabia and Israel, covering up their many crimes, while vilifying Iran and openly planning for its destruction.

One CNN consultant (Joel Rubin) refers to the “anti-intelligence mentality of this administration.” Why beat around the bush? It’s an anti-truth mentality. It’s a cover up truth mentality. The administration is wrong in virtually all it does. It lies as matter of course. It is fundamentally evil. And now it has come as close one can imagine to celebrating a Black Mass on the White House lawn: it is lavishing praise on murderers for cutting the price of oil.

On Wednesday, as if to trumpet his success in placating Saudis upset about the fuss about Khashoggi,  Trump tweeted gleefully: “Oil prices getting lower. Great! Like a big Tax Cut for America and the World. Enjoy! $54, was just $82. Thank you to Saudi Arabia, but let’s go lower!” Let’s put all that unpleasantness behind us, while America tries to regain its greatness—like the Wizard of Oz team, without a brain, heart or courage—while the whole world recoils at its increasingly naked amorality.

Far from the moral compass it has postered as for two hundred years, the U.S. has become a pariah. In particular, the U.S. rejection of the “Iran Deal” and effort to proactively sabotage it to provoke a war, based on lies (like the Iraq War, the destruction of Libya, the ongoing Syrian intervention) in order to establish hegemony over all of Southwest Asia ) is unqualified evil. The nice thing about Washington’s virtual nod to the Crown Prince to continue at his post is that it bares the evil so plainly.

The U.S. is a rogue state supporting a myriad of rogue states “all over the world” as Trump frankly notes. What’s right has nothing to do with it. Trump is proudly mired in moral wrong, so as to actually boast about it. He seeks to pull his fan base into that wrong, whipping up the inner fascism there just under the surface. May visceral disgust mount all over the world, among those of differing values and ideologies. Because if this can pass, and the Yemeni carnage can pass, then concentration camps and World War Three. Idiocy and evil are in power, the worst possible combination, but maybe the best possible to prompt the revolution that must come.

The Jeff Sessions Matter

(This is intended as a study-aid to anyone trying to make sense out of the unfolding scandal. I proceed from the premise that the study of history is fundamentally the study of causal relationships over time. What leads to what? Scrolling up and down this timeline, expanding it, clarifying, repeating until it’s memorized, maybe we can get some small insights into the reasons for the imminent constitutional crisis.)

Note 1: The Attorney-General of the United States is the chief legal advisor of the U.S. government. Since 1789 this officer’s duties have been defined as “to prosecute and conduct all suits in the Supreme Court in which the United States shall be concerned, and to give his advice and opinion upon questions of law when required by the President of the United States, or when requested by the heads of any of the departments.” Especially since the formation of the Justice Department in 1870 the functions of this official resemble those of Ministers of Justice elsewhere in the world. The Justice Department ranks with State, Defense and Treasury as among the four top power-centers in the regime.

Note 2: Past Attorney-Generals have included John Mitchell of Watergate fame (who served 19 months in federal prison for covering up for Nixon); and Elliott Richardson, who resigned rather than heed Nixon’s demand that he fire special Watergate Prosecutor Archibald Cox. They have included Robert Kennedy, Ramsey Clark, Robert Bork, Edwin Meese, Janet Reno, Eric Holder, John Ashcroft–a mixed bag of liberal opportunists, slowly evolving progressives, total reactionaries, weird religious fanatics.

That someone like Matt Whitaker, who three years ago was threatening a victim ripped off by his bogus firm with “criminal consequences”–positively boasting of his own status as “a former United States Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa,” adding: “and I also serve on World Patent Marketing’s Advisory Board” should not shock those of us familiar with history. (But I fear we are a small minority.)

It should surely not shock anyone who remains unshocked by Trump’s pussy-grabbing talk, his support for Roy Moore, the Kavenaugh confirmation, his apparent satisfaction with Prince MbS’s explanation for the Khashoggi murder, etc., that he would appoint (as “a great guy”) this person he says he doesn’t really know except by reputation as Minister of Justice of this benighted country.

Note 3: Understanding the power and significance of the position, and the fact that it is sometimes held by a total thug who manipulates and avoids the law at will as their power allows, we should encourage anyone entangled in the legal system in the U.S. to soberly consider the possibility that the whole damned thing is presently under constitutionally illegitimate leadership. May doubt and disillusionment reign. They make sense.

Timeline

2015

June 16, 2015: Donald Trump announces his candidacy for president.

August: Matthew Whitaker, on behalf of World Patent Marketing, in an email threatens a bilked customer asking for refund: “I am a former United States Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa and I also serve on World Patent Marketing’s Advisory Board. Your emails and message from today seem to be an apparent attempt at possible blackmail or extortion. You also mentioned filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and to smear World Patent Marketing’s reputation online. I am assuming you understand that there could be serious civil and criminal consequences for you if that is in fact what you and your ‘group’ are doing.”

(In May 2018 a federal judge dissolves World Patent Marketing and fines it $26 million for fraud.)

2016

Feb. 18, 2016: Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) surprises the political world by becoming the first senator to endorse Trump for president.

March: Sessions attends campaign meeting with Trump in which aide George Papadopoulos mentions a Russian connection that could produce campaign dirt on Hillary Clinton. His reaction unclear.

July: Campaign staffer Carter Page tells Sessions about his Russian business and other ties later revealed by the Mueller investigation and press reports.

Oct. 7: CIA director James Clapper accuses Russia of election interference.

Nov. 8: Trump unexpectedly elected president.

Nov. 18: newly-elected president Trump announces pick of Sessions as his attorney-general.

2017

Jan. 6, 2017: U.S. intelligence community releases report, “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections,” asserts with high confidence that Russia attempted to interfere in U.S. elections.

Jan. 10: Sessions under questioning in Congress is asked if Trump campaign had any Russian contacts; says he was unaware of any.

Feb. 8: Congress confirms Sessions as Attorney-General, voting 52-47.

March 1: Washington Post reports Sessions had met with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyk at least twice during campaign, one privately in his Senate office.

March 2, 2017: Sessions recuses himself from Russia probe, admits to having had contacts (brief conversations) with Kislyak during campaign. Trump immediately castigates him for this recusal.

May 9: Trump fires FBI director James Comey, stating this is at Sessions’ recommendation. (Deputy director Rod Rosenstein may have written up the argument.) Rosenstein appoints Paul Mueller to direct investigation of Russia election interference.

May: Washington Post reports that Rosenstein threatened to resign if held responsible for Comey’s firing.

May 17: Rosenstein appoints Paul Mueller special counsel to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump, and any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”

May 18 (4:20 AM EST): Trump tweets, ”This is the greatest witch hunt of any president in American history!”

June 21: As executive director of the (soon discredited) Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, Matthew Whittaker (former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa, 2004-9)) appears on the Wilkow Majority show and declares, “The truth is there was no collusion with the Russians and the Trump campaign. There was interference by the Russians into the election, but that was not collusion with the campaign. That’s where the left seems to be combining those two issues. The last thing they want right now is for the truth to come out, and for the fact that there’s not a single piece of evidence that demonstrates that the Trump campaign had any illegal or any improper relationships with the Russians. It’s that simple.”

August 6, 2017: Whitaker writes an opinion column for CNN entitled “Mueller’s Investigation of Trump is Going Too Far.” On same day highlights on Twitter a Philly.com opinion article “Note to Trump’s Lawyer: Do Not Cooperate With Mueller Lynch Mob.” Says it’s “worth a read.” Catches Trump’s attention.

April: On tweet Trump denies plan to dismiss Sessions and replace with EPA Chief Scott Pruitt.

Sept. 22: Sessions appoints Whitaker as his chief-of-staff.

2018

Feb. 21: Trump tweets that people should ask Jeff Sessions why Clinton’s crimes are not being investigated. Calls Justice Department “disgraceful.”

Feb. 28: Washington Post says Mueller investigating Trump-Sessions relationship in relation to possible obstruction of justice.

April: Rosenberg personally orders raid on the home and office of Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen, in a spin-off investigation from the Mueller probe. Trump infuriated.

May: Trump blames Mueller investigation on Sessions’ recusal, accuses him of disloyalty (according to NYT.)

June 5: Trump tweets, “The Russian Witch Hunt Hoax continues, all because Jeff Sessions didn’t tell me he was going to recuse himself…I would have quickly picked someone else. So much time and money wasted, so many lives ruined…and Sessions knew better than most that there was No Collusion!”

July 19: Trump tells NYT that Sessions should have told him when he nominated him for AG that he would recuse himself on the Russia thing. The same month he tells the Wall Street Journal that he feels no special appreciation for Session due to his astonishingly early and risky endorsement in July 2015. In his articulate way, Trump says: “It’s not like a great loyal thing about the endorsement. I’m very disappointed in Jeff Sessions.”

July 25: Trump tweets: “Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!”

Aug. 23: Trump demands, by tweet, that Sessions “look into all of the corruption on the ‘other side’ including deleted Emails, Comey lies & leaks, Mueller conflicts, McCabe, Strzok, Page, Ohr.”

Aug. 25 tweet: “Jeff Sessions said he wouldn’t allow politics to influence him only because he doesn’t understand what is happening underneath his command position. Highly conflicted Bob Mueller and his gang of 17 Angry Dems are having a field day as real corruption goes untouched. No Collusion.”

Sept. 3: Blames Sessions for indicting Republican candidates. “Two long running, Obama era, investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen [California Rep. Duncan Hunter and New York Rep. Chris Collin] were brought to a well publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department. Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff……”

Sept. 21: NYT reports that in Spring 2017 soon after Comey dismissal Rosenstein discussed with John Kelly the prospect of recording the president’s conversations and using them to employ Article 25 of the constitution.

Sept. 24: At White House Rosenstein offers resignation to Kelly; not accepted.

Oct. 11 (on Fox): Trump: “I can tell you Matt Whitaker’s a great guy. I mean, I know Matt Whitaker.”

Nov. 6: Democrats sweep the House of Representatives in mid-term elections.

Nov. 7, 2018: Sessions submits undated resignation at Trump’s request after 6 months of criticism. Replaced by his chief-of-staff Matthew Whitaker.

Nov. 9: Trump tarmac interview: “I don’t know Matt Whitaker.”

*****

Pundits suggest that the various statements Whitaker made in August 2017 were a campaign to get hired as a Justice Department lawyer, and that Trump directed Sessions to hire him (thinking he could take over when needed, to defend him against congressional inquiries). Think, people, is that really plausible?

And is it really true–what some people are saying–that the attorney-general even an acting one needs Congressional approval, and that this power transfer without that approval is invalid? Again, may doubt and disillusionment reign, because they make sense in these troubled times.

All the Good News (Ignored by the Trump-Obsessed Media)

There is much good news in this world. But the U.S. mass media barely reports it.

Have you noticed? Syria is on the brink of defeating the U.S.-backed opposition forces now corralled into Idlib Province. The successes of the Syrian Arab Army and its allies have decisively stymied Washington’s 17-year-long year effort to dominate the Middle East through aggressive, illegal regime change operations justified by lies.

Meanwhile the Sadrists in Iraq in alliance with the Iraqi Communist Party are steering an independent national path that includes cordial ties and security cooperation with Iran, Syria and Russia. The Bush/Cheney dream (of securing Iraq as a U.S. and Israel ally) hasn’t materialized.

The Europeans, Chinese, Indians and Russians persist in expanding trade with Iran in defiance of arrogant U.S. threats. This too is good; an affirmation of international law in the face of U.S. violations. The very departure of the U.S. from the Iran deal, to say nothing of efforts to sabotage it through secondary sanctions, is illegal.

This too–have you noticed? A remarkable warming of relations between North and South Korea is underway! The North and South Korean heads of state have met three times in rapid succession and signed a host of significant agreements. This is an unqualified good, but the U.S. media pooh-poohs it, questioning whether any progress has really been made on denuclearization, wondering whether Trump sold out the store in Singapore. The desire to attack Trump trumps any natural inclination to share the joy of the Korean people at this dramatic relaxation of tensions. Instead of smiling about it, they glare, and express alarm that Trump might actually pull U.S. troops out of South Korea. Like that would be an irresponsible thing.

More good news: Sino-Russian relations are at an all-time high as reflected in the recent massive joint military operations in East Siberia and numerous trade agreements. Cooperation between the two nations through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization on Eurasian infrastructure projects bodes well for the global economy. (Chinese purchases of Russian jets and missiles has resulted in U.S. sanctions, in the context of the ongoing trade war. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov notes that this will simply lead to closer military cooperation between Russia and China, and further decline in the status of the dollar as default global currency.)

In July—surely you heard?—Japan suddenly signed with the European Union an economic partnership agreement establishing the largest trading bloc in the world. In effect, Japan has become the EU’s 29th member. This was after Trump pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and initiated trade wars with practically everybody, including the Europeans and Japanese. Trump drove Japan into the arms of the Europeans; arguably a fine thing.

These are real news stories, perhaps deserving some attention.

But no. Our news anchors report on the Kavanaugh hearings, Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation, the Mueller probe, Stormy Daniels’ book describing Trump’s prepuce, Bob Woodward’s book describing White House chaos and Trump’s closest advisors’ contempt for him, Trump’s tweets versus his attorney general Jeff Sessions, Trump’s (scandalous!) declassification of Russia investigation documents, Trump’s trade wars, the U.S. mid-term elections, and new data about the Puerto Rico disaster (challenging Trump’s assessment). Hurricane Florence is covered extensively, with attention to Trump’s reaction; and “active shootings” are reported excitedly as they occur. Police murders and issues of sexual abuse are, of course, covered as breaking news.

Joe and Mika and Chris Cuomo spend much time interviewing the authors of newspaper articles or editorials and books critical of Trump (or promoting their own books). They devote extensive attention to historical analogies, citing the Anita Hill episode of 1991, comparing her to Ford and noting how Sen. Orrin Hatch who dismissed Hill’s claims now similarly rejects Ford’s. Shame!

The CNN and MSNBC anchors promote a sense of impending, inevitable doom for the administration. “The walls are closing in on the White House,” they say. Yes, the economy is doing well. (This is almost grudgingly conceded, and the fragility of the recovery stressed). But Trump’s supposed Russia ties (and possible vulnerability to blackmail); his confrontational attitude to U.S. allies; his ostensible instinctive sympathy for autocrats; his erratic statements and behavior; his irrational trade policies; his history of abusing women and supporting other men who’ve done so—all are supposed to lead to some proper closure to this sad administration.

And the Democrats will win the November elections. And then there will likely be impeachment proceedings. The tone is boldly contemptuous. The mainstream media aside from Fox has become a set of organs for Trump ridicule. “Senior correspondents” and miscellaneous talking heads sneer at Trump, laugh at him, roll their eyes. They daily call him a liar and list the latest official number of lies (as tabulated by the New York Times). It is a highly unusual situation. The world knows the U.S. media and the majority of the people truly despise Donald Trump and see him as a national embarrassment.

But in projecting that national shame the media downplays almost everything else. A few minutes are spent from time to time on Yemen, and how awful it is for the Saudis to bomb all those kids. But the Israeli attack on Syria the other day, that caused the Syrians to mistakenly shoot down a Russian jet killing 15, was ignored. European politics are generally ignored. The priorities of the CNN news editor are very different than those of their BBC or RT counterpart.

The big vast world out there is largely ignored, referenced when necessary to trash Trump but not validated as a thing-in-itself. If Trump is solipsistic, the U.S. news directorate is equally so. The American Exceptionalism which Barack Obama like presidents before him openly averred is the media’s unofficial ideology.

Top of the hour news, CNN, 11:00 a.m. EST, Sept. 20. Kate Bolduan starts with the Kavanaugh issue. Then the breaking Maryland mass shooting. Finally something on Korea!

But hm… The pundit Max Boot (Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations)  dismisses yesterday’s summit between Moon and Kim in Pyongyang while clueless Kate nods in agreement that a peace agreement between the U.S. and North Korea would be “dangerous” because it would mean U.S. military withdrawal of the peninsula. They chuckle together, “Oh Max,” she laughs. “You’ve been critical of Trump’s approach to North Korea. Do you see the point in another summit [between Kim and Trump]?” No, of course. Segment over.

Back to the active shooting in Maryland, after a commercial break, very briefly. Then more Kavanaugh. Then back to Baltimore. Three people dead. We’ll be right back. More on Puerto Rico now, emphasizing how Trump downplayed the death toll. An interview with the scholar who compiled the report. (Is this more urgent than covering today’s news from Yemen?) Trump all the time, all day long.

U.S. imperialism and its consequences? Why bother? The sponsors are tired of foreign wars, and it’s depressing to see reports that they’ve killed so many innocent people and created so many refugee crises and produced so many new terrorist groups and generated so much hatred and contempt for the U.S. in Europe and everywhere.

Better to spare the viewers exposure to all of that and instead focus on bringing down Trump and restoring normalcy to U.S. foreign policy. That at least seems to be the thinking.

WTF? Why Adulate This Warmonger?

For days we have been informed—indeed, relentlessly reminded, instructed, lectured, preached to, told matter-of-factly (as though the whole universe knows it), bestowed with the transcendent wisdom—that the late Sen. John McCain was a true American hero.

Wow! What a man! Suddenly, we learn that he was one of the Greatest Americans of All Time. “How to hold him in reverence?” asks an African-American Democratic congressman on CNN. It is (at least on cable news) an unchallenged truth. On CNN Sunday morning “America pays tribute to a hero”—-as his old friends Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman do so.

McCain served his country, we are taught. He was shot down over North Vietnam—just one of those sad things that happens to some people sometimes. So sad he had to parachute into a lake where the people he’d been bombing rescued him. Of course, he was imprisoned, as any bomber captured over any country would be imprisoned.

We are told (by his huge unpaid unthinking posthumous groupie corporate media staff) that this person (McCain), was tortured but never broke (except that one time he signed a statement about bombing civilians).

And he refused early release out of loyalty to his fellow POWs. Heroic!

He (for some reason less noticeable in other people) loved his family (although he divorced his long-suffering first wife, who’d been injured in an accident during his captivity, to marry a wealthy heiress). That is impressive.

Of course (we are told) he loved God, and even served as unit chaplain in Hanoi. He was an unquestioned paragon of virtue, we’re told, even as his quirks and temper tantrums are mentioned—in passing—as endearing minor flaws. He’s described as “hawkish” and often, as a responsible advocate for a powerful military and defender of U.S. “national interests” (versus Russia and Iran in particular).

The Establishment consensus on McCain is truly impressive. Everyone has queued up for the gangbang on humanity, intelligence and morality.

The public funeral featuring eulogies by George W. Bush and Barack Obama was designed to reflect the bipartisan celebration of a legacy—which, unconscionably—the “Democratic Socialist” Alexandria Ocasio-Chavez tweets “represents an unparalleled example of human decency and American service.”

WTF, Alexandria?

Bernie Sanders adds to the adulation. “John McCain,” he tells his supporters, “was an American hero, a man of decency and honor and a friend of mine. He will be missed not just in the US Senate but by all Americans who respect integrity and independence.” WTF, Bernie?

Joe Lieberman, teary-eyed, calls him a “national treasure.”  The CNN anchor has to add, “Well said!” as though we all surely agree on this, right?

The McCain funeral, like Caesar’s, became a political statement against the new political leadership. Mark Anthony praised the dead, while targeting the living Brutus. Meghan McCain praised her father, while targeting President Trump. “America has always been great” is her—and much of the whole system’s—response to Trump’s hollow pledge to “make America great again.”

Questioning the timeless greatness of America is heretical—as heretical as questioning the heroism of John McCain.

Among Trump’s more “controversial” remarks are his statement, “I like people who weren’t captured” and his declaration, “He’s not a war hero. He was a hero because he was captured.” Of all the comments Trump has made—racist, stupid, bigoted comments about women, African-Americans, Mexicans, Muslims, etc.—these on McCain constitute his greatest sin. At least, it has been seized on as such by his vast range of political enemies who want him down.

The dying McCain carefully planned his final rites. (Or those around him did. My father died of the same glioblastoma brain cancer that killed Edward Kennedy and John McCain; I know how rapidly it progresses and how little the human mind functions in the final few months. I find it hard to believe the senator composed some of the statements attributed to him towards the end.) The point was to shame Trump, so that the media coverage would focus on the contrast between the two men, one recklessly straying off course, the other a rock of integrity.

However moving this spectacle is, it is fundamentally sick. That this particular man, with his particular history, gets suddenly thrust into the public face and promoted as national icon even by the likes of Sanders and Ocasio-Chavez is a virtual declaration of national moral bankruptcy.

John McCain, son of an admiral, was a poor student at the U.S. Naval Academy who went on to bomb Vietnam during that war in the 1960s and 70s that—some of us recall—was a horrific, vicious ongoing atrocity that killed two million people.

I ask my amazing son, born 23 years after the end of the Vietnam War, if he understands how horrible that war was. (He knows the military family history, my dad’s involvement in Southeast Asia, my opposition from my teens). He does. Both my son and my daughter a few years older know this history and, of course, naturally revile this person.

McCain was shot down over Hanoi for the same reason you or me might shoot someone down: again, he was bombing people in their country for no good reason and with utterly no concern for “gook” lives. (This human actually stated in 2000, “I hate the gooks” responding to criticism by repeating the slur.) A Spanish psychiatrist, Fernando Barral, who met him in Hanoi in 1970, reported:

He (McCain) showed himself to be intellectually alert during the interview. From a morale point of view he is not in traumatic shock. He was able to be sarcastic, and even humorous, indicative of psychic equilibrium. From the moral and ideological point of view he showed us he is an insensitive individual without human depth, who does not show the slightest concern, who does not appear to have thought about the criminal acts he committed against a population from the absolute impunity of his airplane, and that nevertheless those people saved his life, fed him, and looked after his health and he is now healthy and strong. I believe that he has bombed densely populated places for sport. I noted that he was hardened, that he spoke of banal things as if he were at a cocktail party.

That’s your hero, CNN. That’s your hero, MSNBC. And Fox. All of you following your talking points assigned by your news editors.

The fact that Vietnam (specifically, bombing North Vietnam over 23 times, for over 10 hours) is never an issue—that it is indeed a positive, an instance of heroic “service” in which the future politician showed moral strength—should shock people. The fact that volunteering to bomb Vietnamese in an illegal, immoral war is being praised—-while Trump’s draft deferments  are mocked as reflecting lack of courage or patriotism—-should disturb conscious humans. (Shall we not honor the Luftwaffe pilots shot down on the Eastern Front in World War II? All they were doing was bombing Soviets, to conquer Russia, while serving their country, their German Fatherland, their Homeland. Patriots, right?)

McCain never saw a war he didn’t like. He regretted not winning the war in Vietnam—like some Nazi pilots no doubt regretted their failure to destroy Stalingrad in their 30,000 (heroic?) sorties over the city in 1942. He advocated U.S. intervention in any number of conflicts as a matter of imperialist entitlement; he shameless articulated American Exceptionalism—but then so did Obama and all this unified cohort rallying to glorify this thug.

After the U.S. engineered regime change in Georgia (in 2003) and sought to bring Georgia into NATO a few years later, emboldening the pathetic puppet president to provoke Russia by attaching South Ossetia, Russia briefly invaded Georgia. McCain was prepared to go to war with Russia over that. When neofascists plotted a coup in Ukraine in 2014, he had his photo taken with them. He advocated the bombing of Iran. (Remember how he with his famed sense of humor so charmingly recalled the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann” altering the lyrics to “Bomb bomb bomb Iran”? Such a sense of humor! So delightful. So charming.)

This person supported and enthused about the bombings of Bosnia, Kosovo, Serbia, Libya…and advocated it elsewhere (Nigeria?). Remember, this person’s early career after his proudly lackluster academic career was in doing what he was trained for: bombing!

The adulation of this mass-murdering unrepentant dead man is voiced by those who, just as they contrast the hero to the villain, ask whether the Vietnam War was a “noble cause” (as McCain believes)—or a “mistake” (as friend John Kerry believes)? Those are the only two options that can be publicly discussed. To say it was a colossal crime would be unpatriotically honest and doom any political campaign. But it’s easy to gather together those who agree to forgive and forget (due to a “mistake”). Gosh we all make mistakes…

But the whole point of the cult of St. John of Arizona (whom could I suppose be beatified if two miracles can be proved) is to say: He is the man, the responsible adult, the anti-Putin stalwart, the unapologetic warrior, the guy who has the balls to tell his colleagues “Give Netanyahu everything he wants.”

This is to counter-pose him to the unmanly, childlike, Putin-dupe, wimp (who also happens to give Netanyahu everything he wants, because that is standard practice for the U.S. polity—although his allegiance to Israel in itself does not insure his continued presidency).

The contradictions within the polity are obviously mounting; the mourning rituals for this praised monster show the division. The question posed is: Which do you prefer? McCain’s beautiful patriotic blood-smeared legacy? Or Trump’s continued status as the un-impeached U.S. president surrounded by semi-autonomous generals itching to bomb Iran?

My 32-year-old daughter, who happens to be a member of the Democratic Socialist Party and conditional Bernie supporter, responded to Ocasio-Chavez’s tribute to the happy bomber with an emphatic “Ugh.” May all her comrades confront Alexandria on this issue!

An idiot on CNN just now concludes his program: “As John McCain always reminded us, freedom is worth fighting for.” The day remains devoted at McCain, and his wonderful legacy, and to a new (tendentiously presented) poll showing Trump’s support declining. No mention of the heroic reconquest of more and more Syrian territory by the Syrian national forces, or apparent U.S. plans to support a false-flag operation in Idlib province involving chemical weapons that might justify another U.S. strike.

A strike that should not be supported by anybody in this country with any moral sense and critical reasoning capacity. But one that would be supported by Bomb-bomb-bomb-bomb-bomb St. John, surely. Where, as a people—-if , in fact, we are a people—heading?

Trump’s Global Impact (and What Russia Could Do)

TV news anchors typically describe Donald Trump’s poll numbers as low. But a 40 percent support figure in August of the second year is actually not so unusual. (Obama’s job approval rate was 44 at this point his first term; Bill Clinton was at 41; Ronald Reagan 42; Jimmy Carter at 41.) It’s not abnormal for a president to have this level of support at this point; the amazing thing is that Trump has been able to maintain it, given his degree of repulsiveness, from his election.

This shows the world something quite horrifying: that either this 40% actually agrees with that repulsiveness, doesn’t notice it, or tolerates it thinking at least he’s bringing jobs back.

However rocked by scandals, defections, pending legal issues, etc. Trump has retained his base. He said during his campaign that he could stand in the middle of Fifth Ave. and shoot somebody and not lose one voter. He has not shot anyone to my knowledge but he has torn babies from their moms and sent the moms out of the country and done things arguably worse than shooting somebody.

Domestically Trump remains strong, with the Republican Congress almost solidly behind him. In the mid-term election Republican candidates will mobilize the base by warning that if a Democrat wins, it might lead to Trump’s impeachment. (This at least is Steve Bannon’s recommendation.) Whatever happens, I think the 40/60 ratio of ardent fans and the nauseated and alarmed community will continue in this sad country.

But what is Trump’s standing internationally? He is generally seen by foreign leaders as a boorish, ignorant, self-obsessed buffoon, a narcissist who responds well to flattery (from Jordan’s king, South Korean envoys, Emmanuel Macron sometimes, the Saudis, Abe Shinzo), an erratic unpredictable leader often at odds with his own advisors. Every world leader knows that Trump’s former secretary of state Rex Tillerson called Trump a “moron,” and former national security advisor H.R. McMaster and current White House Chief of Staff John Kelly have called him an “idiot.” Every national intelligence community has specialists who study the psychology of foreign leaders.

Surely every leader who meets Trump has been briefed in advance about his apparent malignant narcissism and coached to stoke his ego. Jordanian King Abdullah’s reference to Trump’s “grace” and “humility” in a White House press conference last June, and the Saudis’ inexplicable bestowal of the King Abdulaziz al Saud Collar on the Islamophobic Trump months after his election are a couple examples.

NATO allies note that, while not even engaging in discussion of NATO’s priorities and purposes, Trump demands that they increase their military spending. He depicts the failure of most to meet the 2% goal established several years ago as a kind of rip-off of the U.S., which has to step in to pick up the slack to keep NATO strong. The bullying pressure disturbed everyone at Brussels but NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was obliged to say, “I would like to thank President Trump for his leadership on defense spending.” It’s not clear anything else happened at that meeting before Trump flew to Helsinki.

Trump: Alienating the World

Trump’s trade wars with Europe, China, Canada and other countries raise concern about his real business savvy, or at least his grasp of international economics. His threats against North Korea, followed by his rapprochement with Kim, gravely concern the South Koreans (not because they don’t want peace, but because they’ve sometimes been left out of the loop). He has of course alienated the Mexicans. He has offended a continent by referring to African nations as “shitty countries.” He has gone from praising Turkey’s Tayyib Erdogan to punishing him with sanctions driving down the Turkish lira, all on account of one detained Christian evangelist minister from the U.S. accused of supporting Kurdish separatism. He has completely alienated the Palestinians by demonstrating he doesn’t care about them and is a total Netanyahu stooge.

He offended Angela Merkel from the outset, courted Emmanuel Macron but then alienated him, annoyed Theresa May with his insults, befriended Jinping Xi but then slammed high tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum. He has personally offended the Australian and Canadian prime ministers. If he has not yet alienated Abe Shinzo, he has at least produced consternation. (See this photo from the last G-7 summit in Quebec, where the Japanese leader looms between a confrontational Angela and pouting boy Donald, arms folded, eyes showing worry and consternation.)

Trump’s friends in this world include the leaders of Israel, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and maybe Modi’s India (although U.S. demands that India stop importing Iranian oil are affecting the relationship). Maybe we could include the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte although he like Trump is a mercurial type and is trying to diversify military purchases and draw closer to both China and Russia. And Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who shares his anti-immigrant stance and wants to readmit Russia to the G7. But it is a small group of friends, and subject to change.

Trump increasingly isolates this country. First the withdrawal from the Paris Accord, announced with such defiance citing its unfairness to the U.S. Then the departure from UNESCO (because of its alleged anti-Israel bias). Then withdrawing from the Iran Deal, so painfully crafted by the U.S., Russia, France, U.K. and Germany. Then leaving the UN Human Rights Council (after again accusing a body of anti-Israel bias, and trying to block an investigation into Israeli use of force in Gaza). And of course the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the decision to move the U.S. embassy there.

The United Nations General Assembly vote condemning that U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last Dec. 21 was 128-9. All major U.S. allies including all other NATO members voted for the resolution or abstained (some in fear). Since the decision was opposed by some close advisors (but promoted by his son-in-law Jared Kushner, a friend of Netanyahu’s since his teens when the Israeli politician once slept in his bed), this UNGA vote can be seen as a rejection of Trump personally.

UN Ambassador Nikki Haley made a very Trumpian statement after the vote:

The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation.  We will remember it when we are called upon to once again make the world’s largest contribution to the United Nations. And we will remember it when so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.

Earlier she had warned the world: “At the UN, we’re constantly asked to do more and give more — in the past we have. So, when we make a decision, at the will of the American people, about where to locate OUR embassy, we don’t expect those we’ve helped to target us. On Thursday, there will be a vote at the UN criticizing our choice. And yes, the US will be taking names.”

We are taking names. Obey! Such language is not winning Trump more friends. He may feel it better to be feared than loved but he’s not scaring anybody but Guatemala, Honduras, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau, Nauru and Togo (the only countries except for the U.S. and Israel that opposed the resolution).

The photo shoots and body language in Charlevoix and Brussels suggest that Trump is a pariah, increasingly considered such, not just due to his policies but due to his manifestly unstable personality.

Putin: Courting the World

Meanwhile the other most powerful man in the world—Vladimir Putin—is busily strengthening ties with China, Japan, both Koreas, India, Iran, Turkey and even long-time foes (like Saudi Arabia). Despite EU sanctions imposed on Russia after its annexation of Crimea in response to the Maidan coup of February 2014, Vladimir Putin reaches out to European leaders, seeks to make deals (the Baltic oil pipeline to Germany), advances concrete proposals (implementation of the Minsk Agreement), engages in carefully diplomacy (the Iran Deal) and generally projects through Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov a serious approach to world affairs. (Compare Mike Pompeo, who barks utterly unacceptable demands to Iran to allow implementation of the deal, threatens all nations who trade with Iran with economic punishment, and thereby asserts the U.S.’s right to dominate the world through its banking system.)

Washington pulls out of the Iran Deal; Merkel journeys to Sochi to talk with Putin about how to preserve it despite U.S. madness.

Trump heaps sanctions on Turkey; Erdogan calls Putin and talks about diversifying Turkey’s ties. (This may have long-term implications for NATO.)

Trump threatens Merkel over the Nord Stream 2 pipeline; Merkel meets Putin in Berlin to discuss it, Iran, and other matters after the Russian leader meets the Austrian foreign minister as a guest at her wedding. They danced together; he perhaps thanked her again for her party’s opposition to EU Russian sanctions.

Putin is widely regarded as the adult on the world stage while the U.S. is led by a mischievous and unpredictable child. I don’t believe that Putin helped get Trump elected, but if he did he probably did so hoping Trump would halt NATO expansion, recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and remove the sanctions the U.S. has imposed on Russia since 2014. In fact NATO will likely expand to include Montenegro, Trump proclaims NATO “stronger than ever” (due to his bullying leadership), and sanctions have been added not removed under Trump.

But on the plus side for Russia (and I think for the world), Trump has hastened U.S. decline by weakening the Atlantic Alliance, including U.S.-Canada ties; damaging U.S.-Mexican relations;  wreaking havoc with trade wars; and conveying to African leaders a sense of racist contempt. He has inadvertently produced an atmosphere more conducive to multilateralism.

While the U.S. corporate press indulges in unprecedented Russophobia, Moscow’s stature in the world rises. That Russia annexed the Crimea Peninsula (Russian from 1783 to 1954) following a U.S.-backed regime change in Ukraine in 2014 bothers Germans and Italians less than the fact the U.S. invaded Iraq and sewed chaos throughout the Middle East resulting in Europe’s immigration crisis. Polls show Europeans trust Putin more than Trump.

It may be that world leaders, disgusted with the U.S. president and uncertain about who really makes decisions in Washington, will increasingly turn away from U.S. leadership. Merkel has said this; so has the EU president. For the first time in seven decades there is a real crisis within the U.S. imperialist bloc forged from 1945. What can Putin do to take advantage of this crisis, to encourage a more multilateral world?

Things to Do

Looking at it as a game, if I were assigned the Russia role I would during this window of opportunity, while this clown is in power, to take my cue from what Bill Clinton did when Putin’s predecessor Boris Yeltsin led Russia. Yeltsin was another mercurial incompetent fool. Clinton took the opportunity to take over much of what had been Yugoslavia and expand NATO in a provocative betrayal of the Reagan-Gorbachev agreement. The leader of Russia could return the favor now by various measures.

Some ideas:

  1. Change the relationship between Russia and Japan, your neighbor that remains the world’s third largest economy. The U.S. has consistently discouraged Tokyo from signing a treaty with Moscow formally ending the Second World War since it would throw into question the rationale for maintaining 38,000 troops in Japan, mostly in Okinawa where they are largely unwelcome.

Settle the Northern Islands dispute; split the four and arrange for joint economic development. Sign a trade deal covering Siberian timber and crude oil exports. Long-term, encourage Tokyo to terminate the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty imposed on the country in 1952. Cater in resurgent Japanese nationalism by encouraging  Japan to become a normal country as opposed to a vassal one, and to embrace neutrality.

  1. Continue to deepen the relationship with China within the Shanghai Communique Organization, cooperating on Eurasian transport infrastructure to establish the common market Putin envisions extending “from Vladivostok to Lisbon.” Eurasia is most of the world, sixty percent of its population and a fourth of its land space. Japan just signed a treaty creating a common market with the EU; this was its response to Trump’s rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. East Asia is already connected to Europe and the trans-Pacific market will one day be rivaled by a Eurasian market.
  1. State clearly that NATO is unnecessary and indeed dangerous. Take advantage of the fact that candidate Trump questioned it. Use concrete examples. Ask Hungary: Why did you join in 1999—just as the U.S. and NATO were completing the destruction of Serbia—and what have you gotten from it other than economic damage when you’re forced to observe sanctions on Russia? Haven’t the sanctions cost the Hungarian economy over $ 10 billion? Hasn’t the Hungarian foreign minister protested the sanctions, saying they don’t work?

A recent poll in Hungary show 41 percent of the respondents felt NATO no longer important and a waste of money. The figures for Poland, the Czech Republic and Poland (which joined in a cluster in 1999, expanding the alliance after the Cold War) are similar.

67% of Hungarians agree that, “Current security threats are not serious enough to justify increased defense spending. The resources should instead be used for things like pensions, healthcare, and education.” Majorities in the Czech Republic and Slovakia agree. Encourage such rational sentiments during the time of Trump.

Merkel told Germans after the G-7 summit, “The era in which we could fully rely on others is over to some extent. That’s what I experienced over the past several days. We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands — naturally in friendship with the United States of America, in friendship with Great Britain, as good neighbors with whoever, also with Russia and other countries. But we have to know that we Europeans must fight for our own future and destiny.” Yes!

After Trump pulled out of the Iran Deal, European Council Donald Tusk condemned Trumps “capricious assertiveness” and declared: “Looking at the latest decisions of President Trump, someone could even think with friends like that who needs enemies. But frankly speaking, Europe should be grateful to President Trump, because thanks to him we have got rid of all illusions. He has made us realise that if you need a helping hand you will find one at the end of your arm.” Yes!

  1. Continue the international effort to suppress ISIL, al-Nusra (al-Sham) and their allies in Syria, insuring the survival of a secular state (as opposed to a Gulf-funded Sunni sharia state). Carefully handle the contradictions between Turks and Kurds, Turkish-backed opposition groups and the Syrian Arab Army, Iranian and Hizbollah forces and Syrian Arab Army; U.S. forces and the Syrian Arab Army etc. Urge the U.S. forces to leave the country, as they are illegally there in the first place. Tell the Saudis their side has lost and they need to back off. Enhance the existing security cooperation with Iraq and compete for influence the country where the U.S. is extremely unpopular for obvious reasons.
  1. Enhance ties with Iran, including through barter deals that evade U.S. secondary sanctions and the sale of military equipment. Emphasize the illegality and cruelty of the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA. Encourage Turkey’s stated determination to defy the U.S. embargo on trade with Iran, purchasing crude oil and natural gas. Encourage too India’s intention to do the same. Raise rhetorically in every international forum the arrogance of the U.S. in attempting to collapse the Iranian economy and induce regime change by marshaling all who can be cowed into cooperation—all of this being in violation of international law. Actively challenge the U.S. effort to repeat the coup of 1953.
  1. Take advantage of the fact that the U.S. has no lingering credibility on the Israel-Palestine conflict; it has been slavishly devoted to Israel for five decades and in its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has left Palestinians hopeless of any peaceful solution. Russia has cordial relations with the Palestine Authority, and has high-level ties with Hamas (which it does not consider terrorist, as the U.S. does), which it urges to cooperate with Fateh (PLO). It also has good relations with Israel, in part due to cultural connections (the large population in Israel of Russian origin), the history including the Stalin-era Soviet support for Israel at its inception, booming trade (up 25% last year, while the U.S. and Europe heaped on sanctions), and strategic cooperation in Syria to keep forces separate and avoid incidents as Israel seeks to maintain Golan Heights security and sometimes hit Hizbollah targets while Russia wants to aid the regime in defeating its mainly extreme Islamist opponents.

Russia supports a two-state solution, as almost everyone does in some vague sense. But while U.S. presidents since the 1967 War (Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump) have always been responsive to a Christian Evangelical political base that thinks Israel is the fulfillment of Bible prophecy and Jesus will return there soon; plus a well organized and funded Jewish Zionist community, they have taken pains to assert U.S. even-handedness on the issue of the Occupied Territories resulting from that war. Trump doesn’t do that.

Here’s Russia’s chance to make the resolution of the problem something other than a U.S.-dictated Dayton Accord. Or a U.S.-subsidized slow suffocation of the two-state concept, under load after load of housing block concrete. There were 150,000 settlers on the West Bank when the Second Oslo Accord was signed in 1995. There are 400,000 now. The U.S. has not succeeded in forcing the Israelis to change behavior. Maybe Russia is better placed to do that, especially given warm current relations with Turkey, Iran, Israel, the Palestinian factions, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt where since 2015 Russia has enjoyed access to airbases and airspace for its warplanes.

  1. Cultivate Latin American countries abused by Trump’s U.S.  Cozy up with Mexico. Just as you cooperate with Brazil within the BRICS association, providing financial assistance for infrastructure and various projects. Don’t do in Mexico what the U.S. did in Ukraine, just smother Mexico with affection as you once did Cuba and take advantage of the fact that Trump’s anti-Mexican rants, the Wall and the immigration terror are spreading anti-U.S. sentiment in Mexico. Maintain the existing warm relationship with Cuba. Take advantage of the fact that Trump reversed the Obama relaxation on travel and business and maintains the trade embargo. The EU and the whole world deplores the U.S. embargo on Cuba. Join with the nations of Latin America in helping Cuba develop despite it.
  1. Work with China, which also enjoys good relations with both Koreas, to promote and facilitate the reunification of Korea as a confederation of two states with different systems, rid of nuclear weapons. Encourage Trump to act on his stated inclination to withdraw troops from South Korea. Argue that they serve no purpose because both Koreas have massive armies, can defend themselves from invaders and have signed a peace agreement between themselves. It’s not like the South Korean people want those 28,000 soldiers in their country.

Again, I make these recommendations as someone observing a board game. I regard Russia as an oppressive capitalist country much like the one in which I live. I would not want it to replace the U.S. as lobal hegemon but see its agency in shaking up the world order now that Trump has initiated the process.

Russia, if you’re listening…. Success in these efforts could reshuffle the world in a positive way. Not just for Russia but for everybody. Dissolution of military alliances, beginning with NATO. Withdrawal of troops. Abandonment of economic sanctions. Peace agreements ending historical conflicts.

Exploit this Trump moment to produce some good.

There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

On such a full sea are we now afloat, for sure.

Is Russia an Adversary?

The question is finally being asked, by the president himself: what’s wrong with collusion? Or at least his lawyer asks the question, while Trumps tweets:

Collusion is not a crime, but that doesn’t matter because there was No Collusion.

The problem, of course, is that of collusion with an alleged adversary. Russia, we are constantly informed, is one such adversary, indeed the main state adversary, with Putin is its head.

Adversary is a very strong term. The Hebrew word for adversary is Satan. Satan is the ultimate symbol of evil in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Satan tempted Eve at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, causing her to eat the fruit, and so evil entered the world.

Just like some want you to think that evil entered the (good, pristine) U.S. electoral process due to this Russian adversary in 2016.

(Sometimes listening to TV pundits vilifying Putin I find Luther’s famous hymn floating through my head:

For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe.
His craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal.

Luther’s referring to Satan, of course. But the current mythology around Putin — as someone who still, like Lenin and Stalin before him, and the tsars of old, wishes us harm; is an unbridled dictator with a powerful great nuclear arsenal; is the wealthiest man on earth; and hates democracy — resembles the mythology around the Adversary in the Bible.)

But let us problematize this vilification. When did Russia become a U.S. adversary? Some might say 1917 when in the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution Moscow became the center of the global communist movement. But surely that period ended in 1991 with the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the USSR.

Throughout the 1990s the U.S. cultivated Boris Yeltsin’s Russia as a friend and even aided the drunken buffoon in winning the 1996 election. Bill Clinton and Yeltsin signed the Start II treaty. Harvard professors advised Moscow on economic reform.

The Russians were not pleased by U.S.-NATO involvements in the former Yugoslavia, a traditional Russian ally, in 1995 and 1999, and the expansion of NATO in the latter year (to include Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary) in violation of the agreement between Ronald Reagan and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1989 that in return for Russia’s acceptance of German reunification NATO would not spread “one inch” towards Russia. They protested meekly. But Russia was not an adversary then.

Nor was it an adversary when, in 2001, under its new president Vladimir Putin, it offered NATO a route through Russia to provision forces in Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks. The real change only came in 2004, when NATO suddenly expanded to include Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. This brought alliances forces right to the Russian border.

It was a clear statement by the U.S. to a friendly country: We are your adversary. But, of course, the Pentagon and State Department always pooh-poohed Russian concerns, denying that NATO targeted any particular country.

Four years later (2008) NATO announced intentions to draw Ukraine and Georgia into the alliance. Meanwhile the U.S. recognized Kosovo as an independent state. Kosovo, the historical heart of Serbian civilization, had been wrenched from Serbia in 1999 under the pretext of a “humanitarian” intervention that included the first bombing (by NATO) of a European capital city since 1945. The province had been converted into a vast NATO base.

Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili, emboldened by the prospect of NATO membership and western backing, attacked the capital of the separatist republic of South Ossetia, provoking (as the Russians explain it) a proper punitive response: the Russo-Georgian War of August 7-16. After this Moscow recognized South Ossetia and a second breakaway republic, Abkhazia, in a tit-for-tat response to Washington’s recognition of Kosovo.

Now Russia was labelled an aggressive power—by the power that had carved up Yugoslavia, and invaded and occupied Iraq on the basis of lies and killed half a million in the process. Plans to include Georgia in NATO had to be put on hold, in large part due to European allies’ opposition (why provoke Russia?) but the U.S. intensified efforts to draw in Ukraine. That meant toppling the anti-NATO elected president Viktor Yanukovych.

The U.S. State Department devoted enormous resources to the Maidan coup in Kiev on February 23, 2014. Its agents helped topple the government, ostensibly for its failure to negotiate an agreement for Ukrainian associate membership in the EU, but really to bring pro-NATO forces to power and expel the Russian Fleet from the Crimean Peninsula where it has been based since 1783. Moscow’s limited support for the Donbass ethnic-Russian separatists and re-annexation of Crimea were, of course, depicted by the U.S. as more aggression, more mischievous opposition to “U.S. global interests.”

But from Moscow’s point of view these moves have surely been defensive. The main problem is (obviously) NATO and its dangerous, unnecessary and provocative expansion. Throughout his presidential campaign Trump questioned the continued “relevance” of NATO. Characteristically he focused on budget issues and allies’ failure to meet the goal figure of 2% if GDP for military expenses (misleadingly depicting investment shortfalls as a betrayal and rip-off of the victimized U.S.). But he did—to the alarm of many, and probably to Moscow’s delight—express little enthusiasm for the alliance’s historical purpose.

The most rational proposition Trump voiced before his election that the U.S. should “get along” with Russia. That is, get along with the so-called adversary. Trump as we all know had been in Russia on business, hosting the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2013, and maintains interest in building a Trump Tower in the city. He has met and befriended Russian oligarchs. He quite possibly sees Russia as just another country, like Germany or France.

If “the French” had had dirt on Hillary, would it have been okay to “collude” with them to influence the election result? France is, of course, a NATO ally. Would that make it different? Now that the president and his layers are openly questioning whether “collusion”, per se, is even illegal, the specific nature of the colluder becomes more relevant.

Russia is an adversary.

Russia is an adversary.

Putin in Helsinki acknowledged to a reporter that he had hoped Trump could win, because he had expressed hope for better relations. He might have added that he dreaded the prospect of a Hillary victory because of her warmongering and characterization of him as a Hitler. Naturally the Russian media favored Trump over Clinton at a certain point when he emerged as a credible candidate. So when Trump on July 27, 2016 called on Russia to release Hillary’s missing emails (“if you’ve got ’em”) the Russians probably felt invited to make contact through channels. And when informed that they had dirt, Don Jr. wrote: “If that’s what you say, I love it.” (Who can blame him?)

Let’s say there was some collusion after the June 6 Trump Tower meeting. Trump has suddenly acknowledged that the meeting with the Russians was indeed to “seek political dirt.” He adds that this is “totally legal,” and this may be true. Some are now saying that Don Jr. may have violated a federal statute (52 USC 30121, 36 USC 5210) forbidding any foreign person to  “make a contribution or a donation of money or other thing of value, or expressly or impliedly promise to make a contribution or a donation, in connection with any Federal, State, or local election.’ and for anyone to knowingly solicit, accept, or receive from a foreign national any contribution or donation prohibited by [this law].” But the language is vague. If a Canadian speechwriter works gratis for a U.S. political candidate, in order to help him or her win, is this not “a thing of value” intended to affect an election?

If Paul Manafort, Don Jr. and Jared Kushner had met with Canadian agents in Trump Tower I doubt there would have been any controversy. The fact is, Trump won the election and many of those stunned by that wish to undermine him using revived Cold War-type Russophobia. They insist:  He worked with our adversary to undermine our election. And now they hope they’ve got him on this charge.

*****

Five years ago a young man named Edward Snowden (now living in forced exile in Russia) revealed to the world the extent of the U.S.’s global surveillance. He showed us how the NSA wiretaps EU meetings, popes’ conversations, Angela Merkel’s cell phone and maintains metadata on virtually all U.S. residents. He showed us what the contemporary advanced state can do in this respect. We should suppose that Moscow has, if not similar capacity, at least enough expertise to hack into the DNC emails or John Podesta’s g-mail account. Is that surprising?

What none of the TV anchors is allowed to say needs to be said again: The U.S. interferes in foreign elections all the time, including Russian ones. It should surprise no one if Russian intelligence responds in kind. The point is not the provenance of the leaked emails but their content.

Those horrified by the leaked material complain that their release was designed to “undermine faith in our democratic system.” Really? Don’t the workings of the system itself undermine one’s faith in it, once they are exposed? Was it adversarial of the leaker to inform us that the DNC had no intention of allowing Bernie Sanders to win the Democratic nomination, and thus that the process was rigged? Was it unfriendly to reveal that Podesta was hoping the media would hype Trump, as an easy target for his candidate?

The question that will no doubt be debated in the coming days is whether seeking dirt on a political opponent from any foreigner is indeed illegal, or whether there are specific legal ramifications of meeting with someone from an “adversary” country. But it seems to me that Russia has not been defined as such officially. So we may have a discussion less about legality than the politics of Russophobia.

I am happy to see Trump besieged, rattled, possibly facing impeachment. But to bring him down on the basis of “Russian collusion,” on the assumption that Russia is an adversary, would only advantage the warmongers who want no-fly zones over Syria and military support for the Kiev regime against the Donbas separatists. Vice President Pence I believe favors both.

Trump has said that he cannot host Putin in Washington this year, or until the Russian Hoax witch hunt is over. But Putin has invited him to Moscow. One senses he wants some agreements with Trump before he is ousted by his gathering adversaries, including the press, courts, Democrats, select Republicans, turncoat aides and he himself sometimes in his unguarded tweets.

The “Russian Interference” Scandal, In a Nutshell

A few dozen GRU officers spent several thousand dollars to acquire fake U.S. identities and post fake news on U.S. social media, before and after the 2016 election. They hacked into some state and local electoral boards and for some reason (maybe just to see if they could do it) stole information on half a million voters in Illinois and Arizona. (Just like the NSA probably has information on lots of Russian voters.)

The impact of these posts has been exaggerated. They certainly did not shape the election. Those suggesting otherwise are either ignorant or driven by butt-headed Russophobia, or both.

The Russian officers hacked the DNC and (allegedly) gave the files to Wikileaks, which released them, revealing that FACT that the monstrously corrupt Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s DNC had rigged the (fake) Democratic primary for Hillary against Bernie.

The latter is really the big sin. How DARE the leaker leak the fact that the U.S. system is so undemocratic. How dare anybody look at the empire’s electoral process and say the emperor has no clothes.

Bernie Sanders was much more popular than Hillary Clinton throughout the Democratic primaries. Multiple polls showed him much better poised to defeat the republican candidate than Hillary. But Debbie told her staffers, “Don’t be silly, Bernie’s not going to win.” She made sure her candidate won. But as the Democrats arrived at their nominating convention in July 2016 Wikileaks published her scandalous emails and she and the whole DNC leadership were obliged to resign in shame.

Wasserman Schultz’s successor, CNN commentator and overt Hillary shill Donna Brazile has apologized to Sanders for her own inappropriate aid to Clinton (passing along debate questions to her during the campaign) and for the DNC’s inappropriate handling of campaign funds to advantage Clinton.

In its fixation on the question of “Russian interference” the media ignores the content of that interference—which was, more significantly than the production of disinformation, the revelation of inconvenient truth. The Democratic Party thwarted the highly promising candidacy of Bernie Sanders, bitterly disappointing (and one would hope, appropriately disillusioning) a generation.

The U.S. electoral system is not sacrosanct. It’s a particularly corrupt form of what Marxists call “bourgeois democracy,” meaning that it allows the voter a choice of at least two Wall Street-backed candidates for an office. The voter is supposed to appreciate this “right” to vote for one or the other offered. In 2016 this meant the precious right to vote for (1) a buffoon nominated as Republican candidate due to the corporate media’s relentless promotion of him through free air time (in Nov. 2015 The Nation reported that Trump was getting 23 times as much free media coverage as Sanders), or (2) a cold, warmongering establishment Democrat whose stolen coronation had been foreordained.

And the Russkies wanted to interfere in this pure democratic process! They wanted to actually EXPOSE the fact that the Americans themselves had rigged their own election! And what tool did the Russians most effectively use? Why (it is alleged), the exposure of the truth, in the form of undoubtedly authentic documents, historical primary sources documenting the corruption of U.S. “democracy.”

How DARE the Russians facilitate the U.S. electorate’s awareness of DNC antics! That’s private, in-house stuff, U.S. dirty laundry. Not Moscow’s business! For Moscow to reveal this stuff was total INTERFERENCE! Unforgivable!

And when Rand Paul blandly tells Jake Tapper on CNN that the U.S. has interfered in foreign elections many many times more than Russia in the last 70 years, Tapper bristles in patriotic indignation that Paul would posit “moral equivalency” between his holy country and any other, when it comes to such interference.

A country “exceptional” by definition, depicted as such to its subjects in their education process and ongoing political indoctrination, cannot be the moral equivalent of any other. The U.S. is GOOD, Russia is BAD, this ought to be OBVIOUS and since Trump is obviously a Putin puppet, he too is bad and ought to be impeached.

The alleged GRU intervention had minimal impact on the vote count in November 2016. Its main impact was—if the NSA’a attribution is correct—to facilitate voters’ (and non-voters’) awareness that the system does not, in fact, work. It does allow people like Bernie Sanders to become president.

Case closed. Not the case of Russia, but the case of the U.S. electoral system. That Russian hackers may (repeat may) have played a role in the exposure of reality, they helped make the case that the system is rotten. If that was “interference” it was surely a good thing.

A Zen priest will tell you: “See things as they really are.” Wake up. The reality is the system sucks, and now the system, moribund and in self-defense, lashes out at Russia leaving Trump in an awkward position.

Everybody knows most Russians preferred Trump to Hillary, for good reasons; Hillary had pushed NATO expansion, sought regime change in Russian ally Syria and armed terrorists to topple Assad, led in the destruction of Libya, sought to influence the 2011 Russian elections, compared Putin to Hitler and the annexation of Crimea to Hitler’s annexation of the Sudentenland in 1938, and pushed for regime change in Ukraine.

The U.S. media found a “Gotcha!” moment when Putin in Helsinki told reporters that he had hoped for a Trump victory. Now finally we know—yes, he liked Donald more than Hillary!

Well, duh. CNN obviously preferred Hillary. Is it abnormal to express a preference? Did “the Russians” interfere by having an apparent overwhelming preference, for some reason, for the guy saying he wanted good and normal relations with Russia to the known-quality woman who is an obvious, conscious, calculating adversary?

RT (as “all the U.S. intelligence agencies” famously agree, since this is a fixed talking point of cable anchors) favored Trump. So did Fox News. So? Did the U.S. news media treat the last French election, in which Emmanuel Macron ran against Marine Le Pen, even-handedly? How does RT reportage, accessed by very few people in this country, constitute “interference” in this country’s affairs?

The real election interference scandal is the scandal of corporate interference. So long as public knowledge and opinion is shaped by media constrained by advertisers’ preferences (to avoid certain topics and forms of criticism, and embrace others skewing reportage to serve the system’s interests), there can be no real “democracy,” no real rule of the people, here or in Russia or anywhere.