All posts by Gary Leupp

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.

Bolton, MEK and Trump Iran Strategy

There are growing indications that the Trump administration plans to use the Mojahedin-e Khalq (People’s Mojahedin of Iran, or MEK) as a key element in its strategy to destabilize Iran preparatory to regime change.

On June 30 Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani told the group in Paris: “We are now realistically being able to see an end to the regime in Iran. Trump doesn’t turn his back on freedom fighters.”

On July 1, 2017 John Bolton, former State Department official and Trump supporter, addressed a large gathering of MEK supporters in Paris.

There is a viable opposition to the rule of the ayatollahs,” he told the enraptured crowd, “and that opposition is centered in this room today…I have said for over 10 years since coming to these events that the declared policy of the United States should be the overthrow of the regime in Tehran. The behavior and the objectives of the regime are not going to change. And therefore the only solution is to change the regime itself. And that’s why before 2019 we here will celebrate in Tehran!

Yes, the man who has been U.S. National Security Advisor since April 9 predicted to MEK that he would celebrate with them the downfall of the Iranian regime by next year. On May 8 of this year Bolton’s boss withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

So it’s virtually official. MEK freedom fighters will be chief U.S. proxy in the coming confrontation, or rather the ongoing confrontation renewed when Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Iran deal, threatening all countries with sanctions if they so much as buy Iranian oil. They are comparable to the peshmerga of Syria, or the Northern Alliance warlords in Afghanistan, or the motley array of militia that overthrew Gaddafi in Libya with U.S.-NATO support—willing accomplices in a regime-change effort directed from Washington.

Who are these people? MEK was founded in Iran in 1965 as a revolutionary anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist organization dedicated to the violent overthrow of the U.S.-backed regime of the Shah. It sought to produce a synthesis of Shiite Islam and Marxism, an inherently problematic project that has been more or less abandoned, especially as MEK has in recent years courted U.S. officials like Bolton. (A huge number of prominent U.S. officials and former officials have spoken in recent years, often for large fees, at MEK events. They include Howard Dean. Gen. Wesley Clark, Rudolph Giuliani, Porter Goss, Gen. Michael Hayden, Gen. Richard Myers, Bill Richardson, and Gen. Anthony Zinni.)

Embracing urban guerrilla warfare tactics in the 1970s, MEK targeted the regime and the U.S. military presence, conducting many attacks on U.S. personnel and gunning down Lt. Col. Louis Lee Hawkins, a U.S. Army comptroller, in 1973. Its members trained with the PLO and al-Fateh and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman.

During the revolution of 1979 that toppled the Shah, MEK was the largest of the radical left parties (if we exclude the Tudeh or Communist Party founded in 1941, dismissed by MEK as “revisionist”). It worked with smaller communist groups, notably Sardedaran (Union of Iranian Communists) founded in the U.S. by Iranian students in 1976 under the strong influence of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.

Initially, MEK aligned itself with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, whose triumphant return from French exile had met with a rapturous response. They perceived him as a popular nationalist leader. But when he denied its leaders input into the writing of a constitution, and forbade them from running for political office, they revolted. Results of their uprising were disastrous; about 10,000 perished and thousands of its members including the leadership fled to Iraq or France. Hosted by Saddam Hussein, they fought alongside the Iraqi Army against their countrymen throughout the 1980s. This is one reason they are generally, according to plausible reports, despised in Iran even by those who chafe under the mullah’s rule.

Camp Ashraf in Iraq was created by the MEK to accommodate its 3500 soldiers in the country. This camp was taken over by the U.S. following the 2003 invasion. Indeed the U.S. protected MEK from the Iraqis’ intention to deport them and indeed housed them at Camp Fallujah and arranged for some to be relocated to Albania.

In 1975 MEK split into its component parts; that is, a faction arguing rather simply that Marxism, not Islam, is the revolutionary path, and the dominant faction arguing the opposite. This is the MEK that hosts the most reactionary U.S. officials and—after inveighing against Zionism for decades—now cultivates ties with Israeli intelligence. In 1997 it was listed as a “terrorist” organization by the U.S. State Department. The UK and EU soon followed suite. But MEK was delisted as terrorist by Britain in 2008, the EU in 2009, and the U.S. in 2012.

Why? Hillary Clinton determined that MEK had changed its ways and given up terrorism. Plus, MEK was so useful, cooperating as it was and is with U.S. and Israeli intelligence, smuggling intelligence out of Iran, abetting U.S.-Israeli disinformation schemes, maintaining an underground presence in Iran that will be useful (some suppose) when the regime-change moment comes.

Analysts agree that MEK is a very unusual organization. Led by a married couple, Massoud Rajavi and his wife Maryam Rajavi, it imposes strict discipline including life-long celibacy on its members. It forbids them to entertain sexual thoughts. It punishes rules infractions with public shaming and sleep deprivation. It is often termed a cult.

That this group should become a key U.S. ally—as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo virtually declares war on Iran—is truly perplexing. Surely U.S. officials know that MEK is hated in Iran, and that its tactics in Iran have not produced mass support. Other underground opposition parties, such as the National Front of Iran, founded by Mohammed Mossadegh (toppled by the CIA in 1953), will not likely cooperate with them in producing a second regime change. The idea is as wild as Bolton’s idea that Cuba’s pharmaceutical plants are producing biological weapons.

Can it be that Pompeo does not understand the enduring outrage felt among Iranians about that 1953 coup? The U.S. didn’t just “interfere” in somebody else’s election, it toppled a democratically elected prime minister because he had the temerity to try to nationalize the nation’s petroleum industry. The world knows the U.S. interferes in other nations’ politics and electoral processes habitually, and that the “bi-partisan” National Endowment for Democracy “NGO” funnels billions into pro-U.S. forces in countries targeted for “color revolutions.” Only the cable anchors on CNN, MSNBC and Fox seem clueless, wide-eyed, indignant and outraged at the thought that “Russia interfered in OUR election!” As though we, as a people, ever had a real election in 2016.)

Bolton resembles his boss in that he cares nothing for the truth; lies boldly with angry, smug confidence, daring his audience to differ; is a loud bully with an ego and an agenda to which he hopes to commit the president. His main project is the Iranian regime change, much as Iraqi regime was Paul Wolfowitz’s preoccupation from 9/11/2001 to March 2003 when the plot to conduct a war-based-on-lies was finally consummated. (Bolton continues to say: “I still think the decision to overthrow Saddam was correct,” and that the U.S. has the right to overthrow sovereign states at will.)

Bolton has told reporters (who note his changing stance on war with North Korea) that anything he may have said in print or on television in the past is irrelevant now since he is in the service of the president and committed to his policies. But he happily realizes his boss is an air-head, ignorant and impressionable, generally Islamophobic, committed to a hawkish anti-Iran policy because (1) he wants to reverse any Obama policy; (2) he made a campaign promise; (3) he’s slavishly deferential to Binyamin Netanyahu, who wants the U.S. to bomb Iran; and (4) hostility towards Iran invites little opposition in Netanyahu’s fan club, Congress. Bolton has lots to work with there.

Congressional attitudes could change if U.S. secondary sanctions applied on European allied nations further strain the Atlantic Alliance already stressed by the trade wars Trump has unleashed. The EU, Russia and China all need to unite in demanding that the U.S. not only end its threats to attack Iran but respect other nations’ rights to trade with that great, large, relatively wealthy nation. (The IMF ranks Iran as 27th of 191 nations in terms of GDP; that is, it’s among the world’s top 15%. China, UAE, Germany and India are main trade partners.)

As U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo provokes Iran with his arrogant demands—“preconditions” for a U.S. return to the deal, which essentially demand that it grovel at America’s feet—the U.S. provokes the rest of the world too, for multiple reasons. Its demand for allies’ cooperation in its efforts to undermine Tehran conflict with their efforts to improve both diplomatic and trade relations, to say nothing of their hopes for more stability in the region flooding Europe with refugees.

Thus Trump chooses the re-designated terrorist group MEK over Paris; Israel over Europe; Saudi Arabia and its anti-Iran Arab coalition against Russia and China. It demands that Japan (once Iran’s largest oil purchaser, now the sixth largest) and South Korea (currently the third largest, after China and India) end imports to abet regime-change efforts. These demands are outrageous, especially spouted by mouths that the whole world knows routinely spew lies without shame.

So it’s Trump, Bolton, Pompeo, Netanyahu, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and the Rajavis—-versus Iran and the world which, while it may not be terribly fond of Iran, are becoming even less fond of Trump’s U.S.A.

Oh, and now Pompeo comes back from Pyongyang boasting of “progress” while the Koreans call the visit “regrettable.” The whole world is hoping that the U.S. work methodically with the DPRK to achieve the denuclearization goal. That will take time and require a schedule of coordinated steps, like the Iran deal that Pompeo has been trying to sabotage since 2015, as Kansas congressman, CIA director, and in his present post, required.

One should not suppose Pompeo more predisposed to promote peace with North Korea than peace with Iran. Imagine the DPRK rapprochement collapsing just as the joint U.S.-Saudi-U.S. missile barrage strikes Iran. There are sober people in Washington thinking carefully about multiple scenarios, amorally planning for all contingencies.

One of these might be a general Manichaean apocalypse in which the issue is not Good versus Evil (which would have been the case under George W. Bush) but Trump and His Base versus the World.

The latter he attacks by trade policy, a diplomacy of irrational insults, an almost impish desire to undermine existing international agreements and institutions (not so much to the objective advantage of U.S. imperialism so much as the advantage of his own frozen prepubescent ego), missile strikes at his generals’ discretion, and shameless voicing of racist, bigoted, uneducated views. The former he pleases by such policies and bombast. The U.S. mainstream media and the bulk of the political class deplore Trump in favor of the world, or at least criticize Trump’s “America First” populist nationalism as threatening to the postwar international order which has hitherto been very good to the imperialist U.S.A. They look askance at MEK and, to the extent they engage the issue, they question the wisdom an alliance with it.

Still, Trump proceeds on a confrontational course with Iran, and with any having deals with Iran, joining in the process with the most unsavory henchmen from the Saudis to the Likudists to these Iranian cultists. One hopes this strategy will only further isolate the U.S. from its allies and unintentionally help produce a more multi-polar world.

The Millstone around Trump’s Neck?

This Bible passage (Matthew 18:1-6) is getting a lot of attention recently. Let me use the King James Version so beloved by evangelicals:

At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?  And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

This text has been used to criticize Trump’s grotesque child-abusing border policy by a range of Christian groups, pro- and anti-Trump and maybe some others. Anyway the passage occurred to me as I watched the news, and I’m not even Christian, just familiar from childhood with gospels. I can understand why it might have crossed a few million other minds simultaneously as this horror story unfolded.

Some of the most moving passages in the New Testament deal with the treatment of children. When the chief priests in the Temple in Jerusalem hear children cheering Jesus and complain, he cites Psalm 8:2 about how praise for the Lord comes out from the mouths of babes and sucklings (Matthew 21:16). In Mark 10:13-16 Jesus, in response to protests he is spending too much time with children, says famously, “Suffer the little children to come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Et cetera.

This is why Karl Marx told his daughter Eleanor (after, as she recounted, “patiently elucidating the story of the carpenter whom the rich men killed”): “We can forgive Christianity much because it taught us the worship of the child.” (Not once but often in her childhood, according to her account.) Marx was very pro-child.

In 1975 McGraw-Hill published a volume in its Karl Marx Library series entitled On Education, Women and Children. I don’t have it on hand and can’t readily cite it now but remember feeling impressed by Marx’s psychological insights about how children grow up.

Socialist societies, to the extent that societies deserving that designation have ever existed, have placed priority on the care of children. Certainly children’s housing, security, education, medical care. These efforts have been widely studied in this country and sometimes inspired “socialist” institutional changes. One could mention the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), a federal assistance program begun during the New Deal in this country in 1935 (but ended during Bill Clinton’s tenure in 1996).

The International Year of the Child pronounced by UNESCO in 1979 led to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child ten years later. (One must mention, however, that the U.S. withdrew from UNESCO last October—in protest of its bias against Israel, surprise, surprise—and the U.S. Congress has never ratified the Convention.)

In the U.S. groups like Focus on the Family depict themselves as protectors of children (or imagined children, including every human egg fertilized as we speak). One of the most horrible pieces of recent U.S. legislation is referred to as the “No Child Left Behind” act. Hillary Clinton ran twice as a mother—-so warmly maternal, did you notice?—who had told us it takes a village to raise a child.

The worship of the child, that is to say, passed from Christianity into Marxism and the socialist experiments that prompted in response global reforms. But in the 90s triumphant capitalism became crueler; most notably, the 1994 crime bill endorsed by Clinton virtually criminalized a generation of black youth. Still, there remained a thin veneer of humanitarianism. Clinton’s attorney general had the good sense to let Elian Gonzalez return to his dad in Cuba, for example, in 2000.

But now the world hears these reports and sees these images of the U.S.A. that had once said: “Give me your tired and your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Now the message is: You tired, poor people, hardly breathing after your 1000-mile trek, need to be detained as criminals, the children among you held separately and dispersed all over the country pending some possible reunion somewhere at some point, there being no guarantee parents won’t be deported while their children remain in confinement. That’s not as evil as stuff terrorists have done to children in Iraq and Syria. ICE is not ISIS. But it’s shockingly bad.

All of Latin America knows that Trump is a racist buffoon using anti-immigrant (especially anti-Hispanic immigrant) sentiment and the issue of the wall to maintain his appeal to his base. The “zero policy” is overwhelming supported by Republican Party voters.

But It’s one thing to inveigh against Mexican advantages within NAFTA or accuse Mexico of sending its rapists to the U.S. It’s one thing to insult leaders of neighboring nations. That’s just adults, acting childish.

It’s another to cruelly treat Honduran, Salvadoran and Guatemalan families including those seeking asylum, ripping parents from their kids after their hazardous 1000-mile trek. It’s another thing to compound childhood trauma with more trauma, to show the state of the power to enforce obedience to its laws.

In a CIA study of world infant mortality rates, the U.S. stands at 170 out of 225—behind virtually all of Europe, and, of course, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Macao, Hong Kong. It is tied with Serbia. Trump’s stand on Planned Parenthood promises no improvement.

How can you more alienate normal humanity than inflicting pain on children, wrenching them from their mother’s arms? There are several millstones around Trump’s neck, but this could be the one that drags him down.

Jeff Sessions and St. Paul’s Clear and Wise Commands

Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is urging obedience to the law requiring the separation of families of undocumented immigrants, separating 11,000 children from their parents so far, 2000 in the last month, by citing scripture. Christian scripture, specifically. He cites a passage from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans in the New Testament, written probably in Corinth between 52 and 55 CE and addressed to “all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints.” Let’s look at that text in context, just for fun.

Paul writes of wanting to visit the imperial capital, and to eventually proceed to Spain to preach the gospel there. (There were Jewish synagogues in Spain, and Paul always initially preached in these establishments, where Gentiles were often welcomed and who could be won over to the Christian gospel as Paul understood it. This just shows how ambitious Paul was as a world-traveler, and how important his role was in spreading the emerging cult of Jesus centered in Judea throughout the eastern Mediterranean, establishing a world religion.)

Paul was, of course, originally Saul of Tarsus, a Jew from the port city of Tarsus in Cilicia, which is to say what is now southeastern Turkey. He was a tent maker and initially a fierce opponent of Christianity after its inception around Jerusalem circa 30 CE. He supposedly “persecuted” Christians in Judea and was on the road to Damascus intending to do more harm in Syria when he had his vision of the risen Christ. This was sometime around 36 CE. Thereafter he began to proselytize his understanding of the message of Christ, focusing on the conversion not of Jews but of Gentiles. Peter and James saw him as the “apostle to the Gentiles.”

Part of his message, as any serious Christian knows, is that the “old law “(the Laws of Moses in the Old Testament, including the many dietary laws) no longer applies, even to Jews; the Christian redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice need only have faith to be united with God in Heaven. In that sense the Christian enjoys freedom from the law (Romans 7:1-6).

On the other hand, the nascent Christian movement was under attack by civil authorities as Paul wrote. (Paul himself may have perished in Nero’s persecution in 64.) Some members of the community were inviting unwanted attention by law-breaking or provoking authorities. Paul was writing to believers in the city where Roman law was authored, where the Senate met; the city that (not that he could anticipate it) would within three centuries become the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. It made sense for him addressing a Roman congregation to focus on observing the secular law.

His message was: obey the authorities to avoid trouble. It was a practical pastoral message. But for the current U.S. attorney general it has broader application, presumably to all government everywhere. Sessions actually said to critics of the child separation policy: “I would cite you to [sic] the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes.”

Clear and wise, indeed! A command from God! That’s the attorney general speaking, two thousand years after Paul, after twenty centuries of obedience. Mr. Sessions surely knows as a devout Methodist and student of the Bible that Paul also told wives to obey their husbands, children to obey their parents in everything, and slaves to obey their masters (Colossians 3:18-22). More wise and clear commands that Sessions might cite in a legal opinion.

Trump meanwhile, in his clarity and wisdom, tells Fox and Friends that Kim Jung Un, his new friend, is “the head of a country. And I mean, he is the strong head. Don’t let anyone think anything different. He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.” And he wants NFL players to stand up during the national anthem because he says so, or face fines or worse. He wants obedience and abject deference; recall the first Trump cabinet meeting in which each member expressed a personal admiration for Trump and gratitude for the opportunity to serve under him. He wants obedience from the Justice Department and Republicans in Congress and his hand full of media sycophants including Sean Hannity. And, of course, obedience from the moms and dads torn from their children at the border, and from the children who following the ordeal of migration are scattered around the country in detention centers unsure about the future.

People are sitting up at attention, for sure. (Trump wants his people to sit up for him; does he mean his 40%, or the people of the U.S.A.?) The knowledge that kids are being ripped from their moms, some indeed from their breasts, and traumatized makes people with a modicum of moral sense perk up. The idea that reports about the separations will discourage further illegal immigration do not make them seem more humane.

Sessions followed up with more Biblical exegesis, citing the Old Testament book of Nehemiah that describes the Israelites’ conquest of Jerusalem and their building of a wall around the city (because God told Nehemiah to do this). “There’s no scriptural basis for open borders,” he declared.

I would argue that the myth of Yahweh telling his chosen Abraham that his progeny would receive all the land between the Nile River of Egypt and the Euphrates River in Mesopotamia (as God’s gift to his Chosen People) in Genesis 15:18 is a reference to open borders. The myth of Joseph in Egypt includes the arrival of Hebrews welcomed in such numbers that they (supposedly) come to constitute a great nation in Egypt. The Sinai border, in the story, seems to be pretty open.

Biblical mytho-history includes themes of inclusion and exclusion. The Book of Ruth defends and romanticizes intermarriage between a Hebrew woman and a Moabite; Nehemiah in contrast condemns intermarriage. During the mythical conquest of Canaan by Joshua, whole peoples are wiped out, at the Lord’s command, including babies. Gentiles are generally treated negatively but Cyrus the Great, the Persian emperor who allowed the Judeans to return from their “Babylonian Captivity” to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple, is actually depicted as a “man of God.” And, of course, St. Paul wrote that in Christ there was no Jew nor Gentile, nor male nor female, nor slave nor free. Jesus’s concept of the “kingdom of heaven” is thought by some New Testament scholars to reflect a concept of empire inspired by the Roman state; it was a concept of “God’s heavenly empire” far more powerful than any earthly institution. Rome was a multi-ethnic empire; the nascent Christian church as described in the Book of Acts begins with the Pentecost miracle while people from all of the world are possessed by the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:9-10). I submit Sessions doesn’t know much about the scriptural basis for border control. That he should even find value in the lack of one reveals a mind muddled by biblical literalism. He’s mentioned before that the Bible says nothing about global warming, condemns gay marriage and prohibits abortion as murder. Its story of Creation is more credible than the theory of evolution, for Sessions.

Trump spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders (and preacher’s daughter) follows up Sessions’ remarks: “It is very Biblical to support the law. That is actually repeated a number of times throughout the Bible.” Please, evangelicals, stick with us! The Bible’s actually on our side, don’t you see? St. Paul wants you to keep silent as Trump and the Congress work on a DACA compromise bill that would maybe end the family separations that the president (falsely as usual) blames on the Democrats. In this you show obedience, to Trump and God alike. As long as you continue to believe.

Trump is Alienating Europe: This Is a Good Thing

Thesis: the main achievement of the Trump administration to date has been to alienate European allies, in particular Germany, France and Britain, thus weakening the Atlantic Alliance. Originally concerned by candidate Trump’s questioning of NATO’s continuing relevance, they have been satisfied by Trump’s re-commitment to the alliance (even as he moans about the member countries’ general failure to shell out the 2% for “defense” the pact theoretically entails). But they’ve been dismayed by the U.S.’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord on climate, its pullout from the Iran nuclear deal (threatening sanctions on European companies that in accordance with the deal want to trade with Iran), its abandonment of coordinated policy on Israel, its imposition of tariffs on European steel and aluminum, and its general barking tone.

These days Angela Merkel is feeling more in common with Vladimir Putin than Donald Trump. Putin speaks to her in fluent German, treats her with respect, and is generally predictable, unlike the erratic Trump.

He tells her: let’s make more energy deals for mutual benefit, whatever the Americans think. And please don’t support the expansion of NATO; enough already. We are a formidable power, but our military budget is tiny compared to NATO’s and we are not about—and have no reason to—invade you. We just don’t want your military alliance to completely encircle us. We understand that, as a U.S. ally, you had to echo Washington’s condemnation of our annexation of Crimea and apply sanctions to us. But you know as well as I do that if Ukraine had been brought into NATO as the U.S. planned after the 2014 coup, our Crimea naval bases would have been transferred to NATO and we could never accept that. If you make the lifting of sanctions contingent on Russian withdrawal from Crimea, sorry, we will just have to accept them while applying counter-sanctions. Let us work together on the issues that unite us, like combating climate change and implementing the Iran agreement and protecting these agreements against U.S. obstruction.

This is potentially a key moment in which finally the unholy alliance based on a Faustian bargain between the U.S. and European anticommunists in the late 1940s fractures. What is the greater threat to Europe? The Russian state, which has gone through the agonizing process of full-scale capitalist restoration and a period of total chaos in the 1990s giving way to recovery under Putin, and which currently spends about 14% of what the U.S. devotes to military expenses every year? Or the U.S., which (still) wants to dictate European policy, even as its GDP dips relative to Europe’s? The EU GDP is now 90% of the U.S.’s.

Putin told Emmanuel Macron at the recent St. Petersburg economic conference: “Europe depends on U.S. in the realm of security. But you don’t need to worry about that; we’ll help. We’ll provide security.” I don’t think it was a joke.

Imagine a Europe not dominated by German banks deeply invested in support for U.S. imperialism using EU architecture to hold nations hostage to imposed austerity programs. Imagine a Europe of independent countries seeking rational equidistance between Washington and Moscow.

Putin has envisioned a free trade union including the EU extending from Vladivostok to Lisbon. It would be facilitated by China’s “new Silk Road” infrastructure projects, which may indeed unite Eurasia as never before, even as the U.S. recedes into the Grey Havens.

Russia will keep Crimea, as it has for most of the last three centuries; Ukraine will have to accord autonomy to the Russian-speaking Donbas region; Europe will lift its Russia sanctions gradually, because they are not in Europe’s interest (and punish Europe for the U.S.’s sake); contempt for the U.S. will mount so long as Trump is president, and could even deepen if he’s succeeded by Pence. The EU will continue to split on issues of immigration, austerity, Russian ties and other issues and the splits will deepen. The understaffed and clueless State Department will continue to urge trans-Atlantic unity. But having violated that unity repeatedly the U.S. has no moral authority to demand its continuation.

Meanwhile Putin plans a meeting with Japan’s Abe Shinzo to resolve the Northern Islands question. Probably a swap of islands, Russia returning two to Japanese sovereignty. This would end the formal state of war between the two countries and pave the way to huge Japanese investments in Russia. And given the U.S. withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Japan will likely be drawn more into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization dominated by China and Russia.

India under Modi is basking in a period of U.S.-Indian friendship. Having (without clear explanation) forgiven India for its robust nuclear weapons program the U.S. seeks more cooperation with India versus China. But the U.S. alienates New Delhi over Iran sanctions. India buys Iranian oil and will continue to do so.

Xi Jinping in China enjoys a good relationship with Trump, having cleverly flattered him and Ivanka. But he is not pleased with Trump’s trade war threats and challenge to Chinese construction on the South China Sea atolls. The Chinese economy grows by leaps and bounds, and China’s military strengthens inevitably. China is the main rival to the U.S. geopolitically, and it is strategically aligned not only with Russia but with Central Asian countries, former Soviet republics, in general.

The U.S. could at least once boast of hegemony over Latin America, where military dictatorships once comfortably secured U.S. interests. Now these are gone.  Latin America in general militates in different ways against U.S. imperialism. The spectacle of a U.S. president demanding the construction of a wall to keep out Mexican illegal immigrants and demanding that Mexico pay for it appears to hundreds of millions of people as a perverse, sadistic move. Reports of kids separated at the border from their parents and disappearing in their hundreds doesn’t help.

The U.S. is alienating Canada, for god’s sake, by steel tariffs. Good good good good good. Let’s break the whole thing, Donald!

The emergence of a multilateral world—in which the U.S. cannot oblige its allies (as it did in the case of the Iraq War) to embrace its own lies, and share in the ramifications of their acceptance—is on the horizon. The world sees a moron in the White House, handles him carefully, its leaders probably trading notes on his disturbing and unstable personality. Leaders assess the U.S. as a declining power with a horrifying arsenal and more horrifying willingness to invade countries for no good reason but diminishing geopolitical clout. The flurry of exchanges between European and Iranian leaders after the U.S. announcement on the Iran deal and stated determination of the Europeans to beat U.S. secondary sanctions, and strong EU statements of indignation at the US. decision, may signal a sea-change in relations.

European Council President Donald Tusk (a former Polish prime minister) last week criticized “the capricious assertiveness of the American administration” over issues including Iran, Gaza, trade tariffs and North Korea. adding: “Looking at the latest decisions of Donald Trump, someone could even think: With friends like that, who needs enemies? But, frankly speaking, Europe should be grateful by President Trump. Because, thanks to him, we got rid of all the illusions. He has made us realize that if you need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of your arm.”

You realize what this means?

These are significant words, under-reported by the U.S. media, that appears to simply assume the continuation of the existing U.S. hegemonic order in the world, is addicted to the cult of promoting military “service” as a good in itself, and—while wanting to bring down Trump for various reasons—cannot challenge capitalism and imperialism or make astute analyses of present conditions because they are paid by corporations that have vested interests in promoting the CNN and NYT concept of reality. The fact is, the post-war U.S.-dominated world is collapsing, as it should. As empires do.

The fact that this collapse is aided by a colorful idiot in the White House merely adds dramatic appeal to the historical narrative. He will grandiloquently preside over some sort of Korean agreement to satisfy his ego, then perhaps attack Iran with zero European backing but frenzied Israeli and Saudi support, inaugurating a major if not world war. This would not further endear this country to the planet in general.

Disrespecting Allies: A Presidential Tradition

Both North and South Korean government officials were reportedly shocked by Trump’s sudden cancellation of the Singapore summit. The South Korean president was taken by surprise. It makes me recall this historical incident.

In July 1971 Richard Nixon announced that he would visit the People’s Republic of China the following year, signalling a major shift in U.S. foreign policy. Japanese Prime Minister Sato Eisaku was not pleased; he’d been informed only hours before the announcement. Japan had been the U.S.’s closest ally in Asia since 1945, hosting tens of thousands of U.S. troops and supporting virtually every U.S. action on the world stage. It had offered material support to the U.S. wars in Korea and Vietnam; indeed the payments for “special procurements” were significantly responsible for Japan’s postwar recovery. This was a very special bond. That Sato had not been consulted about the sudden U.S. move was surprising if not insulting,

In February 1972 Nixon visited China, opening a process that would result in the opening of diplomatic relations only seven years before. Meanwhile in September the Japanese new Prime Minister Tanaka Kakuei visited China in September, just seven months after Nixon, and immediately reestablished diplomatic relations with China. It was one of the rare instances of a Japanese initiative at variance with U.S. policy (which was to still recognize Taiwan as the “legitimate” government of China). It was also a statement to the U.S. that where East Asia is concerned, Japan has its own interests. Japanese corporations immediately began to invest in China’s restored capitalism, years before U.S. companies.

(The only other significant policy divergence I can think of in the postwar period is Japan’s continuing purchase of Iranian oil.)

South Korean President Moon Jae-in reportedly learned on TV of Trump’s decision. After all the effort the South Koreans had put into the preparations! And given the fact that South Korea like Japan hosts tens of thousands of U.S. troops. You’d think it would be shown more respect from the U.S. president.

Trump’s terrifying threats had already driven the Koreas together, producing an extraordinary statement ending the state of war between them. Trump’s erratic behavior will likely draw the Koreas further together, in self-defense, and bring both closer to China. The North’s proposal for a confederation of two states is looking increasingly feasible.

Nixon was a mass-murderer with a keen strategic mind. Trump is an impetuous narcissistic man-child with no strategy. Nixon surely factored in Tokyo’s hurt feelings at his abrupt announcement of the China opening, but felt them of minor significance. Trump quite likely did not even think about Seoul’s reaction to his letter cancelling the summit.

The decision to cancel the summit was one thing, the failure to consult with ally Seoul is another. It’s another expression of U.S. imperialist arrogance and the facile assumption that U.S. satrapies will meekly accept Washington’s decisions. But it seems to have produced an immediate coordinated effort by Pyongyang and Seoul to keep summit plans on track, the possible alternative being war.  Trump was pleased by a message to him last night praising him for his boldness in engaging with Pyongyang so far. So we learn from Trump today (Friday) that well, maybe it will happen, and maybe even on June 12.

The Koreans (like Xi, Abe, Prince Muhammed bin Salmon, Macron) know how to stoke Trump’s ego in efforts to sway him from what they perceive as disastrous decisions. But so far they’ve had mixed success. He’s acquired a record of shocking allies by sudden announcements, so many that he risks significantly weakening the Atlantic Alliance, and ties with Japan and Korea. By all means let him continue to alienate allies, in his clueless way, producing if inadvertently a more multilateral world. If he doesn’t destroy it the world might praise him for this feat and award him the Nobel Peace Prize for diminishing U.S. power and influence in the world.

Pompeo’s Iran Speech

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced to a Heritage Foundation audience Monday a set of 12 demands (‘basic requirements”) to induce the U.S. to rejoin a new, improved JCPOA agreement and to avoid being “crushed” by the U.S. A Washington Post op-ed by Jason Reizaian described the speech was “silly,” and it was criticized by most of the media as at least unrealistic.

I’m reminded of the Twenty-One Demands Japan submitted to China on January 8, 1914. Months earlier Japanese forces had attacked the German concession (colony) in Shandong and occupied the territory. The attack on the Germans was justified by the fact that Germany was a war with Britain, and Japan was a British military ally doing its part in the First World War. Tokyo demanded that China acknowledge its acquisition of German rights in Shandong, open up more ports to Japanese, transfer control of a mining enterprise, avoid giving more concessions to foreign powers (other than Japan), and generally place Japanese advisors at every level of government. It was so blatantly unreasonable that Britain and the U.S. were shocked and took action to block the most egregious provisions. (The Anglo-Japanese Naval Treaty of 1902 ended in 1921, in part due to mounting British distaste with their ally’s behavior.)

The Japanese imperialist state’s arrogance and cruelty had been made plain to world opinion. Today the U.S. bares its similar qualities not through a diplomatic note but a televised speech in which Iran was told to be afraid, and to obey. It put the rest of the world including key U.S. allies on notice that Washington will use its tools to thwart the trade and investment promised in an agreement it itself helped craft and signed three years ago.

Practically all U.S. allies would like to block these demands that the Trump administration is heaping on Iran. Because they also impose demands on them, to back out on big deals already signed or face secondary sanctions. In 1914 most of the world sympathized with China, the victim. Now most of the world sympathizes with Iran. From at least 2003 and the invasion of Iraq justified on a bogus nuclear threat the U.S. has acquired the reputation of a bully. It already had one, of course; the U.S. war in Vietnam horrified much of the world, as the bombing of Baghdad did in 1999. Even so, global respect for the U.S. was higher while Nixon bombed Hanoi dikes than it is now while Trump merely threatens countries’ annihilation. If there was an upswing for awhile during the Obama era, U.S. prestige and popularity has plummeted under Trump.

Recent polls show more Germans see Putin as more trustworthy than Trump, and Russia more reliable than Washington. The reputation of the U.S. has crumbled while cities crumble under U.S. bombs. Now alongside the U.S.-inflicted tragedies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya there is the potential for a major regional war, virtually provoked by the U.S., involving allied bullies like Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Would that there might be a global intervention to prevent the U.S. from sabotaging the deal the rest of the world not only supports but sees as a break on the manifested U.S. penchant for war. Let nations say: if you sanction us for following through on legal contracts, we will sanction you back, in the interests of maintaining our own sovereignty. Let them say: You’re not the boss now. EU GDP equals yours. Iran is a huge promising market in which Europeans especially Germans have long been invested. You’re telling us that to prevent Iran getting nuclear weapons (which the IAEA says it’s not and lacks the capacity to do so) we can’t sell civilian passenger airlines to people who badly need new, safe planes? That’s absurd.

Note that Pompeo has recently visited Pyongyang twice to meet Kim Jung-un. It looks possible that there will be a serious Trump-Kim summit leading to welcome results. That is Pompeo in his diplomatic mode. In his Heritage Foundation speech he adopts the role of a super-bully, shocking not so much the Iranians (accustomed to U.S. duplicity) as the Europeans. The president of the EU Donald Tusk had asked days before Pompeo’s speech, “Looking at the latest decisions of President Trump, some could even think: ‘With friends like that, who needs enemies?” European leaders including British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson say they will do all they can to protect their investments.

Their resentment of being denied their rights—by a government led by a boorish, smug, condescending, bullying, demanding, wholly uninformed, malignant dunce–might be a factor itself in the decline of the U.S. empire. Engels wrote in a letter in 1894:

Men make their history themselves but not as yet with a collective will according to a collective plan or even a definite, delimited given society. Their aspirations clash, and for that very reason all such societies are governed by necessity, the complement and form of appearance of which is accident. The necessity which here asserts itself athwart all accident is again ultimately economic necessity. This is where the so-called great men come in for treatment. That such and such a man and precisely that man arises at a particular time in a particular country is, of course, pure chance. But cut him out and there will be a demand for such a substitute, and this substitute will be found, good or bad, but in the long run he will be found. …That Napoleon, just that particular Corsican, should have been the military dictator whom the French Republic, exhausted by its own warfare, had rendered necessary, was chance; but that, if a Napoleon had been lacking, another would have filled the place, is proved by the fact that the man was always found as soon as he became necessary: Caesar, Augustus, Cromwell, etc.

No, the role of personality is not so important in history. Economic necessity is operative now, surely. But are Trump’s arbitrary, inconsistent policies simply or even fundamentally driven by that? Perhaps Wall Street thinks so, until it panics at the threat of a trade war. Is it necessary for trans-Atlantic inter-capitalist competition and contention to strain the Atlantic Alliance? Or provoke conflict with Canada and Mexico without giving thought to how doing so arouses more disdain even among close allies? Trump reportedly went from being anti-NAFTA to pro-NAFTA in one day, confusing the press. He reveals the inconsistency of someone with no coherent ideology, as many have observed. He will pay too much attention to Bolton’s Wormtongue counsel, but then maybe not. With Trump you don’t know.

As a historical force his personality so far has resulted in multiple successful attempts of foreign leaders to flatter him (even the Saudis on his first foreign visit after his election) into agreements and cordial relations. He is understood (obviously) to want and need praise. The South Korean president brilliantly handled him by serving as the intermediary for North Korea in urging a summit with the North Korean leader (to avoid war on their peninsula), praising him for having made this offer happen by his pressure on the DPRK. No doubt both Moon and Xi Jinping have shared notes with Kim Jong-un about how to exploit this clown’s egoism.

His personality has also resulted in a drop in U.S. power to influence global events. Angela Merkel has been insulted by him and apparently detests him; she’s declared that “Europe must take its fate into its own hands.” In part, by partnering more with Russia.

Trump’s vacillations and vague statements, impulsive decisions and explosive threats, concern the whole world.

His personality has long since convinced the majority is this country that he’s what Hillary Clinton in her restrained name-calling called “unfit.” While his supporters hail the economic statistics thinking he is making America great again, he has produced enormous anxiety and depression and especially lacks support from youth. The prestige of the presidency has rarely been lower, even if Trump’s support remains around 40%. (He has what you call a “polarizing personality.”)

It’s hard to understand, given the multiple appointment picks and contradictory, changing policies and lack of clarity in pronouncements, what Trump’s role is in the global class struggle. He seems determined to revive the World War I world, of competing capitalist-imperialist blocs of exploiters commonly oppressing the toiling people, while always whipping up their patriotism and nationalism as preparation for war. He just might not be able to do it.

The references to him as “Leader of the Free World” are surely fake news, not only because there is no real “Free World” but because its supposed other leaders can’t accept his leadership. He’s an exposed Wizard of Oz. I thought this was true of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush too; very ignorant men posturing as astute (although neither very articulate in unscripted comments because neither knew what they were talking about) but Trump is much worse. His passion for confrontation with Iran is not based so much on economic calculation (although he may have solicited or received some outside money from Iran’s staunch enemies) as much as a campaign promise and perhaps the influence of his son-in-law.

Trump actually seems to work against the U.S. economy long-term by inviting not just limited trade wars, which are normal, but inviting such personal contempt and reducing the desire of Europeans and others to even buy U.S. products. (Not that it’s directly relevant, but the 21 Demands generated a massive Chinese boycott on Japanese imports that hurt the Japanese conglomerates for a time.) Personality is important here. But I agree to Engels that had he not been elected it would have been someone else (like Ted Cruz). The economic necessity may be the re-division of the world to satisfy the needs of psychopaths.

Europe and the U.S.: An Era of Mutual Indignation

On December 21, 2017 the United Nations General Assembly rejected the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by a 128-9 vote. The only countries to side with Israel and the U.S. were Guatemala, Honduras, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, and for good balance, Togo. (The West African country’s President Gnassingbe benefiting from Israeli aid gushes about “Israel coming back to Africa, and Africa coming back to Israel.”)

Recall that the UNGA resolution that was passed in 1947, proposing the partition of Palestine, which (with a lot of terror) led to the establishment of the state of Israel, posited Jerusalem as a corpus separatum. Not just the status of East Jerusalem but that of the whole city remains in dispute. The city is the third holiest in the Islamic worldview, behind Mecca and Medina. The Prophet supposedly in a miraculous night visit on a sacred horse, alighted the site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in what is now the occupied Old City. (I don’t believe that, any more than I believe the Old Testament myth about God causing the sun to remain stationary in the sky to give Joshua more time to conquer Jerusalem from the evil Canaanites–as depicted in Joshua 10:12. But myths are powerful.)

In any case, from the second century to the twentieth the city was overwhelming Christian or Muslim, a large percentage of its inhabitants probably descendants of pre-diaspora Judeans who over time converted to these religions. The proposition that Jerusalem is the “eternal Jewish capital” is a religious, literary and romantic one unjustified by actual history. It was emphatically not the Jewish capital between 70 CE, when Titus destroyed the city (reconstructing it as a pagan one with amphitheaters and baths); or after the Roman emperor Hadrian expelled Judeans from the city in 115; not until 1948 when west Jerusalem was taken by force. It was the headquarters of a Jewish monarch of some sort, often under foreign (Assyrian, Persian, Hellenistic) influence, for at best a thousand years before it became a pagan city, then a Christian city, then a mixed Muslim-Christian city with a small Jewish minority as of the early twentieth century.

Virtually all European allies of the U.S. voted for the resolution condemning Washington for its decision. The stance of major NATO allies UK, France, and Germany was particularly painful.

An injured UN ambassador Nikki Haley declaimed in front of the assembly: “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.”

What a total disconnect. She’s saying: We pay you to support us, no matter what we do, even if it’s something as inflammatory as moving our embassy to territory the UN considers disputed. (That goes for both the western part occupied in 1948 and the eastern part occupied since 1967.) We have the right to place our embassy wherever we want even if no other country agrees with us, except maybe a few small ones we’ve bought. And if you don’t like it we’ll remember your dislike the next time you need us for something.

She’s saying this not to the Third World so much as to Europe. Those ungrateful allies.

This ignorant, haughty, undiplomatic woman is the perfect Trump representative in the UN. She blames Hamas for the deaths of 92 people in Gaza, and depicts their deaths as an expression of Israel’s right to “defend itself” against peaceful demonstrators and some guys with sling-shots, like David used (see 1 Samuel 17:40).

“I ask my colleagues here in the Security Council,”  Haley declaimed on May 15, “Who among us would accept this type of activity on your border? No one would. No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has.” (What? When did Danish border guards last kill 92 unarmed people?) This is like saying that the Trump inaugural was the largest in history Or that he’s the healthiest man who’s ever been president, or has the finest genes. It’s more than a lie; it’s a laughable, ridiculous lie in the face of the world, delivered by a political lightweight with no knowledge of history or experience in foreign affairs.

Europe in general doesn’t buy these lies. Nor does it accept the demand from Secretary of State (Minister of War?) Mike Pompeo that it abandon its growing Iran ties at U.S. diktat in order to facilitate the next cataclysmic war—in a zone 3000 km from Italy but 10,000 km from Washington. The Italians have accepted tens of thousands of Syrian and Libyan refugees and are probably not anxious to greet Iranian ones too. They’ve seen the results of U.S.-sponsored regime change in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, and attempted regime changes in Syria and Yemen.

An alliance of the Five Star Movement and Northern League in Italy may be taking power. Beppe Grillo, head of the former, is married to a Muslim Iranian woman. The Northern League calls U.S. accusations of Syrian use of WMD “fake news.” Both parties want closer Russian ties. Last year only 57% of Italians polled had a favorable view of NATO (higher than Spain’s 45% or Greece’s 33% but historically low).

Last January Italy and Iran signed a credit agreement worth 5.0 billion euros whereby Rome will help Italian companies invest in Iran. It was signed by Invitalia Global Investment and two Iranian banks. Is Pompeo going to stop that? In order to better “crush” Iran? Can the U.S. still so cow its traditionally closest allies?

The appointments of John Bolton and Pompeo to key positions around the unhinged, impulsive commander-in-chief mean that the policy gap between Washington and Brussels grows, as a matter of sheer idiocy (John Kelly) versus pragmatic capitalism. As appropriate disdain swells in Europe, may the U.S. recede, or hit its imperial peak then shrivel like the Spanish empire did two centuries ago. And may new silk roads link Persia and Europe as they once did, untroubled by banditry or bombs

Europe’s Response to Secondary Sanctions Threats

French economy minister Bruno Le Maire, in response to U.S. threats to apply secondary sanctions to European companies trading with Iran, asks: Est-ce que nous acceptons que les USA soient le gendarme économique de la planète ? La réponse européenne doit être clairement non.

“Do we need to accept the USA as the economic policeman of the planet? The European response clearly must be no.”

Mais bien sur. The U.S. stands in violation of an agreement not just confirmed by Iran, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany but by the United Nations Security Council. The U.S. is now the international outlaw, demanding that others abandon their legitimate trade arrangements with Iran in order to indicate their continued submission to U.S. imperial fiat.

The abrasiveness and inconsistency of Trump himself. The contradictions within his staff and their multiple announcements on foreign policy. The manifest deference of the U.S. president to a very backward support base and the Israel Lobby.  These have little appeal in European capitals where leaders generally want peace in the Middle East, no more refugee floods, and adherence to a modicum of consultation within the Atlantic Alliance before Washington does something crazy.

Trump responds: Screw you free-loaders, avoiding your 2% NATO expenditures! We like the Saudis and Israelis more than you, and they both want confrontation with Iran. Who cares about your auto manufacturing deals or airline deliveries? You’re supposed to be on our side for god’s sake. We liberated you from the Nazis or somebody, once. Now we want you on board as we restart the pointless conflict with Iran. Why can’t you just cooperate, Angela and Emmanuel and Bruno?

The tone of dissent intensifies. Europeans are saying: Who are you, at this point, at your level of relative decline, when our EU GDP exceeds yours, when we have healthier more peaceful societies should we take your lead on Iran relations? Or back off from our lucrative deals because you object, and stupidly want war with Iran?

Maybe this will be the tipping-point. May inter-imperialist contradictions intensify, not to produce war as usual but to discourage it. A common European front against U.S. bullying on Iran, along with the rise of populist and nationalist parties in Europe and mounting discontent with the Russia sanctions demanded by the U.S. after the Ukraine coup in 2014, and growing anxiety about the madness of U.S. policy (as in recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital) could weaken NATO.

Think of it this way. The U.S. effort from 1999 to expand NATO culminated in a failed effort to draw in Ukraine and the (arguably defensive and premptive) Russian reassertion of sovereignty over Crimea and support to Russian-speaking separatists in the Donbas region. U.S. leaders treated this as a crime comparable to Hitler’s annexation of the Sudetenland in 1938 and demanded that Europe join it in applying sanctions on Russia. (The irony here is that Victoria Nuland, the odious State Department official who helped engineer the coup, told the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine just before the coup, “Fuck the EU!” because of differences over Ukraine’s political future. Europe has been expected to bear the pain of sanctions and counter-sanctions on their continent, demanded by the power across the ocean experiencing minimal pain from them. This is despite the fact that many Europeans sympathize with the Russian position; former German chancellor Gerhard Schroder has, for example, expressed understanding and objected to the sanctions.)

That 2014 moment, following the 2008 Russian invasion of Georgia (arguably, provoked by Georgia’s crazy president Saakashvili dreaming of NATO back-up), resulted in the depiction of Russia as an “adversary.” Not because it threatens the U.S. in any way other than by sometimes trying to thwart U.S. imperial expansion.

The bullying of Europe in connection with Russia relations is joined with the bullying of Europe to accept the millions of refugees generated by USA wars.  And the bullying of Europe to spit up 2% of GDP annually on military expenditures, regardless of legislators’ views about budget priorities, in order to satisfy Washington. Even though the last thing on their minds or even imaginable to intelligent people is a Russian invasion or Iranian missile attack. The bullying of Europe to cut Iran ties under threat of secondary sanctions could be the last straw. Not so much because of the money involved. It’s the arrogance, ignorance, and strong-arming by people who don’t realize the U.S. has declined a lot from the 1950s and can no longer control its allies, much less the whole world. Europe’s a very old place with lots of proud people. So is Iran. The two are bound by an international agreement signed by the European Union itself as well as by the UK, France and Germany. The U.S. is in violation. Why should it be able to sabotage the deal?

It’s all about freedom, surely. U.S. freedom to use its market access as an intimidating tool to prevent other nations’ free trade with one another.

Secretary of State Pompeo is going today to announce the administration’s plans for “the strongest sanctions in history” on Iran (to “crush” it). He seems to assume European cooperation. May they say Fick dich! to Pompeo. May they say a loud NO! and enjoy the advantages of national independence and independent multilateral ties in what should be a multilateral world.