Category Archives: Barack Obama

Can the “World’s Second Superpower” Rise From the Ashes of Twenty Years of War?

UK protest against iraq war February 15, 2003. (Credit: Stop the War Coalition)

February 15 marks the day, 17 years ago, when global demonstrations against the pending Iraq invasion were so massive that the New York Times called world public opinion “the second superpower.” But the U.S. ignored it and invaded Iraq anyway. So what has become of the momentous hopes of that day?

The U.S. military has not won a war since 1945, unless you count recovering the tiny colonial outposts of Grenada, Panama and Kuwait, but there is one threat it has consistently outmanoeuvred without firing more than a few deadly rifle shots and some tear gas. Ironically, this existential threat is the very one that could peacefully cut it down to size and take away its most dangerous and expensive weapons: its own peace-loving citizens.

During the Vietnam war, young Americans facing a life-and-death draft lottery built a powerful anti-war movement. President Nixon proposed ending the draft as a way to undermine the peace movement, since he believed that young people would stop protesting the war once they were no longer obligated to fight. In 1973, the draft was ended, leaving a volunteer army that insulated the vast majority of Americans from the deadly impact of America’s wars.

Despite the lack of a draft, a new anti-war movement—this time with global reach—sprung up in the period between the crimes of 9/11 and the illegal U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003. The February 15th, 2003, protests were the largest demonstrations in human history, uniting people around the world in opposition to the unthinkable prospect that the U.S. would actually launch its threatened “shock and awe” assault on Iraq. Some 30 million people in 800 cities took part on every continent, including Antarctica. This massive repudiation of war, memorialized in the documentary We Are Many, led New York Times journalist Patrick E. Tyler to comment that there were now two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world public opinion.

The U.S. war machine demonstrated total disdain for its upstart rival, and unleashed an illegal war based on lies that has now raged on through many phases of violence and chaos for 17 years. With no end in sight to U.S. and allied wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Syria, Palestine, Yemen and West Africa, and Trump’s escalating diplomatic and economic warfare against Iran, Venezuela and North Korea threatening to explode into new wars, where is the second superpower now, when we need it more than ever?

Since the U.S. assassination of Iran’s General Soleimani in Iraq on January 2nd, the peace movement has reemerged onto the streets, including people who marched in February 2003 and new activists too young to remember a time when the U.S. was not at war. There have been three separate days of protest, one on January 4th, another on the 9th and a global day of action on the 25th. The rallies took place in hundreds of cities, but they did not attract nearly the numbers who came out to protest the pending war with Iraq in 2003, or even those of the smaller rallies and vigils that continued as the Iraq war spiralled out of control until at least 2007.

Our failure to stop the U.S. war on Iraq in 2003 was deeply discouraging. But the number of people active in the U.S. anti-war movement shrank even more after the 2008 election of Barack Obama. Many people did not want to protest the nation’s first black president, and many, including the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, really believed he would be a “peace president.”

While Obama reluctantly honored Bush’s agreement with the Iraqi government to withdraw US troops from Iraq and he signed the Iran nuclear deal, he was far from a peace president. He oversaw a new doctrine of covert and proxy war that substantially reduced U.S. military casualties, but unleashed an escalation of the war in Afghanistan, a campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria that destroyed entire cities, a ten-fold increase in CIA drone strikes on Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, and bloody proxy wars in Libya and Syria that rage on today. In the end, Obama spent more on the military and dropped more bombs on more countries than Bush did. He also refused to hold Bush and his cronies responsible for their war crimes.

Obama’s wars were no more successful than Bush’s in restoring peace or stability to any of those countries or improving the lives of their people. But Obama’s “disguised, quiet, media-free approach” to war made the U.S. state of endless war much more politically sustainable. By reducing U.S. casualties and waging war with less fanfare, he moved America’s wars farther into the shadows and gave the American public an illusion of peace in the midst of endless war, effectively disarming and dividing the peace movement.

Obama’s secretive war policy was backed up by a vicious campaign against any brave whistleblowers who tried to drag it out into the light. Jeffrey Sterling, Thomas Drake, Chelsea Manning, John Kiriakou, Edward Snowden and now Julian Assange have been prosecuted and jailed under unprecedented new interpretations of the WWI-era Espionage Act.

With Donald Trump in the White House, we hear Republicans making the same excuses for Trump—who ran on an anti-war platform—that Democrats made for Obama. First, his supporters accept lip service about wanting to end wars and bring troops home as revealing what the president really wants to do, even as he keeps escalating the wars. Second, they ask us to be patient because, despite all the real world evidence, they are convinced he is working hard behind the scenes for peace. Third, in a final cop-out that undermines their other two arguments, they throw up their hands and say that he is “only” the president, and the Pentagon or “deep state” is too powerful for even him to tame.

Obama and Trump supporters alike have used this shaky tripod of political unaccountability to give the man behind the desk where the buck used to stop an entire deck of “get out of jail free” cards for endless war and war crimes.

Obama and Trump’s “disguised, quiet, media-free approach” to war has inoculated America’s wars and militarism against the virus of democracy, but new social movements have grown up to tackle problems closer to home. The financial crisis led to the rise of the Occupy Movement, and now the climate crisis and America’s entrenched race and immigration problems have all provoked new grassroots movements. Peace advocates have been encouraging these movements to join the call for major Pentagon cuts, insisting that the hundreds of billions saved could help fund everything from Medicare for All to the Green New Deal to free college tuition.

A few sectors of the peace movement have been showing how to use creative tactics and build diverse movements. The movement for Palestinians’ human and civil rights includes students, Muslim and Jewish groups, as well as black and indigenous groups fighting similar struggles here at home. Also inspirational are campaigns for peace on the Korean peninsula led by Korean Americans, such as Women Cross the DMZ, which has brought together women from North Korea, South Korea and the United States to show the Trump administration what real diplomacy looks like.

There have also been successful popular efforts pushing a reluctant Congress to take anti-war positions. For decades, Congress has been only too happy to leave warmaking to the president, abrogating its constitutional role as the only power authorized to declare war. Thanks to public pressure, there has been a remarkable shift. In 2019, both houses of Congress voted to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen and to ban arms sales to Saudi Arabia for the war in Yemen, although President Trump vetoed both bills.

Now Congress is working on bills to explicitly prohibit an unauthorized war on Iran. These bills prove that public pressure can move Congress, including a Republican-dominated Senate, to reclaim its constitutional powers over war and peace from the executive branch.

Another bright light in Congress is the pioneering work of first-term Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who recently laid out a series of bills called Pathway to PEACE that challenge our militaristic foreign policy. While her bills will be hard to get passed in Congress, they lay out a marker for where we should be headed. Omar’s office, unlike many others in Congress, actually works directly with grassroots organizations that can push this vision forward.

The presidential election offers an opportunity to push the anti-war agenda. The most effective and committed anti-war champion in the race is Bernie Sanders. The popularity of his call for getting the U.S. out of its imperial interventions and his votes against 84% of military spending bills since 2013 are reflected not only in his poll numbers but also in the way other Democratic candidates are rushing to take similar positions. All now say the U.S. should rejoin the Iran nuclear deal; all have criticized the “bloated” Pentagon budget, despite regularly voting for it; and most have promised to bring U.S. troops home from the greater Middle East.

So, as we look to the future in this election year, what are our chances of reviving the world’s second superpower and ending America’s wars?

Absent a major new war, we are unlikely to see big demonstrations in the streets. But two decades of endless war have created a strong anti-war sentiment among the public.  A 2019 Pew Research Center poll found that 62 percent of Americans said the war in Iraq was not worth fighting and 59 percent said the same for the war in Afghanistan.

On Iran, a September 2019 University of Maryland poll showed that a mere one-fifth of Americans said the U.S. “should be prepared to go to war” to achieve its goals in Iran, while three-quarters said that U.S. goals do not warrant military intervention. Along with the Pentagon’s assessment of how disastrous a war with Iran would be, this public sentiment fueled global protests and condemnation that have temporarily forced Trump to dial down his military escalation and threats against Iran.

So, while our government’s war propaganda has convinced many Americans that we are powerless to stop its catastrophic wars, it has failed to convince most Americans that we are wrong to want to. As on other issues, activism has two main hurdles to overcome: first to convince people that something is wrong; and secondly to show them that, by working together to build a popular movement, we can do something about it.

The peace movement’s small victories demonstrate that we have more power to challenge U.S. militarism than most Americans realize. As more peace-loving people in the U.S. and across the world discover the power they really have, the second superpower we glimpsed briefly on February 15th, 2003 has the potential to rise stronger, more committed and more determined from the ashes of two decades of war.

A new president like Bernie Sanders in the White House would create a new opening for peace. But as on many domestic issues, that opening will only bear fruit and overcome the opposition of powerful vested interests if there is a mass movement behind it every step of the way. If there is a lesson for peace-loving Americans in the Obama and Trump presidencies, it is that we cannot just walk out of the voting booth and leave it to a champion in the White House to end our wars and bring us peace. In the final analysis, it really is up to us. Please join us.

Democrats Team Up With Trump to Maintain Disastrous Healthcare System

On Tuesday, February 4, Donald Trump delivered his third State of the Union (SOTU) address. As expected, it was filled with contradictions, falsehoods, and distortions. Among other things, Trump spoke for close to ten minutes about health care in the U.S., claiming that he “will always protect Medicare.” However, neither Trump and the Republicans, nor the Democrats can be trusted when it comes to health care.

Just last week, for example, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Trump suggested he would think about cutting Medicare and Social Security to reduce the federal deficit. The Trump administration also recently announced it would take steps to overhaul Medicaid through a program ironically named “Healthy Adult Opportunity,” allowing states to choose to cut federal government funding they receive at a lump sum or block grant instead of paying a fixed percentage of costs. The goal is for states to reduce spending by decreasing health provider reimbursements, limiting drug coverage, or making it difficult for individuals to qualify for care. Trump’s plans for his 2021 budget are lockstep with his previous statements and would increase military spending while cutting Medicare and Medicaid.

This all comes from an administration that ran on a platform of protecting such programs.  As Trump told Fox News in 2015, “People have been paying in for years. They’re gonna cut Social Security. They’re gonna cut Medicare. They’re gonna cut Medicaid […] I’m the one saying that I’m not gonna do that!” Yet the administration’s most recent budget called for a total of $1.9 trillion in “cost savings” from programs such as Medicaid and Medicare.

Who Heads Government Health Programs?

Despite Trump’s SOTU remarks, his recent proposals should be no shock when one looks at who he tapped to oversee the distribution of healthcare in the United States. Seema Verma, who helped announce the “Healthy Adult Opportunity” program, serves as head administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Prior to being appointed to her position, Verma was President, CEO and founder of SVC, Inc., a national health policy consulting company which helped drive Republican state-level Medicaid reforms while also encouraging state outsourcing to private companies converting government funding into private profits. Since taking office, Verma has been instrumental in allowing states to institute work requirements—essentially requiring Medicaid beneficiaries to prove they are working, by logging work hours regardless of computer or internet access, in order to get health care. She has also railed against universal health care, stating National Improved Medicare for All (NIMA) would “strip choice away from millions.”

Trump’s initial Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary, Tom Price—who resigned in 2017 after it was revealed that he used taxpayer money on personal travel—sponsored congressional budgets to turn Medicaid into a block grant program. Now-current HHS Secretary Alex Azar, sworn into office in 2018, was former head of the pharmaceutical corporation Eli Lilly and played a key role in driving up prices of crucial medicines, such as insulin, to increase profits. Individuals like Azar have proven time and again that they will not work to “lower drug prices” as Trump touted in his SOTU. Instead, Azar will defend the corporate elite; his new government position puts him in a perfect place to do just that. With individuals such as these heading the US healthcare system, it is no wonder such policies are being proposed.

The Democrats Aren’t Innocent Bystanders

While some members of the Democratic Party will want to condemn or distance themselves from these efforts, it is important to note their culpability in helping create the environment for Trump’s current policy proposals. For example, cutting safety net programs that working people rely on is not new for Democrats. As The Intercept recently reported, “As early as 1984 and as recently as 2018, former Vice President Joe Biden called for cuts to Social Security in the name of saving the program and balancing the federal budget.” Biden advocated for freezing spending on “every single solitary thing in the government” including Medicare, Medicaid, and veterans’ benefits.

And Joe Biden is not an outlier. Under the capitalist system, advocating for programs of “austerity” to combat the crises that are built into the system is standard practice. Austerity is often recommended despite evidence suggesting government cuts typically worsen economic downturns. Professor of Economics, Richard Wolff, has analyzed how this system functions, arguing that in times of economic growth, austerity is capitalists’ preferred policy: it means less taxes and thus more profits for them. In times of economic downturn, however, they are the first beneficiaries of state-sponsored bailouts, which require governments to run massive budget deficits.

The cycle Wolff describes only benefits the rich—Democrats and Republicans alike play into it. Despite their rhetoric to the contrary, the Democrats advocate for austerity just as Republicans do, because ultimately they are beholden to the same capitalist interests that run the country.

It should be also noted that the entire distribution of health care under the current for-profit model allows for continued cuts and alterations to programs such as Medicare and Medicaid to occur. Dominated by the interests of the medical-industrial complex, leaders of the Democratic party have never articulated the vision that health care should be a human right and the profit motive should be removed from health care. They have never been able to collectively articulate that National Improved Medicare for All (NIMA) is the only path to a relatively rational health care system.

Obama was not only not able to garner support for NIMA, but gave up even the modest reform of a public option when advocating for the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While the ACA did expand Medicaid coverage, Democrats have attempted to frame its passage as a colossal win and this is simply not the case. The ACA mandates individuals purchase insurance from private, for-profit insurance companies, and still leaves 31 million Americans out of coverage. This has created  a situation in which being underinsured is quickly becoming the new normal. The bill was really anything but a win for the majority of Americans.

Trump also spent part of his SOTU bashing NIMA proposals calling them a “socialist takeover of the healthcare system that would disrupt the care of many “happy Americans.” One would think that today with various polls showing a majority of the public now wants Medicare for All, Democrats would oppose Trump’s rhetoric and advocate for such policy. Unfortunately, Democratic elites still refuse to accept NIMA’s popularity. Instead of getting uniformly behind universal health care, we have seen proposals ranging from strengthening the ACA (Biden) to proposals resembling a public option (Buttigieg).

Warren and Sanders have been the only two candidates who have had the courage to advocate going further to Medicare for All. Faced with conservative backlash, however, Warren has considerably back-pedaled on her Medicare for All rhetoric, now saying she would wait until at least her third year in office to attempt implementation. As for the proposed “leader” of the party, House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, it was reported as recently as 2019 that her top policy aide was meeting with Blue Cross Blue Shield executives and assuring them they did not have to worry about Medicare for All. It appears Pelosi believes her energies would be better suited feigning progressiveness by ripping up Trump’s speeches, rather than actively opposing his poor health care policies by supporting the movement for NIMA.

Often Democrats and Republicans alike who are opposed to the NIMA claim it would be too costly. Various versions of “how we are going to pay for it?” are brought up over and over. Even if one ignores the fact that 30 years of single payer research shows NIMA would save money compared to the status quo, it is peculiar this same argument is not used when discussing funding for instruments of suffering, death, and destruction. The same conversation is never had when talking about providing tax incentives for large capitalist institutions to continue to oppress workers and destroy the planet. The same conversation was not had after 188 Democrats recently joined with Republicans to approve a $738 billion military budget—a budget which upholds the US military contributing more to pending climate collapse then 140 countries combined. The same conversation was not had after the Pentagon failed its first ever audit in 2018 and mysteriously could not account for $21 trillion dollars from 1998 to 2015.

NIMA: A Step Forward for the Working Class

As we have argued in the past, NIMA would be a large step forward for the working class. Currently close to 50% of the US population obtains their healthcare through their employers. This keeps workers in a vulnerable position when it comes to organizing in the workplace, because if a worker loses their job, they and their  family could lose health care coverage, which can be devastating for those with chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, or various forms of cancer.

Not having NIMA also puts the public at the mercy of large insurance companies, hospital corporations, and pharmaceutical companies whose number one priority is profit maximization. This leads to companies trying to raise prices for the “product” as much as possible, which leaves the public in an economically precarious position. Today some 70 million Americans are struggling to pay off medical debt, and medical debt is the number one cause of bankruptcy in the country. A sudden illness in the US can mean financial ruin. A 2018 study in the American Journal of Medicine (AJM) found almost half of cancer patients studied depleted their entire life savings by the second year of treatment. The financial burden that illness can cause on working-class families under the current for-profit health care—or, put differently, the “exploitation of illness”—is nothing short of outrageous. It shackles working people and keeps them focused on struggling with not only their illness, but also their debt.

The Need to Go Beyond National Improved Medicare for All

The left needs to not only oppose the Trump administration’s current proposals, but advocate for National Improved Medicare for All (NIMA) and for health care for all as a human right. At the same time connections must be made to the dynamics of capitalism and imperialism continually benefitting capitalists at expense of us all. The current revolving door system that operates as a result of wealth and power concentration inside capitalism, allows executives from exploitative institutions to continually guide the policy of both Republicans and Democrats. This only reiterates the need to move beyond a two party system structured to benefit the ruling class. In order to take on the vested interests of the medical industrial complex and provide health care each of us wants and needs, we must overcome an economic system based on exploitation and oppression. This system damages the health and well-being not just of humans, but all life systems on our planet. Only once we can transcend capitalism will we have not only a truly just health care system, but a society that prioritizes life and health over capital accumulation.

The United States of America’s Doll House: A Vast Tapestry of Lies and Illusions

This is an updated and revised version of the full cover-story that appeared in the important publication, garrison: The Journal of History and Deep Politics, Issue 003.  Issue 004 is due out this week and I urge readers to purchase it.  You will read articles there that you will find no place else, brilliant, eye-opening analyses of issues that the MSM will never touch.

*****

It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

— Harold Pinter’s Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, 2005

While truth-tellers Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning sit inside jail cells and Edward Snowden lives in exile in Russia, the American people hole up in an illusionary dwelling constructed to reduce them to children afraid of the truth.  Or is it the dark?  This is not new; it has been so for a very long time, but it has become a more sophisticated haunted doll’s house, an electronic one with many bells and whistles and images that move faster than the eye can see. We now inhabit a digital technological nightmare controlled by government and corporate forces intent on dominating every aspect of people’s lives. This is true despite the valiant efforts of dissidents to use the technology for human liberation. The old wooden doll houses, where you needed small fingers to rearrange the furniture, now only need thumbs that can click you into your cell’s fantasy world.  So many dwell there in the fabricated reality otherwise known as propaganda.  The result is mass hallucination.

In a 1969 interview, Jim Garrison, the District Attorney of New Orleans and the only person to ever bring to trial a case involving the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, said that as a result of the CIA’s murderous coup d’état on behalf of the military-industrial-financial-media-intelligence complex that rules the country to this day, the American people have been subjected to a fabricated reality that has rendered them a nation of passive Eichmanns, who sit in their living rooms, popping pills and watching television as their country’s military machine mows down people by the millions and the announcers tell them all the things they should be afraid of, such as bacteria on cutting boards and Russian spies infiltrating their hair salons.  Garrison said:

The creation of such inanities as acceptable reality and unacceptable reality is necessary for the self-preservation of the super-state against its greatest danger: understanding on the part of the people as to what is really happening.  All factors which contribute to its burgeoning power are exaggerated.  All factors which might reveal its corrosive effect on the nation are concealed.  The result is to place the populace in the position of persons living in a house whose windows no longer reveal the outside but on which murals have been painted.  Some of the murals are frightening and have the effect of reminding the occupants of the outside menaces against which the paternal war machine is protecting them.  Other murals are pleasant to remind them how nice things are inside the house.

But to live like this is to live in a doll’s house.  If life has one lesson to teach us, it is that to live in illusion is ultimately disastrous.

In the doll’s house into which America gradually has been converted, a great many of our basic assumptions are totally illusory.1

Fifty years have disappeared behind us since the eloquent and courageous Garrison (read On the Trail of the Assassins) metaphorically voiced the truth, despite the CIA’s persistent efforts to paint him as an unhinged lunatic through its media mouthpieces.  These days they would probably just lock him up or send him fleeing across borders, as with Assange, Manning, and Snowden.

It is stunning to take a cue from his comment regarding the JFK assassination, when he suggested that one reverse the lone assassin scenario and place it in the U.S.S.R.  No American could possibly believe a tale that a former Russian soldier, trained in English and having served at a top Soviet secret military base, who had defected to the U.S. and then returned home with the help of the K.G.B., could kill the Russian Premier with a defective and shoddy rifle and then be shot to death in police headquarters in Moscow by a K.G.B. connected hit man so there would be no trial and the K.G.B. would go scot free.  That would be a howler!  So too, of course, are the Warren Commission’s fictions about Oswald.

Snowden, Assange, and Manning

If we then update this mental exercise and imagine that Snowden, Assange, and Manning were all Russian, and that they released information about Russian war crimes, political corruption,  and a system of total electronic surveillance of the Russian population, and were then jailed or sent fleeing into exile as a result, who in the U.S., liberal, libertarian or conservative, would possibly believe the Russian government’s accusations that these three were criminals.

Nevertheless, Barack Obama, the transparency president, made sure to treat them as such, all the while parading as a “liberal” concerned for freedom of speech and the First Amendment.  He made sure that Snowden and Manning were charged under the Espionage Act of 1917, and that Assange was corralled via false Swedish sex charges so he had to seek asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London (a form of jail).  He brought Espionage Act prosecutions against eight people, more than all former presidents combined.   He hypocritically pardoned Manning on his way out the door as if this would polish his deluded liberal legacy after making her suffer terribly through seven years of imprisonment.  He set the stage for Trump to re-jail Manning to try to get this most courageous woman to testify against Assange, which she will not do, and for the collaborationist British government to jail Assange in preparation for his extradition to the United States and a show trial.  As for Snowden, he has been relegated to invisibility, good for news headlines once and for a movie, but now gone and forgotten.

Obama and Trump, arch political “enemies,” have made sure that those who reveal the sordid acts of the American murderous state are cruelly punished and silenced.  This is how the system works, and for most Americans, it is not happening.  It doesn’t matter.  They don’t care, just as they don’t care that Obama backed the 2009 coup d’état in Honduras that has resulted in so many deaths at the hands of U.S trained killers, and then Trump ranted about all these “non-white” people fleeing to the U.S. to escape a hell created by the U.S., as it has been doing throughout Latin America for so long.  Who does care about the truth?  Has anyone even noticed how the corporate media has disappeared the “news” of all those desperate people clamoring to enter the U.S.A. from Mexico?  One day they were there and in the headlines; the next day, gone.  It’s called news.

The Sleepwalkers

But even though a majority of Americans have never believed the government’s explanation for JFK’s murder, they nevertheless have insouciantly gone to sleep for half a century in the doll’s house of illusions as the killing and the lies of their own government have increased over the years and any semblance of a democratic and peaceful America has gone extinct. The fates of courageous whistle-blowers Assange, Manning, and Snowden don’t concern them. The fates of Hondurans don’t concern them.  The fates of Syrians don’t concern them. The fates of Iraqis, Afghans, Yemenis, Palestinians don’t concern them. The fates of America’s victims all around the world don’t concern them.  Indifference reigns.

Obviously, if you are reading this, you are not one of the sleepwalkers and are awake to the parade of endless lies and illusions and do care. But you are in a minority.

That is not the case for most Americans.  When approximately 129 million people cast their votes for Donald Trump and HilIary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, you know idiocy reigns and nothing has been learned. Ditto for the votes for Obama, Bush, Clinton, et al.  You can keep counting back.  It is an ugly fact and sad to say.  Such a repetition compulsion is a sign of a deep sickness, and it will no doubt be repeated in the 2020 election.  The systemic illusion must be preserved at all costs and the warfare state supported in its killing.  It is the American way.

It is true that average Americans have not built the doll’s house; that is the handiwork of the vast interconnected and far-reaching propaganda arms of the U.S. government and their media accomplices.  But that does not render them innocent for accepting decades of fabricated reality for so-called peace of mind by believing that a totally corrupt system works.  The will to believe is very powerful, as is the propaganda.   The lesson that Garrison spoke of has been lost on far too many people, even on those who occasionally leave the doll house for a walk, but who only go slightly down the path for fear of seeing too much reality and connecting too many dots.  There is plain ignorance, then there is culpable ignorance, to which I shall return.

Denying Existential Freedom

One of the first things an authoritarian governing elite must do is to convince people that they are not free.  This has been going on for at least forty years, ever since the Church Committee’s revelations about the CIA in the mid-seventies, including its mind-control program, MKULTRA.  Everyone was appalled at the epiphany, so a different tactic was added.  Say those programs have been ended when, in fact, they were continued under other even deeper secret programs, and just have “experts” – social, psychological, and biological “scientists” – repeat ad infinitum that there is no longer any mind control since we now know there is no mind; it is an illusion, and it all comes down to the brain.  Biology is destiny, except in culturally diversionary ways in which freedom to choose is extolled – e.g. the latest fashions, gender identity, the best hair style, etc.  Create and lavishly fund programs for the study of the brain, while supporting and promoting a vast expansion of pharmaceutical drugs to control people.  Do this in the name of helping people with their emotional and behavioral problems that are rooted in their biology and are beyond their control.  And create criteria to convince people that they are sick and that their distress has nothing to do with the coup d’état that has rendered them “citizens” of a police state.

We have been interminably told that our lives revolve around our brains (our bodies) and that the answers to our problems lie with more brain research, drugs, genetic testing, etc. It is not coincidental that the U. S. government declared the 1990s the decade of brain research, followed up with 2000-2010 as the decade of the behavior project, and our present decade being devoted to mapping the brain and artificial intelligence, organized by the Office of Science and Technology Project and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). How convenient! George H. W. Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush, Obama, Trump — what a difference! But this is science and the welfare of the world.  Science for idiots.

Drip by drip, here and there, in the pattern of the best propaganda, as the French sociologist Jacques Ellul says – “for propaganda is not the touch of the magic wand. It is based on slow, constant impregnation. It creates conviction and compliance through imperceptible influences that are effective only by continuous repetition”2 – articles, books, media reports have reiterated that people are “determined” by biological, genetic, social, and psychological forces over which they have no control. To assert that people are free in the Sartrean sense (en soir, condemned to freedom, or free will) has come to be seen as the belief of a delusional fool living in the past, a bad philosopher, an anti-scientist, a poorly informed religionist, one nostalgic for existential cafes, Gauloises, and black berets.  One who doesn’t grasp the truth since he doesn’t read the New York Times or watch CBS television. One who believes in nutty conspiracy theories.

The conventional propaganda – I almost said wisdom – created through decades-long media and academic repetition, is that we are not free.

Let me repeat: we are not free.  We are not free.

Investigator reporter Jon Rappoport has consistently exposed the propaganda involved in the creation and expansion of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) with its pseudo-scientific falsehoods and collusion between psychiatrists and the pharmaceutical industry. 3 As he correctly notes, the CIA’s MKULTRA mind-control program has morphed into modern psychiatry, both with the same objectives of disabling and controlling people by convincing them that they are not free and are in need of a chemical brain bath.

Can anyone with an awareness of this history doubt there is a hidden hand behind this development?  Once you have convinced people that they are not free in the most profound sense, the rest is child’s play.  Convinced that they are puppets, they become puppets to be willingly jerked around.

“He played with me just as I used to play with dolls,” says Nora in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House.

Now who would want to get people to believe they were not free?  The answer is obvious given a minute of thought.  It is not just Nora’s husband Torvald.

Perfect examples of the persistence of the long-term, repetitive, impregnating propaganda appear in news headlines constantly.  Here is an egregious example concerning the little understood case of the assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy.  On Friday, August 30, 2019, Sirhan, who has been in prison for fifty-two years for the murder of RFK that he did not commit, was stabbed by another prisoner.  A quick click through the MSM headlines reporting this showed the same words repeated by all the corporate media as they fulfilled their function as CIA stenographers. One example, from CBS News, will suffice: “Robert Kennedy assassin hospitalized after prison stabbing.” RFK assassin, RFK assassin, RFK assassin … all the media said the same thing, which they have been doing for fifty-two years. Their persistency endures despite all the facts that refute their disinformation and show that Senator Kennedy, who was on his way to becoming president, was murdered, like his brother John, by forces of the national security state.

 Sartre and Bad Faith

Lying and dissembling are ubiquitous.  Being deceived by the media liars is mirrored in people’s personal lives.  People lie and want to be deceived.  They choose to play dumb, to avoid a confrontation with truth.  They want to be nice (Latin, nescire, not to know, to be ignorant) and to be liked.  They want to tuck themselves into a safe social and cultural framework where they imagine they will be safe. They like the doll’s house. They choose to live in what Jean Paul Sartre called bad faith (mauvaise foi):  In Existential Psychoanalysis he put it thus:

In bad faith it is from myself that I am hiding the truth. But with this ‘lie’ to myself, the one to whom the lie is told and the one who lies are one and the same person, which means that I must know in my capacity as deceiver the truth which is hidden from me in my capacity as the one deceived.

Such bad faith allows people to fabricate a second act of bad faith: that they are not responsible for their ignorance of the truths behind the government’s and corporate media’s lies and propaganda, even as the shades of the prison house ominously close around us and the world edges toward global death that could arrive in an instant with nuclear war or limp along for years of increasing suffering.

Those of us who write about the U.S. led demented wars and provocations around the world and the complementary death of democracy at home are constantly flabbergasted and discouraged by the willed ignorance of so many Americans.  For while the mainstream media does the bidding of the power elite, there is ample alternative news and analyses available on the internet from fine journalists and writers committed to truth, not propaganda. There is actually far too much truth available, which poses another problem. But it doesn’t take a genius to learn how to research important issues and to learn how to distinguish between bogus and genuine information.  It takes a bit of effort, and, more importantly, the desire to compare multiple, opposing viewpoints and untangle the webs the Web weaves.  We are awash in information (and disinformation) and both good and bad reporting, but it is still available to the caring inquirer.

The problem is the will to know.  But why?  Why the refusal to investigate and question; why the indifference?  Stupidity?  Okay, there is that.  Ignorance?  That too.  Willful ignorance, ditto.  Laziness, indeed. Careerism and ideology?  For certain.  Upton Sinclair put it mildly when he said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on not understanding it.”  Difficult?  No, it’s almost impossible.

But then there are many very intelligent people who have nothing to lose and yet adamantly refuse to entertain alternative possibilities to the reigning orthodoxies that have them in their grip.  As do many others, I know many such people who will yes me to death and then never fully research issues.  They will remain in limbo or else wink to themselves that what may be true couldn’t be true.  They close down.  This is a great dilemma and frustration faced by those who seek to convince people to take an active part in understanding what is really going on in the world today, especially as the United States wages war across the globe, threatens Russia, China, and Iran, among many others, and expands and modernizes its nuclear weapons capabilities.

As for Assange, Manning, and Snowden, their plight matters not a whit.  In fact, they have been rendered invisible inside the doll’s house, except as the murals on the windows flash back their images as threats to the occupants, Russian monsters out to eat them up.  As the great poet Constantine Cavafy wrote long ago in his poem “Waiting for the Barbarians” and they never come: “Now what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?  Those people were a kind of solution.”  Then again, for people like U.S. Representative Adam Schiff, who knows the Russian barbarians have and will come again, life must be terrifying as he tries so manfully to bar the gates.  The Russians have been the American solution in this fairy tale for so long that it’s hard for many Americans to believe another story.

The Two-Headed Monster

On the one hand, there is the massive propaganda apparatus operated by American intelligence agencies in conjunction with their media partners.

On the other, there is the human predilection for untruth and illusions, the sad need to be comforted and to submit to greater “authority,” gratefully to accept the myths proffered by one’s masters.  This tendency applies not just to the common people, but even more so to the intellectual classes, who act as though they are immune.  Erich Fromm, writing about Germans and Hitler, but by extension people everywhere, termed this the need to “escape from freedom,” since freedom conjures up fears of vertiginous aloneness and the need to decide, which in turn evokes the fear of death.4   There are also many kinds of little deaths that precede the final one: social, career, money, familiar, etc., that are used to keep people in the doll’s house.

Fifty years ago, the CIA coined the term “conspiracy theory” as a weapon to be used to dismiss the truths expressed by critics of its murder of President Kennedy, and those of Malcom X, MLK, and RFK.  All the media echoed the CIA line.  While they still use the term to dismiss and denounce, their control of the mainstream media is so complete today that every evil government action is immediately seconded, whether it be the lies about the attacks of September 11, 2001, the wars against Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Iran, etc., the coups disguised as color revolutions in Ukraine, Venezuela, Bolivia, Hong Kong, the downing of the Malaysian jetliner there, drone murders, the Iranian “threat,” the looting of the American people by the elites, alleged sarin gas attacks in Syria, the anti-Russia bashing and the Russia-gate farce, the “criminals” Assange, Manning, Snowden – everything.  The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Fox News, the Washington Post, CNN, NPR, etc. – all are stenographers for the deep state.

So much of the ongoing propaganda travels under the banner of “the war on terror,” which is, of course, an outgrowth of the attacks of September 11, 2001, appropriately named and constantly reinforced as 9/11 in a wonderful example of linguistic mind-control: a constant emergency reminder to engender anxiety, depression, panic, and confusion, four of the symptoms that lead the DSM “experts” and their followers to diagnose and drug individuals.  The term 9/11 was first used in the New York Times on September 12, 2001 by Bill Keller, the future Times’ editor and Iraq war cheerleader.  Just a fortuitous coincidence, of course.

Jacques Ellul on Propaganda

Jacques Ellul has argued convincingly that modern propaganda in a technological mass society is more complicated than the state and media lying and deceiving the population.  He argues that propaganda meets certain needs of modern people and therefore the process of deceit is reciprocal.  The modern person feels lost, powerless, and empty. Ellul says, “He realizes that he depends on decisions over which he has no control, and that realization drives him to despair.”  But he can’t live in despair; desires that life be meaningful; and wants to feel he lives in a world that makes sense.  He wants to participate and have opinions that suggest he grasps the flow of events.  He doesn’t so much want information, but value judgments and preconceived positions that provide him with a framework for living.  Ellul wrote the following in 1965 in his classic book Propaganda:

The majority prefers expressing stupidities to not expressing any opinion: this gives them the feeling of participation.  For they need simple thoughts, elementary explanations, a ‘key’ that will permit them to take a position, and even readymade opinions….The man who keeps himself informed needs a framework….the more complicated the problems are, the more simple the explanations must be; the more fragmented the canvas, the simpler the pattern; the more difficult the question, the more all-embracing the solution; the more menacing the reduction of his own worth, the greater the need for boosting his ego.  All this propaganda – and only propaganda – can give him.5

Another way of saying this is that people want to be provided with myths to direct them to the “truth.”  But such so-called truth has been preconceived within the overarching myth provided by propaganda, and while it satisfies people’s emotional need for coherence, it also allows them to think of themselves as free individuals arriving at their own conclusions, which is a basic function of good propaganda.  In today’s mass technological society, it is essential that people be convinced that they are free-thinking individuals acting in good faith.  Then they can feel good about themselves as they lie and act in bad faith.

Culpable Ignorance

It is widely accepted that political leaders and the mass media lie and dissemble regularly, which, of course, they do. That is their job in an oligarchy.  Today we are subjected to almost total, unrelenting media and government propaganda. Depending on their political leanings, people direct their anger toward politicians of parties they oppose and media they believe slant their coverage to favor the opposition.  Trump is a liar.  No, Obama is a liar.  And Hillary Clinton.  No, Fox News.  Ridiculous! – it’s CNN or NBC.  And so on and so forth in this theater of the absurd that plays out within a megaplex of mainstream media propaganda, where there are many shows but one producer, whose overall aim is to engineer the consent of all who enter, while setting the different audiences against each other.  It is a very successful charade that evokes name-calling from all quarters.

In other words, for many people their opponents lie, as do other people, but not them. This is as true in personal as well as public life.  Here the personal and the political converge, despite protestations to the contrary.  Dedication to truth is very rare.

But there is another issue with propaganda that complicates the picture further.  People of varying political persuasions can agree that propaganda is widespread.  Many people on the left, and some on the right, would agree with Lisa Pease’s statement in her book on the RFK assassination, A Lie Too Big to Fail: The Real History of the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, that “the way the CIA took over America in the 1960s is the story of our time.”6  That is also what Garrison thought when he spoke of the doll’s house.

If that is so, then today’s propaganda is anchored in the events of the 1960s, specifically the infamous government assassinations of JFK, Malcolm X, MLK, and RFK, the truth of which the CIA has worked so hard to conceal. In the fifty or so years since, a vast amount of new information has made it explicitly clear that these murders were carried out by elements within the U.S. government, and were done so to silence the voices of four charismatic leaders who were opposed to the American war machine and the continuation of the Cold War. To turn away from this truth and to ignore its implications can only be described as an act of bad faith and culpable ignorance, or worse.  But that is exactly what many prominent leftists have done.  Then to compound the problem, they have done the same with the attacks of September 11, 2001.

One cannot help thinking of what the CIA official Cord Meyer called these people in the 1950s: “the compatible left.”  He felt that effective CIA propaganda, beside the need for fascist-minded types such as Allen Dulles and James Jesus Angleton, depended on “courting” leftists and liberals into its orbit. For so many of the compatible left, those making a lot of money posing as opponents of the ruling elites but often taking the money of the super-rich, the JFK assassination and the truth of September 11, 2001 are inconsequential, never to be broached, as if they never happened, except as the authorities say they did. By ignoring these most in-your-face events with their eyes wide shut, a coterie of influential leftists has done the work of Orwell’s crime-stop and has effectively succeeded in situating current events in an ahistorical and therefore misleading context that abets U.S. propaganda.  They truncate the full story to present a narrative that distorts the truth.

Without drawing a bold line connecting the dots from November 22, 1963 up to the present, a critique of the murderous forces ruling the United States is impossible.

Among the most notable of such failures are Noam Chomsky, Alexander Cockburn, Howard Zinn, and Chris Hedges, men idolized by many liberals and leftists.  And there are many others who have been deeply influenced by Chomsky, Cockburn, and Zinn and follow in their footsteps.  Their motivations remain a mystery, but there is no doubt their refusals have contributed to the increased power of those who control the doll’s house.  To know better and do as they have is surely culpable ignorance.

From Bad to Worse

Ask yourself: Has the power of the oligarchic, permanent warfare state with its propaganda and spy networks, increased or decreased in the past half century?  Who is winning the battle, the people or the ruling elites?  The answer is obvious. It matters not at all whether the president has been Trump or Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush, Barack Obama or George H. W. Bush, Richard Nixon or Jimmy Carter.  The power of the national security state has grown under them all and everyone is left to moan and groan and wonder why.  All the while the doll’s house has become more and more sophisticated and powerful with the growth of electronic media and cell phone usage.

The new Cold War now being waged against Russia and China is a bi-partisan affair, as is the confidence game played by the secret government intended to create a fractured consciousness in the population.  This fragmentation of consciousness prevents people from grasping the present from within because so many suffer from digital dementia as their attention hops from input to output in a never-ending flow of mediated, disembodied data. Trump and his followers on one side of the coin; liberal Democrats on the other. The latter, whose bibles are the New York Times, NPR, The Washington Post, Democracy Now, The Guardian, etc. – can only see propaganda when they can attribute it to Trump or the Russians. The former see everything as a liberal conspiracy to take down Trump.  The liberals have embraced a new McCarthyism and allied themselves with the deep-state forces that they were once allegedly appalled by, including Republicans.  Their embrace of the formerly despised war-monger John Bolton in the impeachment trial of Trump is a laughable case in point, if it weren’t so depraved and slimy.  It surely isn’t the bloodthirsty policies of the Trump administration or his bloviating personality, for these liberals allied themselves with Obama’s anti-Russian rhetoric, his support for the U.S. orchestrated neo-fascist Ukrainian coup, his destruction of Libya, his wars of aggression across the Middle East, his war on terror, his trillion dollar nuclear weapons modernization, his enjoyment of drone killing, his support for the coup in Honduras, his embrace of the CIA and his CIA Director John Brennan, his prosecution of whistle-blowers, etc.  The same media that served the CIA so admirably over the decades became the liberals’ paragons of truth.  It’s enough to make your head spin, which is the point.  Spin left, spin right, spin all around, because we have possessed your mind in this spectacular image game where seeming antinomies are the constancy of the same through difference, all the presidents coined by the same manufacturer who knows that coin flipping serves to entertain the audience eager for hope and change.

This is how the political system works to prevent change.  It is why little has changed for the better over half a century and the American empire has expanded.  While it may be true that there are signs that this American hegemony is coming to an end (I am not convinced), I would not underestimate the power of the U.S. propaganda apparatus to keep people docile and deluded in the doll’s house, despite the valiant efforts of independent truth-tellers.

How, for example, is it possible for so many people to see such a stark difference between the despicable Trump and the pleasant Obama?  They are both puppets dancing to their masters’ tunes – the same masters.  They both front for the empire.

In his excellent book, Obama’s Unending Wars: Fronting the Foreign Policy of the Permanent Warfare State, Jeremy Kuzmarov assiduously documents Obama’s crimes, including his CIA background.7 As Glen Ford, of Black Agenda Report, says in the first sentence of his forward, “Barack Obama may go down in presidential history as the most effective-and deceptive-imperialist of them all.” Read the book if you want all the details.  They form an overwhelming indictment of the con artist and war criminal that is irrefutable.  But will those who worship at the altar of Barack Obama read it?  Of course not.  Just as those deluded ones who voted for the reality television flim-flam man Trump will ignore all the accumulating evidence that they’ve been had and are living under a president who is Obama’s disguised doppelganger, carrying out the orders of his national security state bosses. This, too, is well documented, and no doubt another writer will arise in the years to come to put it between a book’s covers.

Yet even Jeremy Kuzmarov fails to see the link between the JFK assassination and Obama’s shilling for the warfare state.  His few references to Kennedy are all negative, suggesting he either is unaware of what Kennedy was doing in the last year of his life and why he was murdered by the CIA, or something else.  He seems to follow Noam Chomsky, a Kennedy hater, in this regard.  I point out this slight flaw in an excellent book because it is symptomatic of certain people on the left who refuse to complete the circle.  If, as Kuzmarov, argues, Obama was CIA from the start and that explains his extraordinarily close relationship with the CIA’s John Brennan, an architect, among many things, of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program, and that Obama told CIA Director Panetta that the CIA would “get everything it wanted,” and the CIA killed JFK, well, something’s amiss, an enormous gap in the analysis of our current condition.

The doll’s house is a mind game of extraordinary proportions, orchestrated by the perverted power elites that run the show and ably abetted by their partners in the corporate mass media, even some in the alternative press who mean well but are confused, or are disinformation agents in the business of sowing confusion together with their mainstream Operation Mockingbird partners.  It is a spectacle of open secrecy, in which the CIA has effectively suckered everyone into a game of to-and-fro in which only they win.

Our only hope for change is to try and educate as many people as possible about the linkages between  events that started with the CIA coup d’état in Dallas on November 22, 1963, continued through the killings of Malcolm X, MLK, RFK and on through so much else up to September 11, 2001, and have brought us to the deeply depressing situation we now find ourselves in where truthtellers like Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, and Edward Snowden are criminalized, while the real perpetrators of terrible evils roam free.

Yes, we must educate but also agitate for the release of this courageous trio.  Their freedom is ours; their imprisonment is ours, whether we know it or not.  The walls are closing in.

Lisa Pease is so right:

The way the CIA took over America in the 1960s is the story of our time, and too few recognize this.  We can’t fix a problem we can’t even acknowledge exists.

If we don’t follow her advice, we will be toyed with like dolls for a long time to come.  There will be no one else to blame.

  1. Interview with Jim Garrison, District Attorney of Parish of Orleans, Louisiana, May 27, 1969.
  2. Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, Jacques Ellul, Vintage Books, 1973, pp. 17-18.
  3. Jon Rappoport, CIA mind control morphed into psychiatry?  July 11, 2017.
  4. Escape from Freedom, Erich Fromm, Rinehart & Company, Inc., 1941.
  5. Ellul, op cit., p. 140.
  6. A Lie Too Big To Fail, Lisa Pease, Feral House, 2018, pp.500-501.
  7. Obama’s Unending Wars: Fronting the Foreign Policy of the Permanent Warfare State, Jeremy Kuzmarov, Clarity Press, 2019.

Generals, Princes, and Black Snakes

Damn The Man, Damn The Empire (January 16th)

In 2012 Barack Obama was reelected following the disastrous US-led war on Libya that he began without approval from Congress, and two years after the assassination of Osama Bin Laden, without trial, inside a sovereign nation. In 2011 Obama also came out with this progressive chestnut: “Unlike the old empires, we don’t make these sacrifices for territory or for resources. We do it because it’s right.” Violence helps gets you reelected.

Reflecting on this history, the hope of a renewed antiwar movement in the face of Trump’s recent actions in the Middle East are tempered, as ever, by the reasonable suspicion that many participants are more anti-Trump than anti-Empire. A number of Russiagate signs at last Thursdays antiwar demonstration in St. Pete certainly indicated as much (bold, considering that Iran is a Russian ally). To be fair, in the immediate aim of preventing state-sanctioned murder and destruction this is not entirely important, as human lives are more important your ideology. While attending said demonstration I faced the decision of whether to sign a letter directed at Senator Rick Scott, demanding that Trump not attack Iran without asking Congress first. I contemplated whether I wanted to put my name to a document implying that invasion might be fine if approved by a certifiably pro-empire body, the body that recently approved a record breaking $738 billion military budget with the help of nearly 200 House Democrats. I ultimately decided it might possibly help to save lives and held my nose. I did sign it in pencil however, to show my half-commitment. For the record, Scott later responded that Soleimani was “one of the world’s worst monsters,” “responsible for the death and maiming of thousands of Americans,” and that “Iran must make the choice for peace.”

The US has been at war for around 225 years of its 244 year existence. This country is not a project whose natural state is to be non-violent, with intentions for expansionism stated quite clearly in its founding documents. If you don’t understand this, you cannot call yourself a peace activist. That things seem to have de-escalated for the moment with regards to Iran shouldn’t give anything but cold comfort in the face of such a record. The US Empire will continue to ignore the Iraqi Parliaments recent vote to remove American redcoats, and use them to keep baiting Iran into conflict, all the while insisting that Iran, violent aggressor that it is, can’t be trusted with nuclear weaponry. Suck-up NATO allies will support all but the most naked acts of warmongering. Any antiwar sentiment that seeps out of the Democratic party will be mere relief valves. I don’t pretend to know what it will take to stop this behaviour, but it’s definitely not getting Trump out of office.

One other thing: the general population of our area is not in any danger because Tampa hosts Macdill Airforce Base. No matter how things evolve, Iran doesn’t have the capability to launch some massive attack because normal countries don’t have firepower all around the world at all times ready to blow people up. Many countries literally don’t need antiwar movements, because their military’s are actually defensive. The only people with the capability to even mildly disrupt Macdill, or any of the twenty other military bases in Florida, are the people living here in Florida. Maybe keep that in mind the next time a President decides it’s time to start shipping out body bags.

Love It, Or Leave It (January 23rd)

When it comes to the recent drama over Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and their decision to “step back” from duties with the royal family, a part of me is inclined to simply agree with the inspirational satirist newscaster Jonathan Pie, who summed up the ridiculous media frenzy of the last few weeks with the following statements: “Ginger toff picks his wife over his nan.” “Massively wealthy couple are to attempt the amazing feat of seeing if it’s possible to be financially independent with only several million pounds in the bank. She was worth four million dollars before she even started shagging a prince!”

A lot of people are blaming racist coverage in the UK press for the couples’ decision to spend more time here in North America. There’s no reason to doubt that the tabloids have engaged in racism – their historical record of tone deafness and vile commentary on the subject speaks for itself, and should be condemned. But I draw the line at painting Meghan Markle as an innocent victim, and find the identity politics being used to defend her laughable. Because the monarchy, being another wing of the English establishment, also has a historical record on racism and a lot of other bad things besides. They’re the most potent figureheads of enclosure and colonialism in world history and continue to spit in the face of common people with every day that they fail to resign their posts. Any idea that this body is capable or worthy of being reformed in a more progressive manner, rather than being abolished, is ludicrous, and it takes a special kind of rich liberal thinking to suspect otherwise. Put yourself into an institution of inherited superiority, of pedophiles and nazi apologists, and no amount of championing social causes will ever outweigh that decision.

Many are angry that Harry and Meghan seem to want their Marie Antoinette cake and to eat it, keeping their benefits and offloading the work. To the extent that it’s true its obviously outrageous. It appears that the couple want to give up their taxpayer grant funding, but 95% of their income is currently given to them by Harry’s dad Prince Charles, whose money comes mostly from his landowning fiefdom the Duchy of Cornwall, assets that, like all others in the family possession, were seized from peasants centuries ago. The accusation, coming mainly from monarchists, that the goal of this change is to cynically use their power and platform to further enrich themselves, also appears to hold some weight. Why be an organ of the state when you can make more privately?

But let’s not pretend that what the Royals contribute could actually be considered work by any normal resident of this planet. Their charitable “work” of flying around on private jets posing for photos is the benevolence of the rich argument, with any problems of a structural nature off limits for discussion because the royals aren’t supposed to express real opinions. They wield unimaginable privilege and power, and yet are totally useless as leaders. Their so called work is a dog and pony show consisting of corgis and racehorses.

I’ll admit that I find it hard to think clearly when it comes to the topic of the royals: the blatant injustice of the enterprise, the vast efforts needed to explain what would be obvious were it not for a ferocious royal PR machine, the people who treat their existence as some sort of innocent escapism when the corrosive results of their pampered lifestyles are anything but. But I’ll try and “step back” from my feelings for a moment. If Harry was somehow capable of actually escaping his lifetime of brainwashing, of actually abdicating from this insidious organisation of theft, I might actually give him some credit. If he wants to spend his time over here, like all us aspiring would-be successful English people, he can come and stay at my apartment. I’ll get him a job in retail and we can go out for beers together, talk about how he’s such a regular bloke more than willing to put in a days work, or maybe a few decades. Until that happens, all this restructuring looks as self-serving as anything else these people have been doing for the last thousand years.

Do You Understand Where You Stand? (January 30th)

The last few weeks I’ve been laying in pretty hard to the ruling class of both the US and England, so now it’s time to show our Northern neighbours some tough love, with a look at recent events in the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, up in so-called British Columbia.

Resistance to fossil fuel infrastructure in this region goes back many years, in part due to an environment that, by contemporary standards, has so far remained relatively unspoiled. The insatiable fossil fuel industry has therefore set its sights on changing that situation by trying to force as many as 7 different pipelines for tar sands oil and fracked gas through the territories of indigenous peoples in recent decades. The response of these communities has ultimately been to set up various protest camps and checkpoints, and assert their legal rights under international and Canadian law and the laws of their own unceded territories.

The Wet’suwet’en First Nation is made up of 5 clans. Each clan has house groups that are responsible for protecting different territories. All 5 clans have formally rejected any and all pipelines proposals. In a society that respected sovereignty that would be the end of the discussion. But fossil fuels are finite and the settler colony nations of North America, set up at their inception to expect the infinite expansion of their footprints, have no intention of leaving a single drop in the ground.

The Wet’suwet’en cause made the news this time last year when TC Energy (formerly TransCanada, who changed their name last year, possibly to escape their association with the Keystone XL pipeline) obtained a court injunction to get them into the territory of the Unist’ot’en house in order to build the Coastal GasLink, transporting fracked gas to the pacific coast for export to Asia. Claiming that the court that issued the injunction had no jurisdiction over their unceded lands, one of the neighbouring clans set up a checkpoint to control access to the territory. The response from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Canada’s federal police force) was to send in helicopters and geared up cops to smash the checkpoint.

This January has been eventful too. On January 4th the fossil fuel contractors occupying the territory were given an eviction notice under the authority of Wet’suwet’en law, and somewhat amazingly, actually complied with the notice (post-broadcast update: some reports suggest that they simply moved to another part of the territory). The week beginning January 7 a callout for solidarity events went out with dozens of actions taking place across North America and overseas. This past Monday over 600 Metro Vancouver students walked out of classes for a demonstration in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en. The industry and its enforcers, however, had other tricks to deploy.

On January 13 the RCMP began blocking access into the area to anyone that they didn’t deem to be a chief or to have adequate safety equipment on their vehicles, a patronising insult to freedom of movement. This included barring a lawyer from the Water Protector Legal Collective from the Unist’ot’en camp on the grounds that he wasn’t licensed to practice law in British Columbia. That this particular lawyer has done 3 legal trainings at the camp obviously had nothing to do with the decision. They have also lied about blocking supply helicopters from entering the area. The RCMP celebrates its 100th anniversary this coming Saturday, February 1. They will no doubt act as if this is an impressive landmark. But in the grand scheme of things it pales in comparison to what they are helping to destroy: millennia of indigenous civilisation, and the potentially timeless, infinite joy of a pristine environment.

I’m going to be posting various links about the Wet’suwet’en struggle in the coming days to the facebook pages of both Alternative Frequency and Radical Beat Writing. Please look up and follow those pages up if you haven’t already. They will include the short film Invasion (a full length version is coming this summer), ways to donate to the camps and links to more background information. Perhaps a fundraiser or event of some kind can be organised here in our area. Wet’suwet’en chiefs have been told openly by the RCMP to expect another invasion by the Canadian petro-state at any moment, so it’s important to keep this struggle in the spotlight. This is a big story with a lot of details, but the fundamentals are straightforward. The Wet’suwet’en have categorically said no to all fossil fuel development in their own corner of Earth, the only sensible life-affirming decision that can be made at this time of climate breakdown. In doing so they are leading a fight for the benefit of every one of us. The various powers that be have shown their utter unwillingness to respect or even understand that decision. Let’s make it clear that we stand on the side of self-determination, and of life itself.

The Wet’suwet’en have also requested that those of us living in other parts of this settler colony continent learn about our local indigenous communities and support their causes. Here in Tampa Bay we are lucky enough to have the group FIREE, Florida Indigenous Rights and Environmental Equality. They hold monthly film screenings at St. Pete Community Acupuncture as well as other occasional events and protests. Look up Florida Indigenous Rights and Environmental Equality on Facebook to learn more.

Seeking a New Narrative and Finding 20/20 Vision in 2020

The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election Year finds me ensconced in Tucson, Arizona.  This is definitely not Trump country.  Our man in The U.S. House of Representatives is Raul Grijalva, possibly one of the most influential liberals in D.C.  Tucson’s newly-elected mayor is Regina Romero, a Latina leftie who doesn’t shrink from the task of taking on every conceivable social issue.  And I have begun attending what might just be the most influential church in the U.S.A. when it comes to actually DOING the work of Jesus Christ, and not just chatting about it:  Southside Presbyterian, where the Sanctuary Movement began, and which still actively ruffles the feathers of those who believe that the only good “illegal” immigrant is a dead one.  If you want to make enemies in these parts, just say a few words portraying your current U.S. President as being anything other than the slimy, smug, self-righteous, racist, misogynist, hate-monger which he is.  So now my conundrum is this: how do I convince anyone, amid the shitstorm of anti-Trump hysteria, that the man is just playing his part in a multi-year drama?  He’s simply been assigned the part of a president in this country’s latest quadrennial election/selection/faux-democracy, divide and conquer spectacle…brought to the populace along with “bread” from the Agro-Chemical Industry, and “circus” compliments of virtually every major “news” source, under the omniscient direction of our dear friends at The C.I.A.

Nobody wants to be played for a fool.  Obama’s act was equally as impressive as Trump’s.  Plenty good enough to leave him in place on the political stage for a four year encore.  His keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention had me writing letters to editors, endorsing him for president in ’08.  And during his inauguration eleven years ago, I wept for joy.  Then within a year, my delusions surfaced like bubbles from a champagne bottle.  By some estimations, my one-time hero dropped more tons of bombs on foreign countries in wars for profit than any of the 43 before him.  He also deported a record breaking number of “illegals”.  And when he started referring to his fellow-Americans as “exceptional” with disturbing regularity, I finally understood that I’d been played for a fool.  I’d swallowed the charismatic, C.I.A.-directed act of this man who had won the hearts and minds of at least half of all Americans.

Seems to me that it’s fair to say that certain groups of Americans join one of the two major parties for similar reasons.  The two parties have the game tied up, and nobody else is allowed a place on the playing field. Therefore if you want to be heard, you become either Republican or Democrat.  Who becomes Republican?  Rich bastards who want to stay that way and poor bastards who strive only to be rich.  Social issues, other than possibly White Supremacy and the sacred Second Amendment, do not apply.  And who becomes Democrat?  Good folks who truly love their fellow humans, care for the environment, whose hearts bleed for social justice issues, and who take the teachings of the Prince of Peace seriously…a few even daring to dream of actual peace on earth.

Lucky for the folks in charge of the U.S.A.’s two acceptable parties, the country is roughly evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats…or heartless assholes and bleeding hearts.  And since those powerful elites who run both parties do their private partying together, and answer to even more powerful forces than themselves on Wall Street, they work day and night to maintain the status quo…to control the narrative and direct the ongoing political drama.  And unfortunately for those Democrats who still dream of peace on earth, the candidates which are chosen for them are forbidden to do anything which might threaten the continuation of a national policy of International Piracy…of wars for profit…of traditional wars, hybrid wars, wars which kill with bombs and bullets, wars which kill with sanctions and blockades, wars which kill legitimate national leaders and overthrow governments, wars sold like toothpaste to a gullible American public.  Wars sometimes festively wrapped in red, and as often in blue, but wars which will continue unabated unless the stranglehold is broken.  Wars which, by some estimations equate to 20 million foreign murders by The U.S.A. just since the end of World War II.

Here’s what we have to look forward to in the upcoming election season:  Trump has shown himself to be as adept at pissing off liberals as semi-blackish Obama was at infuriating conservatives.  So I’d guess that the plan is to keep the orange ogre for another four year act.  Like a giant sporting event, Americans of all persuasions are kept off balance by the politicians they despise.  It’ll give the Democrats four more years to fuss, fret, and search desperately for a new president from within their ranks, and to completely forget about peace on earth.  Tulsi Gabbard, the only vocal anti-war presidential candidate in recent history has, of course, been eliminated through the process of being ignored by rabid Rachel at MSNBC, and in collusion, politically assassinated by being often interviewed on FAUX News.  Tulsi, our best hope for opening the way for peace, will likely be out of her job as U.S. Congressperson within the next few years…hijacked and betrayed by her own party…rejected by the established status quo, which is and has always been powered by hate, death, and war.  In the quadrennial election/selection/faux-democracy, divide and conquer spectacle, there are eight words which must never be spoken…those are the seven words George Carlin said that must never be uttered on television plus that horrible four-letter utterance which has the potential to upend everything which our two-headed dragon of a political system has accomplished.  That word is “peace”.  No corrective emails, please.  I can count the letters in peace.

Peace on earth will not likely come from the assholes on the red side of the aisle.  So to the good folks who gather under the blue banner to fight for justice, battle racism, end misogyny, stop border wall construction, reverse climate change, and save the whales, I have a few words:  All of your good intentions are for naught, until you realize that the choice between war and peace is the only social issue of any real importance in these United States and worldwide.  How can we, with straight faces, speak of overcoming racism on home turf, when we’re dropping bombs on innocent people of all colors living in an undisclosed number of mostly vulnerable, resource-rich, third world countries?  Obama managed to juggle at least seven undeclared wars at once.  How can we meaningfully address climate change while our politicians on both sides of the aisle defoliate half of Asia, drop depleted uranium all over the Mideast, and turn the spoils of war (including the last remaining stands of rainforest) over to their Wall Street overlords for harvesting?  What good is equal pay for U.S. women, when their newfound wealth pays for, and is responsible for the bombs which routinely scatter the body parts of their sisters in foreign lands among the burned branches of their once productive olive orchards?

I’m inviting all loyal Democrats and other folks with good intentions to join me here in in the thankless periphery of The U.S. Empire, and to see your government for the ugly cancer upon earth which it has become.  Our beloved Founding Fathers were International Pirates, and they’ve passed down that baton to their scions for much too long.  The Great American Holocaust, which decimated the advanced culture once occupying the entire Western Hemisphere, dwarfed Hitler’s puny version.  The abomination of slavery fueled the “success” of capitalism.  Those International Pirates own and control the sham democracy of the exceptional people, and do so from positions of power on both sides of the political aisle.  This is an invitation to take part in the long overdue slaying of our favorite sacred cow…the election process…which has always been controlled, but which can now be done with the click of a mouse.  Let’s call it what it is:  A cruel joke…a tale told by an idiot…a fake choice between a sharp stick in the eye or a kick in the groin.  American Democracy, my ass!  It is time for a coup d’etat in this country, and the likely place to kick it off is from within the Democratic Party.

‘Tis high time to take control…to admit that we’ve all been played for fools, and to yell from the rooftops that we’re no longer going to take it…no longer will we vote for what appears to be the slightly less toxic of two groomed and approved candidates.  It’s time to demand…to DEMAND positive change from the Democrats, and to accept nothing less.  Perhaps there’s still time to resurrect Tulsi Gabbard’s bold bid for office…to realize that she’s one of the ones we’ve been waiting for…apparently the real deal…a breath of fresh political air.  Time to storm the offices of the Democratic elites and break out the tar and feathers (figuratively, of course).  Time to ditch those deceptive rose-colored glasses and find once again the 20/20 vision with which we were born.  Ed Abbey said that “Society is like a stew.  If you don’t stir it up once in a while then a layer of scum floats to the top.”  I just hope we can still force a spoon into the mountain of scum accumulated in our hallowed halls of government.  It will indeed take all the strength and resolve we can muster.  What say we find out just how exceptional we really are?

Now Three Years into the Reign of Trump, What’s Left?

On January 20, Donald G. Trump completed his third year in office. My one blog that received five-digit Facebook shares predicted Trump would lose in 2016. I was spectacularly wrong but not alone. Even the Las Vegas bookies thought Clinton was a shoo-in with her unbeatable two-punch knockout of (1) I’m not Trump and (2) World War III with the Russians would be peachy at least until the bombs start falling. What could possibly have gone wrong?

More to the point, the unexpected victory of Trump was the historical reaction to the bankruptcy of Clinton-Bush-Obama neoliberalism. Now after three years of Mr. Trump, what’s left?

During the George W. Bush years – he’s now viewed favorably by a majority of Democrats – Democrats could wring their tied hands to the accolades of their base. My own Democrat Representative Lynn Woolsey stood up daily in the House and denounced Bush’s Iraq war. For a while there was a resurgent peace movement against US military adventures in the Middle East, which was even backed by some left-leaning liberals.

But the moment that Obama ascended to the Oval Office, the Iraq War became Obama’s war, Bush’s secretary of war Gates was carried over to administer it, and Woolsey forgot she was for peace. No matter, Obama, the peace candidate, would fix it. Just give him a chance. For eight years, Obama was given a chance and the peace movement went quiescent.

Trump takes office

Surely a Republican president, I thought, would harken a rebirth of the peace movement given the ever-inflated war budget and the proliferation of US wars. The US is officially at war with Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Niger. To the official list are any number of other states subject to drone attacks such as Iran, Pakistan, and Mali. And then there are some 30 countries targeted with illegal unilateral coercive measures as form of economic warfare. Yet a funny thing happened on the way to the demonstration.

With Republicans in control of both Congress and the White House, my expectation was that Democrats would safely take a giant step to the right in accordance with their Wall Street funders, while safely keeping a baby step to the left of the Republicans appeasing their liberal-leaning base. To certain extent, this is what happened with Trump’s tax cut for the wealthy. The Democrats could and did claim that their hands were once again tied…wink, wink to their Wall Street handlers.

Yet on many more fundamental issues, the Democrats did not take advantage of paying lip service to their base’s economic priorities by attacking the Republicans on their weak left flank. No, the Democrats mounted an assault on the Republicans from the right with what The Hill called Pelosi’s “fiscally hawkish pay-as-you-go rules,” increasing the war budget, and launching Russiagate. Instead of appealing to working people on bread and butter issues, the Democrats gave us turbo-charged identity politics.

Bernie Sanders had raised genuine issues regarding runaway income inequality and plutocratic politics. However, Sanders was suppressed by a hostile corporate press and an antagonistic Democratic Party establishment, which arguably preferred to risk a Republican victory in 2016 than support anyone who questioned neoliberal orthodoxy.

Sanders’ issues got asphyxiated in the juggernaut of Russiagate. His legacy – so far – has been to help contain a progressive insurgency within the Democratic Party, the perennial graveyard of social movements. Had Mr. Sanders not come along, the Democrats – now the full-throated party of neoliberal austerity at home and imperial war abroad – would have needed to invent a leftish Pied Piper to keep their base in the fold.

So, after three years of Trump, the more than ever needed mass movement against militarism has yet to resurrect in force, notwithstanding promising demonstrations in immediate response to Trump’s assassination of Iran’s Major General Soleimani on January 3 with more demonstrations to come.

Imperialism and neoliberalism

Dubya proved his imperialist mettle with the second Iraq war; Obama with the destruction of Libya. But Trump has yet to start a war of his own. Though, in the case of Iran, it was not from lack of trying. The last US president with a similar imperialist failing was the one-term Carter. But Trump has 12 and possibly 60 more months to go.

In his short time in office, Trump has packed his administration with former war industry executives, increased troops in Afghanistan, approved selling arms to the coup government of Ukraine, made the largest arms sale in US history to Saudi Arabia, supported the Saudi’s war against Yemen, recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and killed more civilians in drone strikes than “Obomber.” In the empire’s “backyard,” Trump tightened the blockade on Cuba, intensified Obama’s sanctions on Venezuela to a blockade, oversaw the devastation of Puerto Rico, and backed the right wing coup in Bolivia. The Venezuelan Embassy Protectors are fighting the US government for a fair trial, while Julian Assange faces extradition to the US.

Now that Trump has declared the defeat of ISIS, the US National Defense Strategy is “interstate strategic competition” with Russia and China. This official guiding document of the US imperial state explicitly calls for “build[ing] a more lethal force” for world domination. Giving credit where it is due, back in 2011, Hillary Clinton and Obama had presciently decreed a “pivot to Asia,” targeting China.

Closer to home Trump has been busy deregulating environmental protections, dismantling the National Park system, weaponizing social media, and undoing net neutrality, while withdrawing from the Paris Agreement on global warming. What’s not to despise?

Russiagate and impeachment

Russiagate – in case you have a real life and are not totally absorbed in mass media – is about a conspiracy that the Russians and not the US Electoral College are responsible for Hillary Clinton not getting her rightful turn to be President of the United States.

For the better part of the last three years under the shadow of Trump in the White House, a spook emerged from the netherworld of the deep state and has toiled mightily to expose wrongdoers. This man, former head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, we are told is only one miracle short of being canonized in blue state heaven. Yet even he failed to indict a single American for colluding with Russia, though he was able to hand out indictments to Americans for other wrongdoings not related to Russia.

Undeterred by this investigation to nowhere, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi initiated impeachment proceedings against the sitting president in the Democrat’s first successful step to promote Mike Pence as the next POTUS.

When an unelected and unaccountable CIA operative in secret collusion with opposition politicians (e.g., Adam Schiff) and with backing from his agency seeks to take down a constitutionally elected president, that is cause for concern. Operating under the cloak of anonymity and with privileged access to information, national security operatives skilled in the craft of espionage have the undemocratic means to manipulate and even depose elected officials.

What has arisen is an emboldened national security state. The CIA, lest we forget, is the clandestine agency whose mission is to use any means necessary to affect “regime change” in countries that dare to buck the empire. Latin American leftists used to quip that the US has never suffered a coup because there is no US embassy in Washington. There may not be a US embassy there, but the CIA and the rest of the US security establishment are more than ever present and pose a danger to democracy.

Now Obama’s former Director of National Intelligence and serial perjurer James Clapper holds the conflicted role of pundit on CNN while still retaining his top security clearance. Likewise, Obama’s former CIA director, torture apologist, and fellow perjurer John Brennan holds forth on NBC News and MSNBC with his security clearance intact.

Class trumps partisan differences

The Democrats and Republicans mortally combat on the superficial, while remaining united in their bedrock class loyalty to the rule of capital and US world hegemony. The first article of the Democrat-backed impeachment is the president’s “abuse of power.” Yet, amidst the heat of the House impeachment hearings, the Democrats, by an overwhelming majority, helped renew the Patriot Act, which gives the president war time authority to shred the constitution.

Contrary to the utterances of the Democratic presidential candidates on the campaign trail about limiting US military spending, the latest $738 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is $22 billion over the last. The Democratic Progressive Caucus didn’t even bother to whip members to oppose the bill. On December 11, in an orgy of bi-partisan love, the NDAA bill passed by a landslide vote of 377-48.

President Trump tweeted “Wow!” Democratic Party leader and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith called the bill “the most progressive defense bill we have passed in decades.”

This bill gifts twelve more Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets than Trump had requested and green-lights funding of Trump’s border wall with Mexico. Stripped from the bipartisan NDAA “compromise” bill were provisions to prohibit Trump from launching a war on Iran without Congressional authorization. Similarly dropped were limits to US participation in the genocidal war in Yemen.

A new Space Force is authorized to militarize the heavens. Meanwhile the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has set the doomsday clock at 2 minutes before midnight. Unfortunately, the Democrat’s concern about Trump’s abuse of power does not extend to such existential matters as nuclear war.

Trump’s renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement (i.e., USMCA), an acknowledged disaster, was renewed with bipartisan support. On the domestic front, Trump cut food stamps, Medicaid, and reproductive health services over the barely audible demurs of the supine Democrats.

Revolt of the dispossessed

Behind the façade of the impeachment spectacle – Ken Starr and Alan Dershowitz are now on Trump’s legal team – is a ruling class consensus that trumps partisan differences. As political economist Rob Urie perceptively observed:

The American obsession with electoral politics is odd in that ‘the people’ have so little say in electoral outcomes and that the outcomes only dance around the edges of most people’s lives. It isn’t so much that the actions of elected leaders are inconsequential as that other factors— economic, historical, structural and institutional, do more to determine ‘politics.’

In the highly contested 2016 presidential contest, nearly half the eligible US voters opted out, not finding enough difference among the contenders to leave home. 2020 may be an opportunity; an opening for an alternative to neoliberal austerity at home and imperial wars abroad lurching to an increasingly oppressive national security state. The campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbord and before them Occupy point to a popular insurgency. Mass protests of the dispossessed are rocking France, India, Colombia, Chile, and perhaps here soon.

Sheep-dogging on Steroids: The New Democratic Party Anti-War Activists

In the cynical spectacle that is called politics in the United States, the latest insult to the intelligence of the people is the Democrats who are posturing as Anti-war champions in reaction to the Trump Administration’s assassination of Qassem Soleimani and the possibility of further attacks on Iran.

We are supposed to buy that the Democrats are concerned about war with Iran. The same Democrats who opposed de-escalation with North Korea; who blocked any attempt to remove U.S. occupation forces from South Korea; who continue to champion the NATO white supremacist structure; who were silent on Obama’s war on Yemen; who supported the assault on Libya; who  were unmoved by the over 40,000 people who reportedly have died from U.S. imposed sanctions on Venezuela; and who gave the Trump Administration another obscene increase in military spending.

It is common knowledge that there has always been a bipartisan antipathy to Iran, not because of anything that Iran has done to the U.S., but because of the geopolitics of the so-called Middle East in which the U.S. has sought to dominate. The Democrats had some of the loudest voices supporting confrontation with Iran up until the Obama-Rohani nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that Trump abrogated. That is what makes the Anti-war posture of the Democrats – even the progressive ones – so incredible.

Therefore, since it is clear that the Democrats didn’t have any less of an appetite for war and global U.S. dominance than the Republicans, how should we understand this newly discovered “anti-warism”?

The Opposition is anti-Trump, not Anti-war!

Nancy Pelosi correctly understood that the politics of impeachment was a dead-end that would only result in satisfying the Democratic base but held out very little prospects for the longer-term strategy of defeating Trump in November 2020. She understood that politically the Democrats had gotten all they could from the Russiagate silliness when they reclaimed the majority in the House of Representatives.

But an essential element of the Democratic party messaging leading up to the mid-term vote in 2018 was the implication that with a Democratic majority in the House the primary item on the party’s agenda would be the impeachment of Donald Trump.  When that majority was achieved, Pelosi and the party establishment found themselves under tremendous pressure to find a way to impeachment. All their eggs for impeachment were in the Mueller report basket that had been held until after the mid-term election.

Unfortunately for the Democrats, the report, like Mueller himself, was a flop.  The report failed to ignite a groundswell of impeachment fever beyond the increasingly irrational demands from the liberal base of the party.  However, one of the unforeseen results of the 2018 mid-term for Pelosi and centrist Democrats was the emergence of a group of “progressives” who wouldn’t let the impeachment ploy fade away.

Consequently, Ukraine-gate became the issue for the foregone conclusion that there would be an impeachment. Pelosi and House leadership delivered on impeachment knowing that there would be no removal by the Senate. They could, however, claim that they met their supposed Constitutional duty, but importantly, their political imperative to impeach.  The second act of this diversionary drama was scheduled to begin when the Congress came back into session in January – that is, before the current crisis with the possibility of war with Iran.

War with Iran: Everyone wins!

Pelosi wins because she delivered on impeachment and can now switch tactics and allow the progressives to take the lead with the new messaging that Trump’s recklessness and unfitness for office is now threatening the possibility of a new war. The hawks in the U.S. foreign policy community win. Those elements have always wanted a conflict with Iran and believed that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to limit Iran’s nuclear capacity was a mistake.

Liberals win. Even though the more rational ones knew Trump was not going to be removed by the Senate, the developing crisis with Iran allows them to exploit the issue of a possible war with Iran to drive home the idea that Trump is a threat to global peace and should not be trusted with a second term. Trump wins. Iran shifted the focus from the impeachment trial in the Senate and the possibility, as remote as that might have been, that “new” information might flip the requisite number of republican senators to vote with democrats to remove him.  Moreover, if the situation with Iran doesn’t escalate out of control, he can claim this as another victory for a muscle assertion of U.S. power and strong leadership. The U.S. state wins with the possibility that Iran will be obliterated and with it Chinese interests harmed with the cut-off of oil but also with the disruption of shipping in the Strait of Hormuz.

The only elements that don’t win are the working class soldiers of the U.S. military who will be put in harm’s way for yet another war of choice, and the many thousands of innocents in Iran who may have their lives snuffed out by this crazed rogue state. But who cares about either of those elements?

There is a growing war-weariness that Trump understood and tapped into during his campaign. Trump never claimed to be Anti-war or pro-peace. However, being an anti-globalist, “pro-American,” white nationalist, he understood the sentiments and orientation of his base who had grown tied of sending their sons and, now daughters, off on multiple deployments to fight for what they saw as an elite agenda of never ending wars for the “liberal bankers” (his base understood that coded reference).

That same war-weariness existed in the working class base of democrat party voters also with some 79% of Democrats supporting a general roll-back in U.S. foreign commitments, but the pro-imperialist elitists in the party could not recognize that position and speak to it from a progressive perspective.

Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Ro Khanna, Barbara Lee, and even the queen of pandering Elizabeth Warren and a few others on the liberal-left of the Democratic party have started to understand the growing importance of U.S. foreign policy issues and specifically the issue of war for the public, even if the corporate press, party establishment, and most of the candidates running for that party’s nomination haven’t given much attention to those subjects.

The progressives are not taking comprehensive Anti-war positions and certainly have not embraced anti-imperialist positions.  Their positions have not deviated that far from the party establishment that continues to take the morally dubious and legally unsupportable position that somehow the U.S. has a right to murder the general of a nation that the U.S. was not at war with if only Trump had consulted with Congress and had thought through all of the consequences of a possible war with Iran.

That is why this party is not the party that is capable of resisting U.S. imperialism.  The rhetoric of the progressives only gives cover to the ongoing criminality of the U.S. state and its commitment to permanent war – with Congressional approval!

The role of these progressives is to keep the people on the Democratic party plantation.  The only countervailing force to U.S. gangsterism are the independently organized working class, nationally oppressed and all marginalized and exploited and oppressed people. This past weekend we saw the beginning of that resistance with demonstrations in close to 80 cities across the country in opposition to the possibility of war with Iran.

As the Black Alliance for Peace stated:

The Trump Administration along with the democrats are united in their objective interests, despite the impeachment charade, to support white power in the form of their imperialist agenda. But they need us – the people – as the cannon fodder and the passive supporters.

Obama was the ultimate sheep dog that not only kept progressives and even radicals on the democrat party plantation but gave a new respectability to U.S. imperialist criminality.  We will not fall for that again, not from the “squad” Sanders or anyone else.

Russiagate Investigation Now Endangers Obama

Former U.S. President Barack Obama is now in severe legal jeopardy, because the Russiagate investigation has turned 180 degrees; and he, instead of the current President, Donald Trump, is in its cross-hairs.

The biggest crime that a U.S. President can commit is to try to defeat American democracy (the Constitutional functioning of the U.S. Government) itself, either by working with foreign powers to take it over, or else by working internally within America to sabotage democracy for his or her own personal reasons. Either way, it’s treason (crime that is intended to, and does, endanger the continued functioning of the Constitution itself1 ), and Mr. Obama is now being actively investigated, as possibly having done this. The Russiagate investigation, which had formerly focused against the current U.S. President, has reversed direction and now targets the prior President. Although he, of course, cannot be removed from office (since he is no longer in office), he is liable under criminal laws, the same as any other American would be, if he committed any crime while he was in office.

A December 17 order by the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Court severely condemned the performance by the FBI under Obama, for having obtained, on 19 October 2016 (even prior to the U.S. Presidential election), from that Court, under false pretenses, an authorization for the FBI to commence investigating Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign, as being possibly in collusion with Russia’s Government. The Court’s ruling said:

In order to appreciate the seriousness of that misconduct and its implications, it is useful to understand certain procedural and substantive requirements that apply to the government’s conduct of electronic surveillance for foreign intelligence purposes. Title I of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA ), codified as amended at 50 U.S.C. 1801-1813, governs such electronic surveillance. It requires the government to apply for and receive an order from the FISC approving a proposed electronic surveillance. When deciding whether to grant such an application, a FISC judge must determine among other things, whether it provides probable cause to believe that the proposed surveillance target is a “foreign power” or an agent a foreign power. …
The government has a heightened duty of candor to the FISC in ex parte proceedings, that is, ones in which the government does not face an adverse party, such as proceedings on electronic surveillance applications. The FISC expects the government to comply with its heightened duty of candor in ex parte proceedings at all times. Candor is fundamental to this Court’s effective operation. …
On December 9, 2019, the government filed, with the FISC, public and classified versions of the OIG Report. … It documents troubling instances in which FBI personnel provided information to NSD [National Security Division of the Department of Justice] which was unsupported or contradicted by information in their possession. It also describes several instances in which FBI personnel withheld from NSD information in their possession which was detrimental to their case for believing that Mr. [Carter] Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power. …

On December 18th, Martha MacCallum, of Fox News, interviewed U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr, and asked him (at 7:00 in the video) how high up in the FBI the blame for this (possible treason) goes:

Martha MacCallum: Were you surprised that he [Obama’s FBI Director James Comey] seemed to give himself such a distance from the entire operation?

James Comey: As the director sitting on top of an organization of 38,000 people you can’t run an investigation that’s seven layers below you. You have to leave it to the career professionals to do.

Martha MacCallum: Do you believe that?

Bill Barr: No, I think that the — one of the problems with what happened was precisely that they pulled the investigation up to the executive floors, and it was run and bird dogged by a very small group of very high level officials. And the idea that this was seven layers below him is simply not true.

The current (Trump) A.G. there called the former (Obama) FBI Director a liar on that.

If Comey gets heat for this possibly lie-based FBI investigation of the U.S. Presidential nominee from the opposite Party of the sitting U.S. President (Comey’s own boss, Obama), then protecting himself could become Comey’s top motivation; and, in that condition, protecting his former boss might become only a secondary concern for him.

Moreover, as was first publicly reported by Nick Falco in a tweet on 5 June 2018 (which tweet was removed by Twitter but fortunately not before someone had copied it to a web archive), the FBI had been investigating the Trump campaign starting no later than 7 October 2015. An outside private contractor, Stefan Halper, was hired in Britain for this, perhaps in order to get around laws prohibiting the U.S. Government from doing it. (This was ‘foreign intelligence’ work, after all. But was it really? That’s now being investigated.) The Office of Net Assessment (ONA) “through the Pentagon’s Washington Headquarters Services, awarded him contracts from 2012 to 2016 to write four studies encompassing relations among the U.S., Russia, China and India.” Though Halper actually did no such studies for the Pentagon, he instead functioned as a paid FBI informant (and it’s not yet clear whether that money came from the Pentagon, which spends trillions of dollars that are off-the-books and untraceable), and at some point Trump’s campaign became a target of Halper’s investigation. This investigation was nominally to examine “The Russia-China Relationship: The impact on US Security interests.” Allegedly, George Papadopoulos said that “Halper insinuated to him that Russia was helping the Trump campaign,” and Papadopoulos was shocked at Halper’s saying this. Probably because so much money at the Pentagon is untraceable, some of the crucial documentation on this investigation might never be found. For example, the Defense Department’s Inspector General’s 2 July 2019 report to the U.S. Senate said: “ONA personnel could not provide us any evidence that Professor Halper visited any of these locations, established an advisory group, or met with any of the specific people listed in the statement of work.” It seems that the Pentagon-contracted work was a cover-story, like pizza parlors have been for some Mafia operations. But, anyway, this is how America’s ‘democracy‘ actually functions. And, of course, America’s Deep State works not only through governmental agencies but also through underworld organizations. That’s just reality, not at all speculative. It’s been this way for decades, at least since the time of Truman’s Presidency (as is documented at that link).

Furthermore, inasmuch as this operation certainly involved Obama’s CIA Director John Brennan and others, and not only top officials at the FBI, there is no chance that Comey would have been the only high official who was involved in it. And if Comey was involved, then he would have been acting in his own interest, and not only in his boss’s — and here’s why: Comey would be expected to have been highly motivated to oppose Mr. Trump, because Trump publicly questioned whether NATO (the main international selling-arm for America’s ‘defense’-contractors) should continue to exist, and also because Comey’s entire career had been in the service of America’s Military-Industrial Complex, which is the reason why Comey’s main lifetime income has been the tens of millions of dollars he has received via the revolving door between his serving the federal Government and his serving firms such as Lockheed Martin. For these people, restoring, and intensifying, and keeping up, the Cold War, is a very profitable business. It’s called by some “the Military-Industrial Complex,” and by others “the Deep State,” but by any name it is simply agents of the billionaires who own and control U.S.-based international corporations, such as General Dynamics and Chevron. As a governmental official, making decisions that are in the long-term interests of those investors is the likeliest way to become wealthy.

Consequently, Comey would have been benefitting himself, and other high officials of the Obama Administration, by sabotaging Trump’s campaign, and by weakening Trump’s Presidency in the event that he would become elected. Plus, of course, Comey would have been benefitting Obama himself. Not only was Trump constantly condemning Obama, but Obama had appointed to lead the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 Presidential primaries, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who as early as 20 February 2007 had endorsed Hillary Clinton for President in the Democratic Party primaries, so that Shultz was one of the earliest supporters of Clinton against even Obama himself. In other words, Obama had appointed Shultz in order to increase the odds that Clinton — not Sanders — would become the nominee in 2016 to continue on and protect his own Presidential legacy. Furthermore, on 28 July 2016, Schultz became forced to resign from her leadership of the DNC after WikiLeaks released emails indicating that Schultz and other members of the DNC staff had exercised bias against Bernie Sanders and in favor of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 Democratic primaries — which favoritism had been the reason why Obama had appointed Shultz to that post to begin with. She was just doing her job for the person who had chosen her to lead the DNC. Likewise for Comey. In other words: Comey was Obama’s pick to protect Clinton, and to oppose Trump (who had attacked both Clinton and Obama).

Nowadays, Obama is telling the Party’s billionaires that Elizabeth Warren would be good for them, but not that Sanders would — he never liked Sanders. He wants Warren to get the voters who otherwise would go for Sanders, and he wants the Party’s billionaires to help her achieve this (be the Party’s allegedly ‘progressive’ option), so that Sanders won’t be able to become a ballot option in the general election to be held on 3 November 2020. He is telling them whom not to help win the Party’s nomination. In fact, on November 26, Huffington Post headlined “Obama Said He Would Speak Up To Stop Bernie Sanders Nomination: Report,” and indicated that though he won’t actually say this in public (but only to the Party’s billionaires), Obama is determined to do all he can to prevent Sanders from becoming the nominee. In 2016, his choice was Hillary Clinton; but, today, it’s anyone other than Sanders; and, so, in a sense, it remains what it was four years ago — anyone but Sanders.

Comey’s virtually exclusive concern, at the present stage, would be to protect himself, so that he won’t be imprisoned. This means that he might testify against Obama. At this stage, he’s free of any personal obligation to Obama — Comey is now on his own, up against Trump, who clearly is his enemy. Some type of back-room plea-bargain is therefore virtually inevitable — and not only with Comey, but with other top Obama-appointees, ultimately. Obama is thus clearly in the cross-hairs, from now on. Congressional Democrats have opted to gun against Trump (by impeaching him); and, so, Trump now will be gunning against Obama — and against the entire Democratic Party (unless Sanders becomes its nominee, in which case, Sanders will already have defeated that Democratic Party, and its adherents will then have to choose between him versus Trump; and, so, too, will independent voters).

But, regardless of what happens, Obama now is in the cross-hairs. That’s not just political cross-hairs (such as an impeachment process); it is, above all, legal cross-hairs (an actual criminal investigation). Whereas Trump is up against a doomed effort by the Democratic Party to replace him by Vice President Mike Pence, Obama will be up against virtually inevitable criminal charges, by the incumbent Trump Administration. Obama played hardball against Trump, with “Russiagate,” and then with “Ukrainegate”; Trump will now play hardball against Obama, with whatever his Administration and the Republican Party manage to muster against Obama; and the stakes this time will be considerably bigger than just whether to replace Trump by Pence.

Whatever the outcome will be, it will be historic, and unprecedented. (If Sanders becomes the nominee, it will be even more so; and, if he then wins on November 3, it will be a second American Revolution; but, this time, a peaceful one — if that’s even possible, in today’s hyper-partisan, deeply split, USA.)

There is no way that the outcome from this will be status-quo. Either it will be greatly increased further schism in the United States, or it will be a fundamental political realignment, more comparable to 1860 than to anything since. The U.S. already has a higher percentage of its people in prison than does any other nation on this planet. Americans who choose a ‘status-quo’ option will produce less stability, more violence, not more stability and a more peaceful nation in a less war-ravaged world. The 2020 election-outcome for the United States will be a turning-point; there is no way that it will produce reform. Americans who vote for reform will be only increasing the likelihood of hell-on-Earth. Reform is no longer an available option, given America’s realities. A far bigger leap than that will be required in order for this country to avoid falling into an utter abyss, which could be led by either Party, because both Parties have brought the nation to its present precipice, the dark and lightless chasm that it now faces, and which must now become leapt, in order to avoid a free-fall into oblivion.

The problem in America isn’t either Obama or Trump; it’s neither merely the Democratic Party, nor merely the Republican Party; it is instead both; it is the Deep State. That’s the reality; and the process that got us here started on 26 July 1945 and secretly continued on the American side even after the Soviet Union ended and Russia promptly ended its side of the Cold War. The U.S. regime’s ceaseless thrust, since 26 July 1945, to rule the entire world, will climax either in a Third World War, or in a U.S. revolution to overthrow and remove the Deep State and end its dictatorship-grip over America. Both Parties have been controlled by that Deep State, and the final stage or climax of this grip is now drawing near. America thus has been having a string of the worst Presidents — and worst Congresses — in U.S. history. This is today’s reality. Unfortunately, a lot of American voters think that this extremely destabilizing reality, this longstanding trend toward war, is okay, and ought to be continued, not ended now and replaced by a new direction for this country — the path toward world peace, which FDR had accurately envisioned but which was aborted on 26 July 1945. No matter how many Americans might vote for mere reform, they are wrong. Sometimes, only a minority are right. Being correct is not a majority or minority matter; it is a true or false matter. A misinformed public can willingly participate in its own — or even the world’s — destruction. That could happen. Democracy is a prerequisite to peace, but it can’t exist if the public are being systematically misinformed. Lies and democracy don’t mix together any more effectively than do oil and water.

  1. The given official U.S. definition of “treason” (see top of page 3 there) is “Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason.” Any U.S. official has sworn to uphold and defend, never to subvert, the Constitution of the United States, and this is defining the U.S., itself, as being the continued functioning of the U.S. Constitution. Treason is thus the supremely illegal act under U.S. law, the act that violates any U.S. official’s oath of office. (When treason is perpetrated by someone who is not a U.S. official, it is still a severe crime, but less severe than it is for any U.S. official.) The phrase “levies war against them” means war against the functioning of the Constitution that is their supreme law. “Or” means alternatively, and “adheres to their enemies” means is a follower of any person or other entity that seeks to impose a different constitution. “Enemies” is not defined — it need not be a foreign opponent; it may be a domestic opponent of the U.S. Constitution. Thus, an American can be an enemy of the United States of America. In fact, the official definition explicitly refers ONLY to an entity “owing allegiance to the United States.” (Obviously, that especially refers to any U.S. official.) This is how a “traitor” is understood, in U.S. law. Obviously, the worst traitor would be one who committed the treasonous act(s) while a U.S. official.

Exterminating Angels

Luis Buñuel’s surrealist film The Exterminating Angel is many things to many people. The eye of the bewildered beholder, beholden to his or her personal perspective, conditions the response. The plot is straightforward: a small coterie of wealthy Mexicans convene for a dinner party, only to find that they cannot leave the party — literally. There is no apparent physical impediment. Nothing visual blocks their exodus. Rather it is a kind of psychic inanition that collapses their will to leave. As each guest variously attempts to cross the threshold, a thought pops into his or her head rationalizing a reason to stay. A coffee, breakfast, an argument, a love tryst. It makes no difference. No one leaves. These haut monde citizens are quite conscious of their predicament, but consciousness of the problem is no solution. It is an ingenious plot; sinfully simple, bafflingly motiveless.

Some say the film variously mocks the cinema experience itself, others that it slyly savages religion. Still others say it means nothing, in good surrealist fashion. But perhaps the Marxist lens is especially apposite. The cast are drawn from mid-Fifties Mexican melodramas, having built their careers dramatizing the efete dilemmas of bourgeois life. What today we call first-world problems. They convincingly portray a cast of elites who cannot fix the simplest of problems. In this sense, the movie prefigures our own bourgeoisie, and the professional class cum liberal intelligentsia more broadly. The same sterility of action haunts our liberal corridors. Problems of human health, for which we abound with solutions, cannot be solved. Needless bloodshed, for which we burn blood and treasure, cannot be meaningfully addressed. Rampaging institutional racism and chronic fascism, at home and abroad, are never countenanced but with the thinnest bromides. Buñuel’s gentility cannot exit their dinner party; our liberal class cannot exit neoliberalism.

The liberal class is beholden to lesser evil voting, a reductionist ethic that refuses to consider the long-term consequences of employing it. They turn a blind eye to the rightward drift of a bipartisan political class with no leftward pressure, an actuality created by strident party allegiance.

Stopping Short

Part of the reason liberalism is weak is because it cannot follow the path of its sentiments to their obvious conclusion. It stops short of the logical endpoint of its rhetorical nods to solidarity–which is socialism.

Unwilling to exit the duopoly, incapable of system-level critique, fearful of revolution, liberals narrow their animus to their alter-ego in the duopoly. What is wrong is the fault of Republicans, who stonewall well-intentioned Democrats at every turn. In this sense, problems are off-ramped into diversionary side shows, like the present impeachment hysteria. As the carnival roars ahead, Democrats sign on to vast war budgets, the militarization of space, and the swift rubber-stamping of a raft of Trump judicial nominees. These gross capitulations are elbowed out of view with piecemeal reform, which indicates the true goal of modern liberals: effecting meaningful change without changing their lives in any meaningful way.

This perpetual off-ramping ensures the problem is never seen as systemic. A system critique would, in the end, identify the liberal class itself as a mechanism of the status quo, a release valve for endemic popular frustration rather than a tool of revolutionary transformation. Like Exterminating Angels, liberals (neoliberals in practice) work to exterminate the threat of truly progressive, government-led reform; i.e., socialist policy.

No Stopping Power

This is why liberals are weak against capitalist fascism. They cannot claim a valid ideology to fight it with. Tempering neoliberalism is all they’ve got. Socialism is the ideology that can and has worked but liberals have been convinced that communism leads to mass murder. Hence they are left to weakly decry the excesses of capitalism and limply argue for modest reforms.

There’s little doubt about the benefits that socialist command economies deliver to their populations. The metrics are clear, from the economic figures from the Soviet Union to the decades of stunning growth in China since the Chinese Communist Revolution, the remarkable turnarounds led by Evo Morales in Bolivia and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, not to mention Lula Inácio Lula da Silva in Brazil. But all of these achievements have been either scrubbed from modern history or attributed to capitalism through widespread, multi-decade disinformation campaigns.

Liberals, indeed all of us, tend to overlook the evidence of socialist uplift in our own country (aside from the New Deal). As Michael Parenti has astutely noted, how many private industries owe their existence to government-funded research and development? From public transportation infrastructure to satellite communications, the Internet, nuclear power, and aeronautics, the role of federal funding is immense. Then there’s the state university system, another widely effective project of social uplift the federal role of which is widely ignored. In an Orwellian sense, the non plus ultra of socialist success is the defense industry, a system that consumes half of federal discretionary spending to fuel the Pentagon system and the weapons farms that supply it.

This is partly why Bernie Sanders will likely lose in 2020. (Aside from the institutional barriers, erected partly by liberals themselves, and relentlessly negative corporate media coverage.) Sanders has rallied considerable support for New Deal liberalism but has stopped there. He never mentions the socio-economic achievements of the USSR and China because he has made a political calculation that embracing such examples outside the spectrum of acceptable thought would be political suicide. Yet not going all the way will guarantee the ultimate failure of his project. Only embracing a dictatorship of workers would generate enough support for a revolution regardless of capitalist class schemes to undermine his campaign. Not only would his policies never be enacted short of mass socialist revolt, he never speaks of the inevitable rollback that is the immediate consequence of progressive policy in a capitalist society. In this respect, Sanders represents the limitations of liberalism and demonstrates why it is incapable of challenging capitalist imperialism. At best it can achieve limited reforms subject to swift repeal by the fascist right.

Forgotten Legacies

If the liberal camp has forsaken the historic success of various socialist projects, it has likewise glossed over the failures of its own tepid reformism. For liberals already sliding into the Warren camp, a predictable outcome given their historical behavior, here is what we got with our last so-called liberal president. We should note that some 200 former Obama employees are now stumping for Warren, who represents the same milquetoast “centrism” as our erstwhile leader. As author Chris Hedges has repeatedly noted, Obama should be remembered for his:

  • Refusal to prosecute any members of the Bush administration for their war crimes. It is the simplest of adages: if crime isn’t punished, then crime pays. (Note how war crimes are not impeachment-worthy, but a little foreign aid quid pro quo is if might score political points.)
  • The assault on civil liberties was worse under Obama than Bush (including an unprecedented assault on whistleblowers and due process related to ‘enemy combatants’ and detained American citizens).
  • The dramatic expansion of drone warfare was executed under Obama (at the behest of fanatical consigliere John Brennan).
  • The 2002 AUMF was reinterpreted by the Obama Department of Justice to sanction the killing of American citizens.
  • The deliberate use of al-Qaeda and related franchises to destabilize Syria with a proxy war (leading to some 500,000 dead and 13 million displaced, 5 million exiled from the country.)
  • The deliberate use of a no-fly zone to conduct a brutal regime change in Libya (where NATO acted as al-Qaeda’s de facto air force.)
  • Obama’s recovery delivered 95 percent of the economic rebound into the calf-skinned wallets of obscene wealth.
  • A decade after the 2008 meltdown, the average net worth of the average middle class family was $40,000 lower than it had been before the crash. The net worth of black families is down 40 percent and Latino households down 46 percent. Nobody expects recovery.
  • The lavish multi-trillion dollar bailout of corrupt Wall Street banks, which caused the 2007-2008 financial crisis (all while handing crumbs to homeowners defaulting in record numbers).
  • The enactment of the Affordable Care Act, an Orwellian health insurance scheme invented by Republicans, written by the insurance lobby, and forcibly imposed on the American public, leading to a dramatic inflation of healthcare costs, ongoing individual bankruptcies due to medical debt, reimbursement shortfalls, and the utterly cynical separation of ‘healthcare access’ from ‘healthcare’ itself. While providing some appreciable relief at the bottom end of the consumer pyramid, it was, in retrospect, a means of forestalling Medicare for All and of unburdening businesses of their role looking after the health of their employees.
  • The open declaration that Venezuela was a national security threat, entraining lethal sanctions that have only been ratcheted up by the Trump administration (quite predictably). Some 40,000 have died as a result.
  • The facilitation and support of regime change in Ukraine, generating border tensions with Russia, a civil war inside Ukraine, and a new Cold War internationally. The Obama administration’s uptick in hostility toward Russia created the ideological context in which Russiagate was sure to flourish.
  • It was Obama’s NDAA that allowed troops to conduct missions on American soil.
  • It was Obama’s NDAA that legalized domestic propaganda.
  • It was the CIA under Obama that illegally spied on Congress.
  • It was the FBI and CIA under Obama that ginned up the false pretexts to spy on a presidential campaign.
  • The falsification of the need to spy on the Trump presidential campaign led directly to the chimerical Russiagate scandal that has rocked the presidency and critically helped the military-intelligence-industrial complex constrain Trump’s foreign policy instincts (on which he campaigned).
  • It was the Obama administration that delivered a record-setting military aid package to the apartheid state of Israel (including refusal to sanction Israel for its brutal attack on Palestinian people in 2014).

All these realities must be brushed aside so as not to obscure our view of the incremental prosperity that Democrats claim to deliver. But even this promise, that the Democrats will deliver progress in the long run, is false. Both parties preside over decline, not progress. It is the nature of decline that is at stake each quadrennial: death by a thousand cuts or a bullet to the body politic. Simply look at the barometers of prosperity since the implementation of neoliberalism in the early 1970s. During the Long Boom from the post-war era to the early Seventies, productivity was hitched to wages, thanks to labor unions and other forms of class struggle. Since 1973, when neoliberal economics were being implemented with increasing fervor, American productivity has gone up 77 percent, wages by 12 percent. This gap accounts in part for the increasing percentage of the nation’s wealth hoarded by elites.

End Game

The liberal class practices a kind of deliberate cognitive dissonance despite having informed opinion at their fingertips. They do not connect the Democrats to human destruction, though Obama generated untold suffering across eight wars. They do not connect sanctions to economic destruction, though Obama declared Venezuela a national security threat and implemented sanctions that, ratcheted up by the Trump regime, have turned a once robust Venezuelan economy into a derelict engine of instability. They do not connect NGOs to civic destruction, though Democratic use of NGO front organizations in Venezuela and Ukraine and Libya have produced everything from commodity hoarding to street violence and slave labor. They do not connect corporate media to reputation destruction, though they literally watched Bernie Sanders destroyed by lies and negligence from the media proxies of the very party he embraced. They connect none of these events to a bipartisan neoliberal capitalism, the unhinged engine of supra-national exploitation that is the core cause of declining life prospects inside the empire, and extinguished life prospects outside it.

So we are left with an effete professional class of lip-sync liberals who repeat the platitudes of friendly fascism before retiring back to their bunkers of creature comforts. When asked if there was a difference between the Democratic and Republican parties, Hedges replied, “Of course there’s a difference: it is how you want corporate fascism delivered to you. Do you want it delivered by a Princeton-educated, Goldman Sachs criminal, or do you want it delivered by a racist, nativist, Christian fascist?…The fundamental engines of oligarchic global corporate power are advanced by both parties. One tries to present it in a multicultural, inclusive way, the other is embraced by troglodytes….Believing the Democratic Party will save us is a kind of willful blindness.” Like Buñuel’s surrealist depiction, it is the liberal class, echoing the rhetoric of hope and solidarity, that truly exterminate the possibility of either.

From a Blessing to a Curse: How UN Resolution 2334 Accelerated Israel’s Colonization in the West Bank   

Three years ago, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 2334. With fourteen members voting in favor and one abstention, the Resolution was the equivalent of a political earthquake. Indeed, it was the first time in many years that Israel was roundly condemned by the international body for its illegal settlement policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Unlike previous attempts at holding Israel accountable, this time the Americans did nothing to protect its closest ally.

What has happened since then, however, has been a testimony to the failure of the UN to furnish meaningful mechanisms that would force violators of international law, like Israel, to respect international consensus. In some way, 2334, although externally supportive of Palestinian rights, turned out to be one of the most costly decisions ever made by the international institution.

Immediately after the adoption of 2334 on December 23, 2016, Israel thumbed its nose at the whole world by announcing, twice in the following January, plans to construct thousands of new homes in illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

At the time, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his then-Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, rationalized the provocative moves as a “response to the housing needs” within the settlements. Nothing could have been further from the truth, as the subsequent three years demonstrated.

Now, it has become clear that the settlement expansion was part of a much larger strategy aimed at killing any chance of establishing a contiguous and viable Palestinian State and parting ways with the so-called “land for peace formula”, itself molded through years of American mediation and “peace process”.

The Israeli strategy was a complete success. Thanks to the blank cheque issued by the Trump administration to Israel’s right-wing government coalition, Israeli politicians are now openly plotting what was once nearly unthinkable: the unilateral annexation of major Jewish settlement blocks in the West Bank along with large swathes of the Jordan Valley.

Throughout the last three years, Washington has turned a blind eye to Israel’s sinister designs. Worse, it has fully embraced and validated the Israeli political discourse, while taking every necessary measure to provide a cover for Israeli actions. The declaration by US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, on November 18 that Jewish settlements “are not inconsistent with international law” is but one of many such positions adopted by Washington to pave the road for Israel’s insolence and violation of international law.

Retrospectively, President Obama had the chance to do more than merely abstaining from voting against a UN Resolution – which lacked any enforcement mechanism, anyway – by using the generous US financial aid to Israel as a bargaining chip. That way, he could have potentially forced Netanyahu to freeze settlement expansion altogether. Alas, Obama did the exact opposite – as he bankrolled the Israeli military and financed every Israeli war on Gaza. Instead, his belated move opened the stage for the Trump administration to unleash a cruel war on Palestinians and on international law, as well.

In fact, it seems that the two-year term of US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Hailey, was dedicated largely to rectify the supposed “betrayal” of the Obama administration of Israel. In the name of defending Israel against imaginary global “anti-Semitism”, the US severed its ties with several UN organizations, eventually isolating Washington itself from the rest of the world.

With the UN being designated as the common enemy by both Washington and Tel Aviv, international law was rendered irrelevant. Gradually, the US government fortified its protective shield around Israel, thus rendering 2334 and many other UN resolutions meaningless. In other words, the US managed to turn international consensus regarding the illegality of the Israeli occupation of Palestine into an opportunity for Tel Aviv to disown any commitment, not only to the UN, but to the so-called two-state solution, and the “peace process”, as well.

While Israel accelerated its settlement projects unhindered, the US ensured that the Palestinian leadership is denied the opportunity to fight back, even if symbolically, through the various international institutions and any available political and legal platform. This was engineered through a systematic economic warfare, which saw the cutting of all aid to the Palestinian Authority in August 2018, followed, a week later, by stopping all funds to the UN organization responsible for the welfare of Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

US-Israeli war on Palestinians was staged on two fronts. One front focused on the seizure of more Palestinian land, the building of new and the expansion of existing settlements, as a precursor to the imminent steps of annexing most of the West Bank. The other front witnessed the relentless US administration’s pressure on Palestinians through political and financial means.

Three years after 2334, a new status quo is upon us. Gone are the days of traditional American “peace-making” and its adjoining elaborate discourse centered on a two-state and other make-believe solutions. Now, Israel is single-handedly formulating its own “vision” for a future that is designed to meet the expectations of the country’s unhinged and ever-growing right-wing constituency. As for the US, its role has been relegated to the cheerleader, unfazed by such seemingly trivial matters as that of international law, human rights, justice, peace or even regional stability.

Shortly after being appointed as Israel’s new Defense Minister on November 9, Naftali Bennett has taken the dangerous and consequential decision of building a new Jewish settlement in the occupied Palestinian city of Al-Khalil (Hebron). Naturally, Jewish settlers rejoiced as they will finally see the destruction of the old Hebron market, which is older than Israel itself, and the potential for further settlement expansion and more annexation in the city.

At the same time, Palestinians are cringing, for a move against Hebron is the final proof that Israel is now operating in Palestine without the slightest fear of political or legal repercussions. Not only did UN Resolution 2334 fail to hold Israel accountable, it, in some way, facilitated further Israeli expansion in the West Bank, paving the road for the annexation that will surely follow.