Category Archives: Bill Clinton

Capitalist Society Under the One Party of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum

The delay of the socialist revolution engenders the indubitable phenomena of barbarism — chronic unemployment, pauperization of the petty bourgeoisie, fascism, finally wars of extermination which do not open up any new road.

— Leon Trotsky, In Defense of Marxism

While the citizens of the rich world are protected from harm, the poor, the vulnerable and the hungry are exposed to the harsh reality of climate change in their everyday lives…. We are drifting into a world of ‘adaptation apartheid.

— South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, United Nations Human Development Report 2007-2008

That puking up barbarism phenomena in this enclave of genocide and perpetual war, resource theft and global toxification come in a coat of many colors. In the simplest terms I see it daily in my job as underpaid and spat upon social worker jiggering with the penury, punishment and putrefying systems of bureaucratic hell and legal rape exemplified in the schizophrenic American version of capitalism.

In no way am I ever NOT entertained by the magical thinking and retrograde beliefs of those I serve – homeless veterans who in some cases decry welfare for the masses while picking up their welfare checks and benefits from the Veterans Administration. On top of that, they feel entitled because they ended up in the economic draft of the US Military Industrial Complex. These are not the ones who saw “battle” overseas, but the ones who were snookered into thinking a tour here or there, in a non-combatant role would get them somewhere in life.

Broken people come to the military, and the military breaks them again, and, the gift that keeps on giving are the systems of oppression and criminalization of living life in Trump’s “MAGA, MAGA über alles, über alles in der Welt.”

Reality is that this thing called America, united snakes one in all, was running on that manifest destruction at the moment those Puritanical misanthropes ended up on the east coast with their fears, dark perversions, warped criminal religiosity and white DNA primed for a taking, eminent domain and killings far and wide.

On the one hand, my clients with mental strains beyond repair and hobbled with a truck-load of PTSD, and another container ship full of physical ailments believe their “service” was honorable, somehow divorced from the huge welfare trough that is the military-private contractor complex, and more so, suspended from the reality that their own kind — fellow soldiers ranging from the likes of a Private Gomer Pyle to Gen Schwarzkopf — screwed them in every which way possible inside the human frame of exploitation and downright pathological assault on every front.

Screwed them with shitty equipment, shittier intel, rampant rotten orders, and a million environmental assaults that have rendered millions of men and women who individually barely served a few years into the walking-wheelchaired-vegetative state wounded.

There have been a million battles and skirmishes that were set up as suicide assaults.

Then on the other hand, some of the clients who are self-declared  deplorables — who believe in Trump as something more than a rotten, lying, wimp of a man with his self-anointed Six Star General’s Bully Epaulets and Bone Spurs Yellow Streak Academy Jumpsuit — are not limited to a bunch of uneducated cretins, but also those who thought time served would be a touchstone in their lives.

Constantly, I have to wrestle with my clients’ reprobate ideas that anything about the government sucks and everything about private capital shines. It’s a reverse ideology of anti-Americanism: against teachers, against librarians, against the postman, against scientists and doctors and others from the so-called Great American Democracy as products of state schools, state governments, municipalities, and the like. They’ll root for these pathetic sports teams, both college and the pros, rendering stupid their concept of where those facilities are and where the billionaire owners get their sports gladiators.

Delusional, really, as my clients shudder with spiritual epiphany at those millionaire preachers like the Billy-Frank Graham Klan and hyper-millionaires running the retail show and all those attendant systems of destruction in the Big Pharma-Big Prison-Big Energy-Big Mining-Big Ag-Big Construction Complex they so often defend as the Defenders of Democracy in Private enterprise.

Here’s a common link to the duality of systems of oppression, that structural violence that leads communities and entire classes and races of people into more and more dungeons of despair and destruction:

One fellow, 62, homeless because the apartment management tossed him out as the maintenance man, with the free apartment in the mix. Out of a job and no longer making the dough to pay rent, he was forced to squat for a while before the iron jaws of the sheriff department came in and served him eviction papers.

Lapsed car insurance, lapsed driver’s license, and, alas, a speeding ticket in a school zone. And, now, 8 years later after eight years on the road and homeless, this little shithole town of King City has him in their vise for $1700. The original ticket was $700 with the add on’s of court fees, administrative costs and other highway robbery checks and balances. So, this fellow is in need of a driver’s license, but these cities have been colonized by those PRIVATIZERS – in this case some multi-millionaire outfit out of Gig Harbor, Washington, which takes on the collections. Imagine, we want to set up a payment plan, even though this fine has passed the statute of limitations. But the City of King City, OR, puts a hold on releasing licenses until every red-blooded Yankee cent is paid off.

We can only imagine what the cut is for this Little Eichmann outfit collecting fines from hundreds of cities, maybe thousands. The interest of a thousand bucks might be waived, but still, the $700 is probably only pennies on the dollar for the city as the Collection Agency (AKA mob in MBA clothing) racks up the largess of the original out of wack fine as profit running their boiler rooms of collection workers.

Punishment, boomerang retribution. Name one place and one job where a personal vehicle can easily be pushed aside as part of the work routine, discounted as a necessity of getting to and from work, or the fact that blue collar work never requires a driver’s license for using company vehicles. Right! A driver’s license is a right, not a privilege, in this bunkered society!

The great American rah-rah, fighting for one’s country, fighting for these evil punks like a Trump, just doesn’t cut it when the ex-soldiers start adding up the contradictions and outright lies of the elite class, which a Trump and his cronies signify and exemplify.

The core of these systems of pain and recurring punishment generates hate, fear, resentment, anger and violence – of the mind, violence of the soul and possible violence exacted on the innocents and not so innocents around them.

These characters I work with mostly never look at the concurrency of pathological serial shooters and these racist, homophobic anti-tolerance military experience, or how these synagogue attackers were subliminally and overtly recruited into the Armed Services with the true blue Yankee Doodle Dandy and Johnny Comes Marching Home Again glee perpetrated again by the neo-fascist army of Republicans and Trump Lagoon Monsters, all of which the Democrats simultaneously hide from and deal with.

Colonized With Hive and Mob Mentalities Simultaneously

I’ve signed permission passes (we force adults to sign and ask for permission to leave a homeless facility!) for overnight stays away from the shelter where I work for people who have brokered this idea of “anomie” into their very existence, a lack of meaningful and structuralized social life in return for Black Friday, the height of meaningless self-gratification at the expense of not only the planet but the faceless and nameless people charged with running this engine of Retailapithecus restlessness. As Émile Durkheim the sociologist stated, we are a modern culture where the individual follows an increasingly “restless movement, a planless self-development, an aim of living which has no criterion of value and in which happiness lies always in the future, and never in the present achievement.”

More and more of the clients I work with have as their end goal individualized happiness, their 40 acres and a mule dream, for me myself and I. They come from a hive of military brainwashing and propaganda, one where leaders are followed and hated at the same time, one where the broken system of war, empire, manifest destiny, nation invasions and nation building (sic) is their ultimate plan of self-gratification – I joined to protect the flag, our way of life and to protect our borders from savages and invaders. Except the borders, as anyone knowing the history of these here United Snakes of America, is all about Norte Americanos encroaching and breaking the borders of others.

As Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz states in the Boston Review:

Even during the Civil War, both the Union and Confederate armies continued to war against the nations of the Diné and Apache, the Cheyenne and the Dakota, inflicting hideous massacres upon civilians and forcing their relocations. Yet when considering the history of U.S. imperialism and militarism, few historians trace their genesis to this period of internal empire-building. They should. The origin of the United States in settler colonialism—as an empire born from the violent acquisition of indigenous lands and the ruthless devaluation of indigenous lives—lends the country unique characteristics that matter when considering questions of how to unhitch its future from its violent DNA.

So, when I speak to the veterans and their families I work with on this matter of America’s soul wrapped in the banner of decimating other peoples who were here first, there is bloviating, knee-jerk proclamations that the victors enjoy the spoils, and that there is a god-given right to the American (white) ideal of moving the world toward His image.

This calculus I deploy for the homeless, those who have been screwed-blued-and-tattooed by the systems of oppression, by those debt collectors, those police and sheriff departments, by the judges and lawyers, top and bottom feeders all: I remind them that the so-called victors in their America are the One percent, including cretins from Hollywood, all the way to former generals/lobbyists/ contractors, and to include their sacred religious snake oil men like Graham. I remind them the wars they maybe have participated in were wars of oppression and wars of profits, completely tied to the ideals of screwing and stealing from your neighbor. That karmic doozy comes boomeranging back in the form of the victors on Wall Street, in the Boardrooms, and at the corporate tables of the Military-Pharma-Med-Prison-Education-Real Estate-Chemical-IT-Retail Complex. These too are the American ideals they supposedly signed up to protect with their lives in someone else’s country.

Again, what are we fighting for, sir?

This country’s leaders have always been Bill-Barak-Donald; Bezos-Adelson-Walton; CNN-FOX-Breitbart. “Money talks and money rules” is not some new Mar-a-Lago printed saying on Trump Condoms! As I continually told my 32-year military veteran father, his “work” in Korea, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Germany, France, Japan, et al was work for-by-and-because of the elites, the ones making two-bit Tin Soldiers jump through burning buildings and forced marches up another Pork Chop-Hamburger-Gizzard Hill. Marching orders by these bastions of money power and debt dread have been the history of these Un-united States.

Of course, the soldiers who are of color rarely jump on this Sherman Tank towed “bandwagon,” but to be sure, we talk about their own dire circumstances enveloped in the same sort of so-called “The Victors Enjoying the Spoils” mentality. The spoils include a complete but suppressed history of theft, lynchings, treaty breaking, incarcerations, land despoilments, eminent domain.

Black men and women fighting against black men and women from their mothership — Africa. AFRICOM. Imagine, a Black Alliance for Peace, and a movement to stop US military involvement in Africa, and again these disruptions of the narrative of white supremacy get flummoxed, and the irony of brown and black and red soldiers fighting for what, who knows, but definitely part of the system of oppression of their own people.

So, again, I go for the jugular, the fact that my old man and I argued much about the military’s legitimacy while on the same hand he agreed in my pursuit of journalism, writing, teaching, and education:

Not only does there need to be a mass movement in the U.S. to shut down AFRICOM, this mass movement needs to become inseparably bound with the movement that has swept this country to end murderous police brutality against Black and Brown people. The whole world must begin to see AFRICOM and the militarization of police departments as counterparts.

 Netfa Freeman, of Pan-African Community Action (PACA) and the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). Freeman represents PACA, a BAP member organization, on BAP’s Coordinating Committee.

It cost $267 million to fund AFRICOM in 2018. Probably a lot more in dark money and secret budgets; let alone the billions coming from the Economic Hit Men:

That money is stolen from Africans/Black people in the U.S. to terrorize and steal resources from our sisters and brothers on the African continent. Instead, that money should be put toward meeting our human needs in the U.S. and toward reparations for people in every African nation affected by U.S. imperialism.

—  Vanessa Beck, BAP research team lead and Coordinating Committee member.

So, them’s fighting words, as the white damaged veterans reach for words, epithets, rejoinders, and false dichotomies in the form of, Might Makes Right. There is a greater good in what us mere mortals see. Money Talks, of course, as many of them believe this irreligious, woman thumper, chubby bully, inconceivably smut-riddled man is THEIR commander in chief.

This ground truthing isn’t a hot commodity on the lefty or progressive or socialist web sites, for sure, where their own respective tidy thinking is vaunted over messy shit coming from the mouths of people scratching for a living doing this dirty work of counseling assuredly lost, wounded, broken and in many cases, mean as cuss souls.

That 35,000-foot Noam Chomsky view is heralded over the gutter view, and it’s no deep search for meaning to understand the hive and the mob mentality colonizing those Democratic Socialists of America folk, those pro-Israel-at-any-cost Bernie folk, those Pried from My Cold Dead Hand NRA folk. You got the Godfather Cuomo in Albany getting some robed lion of repression judge to legally change his name to Mario Amazon Direct Cuomo, with all the dildos and vibrators free for life!

Trump or Biden, Adelson or Soros, Chris Wallace or Rachel Maddow, Daryl Hannah or Caitlyn Jenner. Charmin or Cottenelle. Coke or Pepsi. Prozac or Zoloft. Raytheon or Northrup Grumman. Mad dog Mattis or Old Blood and Guts Patton. Steelers or Florida State. A Star is Born or Bohemian Rhapsody.

The trenches are rarely delineated or written about, just these huge “investigative research white papers” on the power of the elite to powerfully corrupt all systems that were supposed to be set up to help-aid-assist-protect-empower-develop we the people’s communities. However, there are no more communities, just chaos (controlled chaos), disruptive technologies-economies-structural systems of repressions. Just Madison Avenue, Just Manufactured Narratives, Just Fallen Anti-Heroes, Just Entertainment.

Feeding the dopamine hits as the marketers of disaster-demented-demolition capitalism control all markets, all psychologies, all media, all armies.

The fact that millions of people share the same vices does not make these vices virtues, the fact that they share so many errors does not make the errors to be truths, and the fact that millions of people share the same forms of mental pathology does not make these people sane.

— Eric Fromm, The Sane Society

Larry Summers Trips Out

In a recent Financial Times article, Harvard economics professor and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers describes his excellent adventure driving from Chicago to Portland. As Summers writes, it “was a trip different to any I had ever taken,” full of revelations for someone who usually only travels long distances by plane.

Summers and his wife took two weeks to drive on two-lane roads across prairies and mountains, from Dubuque to Cody to Bozeman and beyond, “marveling at how much of this vast country is uninhabited.” They were sometimes far from any gas stations and even farther from phone chargers. Occasionally they had no mobile phone service at all!

Okay, so not exactly a Jack Kerouac odyssey, but well outside the Summers Comfort Zones of Cambridge, the Vineyard, Georgetown, Manhattan, et al.

Braving flyover country, separated from his usual tribe of “business leaders and cosmopolitan elites who are more worried about the concerns of their conference mates in Davos than those of their fellow citizens,” Summers marveled that local people in bars and restaurants where he stopped did not seem concerned with the ongoing saga of Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation process.

And Summers noted with some puzzlement that “People in most of the places we visited have tended to vote Republican in recent decades.”

By far the most surprising revelation of the Summers travelogue was how surprised he seemed to be by what he was seeing.

Because, Larry, Larry, Larry, you’re the reason! Those were your economic policies during the Clinton years that shaped the country many of us have long known, but where you’re just now arriving. You were a senior Treasury official during that entire era and top dog, Secretary of the Treasury, from 1999 to 2001.

You advocated repealing key provisions of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act that regulated banks for more than sixty years. And you helped frustrate efforts to regulate the derivatives that many analysts blame for the 2008 financial crisis. Foreshadowing Trumpian environmentalism, you argued that the U.S. should not honor the Kyoto Protocol or take the lead in greenhouse gas reductions.

You signed off on NAFTA! Even Ross Perot knew that was a bad idea, sending millions of jobs overseas and creating many of those “romantic ghost towns” and “abandoned cafes, gas stations and hotels” across the nation you are now so astonished to behold. From such ruins an opioid epidemic has arisen, with its suicidal rituals of despair. Did you happen to catch any whiff of that?

How complicit were you? Did you also advise Bill to end “welfare as we know it,” destroying the safety net for millions of our poorest citizens? Did you sign off on Bill’s “three-strikes” crime laws that mandated life sentences for repeat offenders, even non-violent offenders, creating the mass incarceration for which the USA is justly infamous?

You and Clinton were nominal Democrats, but you bent over backwards to placate Newt Gingrich so Bill could get re-elected (only to be impeached). What’s the point of voting for Democrats like you? Of course, we didn’t vote for you.

You returned to government in the Obama years to direct the National Economic Council response to the 2008 economic meltdown that you had helped to create. You bailed out the big banks but not their client victims. That may have pleased your friends in Davos and the Hamptons, Larry, but it didn’t help many people in Dubuque or Bozeman. You’re probably lucky that no one on your journey knew who the hell you were or they might have spoiled your lunch.

Do you really wonder why so many denizens of devastated communities voted Republican in recent decades?

Of course, political choice for the 99 percent consists of Tweedledumb or Tweedledumber. Why would anyone outside the Bos-Wash corridor bother with Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation process? The fix was in for his Supreme Court appointment from the git go, regardless of what evidence anyone, especially any offended female, might produce to undermine his fitness for the job.

Government of the people, by the people, for the people is a catchy, empty phrase for most of those who live between the coasts or on them, outside the privileged enclaves you frequent, Larry. The incessant media chatter is so much white (and token black) noise. Blah blah. Nothing to do with day-to-day reality.

And those Depression-era public works you admired – the libraries and courthouses, the bridges and national parks – are stately reminders that federal government largesse in communities big and small has vanished in recent decades. “Infrastructure” is just another content-free political buzzword. Like “public schools.” Our permanent war economy leaves less and less for the common good. We are really waging war on ourselves.

So, well, anyway, Larry, despite some of your dubious conclusions about your amazing journey into America’s dark heartland, it’s probably good that you finally caught a glimpse of reality on the ground, where many of your actions have had devastating consequences and most of your fellow citizens actually live.

But Larry, Larry, Larry, what took you so long?

The Millstone around Trump’s Neck?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iran, Disinformation, and “Sanctions of Mass Destruction”

The United States has done it again: reneged on a signed agreement. President Donald Trump has drop kicked the Iran Nuclear deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA).

The examples of US government chicanery are myriad. In 1972, American president Richard Nixon and his Soviet counterpart Leonid Brezhnev agreed on an Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty that limited strategic defense systems. In December 2001, president George W Bush gave notice of US intent to withdraw from the ABM treaty. When Nixon signed, the USSR was a military superpower. Russia was still economically crippled, recovering from the collapse of the USSR and communism, when Bush opted out. The result was, according to Russia, the development of sophisticated next-gen hypersonic and nuclear weapons.

In 1994, US ambassador Robert Gallucci and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea vice-minister Kang Sok-ju signed the Framework Agreement. That agreement stipulated that the DPRK cease operation and construction of nuclear reactors that were part of a covert nuclear weapons program. In exchange the US would construct two proliferation-resistant nuclear power reactors for the DPRK and supply it with heavy fuel oil pending completion of the reactors. In January 2002, Bush calls the DPRK a part of the “axis of evil.” In April 2002, Bush stated he would not certify the DPRK’s compliance with the Agreed Framework. In November 2002, the US announces a halt to fuel shipments to the DPRK. In December 2002, the DPRK announced it would restart the nuclear facilities and later orders the IAEA inspectors out of the country. In January 2003, the DPRK left the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. Today, the DPRK is a nuclear-weapons state with ICBM capability.

In 2015, Iran reached a deal with the P5+1 group of world powers (the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany) to limit its nuclear program and permit international inspections in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions against the country. Iran has always been found in compliance with the agreement; nevertheless, Trump predictably pulled out of the JCPOA.

It was predictable given the US’s longstanding history of treaty breaking, starting with the Indigenous nations who were dispossessed by the European settler-colonists. It was predictable given Trump’s fetishism with Israel, whose prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been an unrelenting warmonger against Iran. It is predictable given the team that Trump assembled. For example, Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton, an anti-Iran deal hawk, was George W Bush’s undersecretary of state for arms control and international security when the Agreed Framework was killed. This outcome was favored by Bolton who wrote, “This was the hammer I had been looking for to shatter the Agreed Framework.”

The Washington Post speculates that this may mean war. Yes, it may well, and Israel has seized upon Trump’s announcement to attack Iranian troops in Syria.

Iran says it will stay in the JCPOA. What about the rest of the P5+1? Surely Russia and China will not take part in a continuance of sanctions against Iran. Europe seems disposed to honor the deal as well. That the US could sanction its NATO and European partners is dubious, and such sanctions wouldn’t work. As the US threatened trade war against China revealed, tariffs imposed by one side can also be imposed by the other side.

The Destructiveness of Disinformation and Sanctions

That economic sanctions could debilitate a country’s economy is clear. As such economic sanctions are often considered an act of war.

Ahmad Noroozi, international PR manager for Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order (EIKO), laments the effects of sanctions:

The sanctions have had hard impacts on Iranian civilians despite the claims of targeting Iran’s government. The sanctions lifted under the JCPOA, are coming back into motion again under different pretexts. Every now and then, a new organization in Iran comes under the light to step up pressures on the country.

Noroozi says EIKO is normally under attack even though: “The organization’s mission is to help the poor families of Iran and doing charity works.”

Reuters, however, claims EIKO is a slushfund for the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Noroozi points out that EIKO has always been subject to disinformation campaigns.

Disinformation has been a staple of US imperialism. There are several examples of false flags/disinformation, ranging from the Gulf of Tonkin missile attack; the phantom WMD in Iraq; the alleged Skripal Novichok poisoning affair attributed to Russia, without a shred of evidence presented (and plenty of refutations of the British government claims); and the recent chemical attack in Douma, Syria, staged by the White Helmets. Such disinformation is often used as a casus belli and many people wind up murdered as a result.

That the sanctions would harm the citizenry – even children – is of negligible concern to the US. The then-US ambassador to the United Nations, Madeleine Albright, quipped that the death of half-a-million Iraqi children was a price worth paying to achieve US policy objectives.

In their Foreign Affairs article, “Sanctions of Mass Destruction,” John Mueller and Karl Mueller wrote about Americans insouciance to the deaths of Iraqis:

It is interesting that this loss of human life has failed to make a great impression in the United States. Americans clearly do not blame the people of Iraq for that country’s actions: even at the height of the Gulf War, 60 percent said they held the Iraqi people innocent of responsibility for Saddam’s policies. Yet the massive death toll among Iraqi civilians has stirred little public protest, and hardly any notice.

Some of the inattention may derive from a lack of concern about foreign lives. Although Americans are extremely sensitive to American casualties, they – like others – often seem quite insensitive to casualties suffered by those on the opposing side, whether military or civilian.

The writers noted that economic sanctions are far deadlier than WMDs:

economic sanctions … may have contributed to more deaths during the post-Cold War era than all weapons of mass destruction throughout history.

Since the use of WMDs are prohibited because of their massive lethality, why then are economic sanctions, which are of greater lethality, still used?

Lastly, if the sanctions of mass destruction should effect a dire lethality in Iran, then what comes after?

Remembering the War on Yugoslavia, 1999

The ethnic map few understood. Should make it clear that cutting up Yugoslavia in independent republics could not be done without bloodshed. (1)

Yellow = Serbs, Dark Green = Muslims, Light Blue = Croats, Light Green = Slovenes, Orange = Montenegrins, Pink = Albanians, Darker Blue = Macedonians

*****

March 24, 2018, marks the 19th anniversary of NATO’s illegal and illegitimate bombing of Yugoslavia, Serbia and its Kosovo province during 78 days. It has – one is tempted to say, of course – been conveniently forgotten by the West itself.

It was masterminded by the United States under Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright after the so-called negotiations between Serbs and Albanians in Rambouillet outside Paris (the parties never met face-to-face)

While Clinton may be best remembered for his relations with Monica Lewinsky and his wife, Hillary Clinton, some of us also remember him (and Albright) for bombing Afghanistan, Sudan, Bosnia-Hercegovina and contributions to the proportionately largest ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia – of Croatian Serbs out of Croatia’s Krajina, Eastern and Western Slavonia where they had lived for about 400 years, in Operations Storm and Flash in 1995.

Clinton was also the President who started the expansion of NATO against assurances about never doing so given by leading NATO politicians to Mikhail Gorbachev. But the former Yugoslav republics are now NATO members (Slovenia, Croatia and Montenegro). Clinton also upheld the sanctions on Iraq’s innocent citizens even after 500,000 had died.

By an objective analysis of the contemporary history of interventionism and militarism, Russia’s response to the de facto coup d’etat in Kiev by [allegedly — DV editor] annexing Crimea would, one should expect, be compared with such fundamentally important and international law-violating policies and, likely, found to be minor in comparison. But that, naturally, is impossible for those who have reasons to be in denial of their own wrongdoings and large parts, therefore, of the post-Cold War history.

With a history like that – and more since then – it is no wonder that the West/NATO must blame everything evil on virtually everybody else: Russia, Syria, Iran, North Korea and China in particular. In psycho-political terms, it’s called projection while others might call it amnesia or attention-diversion that fit new crimes.

*****

Yugoslavia’s dissolution was surely caused by internal dynamics accumulating over a decade after Josip Broz Tito’s death. But the international so-called community’s involvement could, in the macro-historical perspective, be viewed as at least as destructive, if not more. The understanding of the hugely complex conflict formations in the Yugoslav space was unknown to 99% of the Western governments and their diplomats – having no other mental patterns than the Cold War and, thus, casting the Serbs as the evil, expansive Orthodox Russians and the rest as freedom-seeking peoples who ought to belong to “us”.

They thought it was about ethnicity while ethnicity was just a vehicle for mobilisation of warfighting energies and exploitation of traumas from the Second World War. They thought that conflict-resolution was about reducing complexity down to two parties, one good and one evil and that peace-making would succeed if they supported the former and punish the latter.

With such a deficient intellectual toolbox, with such amateurish Diagnosis of Yugoslavia’s problems, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Prognosis was wrong too and that the kind of final Solution – dissolution, split-and-rule and rewarding extremist nationalism and humiliating Russia – turned out catastrophic.

A good doctor causes minimal pain and blood loss. Western conflict doctors, accompanied by their arms traders, spilt as much blood as possible, on top of what the various domestic governments, private warlords and paramilitaries of Yugoslavia were able and willing to do to each other.

*****

Tito (Photo: Jan Oberg)

To make this Western – remember, Russia was in turmoil and could play no role – quackery succeed, at least in their own eyes, the self-appointed peacemakers of our world had to produce a number of novel tricks – all of which makes the long-term effects of this Yugoslavia’s dissolution more significant than the fall of The Wall.

Among such politico-military inventions one would perhaps in particular point to these:

• Since this was the first larger conflict after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, everything seemed possible, no need to take into account what Russia might do because it could do virtually nothing.

• Splitting with violent means an existing founding member state of the Non-Aligned Movement and of the UN;

• Bombing without a UN Security Council mandate (and undermining any UN success);

• Recognising Slovenia and Croatia out of Yugoslavia while the criteria for declaration of independence (such as control over a territory) were not met;

• Recognising these two republics out of Yugoslavia while not having the slightest idea about what to do with the remainder of Yugoslavia and, thereby, making the war in Bosnia-Hercegovina impossible to avoid.

• Inventing the peace enforcement idea in the UN Agenda for Peace report that contravened everything the UN stood for and enabled one-sided military action by outsiders;

• Inventing the idea of humanitarian intervention – and using it where there was no genocide (or plan of it, certainly not in Kosovo either) or other historically, uniquely huge, humanitarian catastrophe, and having never since contemplated such interventions to stop such mass-killing calamities elsewhere;

• Bombing relentlessly and shamelessly over 78 days one country, Serbia, in order to create a new state out of it, Kosovo – the second Albanian state in Europe;

• Threatening the destruction of the capital, Belgrade, unless President Slobodan Milosevic withdrew from Kosovo;

• Establishing a special Tribunal in the Hague for only this conflict and Rwanda, a tribunal which, to the very end, was marked by strange procedures and biases that, hardly surprisingly, fit the political patterns and deficient conflict diagnosis practised by the West.

• While one can certainly argue that the UN was undermined by many other wars before those in Yugoslavia, Vietnam not the least, it can be argued that it was here the UN became a victim of systematic marginalisation and accused of being useless and even complicit in its policies and on-the-ground missions – to the extent that the UN has not been thought of as a central peace-keeper, -maker and -builder in any of the large conflict zones since 1999.

• And it is, finally, the conflict in which commercial marketing companies – such as Ruder Finn – were brought in to secure an advantageous but deceptive global image of Croatia, Bosnian Muslims and Kosovo-Albanians. Powerful narratives that serve certain interests but not truth in any sense didn’t start with Syria. Neither did monopoly media’s loyalty to their governments and addiction to simplifying two-party narratives that were particularly misleading here, in one of the world’s most complex conflict formations.

Those of us who were more or less permanently on the ground in all parts of Yugoslavia – had been there decades before and followed it closely after, tended to see things in rather different perspectives and would maintain that the outside “help” Yugoslavia received from the international so-called community was a kind of cynical euthanasia rather than a genuine help to recover.

*****

Kosovo and TFF’s mediation and peace plan

This author served as goodwill mediator/adviser to three governments in Belgrade and to the non-violent leadership team of Dr Ibrahim Rugova in Kosovo. They wanted an independent state but only through non-violent means – and were therefore soon marginalised by the West which, with the particular contribution of the German intelligence service BND and the American CIA, instead invested in the darkest and most criminal circles in Kosovo and set up the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA/UCK) which later served as a kind of army on the ground for NATO’s bombing raids.

We developed a plan for a negotiated solution to the conflict based on a total ceasefire, UN presence and monitoring and a three-year negotiation process. It was shaped like an international law document. As far as we know, it is the only plan that was widely discussed and presented in details in both Serbian and Albanian media.

It turned out soon to be all in vain. The US and NATO allies had other plans – and they were not about peace. The Rambouillet meetings were totally fake, meant only to secure that Belgrade would say No and the Albanian Yes. Then Assistant Secretary of State, James Rubin, formulated it so well – people thought: Today the Serbs have chosen war and the Albanians peace. He said it to his wife, Christiane Amanpour on CNN – State war policies and monopoly media already then in symbiosis.

How was it done? Well, in the first round of talks the Albanians had stalled while the Serb team went along with a plan presented by Madeleine Albright. That was not what they wanted, so she later produced an Appendix to the text – to be used to turn the talk results around 180 degrees: The Appendix stipulated that NATO forces should be deployed to Serbia, should not be legally responsible for damage it may cause to Serbian property and not pay for the use of harbours and airfields.

Who would not have smelled a rat here? NATO could then have started a war from inside Serbia itself, having already a first contingent on the ground, or they could move to arrest President Milosevic at some point. Surprise, surprise: The Serbs said no and the Albanians were enthusiastic.

That was the pretext to NATO bombings 19 years ago. Plus the – presumably nicely staged – massacre in the village of Racak. A US head of the OSCE-related KVM monitoring mission, Mr William Walker, with a less than clean-handed past in the CIA, arrived immediately and, before any analyses had been made, declared it the work of the Serbian government.

*****

TFF’s team of Yugoslavia experts, psychologists, media people, peacemakers etc. was on the ground everywhere, conducted interviews on all sides (some 3000) and roamed around with flak jackets also where no embassies were found. No Western government ever took any interest, except former US Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and his team whom we had a long conversation with in a late evening at his hotel suite. A delightful intellectual with a heart, a moral man – who was quickly sidelined by the Clinton administration and one of the students Vance had taught diplomacy – Warren Christopher.

TFF’s first report, After Yugoslavia – What? in September 1991 was published at the same time as Vance’s team was working on the idea to deploy UN peacekeeping missions in Croatia. That was also a central proposal of the mentioned report.

Over the years, three TFF Associates – Johan Galtung, Hakan Wiberg and Jan Oberg who in total had about 130 man-years of experience with Yugoslavia – wrote the equivalent of about 2000 A4 pages of main comprehensive conflict analyses and peace proposals and some debate articles and press releases. They’re all gathered – as they were written at the time – in the blog 1 report “Yugoslavia – What Should Have Been Done” which is not only the largest peace research publication about Yugoslavia but also a frontal criticism – with alternatives point by point – of how the West practised what must be termed peace prevention.

Yes, there were alternatives.

But those who mastermind wars are not exactly the best listeners.

Back then as today, somebody else paid a high price.

We don’t want to contribute to the special war crimes amnesia of the West.

And we want to remind our audiences that there are always alternatives to warfare.

Remembering the War on Yugoslavia, 1999

The ethnic map few understood. Should make it clear that cutting up Yugoslavia in independent republics could not be done without bloodshed. (1)

Yellow = Serbs, Dark Green = Muslims, Light Blue = Croats, Light Green = Slovenes, Orange = Montenegrins, Pink = Albanians, Darker Blue = Macedonians

*****

March 24, 2018, marks the 19th anniversary of NATO’s illegal and illegitimate bombing of Yugoslavia, Serbia and its Kosovo province during 78 days. It has – one is tempted to say, of course – been conveniently forgotten by the West itself.

It was masterminded by the United States under Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright after the so-called negotiations between Serbs and Albanians in Rambouillet outside Paris (the parties never met face-to-face)

While Clinton may be best remembered for his relations with Monica Lewinsky and his wife, Hillary Clinton, some of us also remember him (and Albright) for bombing Afghanistan, Sudan, Bosnia-Hercegovina and contributions to the proportionately largest ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia – of Croatian Serbs out of Croatia’s Krajina, Eastern and Western Slavonia where they had lived for about 400 years, in Operations Storm and Flash in 1995.

Clinton was also the President who started the expansion of NATO against assurances about never doing so given by leading NATO politicians to Mikhail Gorbachev. But the former Yugoslav republics are now NATO members (Slovenia, Croatia and Montenegro). Clinton also upheld the sanctions on Iraq’s innocent citizens even after 500,000 had died.

By an objective analysis of the contemporary history of interventionism and militarism, Russia’s response to the de facto coup d’etat in Kiev by [allegedly — DV editor] annexing Crimea would, one should expect, be compared with such fundamentally important and international law-violating policies and, likely, found to be minor in comparison. But that, naturally, is impossible for those who have reasons to be in denial of their own wrongdoings and large parts, therefore, of the post-Cold War history.

With a history like that – and more since then – it is no wonder that the West/NATO must blame everything evil on virtually everybody else: Russia, Syria, Iran, North Korea and China in particular. In psycho-political terms, it’s called projection while others might call it amnesia or attention-diversion that fit new crimes.

*****

Yugoslavia’s dissolution was surely caused by internal dynamics accumulating over a decade after Josip Broz Tito’s death. But the international so-called community’s involvement could, in the macro-historical perspective, be viewed as at least as destructive, if not more. The understanding of the hugely complex conflict formations in the Yugoslav space was unknown to 99% of the Western governments and their diplomats – having no other mental patterns than the Cold War and, thus, casting the Serbs as the evil, expansive Orthodox Russians and the rest as freedom-seeking peoples who ought to belong to “us”.

They thought it was about ethnicity while ethnicity was just a vehicle for mobilisation of warfighting energies and exploitation of traumas from the Second World War. They thought that conflict-resolution was about reducing complexity down to two parties, one good and one evil and that peace-making would succeed if they supported the former and punish the latter.

With such a deficient intellectual toolbox, with such amateurish Diagnosis of Yugoslavia’s problems, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Prognosis was wrong too and that the kind of final Solution – dissolution, split-and-rule and rewarding extremist nationalism and humiliating Russia – turned out catastrophic.

A good doctor causes minimal pain and blood loss. Western conflict doctors, accompanied by their arms traders, spilt as much blood as possible, on top of what the various domestic governments, private warlords and paramilitaries of Yugoslavia were able and willing to do to each other.

*****

Tito (Photo: Jan Oberg)

To make this Western – remember, Russia was in turmoil and could play no role – quackery succeed, at least in their own eyes, the self-appointed peacemakers of our world had to produce a number of novel tricks – all of which makes the long-term effects of this Yugoslavia’s dissolution more significant than the fall of The Wall.

Among such politico-military inventions one would perhaps in particular point to these:

• Since this was the first larger conflict after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, everything seemed possible, no need to take into account what Russia might do because it could do virtually nothing.

• Splitting with violent means an existing founding member state of the Non-Aligned Movement and of the UN;

• Bombing without a UN Security Council mandate (and undermining any UN success);

• Recognising Slovenia and Croatia out of Yugoslavia while the criteria for declaration of independence (such as control over a territory) were not met;

• Recognising these two republics out of Yugoslavia while not having the slightest idea about what to do with the remainder of Yugoslavia and, thereby, making the war in Bosnia-Hercegovina impossible to avoid.

• Inventing the peace enforcement idea in the UN Agenda for Peace report that contravened everything the UN stood for and enabled one-sided military action by outsiders;

• Inventing the idea of humanitarian intervention – and using it where there was no genocide (or plan of it, certainly not in Kosovo either) or other historically, uniquely huge, humanitarian catastrophe, and having never since contemplated such interventions to stop such mass-killing calamities elsewhere;

• Bombing relentlessly and shamelessly over 78 days one country, Serbia, in order to create a new state out of it, Kosovo – the second Albanian state in Europe;

• Threatening the destruction of the capital, Belgrade, unless President Slobodan Milosevic withdrew from Kosovo;

• Establishing a special Tribunal in the Hague for only this conflict and Rwanda, a tribunal which, to the very end, was marked by strange procedures and biases that, hardly surprisingly, fit the political patterns and deficient conflict diagnosis practised by the West.

• While one can certainly argue that the UN was undermined by many other wars before those in Yugoslavia, Vietnam not the least, it can be argued that it was here the UN became a victim of systematic marginalisation and accused of being useless and even complicit in its policies and on-the-ground missions – to the extent that the UN has not been thought of as a central peace-keeper, -maker and -builder in any of the large conflict zones since 1999.

• And it is, finally, the conflict in which commercial marketing companies – such as Ruder Finn – were brought in to secure an advantageous but deceptive global image of Croatia, Bosnian Muslims and Kosovo-Albanians. Powerful narratives that serve certain interests but not truth in any sense didn’t start with Syria. Neither did monopoly media’s loyalty to their governments and addiction to simplifying two-party narratives that were particularly misleading here, in one of the world’s most complex conflict formations.

Those of us who were more or less permanently on the ground in all parts of Yugoslavia – had been there decades before and followed it closely after, tended to see things in rather different perspectives and would maintain that the outside “help” Yugoslavia received from the international so-called community was a kind of cynical euthanasia rather than a genuine help to recover.

*****

Kosovo and TFF’s mediation and peace plan

This author served as goodwill mediator/adviser to three governments in Belgrade and to the non-violent leadership team of Dr Ibrahim Rugova in Kosovo. They wanted an independent state but only through non-violent means – and were therefore soon marginalised by the West which, with the particular contribution of the German intelligence service BND and the American CIA, instead invested in the darkest and most criminal circles in Kosovo and set up the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA/UCK) which later served as a kind of army on the ground for NATO’s bombing raids.

We developed a plan for a negotiated solution to the conflict based on a total ceasefire, UN presence and monitoring and a three-year negotiation process. It was shaped like an international law document. As far as we know, it is the only plan that was widely discussed and presented in details in both Serbian and Albanian media.

It turned out soon to be all in vain. The US and NATO allies had other plans – and they were not about peace. The Rambouillet meetings were totally fake, meant only to secure that Belgrade would say No and the Albanian Yes. Then Assistant Secretary of State, James Rubin, formulated it so well – people thought: Today the Serbs have chosen war and the Albanians peace. He said it to his wife, Christiane Amanpour on CNN – State war policies and monopoly media already then in symbiosis.

How was it done? Well, in the first round of talks the Albanians had stalled while the Serb team went along with a plan presented by Madeleine Albright. That was not what they wanted, so she later produced an Appendix to the text – to be used to turn the talk results around 180 degrees: The Appendix stipulated that NATO forces should be deployed to Serbia, should not be legally responsible for damage it may cause to Serbian property and not pay for the use of harbours and airfields.

Who would not have smelled a rat here? NATO could then have started a war from inside Serbia itself, having already a first contingent on the ground, or they could move to arrest President Milosevic at some point. Surprise, surprise: The Serbs said no and the Albanians were enthusiastic.

That was the pretext to NATO bombings 19 years ago. Plus the – presumably nicely staged – massacre in the village of Racak. A US head of the OSCE-related KVM monitoring mission, Mr William Walker, with a less than clean-handed past in the CIA, arrived immediately and, before any analyses had been made, declared it the work of the Serbian government.

*****

TFF’s team of Yugoslavia experts, psychologists, media people, peacemakers etc. was on the ground everywhere, conducted interviews on all sides (some 3000) and roamed around with flak jackets also where no embassies were found. No Western government ever took any interest, except former US Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and his team whom we had a long conversation with in a late evening at his hotel suite. A delightful intellectual with a heart, a moral man – who was quickly sidelined by the Clinton administration and one of the students Vance had taught diplomacy – Warren Christopher.

TFF’s first report, After Yugoslavia – What? in September 1991 was published at the same time as Vance’s team was working on the idea to deploy UN peacekeeping missions in Croatia. That was also a central proposal of the mentioned report.

Over the years, three TFF Associates – Johan Galtung, Hakan Wiberg and Jan Oberg who in total had about 130 man-years of experience with Yugoslavia – wrote the equivalent of about 2000 A4 pages of main comprehensive conflict analyses and peace proposals and some debate articles and press releases. They’re all gathered – as they were written at the time – in the blog 1 report “Yugoslavia – What Should Have Been Done” which is not only the largest peace research publication about Yugoslavia but also a frontal criticism – with alternatives point by point – of how the West practised what must be termed peace prevention.

Yes, there were alternatives.

But those who mastermind wars are not exactly the best listeners.

Back then as today, somebody else paid a high price.

We don’t want to contribute to the special war crimes amnesia of the West.

And we want to remind our audiences that there are always alternatives to warfare.

Why “Coercive Diplomacy” is a Dangerous Farce

A North Korean soldier looks in through the window of the T2 building as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates tour the Demilitarized Zone in Korea on July 21, 2010.(U.S. Department of Defense photo.)

With his recent “my (nuclear) button is bigger than yours” taunt, Donald Trump’s rhetoric has fully descended into school yard braggadocio, with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un as a convenient foil. But his administration’s overwhelming reliance on military and economic pressure rather than on negotiations to influence North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ICBM programs is hardly new. It is merely a continuation of a well-established tradition of carrying out what the national security elite call “coercive diplomacy”.

As Alexander George, the academic specialist on international relations who popularized the concept, wrote:

The general idea of coercive diplomacy is to back one’s demand on an adversary with a threat of punishment for noncompliance that he will consider credible and potent enough to persuade him to comply with the demand.

The converse of that fixation on coercion, of course, is rejection of genuine diplomatic negotiations, which would have required the United States to agree to changes in its own military and diplomatic policies.

It is no accident that the doctrine of coercive diplomacy acquired much of its appeal on the basis of a false narrative surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962—that John F. Kennedy’s readiness to go to war was what forced Khrushchev’s retreat from Cuba. In fact, a crucial factor in ending the crisis was JFK’s back-channel offer to withdraw U.S. missiles from Turkey, which were useful only as first strike weapons and which Khrushchev had been demanding. As George later observed, enthusiasts of coercive diplomacy had ignored the fact that success in resolving a crisis may “require genuine concessions to the opponent as part of a quid pro quo that secures one’s essential demands.”

The missile crisis occurred, of course, at a time when the United States had overwhelming strategic dominance over the Soviet Union. The post-Cold War period has presented an entirely different setting for its practice, in which both Iran and North Korea have acquired conventional weapons systems that could deter a U.S. air attack on either one.

Why Clinton and Bush Failed on North Korea

The great irony of the U.S. coercive diplomacy applied to Iran and North Korea is that it was all completely unnecessary. Both states were ready to negotiate agreements with the United States that would have provided assurances against nuclear weapons in return for U.S. concession to their own most vital security interests. North Korea began exploiting its nuclear program in the early 1990s in order to reach a broader security agreement with Washington. Iran, which was well aware of the North Korean negotiating strategy, began in private conversations in 2003 to cite the stockpile of enriched uranium it expected to acquire as bargaining chips to be used in negotiations with the United States and/or its European allies.

But those diplomatic strategies were frustrated by the long-standing attraction of the national security elite to the coercive diplomacy but also the bureaucratic interests of the Pentagon and CIA, newly bereft of the Soviet adversary that had kept their budgets afloat during the Cold War.  In Disarming Strangers, the most authoritative account of Clinton administration policy, author and former State Department official Leon Sigal observes: “The North Korean threat was essential to the armed services’ rationale for holding the line on the budget,” which revolved around “a demanding and dubious requirement to meet two major contingencies, one shortly after the other, in the Persian Gulf and Korea.”

The Clinton administration briefly tried coercive diplomacy in mid-1994.  Secretary of Defense William Perry prepared a plan for a U.S. air attack on the DPRK Plutonium reactor after North Korea had shut it down and removed the fuel rods, but would not agree to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to determine how many bombs- worth of Plutonium, if any, had been removed in the past. But before the strategy could be put into operation, former President Jimmy Carter informed the White House that Kim Il-sung had agreed to give up his plutonium program as part of a larger deal.

The Carter-Kim initiative, based on traditional diplomacy, led within a few months to the “Agreed Framework”, which could have transformed the security situation on the Korean Peninsula. But that agreement was much less than it may have seemed. In order to succeed in denuclearizing North Korea, the Clinton administration would have been required to deal seriously with North Korean demands for a fundamental change in bilateral relations between the two countries, ending the state of overt U.S. enmity toward Pyongyang.

U.S. diplomats knew, however, that the Pentagon was not willing to entertain any such fundamental change. They were expecting to be able to spin out the process of implementation for years, anticipating the Kim regime before it would collapse from mass starvation before the U.S. would be called upon to alter its policy toward North Korea.

The Bush administration, too, was unable to carry out a strategy of coercive diplomacy toward Iran and North Korea over their nuclear and missile programs because its priority was the occupation of Iraq, which bogged down the U.S. military and ruled out further adventures. Its only coercive effort was a huge March 2007 Persian Gulf naval exercise that involved two naval task forces, a dozen warships, and 100 aircraft. But it was aimed not at coercing Iran to abandon its nuclear program, but at gaining “leverage” over Iran in regard to Iran’s role in the Iraq War itself.

On nuclear and missile programs, the administration had to content itself with the highly subjective assumption that the regimes in both Iran and North Korea would both be overthrown within a relatively few years. Meanwhile, however, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, whose primary interest was funding and deploying a very expensive national missile defense system, killed the unfinished Clinton agreement with North Korea. And after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice got Bush’s approval to negotiate a new agreement with Pyongyang, Cheney sabotaged that one as well. Significantly no one in the Bush administration made any effort to negotiate with North Korea on its missile program.

Obama Whiffs on Iran and North Korea

Unlike the Bush administration, the Obama administration pursued a carefully planned strategy of coercive diplomacy strategy toward Iran. Although Obama sent a message to Supreme Leader Khamenei of Iran offering talks “without preconditions,” he had earlier approved far-reaching new economic sanctions against Iran. And in his first days in office he had ordered history’s first state-sponsored cyber-attack targeting Iran’s enrichment facility at Natanz.

Although Obama did not make any serious efforts to threaten Iran’s nuclear targets directly in a military attack, he did exploit the Netanyahu government’s threat to attack those facilities. That was the real objective of Obama’s adoption of a new “nuclear posture” that included the option of a first use of nuclear weapons against Iran if it were to use conventional force against an ally. In the clearest expression of Obama’s coercive strategy, in early 2012 Defense Secretary Leon Panetta suggested to Washington Post columnist David Ignatius that the Iranians could convince the U.S. that its nuclear program was for civilian purposes or face the threat of an Israeli attack or an escalation of covert U.S. actions against the Iranian nuclear program.

In his second term, Obama abandoned the elaborate multilayered coercive diplomacy strategy, which had proven a complete failure, and made significant U.S. diplomatic concessions to Iran’s interests to secure the final nuclear deal of July 2015. In keeping with coercive diplomacy, however, the conflict over fundamental U.S. and Iranian policies and interests in the Middle East remained outside the realm of bilateral negotiations.

On North Korea, the Obama administration was even more hostile to genuine diplomacy than Bush. In his account of Obama’s Asian policy, Obama’s special assistant, Jeffrey Bader, describes a meeting of the National Security Council in March 2009 at which Obama declared that he wanted to break “the cycle of provocation, extortion and reward” that previous administrations had tolerated over 15 years. That description, which could have come from the lips of Dick Cheney himself, not only misrepresented what little negotiation had taken place with Pyongyang, but implied that any concessions to North Korea in return for its sacrifice of nuclear or missile programs represented abject appeasement.

It should be no surprise, therefore, that Obama did nothing at all, to head off a nuclear-armed North Korean ICBM, even though former Defense Secretary Ashton Carter acknowledged to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour last November, “We knew that it was a possibility six or seven years ago.” In fact, he admitted, the administration had not really tried to test North Korean intentions diplomatically, because “we’re not in a frame of mind to give much in the way or rewards.” The former Pentagon chief opined that no diplomatic concession could be made to North Korea’s security interests “as long as they have nuclear weapons.”

The Obama administration was thus demanding unilateral concession by North Korea on matters involving vital interests of the regime that Washington certainly understood by then could not be obtained without significant concessions to North Korea’s security interests. As Carter freely admits, they knew exactly what the consequences of that policy were in terms of North Korea’s likely achievement of an ICBM.

This brief overview of the role of coercive diplomacy in post-Cold War policy suggests that the concept has devolved into convenient political cover for maintaining the same old Cold War policies and military posture regarding Iran and North Korea, despite new and essentially unnecessary costs to U.S. security interests. The United States could have and should have reached new accommodations with its regional adversaries, just as it had with the Soviet Union and China during the Cold War. To do so, however, would have put at risk Pentagon and CIA budgetary interests worth potentially hundreds of billions of dollars as well as symbolic power and status.

Preparing For The Coming Transformation

The year 2017 has been another active year for people fighting on a wide range of fronts. The Trump administration has brought many issues that have existed for years out into the open where they are more difficult to deny – racism, colonialism, imperialism, capitalism and patriarchy and the crises they create. More people are activated and greater connections between the fronts of struggle are creating a movement of movements. These are positive developments, bright spots in difficult times. They are the seeds of transformative change that we can nurture and grow if we act with intention.

The crises we face have been building for decades. They are reaching a point of extremism that will create an even greater response by people. What that response is, where it goes and what it accomplishes are up to all of us to determine.

The overreach by the plutocrats in power may bring a boomerang effect, energizing the population to take action and demand the changes we desire and need. We may reach a moment, a turning point, when the movements for economic, racial and environmental justice, as well as peace, can win significant changes, beyond the comfort zones of those in power. The boomerang will only occur if we educate and organize for it, and its size will also depend on us.

We have no illusions that this work will be easy. Those in power will do all that they can to derail, misdirect and suppress our efforts. Our tasks are to resist their tactics and maintain our focus on our end goals. This requires understanding how social movements succeed and being clear in our demands for transformative change.

We see several key areas where people are energized to work for changes that are opportunities to expand the current movement of movements into a powerful force that will overcome the stranglehold by the corporate duopoly parties. This is the first of two articles to help prepare us for the work ahead. In the second article, we will describe these key issues in greater depth and what we need to do to create the transformative moment we need.

The Long Development of this Transformative Era

The era of transformation has been developing over many decades. If we view it through presidential administrations, a frame of reference used commonly in the United States, we see that both major parties represent the interests of the wealthy and corporations, not the majority of the population, and that they effectively divide and weaken popular movements.

After Bill Clinton’s administration loosened regulations on finance, setting the stage for the 2008 crash, brought in trade agreements like NAFTA and weakened the social safety net, and George W. Bush’s administration expanded military aggression around the world and the domestic security state, as well as further enriching the wealthy, people were hungry for change. Barack Obama effectively built his ‘hope and change’ campaign around this desire, vaguely but eloquently promising what people wanted. His words allowed people to imagine that a transformation was coming.

Obama raised expectations, but he did not fulfill them. His cabinet was made up of Wall Streeters from Citigroup. He continued and expanded foreign wars, the wealth divide grew and tens of millions went without healthcare even after his private insurance-based Affordable Care Act became law. The frustration that had been building during the Clinton-Bush years burst onto the scene with Occupy, Fight for $15, Black Lives Matter, debt resistance, immigration reform, Idle No More and other fronts of struggle.

After Occupy, the media told us the people’s struggle went away, but, as we show in the daily movement news reporting on Popular Resistance, all of those struggles expanded. The corporate media’s failure to cover the national mass protest movement does not change reality — the resistance movements continue, are growing and are impacting popular opinion and policies.

Where We Are and What We Must Do

In 2013, we wrote a two part series describing the status of the movement and what the movement must do. In the December 2013 article, “Closer than We Think” we described the eight stages of social movements, an analysis by long-time civil rights and anti-nuclear activist, Bill Moyer. The movement had gone through the “Take-Off”, Stage Four of the social movement when encampments covered the country, seemingly overnight, and brought the issues of the wealth divide, racist policing, climate change, student debt and other issues to the forefront. The meme of the 99% against the 1% illustrated the conflict between people power and the power holders. We passed through Stage Five, “the Landing,” where the encampments disappeared and people asked, “What happened? Did we accomplish anything?”

Our second article in January 2014 focused on the tasks of the movement and explained that we were now in Stage Six, the final stage before victory. This is a long-term phase that could last years where the goal is to build broad national consensus of 70% to 90% support among the public for the goals of the movement and to mobilize people as effective change agents.

During this phase, the contradictions in the system become more obvious to people. For example, as the United States and world experience the harsh realities of climate change in massive storms, widespread fires, droughts and famine, the government’s response is inadequate. When Obama was president his administration was an anchor on the world, weakening international climate and trade agreements. His secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, used her influence to promote fracking. The Trump administration has gone further, denying climate change, erasing words and phrases that describe it from government reports, silencing scientists and undermining the inadequate steps made to confront climate change that were put in place in the Obama era.

The inadequate response to the climate crisis is one example of many multiple crisis situations that exist in which the government does not respond, responds inadequately or even takes actions that make these crises worse. In some cases, the power holders go too far, as we see in the recently passed tax bill, designed to protect the donor class, and in abusive police practices as the racism and violence of our society are exposed. The overreaction in the end helps build the national consensus we need to achieve our objectives.

The contradictions arise because there are obvious solutions to each crisis we face, but those in power refuse to put them in place. National consensus for these solutions grows during this phase, and the failures of the money-dominated political system become more obvious.

As a result, a transformative moment is building now. It can be seen in the 2016 presidential campaigns where people showed frustration with both corporate parties. Electoral challenges inside the parties showed populist anger based on hundreds of millions of people struggling every day to survive in an unfair economy. Donald Trump built his campaign around economic insecurity from the right and Senator Bernie Sanders did the same from the left. Now, Trump is betraying conservative populists with economic and healthcare policies that add to their insecurity and with the wealthiest cabinet in US history serving the interests of Wall Street, the self-interest of elected officials and adding to the distrust of the DC duopoly. The realization of Trump’s betrayal is only beginning to show itself in the lives of those who supported him.

The Democrats have been struggling to come to grips with how they lost to Donald Trump. A large part of the party is in denial, blaming their failures on the fiction of Russiagate — claiming the Russians were responsible for their loss rather than a widely-disliked candidate who represented Wall Street and war for her entire career. The Democrats continue their internal divide: the divide between Wall Street donors who want the party to serve their interests and voters who want the party to represent their interests. Invariably the Democrats will be unable to turn their backs on their donors and will nominate a fake change agent who will spout popular progressive rhetoric and dash those hopes when in office.

It is critical for us to step out of the limitations of two and four year election cycles and recognize that social transformation does not arise by electing the perceived least evil. Social transformation occurs through a people-powered movement of movements that arises over decades of struggle and shifts the political reality so that the power holders must respond.

Issues Driving the Backlash 

There will be a backlash. It will look to the Democrats like a backlash against Trump’s extremism, but it will be broader. It will be a backlash against the extremism of the corporate duopoly. Their bi-partisan policies always put the wealthy and big business interests first. The boomerang will be built on the conflict between the necessities of the people and the planet vs. the greed of the wealthy.

There are a number of fundamental issues that are priorities for large majorities of the population, around which people are mobilizing and where national consensus is developing. They have the potential to connect our movements into a powerful force.

One of our tasks is to develop clear demands so that we cannot be side-tracked by false or partial solutions. If these fundamental issues are addressed through bold and transformative solutions, they will shift the political culture and our political system in a significant way towards the people-powered future we need. They will create change at the root causes of the crises we face.

These transformative issues include economic inequality, lack of access to health care, ensuring Internet freedom and a people’s media, confronting climate change and environmental disasters, ending US Empire and militarism at home, and addressing domestic human rights abuses, whether it is exploitation of workers, mass incarceration, racism or disrespect for Indigenous sovereignty. Throughout all of these issues there is a thread of racial injustice so our struggles must not just solidify around class issues, but must also solidify around the necessity of ending systemic racism.

We will address these issues and next steps in greater depth in the first newsletter of the new year. We wish all of you a peaceful week and hope you are able to spend time with loved ones. We are committed to being with you through the struggle and to doing all we can to stop the machine and create a new world.

The Simulacra Democracy

… a nation in which 87 percent of eighteen- to twenty-four year olds (according to a 2002 National Geographic Society/Roper Poll survey) cannot locate Iran or Iraq on a world map and 11 percent cannot locate the United States (!) is not merely “intellectually sluggish.” It would be more accurate to call it moronic, capable of being fooled into believing anything …

—Morris Berman, The Twilight of American Culture, June 28 2001

I cannot remember U.S. culture ever being quite so compromised by ruling class control. Hollywood turns out one jingoistic and militaristic and racist film and TV show after another. Corporate news is completely controlled by the same forces that run Hollywood. It is the complete capitulation of the liberal class to the interests of the increasingly fascistic U.S. elite. And this didn’t start with Donald Trump. Certainly in its current incarnation it goes back at least to Bill Clinton, and really it goes back to the end of WW2. The ideological trajectory was formed under the Dulles brothers and military industrial complex — representing U.S. business interests and exhibiting a demand for global hegemony. But once the Soviet Union collapsed, the project was accelerated and intensified.

Another starting point might well be the 1960 Bay of Pigs fiasco, or the 1961 CIA (and MI6) assassination of Patrice Lumumba. Or Kennedy’s 1962 speech at American University calling for the end of Pax Americana. We know what happened to Kennedy soon after that. Pick any of these incidents. But it was the fall of the U.S.S.R. that signaled to the governing class, the proprietor class, that the last real obstacle to global domination had been removed. In the interim one finds the Iran/Contra affair, and the invasion of Iraq. The real and the symbolic meaning of the Soviet Union is forgotten today, I think. Its meaning for the developing world, especially.

The next conscious trial balloon was Clinton’s attack on the former Yugoslavia. A test run for expanding NATO. And it worked. The propaganda machine has never been as successful as it was when it demonized the Serbs and Milosevic. Then came 9/11. And the well honed PR machine spewed an endless barrage of hyper patriotic rhetoric and disinformation. American exceptionalism was given full credibility. And remember Colin Powell and his cartoon visual teaching aids at the UN? Nobody was going to argue. Certainly not the white liberal class. And Hollywood upped its game in churning out military fantasies. And in just churning out fantasies. A genre that lent itself to obvious neo-colonial messages. By 2007, when Barack Obama announces he will run for President, the master narrative for America was firmly entrenched. The biggest hit from Hollywood in this period is Avatar (2009), a neo-colonial fable that fit seamlessly with Obama’s reconquest of Africa.

Dan Glazebrook recently wrote:

The year 2009, two years before Gaddafi’s murder, was a pivotal one for US-African relations. First, because China surpassed the US as the continent’s largest trading partner; and second, because Gaddafi was elected President of the African Union. The significance of both for the decline of US influence on the continent could not be clearer. Whilst Gaddafi was spearheading attempts to unite Africa politically, committing serious amounts of Libyan oil wealth to make this dream a reality, China was quietly smashing the West’s monopoly over export markets and investment finance. Africa no longer had to go cap-in-hand to the IMF for loans, agreeing to whatever self-defeating terms were on offer, but could turn to China – or indeed Libya – for investment. And if the US threatened to cut them off from their markets, China would happily buy up whatever was on offer. Western economic domination of Africa was under threat as never before.

The US response was to increase base building, upgrade AFRICOM, and then murder Gaddafi. Hollywood hits from this period include The Hurt Locker and The Dark Knight. Meanwhile domestically Obama was giving the OK for militarizing of police departments across the country. On another front….Danny Haiphong wrote

What isn’t discussed often enough is how Obama has worked tirelessly to protect and fulfill the interests of the corporate healthcare system. In 2009, he collaborated with the monopoly health insurance industry and its pharmaceutical counterparts to repress the demand for single payer healthcare. The conditions at the time appeared ripe for a single payer system. Popular discontent with Republican Party rule was at its highest point. A relatively organized movement for single payer care was represented by organizations such as Healthcare Now. The Democratic Party possessed a majority in both the House and Senate.

Obama came to power as Wall Street went into meltdown, 2008. But instead of hope and change we got almost 5 trillion dollars moving to the top 1% of the financial elite. Poverty increased every year under Obama, as did inequality. Social Network came out in 2010 and Wolf of Wall Street in 2013. Both were big hits. The message from Hollywood never changed. And part of that message is that wealth is its own justification and a symbol of virtue. Hollywood, and U.S. liberals just naturally gravitate toward the rich.

Obama attacked Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen. And it is perhaps that last venture that will prove to be his most significant. Arming, training, and coordinating the Saudi aggression (and now that has escalated to boots on the ground) against the helpless Yemen has resulted in the largest humanitarian catastrophe in five decades.

The U.S. now has all but formally criminalized dissent, especially if that dissent is aimed at Israel.

None of this is to create exact corollaries between political action and studio product. But rather that the overriding message of Hollywood in both film and TV is to validate U.S. exceptionalism. And to hedge criticism with faint token protest. But its not just Hollywood, its theatre and fiction and all the rest of the arts. The erasure of the working class is the most pronounced truth in American culture today. There are no Clifford Odets (a high school drop out) anymore; they have been replaced by a steady stream of well groomed compliant MFA grads. Mostly from elite and expensive schools. Hemingway and James Baldwin were not college grads, nor was Tennessee Williams, the son of a traveling shoe salesman. Even more recent authors such as Thomas Pynchon were college drop outs (to join the Navy) but the point is that today mass culture is carefully controlled. Dreiser was a college drop out, and Twain was a typesetters apprentice. Others like Faulkner, went to University, but also worked. In Faulkner’s case as a postman. Same profession as Henry Miller and Charles Bukowski. Stephen Crane and Hemingway worked as journalists, when that was a honorable profession.

The decision makers in mass culture are mostly firmly entrenched in the Democratic Party ethos (witness stuff like House of Cards, Madame Secretary, or Veep). If one only gets one’s news from MSNBC or FOX or CNN then one will take away mostly pure propaganda. Rachel Maddow has a career based on craven parroting of DNC approved talking points and conclusions. Bill Maher, whose show is on HBO, is of late pimping for war. Sunday news talk shows do not invite radical voices, not ever. Michael Parenti isn’t on those shows, Ajamu Baraka or Glen Ford, not Mike Whitney or Ed Curtin or Dan Glazebrook or Stephen Gowans. No, but there are plenty of retired generals and politicians. This is a media that exerts absolute control of message.

The loss of the working class, of class diversity, has been a far bigger blow to the health of the culture than anything else. One might argue that culture has always been, in the modern era, a province of the bourgeoisie, and that’s true. But there is still a rather pronounced change that has taken place. But Americans are discouraged from thinking in terms of class. They see individualism and identity. Get me more women directors they cry….which would give us more versions of Zero Dark Thirty, I guess. Gender equality matters, something every single socialist country in history has emphasized. Something Chavez saw fit to write into the Bolivarian constitution on day one. Chavez, who liberal avatar Bernie Sanders dismissed as a “dead communist dictator”. Chavez, who feminist avatar Hillary Clinton worked overtime to oust from power.

People are shocked…shocked I say…that US soldiers are killed in Niger. Darn that Donald Trump. When it is pointed out that it was Obama who sent troops there in his pivot to Africa, one is met with blank stares. The concern over U.S. soldiers dying is simply mind numbing in its hypocrisy and blinkered exceptionalism. I mean just count the numbers of dead civilians due to U.S. drone strikes from just one year. Pick any year you like.

Under Obama, the US African Command (AFRICOM) has penetrated every African country but Zimbabwe and Eritrea. AFRICOM has locked African nations into military subservience. In 2014, the US conducted 674 military operations in Africa. According to a recent Freedom of Information Act request by Intercept, the US currently has Special Forces deployed in more than twenty African nations.

— Danny Haiphong, “The Destruction of Libya and the US Military Invasion of Africa“, August 18, 2016

People are terrified today lest they be called conspiracy theorists. No single pejorative term has exercised such disproportionate power. There is a subterranean subject position associated with this, too. A masculine identity that connects with the presentation of those accepting of the official version of things. It is ‘no nonsense, mature, and sort of tough guy’ pose. Only weak and muddled (feminine you see!) would bother to question official narratives of…well, anything. It is staggering, really, why so few ask why is it OK to assassinate people without due process? Why is it whistleblowers, truth tellers, are being locked away and shunned? Why are there 900 plus US military bases around the world. Why, given the growing poverty in the U.S., do we need an updated nuclear arsenal that will cost trillions? In fact, why is the defense budget over 4 billion a day? The liberal educated class seem not to ask such questions. Let alone ask is the U.S. arming takfiri jihadists in Syria? Most of what people call conspiracy is just perfectly reasonable skepticism. Given a history that includes COINTELPRO, Operation Northwoods, Gladio, MKUltra, and Operation AJAX. This is also relevant in terms of the coming war on *fake news*. An idea put forward by Obama and now in enthusiastic Orwellian operation by Facebook, YouTube, and Google. In the U.K. Theresa May proudly announces the government SHOULD control what one can see on the internet. Censorship is pitched as protection.

And then we come to NATO and Europe. Why does NATO even exist one might ask? I mean the USSR doesn’t exist anymore. Well, the answer has been under construction for a few years now, and that answer is the extraordinary anti Putin propaganda of the U.S. The “Russian Threat” is now an accepted trope in public discourse. Or the anti Iranian disinformation. In fact, Iran is far more democratic and less a global threat (actually its NO global threat) than U.S. boon allies Israel and Saudi Arabia. Which brings us back to Yemen. The utter destruction of Yemen, poorest Arab country in the world, and now one with the largest Cholera outbreak in history, posed no threat to ANYONE. Certainly not to the United States. Are we to believe the House of Saud is worth supporting? They behead homosexuals and witches in Saudi Arabia. The leader of KSA is a 32 year old psychopath named Mohammed Bin Salman. Someone please explain the U.S. support for this country?

Or Venezuela. The U.S. has waged various campaigns against this sovereign nation for over a decade now. A democracy. But a disobedient one. Where is the outcry? When people are going on about Harvey Weinstein, a troglodyte movie producer that literally everyone knew was a serial abuser, I wonder that the women of Venezuela seem not to count. Or of Libya, or Haiti, or Puerto Rico, or hell, the women of Houston right now. Poor women. Ah, but that is class again. Now perhaps the Weinstein affair will yield good results and some form of collective protection and maybe even unionizing will take place to limit the power of rich white men. I doubt it, but maybe. Still, given that the liberal class today applaud the idea of making it OK for women to bomb defenseless villages in Afghanistan or Iraq or Yemen, just like men, and given that most of these horrified by Weinstein were and are solidly behind Hillary Clinton and the DNC, and laud adulation on figures like Maddie Albright, it seems hard to imagine.

Sexual abuse and violence in the U.S. is as old as the country. America’s patriarchal culture long legitimized sexual abuse and violence toward women — and children — whether conducted at the workplace, at home, a nightclub or on a deserted street. During the nation’s earliest days, the custom of sexual abuse and violence was legitimized through the notion of “chastisement.” This was a feature of Anglo-American common law that recognized the husband as master of “his” household and, thus, permitted him to subject “his” wife to corporal punishment, including rape, so long as he did not inflict permanent injury upon her. Sexual abuse was institutionalized in the rape of African and later African-American female slaves. As the legal scholar Adrienne Davis notes, “U.S. slavery compelled enslaved black women to labor in three markets – productive, reproductive, and slavery – crucial to the political economy.

— David Rosen, Male Sexual Violence: As American as Cherry Pie, October 20, 2017

One need only note the sexual violence that takes place in the U.S. military (See Kirby Dick’s The Invisible War). But that is not the military you see in this season’s TV shows such as SEAL Team or Valor or The Brave. The current Tom Cruise film American Made is a sort of comedy about Barry Seal who worked as a pilot for the CIA, and with various cartels in South America. Yeah, nothing funnier than squashing a socialist government like in Nicaragua. There is not a single Spanish speaking character who is not either a drunk, a sadist, or just incompetent. This stunningly racist revisionism was called “jaunty and bouncy” by the Hollywood Reporter.

The liberal class will always side with the status quo. Always. They do not care if the status quo is fascist. And it suits them much more to lay out bromides about male abuse of women, as long as this doesn’t mean having to untangle the complexity of women in unfamiliar non tourist visited nations like Yemen or Libya or Honduras. Just like the fact that U.S. domestic police departments murdered over a thousand black men in 2015. And continue to do so, along with increasing numbers of black women. That’s just not a jaunty bouncy story, I guess. Obama has never been comfortable talking about or to black people. He did manage to scold Colin Kaepernick recently though, about the pain he, Kaepernick, might be causing. The pain of white billionaire sports team owners I guess. The Uncle Tomism of what Glen Ford called black misleadership has never been greater. And that’s another crime we can lay, largely, at the feet of Barack Obama.

The U.S. House voted unanimously to sanction Iran and North Korea, an absurdity and a crime, and yet one that barely registered on the media Richter scale. What has Iran or North Korea ever done to hurt anyone in the United States? It is Saudi Arabia and Israel that fear a democratic nation like Iran and the influence they wield in the region. Iran is accused of fomenting instability but evidence is never given. Russia is said to control U.S. public opinion, but evidence is never given. The U.S. doesn’t even bother to really try and make claims about Venzeuela, because it’s just part of inherited wisdom that they are *bad*. Like Castro was bad, like Gadaffi, like Aristide, like anyone exhibiting independence. The world according to media entertainment is made up of bad guys and good guys. Mike Pompeo, head of the CIA, recently stated that his agency would become a “much more vicious agency” in fighting its enemies. Its actually hard to imagine what that might look like given CIA history. More vicious than rendition, drone killing and black site torture? Remember it was the U.S. and its School of the Americas that trained those death squads in Central America. Hollywood makes comedies about this.

In any event nobody in Hollywood complains. Just as none of the actresses assaulted by Weinstein (and countless others) said anything lest they lose career opportunities. Just as nobody complains about the racism and demonizing of Muslims or Serbs or North Koreans or Russians lest they not get the job. Coercion is silent and a given. It is also absolute. Most actors and directors simply don’t think about it, and most know little beyond what they hear on corporate news or read in the NYTimes. But I understand. People have to eat, have to feed their families. The real problem is that power is ever more consolidated. Distribution of films is monopolized. And for most Americans, foreign policy remains a giant black hole about which they know very little. Tell someone Milosovic was actually a good guy and they will laugh at you (this still happens on the left, too, rather depressingly). Tell them Russia is not threatening the U.S., or Europe, and they will laugh at you. Try to explain what Imperialism is and means, and you get that bored look of irritation. A good rule of thumb is if the U.S. targets a country or leader, then its worth questioning the western generated propagated propaganda in mainstream media about said country or leader (think Syria, Gadaffi, Aristide, Milosovic, Iran, North Korea). The U.S. does not go after countries who welcome western capital.

One of the things I’ve noticed about Hollywood film is the extraordinary amount of self pity from most characters. Self pity, entitlement, and sarcasm. The people who produce and make film and TV today, by and large, tacitly censor themselves. Some don’t have to, of course. But there is a general group think at work. And it extends to the way characters are written. The problems of affluent white people is the template here. Few examine the wider world, and mostly when they do it is seen as a world of threat and menace. An uncivilized place in need of guidance from the civilized white West (The Lost City of Z comes to mind, which made all the approved anti colonial notes while still creating a colonial narrative anyway).

But it is even more narrow than that. Everything resembles a studio; political discussions, even if they take place in outer space, resemble studio executives discussing opening weekend profits, or Neilson ratings. And since Hollywood itself ever more resembles Wall Street, or some corporate headquarters, that is increasingly what the world looks like. It is a profound loss of imagination. Westerns look and sound the same as melodramas set in Santa Monica or New York. Fantasy worlds resemble corporate headquarters or corporate motivational weekends. It is a world created by writers under thirty, largely, and certainly under forty. These are worlds created by people who themselves know very little of the world. They know even less about having to work for a living.

The entire universe of film is absent any class awareness. History is simplified the better to appeal to a wider audience. Everything feels and sounds the same. And it is stultifying. There are films and TV from Europe, even from the U.K. that have merit, have heterogeneous sensibilities, but not from Hollywood. Like White House press conferences, the idea is to stay on message. Black characters sound white (or are given caricature *black* dialect and dialogue), brown characters sound white (or are given caricature barrio dialects), and Muslims sound dangerous and devious. Asians seem lifted from Fu Manchu serials or Charlie Chan. Strange when I hear people make fun of ethnic cliches from the 1940s, because it is really no different today (and check the recent TV incarnation of the venerable Star Trek franchise where the Klingon villains are very dark, live in dark spaceships and utter a guttural invented language all of which suggests something oddly racist and like nothing so much as colonial portraits of savages from darkest Africa).

Fixation on Trump’s crimes distracts from a system in which crime is a built-in factor. Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Trump. They are only the figureheads that carry water for the system. And the system is the property of the ruling class. People vote as if it crucially matters, and they vote for who they *like*. Not for policy because mostly they have no idea of policy. Trump is an obvious target, but that’s the problem in a sense. America didn’t become racist and violent overnight. The forces of social unrest have been building for decades. Trump was inevitable. His lack of basic literacy mirrors the nation he nominally heads, and his vulgarity mirrors the vulgarity of America, as does his misogyny and racism. The same advisors are in place and if Hillary had won, those openly fascist thugs applauding Trump would still be committing hate crimes. Has Trump empowered them? To a degree, yes. But an HRC win would likely have provided motivation of a different sort and the same violence would be taking place.

You cannot sustain, as a country, this level of inequality. And as more super hurricanes descend on us, as the bio-sphere collapses, none of this may end up mattering. There is something disturbing, actually, about the relentless attacks on Trump. It’s like beating up a special needs kid. Where was this hatred and outrage before? I mean Trump’s America, a term I hear a lot, is just America. We have over 2 million people in prison in the U.S. Far and away leaders in the world. Infant mortality, however, puts the U.S. between 26th and 51st, depending on who is counting. There is no Universal Heath Care, no union protection for workers, no maternity leave, no free education. What is there to feel so special about, exactly? Trump was very popular on his moronic reality TV show. I’m guessing more than few now outraged by this buffoonish reactionary watched that show. I mean it did last fifteen years I believe. Who did they think he was?

There is nothing wrong with identifying the crimes of Trump’s administration. But there is something deeply wrong in not recognizing it as a continuation of prevailing policy. Yes, it is worse in many areas. The environment for one. But then again, 47% of the world’s pollution is caused by the military. And the U.S. has a military bigger than the next ten largest militaries in the world. And every president since the first Bush has increased the military budget. The nightmare did not begin with the swearing in of Donald Trump. But nobody *likes* him. They *liked* Obama. And that is why he was able to do so much harm. Trump is dangerous not because of what he thinks (he mostly doesn’t) but because of his ignorance and weakness (and fear). And that weakness generated his welcoming hand to the Pentagon. Foreign policy is really in the hands of a man nicknamed ‘Mad Dog’. One cannot blame this catastrophic situation on one man. This is the creation of American history.

Power Corrupts: A Culture of Compliance Breeds Despots and Predators

All governments suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptible.

― Frank Herbert

Power corrupts.

Worse, as 19th-century historian Lord Acton concluded, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about a politician, an entertainment mogul, a corporate CEO or a police officer: give any one person (or government agency) too much power and allow him or her or it to believe that they are entitled, untouchable and will not be held accountable for their actions, and those powers will eventually be abused.

We’re seeing this dynamic play out every day in communities across America.

A cop shoots an unarmed citizen for no credible reason and gets away with it. A president employs executive orders to sidestep the Constitution and gets away with it. A government agency spies on its citizens’ communications and gets away with it. An entertainment mogul sexually harasses aspiring actresses and gets away with it. The U.S. military bombs a civilian hospital and a school and gets away with it.

Abuse of power—and the ambition-fueled hypocrisy and deliberate disregard for misconduct that make those abuses possible—works the same whether you’re talking about sexual harassment, government corruption, or the rule of law.

For instance, 20 years ago, I took up a sexual harassment lawsuit on behalf of a young woman—a state employee—who claimed that her boss, a politically powerful man, had arranged for her to meet him in a hotel room, where he then allegedly dropped his pants, propositioned her and invited her to perform oral sex on him.

Despite the fact that this man had a well-known reputation for womanizing and this woman was merely one in a long line of women who had accused the man of groping, propositioning, and pressuring them for sexual favors in the workplace, she was denounced as white trash and subjected to a massive smear campaign by the man’s wife, friends and colleagues (including the leading women’s rights organizations of the day), while he was given lucrative book deals and paid lavish sums for speaking engagements.

William Jefferson Clinton eventually agreed to settle the case and pay Paula Jones $850,000.

Here we are 20 years later and not much has changed.

We’re still shocked by sexual harassment in the workplace, the victims of these sexual predators are still being harassed and smeared, and those who stand to gain the most by overlooking wrongdoing (all across the political spectrum) are still turning a blind eye to misconduct when it’s politically expedient to do so.

This time, it’s Hollywood producer Harvey Weinsteinlongtime Clinton associate and a powerhouse when it comes to raising money for Democrats—who is being accused of decades of sexual assaults, aggressively sexual overtures and harassment.

I won’t go into the nauseating details here. You can read them for yourself at the New York Times and the New Yorker.

Suffice it to say that it’s the same old story all over again: man rises to power, man abuses power abominably, man intimidates and threatens anyone who challenges him with retaliation or worse, and man gets away with it because of a culture of compliance in which no one speaks up because they don’t want to lose their job or their money or their place among the elite.

From what I’ve read, this was Hollywood’s worst-kept secret.

In other words, everyone who was anyone knew about it. They were either complicit in allowing the abuses to take place, turning a blind eye to them, or helping to cover them up.

It’s not just happening in Hollywood, however.

And it’s not just sexual predators that we have to worry about.

For every Harvey Weinstein (or Roger Ailes or Bill Cosby or Donald Trump) who eventually gets called out for his sexual misbehavior, there are hundreds—thousands—of others in the American police state who are getting away with murder—in many cases, literally—simply because they can.

The cop who shoots the unarmed citizen first and asks questions later might get put on paid leave for a while or take a job with another police department, but that’s just a slap on the wrist. The shootings and SWAT team raids and excessive use of force will continue, because the police unions and the politicians and the courts won’t do a thing to stop it. Case in point: The Justice Department will no longer attempt to police the police when it comes to official misconduct. Instead, it plans to give police agencies more money and authority to “fight” crime.

The war hawks who are making a profit by waging endless wars abroad, killing innocent civilians in hospitals and schools, and turning the American homeland into a domestic battlefield will continue to do so because neither the president nor the politicians will dare to challenge the military industrial complex. Case in point: Rather than scaling back on America’s endless wars, President Trump—like his predecessors—has continued to expand America’s military empire and its attempts to police the globe.

The National Security Agency that carries out warrantless surveillance on Americans’ internet and phone communications will continue to do so, because the government doesn’t want to relinquish any of its ill-gotten powers. Case in point: The USA Liberty Act, proposed as a way to “fix” all that’s wrong with domestic surveillance, will instead legitimize the government’s snooping powers.

Unless something changes in the way we deal with these ongoing, egregious abuses of power, the predators of the police state will continue to wreak havoc on our freedoms, our communities, and our lives.

Police officers will continue to shoot and kill unarmed citizens. Government agents—including local police—will continue to dress and act like soldiers on a battlefield.

Bloated government agencies will continue to fleece taxpayers while eroding our liberties. Government technicians will continue to spy on our emails and phone calls. Government contractors will continue to make a killing by waging endless wars abroad.

And powerful men (and women) will continue to abuse the powers of their office by treating those around them as underlings and second-class citizens who are unworthy of dignity and respect and undeserving of the legal rights and protections that should be afforded to all Americans.

As Dacher Keltner, professor of psychology at the at the University of California, Berkeley, observed in the Harvard Business Review, “While people usually gain power through traits and actions that advance the interests of others, such as empathy, collaboration, openness, fairness, and sharing; when they start to feel powerful or enjoy a position of privilege, those qualities begin to fade. The powerful are more likely than other people to engage in rude, selfish, and unethical behavior.”

After conducting a series of experiments into the phenomenon of how power corrupts, Keltner concluded: “Just the random assignment of power, and all kinds of mischief ensues, and people will become impulsive. They eat more resources than is their fair share. They take more money. People become more unethical. They think unethical behavior is okay if they engage in it. People are more likely to stereotype. They’re more likely to stop attending to other people carefully.”

Power corrupts.

And absolute power corrupts absolutely.

However, it takes a culture of entitlement and a nation of compliant, willfully ignorant, politically divided citizens to provide the foundations of tyranny.

As researchers Joris Lammers and Adam Galinsky found, those in power not only tend to abuse that power but they also feel entitled to abuse it: “People with power that they think is justified break rules not only because they can get away with it, but also because they feel at some intuitive level that they are entitled to take what they want.”

That sense of entitlement and immunity from charges of wrongdoing dovetails with Richard Nixon’s belief that “when the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.”

For too long now, America has played politics with its principles and allowed the president and his colleagues to act in violation of the rule of law.

“We the people” are paying the price for it now.

Americans have allowed Congress, the White House and the Judiciary to wreak havoc with our freedoms. They have tolerated an oligarchy in which a powerful, elite group of wealthy donors is calling the shots. They have paid homage to patriotism while allowing the military industrial complex to spread death and destruction abroad. And they have turned a blind eye to all manner of wrongdoing when it was politically expedient.

This culture of compliance must stop.

The empowerment of petty tyrants and political gods must end.

For starters, let’s go back to the basics: the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Let’s recommit to abiding by the rule of law.

Here’s what the rule of law means in a nutshell: it means that everyone is treated the same under the law, everyone is held equally accountable to abiding by the law, and no one is given a free pass based on their politics, their connections, their wealth, their status or any other bright line test used to confer special treatment on the elite.

Let’s demand scrutiny and transparency at all levels of government, which in turn will lead to accountability.

We need to stop being victimized by these predators.

As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, I’m not just talking about the political predators in office, but the ones who are running the show behind the scenes—the shadow government—comprised of unelected government bureaucrats whose powers are unaffected by elections, unaltered by populist movements, and beyond the reach of the law.

There is no way to erase the scars left by the government’s greed for money and power, its disregard for human life, its corruption and graft, its pollution of the environment, its reliance on excessive force in order to ensure compliance, its covert activities, its illegal surveillance, and its blatant disdain for the rule of law.

“We the people”—men and women alike— have been victims of the police state for so long that not many Americans even remember what it is to be truly free anymore. Worse, few want to shoulder the responsibility that goes along with maintaining freedom.

Still, we must try.