The Trump administration has a problem: How to start another war – this time with Iran – without having a justifiable reason for one. No doubt members of Trump’s team, led by the war-thirsty and perdurable John Bolton, are working hard to solve this urgent problem. If they can’t find a justification, they may have to create one. Or perhaps they will find what they have already created. Whatever the solution, Americans should feel confident that their leaders, together with their Israeli and Saudi bedfellows, are not sitting on their hands. Crazy people do crazy things.
After the Gulf War in 1991 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003, it slowly became apparent what alternative media and war critics had insisted was the case before and during these wars: That the U.S. government had achieved a propaganda coup by tightly controlling the media access to the truth and by getting the mainstream media (MSM) to do their bidding. This ex post facto revelation was, of course, not prime time or front page news, but was reported bit-by-bit by critics or was buried deep within the news reports. While some of the truth arrived, it did so obliquely, and corporate media devotees went back to their gullible and comforting sleep.
Yet once again Americans are being played for fools by the government and MSM. The open secret, the insider’s fact, is that the U.S. plans to attack Iran if they can seduce enough Americans that they are threatened. The Trump people know this, the corporate media shills know it, for the Bush-Clinton-Obama scenario, written years ago, is to act as if it weren’t so, to act as if a peaceful solution were being seriously considered. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, etc. all learned better. The U.S. never seeks a peaceful solution.
As in 1991 and 2003, the MSM play along with Trump, who repeatedly says, or has his spokespeople say, that the decision hasn’t been made and that the U.S. wants peace. Within a few hours this is contradicted and confusion and uncertainty reign, as planned. Chaos is the name of the game. But everyone in the know knows the decision to attack has been made at some level, especially once the propaganda dummies are all in place. But they pretend, while the media wait with baited breath as they anticipate their countdown to the dramatic moment when they report the incident that will “compel” the U.S. to attack.
The corporate media, however, always avoid the key question: How will the U.S. justify its fait accompli and what is its goal? This question is too disturbing to broach, for it suggests that the fix is in, the show is rigged, something is rotten in the symbiotic relationship between a government intent on war and a media in that government’s service.
What could, in the eyes of the American people, justify a war against Iran, assuming the Trump administration even cares about justification? Will Iran attack Israel? No. Will Iran attack the United States? No. Of course, not, not least because it can’t, even if it wished to do so, which it clearly doesn’t. Any such Iranian attack – absurd as such a suggestion is – would give the Trump administration ample justification for a war.
So what is the administration to do now that the news from so many quarters – Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. – is so bad? What, if they are intent on a war with Iran, are they going to do about the absence of a cause for war? It seems that they are in a dilemma.
“Seem” is the key word. Logically speaking, if there is a war plan, if there is a Bolton/Pompeo/Israeli scenario, then the gun on the wall in the first act of this deadly play, must go off in the final act, no matter how long it takes. The audience is being primed by the administration and their media mouthpieces to expect a “smoking gun.” But what might it be?
“Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun, that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud,” George W. Bush said at a staged pseudo-event on October 7, 2002 as he set Americans up for the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. It was all predictable, blatant deception. And the media played along with such an absurdity. Iraq obviously had no nuclear weapons or the slightest capability to deliver even a firecracker on the U.S.
Now Iran is the Nuclear devil. Now Iran must be stopped. Despite clear evidence to the contrary, Iran has been and will be accused of developing nuclear weapons. Saddam was said to have had them; Iran only developing them, yet both lies need no evidence, just rhetoric.
Nevertheless, it might be claimed that secret “evidence” must be withheld on “national security” grounds or for fear of endangering Iranian informers or their families. Thus a preemptive attack could be justified on the grounds of preventing another “Ground Zero” (a misnomer when applied to the World Trade Center site, but conveniently evocative for stirring nuclear fears).
The American people, still severely shaken by the attacks of September 11, 2001, would surely be alarmed by such a “threat,” especially if it were linked to terrorism (on the high seas? In the air?), which has been the modus operandi of one administration after another. Aren’t we at war with terror? But it is a strategy – linking nuclear fears with terrorist fears – that the Trump administration may be hoping will cover its lack of evidence with emotional blackmail. But it is a strategy that may not work, since, for some very odd reason, people may prefer facts to fictions. I emphasize “may.”
Perhaps Trump’s neo-con henchmen’s best option, therefore, is to promote or create a Tonkin Gulf incident, “unprovoked aggression against American forces,” as Lyndon Johnson put it when he lied to the world in order to get the war he wanted after JFK had been disposed of by the CIA. It worked in 1964, so it might work again, especially with the help of our special “ally” in the region – Israel. And today’s attackers won’t be aggressors, they will be terrorists, which seals the deal. Bombs away!
It’s hard to say with certainty what justification the Trump war-crazies will settle on, but time is running out for them. The news is bad from every corner, so something must be done.
Many years of secret American/Israeli planning for an attack upon Iran can’t be wasted.
The stage is set. The charade continues. The MSM keep preparing us for the “smoking gun.” Something’s got to give, and propaganda geniuses are working overtime on delivering us an Oscar-winning justification.
Don’t buy it.
Especially since you’ve heard this before, and I’ve written it. With a few minor changes and the substitution of Iran for Iraq, this column was published on the morning before George W’s infamous (the 16 words about uranium from Niger) State of the Union Address on January 28, 2003, fifty-one days before the invasion of Iraq, and one week before Colin Powell’s lies at the United Nations.
Shocked and surprised should be words eliminated from our vocabularies.
— Egalntyne Jebb, founder Save the Children a century ago.
Responding to the British post-war blockade of Germany and Eastern Europe, Jebb participated in a group attempting to deliver food and medical supplies to children who were starving.
In London’s Trafalgar Square, she distributed a leaflet showing the emaciated children and declaring:
Our blockade has caused this, – millions of children are starving to death.
She was arrested, tried, convicted, and fined. But the judge in the case was moved by her commitment to children and paid her fine. His generosity was Save the Children’s first donation. Source: Kathy Kelly
This vet for peace has made a life duty to a simple call to action — Hands Off Venezuela. Imagine the same call in 1960 — Hands Off Vietnam; or in 1970 — Hands Off Chile; or in 1991 — Hands Off Haiti; Hands Off Puerto Rico 140 years ago.
Those ham-fisted, Imperial-seeped and Monroe Doctrine-primed hands are ours, Uncle Sam’s.
There are resisters to this global hyper power disease that we have been infected with in America that professes a USA-rules-the-world mentality. Dan Shea is that Vietnam Veteran for Peace. He puts his actions where his mouth is.
Rewind the tape 13 years, and we see Dan as a Veterans for Peace organizer working on the city of Portland becoming a sanctuary city for soldiers AWOL from the armed services who were inserted into Iraq and Afghanistan illegally.
“This is an opportunity for the citizens of Portland and the City Council to support the soldiers who are coming back and their right to speak out,” said Dan Shea of Veterans for Peace, who first proposed the idea.
Shea told an interviewer in 2006 he had enlisted with the Marines and spent most of 1968 in Vietnam, where he was exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange. That resulted in his diabetes, he said.
Shea professes he never supported the Vietnam War, yet like many boys and men (girls and women) back then – especially high school drop-outs — he felt obligated to serve. However, when he came home, he felt betrayed by the country, saying the initial reasons for going to war were nothing but lies. The same thing is going on today, he said.
Over the years of our illegal incursion into Iraq, destroying the country and killing a million or more, and then our longest war, Afghanistan, Shea has talked to veterans who can no longer support the war because of what they participated in or witnessed. “These are people of conscience,” he said. “They served for what is the best of our country — the ability to speak out — and now they are being persecuted for that.”
Shea has had a long history with Central America, and Latin America in general. He went to Venezuela in 2006 and met Hugo Chavez. He also has been to Nicaragua to meet with the revolutionary government and actors in that country which overthrew a despotic dictator, Somoza, who was a puppet of the United States.
Fast-forward to the current debacle of the US and its vassal states and even the supposedly “independent” EU countries pushing for a violent overthrow of the Chavismo Nicolas Maduro. Shea has just returned from Venezuela on a fact-finding trip that included embracing the Venezuelan people.
Dan and I talked about how that arc of social justice and the golden rule, if indeed true, would have “saved” the world from war and injustice a long time ago. Unfortunately, the boomerang of the capitalists and lords of war continues to cut down movements and countries wanting no more of the insanity of “the endless war on terror” mentality Bush and his neocons (supported by Obama) promulgated.
How can we ever forget Mark Twain’s anti-imperial words in regard to his time and historically the crime of war:
There has never been a just [war], never an honorable one–on the part of the instigator of the war. I can see a million years ahead, and this rule will never change in so many as half a dozen instances. The loud little handful–as usual–will shout for the war. The pulpit will–warily and cautiously–object–at first; the great, big, dull bulk of the nation will rub its sleepy eyes and try to make out why there should be a war, and will say, earnestly and indignantly, ‘It is unjust and dishonorable, and there is no necessity for it.’ Then the handful will shout louder. A few fair men on the other side will argue and reason against the war with speech and pen, and at first will have a hearing and be applauded; but it will not last long; those others will outshout them, and presently the anti-war audiences will thin out and lose popularity. Before long you will see this curious thing: the speakers stoned from the platform, and free speech strangled by hordes of furious men who in their secret hearts are still at one with those stoned speakers–as earlier–but do not dare say so.
And now the whole nation–pulpit and all–will take up the war-cry, and shout itself hoarse, and mob any honest man who ventures to open his mouth; and presently such mouths will cease to open. Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception.”
― Mark Twain, The Mysterious Stranger and Other Stories
For 70-year-old Shea, that grotesque self-deception is what now emanates from the very pores of Trump’s regime, from the profiteers of war, from the elite who want Venezuela for their profits, and from the Democrats – the supposed opposition party – who believe America is the great white hope that should be meddling in Venezuela’s affairs.
That moniker, Vietnam vet for peace, speaks to Daniel Shea’s persuasive and holistic approach to life, and he’s not easily dissuaded by the long arm of capitalism’s systems of oppression which create mayhem through social and cultural injustice he’s experienced in his 70 years on planet earth. He’s a former Marine who had been deployed to Vietnam in 1968.
He did not see himself engaging in the tradition of military service so many in this country seem compelled by — especially civilians like Donald Trump, who not only actively got out of military service during the Vietnam War, but also has been quoted many times deriding vets who went to war, calling them “losers.”
That call of duty, Shea told me, was predicated on being stuck in a hard labor job in Portland, Oregon, and the reality that his draft number would be called up anyway.
He wasn’t a supporter of the war, but he said he just went in to “just get it over with.”
“I did not support the war,” he told me. “I knew the minute I stepped into boot camp that it (military life) was not for me.”
Heck, he went AWOL before being sent to Vietnam – “We went out drinking, and we ended up showing up late to our duty station.” Hard drinking because he and his band of brothers didn’t know if they were going to live or die once in-country. For their human sanity wanting to drown out the reality of possible pending early grisly deaths – it’s a normal emotion and psychological state to resist death, one’s own death – Shea and the others were thrown into the brig.
This story begins in reverse, with Venezuela March 2019, but without a narrative context, few would know why the Portland, Oregon chapter president of Veterans for Peace just returned from Venezuela as part of a big delegation to meet with the people of that country, the people in the streets, in government, in the media and just the regular Jose and Josefina in an effort by this peace delegation to carry forth on some real ground truthing.
“We were on a mission, to listen, to observe, and to attempt to assess the root causes of opposition grievances and whether there might be avenues for talks to address their concerns and find compromises and produce a peace to the advantage of all concerned,” Shea told me. Obviously, the delegation was not blinded by the media lies and the Trump Administration’s propaganda war and the opposition party’s back-stepping.
The right for Venezuelans to determine their futures was always at the forefront of Shea’s and the others’ minds during this delegation. Nicolas Maduro was elected as the leader of the country, and this largely unknown puppet – hand-picked by the Trump people and his same old usual suspects of neocons, going way back, gleaned from the dirty wars of Central America and international felons (like Elliot Abrams) — Juan Guaido is as legitimate to Venezuelans to lead their country as is Donald Duck or Elvis Presley.
“Our main mission was to express our Solidarity with COSI – Venezuela — Committee of International Solidarity and Struggle for Peace.” Shea went with folks like Dr. Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Co-chairs of Popular Resistance.
Other heavy hitters included Ajamu Baraka, Black Alliance for Peace and 2016 VP running mate of Jill Stein; Joe Lombardo, co-coordinator United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC); Gerry Condon, President of VFP; Sarah Martin, Anti-War Committee; Miguel Figueroa, President Canadian Peace Congress; Eva Bartlett, fearless Canadian freelance journalist; and others.
Dan and I cleared the air early on in our interview: I asked him what makes 2019 and Venezuela different than all the other times US presidents/ administrations have taken that which was not theirs to take, who murdered those who resisted and, then who set forth imperial overreach to subjugate people and societies through generation after generation.
“Same old story, nothing has changed – Capitalism is at the root cause of targeting Venezuela. The country’s oil is the price, and the US Corporate Masters will use any means necessary including war,” Shea told me. “They are willing to kill hundreds of thousands of people in order to secure oil for the United States. This was pretty much publicly stated by John Bolton to FOX News in which he said that United States would benefit economically from access to Venezuelan oil.”
Yet we are in an era of cognitive dissonance, distraction and delusional thinking, where the corporate mass media drive a false narrative that supports regime change and resource plunder while the uninitiated public is bombarded with the meaningless of social media feeds and popular lobotomizing culture. Or as Twain describes the US public’s myopic masses as that “great, big, dull bulk of the nation.”
The trip this past March was righteous and part of Shea’s vow of non-violence and weeding out the lies of the very country he went to war for. The trauma of combat was real for him as an 18-year-old in Indochina, but he made it clear to me that it was “the moral injury of realizing I was part of a killing machine that resulted in four to six million people killed and still many more effected by the health effects of Agent Orange.”
He tells me that when he first returned from “his war,” via the Philippines, he like many Vietnam vets was reluctant to self-examine with friends, family or the public: “I just didn’t want to talk war, about Vietnam, or anything associated with the military.”
He slogged ahead, used the GI Bill to enroll in community college in Portland. He got married with his first child on the way. He and his wife were living in an apartment, and got their first house soon thereafter. Shea began his political development – or we could call it a series of enlightenments — during this period. Then his wife Arlene became pregnant. “This news was received with great joy as I always wanted to have children. We began a series of healthcare classes for pregnant women studying natural birth alternatives, and regular visits to the doctor to make sure Arlene was getting all the nutrients she needed during her pregnancy.”
Lamaze classes, and then the birth of Casey in 1977. When Arlene’s water broke, the couple was extremely excited. It was a tough labor, “I think it was about 10 hours and our doctor was a longtime family doctor by the name of Doctor Miracle . . . how could you go wrong with a doctor named miracle?”
Shea was present at the birth and vividly recalls the doctors rushing his son to the side and then the medical team whispering, eventually stating there were some health concerns with Casey.
“Casey had a seizure and had to be rushed up to the NICU at Doernbecher Neonatal Unit Children’s Hospital. We learned our son had been born with a cleft palate, congenital heart disease and other abnormalities.”
Lots of tears, but Shea and his family were able to celebrate the miracle child, and then a year later, they had a second child, Harmony. Shea learned that the birth anomalies of his son were related to his exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. In 1981, their son at the age of three passed away, after seven weeks in a coma from a failed heart surgery.
I’ve worked with veterans who have a grief so painful and so deep tied to the trauma of Vietnam and the battle scars and the inhumanity of napalm dousing villages and carpet-bombing cities. However, the other story to the trauma is both tied to their own failing health and especially all the birth defects of offspring. “I didn’t even want to live but the love of my wife and my daughter kept me grounded. Additionally, I came to see that my story — my loss — was just one out of millions of lives and all those children in Vietnam who would have been exposed to Agent Orange or who had been killed by our bullets and bombs.”
Out of the personal and historical pain, Shea began to “take a strong and deliberate opposition” to all wars and all military interventions. He dug deep into what the idea of how War and Peace had been so at odds in this Indian-killing country. He was attempting to understand how both civilians and military leaders could see it as “honorable to send their children to foreign shores to kill other children.”
I too have questioned our militarism with a military father who was in uniform for 32 years. Shea has wondered what mechanisms are in place and what sorts of psychological blind-spots would possess working class folks to be part of a deliberate military invasion of another nation to kill other working class families, including innocent men, women, children and even infants.
I still remember Muhammad Ali’s words when I was 10 years old and my father was a regular army officer in Vietnam:
Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? (February, 17, 1966)
I continually remind people that Trump is a bad hombre in the sense he has a cadre of lawyers and some in criminal enterprises working for him and for whom he works. Bad hombre in the sense Trump has narcissistic personality disorder and believes he is the right hand of god even as he lives, breathes and dreams the way of Satan in the Bible he so publicly reveres. Bad hombre in the sense Trump is a physically inept bully who encourages racism, white nationalism, misanthropy and blind allegiance to the red white blue and Benjamin’s.
I’ve been around real bad hombres, literally, people who slit the throats of their enemies, people who have no compunction fighting mano y mano to the death, yet these people in the drug dealing world and others I have met as a journalist and then some who I worked with as incarcerated folk have more humanity in their pinky fingers than a Trump and his Klan could ever hope for.
Yet, this country has gone downhill since its first slave holder president, George Washington, who stole from his own soldiers, relished killing the Mohawks for land they wouldn’t sell, and proceeded to break every treaty with the First Nations people.
Things have only gotten worse since Cherry-tree Cutting George took the helm.
Dan Shea: “You’re right this began before Trump. The same faces we saw involved in Central America in the 1980s are now pushing Trump to continue on this path. Those faces of course are John Bolton and Elliott Abrams as well as probably a number of other right-wing Republican capitalist anti-communist propagandists. Besides wanting other countries’ resources, they cannot stand to have examples in the world where socialism trumps Capitalism. This just might give people ideas . . . and that’s dangerous for those in power who are raping the Earth of its resources polluting, our oceans.”
Mini Q & A:
Paul Haeder: What did the people of Venezuela leave you with?
Dan Shea: Funny you should ask that question because after visiting with President Maduro, there was a press conference held outside the Presidential Palace and I said it’s my turn to speak. Told them I was born in the United States, but my father was from Panama as well as my grandmother so I have roots one foot in the US and one foot in Panama as well as Central America, but my heart is in Venezuela — with all of you.
You might ask why I feel that way and I would answer because I have seen the tenacity of a people to stand up against one of the most powerful nations on Earth. Venezuelans have refused to accept United States in their bulling attempts and threats to overthrow their elected president and surrender their oil. This is basically the real interest of the United States and their corporate masters — OIL!
PH: What do you suggest people in the US — who do not want to interfere with the Venezuelan elections and people’s right to their own self-determination and the current legitimate government’s right to move forward — DO to affect change?
DS: Organize, organize, organize. Join any number of groups opposed to war, opposed to interventions. Be involved in mass demonstrations in Washington DC, say no to NATO, say no to war and racism, and demand Hands Off Venezuela.
If you’re a veteran, join Veterans For Peace, become a part of the solution not the problem. If you are a soldier currently in the military, VFP encourages you to resist illegal orders of invading a country that has been no threat to the United States. Refuse to deploy, refuse to continue serving in the military by becoming a conscientious objector. If you wish to battle injustice, totalitarianism, dictatorships then start here at home in the ‘belly of the beast’ and resist war, violence and help us build a massive Antiwar and Peace Movement.
PH: Discuss what you learned about this bizarre gambit Trump and the other pols are creating in the international press from the Venezuelan people’s perspective.
DS: Most of the stuff coming from the US is lies, exaggerations and cherry-picked statistics to suit their narrative. Such as hyperinflation, and the lack of food and goods for sale because of shortages, but Trump and the media fail to tell you how US sanctions are creating that crisis.
PH: Notable moments there.
DS: You have to maintain some sense of humor even under the dark cloud of war. Thus, Guaido has become joke. In a press conference in Venezuela, I felt it necessary to inject a little humor by declaring myself President of the United States. If Juan Guaido can declare himself president of Venezuela, then why can’t I declare myself the president of the United States.
We talked about how things have changed since the anti-war and pro-civil rights movements in the country in the 1960s. Maybe that was a flashpoint moment, which led the copulating forces of the US government and corporations to entrench themselves deeper and deeper into anti-democratic methods of suppressing the masses, or even stopping targeted movements and campaigns.
Not many Americans who want change are willing to face jail and employment termination. Upton Sinclair stated it almost a century ago:
I intend to do what little one man can do to awaken the public conscience, and in the meantime, I am not frightened by your menaces. I am not a giant physically; I shrink from pain and filth and vermin and foul air, like any other man of refinement; also, I freely admit, when I see a line of a hundred policeman with drawn revolvers flung across a street to keep anyone from coming onto private property to hear my feeble voice, I am somewhat disturbed in my nerves. But I have a conscience and a religious faith, and I know that our liberties were not won without suffering, and may be lost again through our cowardice. I intend to do my duty to my country.
— Letter to the Louis D. Oaks, Los Angeles Chief of Police, 17 May 1923
We are today deeper in a time of dumb-downing, largely because we have sold our souls and our brawn and intellectual mettle to the corporation. We have variations now on this theme that Sinclair and H.L. Mencken toyed with:
Never argue with a man whose job depends on not being convinced.
It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.
It can be very hard to understand something, when misunderstanding it is essential to your paycheck.
It is rather pointless to argue with a man whose paycheck depends upon not knowing the right answer.
For Dan Shea, he has great hope for and in the young people today, who are understanding putting truth to power and are training their minds to not only not accept war as inevitable, but also to train themselves to accept the very proposition that socialism is the only way to stop the madness. “They understand this perverse Orwellian language such as ‘preemptive war,’ or how politicians and generals call mass murder ‘collateral damage.’ To repeat, I see the people of Venezuela standing up against one of the most powerful countries in the world.”
He ends the interview with an allusion, deploying Albert Camus: The Greek myth has Sisyphus condemned to repeat forever the same meaningless task of pushing a boulder up a mountain, only to see it roll down again. For Camus, life is absurd and meaningless, as we see with Sisyphus, yet, “The struggle itself … is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”
“I guess the gods would forgive him once Sisyphus pushes the boulder up the hill, but each time he pushes the stone up the hill, he is defying the system. I feel free knowing I too can defy the system.”
In recent years, the importance of military drones has become increasingly obvious and the use of drones is increasingly controversial.1 Periodic overviews and attempts to clarify and understand drones can be very useful for people concerned with this new technology and should be directed towards a re-imagining of what drones are and are used for.
The American military has in recent years increasingly suffered from a “Jupiter Complex”, or a commitment to a vision of one single global battlefield, where the most modern sciences and technologies are believed to be best applied to constant and continuous global surveillance, reconnaissance, and information networking, including a weaponized attack and emergency response system which is envisioned, designed, and intended to establish a constant American military presence over the entire surface of the planet Earth. Among other things, this Jupiter Complex has advocated and encouraged a program for armed drone patrols, drone surveillance, and drone-based missile strikes on a planetary scale. Following 9/11, the US Congress approved an “Authorization for the Use of Military Force”, which the Bush administration interpreted as an authorization to expand the use of armed drones, which had at that time become for some people an exciting new military technology. The American Department of Defense (DoD) operates drones under the AUMF, which is an openly overt authorization, and the DoD reports to Congressional armed services committees in public hearings where drone funding is public and known. The DoD has arrangements established through diplomatic channels and other forums and an established and known chain of command with recognized accountability standards regarding the use of military drones.
There had been at least a seven-fold total increase in drone attacks between the Bush and Obama administrations. During Bush’s presidency, there were less than 50 strikes launched between 2004 and 2009, mostly during the last year of the second term and mostly inside Pakistan. This trend would have almost certainly continued in the years following Bush’s second term, since drones are considered a Revolution in Military Affairs (RIMA), which inevitably generates repercussions in politics and government. Over the two years between 2009 and 2010, President Obama authorized more than four times as many strikes than during Bush’s entire term, at one point averaging one strike every four days compared with one strike every forty days during Bush’s term. In Obama’s first four months, there were as many strikes as during Bush’s entire term. Again, these deployments would have occurred regardless of election results. Drones had by that time become a priority amongst influential military, industry, and government leaders and an issue of intense contention.
There were at least 420 American launched drone strikes (and perhaps many more) between 2004 and 2013. As many as 5,000 people might have been killed, but perhaps many more. By 2011, nearly 2,300 people had been killed by American drones. In 2013, the number could have reached 4,700 or more with at least 3,600 verified. Most strikes and deaths have occurred inside Pakistan, where there were at least 9 strikes in 2007, 36 in 2008, 53 in 2009, 122 in 2010, 73 in 2011, 48 in 2012, and at least 27 in 2013. There have been a growing number of strikes in Yemen, where nearly 100 have happened since 2002, with nearly 500 people killed. In 2009, there were as many as 80 strikes in Yemen. In 2012, there were at least 42 strikes, with at least 200 people killed. US drones have also attacked a “handful” of targets in Somalia since 2006, including the first in two years during late 2013.
Budgets, Procurement, and Costs
The budgets of various managing authorities responsible for drone programs, including the American Defense Department, and the global expansion of drone basing are examples of how this Jupiter Complex is manifested.
Between 1988 and 2000, the United States spent about $4 billion on military “drones”. In 2000, $284 million. In 2001, at least $667 million, by 2005, there was at least an 18% spending increase, reaching $1 billion annually. Since 2001, a 23% annual spending increase. Between 2001 and 2013, there was a forty-fold increase in spending, and costs grew from less than $1 billion to an estimated $26 billion cumulative by 2013. By 2010, drones were costing America up to $5 billion annually, with at least $6 billion spent in 2011, $5.8 billion in 2012, $6 billion in 2013, $6.3 billion in 2014, and a projected $6.5 billion in 2015. Some estimates see $30.8 billion in acquisition and research spending between 2011 and 2015. Other estimates expect between $30 and $40 billion in spending by 2021 (for about 730 drones).
“Drones” collectively consume between 10% and 20% of Pentagon spending on military aircraft and at least 1% of the entire Pentagon budget, rising to an unknown total after factoring in classified spending, which could be billions of dollars. In 2010, of an estimated $58 billion Pentagon “black budget” on spending for classified programs and operations, which includes drones, investments in drones consumed an unknown but respective share of $19 billion for research and development, $17 billion for procurement, and $15 billion for operations and maintenance. In early 2014, the US Congress had $530 billion in classified spending, an unknown amount of which was (is) for drones.
By 2011, the US already accounted for at least one-third of all spending on all drones by all countries. By 2022, US spending may account for between 62% and 77% of global research and development and between 55% and 69% of procurement. Of a projected $94 billion total spending globally by 2022, the US may account for as much as $85 billion, much of which is spending for military drones, including thousands of armed and/or weaponized drones.
In 2000, the US National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) stated that drones should comprise one-third of the Pentagon’s air fleet by 2015. Drones today (2014) represent roughly one-third of the entire Pentagon air fleet, numbering up to 11,000, with nearly 500 weaponized. There were fewer than 200 American military drones in 2001, and fewer than 10 were armed or weaponized. By 2009, there were at least 5,500 total US military drones, and there were at least 8,000 by 2012. Procurement declined slightly after an unprecedented spike peaking during the US “surge” in Iraq, the Pentagon is expected to (or was at one time expected to) double the number of its drone fleet by 2020 to as many as 15,000, including thousands of armed drones. In 2012, one of the Pentagon’s drone programs purchased at least 1,211 drones. The number of purchases for this program dropped slightly below 300 in 2013, and expected purchases in 2014 were below 60. In a separate program managed under a separate authority within the Pentagon, investment increased by $600 million for as many as 150 drones annually through 2018, with a possible two to three-fold increase in coming years. For another growing drone program at the Pentagon, directed by another separate managing authority, the US military will likely purchase at least 730 drones through 2022, which is a 35% inventory increase at a cost of roughly $37 billion over ten years.
Another example of growing procurement is the Pentagon’s “Unmanned Multi-role Surveillance and Strike” program, which had 72 drones in 2010, and could grow by 600% to nearly 500 drones by 2020, with a 700% spending increase from $1 billion to at least $7 billion. By 2022, “multi-role” drones may total nearly 550, which is a four-fold increase from 2012. Even if procurement steadies or declines, costs are still expected to rise as drone models become more sophisticated and expensive, as manufacturing monopolies on materials and technologies solidify, and as manufacturing orders are revised by the Pentagon and financial forecasts are modified. In 2005, for instance, the Pentagon was billed for an 18% increase in costs because it was buying so many drones, but in 2011, when an order for 22 drones was reduced to 11, the Pentagon absorbed an additional 11% spike in costs. Depending on the type and model, a single drone can cost anywhere between $5 million and $150 million, and in rare cases for test models and prototypes, costs can rise as high as $635 million. The most popular model right now (2014) costs about $150 million each. But costs rise in other ways not included in budgets.
In addition to research and development, and purchases, expenses increase with costs to operate “ground cockpit” systems and other support infrastructure needed to run the program on a global scale. These costs are one example of how to see where the drone program’s costs are expanded beyond procurement. As of 2014, the US had at least sixteen stateside drone training and operating bases, and more than a dozen other known drone-oriented airbases around the world, including in Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, and at least six bases in Africa. Since 2013, the US has been running drones from at least four locations inside Tunisia to monitor people and events in Algeria and Libya. US drones have also been launched into Mali from a US base inside Niger, where at least 100 Americans are stationed (as of 2014, anyway). In Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa, at Camp Lemmonier the US spent at least $38 million annually to lease 500 acres for an airbase that housed more than 3,000 American service members and support personnel, including as many as 1,100 Special Operations personnel ( this was a three-fold increase since 2011). Drones accounted for 30% of all US military flights from the Djibouti base and at least 16 patrols were launched daily into Yemen and other countries in the region until 2013, when crashes and mishaps forced the US to relocate. The US has spent at least $68 million on runway renovations in Djibouti, at least $7 million training local air traffic controllers to help with drone flight coordination, and a total of at least $1.4 billion building Camp Lemmonier into an airbase designed specifically to accommodate American drones. The American Congress authorized at least $13 million to relocate the base following the persistent complications encountered there.
In addition to drone basing and procurement, and classified spending and research and development, costs also rise as the US buys fewer piloted aircraft and trains fewer “flight ready” pilots. Piloted aircraft accounted for 95% of US aircraft in 2005, but fell to 69% by 2012, with a projected 10% additional decline by 2020. The most advanced piloted American aircraft cost about $100 million more than the latest drone aircraft, and costs are growing as fewer airplanes are produced and procured. A collective decrease in airplanes and pilots is expected to coincide with an increase in costs, which have been projected to rise from about $17 billion to $19 billion annually. The cost of training drone specialists is only one-tenth the cost for training flight-ready pilots, and the number of flight-ready pilots being trained has fallen to about 250 annually (as of 2014). A byproduct or consequence of the US drone program is that the cost of training fighter and bomber pilots is expected to increase while the US is producing fewer pilots ready to fly fewer, but much more expensive and sophisticated, aircraft.
Another cost in using drones comes through losses from accidents and mishaps. Despite improving technology, drones still have high failure rates, and mishaps in hostile and non-hostile environments are common and are considered inevitable. A noteworthy accident happened in 2011, when a US drone crashed into the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. In late 2013, a US drone crashed into the side of a US Navy vessel near San Diego, California. At least five armed American drones have crashed out of Djibouti since 2011, at least 3 have been lost inside Iran (as of 2014). The US had recurring problems at Camp Lemmonier because of crashes related to launch problems and drones congesting civilian, non-military, airspace. An unknown number of US drones have been lost inside Pakistan, and other crashes have been documented. Crashes often occur during landings or due to weather conditions, and there are high failure rates while trying to land on naval vessels. Crashes happen through systems and communications malfunctions, unintentional “engine kills”, and human error. Crashes have become the focus of studies on counter-drone technologies, including scrambling and jamming GPS signals.
A reliable idea of failure rates is difficult to gather because the number of units and locations of total drones lost is unknown, but at least 200 and possibly many more, have crashed since 2004 in several different countries. Mishaps were frequent during the Bush administration, but are less common as the US gains experience and refines capabilities using drones. Some estimates suggest a failure rate of at least 9 drones lost per 100,000 flying hours, with a higher number lost during the first 50,000 flying hours. In 2004, mishaps were very high, but flight hours were at only about 50,000. By 2011, mishaps decreased as flight hours rose to about 650,000. In 2005, five different drone models crashed between 20 and 285 different times under different circumstances. By 2009, some estimates calculated 7.5 crashes per 100,000 hours. At least 70 of 195 launched between 2008 and 2009 crashed “catastrophically” or at “crippling rates”. In 2010, there had been at least 79 verified accidents at the cost of about $1 million each, though the cost of losses has been declining. In 2012, at least 50 drones were verified as entirely lost.
These numbers show only a very general idea of totals, since a reliable absolute bare minimum total is unknown. It is also unclear how many drones have been lost in hostile incidents, which can include drones being shot down or being targeted by electronics interference, jamming, and scrambling. In addition to the financial losses of a destroyed drone, these incidents collectively lead to the unregulated proliferation of lethal technology that has no solidified legal foundations and has been the subject of intense and ongoing controversy amidst an intensifying global drone arms race which many observers suppose will turn the world into one between countries with, and countries without, military drones.
In addition to the expenses and costs detailed above, drone spending also rises during the regular operations of drones. A typical price-tag for an hour of drone airtime is between $3,500 and $5,000, not including costs for munitions during combat missions, which can run from tens to hundreds of millions of dollars. Since 2005, there has been at least a 1,200% increase in US drone patrols globally, with a 600% increase between 2003 and 2009. In 2007, there were at least 21 patrols at any given time during a 24-hour period. In 2010, there were at least 500,000 flight hours logged. In 2011, there were at least 350,000 hours logged with 54 patrols. In 2012, there were at least 330,000 hours logged, and by 2013, there were more than 2 million total flight hours logged, creating such an overabundance and backlog of drone video and film to review and to edit, that outside agencies and corporations were consulted and contracted by the Pentagon, including the National Geo-spatial Intelligence Agency and the sports entertainment media network ESPN. At any given time, at least 65 different US drone patrols could be happening around the world. Combat patrols are made up of at least four aircraft, including one in-flight, one in-maintenance, one in-transit, and one re-fueling. For a given 24-hour patrol there are at least seven and as many as ten crews of at least twenty people each operating and monitoring drones. One-hundred is a typical number of people for lethal strike drone missions. In rare cases, up to 300 people could be involved, including remote control pilots, sensor operators, systems coordinators, information analysts, communications and video crew, field personnel, intelligence operatives, military lawyers, senior civilian officials, private companies’ representatives, and drone mechanics and other staff.
Drone Expansion and Criticisms
As the military drone program establishes itself, the US military is trying to fulfill a growing demand for drone pilots and related personnel. The drone generation in America is seeing a growth beyond military training and into university and graduate degree programs, laboratory funding, and investments in corporate development. By 2009, in the US military, there were about 400 trained drone specialists, some migrating from traditional Air Force training, or with prior “air sense” and flying experience, and some novice and entry-level. By 2009, more drone specialists were being trained than traditional combat pilots. In 2011, the Air Force Academy graduated its first class of 350 drone specialists, compared with 250 conventional pilots that year. At least 350 operators were trained in 2012, adding to the total that year of 950 operators and 1,400 drone pilots. By 2015, the Air Force expected at least 2,000 each of both drone pilots and operators, and a growing number of support staff. The cost of training drone specialists was about one-tenth the cost of training conventional pilots in 2014, and the training process has been streamlined in many cases because of high demand. Many trainees take a course of only 3 or 9 months instead of 10 or 16 months for more thorough specialization. Specialists do not usually live an “active-duty lifestyle” and do not endure the demanding physical testing which “flight ready” pilots require. Some drone specialists are assigned to patrols with as few as 20 flying hours logged, instead of the 200 hours set by higher standards and less demanding deadlines for other drone specialists. For these, and other reasons, drone specialists are considered to be detached from combat mentality except for a desensitized “push button” and “PlayStation” mentality, which is sort of byproduct of modern technologies that has raised concerns about the “dehumanization” of warfare.
Drones tend to generate a perception of war as a simulation or video game, and drone operators are often seen as a “chair force”, or, “cubicle warriors” criticized as second-class soldiers fighting a coward’s war by striking targets from remote distances (perhaps as many as 8,000 miles from a target) with no possibility of retaliation by any actual enemy in any immediately shared battle-space. There are accounts of psychological stress drone pilots endure as a result of monitoring computer screens for extended time periods and sometimes launching missiles that kill innocent people. About 30% of drone operators probably do have some stress related to their assignments, and an estimated 20% are considered clinically distressed. Of 600 operators and drone pilots surveyed by the Air Force in 2011, 42% had moderate to high stress and 20% had “emotional burnout”. In addition to concerns about the type of soldiers drone operators are, there are also criticisms about a perceived lack of honor, or a loss of virtue, in drone warfare. In 2013, for example, the Pentagon encountered a controversy by planning to issue a “Distinguished Warfare Medal” to drone operators who had an “extraordinary direct impact on combat operations”. Production of the medal was discontinued following criticisms from dozens of US senators and from service veterans about the nature of drone warfare and drone specialists’ place in drone warfare.The issue of drone operators is connected to larger issues in the age of weaponized drones.
Drones are controversial because they are an application of a non-military technology to an overtly offensive military aim. The US chose to employ drone technology as a weapon, and has since 2001 become the focus of intense criticism from observers in every academic and scientific field and discipline. The criticisms of US foreign service officers, of veteran military commanders, military operational and administrative officials, and others, suggest a situation that has struggled to reach stability but has been advocated for anyway. Despite convictions that military drones are useless or counterproductive, and amidst ongoing debates and attempts to clarify and solidify a legal framework for drones, drones have continued to be deployed in American military and intelligence operations, which many see as a serious mistake.
In mainstream American politics, for example, open opposition to drones or open criticisms of drone attacks has been noticeable only very rarely. The opposition of the American political left and others has been increasingly focused on the human rights violations, the lack of transparency and accountability, the violations of due process, the misinterpretation of authorizations, and the continued denial of information which has been happening since drones were first introduced. In the sciences and philosophy, drones have raised questions about ethical programming and computer autonomy, where drones as weapons are either considered inherently unethical or else have been put to unethical ends. Questions are also being raised about whether it is or is not ethical to allow drones an increasing amount of autonomy and separation from human control, where the role of monitoring increases and the role of controlling drones decreases. The autonomy debate involves drone operators and the so-called “human loop”, where today there is a human “in the loop”, there will be in the future merely a human “on the loop”. One of the most serious criticisms is that drone warfare makes going to war or deciding to use force less scrutinized or “easier” and that the ease with which the US seems to have been using drones has led to abuses and excesses with very little accountability and almost no transparency. The Central Intelligence Agency, for instance, employs people who answer to no known chain of command. The scrutiny over CIA drone strikes continues to be a serious controversy even though drones are being developed and deployed without any established legal agreements or consensus amongst the various people involved in these operations.
Resistance to and scrutiny of drones has been evident for as long as drones have been relevant as a new military technology. During the early years of the US drone program, the consensus within the US military was that drones were not an honorable way to fight. This sentiment became less influential as the program developed and drones were prioritized by influential factions at the Pentagon and in government and industry. During the Bush administration, CIA Director George Tenet expressed reservations about the CIA’s authority to use drones in conflict scenarios. Military hierarchy has been affected by disagreements about drones. In 2004, the 9/11 Commission expressed concerns about the US drone program being under CIA control and recommended changes that have since been reiterated, if still ignored, by policymakers. Following the 9/11 Commission’s report, the General Accounting Office in 2005 alluded to establishing a single authority for drones, amidst a lack of oversight. In 2011, the US Ambassador to Pakistan left office following repeated disagreements with the CIA and the White House over the negative impact of ongoing US drone strikes inside Pakistan. A Congressional filibuster in 2013 publicized drones, albeit in a sensationalist way, and serves as an example of a latent concern within the American government about drones amidst an increasingly tacit acceptance of drones. By 2014, the US Congress’ “Unmanned Systems Caucus” (the “Drone Caucus”), had at least 60 members in both major parties. Between 2011 and 2012, the Drone Caucus received at least $2.3 million from the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), a drone lobbying and trade group representing as many as 600 corporations, companies, and businesses, and over 7,000 individuals. The AUVSI gives Congress at least $250,000 annually and doubled its lobbying budget in 2011. This investment shows how, despite some concerns about drones, the defense budget can be recycled by the defense industry back into political lobbying and thereby influence government and policy to support the drone initiatives of industry and some military leaders.
Drones have been criticized by some military veterans as being “strategically dumb” and “tactically smart”, where any benefit is too costly and any mistakes too counterproductive to justify the deployment of drones as weapons. As time passes and drone specialists inevitably gain experience and influence, drone policy will be increasingly directed by a new generation of people unsympathetic to the concerns of many military officers, human rights advocates, and others. When official training for drone operators started in 2010, for instance, policymakers inside the military mostly included veteran combat pilots who were very highly skeptical and sometimes openly unsupportive of military drones. The tendency was to see drones as expensive and wasteful, and any benefit being negligible and any mistakes being very costly. Experience had shown that drones could not survive hostile conditions, but as America’s military power increased, the nature of America’s wars changed, becoming more asymmetrical and low-intensity, which some saw as an opportunity to introduce drone technology.
The conventions of war changed following the Cold War and as the Global War on Terror has changed into an undefined, open-ended, ongoing, “long” war, drones have become integrated and “federated” into the US military, and have become normalized despite the concerns of military leadership and others about the highly controversial nature of drones and drone combat. Drones were, and are, perceived as stifling reform and encouraging abuse, and as being wrongly employed as a strategy while they would have been better employed, very sparingly, if at all, as a tactic. For some, again, any strategic benefit drones might offer is generated at too great a cost and for too small a gain to justify the problems generated when drones cause damage, which is apparently far too often. The “whack-a-mole” criticism noticed by experienced observers says that for any one target the US kills, several other “enemies” will have been created. In this way, drones are known to have generated several types of blowback and to have backfired on far too many occasions and for too wide a variety of reasons.
Drones are criticized as being prone to create and sustain insurgency and to perpetuate endless war, yet they are being used in America’s ongoing military operations globally under the auspices of the Global War on Terror. The GWOT is understood to involve “asymmetrical” warfare, where the proportion of US force is strong enough to create a military imbalance making high-intensity conventional conflict between two or more superpowers increasingly less likely and low-intensity small-scale unconventional hostilities more likely. The US is not at war with other nations and national armies, but instead is at war with non-state actors in a transnational and globalized battlefield. In this situation, drones are believed or portrayed to have some relevance, but these assumptions have not been validated. Moreover, drones have been problematic beyond these military concerns expressed by veteran US commanders.
More than 15 years after America started attacking targets with drones, and after a period of well-documented abuses and ongoing controversies, no consensus exists, no single comprehensive international statement on drones exists, and yet the practice of drone attacks continues to establish a worrisome precedent of unregulated military activity amidst an intensifying and unregulated proliferation of lethal drone technology around the world. Drones have raised objections about and have been associated with problems including extraordinary rendition, CIA black-sites, enhanced interrogation and torture, kill lists, targeted assassinations and signature strikes, collateral damage, and extrajudicial killings. People continue to live in fear of drones, and yet there are no indications that the reality being created by drones will ever be governed by a consensus which reflects the concerns of those with valid observations, considerations, and insights about drones.
US military drones and the use of military drones have affected the UN Charter, the Geneva Convention, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Drones have raised debates among professionals interested in just war theory, international humanitarian law, the law of armed conflict, and law on national sovereignty and self-determination. The US has suffered allegations of war crimes, violations of rights to due process, a lack of transparency and accountability, and criticisms over a refusal to provide or share any basic information on drone warfare or to clarify the basis and justifications for the policies supporting deployment of drones.
The most serious issues about the impact drones are having include collateral damage, casualties to innocent bystanders, the CIA program and its attendant problems, endless spending on what is unpopular with experienced decision makers and many American citizens, the proliferation of lethal technology, endangering American civilians, and questions about the role of the courts either having a role in deciding who to target, or having only a limited role in deciding if US drone attacks are legal. Outside of government, human rights organizations, non-governmental organizations, and most of the rest of the word have expressed concern or disapproval of US drones. These include, but are certainly not limited to, criticisms from Reprieve, Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, Pakistan Body Count, the New America Foundation, the American Moslem Political Action Committee, CODEPINK, and the Center for Constitutional Rights. Questions persist about the approval and vetting process used in CIA strikes, including the respective roles of the presidency, the courts, and the military. The CIA program has a black budget. Operatives do not answer to any known chain of command. The CIA operate as many as 80 drones tracking up to 20 targets at a given time. CIA drones are maintained and armed by private contractors and account for as many as 80% of all American drone strikes. The US Air Force works with the CIA during some strikes and many CIA operatives were formerly in the US Air Force.
Drones have been used under the AUMF, and also under Title 10 of the US Code of Laws, which is considered to be outdated, but which has been avoided as an issue for American politicians because of concerns that political careers may be jeopardized if any kind of public stance on drones is declared. The CIA is, and has been, running covert drone operations, and reporting to Congressional intelligence committees only in closed sessions, while receiving unknown classified funding and authorization. CIA operatives do not have a known chain of command and often work with private companies who have no oversight or accountability, or adherence to any established rules of conflict but only secretive arrangements with unknown terms with host governments.
Most countries around the world strongly disapprove of US drone strikes and popular opinion polls and informal polls within military circles around the world show a strong suspicion and dislike for US drones and drone policy generally. In countries experiencing US drone strikes and hosting drone infrastructure, the unpopularity is unusually intense. Protests are common, and in too many places the US is seen as an occupying and invasive presence, with an attendant arrogance and belligerence, that only complicates an already dismal situation for those concerned with America’s problematic attitudes and ideas about human rights in the 21st century.
Note: This article was written several years ago and some of the figures can be updated to remain current, but the information is still useful and hopefully offers some general ideas about drones and drone technology as these technologies are being applied to America’s controversial military programs around the world. Thanks to the efforts of human rights organizations and others who have worked to raise awareness and to positively change the problem of military drones today.
Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) is getting significant media attention these days, after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said in an interview that it should “be a larger part of our conversation” when it comes to funding the Green New Deal. According to MMT, the government can spend what it needs without worrying about deficits. MMT expert and Bernie Sanders advisor Prof. Stephanie Kelton says the government actually creates money when it spends. The real limit on spending is not an artificially imposed debt ceiling but a lack of labor and materials to do the work, leading to generalized price inflation. Only when that real ceiling is hit does the money need to be taxed back, and then not to fund government spending but to shrink the money supply in an economy that has run out of resources to put the extra money to work.
Predictably, critics have been quick to rebut, calling the trend to endorse MMT “disturbing” and “a joke that’s not funny.” In a February 1st post on The Daily Reckoning,Brian Maher darkly envisioned Bernie Sanders getting elected in 2020 and implementing “Quantitative Easing for the People” based on MMT theories. To debunk the notion that governments can just “print the money” to solve their economic problems, he raise the specter of Venezuela, where “money” is everywhere but bare essentials are out of reach for many, the storefronts are empty, unemployment is at 33%, and inflation is predicted to hit 1,000,000% by the end of the year.
Blogger Arnold Kling also pointed to the Venezuelan hyperinflation. He described MMT as “the doctrine that because the government prints money, it can spend whatever it wants . . . until it can’t.” He said:
To me, the hyperinflation in Venezuela exemplifies what happens when a country reaches the “it can’t” point. The country is not at full employment. But the government can’t seem to spend its way out of difficulty. Somebody should ask these MMT rock stars about the Venezuela example.
I’m not an MMT rock star and won’t try to expound on its subtleties. (I would submit that under existing regulations, the government cannot actually create money when it spends, but that it should be able to. In fact, MMTers have acknowledged that problem; but it’s a subject for another article.) What I want to address here is the hyperinflation issue, and why Venezuelan hyperinflation and “QE for the People” are completely different animals.
What Is Different About Venezuela
Venezuela’s problems are not the result of the government issuing money and using it to hire people to build infrastructure, provide essential services and expand economic development. If it were, unemployment would not be at 33 percent and climbing. Venezuela has a problem that the US does not have and will never have: it owes massive debts in a currency it cannot print itself, namely US dollars. When oil (its principal resource) was booming, Venezuela was able to meet its repayment schedule. But when oil plummeted, the government was reduced to printing Venezuelan Bolivars and selling them for US dollars on international currency exchanges. As speculators drove up the price of dollars, more and more printing was required by the government, massively deflating the national currency.
It was the same problem suffered by Weimar Germany and Zimbabwe, the two classic examples of hyperinflation typically raised to silence proponents of government expansion of the money supply before Venezuela suffered the same fate. Prof. Michael Hudson, an economic rock star who supports MMT principles, has studied the hyperinflation question extensively. He confirms that those disasters were not due to governments issuing money to stimulate the economy. Rather, he writes, “Every hyperinflation in history has been caused by foreign debt service collapsing the exchange rate. The problem almost always has resulted from wartime foreign currency strains, not domestic spending.”
Venezuela and other countries that are carrying massive debts in currencies that are not their own are not sovereign. Governments that are sovereign can and have engaged in issuing their own currencies for infrastructure and development quite successfully. A number of contemporary and historical examples were discussed in my earlier articles, including in Japan, China, Australia, and Canada.
Although Venezuela is not technically at war, it is suffering from foreign currency strains triggered by aggressive attacks by a foreign power. US economic sanctions have been going on for years, causing at least $20 billion in losses to the country. About $7 billion of its assets are now being held hostage by the US, which has waged an undeclared war against Venezuela ever since George W. Bush’s failed military coup against President Hugo Chavez in 2002. Chavez boldly announced the “Bolivarian Revolution,” a series of economic and social reforms that dramatically reduced poverty and illiteracy and improved health and living conditions for millions of Venezuelans. The reforms, which included nationalizing key components of the nation’s economy, made Chavez a hero to millions of people and the enemy of Venezuela’s oligarchs.
Nicolas Maduro was elected president following Chavez’s death in 2013 and vowed to continue the Bolivarian Revolution. Like Saddam Hussein and Omar Gaddafi before him, he defiantly announced that Venezuela would not be trading oil in US dollars, following sanctions imposed by President Trump.
The notorious Elliott Abrams has now been appointed as special envoy to Venezuela. Considered a criminal by many for covering up massacres committed by US-backed death squads in Central America, Abrams was among the prominent neocons closely linked to Bush’s failed Venezuelan coup in 2002. National Security Advisor John Bolton is another key neocon architect advocating regime change in Venezuela. At a January 28 press conference, he held a yellow legal pad prominently displaying the words “5,000 troops to Colombia,” a country that shares a border with Venezuela. Apparently the neocon contingent feels they have unfinished business there.
Bolton does not even pretend that it’s all about restoring “democracy.” He said on Fox News, “It will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela.” As President Nixon said of US tactics against Allende’s government in Chile, the point of sanctions and military threats is to squeeze the country economically.
Killing the Public Banking Revolution in Venezuela
It may be about more than oil, which recently hit record lows in the market. The US hardly needs to invade a country to replenish its supplies. As with Libya and Iraq, another motive may be to suppress the banking revolution initiated by Venezuela’s upstart leaders.
The banking crisis of 2009-10 exposed the corruption and systemic weakness of Venezuelan banks. Some banks were engaged in questionable business practices. Others were seriously undercapitalized. Others were apparently lending top executives large sums of money. At least one financier could not prove where he got the money to buy the banks he owned.
Rather than bailing out the culprits, as was done in the US, in 2009 the government nationalized seven Venezuelan banks, accounting for around 12% of the nation’s bank deposits. In 2010, more were taken over. The government arrested at least 16 bankers and issued more than 40 corruption-related arrest warrants for others who had fled the country. By the end of March 2011, only 37 banks were left, down from 59 at the end of November 2009. State-owned institutions took a larger role, holding 35% of assets as of March 2011, while foreign institutions held just 13.2% of assets.
Over the howls of the media, in 2010 Chavez took the bold step of passing legislation defining the banking industry as one of “public service.” The legislation specified that 5% of the banks’ net profits must go towards funding community council projects, designed and implemented by communities for the benefit of communities. The Venezuelan government directed the allocation of bank credit to preferred sectors of the economy, and it increasingly became involved in the operations of private financial institutions. By law, nearly half the lending portfolios of Venezuelan banks had to be directed to particular mandated sectors of the economy, including small business and agriculture.
In an April 2012 article called “Venezuela Increases Banks’ Obligatory Social Contributions, U.S. and Europe Do Not,” Rachael Boothroyd said that the Venezuelan government was requiring the banks to give back. Housing was declared a constitutional right, and Venezuelan banks were obliged to contribute 15% of their yearly earnings to securing it. The government’s Great Housing Mission aimed to build 2.7 million free houses for low-income families before 2019. The goal was to create a social banking system that contributed to the development of society rather than simply siphoning off its wealth. Boothroyd wrote:
. . . Venezuelans are in the fortunate position of having a national government which prioritizes their life quality, wellbeing and development over the health of bankers’ and lobbyists’ pay checks. If the 2009 financial crisis demonstrated anything, it was that capitalism is quite simply incapable of regulating itself, and that is precisely where progressive governments and progressive government legislation needs to step in.
That is also where the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is stepping in in the US – and why AOC’s proposals evoke howls in the media of the sort seen in Venezuela.
Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution gives Congress the power to create the nation’s money supply. Congress needs to exercise that power. Key to restoring our economic sovereignty is to reclaim the power to issue money from a commercial banking system that acknowledges no public responsibility beyond maximizing profits for its shareholders. Bank-created money is backed by the full faith and credit of the United States, including federal deposit insurance, access to the Fed’s lending window, and government bailouts when things go wrong. If we the people are backing the currency, it should be issued by the people through their representative government. Today, however, our government does not adequately represent the people. We first need to take our government back, and that is what AOC and her congressional allies are attempting to do.
No other country in the world symbolizes the decline of the American empire as much as Afghanistan. There is virtually no possibility of a military victory over the Taliban and little chance of leaving behind a self-sustaining democracy — facts that Washington’s policy community has mostly been unable to accept…. It is a vestigial limb of empire, and it is time to let it go.
This is the voice of American imperialism speaking through one of its more reliable hand-puppets. Foreign Policyhas twice named Robert Kaplan one of the “Top 100 Global Thinkers.” In his op-ed, Kaplan blames Afghanistan’s current problems on the illegal US war on Iraq in 2003, adding parenthetically and without further explanation: “which I mistakenly supported.” The unintended joke here is that he frames the Iraq War as a mistake largely because it diverted the US from nation-building in Afghanistan. Yes, he says exactly that. He has nothing to say about either war’s criminality or US atrocities. Those are not serious concerns for the imperial mindset – those are just the necessary inconveniences of maintaining an empire. He even appears unaware that his formulation about Afghanistan and the decline of the American empire perfectly fits the historical reality of US defeat in Vietnam.
On New Year’s Eve, the day before Kaplan’s op-ed, the lengthy lead story in the Times was headlined: “CIA-Led Afghan Forces Leave Grim Trail of Abuse.” This report is based on months of reporting on night raids, torture, and summary executions of Afghan civilians carried out by CIA-trained death squads, euphemistically called “strike forces” in the paper. The instances described in the report are horrifying and savage. In one, the death squad puts bags over the heads of two brothers, executing them with their families in the next room. For good measure, the death squad blew up the room where the bodies lay.
Perhaps it’s just another sign of American psychic numbing, but the Times story seems to have provoked little response from other media, from politicians of any stripe, or from the public. More American war crimes in some Muslim country? Well, Happy New Year!
The US invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, under Operation Enduring Freedom, accusing the Taliban of harboring some of the 9/11 attackers, most of whom were Saudis. More to the point, the US has been creating havoc in Afghanistan at least since 1979, when we started training the mujahedeen to fight the Russians only to receive “our” Islamist radicals’ blowback at the Twin Towers. Afghanistan is a country about the size of Texas with a population of about 35 million (almost 40% literate). Some 63% of the population is under 25 years old and so has little conscious memory of a time when Afghans weren’t the targets of the American war machine.
Presently the US has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, but nobody now quite knows how long they’ll be there. Mostly what US troops do is protect the official government from the apparent majority of the population that prefers the Taliban or some imaginary other option. The Afghan government controls little more than half the country most of the time. All sides have been killing civilians at the rate of about 8,000 a year for several years now, with the US and allies doing most of the killing. At least 18 CIA operatives were killed in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2017. This disproportionately deadly toll has not done much to win the hearts and minds of the people, but in seventeen years, the US hasn’t figured out how to do anything else better than create carnage.
The CIA-run death squad campaign isn’t new, but it has been seriously expanded during the past two years. Death squad personnel run into the thousands, mostly Afghans, but are recruited, trained, equipped, and controlled by CIA agents or CIA contractors. They operate independently of the US military command, typically without the military’s knowledge. They are effectively terrorist cells. They carry out night raids, long opposed by the Afghan government and the population at large. The night raids target civilians the CIA thinks it has reason to assassinate or capture and torture. The Times report describes survivors of night raids, all of whom insist on their innocence. There is no official accountability for these terrorist tactics:
A spokeswoman for the C.I.A. would not comment, nor would Afghans directly involved with the forces. Afghan security officials in Kabul tried to play down the level of the forces’ autonomy and the nature of their abuses. When pressed with details of specific cases, they did not respond.
And there is no evidence that these terrorist tactics are doing any good in a country that has despised foreign invaders for centuries. Virtually the same US terror tactics failed spectacularly in Vietnam. There the CIA mounted the infamous Phoenix Program to terrorize South Vietnamese villages with CIA-run death squads who “neutralized more than 80,000 real or suspected Viet Cong”.
Once Osama bin Laden escaped capture in 2001, the US war in Afghanistan lacked any clear mission. The Bush administration and the military shifted their attention to making war on Iraq instead. Failing to disengage sensibly from Afghanistan, the US let the war drift on mindlessly. In 2009, President Obama declared Afghanistan the “smart war” and decided to escalate it without really figuring out why. Obama relied particularly on CIA drones to kill massive numbers of people, mostly civilians, ultimately to no useful purpose.
In 2016, President Trump campaigned on getting out of Afghanistan. Once in office, Trump appointed Mike Pompeo to run the CIA. Pompeo set out to expand CIA killing, particularly with the death squads discreetly called “strike forces” by the Times. This paramilitary escalation, primarily against the Taliban, was first reported in October 2017, creating little stir. Six months later, the CIA still denied the story was true. In the fall of 2017, Pompeo expressed US policy this way:
We can’t perform our mission if we’re not aggressive. This is unforgiving, relentless. You pick the word. Every minute, we have to be focused on crushing our enemies.
This CIA program of using Afghan militias to conduct commando raids, the vast majority of which will be used against civilians despite what the CIA states, falls in line with American plans to escalate the use of air and artillery strikes against the Afghan people in Taliban-held areas, almost all of whom are Pashtuns. Again, the purpose of this campaign is not to achieve a political settlement or reconciliation, but to brutally subjugate and punish the people, mostly rural Pashtuns, who support the Taliban and will not give in to the corrupt American run government in Kabul.
Watching the ongoing debate between US liberal and right-wing pundits on US mainstream media, one rarely gets the impression that Washington is responsible for the unfolding crisis in Central America.
In fact, no other country is as accountable as the United States for the Central American bedlam and resulting refugee crisis.
So why, despite the seemingly substantial ideological and political differences between right-wing Fox News and liberal CNN, both media outlets are working hard to safeguard their country’s dirty little secret?
In recent years, state and gang violence – coupled with extreme poverty – have forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras, among other countries, in Central and South America.
US mainstream media, however, is rarely interested in the root cause of that reality.
At a press conference last October, Trump urged a reporter to take his camera into ”the middle” of a caravan of migrants on the treacherous journey through Mexico, to locate ”Middle Eastern” people that have infiltrated the crowd. In Trump’s thinking, ‘Middle Eastern people’ is synonymous with terrorists.
CNN has, on the other hand, labored to counter the growing anti-immigrant official and media sentiments that have plagued the US, a discourse that is constantly prodded and manipulated by Trump and his supporters.
However, few in the liberal media have the courage to probe the story beyond convenient political rivalry, persisting in their hypocritical and insincere humanitarianism that is divorced from any meaningful political context.
The fact is the Central American refugee crisis is similar to the plethora of Middle East and Central Asian refugee crises of recent years. Mass migration is almost always the direct outcome of political meddling and military interventions.
From Afghanistan, to Iraq, Libya, Syria, millions of refugees were forced, by circumstances beyond their control, to seek safety in some other country.
Millions of Iraqis and Syrians found themselves in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, while a far smaller number trickled to Europe, all seeking safety from the grinding wars.
Political opportunists in Europe are no different from their American counterparts. While the former has seized on the tragedy of the refugees to sow seeds of fear and hate-mongering, Americans, too, have blamed the refugees for their own misery.
Blaming the victim is nothing new.
Iraqis were once blamed for failing to appreciate Western democracy, Libyans for their failed state, Syrians for taking the wrong side of a protracted war, and so on.
Yet, the ongoing conflicts in Iraq, Libya and Syria are all, in varied degrees, outcomes of military interventions, a truth that does not seem to register in the self-absorbed minds of both right-wing and liberal intellectuals.
The irony is that the hapless refugees, whether those escaping to Europe or to the United States, are perceived to be the aggressors, the invaders, as opposed to the US and allies that had, in fact, invaded these once stable and sovereign homelands.
Trump has often referred to the Central American migrants’ caravan as an ‘invasion’. Fox News parroted that claim, and injected the possibility of having the refugees shot upon arrival.
If Fox News lacked the decency to treat refugees as human beings deserving of sympathy and respect, CNN lacked the courage to expand the discussion beyond Trump’s horrid language and inhumane policies.
To expand the parameters of the conversation would expose a policy that was not introduced by Trump, but by Bill Clinton and applied in earnest by George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Media grandstanding aside, both Democrats and Republicans are responsible for the current refugee crisis.
In 1996, Democratic President Clinton unleashed a war on refugees when he passed two consecutive legislations: the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, and the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act.
A terrible situation was exacerbated. Violence and want flared even more.
To rally his angry and radicalized constituency, Trump waved the migrant card once more, threatening to build a “great wall” and to close “loopholes” in the US immigration law.
Like his predecessors, he offered little by way of redressing an unjust reality that is constantly fomented by destructive US foreign policy, stretching decades.
But the refugees kept on coming, mostly from Central America’s Northern Triangle region. Without proper political context, they, too, were duly blamed for their hardship.
Considering Fox News and CNN’s lack of quality coverage, this is not surprising. Few Americans know of the sordid history of their country in that region, starting with the CIA-engineered coup d’état in Guatemala in 1954, or the US support of the coup against the democratically-elected President of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, in 2009, or of everything else that happened in between these dates.
The unhealthy relationship between the US and its southern neighbors goes back as early as 1904, when President Theodore Roosevelt declared the ‘right’ of his country to hold “international police power” in Latin America. Since then, the entire region has been Washington’s business.
The free trade agreement (CAFTA-DR) signed between Central American countries and the US has done its own share of damage. It “restructured the region’s economy and guaranteed economic dependence on the United States through massive trade imbalances and the influx of American agricultural and industrial goods that weakened domestic industries,” wrote Mark Tseng-Putterman in Medium.
Acknowledging all of this is threatening. If US mainstream pundits accept their country’s destructive role in Central and South America, they will be forced to abandon the role of the victim (embraced by the right) or the savior (embraced by the left), which has served them well.
The same stifling political and intellectual routine is witnessed in Europe, too.
But this denial of moral responsibility will only contribute to the problem, not to its resolution. No amount of racism on the part of the right, or crocodile tears of the liberals, will ever rectify this skewed paradigm.
This is as true in Central America as it is in the Middle East.
Barack Obama, speaking to the Baker Institute, made sure the audience of wealthy Texans, many in the oil business, gave him credit for making the United States a world leader for oil and gas production. He said, “American energy production . . .went up every year I was president. And . . . suddenly America’s like the biggest oil producer, that was me, people,” eliciting cheers.
Throughout this century, even though the climate science was clear, presidential leadership has escalated the dependence on oil and gas, built infrastructure for pipelines and compressor stations, encouraged fracking in the US and around the world and prevented a global response to reducing carbon gas emissions.
This dereliction of consistent misleadership has put the planet on a dangerous path of climate crisis. In a just world, the political and corporate leadership of the United States would be held accountable. As it is, leadership for confronting the climate crisis must come from the people, not from political leaders.
Obama’s Sordid History of Undermining the Climate
Obama’s legacy confuses some people because, unlike President Trump, he did not deny climate change and, unlike President Bush, he did not come from the oil industry. But in reality, Obama watered down global climate agreements and grew oil and gas output and infrastructure in the United States.
As a newly elected president, Obama came to the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009 with the goal of weakening the agreement so there would be no internationally enforced reductions of climate gases. Ban Ki-moon, the UN general secretary, warned leaders that they held in their hands “the future of this entire humanity.”
NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden showed that the US monitored communications between countries before the summit, and planned to spy on the negotiations during the conference. The NSA knew of China’s efforts to line up its negotiating position with India. Chinese negotiators entered the talks willing to undertake mandatory emissions cuts, but needed other major countries in the the developing world to agree. The US developed a strategy to stop China, indeed to make them the villain.
As the Copenhagen meeting was progressing, Obama, who had already “won” a Nobel Peace prize and was a political star as the first black president, flew to the meeting with Secretary of State Clinton. Obama and Clinton crashed a meeting of Chinese, Indian, South African and Brazilian leaders who were trying to agree on enforceable standards. The US made sure their agreement would not threaten US oil interests.
As a result of Obama’s intervention, the accord set no target for concluding a binding international treaty, leaving the implementation of its provisions uncertain and fueling criticism that it was more of a sham than a breakthrough. US intervention stopped a collective agreement among nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2050, which was included in earlier drafts. Obama also successfully prevented adequate US funding for climate justice policies for poorer countries and scuttled the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change agreed on in 1992.
The president has wrecked the UN and he’s wrecked the possibility of a tough plan to control global warming. It may get Obama a reputation as a tough American leader, but it’s at the expense of everything progressives have held dear.
Obama declared a phony negotiating victory for the climate in Copenhagen and went on to make sure the Paris Accords also contained no enforceable standards, making it an inadequate treaty for the climate crisis. Climate scientist James Hansen called the Paris agreement a “fraud” of “worthless words.”
Domestically, after running against “drill baby drill” Republicans, Obama governed in the era where fracking became widespread, off-shore drilling increased and massive oil and gas infrastructure were put in place. In 2012, Obama said, “We’ve opened up new areas for exploration. We’ve quadrupled the number of operating rigs to a record high. We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to circle the Earth and then some.” Obama fast-tracked the approval process for oil and gas infrastructure at a time when scientists were saying we should build no more carbon-polluting infrastructure. While he delayed portions of the high profile Trans-Canada pipeline, his administration approved the equivalent of ten Keystone pipelines.
Under Obama, while there was a decline of 37% in coal production, gas production vastly increased by 34% due to fracking. Obama presided over the highest gas production in history and crude oil production rose by 88%, the fastest rate in the 150-year history of the U.S. oil industry. On the positive side, his tenure was also timed with big increases in solar and wind energy. Obama also deserves credit for putting in place fuel economy and emissions standards for cars.
Obama’s bragging about increasing US oil and gas production at the Baker Institute came shortly after the dire October IPCC report, which warned the world has 12 years to put in place a radical transformation of the energy economy to prevent climate catastrophe, and the November 23rd release of the 4th National Climate Assessment, which warned of the serious impacts of the climate crisis in the United States. In this environment, Obama took credit for this crisis situation that will kill hundreds of thousands, cause mass migration and trillions of dollars in damage.
Despite the above, Obama’s presidency looks good in comparison to the George W. Bush administration, which denied climate science. and was marinated in oil with deep oil connections. Climate scientists were kept out of meetings to develop energy policy while the oil and gas industry worked closely with the administration.
President Bush was in the oil industry for more than two decades and came from an oil family. His investors included the bin Laden family and other members of Saudi Arabia’s oil-wealthy elite. Bush called the Saudi ambassador, Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud, “Bandar Bush” because he was so close to the Bush family.
National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice was a director of Chevron and Secretary of Commerce Don Evans was head of an independent oil company in Colorado. Former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay was George W. Bush’s most generous campaign contributor. Bush received more campaign contributions from oil companies than any other administration in history.
Trump Takes Climate Denialism and Climate Destruction To New Levels
As bad as previous presidents have been, President Trump’s climate denial policies have reached a new low for presidential misleadership.
When the recent National Climate Assessment revealed that global warming is causing ongoing and lasting economic damage, President Trump denied the findings of the 13 federal agencies who wrote it. Trump said, “I don’t believe it,” while noting he has “very high levels of intelligence,” and had his political appointees and press secretary attack the report.
Trump appointed the former CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp., Rex Tillerson, as Secretary of State and appointed other industry supporters; e.g., Rick Perry at the Department of Energy, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, now replaced by industry lobbyist Andrew Wheeler. Trumps’s policy is “Energy dominance,” the expansion of coal and oil production as well as the weakening of environmental regulations, including those that address climate change.
The science on climate has been known since 1990 when the first international agreements to combat climate change were negotiated. Since then, the science has only become stronger. We must not produce any more gas-fueled cars or build any new power plants or buildings of any kind unless they are replacing old ones or are carbon-neutral. When we build a factory, power plant, house, automobile or anything else that uses energy, we are committing to using energy through that structure for up to 40 years, depending on its lifespan.
This century has shown that facing up to the challenges of climate change will not come from the top of the US political system, which is polluted by the oil and gas industry as well as investors who profit from carbon pollution. Change is going to come from the bottom up.
Recently, we have seen how activity from below can impact political reality. The Green New Deal, developed in 2007 by Green Party activists, is now being taken on by Democrats. Establishment Democrats and Republicans will fight it, but it is making its way onto the agenda and will become reality if people keep mobilizing for it.
The Extinction Rebellion, started in the United Kingdom, is growing around the world. And there is now a call to build towards a general strike in September with actions throughout the year, beginning on January 15. Follow #EarthStrike.
US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, has made her post a “more glamorous” position than her predecessors – as President Donald Trump described Haley’s 2-year term at the UN, following her resignation announcement.
We may never know the nature of Haley’s purported ‘glamour’ at the UN, but we certainly know that, during her relatively brief stint, Haley has further diminished her country’s struggling reputation, entrenching US isolation in the world’s most vital international political body.
In her own words, Haley concluded that her mission at the UN was accomplished, commending herself on three achievements: the US has become more respected; it saved a lot of money and strongly defended Israel against UN ‘bias.’
“All of those things have made a huge difference in the US standing,” she said. “The US is strong again. And the US is strong in a way that should make all Americans very proud.”
Nothing could be further from the truth and Haley, who is suspected of engineering a run for the White House in the future, has no evidence to back up her claim of new-found ‘strength’ and ‘respect’.
During his speech before the General Assembly on September 25, Trump’s preposterous claims were not met with thundering applause but humiliating laughter. So much for respect.
However, there is no question that Haley was a good fit to be Trump’s representative to the international community. Her aggressive and self-aggrandizing language tallies with the political discourse emanating from the White House.
That aside, considering the violations of human rights committed by Israel during Haley’s time at the UN, her relentless defense of Israel is no laughing matter.
Haley’s supposed ‘achievements’ of saving money and supporting Israel are intrinsically linked. Indeed, the US saved $1.3 billion dollars – by cutting off funds to organizations that were critical of Israel or supportive of the Palestinian people.
Haley’s political outlook is not influenced by true conviction. In his bestselling book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, Michael Wolff describes Haley as an “opportunist” who is as “ambitious as Lucifer.”
In fact, there can be no rational explanation for Haley’s palpable hatred of Palestinians and Arab and love of Israel, other than sheer opportunism.
The US-Israel pact at the UN is as old as Israel itself, but the last two decades have taken this relationship to new heights. The already slanted US position on Israel’s Occupation of Palestine, and its brazen use of the ‘veto’ power to shield Israel from international criticism, reached its zenith during the term of George W. Bush’s ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte (2001-04).
The ‘Negroponte doctrine’ – the instant rejection and, if necessary, vetoing of any UN Security Council resolution critical of Israel – remained a staple in US foreign policy until today, with the notable exception of Resolution 2334.
On December 23, 2016, the Obama Administration abstained from voting on a resolution that condemned Israel’s construction of illegal Jewish settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Obama’s final act violated the main tenet of US diplomacy at the UN.
Soon after, Haley arrived in New York with a clear and urgent mandate: to do everything in her power to recover the traditional US position in support of Israel.
Eager to reassure Israel that it has not been abandoned, Haley launched her pro-Israel campaign at the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in March 2017, using bizarre, tactless language.
“There’s a new sheriff in town,” she announced before nearly 18,000 conference attendees, intoxicated with excitement. “I wear heels. It’s not for a fashion statement,” she declared. “It’s because if I see something wrong, we’re going to kick ’em every single time.”
Haley was true to her words. The ‘Haley doctrine’ went even further than Negroponte’s, as the latter was largely confined to blocking resolutions critical of Israel. Haley, on the other hand, supported Israel at every possible opportunity, and, along with Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, she conspired to punish countries and UN agencies, such as UNESCO, UNRWA and others for recognizing Palestinian rights or providing aid to Palestinian refugees.
Haley, therefore, tried to manage the UN from within – rewarding and punishing as she saw fit – to end what she wrongly perceived the organization’s systematic targeting of Israel.
On a visit to Israel in June 2017, she accused the UN in a press conference held jointly with Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, of ‘bullying’ Israel. “If there’s anything I have no patience for, its bullies – and the UN was being such a bully to Israel because they could,” she said.
The notion, that of the UN’s supposed unfairness to Israel, was at the heart of Haley skewed discourse.
In December 2017, the self-proclaimed anti-bullying diplomat, threatened those who voted in favor of an Egypt-sponsored draft resolution that expressed “deep regret at recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem.” She vetoed the draft, which was supported by all other members of the Security Council, calling the vote an ‘insult’ that would not be forgotten.
On May 14, Israeli snipers opened fire at unarmed protesters at the fence separating besieged Gaza from Israel, killing more than 60 and injuring thousands. Haley was the only member of the Security Council who could not comprehend the international outrage over one of the worst Israeli massacres in years.
“No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has,” she lectured the other ambassadors.
While Haley was duly criticized by Palestinians for impeding international law, she was enthusiastically celebrated by Israel and its friends in Washington for being a ‘true friend of Israel.’
Soon after her resignation was announced, Danon spoke fondly of Haley for challenging ‘anti-Israel bias’ in the UN.
For Palestinians, however, Haley was a stumbling block in their efforts to finally achieve the justice and rights they need and deserve.
The US-Israeli love affair at the UN, and their ongoing war on Palestinian rights, are likely to remain unchanged, long after Haley’s departure.
Bearing in mind the irreparable damage created by the “new sheriff in town”, Haley certainly will not be missed in Palestine.
Demonstrators protest outside of Supreme Court after Judge Brett Kavanaugh was chosen by President Trump as his nominee for the high court. From FOX 45 DC twitter.
The Kavanaugh confirmation process has been a missed opportunity for the United States to face up to many urgent issues on which the bi-partisans in Washington, DC are united and wrong.
Kavanaugh’s career as a Republican legal operative and judge supporting the power of corporations, the security state and abusive foreign policy should have been put on trial. The hearings could have provided an opportunity to confront the security state, use of torture, mass spying and the domination of money in politics and oligarchy as he has had an important role in each of these.
Kavanaugh’s behavior as a teenager who likely drank too much and was inappropriately aggressive and abusive with women, perhaps even attempting rape, must also be confronted. In an era where patriarchy and mistreatment of women are being challenged, Kavanaugh is the wrong nominee for this important time. However, sexual assault should not be a distraction that keeps the the public’s focus off other issues raised by his career as a conservative political activist.
A demonstration against the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh outside the Capitol this month. Credit Erin Schaff for The New York Times
The Security State, Mass Spying and Torture
A central issue of our era is the US security state — mass spying on emails, Internet activity, texts and phone calls. Judge Kavanaugh enabled invasive spying on everyone in the United States. He described mass surveillance as “entirely consistent” with the US Constitution. This is a manipulation of the law as the Constitution plainly requires probable cause and a search warrant for the government to search an individual.
Kavanaugh explained in a decision, “In my view, that critical national security need outweighs the impact on privacy occasioned by this [NSA] program.” This low regard for protecting individual privacy should have been enough for a majority of the Senate to say this nominee is inappropriate for the court.
Kavanaugh ruled multiple times that police have the power to search people, emphasizing “reasonableness” as the standard for searching people. He ruled broadly for the police in searches conducted on the street without a warrant. He ruled in favor of broader use of drug testing of federal employees. Kavanaugh applauded Justice Rehnquist’s views on the Fourth Amendment, which favored police searches by defining probable cause in a flexible way and creating a broad exception for when the government has “special needs” to search without a warrant of probable cause. In this era of police abuse through stop and frisk, jump out squads and searches when driving (or walking or running) while black, Kavanaugh is the wrong nominee and should be disqualified.
Kavanaugh also played a role in the Bush torture policy. Torture is against US and international law, certainly facilitating torture should be disqualifying not only as a justice but should result in disbarment as a lawyer. Kavanaugh was appointed by President Trump, who once vowed he would “bring back waterboarding and … a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.” Minimizing torture is demonstrated in his rulings; e.g., not protecting prisoners at risk of torture and not allowing people to sue the government on allegations of torture.
Torture is a landmine in the Senate, so Kavanaugh misled the Senate, likely committing perjury on torture. In his 2006 confirmation, he said he was “not involved” in “questions about the rules governing detention of combatants.” Tens of thousands of documents have been kept secret by the White House about Kavanaugh from the Bush era. Even so, during these confirmation hearings documents related to the nomination of a lawyer involved in the torture program showed Kavanaugh’s role in torture policies leading Senator Dick Durbin to write:
It is clear now that not only did Judge Kavanaugh mislead me when it came to his involvement in the Bush Administration’s detention and interrogation policies, but also regarding his role in the controversial Haynes nomination.
Durbin spoke more broadly about perjury writing:
This is a theme that we see emerge with Judge Kavanaugh time and time again – he says one thing under oath, and then the documents tell a different story. It is no wonder the White House and Senate Republicans are rushing through this nomination and hiding much of Judge Kavanaugh’s record—the questions about this nominee’s credibility are growing every day.
This should have been enough to stop the process until documents were released to reveal Kavanaugh’s role as Associate White House Counsel under George Bush from 2001 to 2003 and as his White House Staff Secretary from 2003 to 2006. Unfortunately, Democrats have been complicit in allowing torture as well; e.g., the Obama administration never prosecuted anyone accused of torture and advanced the careers of people involved in torture.
Shouldn’t the risk of having a torture facilitator on the Supreme Court be enough to stop this nomination?
Protesters show there are a lot of reasons to reject Kavanaugh (Photo from NARAL Twitter)
Corporate Power vs Protecting People and the Planet
In this era of corporate power, Kavanaugh sides with the corporations. Ralph Nader describes him as a corporation masquerading as a judge. He narrowly limited the powers of federal agencies to curtail corporate power and to protect the interests of the people and planet.
This is evident in cases where Kavanaugh has favored reducing restrictions on polluting corporations. He dissented in cases where the majority ruled in favor of environmental protection but has never dissented where the majority ruled against an environmental interest. He ruled against agencies seeking to protect clean air and water. If Kavanaugh is on the court, it will be much harder to hold corporations responsible for the damage they have done to the climate, the environment or health.
Kavanough opposed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruling in favor of net neutrality, which forbids telecom companies from discrimination on the Internet. He argued net neutrality violated the First Amendment rights of Internet Service Providers (ISP) and was beyond the power granted to the FCC. He put the rights of big corporations ahead of the people having a free and open Internet. The idea that an ISP has a right to control what it allows on the Internet could give corporations great control over what people see on the Internet. It is a very dangerous line of reasoning in this era of corporations curtailing news that challenges the mainstream narrative.
In 2016, Kavanaugh was asked if he believed that money spent during campaigns represents speech, and is protected by the First Amendment and answered: “Absolutely.” Kavanaugh joined in decisions and wrote opinions consistent with efforts to oppose any attempt by Congress or the Federal Elections Commission to restrict campaign contributions or expenditures. His view that free speech allows unrestricted money in elections will add to the avalanche of big money politics. Wealthy elites and big corporations will have even greater influence with Kavanaugh on the court.
Kavanaugh will be friendly to powerful business and the interests of the wealthy on the Supreme Court, and will tend to stand in the way of efforts by administrative agencies to regulate them and by people seeking greater rights.
Kavanaugh protesters call for his rejection over sexual assault call to Believe Survivors (Photo by Carol Kaster Associated Press)
On the third day of his confirmation hearings, Judge Brett Kavanaugh seemed to refer to the use of contraception as “abortion-inducing drugs.” It was a discussion of a case where Kavanaugh dissented from the majority involving the Priests for Life’s challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Kavanaugh opposed the requirement that all health plans cover birth control, claiming that IUDs and emergency contraception were an infringement of their free exercise of religion.
Multiple accusers have come forward to allege Kavanaugh’s involvement in sexual assault and abuse. While Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is viewed as credible — she was the only witness allowed to testify — it is not clear these allegations will be thoroughly reviewed. After being approved by the committee, the Republican leadership and President Trump agreed on a limited FBI investigation. It is unclear whether the FBI will be allowed to follow all the evidence and question all the witnesses. As we write this newsletter, the outcome has yet to unfold. If there is corroborating evidence for the accusers, Kavanaugh should not be approved.
During his confirmation process, in response to the accusations of assault, he claimed they were “a calculated and orchestrated political hit” and “revenge on behalf of the Clinton’s.” He demonstrated partisan anger and displayed a lack of judicial temperament, making him unfit to serve on the Supreme Court.
Kavanaugh exposes the true partisan nature of the highest court, which is not a neutral arbiter but another battleground for partisan politics. The lack of debate on issues of spying, torture and more shows both parties support a court that protects the security state and corporate interests over people and planet. Accusations of sexual assault must be confronted, but there are many reasons Kavanaugh should not be on the court. The confirmation process undermines the court’s legitimacy and highlights bi-partisan corruption.
For days we have been informed—indeed, relentlessly reminded, instructed, lectured, preached to, told matter-of-factly (as though the whole universe knows it), bestowed with the transcendent wisdom—that the late Sen. John McCain was a true American hero.
Wow! What a man! Suddenly, we learn that he was one of the Greatest Americans of All Time. “How to hold him in reverence?” asks an African-American Democratic congressman on CNN. It is (at least on cable news) an unchallenged truth. On CNN Sunday morning “America pays tribute to a hero”—-as his old friends Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman do so.
McCain served his country, we are taught. He was shot down over North Vietnam—just one of those sad things that happens to some people sometimes. So sad he had to parachute into a lake where the people he’d been bombing rescued him. Of course, he was imprisoned, as any bomber captured over any country would be imprisoned.
We are told (by his huge unpaid unthinking posthumous groupie corporate media staff) that this person (McCain), was tortured but never broke (except that one time he signed a statement about bombing civilians).
And he refused early release out of loyalty to his fellow POWs. Heroic!
He (for some reason less noticeable in other people) loved his family (although he divorced his long-suffering first wife, who’d been injured in an accident during his captivity, to marry a wealthy heiress). That is impressive.
Of course (we are told) he loved God, and even served as unit chaplain in Hanoi. He was an unquestioned paragon of virtue, we’re told, even as his quirks and temper tantrums are mentioned—in passing—as endearing minor flaws. He’s described as “hawkish” and often, as a responsible advocate for a powerful military and defender of U.S. “national interests” (versus Russia and Iran in particular).
The Establishment consensus on McCain is truly impressive. Everyone has queued up for the gangbang on humanity, intelligence and morality.
The public funeral featuring eulogies by George W. Bush and Barack Obama was designed to reflect the bipartisan celebration of a legacy—which, unconscionably—the “Democratic Socialist” Alexandria Ocasio-Chavez tweets “represents an unparalleled example of human decency and American service.”
Bernie Sanders adds to the adulation. “John McCain,” he tells his supporters, “was an American hero, a man of decency and honor and a friend of mine. He will be missed not just in the US Senate but by all Americans who respect integrity and independence.” WTF, Bernie?
Joe Lieberman, teary-eyed, calls him a “national treasure.” The CNN anchor has to add, “Well said!” as though we all surely agree on this, right?
The McCain funeral, like Caesar’s, became a political statement against the new political leadership. Mark Anthony praised the dead, while targeting the living Brutus. Meghan McCain praised her father, while targeting President Trump. “America has always been great” is her—and much of the whole system’s—response to Trump’s hollow pledge to “make America great again.”
Questioning the timeless greatness of America is heretical—as heretical as questioning the heroism of John McCain.
Among Trump’s more “controversial” remarks are his statement, “I like people who weren’t captured” and his declaration, “He’s not a war hero. He was a hero because he was captured.” Of all the comments Trump has made—racist, stupid, bigoted comments about women, African-Americans, Mexicans, Muslims, etc.—these on McCain constitute his greatest sin. At least, it has been seized on as such by his vast range of political enemies who want him down.
The dying McCain carefully planned his final rites. (Or those around him did. My father died of the same glioblastoma brain cancer that killed Edward Kennedy and John McCain; I know how rapidly it progresses and how little the human mind functions in the final few months. I find it hard to believe the senator composed some of the statements attributed to him towards the end.) The point was to shame Trump, so that the media coverage would focus on the contrast between the two men, one recklessly straying off course, the other a rock of integrity.
However moving this spectacle is, it is fundamentally sick. That this particular man, with his particular history, gets suddenly thrust into the public face and promoted as national icon even by the likes of Sanders and Ocasio-Chavez is a virtual declaration of national moral bankruptcy.
John McCain, son of an admiral, was a poor student at the U.S. Naval Academy who went on to bomb Vietnam during that war in the 1960s and 70s that—some of us recall—was a horrific, vicious ongoing atrocity that killed two million people.
I ask my amazing son, born 23 years after the end of the Vietnam War, if he understands how horrible that war was. (He knows the military family history, my dad’s involvement in Southeast Asia, my opposition from my teens). He does. Both my son and my daughter a few years older know this history and, of course, naturally revile this person.
McCain was shot down over Hanoi for the same reason you or me might shoot someone down: again, he was bombing people in their country for no good reason and with utterly no concern for “gook” lives. (This human actually stated in 2000, “I hate the gooks” responding to criticism by repeating the slur.) A Spanish psychiatrist, Fernando Barral, who met him in Hanoi in 1970, reported:
He (McCain) showed himself to be intellectually alert during the interview. From a morale point of view he is not in traumatic shock. He was able to be sarcastic, and even humorous, indicative of psychic equilibrium. From the moral and ideological point of view he showed us he is an insensitive individual without human depth, who does not show the slightest concern, who does not appear to have thought about the criminal acts he committed against a population from the absolute impunity of his airplane, and that nevertheless those people saved his life, fed him, and looked after his health and he is now healthy and strong. I believe that he has bombed densely populated places for sport. I noted that he was hardened, that he spoke of banal things as if he were at a cocktail party.
That’s your hero, CNN. That’s your hero, MSNBC. And Fox. All of you following your talking points assigned by your news editors.
The fact that Vietnam (specifically, bombing North Vietnam over 23 times, for over 10 hours) is never an issue—that it is indeed a positive, an instance of heroic “service” in which the future politician showed moral strength—should shock people. The fact that volunteering to bomb Vietnamese in an illegal, immoral war is being praised—-while Trump’s draft deferments are mocked as reflecting lack of courage or patriotism—-should disturb conscious humans. (Shall we not honor the Luftwaffe pilots shot down on the Eastern Front in World War II? All they were doing was bombing Soviets, to conquer Russia, while serving their country, their German Fatherland, their Homeland. Patriots, right?)
McCain never saw a war he didn’t like. He regretted not winning the war in Vietnam—like some Nazi pilots no doubt regretted their failure to destroy Stalingrad in their 30,000 (heroic?) sorties over the city in 1942. He advocated U.S. intervention in any number of conflicts as a matter of imperialist entitlement; he shameless articulated American Exceptionalism—but then so did Obama and all this unified cohort rallying to glorify this thug.
After the U.S. engineered regime change in Georgia (in 2003) and sought to bring Georgia into NATO a few years later, emboldening the pathetic puppet president to provoke Russia by attaching South Ossetia, Russia briefly invaded Georgia. McCain was prepared to go to war with Russia over that. When neofascists plotted a coup in Ukraine in 2014, he had his photo taken with them. He advocated the bombing of Iran. (Remember how he with his famed sense of humor so charmingly recalled the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann” altering the lyrics to “Bomb bomb bomb Iran”? Such a sense of humor! So delightful. So charming.)
This person supported and enthused about the bombings of Bosnia, Kosovo, Serbia, Libya…and advocated it elsewhere (Nigeria?). Remember, this person’s early career after his proudly lackluster academic career was in doing what he was trained for: bombing!
The adulation of this mass-murdering unrepentant dead man is voiced by those who, just as they contrast the hero to the villain, ask whether the Vietnam War was a “noble cause” (as McCain believes)—or a “mistake” (as friend John Kerry believes)? Those are the only two options that can be publicly discussed. To say it was a colossal crime would be unpatriotically honest and doom any political campaign. But it’s easy to gather together those who agree to forgive and forget (due to a “mistake”). Gosh we all make mistakes…
But the whole point of the cult of St. John of Arizona (whom could I suppose be beatified if two miracles can be proved) is to say: He is the man, the responsible adult, the anti-Putin stalwart, the unapologetic warrior, the guy who has the balls to tell his colleagues “Give Netanyahu everything he wants.”
This is to counter-pose him to the unmanly, childlike, Putin-dupe, wimp (who also happens to give Netanyahu everything he wants, because that is standard practice for the U.S. polity—although his allegiance to Israel in itself does not insure his continued presidency).
The contradictions within the polity are obviously mounting; the mourning rituals for this praised monster show the division. The question posed is: Which do you prefer? McCain’s beautiful patriotic blood-smeared legacy? Or Trump’s continued status as the un-impeached U.S. president surrounded by semi-autonomous generals itching to bomb Iran?
My 32-year-old daughter, who happens to be a member of the Democratic Socialist Party and conditional Bernie supporter, responded to Ocasio-Chavez’s tribute to the happy bomber with an emphatic “Ugh.” May all her comrades confront Alexandria on this issue!
An idiot on CNN just now concludes his program: “As John McCain always reminded us, freedom is worth fighting for.” The day remains devoted at McCain, and his wonderful legacy, and to a new (tendentiously presented) poll showing Trump’s support declining. No mention of the heroic reconquest of more and more Syrian territory by the Syrian national forces, or apparent U.S. plans to support a false-flag operation in Idlib province involving chemical weapons that might justify another U.S. strike.
A strike that should not be supported by anybody in this country with any moral sense and critical reasoning capacity. But one that would be supported by Bomb-bomb-bomb-bomb-bomb St. John, surely. Where, as a people—-if , in fact, we are a people—heading?