Category Archives: Honduras

Military Parade Cancelled: How Does Peace Movement Build On This Victory?

People protest war at the Democratic National Convention 2016 (Photo by Brendan Smialowski for AFP-Getty Images)

This week, the Trump military parade, planned for November 10, was canceled for 2018. In February, a coalition of groups went public, announcing we would organize to stop the military parade and, if it went forward, to mobilize more people at the parade calling for peace and an end to war than supporting militarism. The coalition called for “ending the wars at home and abroad.”

The No Trump Military Parade coalition intended to show the world that the people of the United States do not support war. The coalition has been meeting regularly to build toward organized mass opposition to the proposed parade. People were working to make this protest a take-off for a renewed peace movement in a country exhausted by never-ending wars and massive military spending, but our first goal was to stop the parade from happening.

We say No to War sign seen at a 2007 anti-war protest (Photo by Thiago Santos on Flickr)

Momentum Builds For Mass Opposition To Trump Military Parade, As Costs Mount

The protest turned into a weekend of activities linked with the October 21 Women’s March on the Pentagon. The Women’s March was planning to include a daily vigil at the Pentagon until the military parade protest weekend. The theme of the weekend was “Divest from War, Invest in Peace.” On Friday, November 9, we planned a nonviolent direct action training for those who could risk arrest to stop the parade. That evening, CODE PINK was organizing a peace concert, “Peace Rocks”, on the mall. And, throughout that weekend, we were going to participate in Catharsis on the Mall: A Vigil for Healing, where we were going to create art for this Burning Man-like event to demonstrate the transformation of ending war and creating a peace economy.

On November 10, the day of the military parade, the ANSWER Coalition, part of the No Trump Military Parade coalition, had permits for both possible parade routes where peace advocates would hold a concentrated presence and rally alongside the parade. A work group was planning nonviolent direct actions, called “Rain on Trump’s Parade,” to stop the parade. On Sunday, November 11, a group of veterans and military family members were planning to lead a silent march through the war memorials on the mall to reclaim Armistice Day on its 100th anniversary.

The No Trump Military Parade was building momentum. On Tuesday, we published a letter signed by 187 organizations that called for the parade to be stopped. It read, in part, “We urge you now to do all in your power to stop the military parade on November 10. The vast majority of people in the US and around the world crave peace. If the parade goes forward, we will mobilize thousands of people on that day to protest it.” We sent copies of the release to the corporate and independent media and made sure the National Park Service, DC City Council, and Pentagon were aware of our planning.

On Thursday, the Pentagon leaked a new $92 million cost for the parade, more than six times the original estimate.  The cost included $13.5 million for DC police for crowd control and security. This alone was more than the initial $12 million cost estimate for the total parade. DC officials noted the parade would “breed protests and counter-protests, adding to city officials’ logistical headaches.”  Kellyanne Conway also took jabs at protesters when she discussed the cancellation of the parade on FOX and Friends.

Coalition members were quickly alerted to the new cost estimate and people went on social media spreading the word, expressing outrage and sharing our sign-on letter. That afternoon, the coalition issued a statement on the cost and the momentum building to oppose the parade, as by then, more than 200 organizations had signed on. That evening it was announced that the parade was postponed for 2018 and would be considered in 2019.

There was super-majority opposition to the military parade and it was becoming the national consensus of the country that there should not be a military parade. Army Times conducted a poll of its readers; 51,000 responded and 89 percent opposed the parade responding, “No, It’s a waste of money and troops are too busy.” A Quinnipiac University poll found 61 percent of voters disapprove of the military parade, while only 26 percent support the idea.

In addition to the financial cost, the Pentagon knew there was a political cost The cancellation is a victory for the No Trump Military Parade Coalition, but also a victory for the country – glorifying militarization was exactly the wrong direction for the country to be going.

Photo: Debra Sweet/flickr/cc

How Do We Build On This Success?

The question members of the coalition are asking themselves now is how to build on the success of stopping the Trump military parade. We started a new Popular Resistance Facebook Group where you can join a conversation about where we go from here. Coalition members are in ongoing dialogue about possible next steps. We share some of those ideas below and would appreciate hearing your views on them.  Some ideas:

  1. Continue with the plans for the weekend. The Reclaim Armistice Day silent march will still be held. This is the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, also known as Remembrance Day. It marks the end of World War One, which ended at 11 am on the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918. A two-minute silence was held at 11 am to remember the people who died in wars and reflect on the horror of war and the need to work for peace. It was changed to Veterans Day in 1954. The Reclaim Armistice Day march will begin at 11 am at the Washington Monument.
  2. Help build the Women’s March on the Pentagon. The march was called for by Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey died in the Iraq War, to put an antiwar agenda back on the table. The march is being held on the anniversary of the 1967 march on the Pentagon when 50,000 people marched in opposition to the Vietnam War.
  3. Make war, militarism, and military spending an issue in the 2018 election campaigns. People can ask all candidates about the never-ending wars and the record spending on the military budget, now approximately 60 percent of federal discretionary spending.
  4. Stop military escalation with Iran. This week Mike Pompeo announced the Iran Action Group, almost exactly on the anniversary of the CIA-led coup against Iran’s elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953. This is part of a broader escalation; e.g., the CIA created an “Iran Mission Center” in January. The Trump administration has been working to destabilize Iran, scapegoating Iran and to “foment unrest in Iran.” John Bolton was promising regime change in Iran before he became National Security Adviser. Trump violated the nuclear weapons treaty by withdrawing for no cause. This new effort will intensify efforts to foment unrest in Iran, the peace movement should work for de-escalation and normalization of relations with Iran to prevent another war-quagmire.
  5. End the longest war in US history, Afghanistan. The Trump administration has escalated US involvement in the war in Afghanistan. This 17-year war has been one of constant failure but now the US is losing badly to the Taliban which has taken over more than 50 percent of the country and can attack Afghan forces in the capital, Kabul. It’s time to bring the troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq.
  6. Stop the US and Saudi Arabian slaughter and starvation of civilians in Yemen. The forced famine and cholera epidemic killed more than 50,000 children last year, a US-approved genocide. The silence in response to this unauthorized war needs to end. The recent bombing of a school bus of children with US weapons may help galvanize the public.
  7. End escalation of nuclear weapons, extend the nuclear weapons treaty and work to rid the world of nuclear weapons. The US has embarked on a massive upgrade of nuclear weapons, begun under President Obama and extended by Trump. A year ago, the UN announced the beginning of a process to ban nuclear weapons. The Trump-Putin meetings should continue, despite the Russiagate allegations, and include ridding the world of nuclear weapons.

These are just some of the conflicts deserving attention. There are, of course, more; e.g., cut the outrageous military budget, stop the militarization of space, end the war in Syria, remove troops and bases from Africa, negotiate peace with North Korea, create a detente with Russia, end support for Israeli apartheid, stop the economic wars and threats of militarism against Venezuela and Nicaragua, and deescalate-don’t arm Ukraine. While many groups have their own focus, what can a coalition campaign work together on?

New York City from SpringAction2018.org

Antiwar Autumn Continues

We have been calling this fall the Antiwar Autumn because there is so much going on. Even with the cancellation of the military parade, it is going to be a busy fall.

Some of the major activities that are already scheduled include:

The Veterans for Peace annual conference in Minnesota, August 22-26.

On August 25, the Chicago Committee Against War and Racism is holding a protest against war and police violence on the anniversary of the 1968 protest at the Democratic National Convention against the Vietnam War.

The World Beyond War #NoWar2018 conference in Toronto, Canada on September 21-22 on how to re-design systems to abolish the institution of war.

The October 21 Women’s March on the Pentagon.

The effort to reclaim Armistice Day march on November 11.

The Coalition Against US Foreign Military Bases’ first international conference in Dublin, Ireland on November 16-18, 2018.

Beyond these activities, what can we do to build on the successful organizing around stopping the Trump military parade? We need to celebrate this victory and build on it.

We also want to highlight Class 7 of the Popular Resistance School on How Social Transformation Occurs, which focuses on the infiltration of political movements by the government, big business interests, and other opposition groups. We have written in the past about infiltration; i.e., Infiltration to Disrupt, Divide and Mis-Direct Are Widespread in Occupy and Infiltration of Political Movements is the Norm, Not the Exception in the United States. In this class, we broaden those discussions but also examine how to deal with infiltrators and informants.

Military Parade Cancelled: How Does Peace Movement Build On This Victory?

People protest war at the Democratic National Convention 2016 (Photo by Brendan Smialowski for AFP-Getty Images)

This week, the Trump military parade, planned for November 10, was canceled for 2018. In February, a coalition of groups went public, announcing we would organize to stop the military parade and, if it went forward, to mobilize more people at the parade calling for peace and an end to war than supporting militarism. The coalition called for “ending the wars at home and abroad.”

The No Trump Military Parade coalition intended to show the world that the people of the United States do not support war. The coalition has been meeting regularly to build toward organized mass opposition to the proposed parade. People were working to make this protest a take-off for a renewed peace movement in a country exhausted by never-ending wars and massive military spending, but our first goal was to stop the parade from happening.

We say No to War sign seen at a 2007 anti-war protest (Photo by Thiago Santos on Flickr)

Momentum Builds For Mass Opposition To Trump Military Parade, As Costs Mount

The protest turned into a weekend of activities linked with the October 21 Women’s March on the Pentagon. The Women’s March was planning to include a daily vigil at the Pentagon until the military parade protest weekend. The theme of the weekend was “Divest from War, Invest in Peace.” On Friday, November 9, we planned a nonviolent direct action training for those who could risk arrest to stop the parade. That evening, CODE PINK was organizing a peace concert, “Peace Rocks”, on the mall. And, throughout that weekend, we were going to participate in Catharsis on the Mall: A Vigil for Healing, where we were going to create art for this Burning Man-like event to demonstrate the transformation of ending war and creating a peace economy.

On November 10, the day of the military parade, the ANSWER Coalition, part of the No Trump Military Parade coalition, had permits for both possible parade routes where peace advocates would hold a concentrated presence and rally alongside the parade. A work group was planning nonviolent direct actions, called “Rain on Trump’s Parade,” to stop the parade. On Sunday, November 11, a group of veterans and military family members were planning to lead a silent march through the war memorials on the mall to reclaim Armistice Day on its 100th anniversary.

The No Trump Military Parade was building momentum. On Tuesday, we published a letter signed by 187 organizations that called for the parade to be stopped. It read, in part, “We urge you now to do all in your power to stop the military parade on November 10. The vast majority of people in the US and around the world crave peace. If the parade goes forward, we will mobilize thousands of people on that day to protest it.” We sent copies of the release to the corporate and independent media and made sure the National Park Service, DC City Council, and Pentagon were aware of our planning.

On Thursday, the Pentagon leaked a new $92 million cost for the parade, more than six times the original estimate.  The cost included $13.5 million for DC police for crowd control and security. This alone was more than the initial $12 million cost estimate for the total parade. DC officials noted the parade would “breed protests and counter-protests, adding to city officials’ logistical headaches.”  Kellyanne Conway also took jabs at protesters when she discussed the cancellation of the parade on FOX and Friends.

Coalition members were quickly alerted to the new cost estimate and people went on social media spreading the word, expressing outrage and sharing our sign-on letter. That afternoon, the coalition issued a statement on the cost and the momentum building to oppose the parade, as by then, more than 200 organizations had signed on. That evening it was announced that the parade was postponed for 2018 and would be considered in 2019.

There was super-majority opposition to the military parade and it was becoming the national consensus of the country that there should not be a military parade. Army Times conducted a poll of its readers; 51,000 responded and 89 percent opposed the parade responding, “No, It’s a waste of money and troops are too busy.” A Quinnipiac University poll found 61 percent of voters disapprove of the military parade, while only 26 percent support the idea.

In addition to the financial cost, the Pentagon knew there was a political cost The cancellation is a victory for the No Trump Military Parade Coalition, but also a victory for the country – glorifying militarization was exactly the wrong direction for the country to be going.

Photo: Debra Sweet/flickr/cc

How Do We Build On This Success?

The question members of the coalition are asking themselves now is how to build on the success of stopping the Trump military parade. We started a new Popular Resistance Facebook Group where you can join a conversation about where we go from here. Coalition members are in ongoing dialogue about possible next steps. We share some of those ideas below and would appreciate hearing your views on them.  Some ideas:

  1. Continue with the plans for the weekend. The Reclaim Armistice Day silent march will still be held. This is the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, also known as Remembrance Day. It marks the end of World War One, which ended at 11 am on the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918. A two-minute silence was held at 11 am to remember the people who died in wars and reflect on the horror of war and the need to work for peace. It was changed to Veterans Day in 1954. The Reclaim Armistice Day march will begin at 11 am at the Washington Monument.
  2. Help build the Women’s March on the Pentagon. The march was called for by Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey died in the Iraq War, to put an antiwar agenda back on the table. The march is being held on the anniversary of the 1967 march on the Pentagon when 50,000 people marched in opposition to the Vietnam War.
  3. Make war, militarism, and military spending an issue in the 2018 election campaigns. People can ask all candidates about the never-ending wars and the record spending on the military budget, now approximately 60 percent of federal discretionary spending.
  4. Stop military escalation with Iran. This week Mike Pompeo announced the Iran Action Group, almost exactly on the anniversary of the CIA-led coup against Iran’s elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953. This is part of a broader escalation; e.g., the CIA created an “Iran Mission Center” in January. The Trump administration has been working to destabilize Iran, scapegoating Iran and to “foment unrest in Iran.” John Bolton was promising regime change in Iran before he became National Security Adviser. Trump violated the nuclear weapons treaty by withdrawing for no cause. This new effort will intensify efforts to foment unrest in Iran, the peace movement should work for de-escalation and normalization of relations with Iran to prevent another war-quagmire.
  5. End the longest war in US history, Afghanistan. The Trump administration has escalated US involvement in the war in Afghanistan. This 17-year war has been one of constant failure but now the US is losing badly to the Taliban which has taken over more than 50 percent of the country and can attack Afghan forces in the capital, Kabul. It’s time to bring the troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq.
  6. Stop the US and Saudi Arabian slaughter and starvation of civilians in Yemen. The forced famine and cholera epidemic killed more than 50,000 children last year, a US-approved genocide. The silence in response to this unauthorized war needs to end. The recent bombing of a school bus of children with US weapons may help galvanize the public.
  7. End escalation of nuclear weapons, extend the nuclear weapons treaty and work to rid the world of nuclear weapons. The US has embarked on a massive upgrade of nuclear weapons, begun under President Obama and extended by Trump. A year ago, the UN announced the beginning of a process to ban nuclear weapons. The Trump-Putin meetings should continue, despite the Russiagate allegations, and include ridding the world of nuclear weapons.

These are just some of the conflicts deserving attention. There are, of course, more; e.g., cut the outrageous military budget, stop the militarization of space, end the war in Syria, remove troops and bases from Africa, negotiate peace with North Korea, create a detente with Russia, end support for Israeli apartheid, stop the economic wars and threats of militarism against Venezuela and Nicaragua, and deescalate-don’t arm Ukraine. While many groups have their own focus, what can a coalition campaign work together on?

New York City from SpringAction2018.org

Antiwar Autumn Continues

We have been calling this fall the Antiwar Autumn because there is so much going on. Even with the cancellation of the military parade, it is going to be a busy fall.

Some of the major activities that are already scheduled include:

The Veterans for Peace annual conference in Minnesota, August 22-26.

On August 25, the Chicago Committee Against War and Racism is holding a protest against war and police violence on the anniversary of the 1968 protest at the Democratic National Convention against the Vietnam War.

The World Beyond War #NoWar2018 conference in Toronto, Canada on September 21-22 on how to re-design systems to abolish the institution of war.

The October 21 Women’s March on the Pentagon.

The effort to reclaim Armistice Day march on November 11.

The Coalition Against US Foreign Military Bases’ first international conference in Dublin, Ireland on November 16-18, 2018.

Beyond these activities, what can we do to build on the successful organizing around stopping the Trump military parade? We need to celebrate this victory and build on it.

We also want to highlight Class 7 of the Popular Resistance School on How Social Transformation Occurs, which focuses on the infiltration of political movements by the government, big business interests, and other opposition groups. We have written in the past about infiltration; i.e., Infiltration to Disrupt, Divide and Mis-Direct Are Widespread in Occupy and Infiltration of Political Movements is the Norm, Not the Exception in the United States. In this class, we broaden those discussions but also examine how to deal with infiltrators and informants.

The Wisdom Of Serpents

Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
— Mathew 10:16

While there is a lower class, I am in it, while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.
— Eugene Debs, Statement to the Court upon being convicted of violating the Sedition Act, September 18, 1918

Last month I called Bernie Sanders’ Democratic party primary run “sheepdogging” my term for a move the national Democratic party seems to execute every presidential primary season when there’s no incumbent White House Democrat. The job of the sheepdog candidate is to herd leftish voters and activists back into the Democratic party one more time by giving perhaps sincere but limited and ineffectual voice to some of their issues.
— Bruce A. Dixon.  “This is what happens when we follow the Democrat sheepdog.  And what can happen if we don’t”, Black Agenda Report, June 3, 2015

I keep watching the ways in which people, left leaning liberals anyway, and even some I thought were leftists, fall over themselves to believe in the Alexandria Ocasio Cortez victory. Now, I don’t believe, I should make clear. But I find what is interesting is the ways in which this story became a kind of fairy tale and found traction. First, it’s New York. If this occurs in Port Huron or Tampa or Bakersfield — there is no story. Secondly, this woman came out of the Democratic Party machine, out of Ted Kennedy’s office and Bernie Sanders campaign. Does that not tell you something? But third, there is something curious about her whole story. And her web page says her father was a small business owner and other places it says he is an architect. None of this matters, mind you, except that she is certainly not well known in the Bronx by activists or anyone else. She strikes me, personally, as culturally a Westchester County product, not the Bronx. And I guess I find her a bit too telegenic, too perfect an image. Not to mention she is already parroting DNC rhetoric about Russiagate and already making friendly with the fascist opposition against Venezuela. One would think a Latina would know better, no? The U.S. is, after all, on the verge of possible military intervention in Venezuela — and house and senate Democrats are perfectly aligned with this thinking. When did anyone last hear a Democrat voice support for the Bolivarian revolution? Then there is the fact that her most intense support came from white affluent gentrifiers in her district. So a radical she is not.

Now this is not about Ocasio-Cortez. I think soon enough the reality will set in. Or maybe it is. I will return to that. But my question has to do with why anyone wants to believe in a Democrat in the first place? Now, the very first presidential election I ever voted in, yay those many year ago, was 1972. I voted for Democrat George McGovern of South Dakota. That was the last time I voted Democrat as well. And it is an interesting side bar note here that current Democratic Party shills like Maddow and Jonathan Chait love to compare all left leaning democrats to McGovern. And the truth is, Goldwater lost just as badly but the Republicans responded by doubling down on the extreme paleo conservatism of Barry and got themselves 8 years of The Gipper. But I digress.

Let’s take a look at what the Democratic Party has been up to lately…

Here, from Forbes magazine…:

…the Senate on Monday voted in favor of a $716 billion military spending bill for the 2019 federal fiscal year. The House had already passed it last month. This is $82 billion higher than the current budget, which itself was more than the Trump administration requested. Who says those in the Beltway can’t pull together for a common cause?  This year, 67.5% of House Democrats and 85% of Senate Democrats voted in favor.

Ponder that a moment. Over 700 billion. I mean that is getting close to double what it was under Bush or Obama. And yet people are living under freeway overpasses, in packing crates, and in make shift encampments on the edge of every city in America, literally. Over 42 million Americans, as of 2016, were listed as food insecure. 13 million children. Now the Democrats also defeated a proposal put forth by Sanders’ surrogates that looked for very tepid limited restrictions on fracking and an also mild statement on Palestinian rights. Both were shot down by the Dems.. (per Lauren McCauley):

Former U.S. Representative Howard Berman, American Federation of State, County, and Muncipal Employees executive assistant to the president, Paul Booth, former White House Energy and Climate Change Policy director Carol Browner, Ohio State Representative Alicia Reece, former State Department official Wendy Sherman, and Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden…

In other words the Democrats want no change.

Meanwhile the drinking water in Flint Michigan is no better than it ever was. Then we have the Democrats whole-hearted support of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, who, with U.S. approval and help and support have destroyed Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world. Dan Glazebrook wrote last year (it’s worse now):

And on 23rd January, the UN reported that there are now 22.2 million Yemenis in need of humanitarian assistance – 3.4 million more than the previous year – with eight million on the brink of famine, an increase of one million since 2017.

The United States is directly helping a mass genocide of the Yemeni people. And very few Americans care. No Democrats care. Well, let me clarify, for this is a perfect example of the Democratic Party and its record. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Bernie Sanders introduced a bill to limit (sort of) U.S. involvement in the aforementioned genocide. It was soft stuff. But 15 Democrats helped Republicans table the bill. Little discussion came out of that. And it was bullshit legislation anyway.

Now, this is all sort of tweezing apart stuff that is so horrific and nightmarish that it’s hard to know how to describe it. The war against defenseless Yemen began under Obama. You remember him? That Democratic President. Trump, of course, intensified support for the genocide. And Democrats are not complaining. Children are starving and dying from famine and cholera…but there is no coverage of this, really. Why is there no outrage about Israel shooting down unarmed protestors? Well, Chuck Schumer signed a bill with other Democrats to make criticism of Israel a crime. Killing OK, criticizing NOT OK.

Now, ahead of Mike Pence’s (the Dominionist bat shit nuts VP) visit to Ecuador, a number of Democrats signed a bill to bring Julian Assange back to stand trial. James Cogan writes…

The signatories are a roll-call of leading congressional Democrats: Robert Menendez, Dick Durbin, Richard Blumenthal, Edward J. Markey, Michael Bennet, Christopher Coons, Joe Manchin, Jeanne Shaheen, Diane Feinstein and Mark Warner.

They went out of their way to get behind shutting up Assange and throwing him in a dark cell in Leavenworth and then just forgetting about him.

Cogan adds…:

…in a sweeping conspiracy theory, the CIA, FBI and NSA portrayed the 2016 publication by WikiLeaks of emails and documents from the Democratic National Committee (DNC), and then emails sent by top Democratic Party figure John Podesta, as the product of a nefarious Russian plot to undermine Hillary Clinton and assist the victory of Donald Trump.

Many liberals, if not most, and certainly the majority of Democrats are all on board to prosecute Assange. Trump very usefully serves that purpose, you see. The hatred of Trump (who seems to work very hard to be hated) allows for the Democrats (and their liberal enablers) to escalate the new Russophobic propaganda and divert attention from things like the increased defense budget, the private prison complex that profits hugely from the ICE raids and illegal deportations, and the continuing (even growing) crimes of mass incarceration. No, people are given to partisan fighting over issues like gay marriage, or flag desecration, or gender neutral pronouns or whatever. They do not have public fights about foreign policy because both major parties are in total agreement. Trump is only carrying out policy that Obama started, largely, and that Hillary would have continued as well (only likely worse). For foreign policy is the black hole in American consciousness.

The US has been in Afghanistan for sixteen years. Why do people not talk about this? Sixteen years. That’s a permanent occupation. The U.S. under Democratic leadership and under the direction of Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, destroyed Libya and assassinated its leader Muammar Gaddafi. Clinton then famously laughed about it on TV. Libya is now holding outdoor slave sales. It is a failed state where once it was one of the most advanced and stable countries in the region. Or Syria. The targeting of the Assad government was a unanimous decision of both parties. Or sanctions against Iran…again both parties. Or militarizing Africa (or support for war criminal Paul Kagame), both parties. In fact, Democratic presidents Obama and Clinton were far worse than Republicans in terms of protecting western Capital in Africa and building up AFRICOM.

Or take the recent Democratic Party attack on the Trump/Kim Jong-Un summit. Ajamu Baraka wrote:

If more proof was needed to persuade anyone that the Democrats are indeed a war party, it was provided when Senator Chuck Schumer and other Democrat leaders in the Senate engaged in a cynical stunt to stake out a position to the right of John Bolton on the summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un.

Schumer demanded terms that no nation anywhere on earth at any time in history, could accept. Ergo, he wanted this summit to fail. And that failure then would make it easier to justify an invasion of the DPRK.

You see, the Democratic Party is the party of finance capital, of Wall Street, and the only difference from Republicans is that Democrats tend to express themselves in the terms of identity politics. Trump’s presidency expresses itself in the terms of nativist xenophobic racists. But honestly, they all vote mostly the same.

Obama’s electoral coalition was driven by the professional class that had arisen to manage the various segments of the financialized economy. Since they derive significant benefits from late capitalism, the professionals eschew class-struggle based politics.
— Peter Lavenia. “The Revenge of Class and the Death of the Democratic Party“, Counterpunch, November 16, 2016

Never mention class. Things that have some importance, such as marijuana legalization were decidedly better under Democrats. And that certainly matters. But remember, all those small incremental gains by Democrats did little or nothing to change the staggering inequality of the system itself. But people are terrorized. That is why Ocasio-Cortez is embraced so uncritically. People are genuinely terrified. They are without protection at work, and they are unprotected by any sort of comprehensive medical program. They are unprotected from the militarized racist police forces of every American city and town. A militarization, it should be noted, that began in ernest under Obama.

But perhaps most important in any discussion of the Democratic Party are their ties to the CIA.

Patrick Martin writes:

An extraordinary number of former intelligence and military operatives from the CIA, Pentagon, National Security Council and State Department are seeking nomination as Democratic candidates for Congress in the 2018 midterm elections. The potential influx of military-intelligence personnel into the legislature has no precedent in US political history.

If the Democrats capture a majority in the House of Representatives on November 6, as widely predicted, candidates drawn from the military-intelligence apparatus will comprise as many as half of the new Democratic members of Congress.”

This is interesting for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that the DNC does nothing to hide this but rather sees it a sure fire vote getter.

Martin again:

The total of such candidates for the Democratic nomination in the 102 districts is 221. Each has a website that gives biographical details, which we have collected and reviewed for this report. It is notable that those candidates with a record in the military-intelligence apparatus, as well as civilian work for the State Department, Pentagon or National Security Council, do not hide their involvement, particularly in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They clearly regard working as a CIA agent in Baghdad, an Army special ops assassin in Afghanistan, or a planner for drone missile warfare in the White House or Pentagon as a star on their résumé, rather than something to conceal.

Among these new candidates running as Democrats are former CIA operatives (Abigail Spanberger), a military intelligence officer with two tours in Iraq (Patrick Ryan), a naval intelligence officer, who also served in the US European Command in Stuttgart, Germany (Jonathan Ebel), a deep cover op for the CIA in Latin America ( helly Chauncey), a twenty three year Navy Seal veteran with several tours in Iraq (Joel Butner), a Pentagon advisor to David Petraeus (Andy Kim), a former member of the 82nd Airborne and part of a Joint Special Operations Task Force on counter-terrorism in Afghanistan (Jason Crow). This is just a sampling. There are also a host of former State Department candidates, too.

One example (quoting Martin again…) is:

Sara Jacobs is another State Department official turned Clinton campaign aide, working on “conflict zones in East and West Africa,” particularly the campaign against Boko Haram in Nigeria, and helping to “spearhead President Obama’s efforts to improve governance in the security sector of our counterterrorism partners,” according to her campaign website. She was a foreign policy adviser to the Clinton campaign and is now seeking the Democratic nomination in California’s 49th District …

But, in fact, there are forty some others. The Democratic Party is now the party of the CIA and Pentagon, and in both cases with a heavy emphasis on intelligence. Career military and CIA veterans make up the best financed of Democratic Party candidates. Again, these bios are seen as a plus for the DNC — and this in no small measure is the result of Hollywood film and TV. The infiltration of Hollywood by the Pentagon, CIA, and FBI is now hardly even a secret. Almost every show with anything to do with the military has CIA advisors right there in the writers’ room. And if the story has to do with cops, you can count on veteran law enforcement advisors, too.

The anti-Trump fervor is understandable, and justified, but the Democrats are not the opposition. They are better spoken version of the same Imperialist state. And domestically, these veteran CIA operatives and military intel veterans are hardly going to embrace progressive causes. They are hardly going to look to dismantle the racist militarized police apparatus or challenge the racist judicial system. They are not going to seek reforms for mass incarceration. Most of them have experience with black sites and torture, with the pacification of entire populations, and with all manner of counter insurgency tactics.

The Democratic Party is the party of affluence. And these candidates reflect a growing hostility to the working class and a growing embrace of conservative law and order values. And in that sense Ocasio-Cortez fits right in.

Nick Pemberton wrote:

The Democrats have engaged in the deregulation of the economy. They have attacked unions. They have cut funding for public schools and replaced them with prisons. They have promoted pipelines and wars for oil. They have supported vicious trade deals that hurt workers and destroy the environment. If the world was to run as is with Democrats in place of Republicans we would still become extinct in the near future. If not by nuclear annihilation, then by climate change.

So, back to Ocasio-Cortez for a moment. Teodrose Fikre wrote:

Year after year, election after election, we keep falling for the latest fresh faces who promise to go to DC and drain the swamp of corruption and nepotism. The results always end up the same way, hope being paid back with hopelessness as the politicians we put our faith in sell their souls in order to retain power and celebrity. This is how the establishment remains fixed no matter who gets elected; the people in charge are not the politicians we elect but the donors who fund their campaigns and the insiders who determine rank and privileges within the party infrastructure. ( ) No more voting for the lesser of two evils and no more listening to people who try to convince you that supporting ideas outside of the Democrat/Republican divide is wasted energy. Don’t fall for the merry-go-round of personalities who keep being unleashed to sheepdog voters back to this two-party racket.

PS. More than 90% of mainstream media is owned by six corporations (read six people), they don’t allow true change agents to have access to the airwaves. Be cautious and twice skeptical when unknown candidates are given millions in free advertisement by the same interests they’re supposedly fighting.

Ocasio-Cortez was on Colbert, she was given a feature in Vogue. (Cynthia McKinney, who has a good deal more integrity than almost anyone else in her rotten party, was never invited on Cobert when she stood alone to call out President Bush on his Carlyle Group links, Saudi connections, and illegal invasion of Iraq. Why? Not telegenic or perky enough?).

So let me summarize…..The Democratic Party is now drawing heavily from military intelligence, the CIA, Pentagon and State Department (with specific emphasis on those with intelligence experience). These sorts of backgrounds suggest most of these candidates have knowledge of propaganda and psy-ops, as well as a basic value system that is consonant with American exceptionalism. They know a lot, we presume, about marketing strategies and about disinformation. So, is it not peculiar to anyone that this new face of pseudo socialism pops up right now — literally out of nowhere? See, to me it feels very Obama like. It’s perception management meets electoral long game strategic thinking. Honestly, all the talk of keeping an eye on her (Ocasio-Cortez) and making sure she honors her principles, etc…all of this feels wildly naive and almost delusional, frankly. One has to learn to read the codes. And since it is a proven fact that the Democrat Party is utterly corrupt, in bed with Wall Street and big corporate entities in agriculture, telecoms, and pharmaceuticals, as well as the military itself — why would one want to give a candidate FOR this utterly corrupt party the benefit of the doubt?

Now on my bullshit meter (a term I don’t really like but whatever) the needle went directly to red. In fact it broke and stuck in the red zone. So, the subjective side is I just found everything about her fake. I recoiled with that awful feeling of being faced with a fraud. Apparently many did not have that response. But I did. Bernie was called a *sheepdog*. The political slang for a left leaning candidate who cant and doesn’t want to win but who will draw disaffected voters back into the party. Bernie eventually endorsing Hillary Clinton, of course. I’m wondering why Ocasio-Cortez is not so perceived? Except I suspect she does want to win and to keep on winning. OC in 2024!!! That is what I think might well happen. She ticks off all the boxes. She has to wait until she turns 35 if I’m not mistaken, but this feels every bit a trial balloon. We shall see.

Meanwhile….here is something to support and make known: Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee

The Millstone around Trump’s Neck?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why do they flee?

Why do they flee?

The current mass exodus of people from Central America to the United States, with the daily headline-grabbing stories of numerous children involuntarily separated from their parents, means it’s time to remind my readers once again of one of the primary causes of these periodic mass migrations.

Those in the US generally opposed to immigration make it a point to declare or imply that the United States does not have any legal or moral obligation to take in these Latinos. This is not true. The United States does indeed have the obligation because many of the immigrants, in addition to fleeing from drug violence, are escaping an economic situation in their homeland directly made hopeless by American interventionist policy.

It’s not that these people prefer to live in the United States. They’d much rather remain with their families and friends, be able to speak their native language at all times, and avoid the hardships imposed upon them by American police and other right-wingers. But whenever a progressive government comes to power in Latin America or threatens to do so, a government sincerely committed to fighting poverty, the United States helps to suppresses the movement and/or supports the country’s right-wing and military in staging a coup. This has been the case in Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico, Nicaragua and Honduras.

The latest example is the June 2009 coup (championed by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) ousting the moderately progressive Manuel Zelaya of Honduras. The particularly severe increase in recent years in Honduran migration to the US is a direct result of the overthrow of Zelaya, whose crime was things like raising the minimum wage, giving subsidies to small farmers, and instituting free education. It is a tale told many times in Latin America: The downtrodden masses finally put into power a leader committed to reversing the status quo, determined to try to put an end to two centuries of oppression … and before long the military overthrows the democratically-elected government, while the United States – if not the mastermind behind the coup – does nothing to prevent it or to punish the coup regime, as only the United States can punish; meanwhile Washington officials pretend to be very upset over this “affront to democracy” while giving major support to the coup regime.1 The resulting return to poverty is accompanied by government and right-wing violence against those who question the new status quo, giving further incentive to escape the country.

Talk delivered by William Blum at the Left Forum in New York, June 2, 2018

We can all agree I think that US foreign policy must be changed and that to achieve that the mind – not to mention the heart and soul – of the American public must be changed. But what do you think is the main barrier to achieving such a change in the American mind?

Each of you I’m sure has met many people who support American foreign policy, with whom you’ve argued and argued. You point out one horror after another, from Vietnam to Iraq to Libya; from bombings and invasions to torture. And nothing helps. Nothing moves these people.

Now why is that? Do these people have no social conscience? Are they just stupid? I think a better answer is that they have certain preconceptions. Consciously or unconsciously, they have certain basic beliefs about the United States and its foreign policy, and if you don’t deal with these basic beliefs you may as well be talking to a stone wall.

The most basic of these basic beliefs, I think, is a deeply-held conviction that no matter what the US does abroad, no matter how bad it may look, no matter what horror may result, the government of the United States means well. American leaders may make mistakes, they may blunder, they may lie, they may even on many occasions cause more harm than good, but they do mean well. Their intentions are always honorable, even noble. Of that the great majority of Americans are certain.

Frances Fitzgerald, in her famous study of American school textbooks, summarized the message of these books:

The United States has been a kind of Salvation Army to the rest of the world: throughout history it had done little but dispense benefits to poor, ignorant, and diseased countries. The U.S. always acted in a disinterested fashion, always from the highest of motives; it gave, never took.

And Americans genuinely wonder why the rest of the world can’t see how benevolent and self-sacrificing America has been. Even many people who take part in the anti-war movement have a hard time shaking off some of this mindset; they march to spur America – the America they love and worship and trust – they march to spur this noble America back onto its path of goodness.

Many of the citizens fall for US government propaganda justifying its military actions as often and as naively as Charlie Brown falling for Lucy’s football.

The American people are very much like the children of a Mafia boss who do not know what their father does for a living, and don’t want to know, but then they wonder why someone just threw a firebomb through the living room window.

This basic belief in America’s good intentions is often linked to “American exceptionalism”. Let’s look at just how exceptional America has been. Since the end of World War 2, the United States has:

  1. Attempted to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments, most of which were democratically-elected.
  2. Dropped bombs on the people of more than 30 countries.
  3. Attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders.
  4. Attempted to suppress a populist or nationalist movement in 20 countries.
  5. Grossly interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries.
  6. Led the world in torture; not only the torture performed directly by Americans upon foreigners, but providing torture equipment, torture manuals, lists of people to be tortured, and in-person guidance by American teachers, especially in Latin America.

This is indeed exceptional. No other country in all of history comes anywhere close to such a record. But it certainly makes it very difficult to believe that America means well.

So the next time you’re up against a stone wall … ask the person what the United States would have to do in its foreign policy to lose his or her support. What for this person would finally be TOO MUCH. Chances are the US has already done it.

Keep in mind that our precious homeland, above all, seeks to dominate the world. For economic reasons, nationalistic reasons, ideological, Christian, and for other reasons, world hegemony has long been America’s bottom line. And let’s not forget the powerful Executive Branch officials whose salaries, promotions, agency budgets and future well-paying private sector jobs depend upon perpetual war. These leaders are not especially concerned about the consequences for the world of their wars. They’re not necessarily bad people; but they’re amoral, like a sociopath is.

Take the Middle East and South Asia. The people in those areas have suffered horribly because of Islamic fundamentalism. What they desperately need are secular governments, which have respect for different religions. And such governments were actually instituted in the recent past. But what has been the fate of those governments?

Well, in the late 1970s through much of the 1980s, Afghanistan had a secular government that was relatively progressive, with full rights for women, which is hard to believe, isn’t it? But even a Pentagon report of the time testified to the actuality of women’s rights in Afghanistan. And what happened to that government? The United States overthrew it, allowing the Taliban to come to power. So keep that in mind the next time you hear an American official say that we have to remain in Afghanistan for the sake of the women.

After Afghanistan came Iraq, another secular society, under Saddam Hussein. And the United States overthrew that government as well, and now the country has its share of crazed and bloody jihadists and fundamentalists; and women who are not covered up properly are sometimes running a serious risk.

Next came Libya; again, a secular country, under Muammar Gaddafi, who, like Saddam Hussein, had a tyrant side to him but could in important ways be benevolent and do some marvelous things. Gaddafi, for example, founded the African Union and gave the Libyan people the highest standard of living in Africa. So, of course, the United States overthrew that government as well. In 2011, with the help of NATO, we bombed the people of Libya almost every day for more than six months.

Can anyone say that in all these interventions, or in any of them, the United States of America meant well?

When we attack Iran, will we mean well? Will we have the welfare of the Iranian people at heart? I suggest you keep such thoughts in mind the next time you’re having a discussion or argument with a flag-waving American.

In case you haven’t noticed

No evidence of “Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election” has yet been presented. And we still await even a believable explanation of how the supposedly advanced American nation of 138 million voters could be so crucially influenced by a bunch of simplistic, often-crude, postings on Facebook and elsewhere on the Internet.

In May, the House Intelligence Committee began releasing the text of numerous of these postings as evidence of Russian interference. The postings dealt with both sides of many issues, including football players who knelt during the national anthem to bring attention to issues of racism, and pro- and anti-Trump and Clinton messages. Most did not even mention Trump or Clinton; and many were sent out before Trump was even a candidate.

So what did any of this have to do with swaying the result of the election? The committee did not say. However, Cong. Adam Schiff (Calif.), the top Democrat on the committee, stated: “They sought to harness Americans’ very real frustrations and anger over sensitive political matters in order to influence American thinking, voting and behavior. The only way we can begin to inoculate ourselves against a future attack is to see first-hand the types of messages, themes and imagery the Russians used to divide us.”

Aha! So that’s it, dividing us! Imagine that – the American people, whom we all know are living in blissful harmony and fraternity without any noticeable anger or hatred toward each other, would become divided! Damn those Russkis!

Many of the Facebook postings were done well after the presidential election. That alone should have made the congressmen think that perhaps the ads had nothing to do with the US election, but that is not what they wanted to think.

This all lends credence to the suggestion that what actually lay behind the events was a so-called “click-bait” scheme wherein certain individuals earned money based on the number of times a particular website is accessed. The mastermind behind this scheme is reported to be a Russian named Yevgeny Prigozhin of the Internet Research Agency of St. Petersburg, which is referred to by the House committee as “Kremlin-sponsored”, without explanation.2

The organization has been named in an indictment issued by special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigating committee, but as the Washington Post reported: “The indictment does not accuse the Russian government of any involvement in the scheme, nor does it claim that it succeeded in swaying any votes.”3

In the new Cold War, as in the old one, the powers-that-be in America seldom miss an opportunity to make Russia look bad, even to the point of farce. Evidence is no longer required. Accusation is sufficient.

Another charming example of American exceptionalism

The Washington Post coverage of the football World Cup in Russia couldn’t allow all the joy and good vibes to go unchallenged, of course. So they found “a pipe worker named Alexander” who had a joke to tell: “An adviser comes to Putin and says, ‘I have good news and bad news. The good news is that you were elected president. The bad news is that no one voted for you.’”

Now let’s imagine an American adviser coming to President Trump and saying: “I have good news and bad news. The good news is that you were elected president. The bad news is that you didn’t get the most votes.”

This has now happened five times in the United States, five times that the “winner” received fewer popular votes than any of his opponents; this insult to democracy and common sense has now happened twice within the most recent five presidential elections.

And I find the worst news is that a year and a half after Trump’s election I haven’t heard or read a word of anyone in the US Congress or a state legislature who has taken the first step in the process of modifying the US Constitution to finally do away with the stupid, completely outmoded Electoral College system. If it’s such a good system, why doesn’t the United States use it for local and state elections? Why doesn’t it exist anywhere else in the world? Is it to be regarded as part of our beloved “American exceptionalism”?

The other “n” word is even more prohibited

The city of Seattle on June 12 voted to repeal a tax hike on large employers that it had instituted only weeks before. The new tax would have raised $48 million annually to combat Seattle’s homelessness and affordable-housing crisis. The Seattle area has the third-largest homeless population in the country.

The plan had passed the City Council unanimously but was fiercely opposed by Amazon.com and much of the city’s business community.

Many American cities are sincerely struggling to deal with this problem but are faced with similar insurmountable barriers. The leading causes of homelessness in the US are high rents and low salaries. A report released June 13 by the National Low Income Housing Coalition stated that there is nowhere in the country where someone working a full-time minimum-wage job could afford to rent a modest two-bedroom apartment. Not even in Arkansas, the state with the cheapest housing. More than 11.2 million families wind up spending more than half their paychecks on housing.4 How did America, “the glorious land of opportunity” wind up like this?

The cost of rent increases inexorably, year after year, regardless of tenants’ income. Any improvement in the system has to begin with a strong commitment to radically restraining, if not completely eliminating, the landlords’ profit motive. Otherwise nothing of any significance will change in society, and the capitalists who own the society – and their liberal apologists – can mouth one progressive-sounding platitude after another as their chauffeur drives them to the bank.

But to what extent can landlords be forced to accept significantly less in rents? Very little can be done. It’s the nature of the beast. Rent control in some American cities has slowed down the steady increases, but still leaving millions in constant danger of eviction or crippling deprivation. The only remaining solution is to “nationalize” real estate.

Eliminating the profit motive in various sectors, or all sectors, in American society would run into a lot less opposition than one might expect. Consciously or unconsciously it’s already looked down upon to a great extent by numerous individuals and institutions of influence. For example, judges frequently impose lighter sentences upon lawbreakers if they haven’t actually profited monetarily from their acts. And they forbid others from making a profit from their crimes by selling book or film rights, or interviews. It must further be kept in mind that the great majority of Americans, like people everywhere, do not labor for profit, but for a salary. The citizenry may have drifted even further away from the system than all this indicates, for American society seems to have more trust and respect for “non-profit” organizations than for the profit-seeking kind. Would the public be so generous with disaster relief if the Red Cross were a regular profit-making business? Would the Internal Revenue Service allow it to be tax-exempt? Why does the Post Office give cheaper rates to non-profits and lower rates for books and magazines which don’t contain advertising? For an AIDS test, do people feel more confident going to the Public Health Service or to a commercial laboratory? Why does “educational” or “public” television not have regular commercials? What would Americans think of peace-corps volunteers, elementary and high-school teachers, clergy, nurses, and social workers who demanded well in excess of $100 thousand per year? Would the public like to see churches competing with each other, complete with ad campaigns selling a New and Improved God? Why has American Airlines just declared “We have no desire to be associated with separating families, or worse, to profit from it.”

  1. See Mark Weisbrot, “Top Ten Ways You Can Tell Which Side The United States Government is On With Regard to the Military Coup in Honduras.” Also see William Blum, Killing Hope, chapters on Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador.
  2. Moon of Alabama, “Mueller Indictment – The ‘Russian Influence’ Is A Commercial Marketing Scheme”, February 17, 2018.
  3. Washington Post, June 23, 2018.
  4. Washington Post, June 9 and 16, 2018.

Trump Isn’t The Problem, He’s the Manifestation of America’s Id

Paul Krugman, professor of international trade and economics at Princeton University

The speed of America’s moral descent under Donald Trump is breathtaking. In a matter of months we’ve gone from a nation that stood for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to a nation that tears children from their parents and puts them in cages.
— Paul Krugman, New York Times column, June 21, 2018

conomist Paul Krugman is a smart Princeton professor who won a Nobel Prize, and most of what he says in this column is heartfelt, decent, and humane. His argument is relatively simple: since there is no present immigration crisis, there is no basis – practical, moral – no decent basis whatsoever for the current government’s inhumane, illegal, brutal treatment of immigrants and their children. In an apparently deliberate exercise of hatred and bigotry, the Trump administration is committing crimes against humanity.

That’s all quite true, quite obvious, and millions of people already recognize the government’s mindless cruelty for what it is – mindless cruelty that stimulates the mindlessly cruel base of Trump supporters from the cabinet on down.

But the way Krugman opens his column is mind-bogglingly delusional at best, dishonestly partisan at worst. Yes, “America’s moral descent under Donald Trump is breathtaking,” but not because of its speed. America’s moral descent has been with us from the beginning. America’s beginning was a struggle to ascend from the accepted moral order rooted in slave-holding authoritarianism, where inequality was God-given and women and children were property. The big difference between now and then is that then the angry white men making a revolution had enlightened ideals that were in conflict with the darker angels of their nature. The core dynamic of American history has always been the struggle between those who want to realize American ideals and those who don’t. The record is decidedly mixed, but the big victories mostly belong to the exploiters and killers. Trump is clearly in that line of descent.

Krugman asks us to believe that, in January 2017, America was “a nation that stood for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This is just a fantasy. These are words from the Declaration of Independence and have no weight in law that defines the nation. The preamble to the Constitution sets our national goals as a more perfect Union, Justice, domestic Tranquility, the common defence, general Welfare, and the Blessings of Liberty. In January 2017, our common defence was secure, except in the paranoid rantings of demagogues. Every other aspiration of the Constitution was in a shambles of long duration.

As he rose to the Presidency, Donald Trump was not so much a unique persona in triumph as he was the cobbled-together excrescence of more than 40 years of collective struggle by right-wing operatives trying to build their own fantasy of America, which Trump now embodies, perhaps imperfectly in the eyes of the idealist right. But he’s their Frankenstein creation and the rabble loves him, contradictory sewn-together bits and all.

Trumpenstein was a long time in the making, but one could see the first bits taking shape at least as early as Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign. The racist veins were pulsing clearly at the kick-off in Philadelphia, Mississippi, in quiet celebration of the lynching of the three civil rights workers, Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner, who went unmentioned. The racism of the right has only grown with race-based drug laws, race-populated prisons, race-based poverty, police executions, and on and on. The Clintons were shameful accomplices. No president since Reagan has dialed back American racism. Obama spoke eloquently about race, but that didn’t keep Republicans from racializing politics, much to the glee of the Tea Party, and Obama never pushed back effectively, instead becoming the deporter-in-chief after blessing the military coup in Honduras that later fed the immigration wave fleeing oppression and murder.

Yes, we are now officially “a nation that tears children from their parents and puts them in cages.” We are also a nation that took years to notice our official brutality to immigrants, especially asylum seekers, and most especially those seeking asylum from brutal dictatorships we nurture and support. American brutality on the border is hardly a serious departure from American brutality in Iraq or Vietnam or Korea or in nations of Native Americans where we took children and put them in cages we called Christian schools.

Krugman surely knows all this and more, so why won’t he see it or say it? It’s as if he’s drunk the kool-aid of American Exceptionalism and must deny anything not pre-blessed by our cultural cult. Republicans were rabid to impeach Clinton for lying about a blow-job, Democrats couldn’t even impeach Bush for lying us into war (a war we’ve yet to escape). Obama couldn’t even close Guantanamo, but he refused to prosecute the torturers, and now one of them runs the CIA. It’s taken America years of bipartisan betrayal to get where we are now, but how can we change if we can’t even say clearly and directly who we are and how we got this way?

Krugman is wholly justified in any moral outrage he may feel about the Trump administration, but he is not justified, morally or intellectually, in making Trump a scapegoat embodying longstanding American evils long promoted by the right with little opposition. Trump is a mirror for the country, and if the country doesn’t like what it sees, the country needs to change.

Canada Openly Seeking “Regime Change” in Venezuela

Is there no voice in Parliament willing to denounce Canadian interference in another country’s electoral process?

The Trudeau government is engaged in a wide-ranging campaign to weaken Venezuela’s elected government. In a bid to elicit “regime change,” Ottawa has worked to isolate Caracas, imposed sanctions, and supported the country’s opposition.

Recently, foreign minister Chrystia Freeland endorsed Peru’s decision to block Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro from attending the mid-April Summit of the Americas in Lima. “As Venezuela slides deeper into dictatorship, and as Venezuelans continue to suffer, Maduro’s participation at a hemispheric leaders’ summit would have been farcical,” Freeland noted. But, Freeland has no problem with the presence of Brazilian President Michel Temer, who doesn’t have any pretence of electoral legitimacy. Nor has she opposed the participation of Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernandez who defied that country’s constitution in running for a second term and then ‘won’ a highly questionable election.

Since the summer Freeland has participated in five meetings of the Lima Group, a collection of foreign ministers opposed to Venezuela’s elected government. As part of this initiative she declared that Canada wouldn’t recognize the upcoming presidential election. Two months ago she tweeted out that “we reject this decision by the Gov of Venezuela to call these elections, as they do not give a reasonable amount of time to ensure free and fair elections” and then three weeks later Canada’s foreign minister “demand[ed] that presidential elections be called with sufficient advance notice.” When the opposition and government agreed to push back the presidential election from April 22 to May 20, Freeland responded by tweeting “Maduro regime’s decision to postpone Venezuela’s elections until May changes nothing.”

Another demand Freeland has made of the Venezuelan authorities is that international observers be allowed to monitor the election. Yet, the Venezuelan government’s vocal request for UN observers has been opposed by the country’s opposition alliance. Behind the scenes the US is undoubtedly lobbying the international body to reject Caracas’ request.

(Notwithstanding the partisan attacks, Venezuela has among the world’s most efficient, secure and transparent electoral systems. In 2012 former US President and head of the Carter Center Jimmy Carter stated, “as a matter of fact, of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored, I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.”)

The third condition Freeland has imposed for respecting the election is “that all Venezuelan political players be included in the election.” But, the Maduro government doesn’t have the power to release those found guilty of crimes and repatriate political figures who have fled the country to avoid criminal charges.

Alongside its impossible-to-meet conditions, Canadian officials have prodded Caribbean countries to join its anti-Venezuela campaign. At a Jamaica-Canada bilateral consultation three weeks ago Canadian officials brought up Venezuela and earlier in the year Freeland tweeted that “Canada welcomes signatures by Saint Lucia & Guyana to Lima Group declaration.” Last month Freeland met Costa Rica’s vice minister of foreign affairs to discuss Venezuela and Canadian representatives were part of a recent session dealing with that country on the sidelines of a Group of 20 finance ministers meeting. Canadian officials are set to join an upcoming discussion of Venezuela called by US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Following Washington’s lead, Ottawa imposed two rounds of sanctions on Venezuelan officials in the Fall. Last week the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution condemning the economic sanctions the US, Canada and EU have adopted against Venezuela. It urged “states to refrain from imposing unilateral coercive measures (and) condemn(s) the continued unilateral application and enforcement by certain powers of such measures as tools of political or economic pressure.”

As I, Anthony Fenton, Neil A. Burron and others have detailed, Ottawa has supported opposition groups inside Venezuela. In August outgoing Canadian ambassador Ben Rowswell told the Ottawa Citizen: “We established quite a significant internet presence inside Venezuela, so that we could then engage tens of thousands of Venezuelan citizens in a conversation on human rights. We became one of the most vocal embassies in speaking out on human rights issues and encouraging Venezuelans to speak out.”

In line with its policy of amplifying oppositional voices, on March 7 the Canadian Embassy in Caracas gave a human rights prize to Francisco Valencia, director of the Coalición de Organizaciones por el Derecho a la Salud y la Vida (CODEVIDA). Numerous media outlets reported on the award given to an aggressive opponent of the Venezuelan government. “I believe that we are facing a criminal State”, Valencia told Crisis en Venezuela.

The Embassy’s human rights prize is co-sponsored with the Centro para la Paz y los Derechos Humanos. The director of that organization, Raúl Herrera, has repeatedly denounced the Venezuelan government. Six months ago Herrera said, “the Venezuelan State systematically and repeatedly violates the Human Rights of Venezuelans and political prisoners.”

Clearly Ottawa is guilty of interfering in the electoral process of Venezuela. When Russia has been accused of (a much more mild) form of intervention every party in Parliament is quick to condemn them.

Has the NDP become so tied into the American Empire that it cannot point out this obvious hypocrisy?

 

Shakespeare said it best

Much ado about nothing.

That’s the “Russian interference” in the 2016 American election.

A group of Russians operating from a building in St. Petersburg, we are told in a February 16 US government indictment, sent out tweets, Facebook and YouTube postings, etc. to gain support for Trump and hurt Clinton even though most of these messages did not even mention Trump or Clinton; and many were sent out before Trump was even a candidate.

The Russian-interference indictment is predicated, apparently, on the idea that the United States is a backward, Third-World, Banana Republic, easily manipulated.

If the Democrats think it’s so easy and so effective to sway voters in the United States why didn’t the party do better?

At times the indictment tells us that the online advertising campaign, led by the shadowy Internet Research Agency of Russia, was meant to divide the American people, not influence the 2016 election. The Russians supposedly wished to cause “divisiveness” in the American people, particularly around controversial issues such as immigration, politics, energy policy, climate change, and race. “The indictment alleges that the Russian conspirators want to promote discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in democracy,” said Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general overseeing the inquiry. “We must not allow them to succeed.”1

Imagine that – the American people, whom we all know are living in blissful harmony and fraternity without any noticeable anger or hatred, would become divided! Damn those Russkis!

After the election of Trump as president in November 2016, the defendants “used false U.S. personas to organize and coordinate U.S. political rallies in support of then president-elect Trump, while simultaneously using other false U.S. personas to organize and coordinate U.S. political rallies protesting the results of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”

The indictment also states that defendants in New York organized a demonstration designed to “show your support for President-Elect Donald Trump” held on or about November 12, 2016. At the same time, defendants and their co-conspirators, organized another rally in New York called “Trump is NOT my President”.

Much of the indictment and the news reports of the past year are replete with such contradictions, lending credence to the suggestion that what actually lay behind the events was a “click-bait” scheme wherein certain individuals earned money based on the number of times a particular website is accessed. The mastermind behind this scheme is reported to be a Russian named Yevgeny Prigozhin of the above-named Internet Research Agency, which is named in the indictment.2

The Russian operation began four years ago, well before Trump entered the presidential race, a fact that he quickly seized on in his defense. “Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for President,” he wrote on Twitter. “The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong – no collusion!”

Point 95 of the Indictment summarizes the “click-bait” scheme as follows:

Defendants and their co-conspirators also used the accounts to receive money from real U.S. persons in exchange for posting promotions and advertisements on the ORGANIZATION-controlled social media pages. Defendants and their co-conspirators typically charged certain U.S. merchants and U.S. social media sites between 25 and 50 U.S. dollars per post for promotional content on their popular false U.S. persona accounts, including Being Patriotic, Defend the 2nd, and Blacktivist.

Although there’s no doubt that the Kremlin favored Trump over Clinton, the whole “Russian influence” storm may be based on a misunderstanding of commercial activities of a Russian marketing company in US social networks.

Here’s some Real interference in election campaigns

[Slightly abridged version of chapter 18 in William Blum’s Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower; see it for notes]

Philippines, 1950s:

Flagrant manipulation by the CIA of the nation’s political life, featuring stage-managed elections with extensive disinformation campaigns, heavy financing of candidates, writing their speeches, drugging the drinks of one of the opponents of the CIA-supported candidate so he would appear incoherent; plotting the assassination of another candidate. The oblivious New York Times declared that “It is not without reason that the Philippines has been called “democracy’s showcase in Asia”.

Italy, 1948-1970s:

Multifarious campaigns to repeatedly sabotage the electoral chances of the Communist Party and ensure the election of the Christian Democrats, long-favored by Washington.

Lebanon, 1950s:

The CIA provided funds to support the campaigns of President Camille Chamoun and selected parliamentary candidates; other funds were targeted against candidates who had shown less than total enchantment with US interference in Lebanese politics.

Indonesia, 1955:

A million dollars were dispensed by the CIA to a centrist coalition’s electoral campaign in a bid to cut into the support for President Sukarno’s party and the Indonesian Communist Party.

Vietnam, 1955:

The US was instrumental in South Vietnam canceling the elections scheduled to unify North and South because of the certainty that the North Vietnamese communist leader, Ho Chi Minh, would easily win.

British Guiana/Guyana, 1953-64:

For 11 years, two of the oldest democracies in the world, Great Britain and the United States, went to great lengths to prevent Cheddi Jagan – three times the democratically elected leader – from occupying his office. Using a wide variety of tactics – from general strikes and disinformation to terrorism and British legalisms – the US and Britain forced Jagan out of office twice during this period.

Japan, 1958-1970s:

The CIA emptied the US treasury of millions to finance the conservative Liberal Democratic Party in parliamentary elections, “on a seat-by-seat basis”, while doing what it could to weaken and undermine its opposition, the Japanese Socialist Party. The 1961-63 edition of the State Department’s annual Foreign Relations of the United States, published in 1996, includes an unprecedented disclaimer that, because of material left out, a committee of distinguished historians thinks “this published compilation does not constitute a ‘thorough, accurate, and reliable documentary record of major United States foreign policy decisions’” as required by law. The deleted material involved US actions from 1958-1960 in Japan, according to the State Department’s historian.

Nepal, 1959:

By the CIA’s own admission, it carried out an unspecified “covert action” on behalf of B.P. Koirala to help his Nepali Congress Party win the national parliamentary election. It was Nepal’s first national election ever, and the CIA was there to initiate them into the wonderful workings of democracy.

Laos, 1960:

CIA agents stuffed ballot boxes to help a hand-picked strongman, Phoumi Nosavan, set up a pro-American government.

Brazil, 1962:

The CIA and the Agency for International Development expended millions of dollars in federal and state elections in support of candidates opposed to leftist President João Goulart, who won anyway.

Dominican Republic, 1962:

In October 1962, two months before election day, US Ambassador John Bartlow Martin got together with the candidates of the two major parties and handed them a written notice, in Spanish and English, which he had prepared. It read in part: “The loser in the forthcoming election will, as soon as the election result is known, publicly congratulate the winner, publicly recognize him as the President of all the Dominican people, and publicly call upon his own supporters to so recognize him. … Before taking office, the winner will offer Cabinet seats to members of the loser’s party. (They may decline).”

As matters turned out, the winner, Juan Bosch, was ousted in a military coup seven months later, a slap in the face of democracy which neither Martin nor any other American official did anything about.

Guatemala, 1963:

The US overthrew the regime of General Miguel Ydigoras because he was planning to step down in 1964, leaving the door open to an election; an election that Washington feared would be won by the former president, liberal reformer and critic of US foreign policy, Juan José Arévalo. Ydigoras’s replacement made no mention of elections.

Bolivia, 1966:

The CIA bestowed $600,000 upon President René Barrientos and lesser sums to several right-wing parties in a successful effort to influence the outcome of national elections. Gulf Oil contributed two hundred thousand more to Barrientos.

Chile, 1964-70:

Major US interventions into national elections in 1964 and 1970, and congressional elections in the intervening years. Socialist Salvador Allende fell victim in 1964, but won in 1970 despite a multimillion-dollar CIA operation against him. The Agency then orchestrated his downfall in a 1973 military coup.

Portugal, 1974-5:

In the years following the coup in 1974 by military officers who talked like socialists, the CIA revved up its propaganda machine while funneling many millions of dollars to support “moderate” candidates, in particular Mario Soares and his (so-called) Socialist Party. At the same time, the Agency enlisted social-democratic parties of Western Europe to provide further funds and support to Soares. It worked. The Socialist Party became the dominant power.

Australia, 1974-75:

Despite providing considerable support for the opposition, the United States failed to defeat the Labor Party, which was strongly against the US war in Vietnam and CIA meddling in Australia. The CIA then used “legal” methods to unseat the man who won the election, Edward Gough Whitlam.

Jamaica, 1976:

A CIA campaign to defeat social democrat Michael Manley’s bid for reelection, featuring disinformation, arms shipments, labor unrest, economic destabilization, financial support for the opposition, and attempts upon Manley’s life. Despite it all, he was victorious.

Panama, 1984, 1989:

In 1984, the CIA helped finance a highly questionable presidential electoral victory for one of Manuel Noriega’s men. The opposition cried “fraud”, but the new president was welcomed at the White House. By 1989, Noriega was no longer a Washington favorite, so the CIA provided more than $10 million dollars to his electoral opponents.

Nicaragua, 1984, 1990:

In 1984, the United States, trying to discredit the legitimacy of the Sandinista government’s scheduled election, covertly persuaded the leading opposition coalition to not take part. A few days before election day, some other rightist parties on the ballot revealed that US diplomats had been pressing them to drop out of the race as well. The CIA also tried to split the Sandinista leadership by placing phoney full-page ads in neighboring countries. But the Sandinistas won handily in a very fair election monitored by hundreds of international observers.

Six years later, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), Washington’s specially created stand-in for the CIA, poured in millions of dollars to defeat Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas in the February elections. NED helped organize the Nicaraguan opposition, UNO, building up the parties and organizations that formed and supported this coalition.

Perhaps most telling of all, the Nicaraguan people were made painfully aware that a victory by the Sandinistas would mean a continuation of the relentlessly devastating war being waged against them by Washington through their proxy army, the Contras.

Haiti, 1987-1988:

After the Duvalier dictatorship came to an end in 1986, the country prepared for its first free elections ever. However, Haiti’s main trade union leader declared that Washington was working to undermine the left. US aid organizations, he said, were encouraging people in the countryside to identify and reject the entire left as “communist”. Meanwhile, the CIA was involved in a range of support for selected candidates until the US Senate Intelligence Committee ordered the Agency to cease its covert electoral action.

Bulgaria, 1990-1991 and Albania, 1991-1992:

With no regard for the fragility of these nascent democracies, the US interfered broadly in their elections and orchestrated the ousting of their elected socialist governments.

Russia, 1996:

For four months (March-June), a group of veteran American political consultants worked secretly in Moscow in support of Boris Yeltsin’s presidential campaign. Boris Yeltsin was being counted on to run with the globalized-free market ball and it was imperative that he cross the goal line. The Americans emphasized sophisticated methods of message development, polling, focus groups, crowd staging, direct-mailing, etc., and advised against public debates with the Communists. Most of all they encouraged the Yeltsin campaign to “go negative” against the Communists, painting frightening pictures of what the Communists would do if they took power, including much civic upheaval and violence, and, of course, a return to the worst of Stalinism. Before the Americans came on board, Yeltsin was favored by only six percent of the electorate. In the first round of voting, he edged the Communists 35 percent to 32, and was victorious in the second round 54 to 40 percent.

Mongolia, 1996:

The National Endowment for Democracy worked for several years with the opposition to the governing Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRR, the former Communists) who had won the 1992 election to achieve a very surprising electoral victory. In the six-year period leading up to the 1996 elections, NED spent close to a million dollars in a country with a population of some 2.5 million, the most significant result of which was to unite the opposition into a new coalition, the National Democratic Union. Borrowing from Newt Gingrich’s Contract With America, the NED drafted a “Contract With the Mongolian Voter”, which called for private property rights, a free press and the encouragement of foreign investment. The MPRR had already instituted Western-style economic reforms, which had led to widespread poverty and wiped out much of the communist social safety net. But the new government promised to accelerate the reforms, including the privatization of housing. By 1998 it was reported that the US National Security Agency had set up electronic listening posts in Outer Mongolia to intercept Chinese army communications, and the Mongolian intelligence service was using nomads to gather intelligence in China itself.

Bosnia, 1998:

Effectively an American protectorate, with Carlos Westendorp – the Spanish diplomat appointed to enforce Washington’s offspring: the 1995 Dayton peace accords – as the colonial Governor-General. Before the September elections for a host of offices, Westendorp removed 14 Croatian candidates from the ballot because of alleged biased coverage aired in Bosnia by neighboring Croatia’s state television and politicking by ethnic Croat army soldiers. After the election, Westendorp fired the elected president of the Bosnian Serb Republic, accusing him of creating instability. In this scenario those who appeared to support what the US and other Western powers wished were called “moderates”, and allowed to run for and remain in office. Those who had other thoughts were labeled “hard-liners”, and ran the risk of a different fate. When Westendorp was chosen to assume this position of “high representative” in Bosnia in May 1997, The Guardian of London wrote that “The US secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, praised the choice. But some critics already fear that Mr. Westendorp will prove too lightweight and end up as a cipher in American hands.”

Nicaragua, 2001

Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega was once again a marked man. US State Department officials tried their best to publicly associate him with terrorism, including just after September 11 had taken place, and to shamelessly accuse Sandinista leaders of all manner of violations of human rights, civil rights, and democracy. The US ambassador literally campaigned for Ortega’s opponent, Enrique Bolaños. A senior analyst in Nicaragua for Gallup, the international pollsters, was moved to declare: “Never in my whole life have I seen a sitting ambassador get publicly involved in a sovereign country’s electoral process, nor have I ever heard of it.”

At the close of the campaign, Bolaños announced: “If Ortega comes to power, that would provoke a closing of aid and investment, difficulties with exports, visas and family remittances. I’m not just saying this. The United States says this, too. We cannot close our eyes and risk our well-being and work. Say yes to Nicaragua, say no to terrorism.”

In the end, the Sandinistas lost the election by about ten percentage points after steadily leading in the polls during much of the campaign.

Bolivia, 2002

The American bête noire here was Evo Morales, Amerindian, former member of Congress, socialist, running on an anti-neoliberal, anti-big business, and anti-coca eradication campaign. The US Ambassador declared: “The Bolivian electorate must consider the consequences of choosing leaders somehow connected with drug trafficking and terrorism.” Following September 11, painting Officially Designated Enemies with the terrorist brush was de rigueur US foreign policy rhetoric.

The US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs warned that American aid to the country would be in danger if Mr. Morales was chosen. Then the ambassador and other US officials met with key figures from Bolivia’s main political parties in an effort to shore up support for Morales’s opponent, Sanchez de Lozada. Morales lost the vote.

Slovakia, 2002

To defeat Vladimir Meciar, former prime minister, a man who did not share Washington’s weltanschauung about globalization, the US ambassador explicitly warned the Slovakian people that electing him would hurt their chances of entry into the European Union and NATO. The US ambassador to NATO then arrived and issued his own warning. The National Endowment for Democracy was also on hand to influence the election. Meciar lost.

El Salvador, 2004

Washington’s target in this election was Schafik Handal, candidate of the FMLN, the leftist former guerrilla group. He said he would withdraw El Salvador’s 380 troops from Iraq as well as reviewing other pro-US policies; he would also take another look at the privatizations of Salvadoran industries, and would reinstate diplomatic relations with Cuba. His opponent was Tony Saca of the incumbent Arena Party, a pro-US, pro-free market organization of the extreme right, which in the bloody civil war days had featured death squads and the infamous assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero.

During a February visit to the country, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, met with all the presidential candidates except Handal. He warned of possible repercussions in US-Salvadoran relations if Handal were elected. Three Republican congressmen threatened to block the renewal of annual work visas for some 300,000 Salvadorans in the United States if El Salvador opted for the FMLN. And Congressman Thomas Tancredo of Colorado stated that if the FMLN won, “it could mean a radical change” in US policy on remittances to El Salvador.

Washington’s attitude was exploited by Arena and the generally conservative Salvadoran press, who mounted a scare campaign, and it became widely believed that a Handal victory could result in mass deportations of Salvadorans from the United States and a drop in remittances. Arena won the election with about 57 percent of the vote to some 36 percent for the FMLN.

After the election, the US ambassador declared that Washington’s policies concerning immigration and remittances had nothing to do with any election in El Salvador. There appears to be no record of such a statement being made in public before the election when it might have had a profound positive effect for the FMLN.

Afghanistan, 2004

The US ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, went around putting great pressure on one candidate after another to withdraw from the presidential race so as to insure the victory for Washington’s man, the incumbent, Hamid Karzai in the October election. There was nothing particularly subtle about it. Khalilzad told each one what he wanted and then asked them what they needed. Karzai, a long-time resident in the United States, was described by the Washington Post as “a known and respected figure at the State Department and National Security Council and on Capitol Hill.”

“Our hearts have been broken because we thought we could have beaten Mr. Karzai if this had been a true election,” said Sayed Mustafa Sadat Ophyani, campaign manager for Younis Qanooni, Karzai’s leading rival. “But it is not. Mr. Khalilzad is putting a lot of pressure on us and does not allow us to fight a good election campaign.”.

None of the major candidates actually withdrew from the election, which Karzai won with about 56 percent of the votes.

The Cold War Forever

On March 7 British police said that a former Russian double agent, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury, a city southwest of London. The police said that Skripal had been “targeted specifically” with a nerve agent. Skripal was jailed in Russia in 2006 for passing state secrets to Britain. He was released in 2010 as part of a spy swap.

Because nerve agents are complex to make, they are typically not made by individuals, but rather by states. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has said that the Skripal case had “echoes” of what happened to Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB Operative who British officials believe was poisoned in London by Russian agents in 2006, becoming the first victim of lethal polonium-210-induced acute radiation syndrome. Before he died, he spoke about the misdeeds of the Russian secret service and delivered public deathbed accusations that Russian president Vladimir Putin was behind his unusual malady.

Because of this the Skripal poisoning looks like an open-and-shut case.

But hold on. Skripal was sent to Britain by the Russian government eight years ago in an exchange of spies. Why would they want to kill him now, and with Putin’s election coming up? And with the quadrennial football (soccer) World Cup coming up soon to be played in Russia. Moscow is very proud of this, publicizing it every day on their international television stations (RT in the US). A murder like this could surely put a serious damper on the Moscow festivities. Boris Johnson has already dropped a threat: “Thinking ahead to the World Cup this July, this summer, I think it would be very difficult to imagine that UK representation at that event could go ahead in the normal way and we would certainly have to consider that.”3 It was totally predictable.

Because political opposition is weak, and no obvious threat to the ruling United Russia Party, what would the government gain by an assassination of an opposition figure?

So if Russia is not responsible for Skripal’s poisoning, who is? Well, I have an idea. I can’t give you the full name of the guilty party, but its initials are CIA. US-Russian Cold Wars produce unmitigated animosity. As but one example, the United States boycotted the Olympics that were held in the Soviet Union in 1980, because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Soviet Union then boycotted the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Ideology and Evolution

New York Times editorial page editor James Bennet recently declared: “I think we are pro-capitalism. The New York Times is in favor of capitalism because it has been the greatest engine of, it’s been the greatest anti-poverty program and engine of progress that we’ve seen.”4 The man is correct as far as he goes. But there are two historical factors that enter into this discussion that he fails to consider:

    1. Socialism may well have surpassed capitalism as an anti-poverty program and engine of progress if the United States and other capitalist powers had not subverted, destabilized, invaded, and/or overthrown every halfway serious attempt at socialism in the world. Not one socialist-oriented government, from Cuba and Vietnam in the 1960s, to Nicaragua and Chile in the 1970s, to Bulgaria and Yugoslavia in the 1990s, to Haiti and Venezuela in the 2000s has been allowed to rise or fall based on its own merits or lack of same, or allowed to relax its guard against the ever-threatening capital imperialists.
    2. Evolution: Social and economic systems have evolved along with human beings. Humankind has roughly gone from slavery to feudalism to capitalism. There’s no reason to assume that this evolution has come to a grinding halt, particularly given the deep-seated needs of the world in the face of one overwhelming problem after another, most caused by putting profit before people.
  1. New York Times, February 16, 2018.
  2. Mueller Indictment – The “Russian Influence” Is A Commercial Marketing Scheme,” Moon of Alabama, February 17, 2018.
  3. The Independent (London), March 6, 2018.
  4. Huffington Post, February 27, 2018.

US State Department no Longer wants Elections in Venezuela

Anti-imperialist mural in Caracas (Photo: Venezuelanalysis)

With presidential elections announced in Venezuela, the US State Department moved quickly to declare that the contest was illegitimate and that its results would not be recognised. But less than a year ago the tune was quite different, as a cursory look through State Department briefings and press releases will show. We also examine how political developments from the past year have led to the current scenario, and how US demands for “free and fair” elections are not only arrogant and hypocritical but also misleading.

*****

We begin by taking a look at what the US State Department was constantly saying less than a year ago. We could equally document the statements of the OAS and its secretary Luis Almagro, the Venezuelan opposition, US-allied regional governments, or the mainstream media. But it is easier to just go to the source. Sadly, when it comes to Venezuela, none of the mainstream actors and media will deviate from the State Department.

As violent opposition protests raged on in the Spring of 2017, there were repeated calls for immediate elections:

“President Maduro […] should hold elections as soon as possible.” (March 29)

“We call for the government of Venezuela to […] hold elections as soon as possible” (March 30)

“We […] echo the Venezuelan people’s calls for prompt elections” (April 10)

“We call again upon the Government of Venezuela to […] hold prompt elections” (April 18)

“It’s the Venezuelan people who should decide Venezuela’s future, which is why we once again call on the Venezuelan authorities to promptly hold free, fair, and transparent elections.” (May 2)

“…what people are asking for today, which is for national presidential elections to restore legitimacy to whomever might rule Venezuela moving forward.” (May 30)

“The United States has joined with a growing number of courageous 1 democracies in our region to urge the Venezuelan Government to hold free elections” (June 20)          

US officials were adamant that elections were the only legitimate way forward.

“How is legitimacy defined in a democracy? Through elections.” (May 30)

“At the end of the day, it’s all about consensus. It’s about finding a way forward for Venezuelans to depolarize their situation, and the best way to do that is through elections.” (May 30)

“Venezuela needs consensus. It needs a genuine consensus or at least a legitimate path forward. That’s what elections provide.” (June 19)

So what happened since then to make the US no longer believe that elections should be held tomorrow? Maduro made a bold gambit of calling elections for a Constituent Assembly to solve the country’s problems. The Venezuelan opposition decided not to participate and vowed to stop those elections from taking place. They miserably failed, and on July 30 over 8 million people voted in what was a remarkable show of strength by chavismo.

From that point both the opposition and the US were trapped, unable to move on from their blunder. And soon cracks started to open. After months of violent protests claiming that the “dictatorship” was about to be overthrown, the opposition then turned to its supporters and asked them to go and vote in regional elections. The result was a disaster, with chavismo winning 18 out of 23 states. The opposition could not muster more than the usual vacuous claims of fraud, and then (mostly) boycotted the December municipal elections, which resulted in a chavista sweep of over 90% of the municipalities.

With the political momentum on its side, the government decided to schedule presidential elections for April 22. According to Jorge Rodríguez, head of the government’s delegation in the Dominican Republic dialogue, this date was agreed with the opposition MUD representatives. But with opposition figures more discredited than ever the US decided to pre-emptively unrecognise the vote, simply because an opposition victory is far from guaranteed.Henri Falcón registering his candidacy with the electoral authorities (Photo: Correo del Orinoco)

In the end the main opposition parties followed suit in boycotting the election, but former Lara governor Henri Falcón broke ranks and registered as a candidate. The MUD promptly expelled him, and the US allegedly threatened him with sanctions to stop him from running. Ironically, as a former chavista, Falcón might be the ideal “moderate” opposition candidate to attract the votes of disaffected chavistas. But the imperial masters are past hedging their bets, they are all-in for regime change.

After talks with Falcón and the forces backing him, the vote was postponed to May 20. The MUD doubled down on their position that “there are no opposition candidates” in this election, and up to now there has been no reaction from the State Department. At the same time it is hard to read this as anything but a move to further sideline the MUD after they backed out of the dialogue to stick to the hardline coming from Washington.

“Free and fair” elections

We should also take a moment to refute the US assertions about elections not being “free and fair” and the presence of international observers. The “free and fair” demand means to discredit all previous electoral processes, whose results did not please the US. Nevertheless, as many people outside the mainstream media have explained, the Venezuelan voting system is as hard to fool as it gets. In all the elections where the opposition decided to take part they got to place their observers in every voting centre. Tens of thousands of audits took place to match the electronic and paper tallies, witnessed and approved by these opposition observers, and there has not been a single allegation of tampering with the vote count.2

We could argue that the government makes use of state resources in its political campaigns. While this would hardly be exclusive to Venezuela, we should contend that the opposition has also made use of government resources, they just happened to come from the US government through its array of NED and USAID “democracy promoting”, “civil society building” programs, and that is just the overt part of it. Complaints about media coverage are also absurd when private media has the largest share of viewership and circulation and is overwhelmingly against the government, to say nothing about international media.

The demand for international monitoring is, at best, very dishonest from the State Department. First of all, despite the opposition walking away at the 11th hour, Maduro vowed to implement what had been agreed in the Dominican Republic dialogue, which included an open invitation for international observers to come to Venezuela for the upcoming election.

But that is not to say that previous elections did not have international observers. Organisations such as the Latin American Council of Electoral Experts (CEELA) have been present and endorsed the procedures, as well as other observers from multiple countries, Latin American and otherwise. The problem is that they do not dance to the tune of the US State Department.

Opposition leader Julio Borges and OAS secretary General Luis Almagro (Photo: Primero Justicia)

It is absurd to claim that the presence of the OAS is a boost for fairness and transparency. We do not even have to look very far, just take the recent elections in Honduras. Massive, documented fraud allowed Juan Orlando Hernández to revert what was an irreversible trend in favour of his opponent. Having the US empire on your side will allow you to overrule statistics. This was so blatant that even the OAS and EU missions had to raise questions. But in the end Hernández was declared the winner, the State Department gave its approval and all these champions of democracy fell in line.

An even more shameful event took place in the Haiti presidential election of 2011. After the first round, the US (through the OAS), simply ordered the Haitian authorities to advance Michel Martelly to the second round, despite him not being one of the two most voted in the first round. They threatened to cut off all aid if this did not happen. So when these officials talk about the OAS as some guarantor of decency, not even they believe it themselves.

Democracy and elections

A small digression: we do not mean to equate democracy with elections like US officials constantly do in the above statements. The Venezuelan leaders have on occasion also fallen for this reductionism. Whether they believe it or not, it is the most obvious way to expose the western hypocrisy on the matter.

This reduction of democracy to voting has been one of the biggest triumphs of capitalist hegemony. People are effectively convinced that their entire political participation should be the single act of marking a cross on a ballot every 4 or 5 years. Politics is thus detached from the rest of society and “commodified” like everything else in capitalism, with campaigns becoming mere advertising shows and the wealthiest literally buying their influence.

The Bolivarian Revolution is revolutionary precisely because it challenged the inevitability of representative politics and opened new spaces for protagonist, participatory democratic experiments. From the communes to workers councils, even to the constituent processes, and despite the natural contradictions that have emerged, we have seen an expansion of democracy in its literal sense – popular power.

President Maduro registered his candidacy surrounded by thousands of supporters (Photo: Venezuelan Ministry for Communications and Information)

Hands Off Venezuela!

In the end it seems like the ideal scenario for the US would be something like the Yemeni model: a single, US-backed candidate on the ballot. With elections coming up this year in key US allied countries (Brazil, Colombia and Mexico), all of which have the potential to bring to power someone less friendly to US interests, the US cannot afford a defeat in Venezuela.

These arrogant, imperial demands that the Venezuelan elections should satisfy are just meant to provide cover for the growing threats and aggression against Venezuela, and the uncritical echo chamber that the media has become on this matter is a crucial asset. With suggestions of an upcoming oil embargo against Venezuela, at this point the goal is clearly to impose as much suffering as possible on the Venezuelans in order to topple the government.

For all its lofty rhetoric, the State Department is not looking out for the well-being of the Venezuelan people. Neither are its Venezuelan and regional puppets, nor the mainstream media, whose positions are simply State Department communiques with make-up. Standing up to these shameless imperialist attacks is essential if we wish to stand in solidarity with the Venezuelan poor and working-class, allowing them to freely choose their path, both in the upcoming elections and beyond.

• First published in Investig’Action

  1. “Courageous” is not the first adjective that comes to mind regarding lapdogs.
  2. A possible exception is the gubernatorial race in the state of Bolívar last October, where some electoral acts were circulated on social media showing a mismatch with regard to the electronic totals in the CNE website. But, perhaps because it would undermine the other constant claims of fraud, the opposition did not press the case.

U.S. Mainstream Media: Empire’s Tool

The U.S. mainstream media has an important role to play as the fourth estate. Sometimes it does an excellent job of informing the public on issues, particularly on many social issues. However, the mainstream media long ago abrogated its responsibility of accurately informing the public about U.S. foreign policy. Instead it has become a tool to advance the interests advocated by the U.S. establishment, particularly the goal to maintain U.S. hegemony.

U.S. Foreign Policy Rationale

George Kennan, a major foreign policy figure after WWII, wrote a policy memo for the State Department in 1948 stating:

Furthermore, we have about 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3 of its population. This disparity is particularly great as between ourselves and the peoples of Asia. In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships, which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and daydreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world benefaction…

The numbers are different today, but Kennan’s point is still valid. Our leaders today try to advance U.S. banking and corporate interests by maintaining the obscene inequity Kennan identified. At the same time, our leaders strive to convince the U.S. and foreign populations that our interventions are done with good intentions, that is, in the name of advancing free-market democracy, human rights or self defending, that is, protecting the U.S. against foreign threats. The mainstream media seem to view its job as spinning these interventions to reinforce the government’s version.

Iraq

For example, many of us remember how the George W. Bush administration and our leading media misled the public over Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction. This was the government’s stated reason for attacking Iraq, but the control of Iraq’s large oil resources was one key reason for the attack. These false WMD allegations led to a major U.S. war crime and the devastation of Iraq. The media has since downplayed how this war crime led to the creation of ISIS and the continued slaughter of innocents in the Middle East.

Iran

Lesser remembered is how the compromised mainstream media again cooperated with the Bush administration in attempting to generate support for an attack on Iran, another nation with huge oil resources. The same spurious claim of an active nuclear weapons program was put forth. Fortunately the U.S.  intelligence community finally stood up for the truth and undercut support for an attack despite strong Israeli pressure for it. However, this revelation of no active Iranian program has not prevented the continued attempt by many politicians, supported by several leading truth-challenged media pundits and the Israeli lobby and Saudi money, to sway U.S. public opinion to be in favor of an attack.

In addition, in an additional effort to justify an attack on Iran, numerous U.S. political officials and pundits claim that Iran is the foremost state sponsor of terrorism. These shameful officials and pundits ignore Saudi Arabia and its support for terrorists. For example, a 2009 State Department cable stated: “Still, donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.” I guess the out for Saudi Arabia is that it’s private donors providing the funding instead of the Saudi government.

Honduras

The media is also playing its role in Honduras and Venezuela. Since the U.S. currently backs the Honduran government, a government that came to power after a military coup in 2009, the media downplays horrific violations of international law and human rights there. For example, although the UN General Assembly, the Organization of American States, and the European Union all condemned the 2009 coup, the U.S. wouldn’t officially declare it a coup and actually continued military aid. In addition, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton kept the democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya from being returned to office.

The result of the coup has been a large increase in violence and human rights abuses by this U.S. ally. Government actions include the killings of labor and environmental activists, peasants, reporters and opposition politicians. Crime has grown massively and many people have fled in fear of their lives. Poverty also increased dramatically while the wealthy profited.

Now it appears that the current incumbent Honduran President, Juan Orlando Hernandez, stole the November 2017 presidential election. OAS representatives independently monitored the election and found widespread irregularities, doubted the validity of the outcome, and called for a new election. Unsurprisingly, the U.S. accepted the results from an election group dominated by Hernandez’s supporters that gave Hernandez the victory. Instead of providing in-depth coverage and challenging the U.S. position on Honduras since the 2009 coup, the media continued its focus on Venezuela.

Venezuela

Hugo Chávez was elected President of Venezuela in 1998. He implemented social programs that greatly expanded access to food, housing, health care and education, benefiting a large majority of the population. Chávez used some of Venezuela’s vast oil and gas wealth to fund these expansions. This Chávez decision, along with his warm relations with Cuba and unwillingness to support a number of U.S. positions, caused him to be viewed as a threat to the U.S.-led neo-liberal system.

In 2002, Venezuelan business leaders and some of the military staged a coup against Chávez. True to form, the U.S. failed to condemn the coup. Predictably, the New York Times editorialized in support of the coup. Chávez ‘s supporters and the military quickly rallied and forced the restoration of Chávez and democracy.

The U.S. mainstream media continues its campaign against the Venezuelan democracy while trying to convince the U.S. population that we are supporting democracy. Contrary to the mainstream media, William Blum wrote the following after the restoration of Chávez: Or as Monty Python legend, Terry Jones, put it: Chávez was ousted in “a free and fair democratic coup, only to be returned to office two days later on what seems to have been little more than the whim of the people.”

After the failed coup, the U.S. resorted to economic and political warfare to undercut Venezuelan democracy just as it had done in Chile against the democratically-elected Salvador Allende government. It has been almost 16 years since the failed coup against Chávez  and the U.S. funded opposition still hasn’t ousted the government.

U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson recently said a military coup is possible, although adding the U.S. isn’t specifically advocating for regime change. Instead, he hoped Nicolas Maduro, the democratically elected successor to Chávez, would voluntarily step down. Note that Venezuela, falsely labeled a dictatorship, will hold another presidential election this April. I hope there will not be another coup attempt, abetted by neighboring foreign forces and the U.S., before then.

Blatant Hypocrisy

All of this discussion ignores the mainstream media’s two greatest successes, that is, avoiding any in-depth consideration of violations of international law and human rights by Israel and the U.S. itself. The U.S. mainstream media portrays Israel as the victim of Palestinian terrorism while ignoring Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and continuing widespread oppression and state terrorism against Palestinians. The media also ignores the elephant in the room, U.S. crimes. As a result of media’s slavish complicity, most of the U.S. public has little idea about how terribly illegal, unjust and violent U.S. foreign policy really is.

Clearly the U.S. is hypocritical in its foreign policy positions and the mainstream media is generally polite enough not to point this out.