Category Archives: John McCain

As World Burns, Half US Population Chronically Ill . . .

Stealing Life with the Big Bad Retail King — One-third of All Buying Transactions 

Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls.
Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing;
‘Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.

— Iago, Shakespeare’s Othello

It’s more than disconcerting to hear the blathering now, September 2018, about Jeff Bezos. About Amazon dot com as richest company ever. To hear the fawning love of the rich guy, now, when we were predicting a slave master killing publishing, killing independence; news reports and tribute after tribute for this full-fledged Midas of tax cheating, our homegrown monopolist of the highest order, anti-American who gives a shit about main street America, a misanthropic fake news purveyor, a full-bore felonious PT Barnum and smoke and mirrors double shuffle guy who thinks of his tens upon tens of thousands of warehouse workers as spindles, interchangeable parts, and to hell with their precarity, their one nose-bleed from homelessness.

This is a time of same sides of the coin of the realm: the conservative and the liberal, the War-Mongering Democratic Party drooling at the McCain fiasco and the Sycophantic Zio-Christo Republicans confused about who is going to own what while scampering away like rats into the alleys as the headlights of their narcissist-in-chief blowtorches the world.

The most important characteristics of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) are grandiosity, seeking excessive admiration, and a lack of empathy. These identifying features can result in a negative impact on an individual’s interpersonal affairs and life general. In most cases, on the exterior, these patients act with an air of right and control, dismissing others, and frequently showcasing condescending or denigrating attitudes. Nevertheless, internally, these patients battle with strong feelings of low self esteem issues and inadequacy. Even though the typical NPD patient may achieve great achievements, ultimately their functioning in society can be affected as these characteristics interfere with both personal and professional relationships. A large part of this is as result of the NPD patient being incapable of receiving disapproval or rebuff of any kind, in addition to the fact that the NPD patient typically exhibits lack of empathy and overall disrespect for others.**

** Note that NPD runs through the DNA of these ministers like Jimmy Swaggart or Billy-Franklin Graham, through the family RNA of so-called royalty of the world, in the brain chemistry of the likes of a Henry Kissinger or Adolph Hitler, in the hypothalamus of fruit-salad bedecked generals and in the frontal cortex of all great and not-so-great thespians, from politicos to actors.

Moreover, this Bezos, our great Albuquerque-born plumbing showroom huckster peddling absolutely all the stuff we do not need piled up in his fulfillment centers, represents those two sides of the same coin: powerful, libertarian, ruthless and spirit-less, driven to conquer/distribute/hawk all the stuff in any sort of catalog that exists out there to fulfill the needs and mostly not so necessary junk of obsolescence and consumer addiction. A cold anti-philanthropy multi-billionaire, whose net worth of $160.7 billion is headline news now as the TV clowns present the Top Five, Top Ten/Twenty diligently, Bezos is the top of the dung heap according to another rag with all the news unfit (for humanity) to print . . .

. . . Who is the richest person in the world? While Forbes updates their list of the world’s billionaires in real time as markets fluctuate, the magazine also releases a more static list each year. The total net worth of these money-makers when the 2018 list was released in March was $7.67 trillion. Click through to see 2018’s top 20 richest billionaires on the planet.

forbes-cover-03-31-2018.jpg

With his company — which epitomizes the heights of death star techie logic, next gen robotics, drones, massive crisscrossing of products through a digital satellite-fed network of Prime Time orders — Bezos has continually kicked out with the help of Seattle PD we protesters with one share of his shit stock at shareholder meetings protesting his sadism around refusing to air condition fulfillment centers while instead putting rent-an-ambulances outside the doors! Oh, this economic disruptor of small and large businesses, all part of that gift of unfettered homicidal capitalism a la retail conglomeration, is reviled, hated, but will be the big section in those econ books from many years to come.

Bernie Sanders wants a special tax on this white shark-eyed Jeff Bezos? Funny follies of the political kind. Imagine, justifying all the tax evasion and felonies of the billionaires and millionaires and banks and hedge funders and the rest of the elites — that’s the cool truth of our state of misrepresentation in Washington. Never political cries of “tax them all for their externalities — all the damage capital and capitalists have done to the world.”  Major and minor municipalities and entire states fall over themselves with money dripping tongues out of their mouths while courting this company with so many freebies in the billions to get another load of office buildings or fulfillment centers or even another headquarters/campus or pod of fulfillment centers. At any cost.

Image result for fulfillment center

Walmartization of the world, or was it McDonaldization first, or Fordization, but now Amazonization of the culture outstrips anything up to this point in this country’s lunacy. You can get anything anytime anywhere for anyone from this five and dime on steroids.

Or,

The Details About the CIA’s Deal With Amazon: A $600 million computing cloud built by an outside company is a “radical departure” for the risk-averse intelligence community

Just in Time Employment, 11th Hour appointments, Permanent Temp, a Precarity defined as the New Almost Slavery Gig gigs — Coulda Been HuffPost Slave

Yet, on Democracy Now, again, in September 2018, we are led to believe we now have to be aghast about those fulfillment centers and those Americans being worked to the bone, worked down to the shredded screws in their hip replacement hardware, worked to confusion and exhaustion and then discarded for not working hard enough for this Master Blaster of the Retail Monopoly.

Juan Gonzalez of DN tells us about these “cutting edge” stories from his Rutgers University Department of Journalism and Media Studies students working on this “breaking news,” while Juan laughs and smirks at the reality of “us” (not me) ordering everything on Amazon.

Here, the DN reports:

As Amazon Hits $1 Trillion in Value, Its Warehouse Workers Denounce “Slavery” Conditions

Exposed: Undercover Reporter at Amazon Warehouse Found Abusive Conditions & No Bathroom Breaks

Ahh, but we over at DV have been printing these stories for more than six years:

Nichole Gracely / May 21st, 2012

Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley (LV) is a distribution hub, and many fellow Amazon associates and Integrity Staffing Solutions temps had previously worked in other local warehouses.

I have and I can say that they’re typically rough workplaces.

At first glance, Amazon’s LV fulfillment center appears benign.

Primary red, yellow, green and blue splashes of color brighten the place, and motivational posters and friendly educational signs that feature cute characters provide guidance. Hundreds, sometimes thousands of workers populate the warehouse at once, diligently taking direction from hand-held scanners or computers, and the place is enormous so it doesn’t appear cramped. Seriously, the place could house a small city.

Physical strength is not a necessary qualification to perform any of their warehouse job functions, and management is ostensibly concerned with worker safety. Just about anyone could staff Amazon’s FC, especially since it only takes a couple of hours to train workers to perform any specific job function. It’s safe to say that anyone laboring in an Amazon FC has fallen into hard times, and many of my former coworkers’ resumes featured distinguished past titles, impressive demonstrations of manual skill and ability, and/or lofty educational attainment.

Many never thought they’d wind up in a warehouse and so, yes, this was all foreign for many. Other workers who staffed other warehouses in the past didn’t know what to make of the place because there is something different about Amazon, something alien.

“Chairman” Bezos once said that Amazon workers don’t need a union because we own the company. “Chairman” Bezos has zero tolerance for union activity and several Amazon unionization attempts were summarily squashed.

After two years on the job an Amazon FC associate is entitled to eight shares of stock. If Amazon is trading at, say, $250 a share, that’s $2,000. Ownership? $250 per share is a generous projection. Seasoned investors are baffled by AMZN’s current overvaluation because of its unhealthy 188:1 (fluctuates, yet always unhealthy) price to earnings ratio, and they’re waiting for the bubble to burst.

Nichole went on to write a piece in the Guardian: Amazon Seasonal Work  And the Guardian published another one, more than four years ago: Being homeless is better than working for Amazon

Bread and Roses — 106 Years Ago, Back to Now: Strike Amazon, Strike US Correctional Institutions, Boycott

I got this from a friend, Andy Piascik, a long-time activist and award-winning author whose most recent book is the novel In Motion. He can be reached at ###.

In the end, in the face of the state militia, U.S. Marines, Pinkerton infiltrators and hundreds of local police, the strikers prevailed. They achieved a settlement close to their original demands, including significant pay raises and time-and-a-quarter for overtime, which previously had been paid at the straight hourly rate. Workers in Lowell and New Bedford struck successfully a short while later, and mill owners throughout New England soon granted significant pay raises rather than risk repeats of Lawrence. When the trials of Ettor, Giovannitti and a third defendant commenced in the fall, workers in Lawrence’s mills pulled a work stoppage to show that a miscarriage of justice would not be tolerated. The three were subsequently acquitted.

More than a century ago and it’s rabbit-holed history . . . and what do we fight for in this country now? We have fear of unions, we embrace the gig economy/outsourcing on Kratom (called near slavery by socio-economists), and the unimaginable bullshit and shit jobs have generated aimlessness, screen addiction, be mean to thy neighbor mentality, cold hearts and Homo Retailipithecus. Bullshit jobs, as Graeber states:

A world without teachers or dock-workers would soon be in trouble. But it’s not entirely clear how humanity would suffer were all private equity CEOs, lobbyists, PR researchers, actuaries, telemarketers, bailiffs or legal consultants to similarly vanish.

Shit jobs tend to be blue collar and pay by the hour, whereas bullshit jobs tend to be white collar and salaried. We have become a civilization based on work—not even “productive work” but work as an end and meaning in itself.

What is Labor Day or May Day now in a world of Marvel comics and infantilization of every intercourse we have with every sort of humanity? Do we care about solidarity? Do we know how to build communities? Do we see neighbors and people in and on the streets as equals, people, us? What is the value of work when it is drudgery, dog-eat-dog, king of the hill and top of the dung heap relationships? We have to go beyond now this simpleton way of seeing the world from the bifurcated Groucho Marx eyeglasses. This is a great time of upheaval, splintering, hot house planet, Sixth Mass Extinction, a world of capital making more capital off of war, resource theft, thievery of other nations’ and cultures’ futures.

Jobs, Who Doesn’t Choose to Collapse, Hothouse Planet, People

As I continually teach young people to think, you are what you eat, what you do, what you think, what your read, what you say, what you believe, what you aspire to, what you hope for, what you do or not do to be one with humanity. If your life is one of toil, what is inside the heart, and what do you do with those beliefs and philosophies while slogging away? Are you a believer in exceptionalism, Zionist or Christian superiority? Is the white shade of skin the defining element in your life? Do you have passions that are your own, or are they manufactured, designed, and cajoled by the money changers and propagandists?

 The worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too.

This line was from a speech by Rose Schneiderman, Polish-born socialist and feminist and prominent labor union leaders in America. It’s a phrase embodying everything today we workers need to utilize as a galvanizing force upon our souls to break away from these people like Bezos and the entire master crafters of our pain, poverty and penury. When I say “our,” I mean the world’s collective pain in the form of billions of people, for whom Western Culture (sic) has set loose a wildfire of forced displacement, murder, resource extraction, war and disease of the mind and body.

It was also a successful textile strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts, during January–March 1912, which is pretty much universally referred to as the “Bread and Roses” strike. Pairing bread and roses not as counter-balances — fair wages and dignified conditions. Defining “the sometimes tedious struggles for marginal economic advances in the light of labor struggles as based on striving for dignity and respect,” as Robert J. S. Ross wrote in 2013.

I imagine the Bezos types wanting every last penny from every last $2-a-day inhabitant on earth, and I imagine this fellow is as steely-hearted as any in an Upton Sinclair book — and note this first quote by Sinclair is for me about men and women working today, even though Sinclair was writing about a living livestock animal torn from life:

One could not stand and watch very long without being philosophical, without beginning to deal in symbols and similes, and to hear the hog-squeal of the universe…. Each of them had an individuality of his own, a will of his own, a hope and a heart’s desire; each was full of self-confidence, of self-importance, and a sense of dignity. And trusting and strong in faith he had gone about his business, the while a black shadow hung over him, and a horrid Fate in his pathway. Now suddenly it had swooped upon him, and had seized him by the leg. Relentless, remorseless, all his protests, his screams were nothing to it. It did its cruel will with him, as if his wishes, his feelings, had simply no existence at all; it cut his throat and watched him gasp out his life.

― Upton Sinclair, The Jungle

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.

― Upton Sinclair, I, Candidate for Governor: And How I Got Licked

Delusions  of Terra-Forming and Mickey Mouse Grabbing Adults’ Attention

So what do we do with these Titans of idiocy, with their billions and their algorithms, with their broken telescopes peering into the black hole of humanity?

What about the 150,000 chemicals in human cells created by the industrialists, those synergistic variant effects we have zero knowledge about, which have helped push our American society into a chronically ill species of over 50 percent of a population cycled through Western (Un-)Medicine. Children with autism or on the spectrum — count that as possibly 30 percent of all births by 2040. Diabetes 1 and 2, more than 15 percent or more of the population by 2040.

According to Dr. Winchester:

This is a really important concept that is difficult to teach the public, and when I say the public, I include my clinical colleagues.

Still, atrazine is not the only human hormone-altering chemical in the environment. Dr. Winchester tested nearly 20 different chemicals and all demonstrated epigenetic effects, for example, all of the chemicals reduced fertility, even in the 3rd generation.

Still, why do 150,000,000 Americans have chronic diseases?

Researchers believe that every adult disease extant is linked to epigenetic origins. If confirmed over time with additional research, the study is a blockbuster that goes to the heart of public health and attendant government regulations.

According to Dr. Winchester:

This is a huge thing that is going to change how we understand the origin of disease. But a big part of that is that it will change our interpretation of what chemicals are safe. In medicine I can’t give a drug to somebody unless it has gone through a huge amount of testing. But all these chemicals haven’t gone through anything like that. We’ve been experimented on for the last 70 years, and there’s not one study on multi-generational effects.

Environmental Working Group tested more than a dozen brands of oat-based foods to give Americans information about dietary exposures that government regulators are keeping secret. In April, internal emails obtained by the nonprofit US Right to Know revealed that the Food and Drug Administration has been testing food for glyphosate for two years and has found “a fair amount,” but the FDA has not released the findings.

Ahh, the melting planet, the water cycle’s disrupted, the entire mess of planetary re-shifting is on a collision course with Homo Sapiens. Everyday I get more and more notifications from friends and thinkers about the impending collapses, the impending peak this and peak that (Peak Everything).

Globalization makes it impossible for modern societies to collapse in isolation, as did Easter Island and the Greenland Norse in the past. Any society in turmoil today, no matter how remote … can cause trouble for prosperous societies on other continents and is also subject to their influence (whether helpful or destabilizing). For the first time in history, we face the risk of a global decline. But we also are the first to enjoy the opportunity of learning quickly from developments in societies anywhere else in the world today, and from what has unfolded in societies at any time in the past. That’s why I wrote this book.”

― Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

Feudal Factories of Propaganda and Propagating .001 Percenters — Water, Man, Water

We trust ourselves, far more than our ancestors did… The root of our predicament lies in the simple fact that, though we remain a flawed and unstable species, plagued now as in the past by a thousand weaknesses, we have insisted on both unlimited freedom and unlimited power. It would now seem clear that, if we want to stop the devastation of the earth, the growing threats to our food, water, air, and fellow creatures, we must find some way to limit both.

― Donald Worster, Under Western Skies: Nature and History in the American West

We are seeing this circling of the billionaires’ wagons (vultures circling the 7.8 billion marks, us), this Bezos and Musk lust for space, for some planetary gated-armed-Utopian community. These fellows and dames are something else, and the conjurers of news unfit to consume fall over them, recording and publishing story after story about their wisdom and foresight and shamanistic ways of predicting the future.

Remember George W. Bush and his big ranch buy in Paraguay? That was 12 years ago, readers, yet, back to the future, with news (sic) report after news report (sic) keeps tracking the next billionaire economic ejaculation. W, and we thought he was only painting pets!

Image result for george bush painting pets

Image result for george bush painting pets

The Chaco is a semiarid, sparsely populated area known — to the extent that it’s known at all — for its abundant wildlife, rapid deforestation, nothing in particular… and what lies beneath it…

Our Real Wealth Trader and Outstanding Investments contributor Jody Chudley thinks he knows the true gen about the Bush land grab.

Jody says he has a “secret” about the Bushes. And he adds, “It has to do with an investment idea that’s hardly on anyone’s radar.”

The real reason Jody thinks Bush 43 and family snapped up nearly 300,000 acres in those semiarid, sparsely populated wastes of Paraguay?

Water.

That’s right, blue gold. Bush bought the rights to a veritable ocean of fresh, clear-as-glass, Grade A water.

His land rests atop one of the largest freshwater aquifers in the world: Acuifero Guarani, by name.

According to Jody, “Acuifero Guarani covers roughly 460,000 square miles under parts of Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina. It is estimated to contain about 8,900 cubic miles of water.”

If you can’t quite imagine 8,900 miles of water, picture a pool nearly three times the size of California. That should give you a decent idea.

A fair amount when you consider that 98% of this planet’s water is salt water.

Of the other 2%, almost 87% of it is trapped within glaciers, hence inaccessible. Jody’s “trusty calculator” informs him that only 0.25% of the water on this cosmic ball is fresh (underground, or in rivers and lakes). Just a drop in the figurative bucket…

Now, we knew this sort of stuff was going on with the elites, who look at us all as easy marks, broken money bags, the fat cows or broken pigs of their global stockades.

What’s happened is this trickle-down lust-love-longing for these people who get plastered in the headlines as being grand and philanthropists, deserving of every cent and every billion made on the back of people, earth, cultures.

Their trans-capital and monopolies  and viral presence like Google, Facebook, Walmart, and on and on sucks the revolution out of revolutionary, since we are now shackled to their ways of doing things. The goal of the capitalists is to harmonize their theft with our survival, whatever it takes to put five to a studio apartment (of course, sneaking the other four into the room in the dead of night), whatever it takes to just float through a gridlocked urban and suburban world. So, from Bush and Paraguay, to this Gawker Killer Thiel, we have enough evidence of their feudal ways, their slippery snake eyes methods of shitting on we underlings:

Here is Robert Hunziker:

Peter Thiel, the PayPal billionaire and renowned super-super-super libertarian and unapologetic Trumpster love-fester achieved New Zealand citizenship in only 12 days and bought not only his citizenship but a $13.8 M estate in Wanaka, a lakeside community.

According to a phone interview with the former PM of New Zealand John Key, “If you’re the sort of person that says I’m going to have an alternative plan when Armageddon strikes, then you would pick the farthest location and the safest environment – and that equals New Zealand if you Google it… It’s known as the last bus stop on the planet before you hit Antarctica. I’ve had a lot of people say to me that they would like to own a property in New Zealand if the world goes to hell in a hand-basket.

USA-TRUMP/

Hell in a hand-basket, from the former prime minister of New Zealand — 1935 Book, quote:

If the average white New Zealander takes the Maori seriously as a human being, he is usually rather too ready to blame him for characteristics which more careful study will show not to be inherent at all but actually the result of the coming of the Europeans themselves, the extensive destruction of Maori life and the virtual dispossession of the Maori people. Little attempt is commonly made to understand the causes which produced, for a time at any rate (for they are passing) those Maori characteristics which have become almost proverbial amongst us. To put it frankly, we blame the Maori for becoming what we have made him. It is interesting to realise that similar circumstances of the contact of peoples have occurred before, and in view of the people referred to there is one instance which it seems particularly fitting that we should bear in mind. The instance comes down to us from the days when another great Empire, an ancient one, was civilizing native peoples. There is on record a letter from a wealthy Roman landowner to his agent in Britain telling him to ship no more British slaves “as they are so lazy and cannot be trusted to work.” Similar causes produce similar effects; we should be less ready with hasty judgment and hasty blame. There is a widespread belief, and it is one certainly cherished by the average white New Zealander, that no native people have ever been so fairly treated by Europeans as have the Maori people. As a matter of fact, if it is fully and frankly told, the story of the contact of Europeans with native peoples is much the same everywhere. What we have are so many varieties of what a leading anthropologist has recently termed “the tragic mess which invariably results from the impact of white upon aboriginal culture.” It is true that the Maori people have survived, but this, on careful analysis, proves to be very largely due to their own qualities and their own efforts rather than to any specially favourable mode of treatment. If we are honest there is little ground for pakeha self-congratulation.

Ahh, the evidence of climate change (global warming–hot planet) was there in 1896 researched, formulated and discoursed by Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius (and then later, amateur G. S. Callendar ramified the greenhouse effect of burning fossil fuels, and then later, C. D. Keeling measured the rising CO2 levels tying that to the greenhouse hot house effect), but for which has been swept into confusion by those marketers and mad men. Imagine, average planetary temps going up from  2.5–11°F by 2100. Imagine that!

The more civilizations evolve, the more energy dependent they become, so it’s possible that trillions of civilizations in the great continuum of space evolved, rose, fell and disappeared.

If you develop an industrial civilization like ours, the route is going to be the same. You’re going to have a hard time not triggering climate change. For a civilization to destroy itself through nuclear war, it has to have certain emotional characteristics. You can imagine certain civilizations saying, ‘I’m not building those [nuclear weapons]. Those are crazy.’ But climate change, you can’t get away from. If you build a civilization, you’re using huge amounts of energy. The energy feeds back on the planet, and you’re going to push yourself into a kind of Anthropocene. It’s probably universal.

—  Adam Frank, astrophysicist

Interlude, Interglacial Periods, Working for the Homeless — Flailing at Windmills

 

Comparison between summer ice coverage from 18,000 years BP and modern day.

Yeah, these big ideas I broach with homeless veterans and their attendant family members, and while the Gates-Kochs-Zuckerbergs-Bloombergs-Adelsons-et al have zero concern about us, the proles, the  detritus of their Capital, I believe working to change one life at a time — even if it’s a life riddled with evictions, felonies, relapses, epigenetic familial hell, PTSD, trauma, spiritlessness, physical decay — has meaning since in that process I have incredible interchanges with people who sort of want the same thing — paradigm shifts and de-industrialization and ecosocialism a la Marx 3.0.

I try to find peace in writing, even these polemics at DV or LA Progressive; and in my own world of fiction-poetry-creative nonfiction, the windmills abound because of a rarefied culture of the M-F-A (masters in fine arts) elite — those gatekeepers of the small literary kind, or even the National Book Award kind. This country is not big on real outliers in anything tied to the arts, and I am one of those round pegs looking to splinter the quintessential square hole.

Short story collection? Who the hell would read that? Well, try out a project of mine to get the stories —  thematically (sort of) threaded (sort of) to the “Vietnam experience” — as a hard copy from a small press, Cirque. You can read one of the stories, “Bloody Sheets,” here, starting on page 115.

The collection, Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam, is a gathering of fiction, much of which has been published in literary journals. I have succumbed to a Go Fund Me “deal” to help balance-offset the costs of printing a book on paper with ink.

I have no idea if a Go Fund Me will even take off. The first and only donation is from filmmaker Brian Lindstrom. Amazing, a struggling documentarian throwing in FIRST.

But we are in a new normal of shitting on writers, expecting us to have our day and then our night jobs and then write-write-write for free.

That is the question, really, who wants to spend their time reading short stories, outside the very narrow readership of Masters of Fine Arts aficionados who in many regards can be pedantic and puffery artists?

Vietnam, no less, in a time of Tim Burns rotting the foundation of the war we committed, or the Obama administration’s scrubbing of the war in his effort to commemorate it (Obama gives killer Kissinger awards).

Vietnam. One of my short journalist pieces for an old weekly I worked for in Spokane.

How many died in Vietnam and Indochina? 3.8 million? Oh, that Nobel Cause (War) myth I run into daily at a homeless veterans shelter, that is was winnable and worthy. Killing farmers, man, in their rice paddies! Whew, only a Zionist could write that script.

Read my short story collection for a different way to frame creativity and that time period, that narrative framing, that time in history that has defined and redefined the ugly wars of today. I am going to give this a shot in a time of blatant skepticism and group-think/act/do.

Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam. Be part of the creative impetus. The energy. The publication of a short story collection. With that “ask” of the reader who then gives will receive another book of mine, Reimagining Sanity: Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber.

In my view [Dan Kovalik], this Noble Cause myth may be the most powerful and enduring propaganda trick ever perpetrated. And, it works so well because the audience for the trick — the U.S. people — are such willing and eager participants in the charade.

To explain the power of the Noble Cause myth, Marciano quotes from Harold Pinter’s 2005 Nobel Prize lecture.  I set forth a larger quote from the lecture than appears in the book because it is so profound:

The United States supported and in many cases engendered every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile. The horror the United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can never be forgiven.

Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy? The answer is yes they did take place and they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn’t know it.

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

John Steppling, my fellow writer who studies intersections of culture-mimesis-art-politics (My review of his book,  Aesthetic Resistence and Dis-interest. That Which Will Not Allow Itself to be Said, here at DV) discusses the MFA phenomenon, a true watering down and controlled form of check and balances fiction:

So, the fact that The Rockefeller Foundation underwrote (and still underwrites) a good many MFA programs (and not just in literature, but in theatre and fine arts) is both relevant, and not. Or maybe a better way to address this is see The Rockefeller Foundation as symptom. I received a Rockefeller fellowship, which I hadn’t applied for. But, the very fact that creative writing programs boomed after WW2, and permeated the academic landscape is without question linked to the patronage of institutions like The Rockefeller Foundation (and the MacArthur Foundation, and…). And to deny that the tacit influence of these institutions is idiotic.

Now, it’s also true that what John Crowe Ransom and Stegner and Burrows preached is correct. Or it’s correct up to a point. It is revealing that Melville was derided, because Melville wrote a lot of ideas, and additionally observed the ways those ideas and that knowledge existed in the world. But it is equally true that you do not observe those harpoons so closely, or closely in a particular way, that all you get is a harpoon description. And a so described harpoon that never participates in riots or social unrest, and whose production is unexamined and the harpoon company that distributes it is left blank…the better to describe the fluted morning dew that bifurcates my tabby cat’s shadow on the harpoon handle, and etc etc etc is only a individual’s sensory observation. The harpoon must be known, not just observed.

The real point here is that what Iowa started, and many other University programs followed, was to narrow down the definition of “fiction”. Dante would not be considered fiction today. While there is a point in demanding a concrete description, and not a generality, the exclusive focus on the concrete meant that ideas were being eliminated in fiction. The world is not abstract… but that includes History and politics and tensions of daily life. Those offices in New York, or those bad marriages, are not separate from the Chinese Revolution, or U.S. Imperialism, or the blockade of Cuba or the present two million men and women in prison in the United States. ‘Greatness’, whatever that means, and I have no problem with that word, or the ideas behind it, is in discovering both what that connection is, and ..and this is important I believe…how our own personal emotional and psychic formation, and development are related to both Mao and our failed marriages (or, even the successful ones).

The emphasis on observation, on brute description, however eclipsed ideas as a subject for fiction. You may not sit down to write ideas, per se, but you certainly have an idea of what a harpoon is. You have to know certain things, and, in fact, the best writing is that which tells you what you don’t know, not describes nicely what you already do know. And there is a tendency in young writers to generalize. So on the one hand it’s natural to emphasize the concrete, but the result, perhaps intentional, or partly so (given the Rockefeller project) was the elimination of ideas in prose, and the narrowing of the definition of what constituted “fiction”

Unravelling

This country is going so far to the right you won’t recognize it…

— John Mitchell (1969) Spoken to New York Times reporter and mentioned in his obit (1988)

Manliness and mastery required regeneration through violence, and by the 1890s, { Theodore} Roosevelt was spoiling for a fight: “I should welcome almost any war, for I think this country needs one,” he wrote. Any opponent would do, but “the most ultimately righteous of all wars is a war with savages”.
— Jackson Lears, How the US Began Its Empire, NYRB 2018

There is this myth of happiness: black-magic slogans warn you to be happy at once; films that “end well” show a life of rosy ease to the exhausted crowds; the language is charged with optimistic and unrestrained expressions-“have a good time,” “life is fun,” and the like. But there are also these people, who, though conventionally happy, suffer from an obscure malaise to which no name can be given, who are tragic through fear of being so, through that total absence of the tragic in them and around them.
— Jean Paul Sartre, Americans and Their Myths, 1947

The long overdue death of John McCain will be remembered not because of McCain himself or anything he did, but because of its timing. McCain’s death happened under a particularly rabid spike in anti Trump madness. And so, like all useful deaths, especially of public figures, and more especially of *warriors*, the moment was seized upon by the information apparatus of the state and turned into a platform for renewing the symbols and message of American virtue as well as for reinforcing the basic ideological tenants of U.S. militarism. And for pointing out that Donald Trump was to be found wanting in all categories and measurements of manliness and imperial vision. In a sense, McCain is now enshrined as the 21st century Teddy Roosevelt. Both were racist, both xenophobes, and both arch Imperialists whose personal insecurities were projected outward in displays of overt and cartoon masculinity.

There has been a lot written of late about the year 1968. It’s the 50th anniversary of *68*, which is now being viewed as a kind of talismanic watershed in U.S. social and political history. Perhaps it is, but I think that’s a bit too simplistic. Still, publications love to pin their stories on such ideas, so one has not seen the last of this meme. I was in high school in 68, in Hollywood California and I was to graduate the following year. I had to think seriously about how to dodge the draft. I remember meeting with counselors, in the various anti-war groups that abounded in So Cal during that time. The feeling in those places was warm, comraderly, and genuinely concerned. Many were women’s groups including the one that most helped me. But in general people helped one another. There was no cynicism. No hustle. It’s hard to remember that today. The war was bad, and we all knew that. The military was bad, and everyone knew that. When you compare attitudes today you can see just how successful the propaganda arm of the U.S. military has been.

And just how damaged the western psyche is. Now, with the environmental crises accelerating and, as one writer put it, ‘we are not studying global warming now, we are living it’, you might think people would naturally gravitate toward anti-war positions. After all something like 45% of global pollution is caused by the militaries of the world, and the U.S. military is ten times larger than anyone’s else, AND it is far more active than anyone else in that top ten list. You would think that, and you would be wrong.

There is a tendency to think Trump is unique. Just as there had been a tendency among liberals to think George W. Bush was unique. And not even the Christian zealotry that is present in the Trump cabinet is unique. The United States has always draped its avaricious tendencies in the language of devotion and prayer. Or, in Reagan’s case, with the addition of astrology.

In a ravenous fifty-five-day spasm during the summer of 1898, the United States asserted control over five far-flung lands with a total of 11 million inhabitants: Guam, Hawaii, Cuba, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico. Never in history has a nation leaped so suddenly to overseas empire.
— Stephen Kinzer, The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire, January 24, 2017

Kinzer’s book is a useful guide to a seminal period in the construction of not just American overseas colonizing, but to the cementing of a mythology of individualism and violent conquest that is still operative. And it’s fitting that Teddy Roosevelt should be enshrined as a heroic figure and among the post popular presidents. Roosevelt shares a lot of similarities with Winston Churchill, in fact. Aristocratic backgrounds, racism, ambition, and a desire for Empire. And Roosevelt was, like Churchill, skilled as manufacturing his own mythology and crafting his public persona. And that persona was at its foundation one tied to war. When the Kurds rebelled Churchill said…“I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes…[It] would spread a lively terror.” Churchill, Roosevelt, and McCain. Uncivilized tribes, savages, and gooks.

And all three are among the popular political figures in English speaking nations. When various groups call for a ranking of presidents, Roosevelt is almost always in the top three or four. Americans simply don’t like even the whiff of intellectualism. Adlai Stevenson was never going to be president. It is surprising, in a way, that McCain never made it. But when one looks at the mythology of the U.S., it is not hard to see the through line of this exaggerated hyper masculinity and how it is now in the ascendent again.

The exceptionalist double standard was reinforced by racial hierarchies and intensified by preoccupations with gender. Filipinos and Cubans, despite their desires for independence, were alleged to be unready for self-government—a racist argument that has survived in muted form down to the present. Another long-standing exceptionalist theme has been the virtue of reinvigorated masculinity in imperial discourse. These enduring preoccupations in American foreign affairs stem at least in part from educated men’s desire to vindicate their manhood in a society suspicious of thought, from Theodore Roosevelt’s Strenuous Life to John Kennedy’s New Frontier to George W. Bush’s Mission Accomplished.
— Jackson Lears (Review of Kinzer’s The True Flag, NYRBs 2018)

Across Europe today quasi fascist anti-immigration parties are gaining power and rising in popularity. In Hungary, Italy, Slovenia, Switzerland, Austria, Holland, and Sweden. Even in Denmark, where the Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen oversaw…

…legislation that will require children from the age of one living in areas defined as “ghettos” by the state to be separated from their families for at least 25 hours a week, not including nap times. This new policy carries echoes of, and is a small but significant step towards the discredited and inhumane practices of tearing indigenous children away from their families, such as occurred with Australia’s “lost generations” of Aboriginals or Canada’s so-called Scoop generations.
(The New Arab, July 2018).

Rasmussen is, unsurpisingly, an enthusiastic supporter of NATO and U.S. militarism. While still the opposition leader in 2015, Rasmussen rode the wave of anti-immigration sentiment claiming one must take a ‘tough’ look the realities of immigrants already in Denmark. He noted half are on public assistance. One does sort of wonder how that is the fault of the immigrants. But Rasmussen has also suggested increasing penalties for crimes committed within the designated *ghetto areas* of his country. In the small city of Randers (with a relatively tiny Muslim population) a measure was passed that pork MUST be served (not could, but must) in all public buildings.

As Fergus O’Sullivan notes:

… such official drives to repress minority culture have many European precedents. In the 1950s, efforts to assimilate Dutch Indonesians in the Netherlands went as far as regular home visits to ensure they were eating potatoes, not rice. Until 1973, Switzerland pursued a policy of removing children from itinerant Yenish families and placing them in poor conditions in orphanages, mental asylums, and prisons so as to dilute their differences from what was perceived as a mainstream Swiss identity. (New Lab, 2018).

Europe has a long history of protecting themselves from the threat of *savages*.

In 1909 in Sweden, for example, the Swedish Society for Racial Hygiene was founded, followed in 1910 by the Mendel Society, the first Swedish genetics association. Even before World War I, leading doctors including Herman Lundborg, a prominent figure in racial biology, saw eugenics as a means to counter the problem of immigration, and there was a widely held opinion that the racial unity of the Swedish people was threatened. (4) Just as under the Nazis, the welfare state in Sweden had to be protected from ‘‘unproductive anti-socials’’ and so it became a ‘‘eugenic welfare state of the fittest.
— Sara Salem (Discover Society, 2018)

You know who were huge supporters of eugenics? Winston Churchill and Teddy Roosevelt. Well, and Adolph Hitler.

It is important to recognize the shameful role that Hollywood plays in all this. The apologetics from media and celebrities who seem indifferent to the actual history of America is stunning. And in particular to the continued reproduction of the violent hero, the man of action (and not thought). And, as I’ve noted before, it’s not the issue of violence, per se, for drama has always dwelt on that, but the ideological frame in which this occurs (I mean watch the new series Jack Ryan for an example that, clearly, CIA advisors ARE in the story meetings for all networks these days). There are very few stories of early America in which the audience is made aware that twelve presidents were slave owners. In fact, the real horror of slavery is still not told.

John Wayne, Dirty Harry, and Rambo

The Philippine War was as unnecessary as it is unjust—a wanton, wicked, and abominable war … and what is the answer? “No useless parley! More soldiers! More guns! More blood! More devastation! Kill, kill, kill! And when we have killed enough, so that further resistance is stopped, then we shall see.” Translated from smooth phrase into plain English, this is the program.… In the vocabulary of our imperialists, “order” means above all submission to their will. Any other kind of order, be it ever so peaceful and safe, must be suppressed by a bloody hand.
— Carl Schurz, The Policy of Imperialism, 1899

As an interesting note, water boarding was the favorite technique for American marines in the Philippines. And McKinley, then President, claimed he heard the voice of God as he paced the halls of the White House, undecided about invasion. But then God spoke to him. And God wanted America to go to war (and apparently to waterboard the savages).

The deeply embedded racism of America is still being denied. And it’s important to see the ways in which this denial is expressed. For they relate directly to the rugged tough guy machismo of much of white America. And not just America, for the *tough* talk is couched as *realistic* and this is what one hears in Lars Rasmussen and Victor Orban, in Salvini and the leader of the Swedish Democrats Jimmie Åkesson. It is what one hears from Trump and McCain, too. The implication is that the left is weak, and worse, effeminate. Many female politicians bend over backwards to appear ‘one of the guys’ (see Hillary Clinton). And the more insecure the white male, the tougher the talk. Roosevelt was an asthmatic child who was never naturally athletic or physically gifted.

The first state to enact a sterilization law was Indiana in 1907, quickly followed by California and 28 other states by 1931 (Lombardo n.d.). These laws resulted in the forced sterilization of over 64,000 people in the United States (Lombardo n.d.). At first, sterilization efforts focused on the disabled but later grew to include people whose only “crime” was poverty. These sterilization programs found legal support in the Supreme Court. In Buck v. Bell (1927), the state of Virginia sought to sterilize Carrie Buck for promiscuity as evidenced by her giving birth to a baby out of wedlock (some suggest she was raped). In ruling against Buck, Supreme Court Justice Wendell Holmes opined, “It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind….Three generations of imbeciles is enough” (Black 2003). This decision legitimized the various sterilization laws in the United States. In particular, California’s program was so robust that the Nazis turned to California for advice in perfecting their own efforts. Hitler proudly admitted to following the laws of several American states that allowed for the prevention of reproduction of the “unfit” (Black 2003).
— Laura Rivard (Sictable 2014)

In 1937, a Gallup poll in the USA found that 45 per cent of supported euthanasia for “defective infants”. A year later, in a speech at Harvard, WG Lennox argued that preserving disabled lives placed a strain on society and urged doctors to recognize “the privilege of death for the congenitally mindless and for the incurable sick”. An article published in the journal of the American Psychiatric Association in 1942 called for the killing of all “retarded” children over five years old.
— Victoria Brignell, (New Statesman, 2010)

The U.S. and Europe both are seeing a return of the most virulent xenophobic bigotry imaginable. A revanchist fascist sensibility has found a startling legitimacy in the public and in the media. And no amount of argument seems to sway white liberals today that the FBI and CIA and Pentagon are anything but virtuous and honourable institutions. And hating Donald Trump is all the justification needed to allow the thinly buried racism and privilege of most white Americans to come to the surface.

None of this has ever gone away. Forced sterilizations took place as recently as 1963 in California (the leader by a wide margin in carrying out eugenics policies) and reasons included being an orphan, sexual indulgence (slut), alcoholism and foreignness. In fact post WW2 saw little retreat in eugenics policy making in the U.S.

Today in Western North Carolina, a nonprofit group offers drug addicts money to be “voluntarily” sterilized. It is dubious whether one could honestly consider this program to be voluntary or ethical, since many people suffering from drug addictions will do nearly anything for money—and that money will likely go to scoring their next fix.
— Keven Bigos, The American Eugenics Movement after WW2, Indy Week 2011

In the 60s and 70s forced sterilizations took place among gay and lesbian people, Cheyenne, Sioux , and Navajo women, and poor whites in Georgia and Alabama. The Weather Underground bombed a federal building in San Francisco to protest sterilizations in 1974. It is worth noting a few additional details about who was financing this stuff after the war. Kevin Bigos award winning article is worth a read in its entirety. But…leading advocates included… “Harvard anthropologist Earnest Hooton, and California eugenicists Paul Popenoe and C.M. Goethe. Hooton had worked on the “Committee of the Negro” during the 1920s as part of an effort to prove that the black race was inferior, and Goethe had openly praised Nazi eugenics programs.” And then there was the biggest force for Eugenics probably in U.S. history, Dr Clarence Gamble (of Proctor & Gamble). And it should be noted that the idea of coercive sterilization was hugely popular. It was not some crazy fringe flat earth society belief — it found support among the most prestigious Universities and Medical Institutions in the country.

Bigos entire piece is here.

The University of North Carolina throughout the 1950s handed out pro eugenics literature to students. And women were largely the target and *sex delinquency* was the primary reason given for sterilization. Criminals were also targeted. Anyone with a felony conviction was deemed unfit to reproduce. This is the 1950s remember.

Hitler praised California for its eugenics thinking. American Exceptionalism at its finest.

There is no way to over-emphasize the toxicity of U.S. (and European) history. There simply isn’t. But I think somehow the deeper question is how the public has returned to an adoration of the most violent, aggressive and xenophobic figures in public life. No president is criticized for going to war, so, given all the other encouragements for war it’s an easy call. They will continue to find enemies to fear and reasons to increase defense spending. They will find poor nations, without defense capabilities, and send in troops to save them. Just as the Philippines were saved and civilized over a hundred years ago. And just as Africa is, again, a target for the civilizing mission of the Christian West. Of course, the extraction of natural resources is the engine behind this. Profit is always the most powerful justification. But it is also more than that. It is the fear out there today in the bourgeois West — and the crushing heat waves of this last year seem not to have even dented the belief in humanitarian intervention. Obama is literally a figure of adoration. For liberals he is something close to a deity, in fact. His actual record is of no interest. To bring it up is to just be a buzz-kill. Fear runs throughout the populace. But it is far too simple to say that because it is a complex of *fears*. And it is a strange return of core American mythology, Manifest Destiny, Indian killers, gunfighters, and land barons. The current hit TV series Yellowstone (created and written by Taylor Sheridan and starring Kevin Costner) is a prime example. Watching the show (and Sheridan is actually a better than average writer) I could never quite decide if the show was tongue in cheek or sincere. I fear the latter. Costner plays the owner of the largest ranch in the United States. At one point a visiting Japanese (!) tourist says ‘this is too much land for one man to own’. Costner barks back…’this is America, we don’t share land’.

I’m still not sure if this was meant to be a desirable statement or not. But I suspect it was. Even if only unconsciously. And there are things, believe it or not, to applaud in this show. But the overriding love affair with power eclipses all else. America will always see conquest as individual achievement. Power as a sign of virtue. Oh, and Costner occasionally looks heavenward and asks for God’s help — but in manly one syllable words.

White supremacism is a foundational feature of American society. One only has to examine the statistics for mass incarceration to prove this. Blacks are incarcerated 5 times the rate of whites, and in some states that ratio is ten times. In twelve states blacks make up more than half the prison population. Latinos are incarcerated at nearly twice the rate of whites. White supremacism and American exceptionalism. And that belief in an innate superiority is core America.

And as cultural globalism increases, with all its inequalities, the white west is increasingly frightened. And it is psychically circling the wagons. The nauseating outpouring of ersatz grief for McCain has, as I say, not much to do with McCain. It has everything to do with revalidating white virtue, and white superiority. The token superficiality of multiculturalism in arts and entertainment is only another symptom. Praising identity-based garbage is really just white parternalism applied to aesthetics. But it’s not just dark skinned people, not just inner city black kids or Muslims or the Chinese; it is the poor, too. The “othering” of almost everyone not white, or not prosperous and western, is in overdrive. And the constant demonizing and slurs against Communists never slows down. It happens on the flaccid quasi left, too. It is just white fear. And it is radioactive. The terrified bourgeoisie of the West are in meltdown. Everywhere I go ..even to places I love such as Copenhagen or Gothenburg… I sense an uptick in martial vibes. Especially among younger men. No jobs, no pride, no place for courage or honour. There is only the numbing monotony of iPads or smart phones or social media. And a debilitating projection of this fear onto immigrants and foreigners in general. In the U.S. it is worse. For in the U.S. the cultural realm has never been so denuded and dead. It is the province of the bureaucratic technicians of banality and the trivial. And it is now a country of all encompassing anger.

That McCain was given (or gave himself, who knows) the moniker “maverick” says it all. It’s a nostalgia for a counterfeit past. For an invented history wiped clean of atrocity. And it provides ever less even momentary relief from the dire future everyone knows is coming.

Empire Journalism: Venezuela, the US and John McCain

The US political commentator Michael Parenti once observed that:

Bias in favor of the orthodox is frequently mistaken for “objectivity”. Departures from this ideological orthodoxy are themselves dismissed as ideological.

Once you understand the truth of that remark, seeing the daily biases and distortions of the corporate media becomes obvious. Thus, there is plenty of space on the BBC News website, and plenty of time on the BBC’s airwaves, to discuss the Venezuela migrant crisis, hyper-inflation and food shortages. Rob Young, a BBC News business correspondent, wrote:

Venezuela, now in its fourth year of recession, has joined a sad list of other countries whose economies imploded as hyperinflation tore through them.

Young quoted a senior official of the International Monetary Fund:

The situation in Venezuela is similar to that in Germany in 1923 or Zimbabwe in the late 2000s.

A BBC News clip headlined, ‘Begging for food in Venezuela’, emphasised:

Food has become so scarce in Venezuela after the economy collapsed that people are getting desperate.

Likewise, there has been ample heart-wrenching coverage of Venezuelans fleeing to other countries. But you will struggle to find any substantive analysis of the severe US sanctions and long-standing threats to bring about a US-friendly government in Caracas, including an attempted coup in 2002 to remove Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s then president.

On August 19, BBC South America correspondent Katy Watson reported for BBC News at Ten:

President Nicolas Maduro is doing little to stop his country’s economic freefall. Last week, he announced plans to devalue the country’s currency; an attempt to rein in inflation that the International Monetary Fund says could hit one million per cent by the end of the year.

But there was next to no context. BBC viewers were led to believe that the blame for the crisis in Venezuela lay squarely at Maduro’s door.

By contrast, consider the analysis of Gabriel Hetland, an expert academic on Latin America. He stated that the Venezuelan government’s actions – and inactions – have made the crisis ‘far worse’. But crucially:

The government has not acted in a vacuum, but in a hostile domestic and international environment. The opposition has openly and repeatedly pushed for regime change by any means necessary.

On August 4, there was even an attempt to assassinate President Maduro, with responsibility claimed by a clandestine opposition group made up of members of the Venezuelan military.

Hetland continued:

The US government has not only cheered, and funded, these anti-democratic actions. By absurdly declaring that Venezuela is an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to US national security and pressuring investors and bankers to steer clear of the Maduro administration, the White House has prevented Venezuela from obtaining much-needed foreign financing and investment.

The Morning Star’s Tim Young pointed out that:

Sanctions now form a key part of what is a strategic plan by the US to ruin the Venezuelan economy.

These US sanctions have even impacted Venezuela’s health programme, with the country’s vaccination schemes disrupted, dialysis supplies blocked and cancer drugs refused. Young added:

It is clear that the US sanctions — illegal under international law — are part of an overall strategy to bring about what the US calls “regime change.”

Its aim is to undermine and topple the elected government of President Nicolas Maduro and secure control of Venezuela’s vast oil reserves and other natural resources and wealth.

In a news report in the Independent last year, Andrew Buncombe quoted remarks by Mike Pompeo, then head of the CIA, suggesting that:

The agency is working to change the elected government of Venezuela and is collaborating with two countries [Mexico and Colombia] in the region to do so.

As Buncombe observed:

The US has a long and bloody history of meddling in Latin America’s affairs.

That is an accurate and truthful headline you are very unlikely to see on BBC News.

To realise how incomplete and distorted is BBC News coverage, you only have to listen to the superb independent journalist Abby Martin, who has risked her life to report what the corporate media is not telling you about Venezuela. It is little wonder that, as she discusses, her important news programme, ‘Empire Files‘, is currently off-air as a result of US sanctions against left-leaning TeleSUR, the Venezuela-based television network.

A report by media analyst Gregory Shupak for US-based media watchdog FAIR, notes the repeated usage of the word ‘regime’ to describe Venezuela by the US corporate media. As Shupak observes, a ‘regime’ is, by definition, a government that opposes the US empire. He goes on:

Interestingly, the US itself meets many of the criteria for being a “regime”: It can be seen as an oligarchy rather than a democracy, imprisons people at a higher rate than any other country, has grotesque levels of inequality and bombs another country every 12 minutes. Yet there’s no widespread tendency for the corporate media to describe the US state as a “regime.”

In short, if you rely on the corporate media, not least the BBC, for what’s going on in Venezuela, you will get the US-friendly version of events, downplaying or simply ignoring the crippling effects of US sanctions and threats.

On Venezuela, as with so many other issues, BBC News regularly violates its own stated ‘Editorial Values‘:

Accuracy is not simply a matter of getting facts right; when necessary, we will weigh relevant facts and information to get at the truth.

The notion that BBC News journalists perform a balancing act, sifting through ‘facts and information’ to present ‘the truth’ to the public is simply pure fiction, as the ample evidence presented in our forthcoming book, ‘Propaganda Blitz‘, makes clear.

‘A Human Landmark; an American Hero’

Consider coverage of the recent death of US politician John McCain. McCain was the Republican nominee in the 2008 US presidential election which he lost to Barack Obama. In 1967, during the Vietnam War, he was shot down while on a bombing mission over Hanoi and was seriously injured. Captured by the North Vietnamese, he was tortured during his incarceration, before being released in 1973. In later years, the media would call him a ‘war hero’ and depict him as a political ‘maverick’ in not always supporting Republican Party policy on certain issues.

Theresa May declared:

John McCain was a great statesman, who embodied the idea of service over self. It was an honour to call him a friend of the UK.

Con Coughlin, the Telegraph’s defence editor and chief foreign affairs columnist, echoed the mantra that McCain was a ‘war hero’.

In similar vein, ‘neutral’ and ‘impartial’ Nick Bryant, the BBC’s New York correspondent, intoned loftily on BBC News at Ten on August 27:

Washington without John McCain is a lesser place. He was a human landmark; an American hero whose broken body personified the Land of the Brave.

Senior reporters from Channel 4 News and ITV News added their own eulogies to warmonger McCain, dubbed ‘McNasty’ by people who had observed his ‘inexplicable angry outbursts’. C4 News political correspondent Michael Crick said via Twitter:

I’ll always be grateful to John McCain. When I was #C4News Washington Correspondent in the late ’80s, he was one of the few senators happy to do interviews with us, and always very friendly & accommodating.

Robert Moore, ITV News Washington Correspondent responded:

Agreed. And that continued almost until the end – for the foreign press, McCain was the single most accessible political figure in Washington. He always had time for an interview, and a joke – including teasing me for my choice of ties.

Other Twitter users put things in stark perspective:

My thoughts are entirely with his victims and their families.

And:

How hard did you grill him about the decisions he made that killed innocent civilians in hundreds of thousands?

It would be hard to find an exchange on Twitter that better exemplifies the divide between sycophantic journalists fawning before power, and members of the public refusing to whitewash a politician’s ugly record.

Patrick Martin, writing for the World Socialist Website, makes a vital point:

The overriding feature of McCain’s career […] was his reflexive hawkishness on foreign policy. He supported war after war, intervention after intervention, always promoting the use of force as the primary feature of American foreign policy, and always advocating the maximum allocation of resources to fuel the Pentagon.

Peace activist Medea Benjamin told Amy Goodman in a Democracy Now! interview:

We had constantly been lobbying John McCain to not support all these wars. Amy, I think it’s so horrible to be calling somebody a war hero because he participated in the bombing of Vietnam. I just spent the last weekend with Veterans for Peace, people who are atoning for their sins in Vietnam by trying to stop new wars. John McCain hasn’t done that. With his life, what he did was support wars from not only Iraq, but also Libya.

Benjamin founded Code Pink: Women for Peace, a grassroots peace and justice movement that McCain once disparaged as “low-life scum“.

She continued:

He called John Kerry delusional for trying to make a nuclear deal with Iran, and threw his lot in with the MEK, the extremist group in Iran. He also was a good friend of Mohammad bin Salman and the Saudis. There was a gala for the Saudis in May when the crown prince was visiting, and they had a special award for John McCain. He supported the Saudi bombing in Yemen that has been so catastrophic. And I think we have to think that those who have participated in war are really heroes if they spend the rest of their lives trying to stop war, not like John McCain, who spent the rest of his life supporting war.

Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, made clear his empathy for McCain for having suffered through brain cancer. But he castigated the corporate media phenomenon of ‘obit omit—obituaries that are flagrantly in conflict with the real historical record.’

He told Goodman:

We really have to fault the mass media of the United States, not just for the last few days, but the last decades, pretending that somehow, by implication, almost that John McCain was doing the people of North Vietnam a favor as he flew over them and dropped bombs. You would think, in the hagiography that we’ve been getting about his role in a squadron flying over North Vietnam, that he was dropping, you know, flowers or marshmallows or something. He was shot down during his 23rd mission dropping bombs on massive numbers of human beings, in a totally illegal and immoral war.

As Branko Marcetic noted in an accurate assessment of McCain’s political legacy:

John McCain’s greatest achievement was convincing the world through charming banter and occasional opposition to his party’s agenda that he was anything other than a reactionary, bloodthirsty war hawk.

In a recent article, Joe Emersberger, an insightful writer on foreign affairs, notes that corporate media coverage of both Venezuela and John McCain illustrates two main features:

  1. The uniformity of empire-friendly reporting across the corporate media.
  2. The complicity of major human rights groups in this empire-friendly ‘journalism’.

As an example:

Amnesty International has refused to oppose US economic sanctions on Venezuela, and has also refused to denounce flagrant efforts by US officials to incite a military coup.

Emersberger also points to a statement on John McCain’s death from Human Rights Watch:

Senator McCain was for decades a compassionate voice for US foreign and national security policy.

For anyone able to think critically and speak openly, such statements are risible. Brutal imperialism will continue for as long as empire-friendly journalism and tame public opposition exist.

WTF? Why Adulate This Warmonger?

For days we have been informed—indeed, relentlessly reminded, instructed, lectured, preached to, told matter-of-factly (as though the whole universe knows it), bestowed with the transcendent wisdom—that the late Sen. John McCain was a true American hero.

Wow! What a man! Suddenly, we learn that he was one of the Greatest Americans of All Time. “How to hold him in reverence?” asks an African-American Democratic congressman on CNN. It is (at least on cable news) an unchallenged truth. On CNN Sunday morning “America pays tribute to a hero”—-as his old friends Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman do so.

McCain served his country, we are taught. He was shot down over North Vietnam—just one of those sad things that happens to some people sometimes. So sad he had to parachute into a lake where the people he’d been bombing rescued him. Of course, he was imprisoned, as any bomber captured over any country would be imprisoned.

We are told (by his huge unpaid unthinking posthumous groupie corporate media staff) that this person (McCain), was tortured but never broke (except that one time he signed a statement about bombing civilians).

And he refused early release out of loyalty to his fellow POWs. Heroic!

He (for some reason less noticeable in other people) loved his family (although he divorced his long-suffering first wife, who’d been injured in an accident during his captivity, to marry a wealthy heiress). That is impressive.

Of course (we are told) he loved God, and even served as unit chaplain in Hanoi. He was an unquestioned paragon of virtue, we’re told, even as his quirks and temper tantrums are mentioned—in passing—as endearing minor flaws. He’s described as “hawkish” and often, as a responsible advocate for a powerful military and defender of U.S. “national interests” (versus Russia and Iran in particular).

The Establishment consensus on McCain is truly impressive. Everyone has queued up for the gangbang on humanity, intelligence and morality.

The public funeral featuring eulogies by George W. Bush and Barack Obama was designed to reflect the bipartisan celebration of a legacy—which, unconscionably—the “Democratic Socialist” Alexandria Ocasio-Chavez tweets “represents an unparalleled example of human decency and American service.”

WTF, Alexandria?

Bernie Sanders adds to the adulation. “John McCain,” he tells his supporters, “was an American hero, a man of decency and honor and a friend of mine. He will be missed not just in the US Senate but by all Americans who respect integrity and independence.” WTF, Bernie?

Joe Lieberman, teary-eyed, calls him a “national treasure.”  The CNN anchor has to add, “Well said!” as though we all surely agree on this, right?

The McCain funeral, like Caesar’s, became a political statement against the new political leadership. Mark Anthony praised the dead, while targeting the living Brutus. Meghan McCain praised her father, while targeting President Trump. “America has always been great” is her—and much of the whole system’s—response to Trump’s hollow pledge to “make America great again.”

Questioning the timeless greatness of America is heretical—as heretical as questioning the heroism of John McCain.

Among Trump’s more “controversial” remarks are his statement, “I like people who weren’t captured” and his declaration, “He’s not a war hero. He was a hero because he was captured.” Of all the comments Trump has made—racist, stupid, bigoted comments about women, African-Americans, Mexicans, Muslims, etc.—these on McCain constitute his greatest sin. At least, it has been seized on as such by his vast range of political enemies who want him down.

The dying McCain carefully planned his final rites. (Or those around him did. My father died of the same glioblastoma brain cancer that killed Edward Kennedy and John McCain; I know how rapidly it progresses and how little the human mind functions in the final few months. I find it hard to believe the senator composed some of the statements attributed to him towards the end.) The point was to shame Trump, so that the media coverage would focus on the contrast between the two men, one recklessly straying off course, the other a rock of integrity.

However moving this spectacle is, it is fundamentally sick. That this particular man, with his particular history, gets suddenly thrust into the public face and promoted as national icon even by the likes of Sanders and Ocasio-Chavez is a virtual declaration of national moral bankruptcy.

John McCain, son of an admiral, was a poor student at the U.S. Naval Academy who went on to bomb Vietnam during that war in the 1960s and 70s that—some of us recall—was a horrific, vicious ongoing atrocity that killed two million people.

I ask my amazing son, born 23 years after the end of the Vietnam War, if he understands how horrible that war was. (He knows the military family history, my dad’s involvement in Southeast Asia, my opposition from my teens). He does. Both my son and my daughter a few years older know this history and, of course, naturally revile this person.

McCain was shot down over Hanoi for the same reason you or me might shoot someone down: again, he was bombing people in their country for no good reason and with utterly no concern for “gook” lives. (This human actually stated in 2000, “I hate the gooks” responding to criticism by repeating the slur.) A Spanish psychiatrist, Fernando Barral, who met him in Hanoi in 1970, reported:

He (McCain) showed himself to be intellectually alert during the interview. From a morale point of view he is not in traumatic shock. He was able to be sarcastic, and even humorous, indicative of psychic equilibrium. From the moral and ideological point of view he showed us he is an insensitive individual without human depth, who does not show the slightest concern, who does not appear to have thought about the criminal acts he committed against a population from the absolute impunity of his airplane, and that nevertheless those people saved his life, fed him, and looked after his health and he is now healthy and strong. I believe that he has bombed densely populated places for sport. I noted that he was hardened, that he spoke of banal things as if he were at a cocktail party.

That’s your hero, CNN. That’s your hero, MSNBC. And Fox. All of you following your talking points assigned by your news editors.

The fact that Vietnam (specifically, bombing North Vietnam over 23 times, for over 10 hours) is never an issue—that it is indeed a positive, an instance of heroic “service” in which the future politician showed moral strength—should shock people. The fact that volunteering to bomb Vietnamese in an illegal, immoral war is being praised—-while Trump’s draft deferments  are mocked as reflecting lack of courage or patriotism—-should disturb conscious humans. (Shall we not honor the Luftwaffe pilots shot down on the Eastern Front in World War II? All they were doing was bombing Soviets, to conquer Russia, while serving their country, their German Fatherland, their Homeland. Patriots, right?)

McCain never saw a war he didn’t like. He regretted not winning the war in Vietnam—like some Nazi pilots no doubt regretted their failure to destroy Stalingrad in their 30,000 (heroic?) sorties over the city in 1942. He advocated U.S. intervention in any number of conflicts as a matter of imperialist entitlement; he shameless articulated American Exceptionalism—but then so did Obama and all this unified cohort rallying to glorify this thug.

After the U.S. engineered regime change in Georgia (in 2003) and sought to bring Georgia into NATO a few years later, emboldening the pathetic puppet president to provoke Russia by attaching South Ossetia, Russia briefly invaded Georgia. McCain was prepared to go to war with Russia over that. When neofascists plotted a coup in Ukraine in 2014, he had his photo taken with them. He advocated the bombing of Iran. (Remember how he with his famed sense of humor so charmingly recalled the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann” altering the lyrics to “Bomb bomb bomb Iran”? Such a sense of humor! So delightful. So charming.)

This person supported and enthused about the bombings of Bosnia, Kosovo, Serbia, Libya…and advocated it elsewhere (Nigeria?). Remember, this person’s early career after his proudly lackluster academic career was in doing what he was trained for: bombing!

The adulation of this mass-murdering unrepentant dead man is voiced by those who, just as they contrast the hero to the villain, ask whether the Vietnam War was a “noble cause” (as McCain believes)—or a “mistake” (as friend John Kerry believes)? Those are the only two options that can be publicly discussed. To say it was a colossal crime would be unpatriotically honest and doom any political campaign. But it’s easy to gather together those who agree to forgive and forget (due to a “mistake”). Gosh we all make mistakes…

But the whole point of the cult of St. John of Arizona (whom could I suppose be beatified if two miracles can be proved) is to say: He is the man, the responsible adult, the anti-Putin stalwart, the unapologetic warrior, the guy who has the balls to tell his colleagues “Give Netanyahu everything he wants.”

This is to counter-pose him to the unmanly, childlike, Putin-dupe, wimp (who also happens to give Netanyahu everything he wants, because that is standard practice for the U.S. polity—although his allegiance to Israel in itself does not insure his continued presidency).

The contradictions within the polity are obviously mounting; the mourning rituals for this praised monster show the division. The question posed is: Which do you prefer? McCain’s beautiful patriotic blood-smeared legacy? Or Trump’s continued status as the un-impeached U.S. president surrounded by semi-autonomous generals itching to bomb Iran?

My 32-year-old daughter, who happens to be a member of the Democratic Socialist Party and conditional Bernie supporter, responded to Ocasio-Chavez’s tribute to the happy bomber with an emphatic “Ugh.” May all her comrades confront Alexandria on this issue!

An idiot on CNN just now concludes his program: “As John McCain always reminded us, freedom is worth fighting for.” The day remains devoted at McCain, and his wonderful legacy, and to a new (tendentiously presented) poll showing Trump’s support declining. No mention of the heroic reconquest of more and more Syrian territory by the Syrian national forces, or apparent U.S. plans to support a false-flag operation in Idlib province involving chemical weapons that might justify another U.S. strike.

A strike that should not be supported by anybody in this country with any moral sense and critical reasoning capacity. But one that would be supported by Bomb-bomb-bomb-bomb-bomb St. John, surely. Where, as a people—-if , in fact, we are a people—heading?

The Beatification of John McCain

John Sidney McCain III (PHOTO: John Hume Kennerly/GETTY IMAGES)

The eulogies for the recently deceased John McCain, a US Senator for Arizona, have been plentiful, and so far as the American mainstream media is concerned, they have verged on the hagiographic. He has been variously described as a “patriot”, a “war hero” and a “defender of freedom”. Most perplexingly, McCain was lauded as a “warrior for peace”. But while praise for McCain has been dutifully administered in reverential terms by both liberal and conservative figures, the truth is that there is widespread dissent about McCain’s legacy as a man, as a military officer, as well as a politician. Perhaps, most worrisome is the construction of McCain’s legacy as one of the resolutely principled maverick and insatiable peace seeker. On the contrary, McCain operated at the highest echelons of the American Establishment, a closeted world of vested interests comprising a network geared towards the enrichment of the American elite. He was a captive of the defence industry and an unceasingly aggressive spokesperson for the post-Cold War era militarism that has compromised the United States and brought it down low in the eyes of the global community of nations.

So why the almost uncritical eulogising of a controversial life beset by allegations of incompetence, corruption and disloyalty?

Perhaps it is the tradition of the people of the United States to venerate their warriors. From the highest serving general to the lowest level foot soldier, Americans have a penchant for what might be termed ‘soldier worship’. There is also a tendency for disparate groups of people to pull together behind someone when confronted by an idea or by a person to whom they feel repugnance. It is certainly the case that the transition from life to death brings out the sentimental in people whether such death is sudden or prolonged. And, of course, as with most cultures, Americans are cautious about speaking ill of the dead.

Each of these has doubtlessly played a part in the positive reviews of the life of John McCain since his passing. John Sidney McCain III was born into a family of naval servicemen, two of who reached the rank of admiral. He served as a naval aviator during the Vietnam War and later retired as a captain. McCain also engaged in a well-publicised, long-running feud with Donald Trump who as a polarising figure has succeeded in arraigning different strands of his countrymen against his presidency. His demise, caused by the effects of a malignant brain tumour, was a cruel one. Glioblastoma is the most aggressive form of cancer.

But there is much to question about McCain.

McCain joined the US Navy following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. Each man had reached the pinnacle of service and became the first father and son pair to achieve the rank of four-star admiral. When he retired in 1981, McCain had been the recipient of a Silver Star and Purple Heart. He had also received a Distinguished Flying Cross for his “exceptional courage, superb airmanship, and total devotion to duty” during a bombing raid over Hanoi in 1967, and had been awarded the Legion of Merit with Combat “V” award “for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States while interned as a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam from October 1967 to March 1973.”

But the competence of the future senator as an aviator has been consistently questioned. For instance, in 1960 while on a training exercise, he crashed his plane into Corpus Christi Bay, in the process shearing the skin off its wings. The following year, while serving with an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean theatre, he flew through electrical wires in southern Spain causing a power failure in the surrounding area. And in 1965, while en route to Philadelphia for the Army-Navy football game, he crashed a T-2 trainer jet in Virginia.

These incidents, caused by a carefree attitude described as “cocky, occasionally cavalier and prone to testing limits”, led to rebukes by the naval authorities. They also explain a great deal about the allegations surrounding his responsibility for two more serious incidents.

Sarcastically dubbed ‘Ace McCain’ by his commanders, McCain’s career as an aviator was, nonetheless, allowed to continue. Although the official inquiry into the catastrophic fire onboard the USS Forrestal in July 1967 was officially blamed on the accidental firing of a rocket caused by an electrical power surge during preparations for a strike against a target in North Vietnam, the claim that the disaster, which killed 134 sailors while injuring another 161, was caused by McCain ‘wet-starting’ his jet has refused to die. ‘Wet-starting’ refers to where pilots flood the combustion chamber of their craft with extra fuel before ignition in order to create either a loud bang or a plume of flame.

McCain is claimed by some to have done this and that the ensuing concatenation of maladies are traceable to his reckless act. That he avoided the consequences of his actions is said to be due to the seniority and influence of his high-ranking father who some, including Admiral Thomas Moorer, a former Chief of Naval Operations and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, allege was at the time cooperating with the cover-up pertaining to the deliberate attack on the USS Liberty by the armed forces of the state of Israel, which had occurred the previous month. Three months later, McCain was shot down while conducting a bombing sortie over North Vietnam.

No official blame has ever been attached to McCain for his shooting down. But as his aircraft was lost behind enemy lines, its remains were not subjected to the same sort of forensic analysis as had occurred after the earlier mishaps while in control of the cockpit. In all three incidents, McCain’s skill and judgment had been called into question.

Aviators like McCain had been trained to stay at altitudes of 4,000 to 10,000 feet in environments where there were heavy deployments of surface-to-air missile launchers. They had equipment which warned the pilot that they were being tracked and also when a missile locked on them. These missiles were relatively easy to out-manoeuvre up to a point. This changed when there were multiple launches of between 6 and 12 missiles. McCain claimed in his autobiography that 22 missiles were fired at his squadron that day and that one blew off his right wing. He had been flying at an altitude of 3,000 feet above Hanoi.

It is McCain’s conduct as a prisoner of war which has brought him the most public scrutiny. Officially, he is a hero for withstanding torture: beatings, the withholding of medical treatment and a lengthy spell in solitary confinement, although he wilted and made at least one propaganda broadcast for North Vietnamese radio in which he pronounced himself guilty of “crimes against the Vietnamese country and people.”

The United States military Code of Conduct prohibits prisoners of war from accepting parole or other favours from the enemy, although during the Vietnam War, latitude was generally given to those who were seriously ill or injured.

McCain, who sustained two broken arms and a broken leg when ejecting from his plane, has been accused by some fellow veterans who were held at the same camps as he, as one who sold out his fellow prisoners and other servicemen by cooperating with his captors in order to be the beneficiary of a cushy captivity. His detractors accuse him of making broadcasts designed to infringe upon the morale of his fellow servicemen and of giving up military secrets such as that related to his flight, rescue ships and the order of attacks.

And while they allow that McCain refused an offer of early repatriation unless all prisoners were released, some allege that he was given special treatment with two other ‘defectors’ for cooperating. In fact, they argue that McCain’s refusal was an easy one given that he knew that his future prospects in the military and any public office would have been ruined. Many veterans claimed that those who were granted early release in three sets of releases in 1968 were collaborators who they dubbed ‘the slipperies’, ‘the slimies’ and ‘the sleazies’, and that McCain had acknowledged this.

To be sure, several of McCain’s co-prisoners have spoken on his behalf over the years. Men like George Day and Orson Swindle confirm that torture was regularly administered and that they were forced to talk, although they attempted to mislead their captors by telling untruths. In McCain’s case, he claims his response to questions asking him about future bombing runs was simply to give those that had already taken place. He also claims to have given the names of the offensive line up of the Green Bay Packers football team as members of his squadron.

Render Crayton, McCain’s co-prisoner for one year (1971-1972) at the camp referred to as the ‘Hanoi Hilton’, has often spoken up on behalf of McCain and claims that McCain “gave hell to his captors”. An example of this was deciding one morning to loudly sing the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem. The penalty for this insubordination was to be removed from a “big room” to “smaller cell rooms”.

This does not impress those veterans against McCain who assert that no one witnessed the series of tortures he claimed to have endured. In his autobiography, Faith of My Fathers, McCain admitted that he felt guilty throughout his captivity because he knew that he was being treated more leniently than his fellow POWs owing to the fact that he was the son of the commander-in-chief of all US forces in the Pacific region, including Vietnam. His captors referred to him as the ‘Crown Prince’.

They also point to the tremendous lengths McCain went towards blocking the release of classified documents during the 1991-1993 Senate Committee hearings on Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action as evidence of his having a personal interest in suppressing information which would discredit him. Through McCain’s efforts, documents such as related to all the Pentagon debriefings of returned prisoners were classified by legislation. A ‘Truth Bill’, which had been twice introduced to ensure transparency over missing men was bitterly opposed by McCain who then sponsored a new bill which sought to create a bureaucratic maze ensuring that only a few non-descript documents could be released. It was passed into law.

His rationale that the sealing of these files was for reasons of privacy and preventing the reviving of painful memories were not accepted by those who point to the fact that debriefings from returning Korean War prisoners of war are available to the public, and, as was the case with Korea, could have provided useful leads in so far as the fate of those who were missing in action in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

Those who opposed McCain were often subjected to vitriolic abuse by a man who developed a renowned temper. He referred to individuals and groups campaigning for information on MIAs as “hoaxers”, “charlatans” and “conspiracy theorists”. They retorted by dubbing him the ‘Manchurian Candidate’. In fact, many of them, along with the veterans against McCain, often refer to his conduct while in captivity as having been nothing less than treachery.

Claims that McCain was on a list of 33 American prisoners of war earmarked to be executed for treason cannot be corroborated. But possible retribution against him by hardline military officers was rendered impossible by the US Defense Department whose officials had adopted a general policy of “honour-and-forgive” for returning prisoners of war. One specific element of this policy was not to prosecute any prisoners of war for making pro-North Vietnamese propaganda statements while in captivity. And to back this up, a move in 1973 by an Air Force colonel charging seven enlisted men of collaborating with the enemy while they were held as prisoners of war by North Vietnam was dismissed by the secretaries of the Army and Navy for lack of evidence and the mitigating circumstances of the “long hardship” they endured while in captivity.

While McCain is perceived by his detractors as having escaped punishment for his ‘disloyalty’ while in uniform, some point to his treatment of his first wife as evidence of his capacity for betrayal. A beautiful divorcee who he had married in 1965, Carol McCain had remained loyal to her husband during the period of his captivity. However, in 1969, she was badly injured in a motor accident and had to undergo numerous operations. She lost several inches in height and gained weight. McCain confessed that he returned home to a wife who appeared to be a different woman. He admitted to philandering and eventually divorced her to marry a woman who was 18 years younger than him.

His critics make the case that McCain lost interest in a spouse who was no longer the ‘trophy wife’ he had married and replaced her with an extremely attractive woman whose family were very wealthy and well-connected in the state of Arizona, where he would begin his political career. His critics cite this as evidence of McCain’s ruthless and calculating streak, which was guided neither by virtue nor by principle.

As a politician, McCain has been lauded as having been guided by a code of “honour, courage, integrity and duty.” His maverick reputation is seen as evidence of his ability to eschew the narrow confines of partisan politics. But his tenure as a senator was beset by allegations of corrupt practices, of being a pork-barrel politico in the thrall of the military industry and Israel lobby, and of being a warmonger who supported America’s recent wars, which has led to the destruction of whole countries and of countless innocent casualties.

As a new senator in the early 1990s, McCain was involved in a corruption scandal after he and four senators from the Democratic Party were accused of trying to intimidate regulators on behalf of a campaign donor who was eventually imprisoned for corrupt management practices. He escaped with a reprimand for having “exercised poor judgement”, but with the accompanying judgement that his actions “were not improper”.

In August 2006, McCain was captured in a photograph going onboard a luxury yacht rented by the Italian con-man Raffaello Follieri in Montenegro. It was here that McCain met the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska for a second time, after an initial meeting in Davos. Both meetings had been arranged by Rick Davis, who like Paul Manafort, has been a long-time conduit between American big shots and the Russian ultra-rich. Nathaniel Rothschild, who has large business interests in Montenegro, a country that granted him citizenship in 2013, also met with McCain.

Events unfolded to reveal that McCain had been part of an elaborate scheme which enabled Western financiers to buy up Montenegro and bribe influential members of the country’s elite who would be pliable to the idea of prising Montenegro away from Serbia. The long-term goal was for Montenegro to declare its independence and pave the way for its accession to membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), an objective that came to fruition in 2017.

McCain’s scheming in regard to Montenegro highlights his connections to the wealthy interests who control Western politicians, both of who work hand-in-hand in advancing Western geopolitical interests. The co-opting of Montenegro into the Western financial sphere and its membership of (NATO) were manoeuvres calculated to injure Russia’s commercial and military interests.

First of all, the oil and gas explorations subsequently embarked upon in the outlying Adriatic Sea is designed to create a market which aims to undercut or totally nullify Russian ambitions to supply oil and gas to countries in the region via a South Stream pipeline project. Secondly, transforming its military status from one of neutrality to being part of the Atlantic Alliance is in keeping with NATO’s post-Cold War eastward expansion, a policy which is designed to intimidate Russia, and which is in defiance of the agreement reached at the end of the Cold War between the leaders of the West and the former Soviet Union, that Germany reunification was predicated on the condition that NATO would not expand eastwards.

John McCain, by words and deeds, demonstrated his support for the anti-Russian sentiment that has permeated corridors of power in the United States since the coming to power of Vladimir Putin, a nationalist who brought to an end the mass plunder of Russia’s resources by Western interests during the government led by Boris Yeltsin. Indeed, no politician better embodied the twin doctrines that encapsulate the militarism pursued by the United States in the aftermath of the US-Soviet Cold War than McCain. These are philosophies espoused by Paul Wolfowitz and Zbigniew Brzezinski. The former provided that American policy was to ensure that after the fall of the Soviet Union, no other power should be permitted to rise and compete with the United States for global influence, while the latter was fixated on militarily intimidating Russia and seeking its dismemberment and relegation to a region designed to serve the energy needs of the West.

His dismissal of Russia as a “gas station masquerading as a country” and his forthright comment that Montenegro’s accession to NATO was “vital for regional stability and the joint effort of the Western allies to resist a resurgent Russia”, provided clear evidence of his position.

McCain’s anti-Russian posture ensured an enduring animus between himself and Vladimir Putin. Although McCain claimed that the Russo-Georgian War of 2008 was “a mistake” initiated by Mikheil Saakashvili, then president of Georgia, Putin accused the United States of fomenting the conflict in order to strengthen McCain’s bid for the White House. “The suspicion arises”, Putin claimed, “that someone in the United States especially created this conflict to make the situation tenser and create a competitive advantage for one of the candidates fighting for the post of US president.”

While Putin’s allegations were pooh-poohed by the White House as “patently false” and by the state department as “ludicrous”, events in Ukraine in 2014 clearly demonstrated McCain’s involvement in the American-sponsored overthrow of the elected government led by Viktor Yanukovytch. This was made possible by utilising the street muscle of ultranationalist groups such as Pravy Sektor. McCain was repeatedly photographed with Oleh Tyahnybok, the leader of the far right Svoboda Party which has been accused of being neo-Nazi in ideology while being vocally Russophobic and anti-Jewish.

McCain, who wielded a great deal of power as a long-term senator, allegedly chaired an important CIA meeting in Cairo that was pivotal in fomenting the so-called Arab Spring. And just as he met with political extremists in Kiev prior to the US-backed coup, in 2011 he was seen walking the streets of Benghazi where he was photographed meeting anti-Gaddafi rebels who embraced the Islamist creed of al-Qaeda, the alleged perpetrators of the September 11th attacks on the United States. He called the rebels “heroic” and lobbied for US military intervention weeks before NATO began its bombardment and training of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Libyan Islamic Fighting Force (LIFG). And given his vocal support for overthrowing the government of Gaddafi and his ‘fact-finding’ tour, he was also likely to have been influential in paving the way for President Barack Obama’s decision to authorise the use of predator drones. McCain would later be pictured with Senators Lindsey Graham and Richard Blumenthal giving an award to Abdel Hakim Belhaj, the leader of the now disbanded LIFG.

The Libyan intervention, enabled by the United Nations resolution based on the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ doctrine, of course, ended in human disaster. Gaddafi was toppled, but a nation which was once Africa’s most prosperous country soon degenerated into a failed state composed of warring militias, Islamist strongholds that have imposed rule by Sharia, and the establishment of slave markets composed of human chattel of Black African origin. The removal of Gaddafi which McCain cheered on has led to a deterioration of security beyond Libya as Islamist terror groups situated in the Maghreb (Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) and further down in the Lake Chad Basin (Boko Haram) have been strengthened because of the availability of large quantities of arms and munitions previously owned by the fallen Libyan army.

McCain’s dallying with extremists also extended to illegally entering into Syrian territory in 2013 and meeting with anti-government rebels who he described as “brave fighters who are risking their lives for freedom”, but who most neutral observers would classify as terrorists.

McCain’s support respectively for the Iraq War which overthrew Saddam Hussein, the Western-backed insurgencies in Libya and Syria, NATO expansion and confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia clearly mark him out as a supporter of American militarism, a geopolitical policy that has caused tremendous harm to American prestige among the community of nations, caused hundreds of thousands of deaths, caused large-scale human displacement and a refugee crisis, and which has persistently kept NATO and Russia at loggerheads. It makes a mockery of Congressman John Lewis’s attempt to eulogise him as a “warrior for peace”. Indeed, it was no surprise that the arms giant Lockheed Martin, which has profited from the wars supported by McCain, issued a tribute after his death.

That he sympathised with the neoconservative ideology and was beholden to the objectives of the Israel lobby is beyond doubt. His support for American interventions in the Arab world targeting secular governments perceived as not towing the line with Israel was apparent in his role in fomenting insurgencies in Libya and Syria, the latter in regard to which he unceasingly promoted a more direct form of US involvement.

It is also confirmed by his long-term attitude of belligerence towards Iran, which he consistently denounced during his presidential campaign in 2008. While on the hustings, he notoriously broke out in song by substituting the lyrics of the Beach Boys hit Barbara Ann with “Bomb Iran”. His statements tended to indicate that he would have been in favour of attacking Iran at the behest of Israel and its US-based lobby groups, an action that was strongly resisted by Barack Obama. McCain, not surprisingly, was dismissive of the Obama administration’s deal with Iran over its nuclear strategy, which he derisively referred to as a “feckless” approach to foreign policy.

McCain was despite his maverick label an establishment man adept at manoeuvring between the public spotlight and the shadowy, largely unseen world of what many now understand to be the ‘Deep State’. He was almost certainly a key player in the machinations of America’s ‘double government’ and its formulation of national security policy which, as Professor Michael Glennon pointed out in a lengthy research paper, has essentially remained unchanged from successive administrations starting with George W. Bush, through to the one headed by Barack Obama, and now that of Donald Trump.

Far from the mainstream narrative that he was a beloved figure, McCain has gone to his grave leaving a great number disgruntled for various reasons. For many veterans, he will forever be ‘Johnny Songbird’ of ‘Hanoi Hilton’ infamy; like his father, a man of the establishment who covered up many unflattering secrets of the state including that pertaining to the sinking of the USS Liberty which he never sought to redress.

To his former Vietnamese foes he remains the celebrity captive, the admiral’s son immortalised as an ‘air pirate’ depicted in a statute bent on his knees next to the lake from where he was retrieved after parachuting from his downed aircraft.

To white nationalists he is a ‘race traitor’ who supported successive amnesties for illegal immigrants and to the anti-war segment of the political left, he does not deserve praise for participating in a colonial war of aggression against the Vietnamese people, while the isolationist segment of the political right decried his persistent support for foreign wars of intervention.

John McCain was not a straightforward hero. Nor was he an exceptional politician. The unbridled facts of his life and career in the military and as a public figure embody much of what is dysfunctional about the American republic. To succumb to the blatant myth-making and obfuscation of his life represents a failure of the nation to properly reflect and critically examine itself.

That cannot bode well for the future.

The Fallacy of Calling McCain or Anyone Else a War Hero

Obit scribblers are calling John McCain a war “hero.” Well, I have to concede that unlike so many warmongering chickenhawks such as Karl Rove, Paul Wolfowitz, Robert Kagan and most other neocons, McCain did actually serve in the military.  But the same could be said for nearly all top Nazis including Hitler and Goering; they fought in a war and they loved war. They were destructive persons who learned nothing positive from their military experience.

Of course, few of the pundits and politicians who are eulogizing McCain would wish to include Nazis in their hall of fame, nor would most of them care to designate most neocons as anything less than patriots.  So what is it that might qualify someone as a hero, or as a war criminal?  Having been in the military, I sometimes think about that.  These are some thoughts that come to mind.

Heroism is sort of like morality, it’s usually defined by the powers that be.  And a lot of it has to do with being in the right place at the right time.  An example of that would be the five Marines in the famous photo of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima.  What made them more heroic than the many thousands of other GIs who fought on that and other islands in the Pacific, you might ask.  And the answer is: time and place, plus a photographer to take their picture.  So they were in a dramatic photo, and that was at a time when the government needed heroes to sell war bonds.

Military discipline is such that soldiers tend to do as told, even under fire.  It’s a military axiom that soldiers fear their sergeants more then they fear the enemy’s bullets, and I think there’s a huge amount of truth in that.  Even though a sergeant may not be particularly fearsome, there’s a huge power structure behind him.  Individual soldiers become part of the military machine.

My friend Van Dale Todd was in Vietnam and came back with medals.  He didn’t seem to consider himself a “hero.”  What he emphasized was that he’d been through an experience.  “You don’t know what it’s like to see your buddies die!” he often said, and then one night he killed himself in front of me.  That was in San Francisco, in 1972.  In his diary he’d written, “How could killing humans have been fun?  Can God forgive me?”

Many Vietnam veterans suffered from PTSD.  Many died before their time, some shortly after coming home, others years or even decades later, in their 30s or even in their 50s, not necessarily from physical injuries, but often from invisible damage they’d incurred during the war.  I never met any who considered themselves “heroes.”

War criminals?  Van never spoke of himself as being a “war criminal,” but he’d been trained to enjoy killing “the enemy,” and I think it bothered him immensely that he had enjoyed it.  That, I think, was a major factor in his suicide.  Certainly not the only factor.  He took part in antiwar actions, and it shocked him to find nobody representing the power structure (news reporters or judges) would hear what he had to say.  Of  course, the corporate media makes a big show of honoring military personnel and veterans — but only as long as we go along with the bullshit, buy into their narrative and regurgitate propaganda.  During the Vietnam War, media pundits used to tell us that the U.S. was there to defend democracy, and to back it up they’d say, “Ask a GI!” implying that people who’d been in the military believed in the war and would speak in support of it.  Well, you probably know the rest of that story.

I often think of the characters in the Iliad and the Odyssey, wondering how those guys could be considered heroes.  Socrates apparently thought they were; he held Achilles up as an inspiring example of a man who stood by his principles. That strikes me as really strange. In my view, Achilles was the archetypal spoiled brat who just wanted to have his own way.  Then there was Odysseus, a notorious liar, who got tangled up in his own lies, and that’s basically what brought about the loss of his ships and the deaths of his crews on the way back to Ithaca.  The leader of it all was King Agamemnon, a rather poor general, also a poor father who sacrificed his own daughter, and on returning to his home at the end of the war he was killed by his wife, which is about what he deserved.  Those “heroes” were made of rather poor stuff, and a couple of their gods, Zeus and Athena, both of them deceitful schemers, weren’t too great either.  The only person in the Iliad who comes off as genuinely heroic is Hector.  It’s interesting that Homer, presumably a Greek himself, would present their enemy’s champion and other Trojans as being about the only decent persons in the whole story.

Achilles, Odysseus, Agamemnon and all the rest of them.  Those were the men who fought the Trojan War, the elite officer class, that is.  Homer called them heroes and sang their praises, but tongue in cheek, while carefully letting us know who those guys really were.

Is the Washington Post Biased?

The mind of the mass media: Email exchange between myself and a leading Washington Post foreign policy reporter:

July 18, 2018

Dear Mr. Birnbaum,

You write Trump “made no mention of Russia’s adventures in Ukraine”. Well, neither he nor Putin nor you made any mention of America’s adventures in the Ukraine, which resulted in the overthrow of the Ukrainian government in 2014, which led to the justified Russian adventure. Therefore …?

If Russia overthrew the Mexican government would you blame the US for taking some action in Mexico?

William Blum

Dear Mr. Blum,

Thanks for your note. “America’s adventures in the Ukraine”: what are you talking about? Last time I checked, it was Ukrainians in the streets of Kiev who caused Yanukovych to turn tail and run. Whether or not that was a good thing, we can leave aside, but it wasn’t the Americans who did it.

It is, however, Russian special forces who fanned out across Crimea in February and March 2014, according to Putin, and Russians who came down from Moscow who stoked conflict in eastern Ukraine in the months after, according to their own accounts.

Best, Michael Birnbaum

To MB,

I can scarcely believe your reply. Do you read nothing but the Post? Do you not know of high State Dept official Victoria Nuland and the US Ambassador in Ukraine in Maidan Square to encourage the protesters? She spoke of 5 billion (sic) dollars given to aid the protesters who were soon to overthrow the govt. She and the US Amb. spoke openly of who to choose as the next president. And he’s the one who became president. This is all on tape. I guess you never watch Russia Today (RT). God forbid! I read the Post every day. You should watch RT once in a while.

William Blum

To WB,

I was the Moscow bureau chief of the newspaper; I reported extensively in Ukraine in the months and years following the protests. My observations are not based on reading. RT is not a credible news outlet, but I certainly do read far beyond our own pages, and of course I talk to the actual actors on the ground myself – that’s my job.

And: yes, of course Nuland was in the Maidan – but encouraging the protests, as she clearly did, is not the same as sparking them or directing them, nor is playing favorites with potential successors, as she clearly did, the same as being directly responsible for overthrowing the government. I’m not saying the United States wasn’t involved in trying to shape events. So were Russia and the European Union. But Ukrainians were in the driver’s seat the whole way through. I know the guy who posted the first Facebook call to protest Yanukovych in November 2013; he’s not an American agent. RT, meanwhile, reports fabrications and terrible falsehoods all the time. By all means consume a healthy and varied media diet – don’t stop at the US mainstream media. But ask yourself how often RT reports critically on the Russian government, and consider how that lacuna shapes the rest of their reporting. You will find plenty of reporting in the Washington Post that is critical of the US government and US foreign policy in general, and decisions in Ukraine and the Ukrainian government in specific. Our aim is to be fair, without picking sides.

Best, Michael Birnbaum

========= end of exchange =========

Right, the United States doesn’t play indispensable roles in changes of foreign governments; never has, never will; even when they offer billions of dollars; even when they pick the new president, which, apparently, is not the same as picking sides. It should be noticed that Mr Birnbaum offers not a single example to back up his extremist claim that RT “reports fabrications and terrible falsehoods all the time.” “All the time”, no less! That should make it easy to give some examples.


For the record, I think RT is much less biased than the Post on international affairs. And, yes, it’s bias, not “fake news” that’s the main problem – Cold-War/anti-Communist/anti-Russian bias that Americans have been raised with for a full century. RT defends Russia against the countless mindless attacks from the West. Who else is there to do that? Should not the Western media be held accountable for what they broadcast? Americans are so unaccustomed to hearing the Russian side defended, or hearing it at all, that when they do it can seem rather weird.

To the casual observer, THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA indictments on July 14 of Russian intelligence agents (GRU) reinforced the argument that the Russian government interfered in the US 2016 presidential election. Regard these indictments in proper perspective and we find that election interference is only listed as a supposed objective, with charges actually being for unlawful cyber operations, identity theft, and conspiracy to launder money by American individuals unconnected to the Russian government. So … we’re still waiting for some evidence of actual Russian interference in the election aimed at determining the winner.

The Russians did it (cont.)

Each day I spend about three hours reading the Washington Post. Amongst other things I’m looking for evidence – real, legal, courtroom-quality evidence, or at least something logical and rational – to pin down those awful Russkis for their many recent crimes, from influencing the outcome of the 2016 US presidential election to use of a nerve agent in the UK. But I do not find such evidence.

Each day brings headlines like these:

“U.S. to add economic sanctions on Russia: Attack with nerve agent on former spy in England forces White House to act”

“Is Russia exploiting new Facebook goal?”

“Experts: Trump team lacks urgency on Russian threat”

These are all from the same day, August 9, which led me to thinking of doing this article, but similar stories can be found any day in the Post and in major newspapers anywhere in America. None of the articles begins to explain how Russia did these things, or even WHY. Motivation appears to have become a lost pursuit in the American mass media. The one thing sometimes mentioned, which I think may have some credibility, is Russia’s preference of Trump over Hillary Clinton in 2016. But this doesn’t begin to explain how Russia could pull off any of the electoral magic it’s accused of, which would be feasible only if the United States were a backward, Third World, Banana Republic.

There’s the Facebook ads, as well as all the other ads … The people who are influenced by this story – have they read many of the actual ads? Many are pro-Clinton or anti-Trump; many are both; many are neither. It’s one big mess, the only rational explanation of this which I’ve read is that they come from money-making websites, “click-bait” sites as they’re known, which earn money simply by attracting visitors.

As to the nerve agents, it makes more sense if the UK or the CIA did it to make the Russians look bad, because the anti-Russian scandal which followed was totally predictable. Why would Russia choose the time of the World Cup in Moscow – of which all of Russia was immensely proud – to bring such notoriety down upon their head? But that would have been an ideal time for their enemies to want to embarrass them.

However, I have no doubt that the great majority of Americans who follow the news each day believe the official stories about the Russians. They’re particularly impressed with the fact that every US intelligence agency supports the official stories. They would not be impressed at all if told that a dozen Russian intelligence agencies all disputed the charges. Group-think is alive and well all over the world. As is Cold War II.

But we’re the Good Guys, ain’t we?

For a defender of US foreign policy there’s very little that causes extreme heartburn more than someone implying a “moral equivalence” between American behavior and that of Russia. That was the case during Cold War I and it’s the same now in Cold War II. It just drives them up the wall.

After the United States passed a law last year requiring TV station RT (Russia Today) to register as a “foreign agent”, the Russians passed their own law allowing authorities to require foreign media to register as a “foreign agent”. Senator John McCain denounced the new Russian law, saying there is “no equivalence” between RT and networks such as Voice of America, CNN and the BBC, whose journalists “seek the truth, debunk lies, and hold governments accountable.” By contrast, he said, “RT’s propagandists debunk the truth, spread lies, and seek to undermine democratic governments in order to further Vladimir Putin’s agenda.”1

And here is Tom Malinowski, former Assistant Secretary of State for democracy, human rights and labor (2014-2017): last year he reported that Putin had “charged that the U.S. government had interfered ‘aggressively’ in Russia’s 2012 presidential vote,” claiming that Washington had “gathered opposition forces and financed them.” Putin, wrote Malinowski, “apparently got President Trump to agree to a mutual commitment that neither country would interfere in the other’s elections.”

“Is this moral equivalence fair?” Malinowski asked and answered: “In short, no. Russia’s interference in the United States’ 2016 election could not have been more different from what the United States does to promote democracy in other countries.”2

How do you satirize such officials and such high-school beliefs?

We also have the case of the US government agency, National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which has interfered in more elections than the CIA or God. Indeed, the man who helped draft the legislation establishing NED, Allen Weinstein, declared in 1991: “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.”3 On April 12, 2018 the presidents of two of NED’s wings wrote: “A specious narrative has come back into circulation: that Moscow’s campaign of political warfare is no different from U.S.-supported democracy assistance.”

“Democracy assistance”, you see, is what they call NED’s election-interferences and government-overthrows.4 The authors continue: “This narrative is churned out by propaganda outlets such as RT and Sputnik [radio station]. … it is deployed by isolationists who propound a U.S. retreat from global leadership.”5

“Isolationists” is what conservatives call critics of US foreign policy whose arguments they can’t easily dismiss, so they imply that such people just don’t want the US to be involved in anything abroad.

And “global leadership” is what they call being first in election-interferences and government-overthrows.

What God giveth, Trump taketh away?

The White House sends out a newsletter, “1600 daily”, each day to subscribers about what’s new in the marvelous world inhabited by Donald J. Trump. On July 25 it reported about the president’s talk before the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention in Missouri: “We don’t apologize for America anymore. We stand up for America. And we stand up for our National Anthem,” the President said to “a thundering ovation”.

At the same time, the newsletter informed us that the State Department is bringing together religious leaders and others for the first-ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. “The goal is simple,” we are told, “to promote the God-given human right to believe what you choose.”

Aha! I see. But what about those who believe that standing for the National Anthem implies support for America’s racism or police brutality? Is it not a God-given human right to believe such a thing and “take a knee” in protest?

Or is it the devil that puts such evil ideas into our heads?

The weather all over is not just extreme … It’s downright freakish.

The argument I like to use when speaking to those who don’t accept the idea that extreme weather phenomena are largely man-made is this:

Well, we can proceed in one of two ways:

  1. We can do our best to limit the greenhouse effect by curtailing greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide) into the atmosphere, and if it turns out that these emissions were not in fact a significant cause of the widespread extreme weather phenomena, then we’ve wasted a lot of time, effort and money (although other benefits to the ecosystem would still accrue).
  2. We can do nothing at all to curtail the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and if it turns out that these emissions were in fact the leading cause of all the extreme weather phenomena, then we’ve lost the earth and life as we know it.

So, are you a gambler?

Irony of ironies … Misfortune of misfortunes … We have a leader who has zero interest in such things; indeed, the man is unequivocally contemptuous of the very idea of the need to modify individual or social behavior for the sake of the environment. And one after another he’s appointed his soulmates to head government agencies concerned with the environment.

What is it that motivates such people? I think it’s mainly that they realize that blame for much of environmental damage can be traced, directly or indirectly, to corporate profit-seeking behavior, an ideology to which they are firmly committed.

  1. Washington Post, November 16, 2017.
  2. Washington Post, July 23, 2017.
  3. Washington Post, September 22, 1991.
  4. William Blum, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, chapter 19 on NED.
  5. Washington Post, April 2, 2018.

John McCain in Australia

There is no getting away from the fact that a visit to that known outpost of American Empire, Australia, softens the mind and leads to a more vigorous wagging of tongues than usual. Away from the scrutiny of a full blooded Washington press corps, politicians can engage in speculation and hyperbole. The paternalists can slip into something more comfortable, and lord over their retainers.

US Senator John McCain, one such paternalist on tour, was a true picture for budding psychologists on his visit down under. There was a chance for sightseeing in Australia, and offering what would amount to a more moderate touch than the US President.

Having expressed his deep concern at the exploits of the Trump administration, he was trying to hold things together – if only barely.  In his sprinkling of views and addresses, the themes of stability and reassurance were pressing, neither of which are particular convincing in this age of Trump.

In a 30 minute address in the NSW State Library’s reading room, McCain was hyping the paternal, familial line: Australians need not be worried that the Grand Uncle across the Pacific had, with a set of similar, affirmed values, forgotten them.  “I realise that I come to Australia at a time when many are questioning whether America is still committed to these values.”

These shared values, uttered like a Tibetan mantra, were those of “truth over falsehood, fairness over injustice, freedom over oppression, and the immortal spirit of humankind.” The United States was far bigger than “the person in the White House.”

McCain’s words offered a broader message about reassuring allies in a time where the soothsayers in Washington are finding themselves unwanted.  Australia was by no means the only ally to be troubled, noted the veteran senator from Arizona. “Other American allies have similar doubts these days.  And it is understandable.”

McCain has also granted his Australian audiences a set of remarks that can only, in the scheme of things, be regarded as inane in their belligerence. For the 7.30 Report, McCain mused about such topics as Russian President Vladimir Putin and Islamic State. “I think he is the premier and most important threat, more so than Isis.”

Out of the Cold War deep freeze, McCain insisted that action be taken against the Putin government.  Despite admitting that there was no evidence that the Russian effort during the presidential elections had succeeded in altering the outcome, Moscow needed to be taught a lesson. “So we need to have increased sanctions on Russia and enact other penalties for Russian behaviour.”

Such an addled assessment also came with another erroneous assessment: that the United States actually had a plan for Afghanistan.  This should come as a surprise to any student of Afghan history with a rudimentary knowledge of empires. Afghanistan, after all, is where empires go, not so much to an old people’s home than a slaughterhouse to get daily nose bleeds.

Perplexingly, then, McCain claimed that Trump did have a magical grand strategy for “victory”.  That would depend on whether he was going to accept the wise counsel of appropriate courtiers.  “I do believe that most of the time he accepts their advice and counsel.  Can I tell you that he does all the time?  No.  And yes, does it bother me?  Yes, it bothers me.”

Even as the senator was doing his Australian round, Kabul faced an attack which, even by the standards of recent decades, was exemplarily bloody.  An explosive packed water tanker was detonated in the vicinity of the German embassy, including other missions and foreign media outlets, killing at least 80 and wounding 460.

Again, a security service that has all but failed, yet constantly propped up by the US and its allies, confirmed its inadequacy. The Afghan Intelligence Service, the NDS, did at least venture some speculation about where the attack came from.  The Haqqani, Taliban-aligned network got the honours on that one.

Each disaster tends to be accompanied by a clarion call for more troops, for resources of boundless commitment and boundless enthusiasm.  Afghanistan must be made an example of, developed, sorted and ordered.

From his summit as Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, McCain has called, along with his colleague Lindsey Graham, for the means to break the stalemate, as described by Gen. John W. Nicholson.  “President Trump and his administration,” both ventured in a co-authored piece for the Washington Post, “must treat Afghanistan with the same urgency as the fight against Islamic State, or this stalemate risks sliding into strategic failure.” Their stale suggestion for the stalemate:  more troops, the abandonment of the onerous fixation with “force management levels”.

For all that, McCain’s visit to Australia posed an eye-rubbing reminder that Afghanistan is also the enigma beyond resolution, let alone interpretation.  The senator would, however, have been pleased by one thing, a matter accomplished in joint self-deception with his hosts: the promise of a small deployment of 30 more Australian military advisors to the collapsing effort.

“These additional ADF members,” explained Defence Minister Marise Payne, “will allow Australia to commit additional advisers to further develop the long-term capabilities of the Afghan security forces as part of our current train, advise and assist mission.” Delusions die hard in Washington, but they die harder in Canberra.