Category Archives: Nancy Pelosi

Trump and Biden Trade Hit Pieces: Distinctions without a Difference

This season’s sequel to the Game of Thrones features reality TV star and current occupant of the Oval Office versus the former Senator from MBNA and two-term VP. It’s time to binge watch dueling hit pieces from the US electoral duopoly going at it.

The narrower the distinctions between Democrats and Republicans, the more vociferous they get in inflating those distinctions, as if a distinction were really a difference. As liberation president of Tanzania Julius Nyerere famously observed, “The United States is a one-party state but, with typical American extravagance, they have two of them.”

War with China – thinking through the unthinkable

Behind the blame game between the Democrats and the Republicans is a bedrock consensus, for example, on identifying China as not just a commercial rival but as a future enemy in a nuclear war. The US imperial ship of state is set on a collision course with China. Democrat Obama “pivoted” to Asia; Republican Trump seamlessly followed course. The RAND Corporation, a quasi-governmental think tank created to provide intelligence to the US Armed Forces, published a position paper that spells it out: War with China: Thinking Through the Unthinkable.

The corporate media echo the meme of China as the sinister enemy. The Democrat-leaning New York Times reports, “Chinese agents helped spread messages that sowed virus panic in US.” “Alarmed by fake text messages and social media posts,” the newspaper of record warns, “experts see a convergence with Russian tactics.” With no sense of shame, the Times then accuses the “pro-Trump news outlets” of promoting “conspiracy theories.”

On the Republican side, Fox commentator Tucker Carlson hyperbolically exclaims, “China did this [coronavirus pandemic] to the world and we should not pretend otherwise.”  Paranoically exhorting that “in very real ways, the Chinese government controls us,” Carlson demands, “at some point our leaders should be held accountable” for allowing China to “undermine” us.

So ditto head Biden issues a campaign video entitled, “Trump did not hold China accountable,” attacking Trump for correctly saying, “China has been working very hard to contain the coronavirus.” This view, incidentally, is shared by the World Health Organization, which praised China for its exemplary handling of the pandemic. The corresponding Trump hit piece retorts with a video of Biden saying, “I complimented him [Trump] with dealing with China.”

Proving that the rightwing media and Trump do not have a lock on xenophobia and racism, the Democratic Party ad shows Biden screaming, “I would be on the phone with China and making it clear, we are going to need to be in your country! You have to be open!” And “Trump let in 40,000 travelers from China…left this country unprepared and unprotected” from the Asian menace.

Non-essential services – rubber stamping the bipartisan consensus

The direction of US imperial policy is unquestioned as the partisan rivals compete to see, for example, who can be the bigger Sinophobe. Not mentioned is that China’s rising economic power is in part a consequence of the US neoliberal consensus to export industrial production to low-wage Asia. Protecting the US working class is not what the politicians are squabbling about.

Nor do they deeply differ on Trump’s National Security Strategy, which broke with the previous characterization of the world as a “community of nations” to the present description of a great power “competitive arena.” In the drive to achieve global “full spectrum dominance,” China and Russia are identified as military targets.

Substantive unity between the Democrats and Republicans is obscured by the smoke and mirrors of partisan bickering. On some issues, the duopoly is so unanimous they do not even bother to make a show of debating.

March 8, the US House of Representatives pushed through a bipartisan resolution increasing illegal unilateral sanctions against Nicaragua, which passed on a unanimous voice vote in eight minutes, with no debate and no one speaking in opposition.

By the end of March, after only a “smidgeon of negotiating,” Congress unanimously passed the record astronomical $2 trillion CARES Act boondoggle. While workers are experiencing the highest recorded unemployment, the bipartisan act will gift 43,000 rich citizens an average “windfall” of $1.7 million each, according to Forbes.

Then while healthcare, transportation, sanitation, and other vital workers remain on the job, the Congress critters went on recess to shelter in place, demonstrating that theirs is not an essential service.

The decadence of the US two-party system

Being on the take at the expense of the US people is a bipartisan pastime and a mark of finesse for the inside-the-beltway crowd. Senators on both sides of the aisle benefited by insider trading, dumping stocks after a confidential coronavirus briefing.

Trump’s corruption needs no elaboration, but he can legitimately criticize the Dems on the same count. A Trump hit piece points out that father Biden took son Hunter on a taxpayer funded official US government visit to China, where the son profited with a “billion dollar deal” with a subsidiary of the Bank of China.

The highest-ranking Democrat, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appears in a video showing how she’s persevering through shelter-in-place, giggling in front of her $24k refrigerators stocked with expensive ice cream.  A Trump hit piece juxtaposes that image with one of the millions of unemployed in this country saying, “we’re starving.”

Joe Biden cluelessly compounds the error by tweeting, Nancy Pelosi has “great taste” in ice cream. Meanwhile nearly 2,700 families preregistered at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank drive-up. NPR reported 10,000 cars waited hours in line for emergency food aid in San Antonio.

A couple of years ago, former Democratic Party presidential candidates John Kerry and Hillary Clinton attended a wedding hosted by the richest mogul in India for his daughter, estimated to cost $100 million by Bloomberg. While John and HRC inanely danced Bollywood-style, 170 million Indians barely subsisted on less than $2 per day.

Internet comedian Jimmy Dore observes:

The Democratic Party is so corrupt, so unbelievably corrupt and out of touch, that a guy who sits [not his exact word] on a golden toilet gets to make fun of them for being out of touch elitists. And it lands.

We will have to wait until November to see who the Electoral College anoints in its game of thrones. Even the premier progressive pundit Noam Chomsky finds the only remotely redeeming quality in Biden is that he isn’t Trump. Biden supported Bush’s Iraq war and sided with the Republicans to defeat the student bankruptcy and prescription medicine price control bills. He voted for cutting Social Security and for confirming Antonin Scalia. With Democrats like this, you don’t need Republicans.

The problem with voting for either the Republicans or Democrats – besides that they rule – is that you need a score card to figure out which is the lesser evil. That problem can be avoided by helping to build a left third-party movement. As socialist and one-time presidential candidate Eugene Debs commented: “I’d rather vote for something I want and not get it, than vote for something I don’t want and get it,” …like war with China.

Cowardly Congress Chooses to be AWOL: Shouldn’t Our Elected Representatives be on the Job Providing Essential Services?

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic a careening, confused President is fibbing, flailing, breaking laws, and mishandling money. As the domino effect of this crisis mounts, the public is asking: “Where is the Congress?” Our Senators and Representatives have been home since March 20 and won’t be back until May 4th, not on the job inside the Capitol. Shameful!

Worse, some lawmakers want a remote Congress so they can remain AWOL and pretend to deal with the many crises remotely.

Why? Fear of the pandemic? Escaping rollcall responsibility? No matter that Congress can follow all the CDC guidelines and more for personal protection. No matter that millions of essential workers – some a few blocks from Congress, bravely go to work to perform their critical duties. Healthcare, transit, grocery, police, maintenance and sanitation workers, many executive branch civil servants and others are faithfully on the job.

Congress should be working harder than ever – 6 days a week, not its usual 21/2 days. Congress should be monitoring the spending of trillions of dollars it approved for recovery, and passing improved rescue legislation that puts the people first. Congress should also be anticipating and preventing the ugly greed of commercial lobbyists who will cravenly push for more giveaways for their fat-cat big-business clients. The devil is in the details and in the fine print of new and upcoming bills. Scams, gouging, waste, and corruption are exploding already in a corporate crimewave while the President pulls the federal cops off their beats.

Thirteen million people will lose their health insurance between March and July of this year. Over 25% unemployment is bringing untold fear, dread, and deprivations to millions of families. Where are the indispensable 535 lawmakers? Back at home ignoring their duties.

Small businesses and family farms, lacking the reserves and political privileges of big business, are suddenly experiencing a deadly freefall in sales with slow arrivals of temporary federal assistance. Many will face ruin and bankruptcy. Lifetimes of work smashed.

Trump has encouraged the EPA to stop enforcing violations of prohibited pollution laws. Trump’s FDA announced that it was suspending inspections of foreign plant exporters of food and drugs to the U.S. The President is even threatening the existence of our post offices.

Where is the Congress? It’s halls and committee rooms are empty!

With knowing criminal intent, the Trumpsters are running the life and health saving Federal agencies into the ground. Under Trump’s puppet Andrew Wheeler, the EPA has become the environmental pollution agency. OSHA has been turned upside down. Trump is even weakening nursing home safety regulations in our pandemic. Scientists and other civil servants are being muzzled or pushed out.

Where is Congress? It is looking for how it can push button constitutional duties from perches back home. Can Congress truly believe that it can run our national legislature from home? There is no substitute for members of Congress convening in real time in the nation’s capital. Article 1, Section 7 of the Constitution requires a quorum to conduct Congressional lawmaking. The full Senate voted in person in March to pass the $2.2 trillion relief/bailout package.

Now, Congress agrees another large assistance law is needed. It has to be preceded by hard work, the best ideas, public hearings, tight drafting, and intense deliberation over long days.

So far Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is on the job, is resisting remote voting. Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said he agrees, but he led the flight out of Congress back to Kentucky a month ago.

Many of these pampered politicians, comfortable at home in their safe gerrymandered districts, drawing their regular salaries and benefits while watching or reading the stories of courageous workers risking their lives daily for pittances, will go down in history as cowards. Historians will not treat them kindly.

Meanwhile these so-called guardians of our crucial constitutional separation of powers are having a mock video hearing to try to show Congress can go online. This is indefensible when we have a Constitution-breaking monarchical president who says: “I have an Article 2 where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.”

Sovereign people – give your Senators and Representatives, who have fled Washington and are back home, a galvanizing piece of your mind. Just pick up the phone and dial your member or the Congressional switchboard (202-224-3141) and make your needs known. Remind them that if they don’t get back to work, you’ll remember in November.

Democrats Team Up With Trump to Maintain Disastrous Healthcare System

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

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

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

Who Heads Government Health Programs?

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

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

The Democrats Aren’t Innocent Bystanders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NIMA: A Step Forward for the Working Class

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

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

The Need to Go Beyond National Improved Medicare for All

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

Failed Prosecutions: Donald Trump Survives the Senate

Never undertake a prosecution unless you have good grounds, and prospects, for a solid conviction.  In the case against President Donald Trump, there was never a serious prospect that the Senate would cool sufficiently to give the Democrats the votes necessary to affirm vote of impeachment in the House.  The GOP remains very much in Trump’s pocket, a remarkable if opportunistic transformation given the innate hostility shown towards him prior to the 2016 elections.  With their allegiance pinned to the Trump juggernaut, the hope is that, come November, the entire effort won’t sink under the toxic miasma that is US politics.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had agonised over the original decision to pursue Trump through impeachment proceedings.  One argument that seemed persuasive was the sense that too much energy would be consumed in the process, taking away from the election cycle and jeopardising the campaign to oust Trump at the ballot box.  She held out for a time, keeping the firebrands at bay.  But the demands of her office, and those around her to do something to combat Trump’s claimed misdemeanours in office, were too profound to ignore.  Even if the effort was bound to lose, a stand had to be made.

Political strategists, however, thought of alternatives as to how best to land enduring blows.  Douglas Heye, former deputy chief of staff to House Majority leader Eric Cantor, felt that censure was more appropriate and would have constituted “a serious rebuke of Trump’s action and might have even garnered some bipartisan support.”

Once commenced, the approach of the Democrats seemed clipped, a crude abridgment that was as much a matter of caution as it was of fear.  The articles of impeachment were narrow, pegged to the issue of Ukraine, the nexus with US electoral interference, and obstruction of Congress.  The meaty report of the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, played no part.

For all that, the case against Trump did convince Senator Mitt Romney, the only Republican to be swayed by the arguments that Trump be removed.  The bar for misconduct in executive office, as opposed to the wheeling and dealing that keeps company with the occupant of that office, remains a high one indeed.

The school of thought favouring Pelosi – that the Democrats had to pursue the impeachment route – has force with the likes of Robert Kuttner, co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect.  “Trump’s contempt for the rule of law was so flagrant that it would have been a dereliction of constitutional duty for the House Democrats to turn the other cheek.”  While Trump was not removed from office, “it had to be done, and could yet produce major benefits for the Democrats and the country.” Kuttner, it would seem, is no political strategist.

Keith E. Whittington of Princeton University is also of similar mind.  There were a host of “good reasons”, he claims in Lawfare, in pursuing an impeachment process despite falling at the final hurdle.  It constituted “a kind of formal censure” and “an effort to reassert important constitutional norms.”  For all that, Whittington makes a concession.  While an impeachment process might not be a failure because it ends in acquittal, one “that heightens political divisions without reinforcing the proper limits on conduct of government officials is not much of a success.”

Those divisions were laid bare in their partisanship.  The Republicans ensured minimal scrutiny in the trial process itself, including jettisoning any prospect for calling witnesses.  Further avenues of embarrassment were cut off.  It was a reminder that, however such processes are framed, impeachment is a political scrap rather than a sober judicial assessment.  The Democrats, despite their desperate attempts to make Russiagate swallow Trump, or the allegations regarding the withholding of funding to Ukraine as a quid quo pro for investigating the Bidens, have not been able to shift the ground.

Trump’s fantastically oily manner of conducting politics – an aping of business acumen and crassness – has left opponents wanting.  He slips, ducks and eventually turns the gun pointed at him against the opponent.  He makes sure it is armed, then fires.  The impeachment episode is now being loaded and launched as a means of acquittal and exoneration, while the Democrats are being accused of failed venality. We, claimed Trump “have that gorgeous word.  I never thought a word would sound so good – it’s called, ‘total acquittal.’”  Arithmetic is evidently not the president’s strong suit.

The ever demagogic Louis Dobb of Fox Business is also happily restocking the arsenal, having told his audience that the Senate had “acquitted President Trump of both charges fabricated by Congressional Democrats, led by Speaker Pelosi and Adam Schiff, to carry out the most egregious and partisan attack against any president in our history – a man they knew to be innocent.”

The representative Republican position, and not just one held by them, was to be found in the views of the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.  “Right now, this is a political loser for [the Democrats].  They initiated it.  They thought this was a great idea.”  In the “short term, it has been a colossal political mistake.”  Much reading of the tea leaves is bound to follow.

SOTU shows true colours of all

The State of the Union Speech was pretty much a theatre of the absurd, but it also showed the true colors of everyone involved. As a speech goes, regardless of the content, it was very good on rhetoric. With plenty of theatrics that only a reality game show host could muster, it very likely gave Trump a bump in the ratings, for now. Let’s just wait for his post-acquittal speech where he’s likely to claim himself St. Donald, martyred by the Radical Left Socialist Democrats.

There were of course moments that were bi-partisan, for good or bad. Highlighting the Tuskegee Airman and his great-grandson could have occurred under any president. He gave a scholarship to a young African American girl, and talked about issues that crossed party lines, like planting trees, drug price reduction, and saving Social Security, none of which his administration has ever advocated and often fought for the opposite. Two of the most disgusting moments of bi-partisanship was the awarding of the Medal of Freedom to Rush Limbaugh and the standing ovation for Guiado, the usurper of power in Venezuela, and leader of the coup against the elected government.

Rush Limbaugh has been a radio voice for the ultra-right for decades. He has personified hate speech by employing outright crudeness, racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and fascism on the air and for this he was given a standing ovation by a majority of the House, including Democrats. In a way, the full House was giving Trump the ovation as his thoughts and actions mirror that of Limbaugh’s. This shows all of their true colors.

America pretends to be a voice for freedom and self-determination all over the world, except that it isn’t. In the chamber was Juan Guaido, who attempted to overthrow the democratically elected president of Venezuela, and just recently snubbed by the EU. Led by Nancy Pelosi, the entire House gave him the respect that could only be offered by a fascist assembly.

Every president lies or exaggerates during a State of the Union Address but true to form, very little of what Trump said last night was truthful. So many of his ‘successes’ were continuations of the previous administration, which he derided throughout the speech. His numbers were cooked, and of course left out what any of it meant. For example, yes the stock market is on the rise. But that only means rich people are getting richer, and nearly half of all Americans don’t even have stocks, let alone enough to make any real difference in their lives. Nancy Pelosi, in a moment of extreme anger and frustration, tore up his speech at the end, calling it a ‘manifestation of mistruths’.

As the saying goes, ‘this is not going to end well.’ Trump will be on a roll, given a rousing speech to his base and blasting the Democrats at every turn, continuing with today’s speech on his acquittal by the Senate, Pelosi and the Democrats, with egg on their faces for their debacle in Iowa, and the campaign continuing next week in New Hampshire; all point to several more months of mutual animosities, distrust, divisiveness, and outright fear of what an unleashed President Trump will do.

• First published 0n PressTV

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

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

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

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

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

Trump takes office

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

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

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

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

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

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

Imperialism and neoliberalism

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

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

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

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

Russiagate and impeachment

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

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

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

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

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

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

Class trumps partisan differences

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

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

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

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

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

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

Revolt of the dispossessed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

War with Iran: Everyone wins!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As the Black Alliance for Peace stated:

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

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

Impeachment Indicts Both Parties and Clarifies Our Tasks for 2020

The Democratic Party’s electoral strategy of impeaching Donald Trump is backfiring. Before impeachment, Trump was losing to each of the leading Democrats, but the latest USA Today/Suffolk University poll finds for the first time Trump defeating all of the leading Democratic candidates. Gallup reports that Trump’s approval has risen by six points since the launch of the impeachment inquiry. A CNN poll found that support for impeachment fell by five percent over the past month.

Rather than focus on issues that impact people’s lives — like racism and bigotry, the unfair economy that results in low wages, growing inequality, major corporations and the wealthy not paying taxes, as well as expensive and inadequate healthcare coverage — Democrats are focusing on the issue of withholding military aid to Ukraine for a proxy war against Russia when voters are tired of never-ending wars.

The Democrats, while trying to wrap themselves in the Constitution, are using impeachment as a partisan election-year tool to defeat Trump in 2020. It is failing and is confusing people on the Left. As Ajamu Baraka clarifies:

Political Stunt Could Erupt in Dangerous Ways

The Democrats are not focusing on what makes Trump unpopular, his open racism and sexism, his anti-environment and climate denialism policies, and his antipathy for whistleblowers and constant false statements. In fact, Representative Al Green introduced resolutions for impeachment that focused on these issues in 2017 and they were voted down by the House.

Raising Ukraine reminds people that Obama-Biden conducted an open coup there that brought more corruption to that country. Trump demanded an investigation of Joe Biden for interfering with an investigation of the appointment of his son Hunter to a well-paid board seat on Ukraine’s largest gas company — a job for which he lacked expertise. Ukraine-gate reminds people of Democratic Party corruption and their unpopular interventionist foreign policy.

Both the Democrats and Republicans have a long history of corrupt activities from the statehouses to the White House. Unfortunately, many of these activities are done with the cover of domestic law. Governments have a responsibility to ensure that basic needs are met and provide security, but in the United States, the government is a wealth-building tool for the already rich. And the security state is designed to protect the elites from the people. This is causing real hardship for most people in their everyday lives. Impeachment, as it is being conducted, will not improve things and may actually make them worse.

As Chris Hedges wrote in September, impeachment will not restore the rule of law or bring democracy but it will allow President Trump to raise the outrage of his base, which is armed, and potentially increase right-wing violence. This may already be happening in Tazewell County in Southwestern Virginia, where 82% voted for Trump in 2016. They recently deemed themselves a second amendment sanctuary county and passed a resolution asserting their right to form a militia.

To quote Hedges:

Economic, social and political stagnation, coupled with a belief that our expectations for our lives and the lives of our children have been thwarted, breeds violence. Trump, fighting for his political life, will use rhetorical gasoline to set it alight. He will demonize his opponents as the embodiment of evil. He will seek to widen the divisions and antagonisms, especially around race. He will brand his political opponents as irredeemable enemies and traitors.

The Democrat’s election-year stunt is also sucking time and activist energy away from working for solutions to the many crises we are facing. In this way, it is fueling insecurity and anger that could erupt in dangerous ways.

Protest at the DNC, Democratic Party Betrayal by John Zangas of the DC Media Group

Democrats Work Against The People’s Interests While Impeaching Trump

Throughout the impeachment process, Democrats lost opportunities to work for people and the planet and differentiate themselves from Trump. They demonstrated their complicity with policies that benefit the elites.

In 2016, Trump campaigned against corporate trade that sent jobs overseas and kept wages low in the US to win key Midwestern states. He railed on NAFTA, which hollowed out Rustbelt communities. During impeachment, the Democrats had the opportunity to show Trump does not represent the people but instead represents big business interests. NAFTA II, which Trump re-named the US Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA), is a replay of NAFTA. It continues the tradition of corporate trade agreements while shuffling which industries profit from it. Instead of pointing out Trump’s failure, the Democrats signed off on his agreement after some modest amendments. This bi-partisan approval was a victory for Trump and a defeat for those who want corporate trade remade for people and the planet.

Trump also campaigned against never-ending wars and foreign interventions. While focusing on impeachment Democrats failed to point out Trump is doing the opposite of what he promised. On December 12, 188 Democrats joined him and on December 17, 37 Democrats voted for the funding in the Senate when it passed the largest military budget since World War II, $738 billion for the Pentagon. Trump signed it before flying off to his Mar-a-lago resort for the holidays. The corrupt leadership of both parties is shown in the Afghan Papers that expose the fraud of the 19-year failed trillion-dollar war for which the military had no strategy, was incompetent and knew was unwinnable.

The Democrats provided funding for a new branch of the military, the Space Force, which will lead to the greatest arms race in the history of the planet. The military budget continued the trillion-dollar upgrade of nuclear weapons begun under Obama spurring a nuclear arms race when we should be banning nuclear weapons. The Democrats could have pointed to massive spending on an arms race when the US is already spending more than the next 10 countries in the world combined — all at a time of crumbling infrastructure, the need for a rapid transition to a clean energy economy and urgent needs for housing, healthcare, and more. This followed shortly after changes in the rules on food stamps that will create food insecurity for up to 700,000 more people.

Pelosi called for impeachment at the same time as Trump’s embarrassing trip to the 70th anniversary NATO meeting. At the meeting, Trump was mocked by world leaders including French Prime Minister Macron who called NATO ‘brain dead’ because of Trump’s poor leadership. NATO should be ended as it is a force for the expansion of wars and wasteful spending on militarism but Democrats were silent on that reality.

During impeachment, regime change continued causing suffering in Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia. The economic war against Venezuela escalated with continued efforts to put in place the failing puppet Guaido. Bolivia is suffering from US-supported regime change. US-funded protests in Hong Kong and false reports on the Muslim Uyghurs are escalating conflict with China. And, the US continues its efforts to topple the Iranian government with extreme sanctions and manipulation of protests in Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon.

Finally, during impeachment, the UN climate meeting, COP 25, was held. While Trump has committed climate crimes, the Democrats are also guilty of such crimes. The United States has played a negative role throughout this history of the COP meetings. This continued at the Spain meetings where despite the US withdrawing from the Paris agreement, it continued to play a negative role.

Screenshot of final impeachment vote on Article I from MSNBC.

The Popular Movement and Impeachment

There is no “progressive” side to the impeachment battle between the millionaire’s parties. On one side, Donald Trump was using his office to investigate a political opponent. On the other side, the Democrats are protecting the corruption of Joe Biden and using impeachment as an election tool. The reality is past presidents could have been impeached for numerous violations of law including serious war crimes, illegal wars, illegal unilateral coercive measures (sanctions), selling their office for donations to their billion-dollar campaigns and crimes against the environment that risk our future by not only ignoring climate change but making it worse.

Impeachment may define the 2020 election. It is a perfect distraction to keep people from fighting for what we need. In 2020 the necessities of the people and protection of the planet will be silenced. Voters will be told to make no demands because we need to remove Trump and to unite around another corporatist Democratic presidential candidate.

The Democratic leadership and the corporate media are struggling to prevent the nomination of Senators Sanders or Warren because they oppose their progressive agenda. The media is not covering Howie Hawkins, a Green candidate who has put forward the most progressive agenda built around an Ecosocialist Green New Deal and economic equality.

We need to focus on issues in 2020 and fight for a People’s Agenda. Due to the misleadership of the corporate duopoly, the nation and planet are facing multiple crisis situations. Our job in 2020 is to focus on those issues, not on a candidate or on impeachment. We need to build popular support for confronting the climate crisis and changing laws and policies to shrink inequality and end systemic racism and militarism.

To win the People’s Agenda, we need a strong and organized Left in the United States. This requires political education so people understand what is happening around them and the role of government in it. It also requires building participatory democratic structures in our communities. We spoke with Leo Panitch about this in our latest episode of Clearing the FOG: “Corbyn’s Loss: What it means for Sanders and where the Left goes from here,” which you can hear or read the transcript.

When it comes to elections, the mirage democracy of the United States has very little room for the people in manipulated elections that create an illusion of democracy. We must build electoral structures that organize the people’s movements inside the electoral system. For us, this means building an effective independent left party outside of the corporate duopoly.

Impeachment is a partisan exercise. The Democrats had their partisan vote when they impeached Trump in the House. Pelosi is now preventing the Senate from its inevitable acquittal of Trump. No matter how impeachment turns out, it will not make a difference in advancing the people’s agenda. It is our job to focus on building the movement for enacting an agenda for people and planet, something both millionaire parties will fight to stop.

US Democrats cultivated the Barbarism of Isis

There is something profoundly deceitful in the Democratic Party and corporate media’s framing of Donald Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Syria.

One does not need to like Trump or ignore the dangers posed to the Kurds, at least in the short term, by the sudden departure of US forces from northern Syria to understand that the coverage is being crafted in such a way as to entirely overlook the bigger picture.

The problem is neatly illustrated in this line from a report by the Guardian newspaper of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s meeting this week with Trump, who is described as having had a “meltdown”. Explaining why she and other senior Democrats stormed out, the paper writes that “it became clear the president had no plan to deal with a potential revival of Isis in the Middle East”.

Hang on a minute! Let’s pull back a little, and not pretend – as the media and Democratic party leadership wish us to do – that the last 20 years did not actually happen. Many of us lived through those events. Our memories are not so short.

Islamic State, or Isis, didn’t emerge out of nowhere. It was entirely a creation of two decades of US interference in the Middle East. And I’m not even referring to the mountains of evidence that US officials backed their Saudi allies in directly funding and arming Isis – just as their predecessors in Washington, in their enthusiasm to oust the Soviets from the region, assisted the jihadists who went on to become al-Qaeda.

No, I’m talking about the fact that in destroying three key Arab states – Iraq, Libya and Syria – that refused to submit to the joint regional hegemony of Saudi Arabia and Israel, Washington’s local client states, the US created a giant void of governance at the heart of the Middle East. They knew that that void would be filled soon enough by religious extremists like Islamic State – and they didn’t care.

Overthrow, not regime change

You don’t have to be a Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi or Bashar Assad apologist to accept this point. You don’t even have to be concerned that these so-called “humanitarian” wars violated each state’s integrity and sovereignty, and are therefore defined in international law as “the supreme war crime”.

The bigger picture – the one no one appears to want us thinking about – is that the US intentionally sought to destroy these states with no obvious plan for the day after. As I explained in my book Israel and the Clash of Civilisations, these haven’t so much been regime-change wars as nation-state dismantling operations – what I have termed overthrow wars.

The logic was a horrifying hybrid of two schools of thought that meshed neatly in the psychopathic foreign policy goals embodied in the ideology of neoconservatism – the so-called “Washington consensus” since 9/11.

The first was Israel’s long-standing approach to the Palestinians. By constantly devastating any emerging Palestinian institution or social structures, Israel produced a divide-and-rule model on steriods, creating a leaderless, ravaged, enfeebled society that sucked out all the local population’s energy. That strategy proved very appealing to the neoconservatives, who saw it as one they could export to non-compliant states in the region.

The second was the Chicago school’s Shock Doctrine, as explained in Naomi Klein’s book of that name. The chaotic campaign of destruction, the psychological trauma and the sense of dislocation created by these overthrow wars were supposed to engender a far more malleable population that would be ripe for a US-controlled “colour revolution”.

The recalcitrant states would be made an example of, broken apart, asset-stripped of their resources and eventually remade as new dependent markets for US goods. That was what George W Bush, Dick Cheney and Halliburton really meant when they talked about building a New Middle East and exporting democracy.

Even judged by the vile aims of its proponents, the Shock Doctrine has been a half-century story of dismal economic failure everywhere it has been attempted – from Pinochet’s Chile to Yeltsin’s Russia. But let us not credit the architects of this policy with any kind of acumen for learning from past errors. As Bush’s senior adviser Karl Rove explained to a journalist whom he rebuked for being part of the “reality-based community”: “We’re an empire now and, when we act, we create our own reality.”

The birth of Islamic State

The barely veiled aim of the attacks on Iraq, Libya and Syria was to destroy the institutions and structures that held these societies together, however imperfectly. Though no one likes to mention it nowadays, these states – deeply authoritarian though they were – were also secular, and had well-developed welfare states that ensured high rates of literacy and some of the region’s finest public health services.

One can argue about the initial causes of the uprising against Assad that erupted in Syria in 2011. Did it start as a popular struggle for liberation from the Assad government’s authoritarianism? Or was it a sectarian insurgency by those who wished to replace Shia minority rule with Sunni majority rule? Or was it driven by something else: as a largely economic protest by an under-class suffering from food shortages as climate change led to repeated crop failures? Or are all these factors relevant to some degree?

Given how closed a society Syria was and is, and how difficult it therefore is to weigh the evidence in ways that are likely to prove convincing to those not already persuaded, let us set that issue aside. Anyway, it is irrelevant to the bigger picture I want to address.

The indisputable fact is that Washington and its Gulf allies wished to exploit this initial unrest as an opportunity to create a void in Syria – just as they had earlier done in Iraq, where there were no uprisings, nor even the WMDs the US promised would be found and that served as the pretext for Bush’s campaign of Shock and Awe.

The limited uprisings in Syria quickly turned into a much larger and far more vicious war because the Gulf states, with US backing, flooded the country with proxy fighters and arms in an effort to overthrow Assad and thereby weaken Iranian and Shia influence in the region. The events in Syria and earlier in Iraq gradually transformed the Sunni religious extremists of al-Qaeda into the even more barbaric, more nihilistic extremists of Islamic State.

A dark US vanity project

As Rove and Cheney played around with reality, nature got on with honouring the maxim that it always abhors a vacuum. Islamic State filled the vacuum Washington’s policy had engineered.

The clue, after all, was in the name. With the US and Gulf states using oil money to wage a proxy war against Assad, Isis saw its chance to establish a state inspired by a variety of Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabist dogma. Isis needed territory for their planned state, and the Saudis and US obliged by destroying Syria.

This barbarian army, one that murdered other religious groups as infidels and killed fellow Sunnis who refused to bow before their absolute rule, became the west’s chief allies in Syria. Directly and covertly, we gave them money and weapons to begin building their state on parts of Syria.

Again, let us ignore the fact that the US, in helping to destroy a sovereign nation, committed the supreme war crime, one that in a rightly ordered world would ensure every senior Washington official faces their own Nuremberg Trial. Let us ignore too for the moment that the US, consciously through its actions, brought to life a monster that sowed death and destruction everywhere it went.

The fact is that at the moment Assad called in Russia to help him survive, the battle the US and the Gulf states were waging through Islamic State and other proxies was lost. It was only a matter of time before Assad would reassert his rule.

From that point onwards, every single person who was killed and every single Syrian made homeless – and there were hundreds of thousands of them – suffered their terrible fate for no possible gain in US policy goals. A vastly destructive overthrow war became instead something darker still: a neoconservative vanity project that ravaged countless Syrian lives.

A giant red herring

Trump is now ending part of that policy. He may be doing so for the wrong reasons. But very belatedly – and possibly only temporarily – he is closing a small chapter in a horrifying story of western-sponsored barbarism in the Middle East, one intimately tied to Islamic State.

What of the supposed concerns of Pelosi and the Democratic Party under whose watch the barbarism in Syria took place? They should have no credibility on the matter to begin with.

But their claims that Trump has “no plan to deal with a potential revival of Isis in the Middle East” is a giant red herring they are viciously slapping us in the face with in the hope the spray of seawater blinds us.

First, Washington sowed the seeds of Islamic State by engineering a vacuum in Syria that Isis – or something very like it – was inevitably going to fill. Then, it allowed those seeds to flourish by assisting its Gulf allies in showering fighters in Syria with money and arms that came with only one string attached – a commitment to Sunni jihadist ideology inspired by Saudi Wahhabism.

Isis was made in Washington as much as it was in Riyadh. For that reason, the only certain strategy for preventing the revival of Islamic State is preventing the US and the Gulf states from interfering in Syria again.

With the Syrian army in charge of Syrian territory, there will be no vacuum for Isis to fill. Its state-building rationale is now unrealisable, at least in Syria. It will continue to wither, as it would have done years before if the US and its Gulf allies had not fuelled it in a proxy war they knew could not be won.

Doomed Great Game

The same lesson can be drawn by looking at the experience of the Syrian Kurds. The Rojava fiefdom they managed to carve out in northern Syria during the war survived till now only because of continuing US military support. With the US departure, and the Kurds too weak to maintain their improvised statelet, a vacuum was again created that this time risks sucking in the Turkish army, which fears a base for Kurdish nationalism on its doorstep.

The Syrian Kurds’ predicament is simple: face a takeover by Turkey or seek Assad’s protection to foil Turkish ambition. The best hope for the Kurds looks to be the Syrian army’s return, filling the vacuum and regaining a chance of long-term stability.

That could have been the case for all of Syria many tens of thousands of deaths ago. Whatever the corporate media suggest, those deaths were lost not in a failed heroic battle for freedom, which, even if it was an early aspiration for some fighters, quickly became a goal that was impossible for them to realise. No, those deaths were entirely pointless. They were sacrificed by a western military-industrial complex in a US-Saudi Great Game that dragged on for many years after everyone knew it was doomed.

Nancy Pelosi’s purported worries about Isis reviving because of Trump’s Syria withdrawal are simply crocodile fears. If she is really so worried about Islamic State, then why did she and other senior Democrats stand silently by as the US under Barack Obama spent years spawning, cultivating and financing Isis to destroy Syria, a state that was best placed to serve as a bulwark against the head-chopping extremists?

Pelosi and the Democratic leadership’s bad faith – and that of the corporate media – are revealed in their ongoing efforts to silence and smear Tulsi Gabbard, the party’s only candidate for the presidential nomination who has pointed out the harsh political realities in Syria, and tried to expose their years of lies.

Pelosi and most of the Democratic leadership don’t care about Syria, or its population’s welfare. They don’t care about Assad, or Isis. They care only about the maintenance and expansion of American power – and the personal wealth and influence it continues to bestow on them.

“I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as President.” Really!

It is time for the House of Representatives to announce comprehensive articles of impeachment against the chronic outlaw and violator of the public trust—President Donald J. Trump who won the Electoral College, but lost the popular vote.

Six House Committees have been investigating and assembling for months the necessary evidence. Mr. Trump himself has taunted the House to impeach him. He has openly and brazenly defied Congressional subpoenas for documents and block subpoenaed witnesses from testifying. This obstruction of Congress is an ongoing impeachable offense—a grave one in the opinions of James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and the other framers of our Constitution, who knew the importance of critical separation of powers.

These Committees are documenting his massive obstruction of justice, otherwise known as blocking law enforcement and the rule of law through intimidation, firings, and other forms of political coercion. They are filling in the details of the ten categories of obstruction described in the Mueller Report. They are cataloguing all the ways Trump is using his office to enrich his businesses—openly promoting his hotels before foreign governments and their agents.

Committee investigators are peeling off layer after layer of Trump’s demanding from Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine to investigate a possible opponent to his re-election—Joe Biden and his son, having suspended nearly $400 million in U.S. aid to Ukraine to pressure Mr. Zelensky.

The “abuse of the public trust,” in Alexander Hamilton’s phrase is overflowing. Over ten thousand Trump lies mean cover-ups, secrecy in government, deceiving innocent citizens about the air, food, water, and workplace danger, megalomania, about drug prices and health insurance for all. Lies matter; they tell us something about the President’s mental instability, his detachment from reality, and the willingness of a large minority of the people to believe the fibs—even when they are about their own crucial livelihoods, health, and safety.

Being a serial sexual predator and earlier bragging about how he accosted women are a brutish model for youngsters. Legislators like Senator Al Franken lost his position for doing one percent of Donald’s criminal and tortious acts. What would Hamilton also think of the Commander in Chief saying that if he is impeached, there might be a civil war? Incitation to mass violence for his political survival is not a minor matter.

Then there are the lawless uses of armed force abroad anywhere Trump wants, regardless of the absence of Congressional appropriations or declarations of war. Dragnet enforcement without judicial warrants are a federal crime. The same for threatening registered federal whistleblowers.

The House of Representatives already has enough evidence of Trump spending money for purposes not authorized by Congress, such as shifting $3.5 billion from Pentagon schools and other services to building his porous wall. If he reads the Constitution, the “power of the purse” was exclusively given to Congress.

That previous presidents have done some of the latter offenses does not exonerate Trump’s violations. The Congress has to draw the line and stop the ever-faster drift under both parties toward executive tyranny in the White House.

The polls are moving over 50% in favor of impeachment. Other people wish Congress would focus on kitchen-table issues. They need to know that Trump’s impeachable offenses include wholesale taking the federal cops off the corporate crime beat. He is making your air, water, food, and workplaces more hazardous by removing or weakening health and safety standards that save lives and diminish sicknesses. He’s allowing more greenhouse gases to be emitted, worsening the climate disruptions which he says is a “Chinese hoax.”

Law enforcement to protect your family budget has reached a record low. The loan sharks, credit, insurance, and banking industries know that. Fines imposed on wrongdoers by Trump’s agencies have dropped precipitously (see Public Citizen’s report, “Corporate Impunity”). With Trump, you’re paying higher taxes as the wealthy classes get off and savor their large Trumpian tax escapes.

The foregoing is to urge House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to deliver a full hand of serious impeachable offenses to the Congress and the American people. The Ukraine shakedown is important, but not sufficient to let people realize all the other things Trump is doing to them, their families, their Constitution, and their democracy.

The full, despicable portrait of Donald J. Trump must be revealed to provide the maximum possible public understanding. For over two and a half years, too many of his absurd tweets and assertions have gone without official rebuttals. His tactic is to dominate the news cycle every day as if his presidency is a reality show and he is the star.

The mass media is starting to wise up about being used and abused by Trump’s fulminations and incitements. It is time for the mass media, and its broadening coverage of the forthcoming, nationally televised House impeachment proceedings, to prove it too can expose Trump’s assault on both our Constitution’s law of the land and the citizenry.