John Carlos Frey’s Sand and Blood relates the roughly 140-year history of U.S. anti-immigrant racism and policy on the southwest border, and highlights its mostly pre-Trump, bipartisan intensification over the last thirty-odd years. Frey, an American citizen born in Tijuana, Mexico, and raised in San Diego county, did not give the Border Patrol or border policy much thought until one day in 1977, when he was 12. His mother, a green card-holding, legally-residing Mexican American, was arrested walking near her home because a Border Patrol agent did not believe she was legal, nor that she lived nearby. She was deported to Tijuana before her family could do anything. Luckily, they were able to bring her back the next day. The experience encouraged Frey’s outlook to shift from innocent indifference to sober scrutiny, a shift that pushed him to become a leading journalist examining border and immigration policies and attitudes.
Anti-immigrant hate and hysteria in the United States is hardly an unknown matter. However, Frey managed to surprise this reader when he dug up a rather antique, if grotesque case. In 1753, Ben Franklin, sounding Trump-like, but with more august language, worried about what he considered the low-quality Germans entering the country, threatening to destroy our language and even, he must have gasped, our very nation. The expression of such anti-German opinion, however, like other early anti-immigrant expressions, never rose to the fever-pitch fixated on Chinese immigrants. And that is where Frey begins his 140-year history.
In the 1880s, the terrifying immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border were desperate Chinese laborers, not Mexicans. Mexicans were crossing, returning, and re-crossing then, but their presence was mostly ignored given that they met the exploitative needs of agricultural interests and, I would guess, American insecurities lay elsewhere. Mexican migrants remained invisible near-slaves—the status of hated-celebrity near-slaves, that would be a future privilege. The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act barred Chinese laborers from entering the country—belying the sentiments about “huddled masses” and all that, written just a year later and eventually stamped on the base of the Statue of Liberty. The focus of early military patrols along the Mexican border, as early as 1904, remained on Chinese immigrants. However, a shift characterized by increased anti-Mexican attitudes and policies soon began; policies which included such humiliations as daily stripping and delousing of migrant workers, including the spraying of clothes with toxic chemicals during a Typhoid scare.
In 1924, border and immigration policy worsened notably, though it would take decades before it reached the current systematic militarized cruelty aimed overwhelmingly at desperate and poor Central American migrants. That year, the Immigration Act prohibited entry by most Asians entirely (on whom racist hysteria, as noted, was then still fixated) and created a quota system for other immigrants, all on the basis of worries about “American homogeneity” (14)—meaning whiteness, mostly. Additionally, the Labor Appropriations Act established the Border Patrol, the pre-existing body of which was expanded from 75 agents to 450 by the previously-mentioned Act—putting it on its path to its current gargantuan, nearly-20,000-agent size. Still, the Border Patrol was, in the 1920s certainly, mostly absorbed with stemming alcohol smuggling from Canada. And for fifty years, border and immigrant policy remained relatively low key.
Frey says that in the 1970s, border security still appeared mostly a “show for the public” (5) and the border, particularly near San Diego, a tranquil “free zone” (29) where cross-border movement and family contact continued to some extent undisturbed. Politically-powerful business interests focused on maintaining cheap labor sources managed to mute racist and militaristic policies. In the 1980s, however, though the capitalist desire for cheap labor remained, as it does to this day, officials began, largely for “political reasons” (5), to shift the balance toward the racism and militarization. Reagan, though hardly anti-racist, to say the least, sincerely backed the “amnesty” angle of a mid-80s immigration bill, eventually adopted. However, the bill also made life harder and more dangerous for Central American immigrants, including those fulfilling cheap labor needs. In California, Governor Pete Wilson, despite a two-thirds disapproval rating, rode anti-immigrant Proposition 187 to a second term. President Bill Clinton noticed this, apparently, and turned increasingly anti-immigrant. Clinton built on Bush Sr. policies remarkably reminiscent of the suggestions of a hate-group, the moderately-named Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). Clinton even ignored INS and Border Patrol calls for administrative reforms to accelerate legalization and opted instead for an unprecedentedly brutal militarized approach at the border that intentionally funneled migrants into desert death-zones. Presidents Bush Jr. and Obama inherited and continued the policies. 9/11 served the hysteria well, and provided an excuse for the expense and horror, though it did not originate them.
Trump did not bring border policy horror to America, either. He also inherited it. He remains unable to gain any further legal leeway to impose his vision of border policy, reports Frey. Instead, he has taken full advantage of existing laws, while trying often to stretch their applicability (which has meant increased cruelty to migrants). Though he has been “bold and brash” (178) about the policies, and his rhetoric devoid of nuance, his expressions have often merely echoed those of previous politicians, like Bill Clinton. His wall is an impossibility, in part, for the same reason migration is so deadly—the harsh terrain. The default option will remain the militarized crossing places in concert with the death zones. Yet, the impossibility of the wall did not prevent the longest government shutdown in US history, all over funding for the impossible wall—highlighting the political nature of border policy, as the death and cruelty grinds on.
The unfortunate father and daughter depicted in the image above, and how they relate to Frey’s narrative, merit notice. The AP story1 from which it was taken included a graph illustrating death rates at the border over the last twenty years, based on U.S. Customs and Border Patrol stats. These peaked, we are to believe, at nearly 500 in 2005, and again in 2013, before declining to last year’s number, 283. The father and daughter’s deaths occurred on the Mexican side of the border, so the thoroughness of the accounting for their loss of life may be hard to determine. However, a key matter to understand, as Frey tells us, is that the Border Patrol consistently and knowingly undercounts the dead, ignoring the significant numbers of border deaths discovered by others (while also sometimes exaggerating apprehensions). Such policies misinform the public, certainly, obscuring the conscious lethal-desert-method of deterrence, while playing up the apprehension-method. In Vietnam, official body-counts of enemies killed were controversial, but reportedly exaggerated to demonstrate achievement of official goals; body-counters, for bureaucratic reasons, simply double- or triple-counted those dead they found. At the modern U.S.-Mexico border, bodies are undercounted because the understood policy of deterrence by death cannot be broadcast—and so the Border Patrol ignores those dead found by others, dead who thereby do not exist in official counts converted into published graphs like the one accompanying the AP News story.
Frey and I share a birth year (1965), and we both grew up in the American Southwest, giving us a chronological as well as a cultural overlap I appreciate. However, since my entire family is U.S.-born, and because, frankly, we customarily check the ‘white’ box on the decennial census form, Frey’s experiences and mine diverge. Mercifully, the Border Patrol never arrested my mother walking down the street in her neighborhood due simply to her ethnicity and proximity to the border. Frey’s extensive work as a journalist offers another line of departure between us, toil that led him eventually to this volume.
The book is an important and very informative addition to the current conversation about immigration and border policy. It serves to support serious critique of relevant Trump policies, which have upped the ante in the worst ways, while at the same time gutting the simplified histories that leave the impression horrible border policies began in 2017. Frey demonstrates how the militarized, inhumane border policies are not Trumpian, but American, common to both liberal and conservative administrations, taking on their current hyper-militaristic and hyper-cruel qualities at the eager command of Bill Clinton, Democratic star.
Frey could have strengthened his argument that U.S. policies and behaviors have contributed to the push and pull factors encouraging immigration; details, for example, regarding such policies and behaviors in regard to places like El Salvador and Honduras. Relating the experiences of two brothers from the former country, one of whom dies while the other becomes incarcerated, Frey mentions the now-international El Salvadoran street gang MS-13, the menaces of which compelled the two brothers to leave. Frey might have given some attention to the history of the gang in the context of the illegal U.S.-proxy war against El Salvador, carried on in the country for over a decade, and its aftermath. Said history would reinforce Frey’s contention that U.S. immigration policy has been both cruel and irrational, and has long been complicated by the needs of other power centers in the United States, whether agricultural and construction interests, or the foreign policy establishment. Those of the first examples have effectively pulled migrants to U.S., while those of the other, such as our illegal intervention in the El Salvadoran civil war, or the birth of MS-13 as an outcome of the violence we magnified, pushed migrants here. Additionally, the 2009 US-supported military coup in Honduras against the country’s elected government has decidedly worsened conditions there, pushing Hondurans to go somewhere, and the US remains, ironically, the most promising destination of desperate people in Central America.
Likewise, Frey’s plea would have benefited from fuller consideration of the neoliberal capitalist context of the harshening border and immigration policies over the last thirty years. It seems hardly a coincidence these policies occurred just in the wake of the turn to neoliberal policies in the US, policies which have exported jobs like hot commodities, exalted the market at the expense of the public, increasing poverty and inequality, and cast down the government as any kind of help to the public and brake on private ambition. Clinton’s neoliberal NAFTA sent the Mexican economy into the gutter. Increased migration resulted, which he answered with death zones at the border.
Regarding nationalism and its relation to this matter, though arguably outside the scope of Frey’s reportorial approach, more discussion of the attitudes and psychology involved would have explained some of the insanity. For instance, the theme of supposed Mexican dirtiness (discussed in chapter one), arising intermittently for decades, mimics a common refrain heard from nationalist racists in many modern contexts—an attitude enlisting germ theory to serve of the cause of white supremacy, a sort of ideological cousin of social Darwinism. Also, as social psychologist Richard Koenigsberg has said:
Nations are conceived as bodies. We project our own body into a national body. One’s fragile, vulnerable self is blown up—to become a gigantic, omnipotent self. Because territory is imagined in corporeal terms (Neocleous), the state seeks to secure it borders—its “orifices and entry points.” Orifices and entry points must be closed—to prevent penetration. Porous boundaries need to be firmed up, sealed off—walls built to protect the vulnerable self. One’s actual, fragile body fuses with the fantasy of a of a gigantic, invulnerable body. National bodies require borders to prevent penetration. Anxiety is played out on a monumental scale. Walls must be built—nothing can be allowed to penetrate. Each and every orifice must be sealed.
How this “anxiety is played out on a monumental scale” is the story of a state that has arrived at both indifference and desperation. This desperation arises from a political degeneration that refuses to answer, is indifferent to, the decline of the public in any way that threatens the globalization interests of the U.S. ruling class—which, as Sean Starrs’ has written, has not declined, as commonly believed, but globalized instead. Decline is just the fate of the rest of us. And if harsh border policies, thrown as thin scraps to a deluded public, seem to ease their despair, so much the better. If society’s increasingly desperate need for some form of civic freedom, which fosters both community and popular power, and not just tolerance, is forbidden for the threat it poses to ruling class power and wealth, then closing up the nation’s orifices becomes the toxic political gruel of the day. And, in turn, opening them without thought about the issue of civic freedom and popular power, looks like the only conceivable reply.
The words of Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, in Dialectic of Enlightenment, seem suitable here. They spoke, in part, of the Nazis and their high-tech horrors when they wrote the following line, but they also had their eyes on the West more generally, including, of course, those who triumphed over the Nazis. The “wholly enlightened earth”, they wrote, “is radiant with triumphant calamity”. Certainly, our wholly enlightened border policy radiates with a sort of triumphant calamity. The policies and infrastructure, as documented by Frey, the expensive, tax-payer-funded high-technology, a boon to private interests, the largely-privatized internment camps (what’s more enlightened than privatization?), the rationality of pushing migrants into desert and mountain death zones, and the political, corporate, and bureaucratic deceits that cover it all up, including the uncounted dead, epitomize the serene, systematic malice of a modernity sucked nearly dry of humanity.
Frey relates the shock and horror he felt while accompanying the nonprofit Angels of the Desert on a search for two missing migrants. Their faceless corpses were eventually found. “Animals and insects eat the soft flesh of the face first” (199). These were two of the officially-undercounted hundreds who die every year in our Border Patrol’s intentionally-created death zones, zones which, they say, offer them a “tactical advantage”, certainly a shrewd building block in our “triumphant calamity”. Martin Luther King Jr.’s cautionary words about “sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity”, cited by Frey, accord in a way with Horkheimer and Adorno’s verdict on modernity. Frey’s critique comes up short of the latter’s, but his judgment is nevertheless worth taking to heart. He reminds us that we have rejected the enslavement of African Americans, the slaughter of Natives Americans, the internment of Japanese Americans, the denial of the vote to women, of interracial and same-sex marriage, and the delay of civil rights. Frey says rejecting our cruel and (objectively) irrational border policies would continue that tradition. He looks forward to all of this horror becoming a mere part of “our dark, stained history” (200).
The extremely negative impacts of Trump’s border policies on actual human beings, and the relatively-popular racist fever dreams both partially underpinning and feeding off them, illuminate our present with a hellish light. However, the neoliberal capitalist policies and transformations, and all the deceits about drugs, terrorism, and immigration, of the last forty years or more, all of which preceded Trump, and which in the wrong hands feed the racist fever dreams even more, were effectively embraced across party lines. Trump, chin up, to more cruel and deadly effect for migrants, simply took the bipartisan decorated-but-desiccated zombie of border policy and wore it like a gaudy costume.
This essay was in part, inspired by—and written in memory of—William Blum (1932-2018). Blum was a comrade-in-arms, and himself one of the great keyboard warriors of his time. We all had much to learn from this man about courage, integrity, tenacity, and resilience in the service of truth. His trenchant opposition to the ruthless and relentless exploitation of other countries and their people by his own country, the United States of America—at what was clearly at considerable personal cost—is possibly best exemplified by his book America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy, the Truth About US Foreign Policy, and Everything Else.
Brief: Advocacy of regime change—the wrecking ball in the foreign policy tool shed—continues to permeate the political and media discourse in Washington, with Venezuela holding pole position on the D.C.-based Democracy Busters ‘dance-card’. It seems, though, that with every successive effort by the U.S. and its proxies to destabilize countries and dethrone their elected leaders, they pay less attention to disguising their real motives and covering their tracks, and more attention to ignoring their failures and downplaying their disasters. That this reality should awaken more folks to the hollowness and hubris of America’s much-touted repute as a “beacon of freedom” is a given for those of us with a more clear-eyed view of how much chaos, destruction, and geopolitical instability this policy prescription engenders. I invite one and all to re-arrange the furniture in their geopolitical ‘living room’, and consider the following: nothing is going to change in the execution of U.S foreign policy, until pretty much everything else does.
The Low-life Lion King of the Congo
His Imperious Majesty Leopold II of Belgium: One of History’s Greatest Unsung Mass Murderers and role model for Dictators and Despots to come.
A bit like Neil Young does from time to time, I’ve recently been delving into the archives. And as it turns out, I have a lot of unpublished material. Some of this I’m pleased to report is as relevant, if not even more so, today. Now one of the trending issues is regime change, America’s default, bi-partisan foreign policy gambit that’s been in play since at least 1945. Not unsurprisingly, it is a recurring theme in my archival musings on empire. Which is to say: the shadow and portent of “regime change” is rarely far removed from the foreign policy public discourse in Washington, at least for those with an ear for these things. What with the events taking place in Venezuela then*, along with plans afoot by the Regime Renovatorsdu jourElliot Abrams, Mike Pompeo, and John Bolton and their ilk to take down Iran’s government, it seemed an opportune time to strap on the parachute and jump down the memory hole in order to get a handle on what all the fuss is about. (*See the blog WashingtonBabylon for Ken Silverstein’s current front-line reportage on Venezuela. From what I’ve seen, it’s hard to beat.)
For the record, the core of this ‘dissertation’ was penned back around 2014, now with some key updates and editorial revisions. It was intended then—as now—to provide another perspective on Uncle Sam’s incurable addiction to meddling in the affairs of other nations, and the blowback from doing so. I should add the following: Another factor prompting this was my recent discovery of a powerful Netflix drama series called Black Earth Rising. The backdrop to this narrative is the events which took place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (aka Zaire), a modern-day catastrophe which had its genesis back as far as the early fifties, but whose dark history of colonial and imperial exploitation goes back several centuries.
Before proceeding, though, it is important to retain at the ready America’s own more recent role in keeping the home fires burning in same, wherever they require ‘lighting’ and ‘fuelling’. Such as in Venezuela now, Libya in 2011, Syria in 2012, and in 2014 in Ukraine, to name just a few infamous, more contemporary examples. The stories of US involvement in the political affairs of foreign countries are as legion as they are, of course, familiar. At least they are for those of us with few illusions about America’s status as “a force for good in the world”, and places such as Cuba, Guatemala, and Iran are prime examples. Yet throughout the years the Cuban revolution was taking place on America’s doorstep, there were plenty of others brewing on every continent on the Big Blue/Green Ball. One of the most significant of these was on Joseph Conrad’s turf—the geographical heart of deepest, darkest Africa, specifically the Belgian Congo (later the DRC/Zaire).
In 1960 a BC independence movement started gaining momentum, and between then and 1965 the CIA was intimately involved in an ongoing effort to influence the outcome of events in order to advance freedom, democracy, and self-determination in this ‘tin-pot’, ‘third-world ‘backwater’, regardless of whether they wanted it or not. As we’ll see to some degree at least, said “outcome” was very ugly indeed. Like Guatemala, Cuba and Iran et al, the blowback had a very long shelf-life and a very deep impact. The BC was a colonial outpost of Belgium from the latter part of the 19th century, initially under the barbarous, infamously despotic, truly genocidal King Leopold II, who pillaged, raped, purged, looted, pilfered, rampaged, plundered and burned his way through the African country throughout his reign until 1908. A particularly nasty, vile piece of work was His Royal Highness, ‘Low-life’ Leo’. If Belgium dragged the chain in succumbing to its own imperial and colonialist ambitions, like so many of her European cohorts had already done, it is in the Congo where she tried to make up the ground. For Leopold’s part, it is generally accepted he presided over the deaths of upwards of 10 million Congolese people. Arguably he was one of the worst advertisements for colonialism, imperialism, monarchism, exploitation, and despotism (by any measure a big call).
If ever there was a more infamous manifestation of a monarch exercising the divine right of kings (DRK) in the last one hundred and fifty years, I cannot think of one off hand. For that matter, whilst the historical concept of the DRK itself might’ve been considered passe by Leopold’s era, he simply ignored it, or didn’t get the memo. In the mass murder ‘popularity stakes’, this dude was up there with the biggest and the best of them: Hitler; Stalin; The Great ‘Helmsman’ Mao et al though he makes the more recent genocidal maniac Cambodia’s Pol Pot look like an underachiever by way of comparison. But unlike the aforementioned, Leo does not enjoy household name status in the history books, or in popular culture.
Interestingly, the BC, a major exporter of uranium during the Second World War, supplied the ‘juice’ that the Americans used in the A-bombs dropped in Japan. This was not, of course, the last time a uranium-producing African nation would figure large in a world-changing foreign policy decision taken by the Americans. Yet significantly it also held vast amounts of still relatively untapped high-value mineral and resource wealth (e.g. gold, copper, cobalt). This attracted the attention of the US (natch!), especially at the height of the Cold War, when said war was possibly much more about laissez-faire economics, energy, and other high value and/or strategic resources than it was about political ideology.
During the 1950s, in the post-World War Two, post-colonial period, there was widespread nationalist fervour fomenting in the country. There were years of unrest, political bickering, and nit-picking between ethnic and tribal groups and other political forces, over who the main muchachos would be in any new independent government. Most importantly, though, it was over who would get the main spoils, and/or, of course, who would get to keep them and profit from them. This scenario is a familiar one to be sure, and one that would be repeated monotonously with varying degrees of tragedy in most emerging, independent African nations throughout subsequent years. To say little of other places on the imperial itinerary.
In 1960 the country eventually achieved its full independence from Belgium, and Patrice Lumumba became the popularly elected Prime Minister. For his part Lumumba complained about how his country and his people had been ruthlessly exploited over the year. Nothing new here in this sentiment: It was a constant refrain from most developing countries in the post-colonialist, nationalist era. Lumumba appeared to be leaning towards Moscow with the possibility that the country could be taken over by godless, liberty challenged communists, or fall into their Geopolitical Orbit. “Appeared” is the operative word here, as like it so often is/was; such fear mongering was an expedient gambit with ulterior motives, much like terrorism has been more recently.
History now tells us that with many former colonies, it was not so much ideology that drove the nationalist ambitions of the former colonies of empire; it was attaining true political independence, sovereignty, and authentic control over their internal affairs. In almost all cases their former colonial masters and their new ‘besties’, the Americans, had decidedly different ideas. This was especially the case with countries like the DRC, which, as noted, was sitting on mountains of much sought after resources and minerals. Either way, any nod towards Moscow would just not do, and this information understandably set a cat amongst the hawks in Langley and Washington.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was revealed later on some members of the then Eisenhower administration had ‘interests’ in the mineral and resource wealth of the country, a frequently recurring motif underpinning America’s unrelenting efforts to assert that “right to protect” and from there export that aforementioned “democracy” etc. so they could eventually extort and then import these resources to America and the West at bargain basement prices. It also scared the bejesus out of the local anti-communist, right-wing elements in the country including in the Army, especially the top military brass who were highly tuned to the geopolitical and economic imperatives in relation to guaranteeing their future, and who would clearly benefit from a takeover of government. Oh, and did I say they were pro-American?
This was, of course, music to the CIA’s ears. PLUs–not Peace, Love and Understanding here mind you–they doubtless were thinking “People Like Us!” And the CIA was only too eager to assist. If the purportedly communist elements took over, there was no doubt this would threaten the political fortunes and personal and financial interests of those making foreign policy in the US (shades of things to come) and presumably their fellow travelers in US and Congolese mining and resource sectors and other vested local and international interests. The go-to guys at the CIA got to work…as they invariably do. Lumumba was eventually ousted and later assassinated. And former Army chieftain Joseph-Désiré Mobutu (later reinventing himself as Mobutu Sese Soko) assumed control.
And speaking of being and “ousted” and “assassinated’—albeit in his case, in one fell swoop—it is important to note here that the president at the time of Lumumba’s killing was none other than John Fitzgerald Kennedy (aka JFK), who’d only just begun to get comfortable in his new digs on Pennsylvania Ave. As noted earlier, the assassination of Lumumba was a train already in motion when Kennedy arrived at the White House. For his part, JFK was famously anti-colonialist, anti-imperialist to his boot-straps, and ostensibly supported the DRC’s independence. We’ll explore this more later on.
Dark Days in the Dark Continent (Regime Renovators Redux)
Not unlike his former colonial masters in their own colonialist ambitions, Mobutu initially dragged the chain on demonstrating his despotic disposition. But when he did get going he was unstoppable and quickly made up for any lost ground. To grease the wheels of power and keep them spinning in his favor, he bribed many of his potential challengers and rivals thereby giving new meaning to the old Sun Tzu adage of ‘keep(ing) [your] friends close, and [your] enemies closer’. This was a dictum apparently finding favor with many other dictators of the era. Probably still does. It’s in the job description. Especially if one seeks security of tenure. And who better to provide that security than old Uncle Sam.
The former president of Zaire, Mobutu Sese Seko. Tried to show Low-Leo a clean pair of heels in mass murder.
For those political opponents who were less compliant or corruptible, Mobutu reportedly presided over their public executions in front of Coliseum-sized crowds, or in simple, crude, tried and true tyrant style had them and their families tortured and/or murdered then disposed of ‘on the QT’. And then he really dug in his heels. By the end of the decade, he was unchallenged master of the Congo universe, and yet slowly but inexorably turned his country into an economic, social, environmental, political, and human rights basket case, another black hole in the post-imperial African continental universe! This was a man who successive US presidents called “America’s beacon of hope” in the region or similar sentiments. Go figure!
Over time Mobutu’s regime morphed into a ‘klepto-bruto-kakocracy’ of the first order. He maintained a personal fleet of Mercedes limos, and went on frequent shopping trips to Paris, London, and Milan on the Concorde (he even had a special airfield built for the plane) with his large entourage of wives/concubines and scores of cloying hacks, flacks, lackeys and subservient minions sticking to his belligerent black-ass like baby-shit to a blanket. He had dozens of mansions and palaces, and amassed an estimated $5bn dollars stashed in his own personal Swiss bank accounts all of which one can only presume he was keeping for a rainy day in case the road ahead got a little too bumpy. That he went on to become one of Africa’s most enduring if not endearing despots, is a matter of public record, even if said “public” is largely oblivious to this grossly tragic and criminal exercise in regime redemption and how it all played out over three decades and three countries. And it was all achieved with the blessing of the consecutive powers that be in Washington, regardless of whether they were Democratic or Republican. Deja vu, all over again!
Although the ride did eventually get quite bumpy for Mobutu, any karma due him took its time in arriving. In the interim, he caused a lot of people a lot of grief over a very long period of time and an equally broad expanse of geography.
The post-colonial world was never going to be a pretty sight anywhere it could be found on the planet (even without the meddling of the major powers), and this is one country where that observation really hits home, in a continent full of similar basket cases and less than pretty sights. For over the three decades whilst Mobutu ruled the country (renamed Zaire in the meantime), the living conditions of most of his people deteriorated rapidly and dramatically, and they were the lucky ones that survived the seemingly eternal, deathly inferno he brought to life with merciless gusto. Though he never came close, Mobutu was prepped to show King Leo a clean pair of heels in the mass murder and brutality stakes. No-one really knows how many of his countrymen he butchered himself; but if one is wondering from where Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe) and Idi Amin (Uganda) and their despotic Dark Continental ilk got their delusions of bloody grandeur back in their heyday, then Mobutu is your go-to man!
In the early 1990s, though, it all started to go decidedly pear-shaped for the by now similarly pear-shaped dictator, with even the Americans turning against him. It all began to go the same way for a lot of other people as well. Tribal connections in Africa are deep and very complex and are rarely respective of national borders or sovereign boundaries, most of which have been redrawn dramatically, arbitrarily, and frequently in the past 100-150 odd years. This has mainly been since the rent-seeking white man showed up to collect said rent. Since, for example, the 1972 genocides and even further back than that, there have always been ethnic tensions—‘diplo-speak’ for different tribes slaughtering each other en masse—within and across the three countries. That these were either exploited deliberately or incidentally fuelled by the interference of major western powers is a given, especially the U.S.
A full account of the events that took place in this region around this time is beyond the scope of this essay. For a deeper elucidation, and one which is almost at complete odds with the current official “genocide” narrative, go here and here.
Christopher C Black, a Toronto based international criminal lawyer, is one of the go-to sources herein, with the scars to prove it by his own account. The James Corbett podcast interview below is a must-listen in this respect. Black spent 14 years successfully defending former Rwandan Gendarmerie General Augustin Ndindiliyimana at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). In that time, Black uncovered copious evidence about what really happened in the so-called “100 Days” of 1994 and the four-year civil war that led up to it. Black shares that information in this podcast and deconstructs the lies that continue to be propagated about the Rwandan genocide.
That the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) originally chalked up the coup in Zaire/DRC as a victory then, and saw the rise of Mobutu as beneficial to the region was clear. A “victory” for what and “beneficial” to whom, though, are questions that many are still asking even to this day.
It’s uncertain, though, whether the current crop of Langley Gangsters is asking the same questions after all these years. Chances are that today’s CIA spooks would not be even able to pinpoint Zaire/DRC on a map, let alone have any collective recollection of the role their predecessors had in the recent history of the ravaged, impoverished, at once bled dry and blood-soaked country. Or in the region. Or on the whole continent. Or of any of the others mentioned in the The Great American Regime Redemption narrative. That’s why we’re here down in the memory hole!
Our Son of a Bitch (Not Theirs)
Ronald (The Gipper) Reagan – All Thumbs up for Dictators, Tyrants, and Despots (“Our Sons of Bitches”).
To underscore just how much the US courts and panders to their roster of client dictators past and present, it is perhaps at Ronald (The Gipper) Reagan’s tenure we might have a ‘gander’. Like most US presidents, Reagan turned a blind eye to the shenanigans of the despots on their diplomatic dance-card. One of the most infamous of these was Mobutu. This was the man that The Gipper–who three times hosted him at official White House gatherings, and ignored criticisms of his human rights record–called a “voice of good sense and goodwill”. Small wonder they called him–i.e. Reagan–the Great Communicator. If people believed this shit (and it seemed most did at the time), they’d believe anything. Either that or Ronnie had once again begun to show the effects of Alzheimer’s, and he really had swallowed the whole jar of jelly beans as it were in one fell swoop.
Now some less than kind souls have even suggested the Gipper rode into the White House with at least Alzheimer’s early onset. Or he’d simply forgotten the details of the briefing he received from the good folks on the Zaire/DRC desk down at Foggy Bottom. Or maybe Reagan actually was engaging in some FDR-type realpolitik, that being: ‘he may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch’. Hard to know for sure! More likely, though, in true neo-con tradition, he chose to ignore it, or didn’t consider the deprivation of human rights on a national scale or persecution, denial of human rights, murder, exploitation, mass incarceration, and of its citizens all that much of a big deal. In fact, The Gipper’s Ambassador to the UN, Jeanne Kirkpatrick (aka the ‘Fairy’ Godmother of Neo-cons and an Amazonian Cold Warrior of the first order), was once quoted as saying that: ‘…America could be justified in its defense of totalitarian regimes if it served the defense of liberty and the national interest’. This was a refrain we have come to hear many times since.
The concept of the “national interest” for the US has always been one that’s a moving feast at the best and worst of times, and the above statement would’ve had the Grandmaster Minter of political double-speak George Orwell spinning in his eternally designated bolthole. We don’t know if Kirkpatrick was referring to people like Mobutu and his ilk in particular when she framed this pearl of foreign policy wisdom, but he clearly would not have been completely out of the frame. It’s also just as uncertain how Mobutu might have served the “liberty” and/or the “national interest” of either the US or Zaire however it might have been defined, or for that matter the other countries in the regions that suffered blowback from his poisonous, sclerotic, genocidal and cataclysmic reign, most notably Rwanda and Burundi.
It’s also not known if Mobutu had the same understanding of “liberty” and “national interest” as those that he detained, assassinated, murdered, terrorized, raped, tortured, mutilated, plundered, imprisoned, pillaged and just plain neglected throughout his time in office.
The lucky ones–if they can in any logically considered sense be defined as such–are presumably the ones he did neglect. He might not have destroyed as many lives as King Leo, but he gave it his best shot. With his death in disgraced exile in Morocco of prostate cancer in 1997, Mobutu’s belligerent, brutal ‘blackass’ was no more, and the moment of his passing presumably came not a nanosecond too soon for those who did survive him, with what remained of their lives and their families and tribes and their communities. It’s still further unknown what these folk and their descendants think now about the leaders, institutions, and nations without whose support the long-since deceased, yet still reviled Mobutu relied upon to keep him in power would have had a considerably shorter shelf-life than he did if not for them interfering in their affairs.
America, this is your foreign policy dollar working for you, then and now.
Now if King Leopold in the Belgian Congo was the poster boy/template for the ugly, vicious, ruthless, colonialist/imperialist period of centuries-old European empire, then Mobutu in Zaire went on to assume the role of his future political doppelganger in the equally ugly, vicious, ruthless, post-colonial, post-imperial, nationalist, and independence periods, a period that the U.S. (you know, the world’s “beacon of freedom”?) called the shots on. The CIA adopted him, nurtured him, and egged him on all the way. After all, he believed in Freedom, and Democracy, and Liberty, and all that other All-American (Bull)Shit too didn’t he? What’s not to like?
For his part—and we might say, his final part—The Gipper played the role of an Alzheimer’s victim who eventually ‘buys the ranch’ for real in 2004, riding off into the sunset for the very last time. No doubt like most presidents before and after him, he did so oblivious to, or unconcerned about, the blowback that unfolded as a result of his country’s policies under his own ‘regime’. Mobutu was, of course, only one in a veritable conga-line of client dictatorships whose unerring, unquestioning support by America of them and the respective ruling elites and their cadres of the many and various regimes helped unleash mayhem, destruction, exploitation, torture, murder, misery, deep-seated ethnic, religious and racial division, and genocide upon their people and societal disorder, political dysfunction and economic catastrophe upon their nations.
As for Reagan, true to form the Old Ham just wouldn’t get off the stage, being of the ripe old age of 93 when they eventually hauled his ass off to Boot Hill. Still a bit of a ‘B’ movie exit by many measures, certainly for many who might consider his presidency a bit, well, ‘B’ movie. Not all it’s cracked up to be then? But try telling that to the Raging, Rabid, Raving, Righteous ideologues of Neo Americon (sic) Century, and you will get ‘short-shrifted’ PDQ. You know who I’m talking about here folks: the aforementioned Pompeos, the Boltons, the Abrams and all the rest of their hacks, flacks, and lackeys, on either side of the Potomac and beyond.
He was their savior back in the day…for which we should all be forever grateful (not). The most depressing thing, though, is that the current cabal almost makes The Gipper look and sound like a bleeding heart liberal democrat and anti-imperialist…maybe even a man of the people? I did say “almost” didn’t I?…..
The photo above was taken on 13 February 1961, when U.S. Ambassador to the UN Adlai Stevenson called president Kennedy to belatedly report Patrice Lumumba’s assassination. The photo was taken at the very moment JFK received the news.
To bring our narrative up to speed with current events and take it full circle—especially those that have to do with regime change and America’s interferences in the affairs of other countries for reasons generally unrelated to concerns on the part of the U.S. about freedom, democracy, liberty, and the much ballyhooed rule of law—we have to once again parachute back down the memory hole. This time, though, we look at JFK and his connection to the Lumumba story. The whole mess in the DRC was as earlier indicated all about the filthy lucre (or in au courant parlance, “it’s all about the ‘Benjamins’”).
The DRC was/is one of the most resource-rich nations certainly on the Dark Continent if not in the world. As Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela is currently finding out, few national entities can hold their own against the combined powers of the large multi-national corporations and the governments of countries like Britain, France, and America, when you have something they want. After all, the corporations own them all lock, stock, and barrel. All things considered, Lumumba never stood a chance of surviving as PM of the newly independent nation. The former had a very different definition of what it meant to be independent than the latter and his supporters. His assassination was preordained by the previous Eisenhower administration, and by most accounts, Kennedy was totally unaware of this.
It is also notable that JFK himself was infamously offed by the regime changers of his own era, those who felt threatened by his stance on any number of issues. One of the motives for his dispatch could well have been the president’s supportive position on post-colonial nationalism and the increasing—and to their former imperial overlords, annoying—assertiveness of their former colonies, along with their desire for independence with all the fruit that came with it. By supporting these stances, this by definition meant that Kennedy was perceived to be no friend of empire.
But notwithstanding his campaign rhetoric, it’s no surprise that current POTUS Donald Trump has fully embraced the regime changers agenda. As I have observed elsewhere on occasion, Trump is after all the consummate ‘chancer’; even a drop-dead ‘drongo’ like him knows which side on which to butter his bagel. Which brings to mind the late, great comedian Bill Hicks’ pitch-black routine about a hypothetical induction session given by the powers that be behind the throne to all new occupants of the White House.
In Hicks’ fanciful—yet at the same time still frighteningly plausible—scenario, the new POTUS (let’s imagine it’s The Donald) is ushered into the Situation Room to watch a video presentation. And, spoiler alert, they didn’t go there to hold hands, sing “Kumbaya”, and watch re-runs of the West Wing. As the first few frames come up, it becomes immediately obvious even to Trump this is an actual cinematic rendering of the events in Dallas, TX., on November 22, 1963, circa lunchtime. Unlike previous footage of this memorable event, this ‘version’ has never been made public, and presents a scenario that is completely at odds with the official narrative. The new president slowly but surely braces himself, fuelled by ever increasing shock as he watches the unfolding images reveal a mise-en-scène very different to the more familiar Zapruder footage.
In this version, though, he sees several shooters in a deadly crossfire—none of whom are located anywhere near the Texas School Book Depository Building, and one of whom mos def is situated behind the white picket fence at the top of the grassy knoll and looks nothing like Lee Harvey Oswald—all of which confirms for him unequivocally that every conspiracy theorist who’s ever attached their name to the JFK assassination after rejecting the Warren Commission report was indeed right. As the presentation comes to the end, there is a prolonged silence in the room; after he’s recovered a measure of composure, one of the presenters asks the freshly minted POTUS if he has any questions. He replies: “Nah I’m good; let’s go bomb Damascus!”
We all get the picture, even if my recollection loses something in the translation.
Pissing in the Information Pool (aka Imperial Public Relations)
Insofar as the situation in Venezuela goes, placing to one side the reality that hell has no fury like an empire scorned, it is perhaps instructive to consider other reasons as to why Uncle Sam has such a ‘hard on’ for the country and its current, ‘recalcitrant’ leader Maduro.
Again, a little backstory is key here. As most folks know, every military operation comes with its own unique identifier, a brand if one likes, to use marketing terminology. It’s uncertain if the U.S. Military-Industrial Complex—which knows a thing or three about marketing to be sure, possibly much more than they do about actually winning wars—has contrived a specific nomenclature for any possible offensive operation in Venezuela in order to effect its regime change strategy. But it’s unlikely to compete with the one some bright spark in the George W Bush administration conjured up—in what can only be described as an inspired flash of lateral thinking—when they decided to invade Iraq in 2003 and ‘renovate’ Saddam Hussein’s regime from the inside out.
In its hegemonic zeal, Bush and Co. neglected (amongst many other things it should be noted), to pay close attention to the optics of its brand, and the message said brand might unintentionally convey to the public if one does not get one’s ducks flying in the same direction and at the same speed on such important details. This is especially important if one is looking to disguise the real objectives underpinning one’s not so benevolent intentions. As anyone who works in marketing or public relations will tell you, it’s all about the “optics”: Perception is nine-tenths of reality! Or put another way: it is to a marketer what location is to a realtor.
All of which is to say, the planned, ultimately disastrous, monumentally expensive in blood and treasure invasion and occupation of Iraq was originally designated—wait for it—as Operation Iraqi Liberation, or for the ‘acronymically’ inclined, “OIL”. (No, folks, I am not making this shit up…As the inimitable and irrepressible Walter Brennan might have opined back in the day, “that’s no brag, that’s fact!”) It was apparently some time before the penny dropped and it was hastily rebranded Operation Iraqi Freedom (or “OIF”), lest people get the wrong idea. I don’t know about you, dear readers, but when to comes to acronyms, I much prefer “OIL” to “OIF”; it rolls off the tongue a lot easier for one thing. And it’s almost always gratifying when we catch our politicians and public figures in embarrassing moments, not that many easily succumb to such sentiments anyway.
President of Venezuela Nicholas Maduro – The Empire’s bete noir du jour. It’s all about the oil….again!
In any event, this linguistic ‘wardrobe malfunction’ as it were achieved the distinction as one of the great exemplars of the Freudian slip to be found anywhere in anyone’s political history, recent or not so. And in Venezuela, like in Iraq, make no mistake: it’s also all about the OIL (Even back in World War One, it was one of the big drivers of the outbreak of war, and not an insignificant determinant of its outcome. See Robert Newman’s History of Oil.) The lucky (or depending on your POV, unlucky) Venezuelans have more of the ‘Texas Tea’ than Saudi Arabia!…
That they also have much more “democracy” and “freedom” too than the Saudis is a given (with even the occasional fair and free election, and insofar as one might gather, far fewer public beheadings), though admittedly this might not be considered a huge achievement by some folks for any country regardless of the measure of their authoritarian persuasion to which they might or might not be inclined. Not that that metric either way has ever really counted for much either way in Washington, now or then. Like Superman does with his underpants then, these days the regime renovators wear their ‘Freudian slips‘ on the outside; indeed, they all but seem to do so with pride, like a wannabe Hollywood starlet sashaying down the red carpet on Oscar night in some famous couturier’s new frock. One only has to listen to John Bolton; if he mentions the word “Iran”, and though the thought may be unsettling to some, one can be reasonably sure his Y-fronts will be clearly visible.
When it comes to understanding the mindset of these folks, it appears they’ve resurrected then contrived their own bespoke version of the aforementioned Divine Right of Kings. Either that or like Superman, they really believe they are fighting for Truth, Justice, and the American Way, all three of which are literally by definition a moving feast at the best of times in U.S. political discourse. And they see it is their God-given right—nay responsibility—to protect and save the rest of the planet’s denizens from themselves.
Such then is how they view their exceptional, indispensable place within the geopolitical firmament. The French in their imperial heyday called it their “mission civilisatrice“. The scribe cum poet laureate of imperial excess Rudyard Kipling referred to something akin to it as the “White Man’s Burden”, one which he suggested none too subtly America would have to pick up after the British Empire ran out of puff. Which would suggest the Americans mos def did get the memo this time round. More accurately, we might simply describe it as pillaging, raping, plundering, rampaging, burning, looting, exploitation, and rampant desecration and wholesale destruction of communities, regions, and nations and their natural and human resources in order to enrich themselves and their fellow elites in their own countries simply because they can.
Sounds like a pretty good day’s work if/when you can both get it, and get away with it, eh? As the inimitable Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa once opined: ‘When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said “Let us pray”. We closed our eyes…. [and] When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.’ Sounds about right to me.
We should round out this diatribe with an admonishment from the late, great Chalmers Johnson, who along with being a True American Patriot was, like William Blum, no fan of his country’s relentless, ruthless empire building, and also one who knew a thing or three about “blowback”. ‘Although most Americans may be largely ignorant of what was, and still is, being done in their names, all are likely to pay a steep price—individually and collectively—for their nation’s continued efforts to dominate the global scene.’
One only needs to be able to read, have some basic research skills, and a willingness to have the scales pulled from their eyes to understand where he was coming from. Still, though, it does echo similar sentiments to Johnson’s, the very last word must go to Blum (to whom said “diatribe” is dedicated): ‘No matter how paranoid or conspiracy-minded you are, what your government is doing is actually worse than you can imagine’.
That is the season when the persons displayed on television screens as representatives of those who have no representation engage in the theatrical display of subordination to those who actually own things, like the countries we happen to inhabit. Although there have been a few publicised investigations and even some occasional criminal charges against (usually septuagenarians) some conspicuous miscreants, there has been no action which could restore some health or sanity to what most of us consider the daily economy. In some countries, like where I live, people go on strike. There is little indication that the fundamental message of the strikers gets heard. Perhaps that is also why the television seems obsessed with the marketing of hearing aids. There is a hearing aid for every occasion, except sessions of the national assembly, where such technology might really help.
One way of dealing with the hearing impaired is repetition. In scientific terms this means increasing the rate of signal in proportion to noise in the hope that the essential message is received. Although I wrote a version of this paper in 2014, four years later I cannot help feeling some repetition would do no harm. If every budget season one has to listen to the same set of distortions, then it is only fair to reproduce the corrections.
Like the absurd climate debate, which never includes the “carbon footprint” of the largest military machines, the budget debates (essentially interchangeable) never discuss the cost of subsidising international banks and corporations to facilitate their extraction of wealth from the national economy. There is no intelligent, let alone honest, discussion of what is meant by “public debt”—or why the taxpayers must bear losses to guarantee tax-exempt profits for investors.
I always ask myself when someone says or writes “loss”, where did the money go? Even when a ship is lost at sea there is generally wreckage. Of course, the ocean is bigger than the economy and it is possible that a ship’s remains disappear beyond recovery. The price of abandoning the very modest social gains of the New Deal in the US and social democracy in Europe with the ascendancy of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan has been enormous, not only for US and European working people but, for the rest of the world. In fact, the meter is still running with no indication of when it will stop.
The crisis no one cares to talk about any more comprises trillions in losses. If these losses are real, then that means the value has been forfeited in favour of someone else. E.g. after the Great War France and Britain were essentially bankrupt: they owed nearly everything to US banks. Without economic manipulation, war and terror, India would probably have occupied the same status vis a vis Great Britain in 1945 that Brazil gained vis a vis Portugal after the Napoleonic Wars. The claims against the productive capacity and assets of Old Europe were held by identifiable third parties, representing, then as now, a tiny band of bankers. Of course, those claims were so great that no normal income streams from taxation could satisfy them. Control of Britain was effectively ceded to the US, while India was wracked by civil war rather than collecting the wartime debt Britain owed to her.
The other meaning of loss is the inability to sustain a certain valuation of an asset or income stream. The nature of the initial valuation is then the problem. The continuous attempts in the IFRS (international accounting standards) to skirt around the issue of essentially fraudulent valuation illustrates that even the private sector’s notion of “value”, whether book value or fair value, is the product of casuistry.
Since European “banking” was reorganised on the US Federal Reserve model by creation of the European Central Bank, it is instructive to consider how grand theft in the state-banking sector of the US functions. In other words, the “losses” hidden on the books of the USG banks, “Fannie” and “Freddie”, are either notional or they reflect claims that were satisfied in favour of third parties beyond the capacity of those institutions to generate income. Again we know who those third parties are. The “losses” are essentially sacrificed sovereignty.
Government institutions pledge to private persons (corporations and foreign exchange pirates) the State’s capacity to pay, derived from the ability to tax the working population, beyond any realistic possibility to extract that income. This was called “tax farming” in the bad old days of “colonialism”. Frequently punitive military force was sent into any country that was not delivering enough booty (aka interest on foreign debt). In fact, as retired general of US Marines infamously confessed that was his main job in the Corps—protecting corporate plunder.
This is essentially the same principle imposed through the ECB—except that some nominal account has to be taken of national political systems. Since in Europe the State was far more frequently the owner of capital infrastructure, absorbing the cost of its operation and regulating labour as civil servants, considerable ideological work had to be performed to cultivate the generation, which privatised most of the national capital assets held by European states. The fact that since 1945 the US has controlled the international payments system has reduced the need for military intervention. Decisions taken in New York, London, Frankfurt or Brussels can deprive a country of any affordable means to engage in the most basic financial transactions. The entities involved are privately owned and therefore cannot be coerced except by measures that would “threaten private property”.
Just as the railroads and banks obtained control over most of the continental US by defrauding the US government in the 19th century, the surviving banks have defrauded most of the American population of its home equity today. Although it was established that a conspiracy of UK-based clearing banks illegally fixed the LIBOR/ EURIBOR rates, this had no serious consequences. If one considers very carefully that nearly all mortgage and commercial financing agreements base their interest computations on one of these benchmarks, the true scope of the fraud becomes apparent. Everyone who made an interest rate agreement assuming the “free market” condition of the underlying rate was cheated. It could be argued that the interest rate clauses of innumerable contracts were void due to fraud. A perusal of public debt instruments would no doubt reveal even more catastrophic deception.
The endless wars, funded by plundering the public treasury and the wealth of other countries, are part of that income extraction, too. Now the US government and those of its vassals are little more than one large mercenary enterprise, together as NATO, the most heavily armed collection agency on behalf of third party creditors on the planet. It does not matter who occupies the mansion at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Of course, there is plausible denial for any of the beneficiaries of this plunder since populations weaned on soap operas and “crime drama” are incapable of examining, let alone comprehending, the most obvious operations of US corporations and their agents– who almost never appear as criminals on television. The “crime drama” narrative dominates almost every bandwidth on the critical spectrum and as a much younger US director, Michael Moore demonstrated in Bowling for Columbine, corporate crime does not make acceptable television. The most elemental sociological truths, plain to anyone who has ever belonged to a club or worked in middle management of a company, namely that “democratic” and “meritocratic” decisions are regularly subverted by scheming among the ambitious at the expense of the docile– become discredited when the insight is applied to the polity as a whole. People who do not think twice about making a phone call to a “friend” to influence a decision in their social club or place of employment, become incredulous at the suggestion that the chairman of a major investment bank would dictate policy to the head of state whose election he had financed.
In short, the debate about the current global economic “crisis” is obscenely counterintuitive and illogical to the point of incoherence. Who is willing to “follow the money”? This dictum, popularised in the Woodward and Bernstein fairy tale of US President Richard Nixon’s demise– All the President’s Men— appears utterly forgotten, despite recurring astronomic fraud perpetrated by US corporations since the so-called “S&L scandal”– crimes for which no more than a handful of people were indicted, let alone tried or sentenced. Only one corporation was deprived of its right to do business, Arthur Andersen, and this was patently done to spare all the politicians from the reigning US president, most of the US Congress, and untold state and local officials who had been bribed or otherwise influenced by Enron.
If the stories reported by Pete Brewton in 1992, the documented history of the OSS “China insurer” AIG, and the implications of the 2002 Powers Report on the Enron collapse are taken seriously, then Houston lies on a financial fault line more devastating than the San Andreas. That fault line runs from Texas through Virginia to the bedrock of Manhattan. The economic earthquakes that have persisted since 1980 are both literally and figuratively the result of deployment of the US atomic arsenal and the policies that gave rise to it. The US dollar’s continued, if fluctuating, strength as a reserve currency is based on drugs, weapons, and oil– all traded in US dollars. However, this material reality is also based on an ideological or dogmatic constitution. The seismic activity induced by US corporations created gaping holes in the global economy– holes which could only be breached by the financial instruments developed in the weapons laboratories of Wall Street based on the same conceptual models as the neutron bomb and today’s nano-munitions developed at Lawrence Livermore. Indeed, the theory has been almost universally accepted that people are always to blame for the problems of government and Business is the sole and universal solution to all problems. Hence tax monies will only be spent on weapons, war, and subsidies for corporations—the things Business needs.
A considerable obstacle to any change in the US, short of its destruction, is the fact that as Michael Hudson and former assistant Treasury secretary under Reagan, Paul Craig Roberts, write repeatedly, the US government has absolutely lost whatever legitimate function it may ever have had as an instrument of popular will. In other words, the efforts of working people, whether immigrant or ex-slave to remake the plutocratic regime of the 19th century into a State responsive to their needs were frustrated by the massive assaults on labour, combined with the ideological warfare of the “Progressive” movement. The latter, funded heavily by the newly created super-philanthropies, including those of Rockefeller, Sage, Peabody, and Carnegie, predated CIA-style front organizations and infiltration. They helped turn popular sovereignty movements into the kind of technocratic organisations which prevail today– dependent on corporate donations and led by the graduates of cadre schools like the Ivy League colleges, Oxford and the LSE. With few exceptions the only remnants of the “popular will” in the US are those that drive lynch mobs, reincarnated in “talk radio” today.
The main work of the USG and the corporations for which it stands has been to undermine any notion that the State is rightfully an expression of the popular will for the realisation of popular welfare. The State has been reduced to a protection racket. By the time Ronald Reagan, imitating Margaret Thatcher, pledged to “get government off the back of the people”, the only “people” who counted were corporations and those in thrall to them.
It is easy to forget that the US was actually founded on the basis of a kind of white (in that sense “enlightened”), oligarchic absolutism– the British parliamentary dictatorship minus hereditary monarch. Its moral vision predated the Thirty Years War and, until John Kennedy was elected president, its hypocrisy was that of Cromwellian fanatics. In revolutionary France and countries that were inspired by France, as opposed to the American independence war, struggle continued on the premises that the State is not the King (in whatever incarnation) but created by the citizens (not the possessive individual) for the maintenance of the common weal– including the nutrition, health, housing, education of its people. The opposition to destruction of the public sector or public services and the debate that continues in Greece, France, Italy, and to a lesser extent Germany, defies comprehension in North America and Great Britain because of some unfortunate residues of that revolutionary vision of the State so violently opposed by Britain and the US ever since 1789– except when the resulting instability provided business opportunities. (Thatcher did not restore the spirit of Churchill to power—but that of Wellington.)
Moreover as Coolidge once said, “the business of America is business”. If a policy or action of government cannot be expressed in terms of someone’s maximum private profit then it is indefensible in the US. The conditions of the Maastricht Treaty establishing the euro and the ECB are an attempt to impose those same ideological and political constraints on the European Union enforced by adoption of the Federal Reserve Act in the US. The Federal Reserve is essentially a technology for naturalising usury and endowing it with supernatural legitimacy. But just as it has been argued in some quarters that the US Federal Reserve triggered the Great Depression– for the benefit of the tiny bank of banking trusts– the European Central Bank, urged by the right-wing government in Berlin, is being pressured to follow the same rapine policies as the FED is pursuing today. Of course, there are other countries ruled by financial terrorism or where banking gangs have turned their entire arsenal against sovereign peoples.
The “Crisis” is not really about the “debt” or the heinous losses. It is a crisis of sovereignty. The failure of popular sovereignty means that a microscopic bacterial colony of the immeasurably rich can make war on the rest of the world, destroying the common weal and commerce at home and everything else abroad. Germany’s citizens have been bludgeoned since 1945 by Anglo-American propaganda and the occupation forces to persuade them that they– not the great banking and industrial cartels on both sides of the Atlantic– were responsible for Adolph Hitler’s rise to power. When in 1968, student leaders like Rudi Dutschke tried to remind Germans that their democracy was destroyed before Hitler’s putsch and that they had the right and opportunity to demand a democratic Germany after the war, those young people were harassed and even killed. (Dutschke was shot in the head by an unemployed labourer. That “lone” killer later died in prison with a plastic bag over his head.) Attempts to create a truly popular democratic government in Germany have been frustrated by foreign intervention since the French Revolution. Nevertheless people in Germany still believe that the State is there to provide services to the people– and not to fight wars to further foreign trade as suggested by Horst Köhler before he was relieved of his duties (ostensibly resigning) as German federal president.
There is no doubt in Germany that former Chancellor Schroeder’s refusal to follow the US into Iraq—whatever motivated it—enjoyed the widest support, even among those who tend to believe anything the US government says. The resignation of former IMF director and Federal President Köhler expressed the sensitivity of the situation then. On one occasion he referred to the great banking interests as “monsters” and then broke the silence on the German war efforts in Central Asia by explicitly articulating what had been Chancellor Merkel’s, silent but deadly policy of supporting US counter-terror in Afghanistan. Köhler was not opposed to the future escalation of German belligerence, but by his calling a spade a spade on national radio, the right-wing government in Berlin almost had to defend its unconstitutional deployment of German soldiers in public. Already that April Angela Merkel had been forced to sacrifice an army general and a cabinet minister when it became known that German combat aircraft were also bombing civilians like their US counterparts—and trying to keep the fact a secret.
In the midst of the financial crisis, that is the plunder and pillage of the accumulated reserves of Europe’s working population after those of the US are exhausted, it is impossible to ignore the restoration of Asian political and economic prominence. This process started in the 1960s when Britain and the US launched their wars to secure footholds and control of the vast resources of Indonesia and Indochina. Although only partly successful, the destruction of national independence movements throughout South Asia created the conditions for de-industrialising Europe and North America. Mistakenly much of the North American and European Left judged the losses in Korea and Vietnam as defeats for US power. Such judgments have been based on assessments of the official war aims and not on any analysis of the underlying corporate and financial policy objectives. The long-term results of those wars included creation of the massive debt system that is at the root of financial collapse for the majority of US Americans. Of course, China remains the great unconquerable threat to continuation of US hegemony. The balance of power in Asia may be very delicate indeed.
Continental Europe remained somewhat insulated from those seismic forces until 1989. The “velvet” invasion of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union led by US capital, aided as usual by the combined secret services and economic “consultants” of Shock Therapy, began the destruction of the economic base for European social democracy and “real socialism”. The debt machine created to exploit Eastern Europe was applied in Germany first– destroying the GDR and financing that destruction with EU-generated debt, culminating in the euro. Introduction of the euro effectively destroyed half of the purchasing power of working people in the Euro Zone overnight, creating the conditions for consumer borrowing which had prevailed in the US since the late 60s and eroding wages and benefits drastically.
The final loss of control over archaic legislative instruments (whether in the US or Europe) is not only assured by the system of bribery that turns those in office into indentured servants of corporations. Full investigation of the Enron scandal would have proven once and for all that there is almost no one in the US Congress not owned by some corporation. Similar conditions have come to prevail in European legislatures where for decades US academic and policy exchange programmes have trained the political class to work first and foremost for Business.
The loss is also assured by the now entrenched belief that the only legitimate human goal is individual personal profit. As Hudson has suggested, this is the “theology of the Chicago School”. Since Margaret Thatcher was appointed to convert Britain to that dogma, nearly the entire political, academic and “civil” culture has been saturated with people who cannot think in any other terms– even when they assert that they are still social democrats or democratic socialists. The latter insist that “social policy” is merely a palliative to prevent the poor and destitute from becoming unsightly spectres in urban entertainment centres. They all have become positivists– reifying the prevailing economic relations and worshipping quantitative methods– subordinating human agency to pseudo-science and thinly disguised opportunism. The only kindness this ethical standpoint can express is “charity”. Charity, however, has nothing to do with the common weal or the State as an embodiment of the popular will. In fact, it is just as parasitic as the belief from which it springs. If those whom John Pilger called “the new rulers of the world” consent to relieve us– that is to allow us anything resembling our dignity and subsistence wages– then it will scarcely exceed the infamous “dimes” with which John D. Rockefeller cloaked his cynicism in piety and charity. Nowhere is the cynicism more profound than in the expression “giving back”. Of course, the pennies “given back” are microscopic compared with the billions “taken” in the first place. But those shiny pennies and dimes are enough to keep embedded intellectuals loyal to Bill Gates or George Soros. For a few dollars more they will even protect the likes of Blankfein or Buffett.
“Charity” is the gratification a person finds when scratching a mosquito bite. One feels better while scratching– although this provides no relief. The cause of the itch is the substance injected by the mosquito while sucking the blood from its victim. Of course, some mosquitoes offer only token charity and the itch disappears. But there are mosquitoes that carry other parasites– the effects of their charity can last forever, or at least until the victim dies.
Paul Krugman, professor of international trade and economics at Princeton University
The speed of America’s moral descent under Donald Trump is breathtaking. In a matter of months we’ve gone from a nation that stood for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to a nation that tears children from their parents and puts them in cages.
— Paul Krugman, New York Times column, June 21, 2018
conomist Paul Krugman is a smart Princeton professor who won a Nobel Prize, and most of what he says in this column is heartfelt, decent, and humane. His argument is relatively simple: since there is no present immigration crisis, there is no basis – practical, moral – no decent basis whatsoever for the current government’s inhumane, illegal, brutal treatment of immigrants and their children. In an apparently deliberate exercise of hatred and bigotry, the Trump administration is committing crimes against humanity.
That’s all quite true, quite obvious, and millions of people already recognize the government’s mindless cruelty for what it is – mindless cruelty that stimulates the mindlessly cruel base of Trump supporters from the cabinet on down.
But the way Krugman opens his column is mind-bogglingly delusional at best, dishonestly partisan at worst. Yes, “America’s moral descent under Donald Trump is breathtaking,” but not because of its speed. America’s moral descent has been with us from the beginning. America’s beginning was a struggle to ascend from the accepted moral order rooted in slave-holding authoritarianism, where inequality was God-given and women and children were property. The big difference between now and then is that then the angry white men making a revolution had enlightened ideals that were in conflict with the darker angels of their nature. The core dynamic of American history has always been the struggle between those who want to realize American ideals and those who don’t. The record is decidedly mixed, but the big victories mostly belong to the exploiters and killers. Trump is clearly in that line of descent.
Krugman asks us to believe that, in January 2017, America was “a nation that stood for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This is just a fantasy. These are words from the Declaration of Independence and have no weight in law that defines the nation. The preamble to the Constitution sets our national goals as a more perfect Union, Justice, domestic Tranquility, the common defence, general Welfare, and the Blessings of Liberty. In January 2017, our common defence was secure, except in the paranoid rantings of demagogues. Every other aspiration of the Constitution was in a shambles of long duration.
As he rose to the Presidency, Donald Trump was not so much a unique persona in triumph as he was the cobbled-together excrescence of more than 40 years of collective struggle by right-wing operatives trying to build their own fantasy of America, which Trump now embodies, perhaps imperfectly in the eyes of the idealist right. But he’s their Frankenstein creation and the rabble loves him, contradictory sewn-together bits and all.
Trumpenstein was a long time in the making, but one could see the first bits taking shape at least as early as Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign. The racist veins were pulsing clearly at the kick-off in Philadelphia, Mississippi, in quiet celebration of the lynching of the three civil rights workers, Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner, who went unmentioned. The racism of the right has only grown with race-based drug laws, race-populated prisons, race-based poverty, police executions, and on and on. The Clintons were shameful accomplices. No president since Reagan has dialed back American racism. Obama spoke eloquently about race, but that didn’t keep Republicans from racializing politics, much to the glee of the Tea Party, and Obama never pushed back effectively, instead becoming the deporter-in-chief after blessing the military coup in Honduras that later fed the immigration wave fleeing oppression and murder.
Yes, we are now officially “a nation that tears children from their parents and puts them in cages.” We are also a nation that took years to notice our official brutality to immigrants, especially asylum seekers, and most especially those seeking asylum from brutal dictatorships we nurture and support. American brutality on the border is hardly a serious departure from American brutality in Iraq or Vietnam or Korea or in nations of Native Americans where we took children and put them in cages we called Christian schools.
Krugman surely knows all this and more, so why won’t he see it or say it? It’s as if he’s drunk the kool-aid of American Exceptionalism and must deny anything not pre-blessed by our cultural cult. Republicans were rabid to impeach Clinton for lying about a blow-job, Democrats couldn’t even impeach Bush for lying us into war (a war we’ve yet to escape). Obama couldn’t even close Guantanamo, but he refused to prosecute the torturers, and now one of them runs the CIA. It’s taken America years of bipartisan betrayal to get where we are now, but how can we change if we can’t even say clearly and directly who we are and how we got this way?
Krugman is wholly justified in any moral outrage he may feel about the Trump administration, but he is not justified, morally or intellectually, in making Trump a scapegoat embodying longstanding American evils long promoted by the right with little opposition. Trump is a mirror for the country, and if the country doesn’t like what it sees, the country needs to change.
Climate change denial by government is murder by weather
By now everyone everywhere knows that climate change is a reality, especially the deniers who are simply lying to cover up their real intent, which is to continue with their capitalist schemes of self-aggrandisement even to the point of knowingly letting people die as a consequence.
During the last two weeks, Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Jose, in succession, have formed in the tropical Atlantic Ocean to sweep northwest through the Caribbean toward the southern coasts of North America. Harvey has flooded hundreds of thousands of dwellings in the Gulf Coast area of Texas around Houston. Irma, the “lawnmower from the sky,” and the strongest Category 5 (out of 5) hurricane ever recorded, is just making landfall in Florida after razing a number of the smaller Caribbean islands; and Hurricane José is now sweeping into the Caribbean Sea from the east. Climate change denier and right-wing propagandist Rush Limbaugh, lounging in his Florida Xanadu, had called the official weather forecasts of Hurricane Irma’s path “fake news,” but has just heeded those same forecasts by evacuating from the storm, as well as from personal responsibility.
Climate change (as global warming) doesn’t “cause” hurricanes, it makes them more powerful and more frequent. Warmer oceans more easily evaporate, increasing the atmospheric moisture available for rain, and increasing the atmospheric heat energy available for driving winds. It takes heat to evaporate liquid water into vapor. Such vapor rising from the ocean surface mixes with the atmosphere. At higher elevations where the air temperature is lower, or in the presence of cold air currents, water vapor can lose its heat energy to the air and condense into droplets of liquid water. The heat energy released by water vapor to condense back into liquid – the latent heat of vaporization – is sizable (per unit mass of H2O) and adds to the energy of motion of the air molecules and air currents: wind. So, global warming makes for more moisture in the air over tropical ocean waters, and more heat energy in that air to drive winds and storms.
The scientific facts about global warming have been known for a very long time, and were largely learned through government-funded research. US Government officials, as in the George W. Bush administration and now in the Donald Trump administration, who publicly deny these facts – excruciatingly documented and warehoused by the scientific, technical, military and commercial agencies of the US Government – are simply voicing bald-faced lies, and are thus betraying their official and constitutional responsibilities to the American public. Since this lying (and its enabling of continued greenhouse gas pollution) is done knowingly and for monetary gain, and the consequential more violent weather (droughts, hurricanes, floods) erupting from today’s global warming climate change always causes fatalities, then that climate change denial is at the very minimum an accessory to criminally negligent manslaughter, and without a reasonable doubt to pre-meditated murder.
Outline History of Awareness of Climate Change
What follows is a timeline, which I first made for myself in 2013, of the development of scientific knowledge about climate change. This summary outline includes some of the incidents of the intimately related “world energy crisis,” which I define as getting enough energy for a decent standard of living worldwide, coupled with the commercial competition between: fossil fuel energy versus nuclear energy versus solar/green energy.
Both fossil fuel energy and nuclear energy are intrinsically capitalist forms of resource hoarding and market exploitation, because they are extracted from the Earth at specific locations, burned to generate electricity at large and complex industrial plants, and distributed widely and distantly through a large electrical transmission line distribution grid.
On the other hand, solar/green energy is intrinsically a socialist or public commons type of energy resource because it is naturally abundant everywhere – like sunshine and wind – and is easily converted to electricity wherever it is collected. It is because of its intrinsic socialist (anti-capitalist) nature that solar and green energy are being legally attacked and restricted in US political jurisdictions controlled by rabidly capitalist special interests. The outline now follows.
The clock for a public policy response to the “energy crisis” (now enlarged to “Global Warming” and “Climate Change”) started ticking in October 1973 with the First Arab Oil Embargo (1973 Oil Crisis), and we’ve yet to get off our asses in response to the alarm (40+ years later).
Four years later, the energy problem was serious enough for President Jimmy Carter to address the nation about it on the 202nd anniversary of Paul Revere’s ride (18 April 1977).
Peak Oil was the fear in 1977, not Global Warming, even though science had been certain about Global Warming since 1955-1957.
What follows is a very brief synopsis of the scientific development of knowledge about Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW, which is human-caused, CO2-driven Climate Change), along with incidents of the parallel World Energy Crisis.
Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide is a gaseous insulator and high capacity heat-storage medium. It can retain much more heat energy per unit mass than the two dominate atmospheric gases making up 99.03% of the atmosphere: diatomic nitrogen (N2, 78.08% of the air), and diatomic oxygen (O2, 20.95% of the air). The remaining 0.97% of the dry atmosphere is a mixture of rare gases (with low heat capacity) and organic vapors (with high heat capacity), which include the high heat capacity species: methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2). The water vapor (H2O) carried along by the otherwise dry air is also a high heat capacity medium.
In 1896 Svante Arrhenius calculated the effect of doubling atmospheric carbon dioxide to be an increase in surface temperatures of 5-6 degrees Celsius. Meanwhile, another Swedish scientist, Arvid Högbom, had been attempting to quantify natural sources of emissions of CO2 for purposes of understanding the global carbon cycle. Högbom found that estimated carbon production from industrial sources in the 1890s (mainly coal burning) was comparable with the natural sources. (HCCS)
In 1938 a British engineer, Guy Stewart Callendar, attempted to revive Arrhenius’s greenhouse-effect theory. Callendar presented evidence that both temperature and the CO2 level in the atmosphere had been rising over the past half-century, and he argued that newer spectroscopic measurements showed that the gas was effective in absorbing infrared [heat radiation] in the atmosphere. Nevertheless, most scientific opinion continued to dispute or ignore the theory. (HCCS)
In 1955 Hans Suess’s carbon-14 isotope analysis showed that CO2 released from fossil fuels was not immediately absorbed by the ocean. (HCCS)
In 1957, better understanding of ocean chemistry led Roger Revelle to a realization that the ocean surface layer had limited ability to absorb carbon dioxide. (HCCS)
In a seminal paper published in 1957 [Roger Revelle and Hans Suess, “Carbon dioxide exchange between atmosphere and ocean and the question of an increase of atmospheric CO2 during the past decades.” Tellus 9, 18-27 (1957)], Roger Revelle and Hans Suess argued that humankind was performing “a great geophysical experiment,” [and called] on the scientific community to monitor changes in the carbon dioxide content of waters and the atmosphere, as well as production rates of plants and animals. (HS)
AGW became common knowledge among aerodynamicists and atmospheric scientists by the 1960s, as witnessed by the following passage from John E. Allen’s 1963 book surveying the field of aerodynamics “for the non-specialist, the young student, the scholar leaving school and seeking an interest for his life’s work, and for the intelligent member of the public.”
Scientists are interested in the long-term effects on our atmosphere from the combustion of coal, oil and petrol and the generation of carbon dioxide. It has been estimated that 360,000 million tons of CO2 have been added to the atmosphere by man’s burning of fossil fuels, increasing the concentration by 13%. This progressive rise in the CO2 content of the air has influenced the heat balance between the sun, air and oceans, thus leading to small but definite changes in surface temperature. At Uppsala in Sweden, for example, the mean temperature has risen 2° in 60 years. (JEA)
22 April 1970: On this first Earth Day, MG, Jr decides to aim for a career in energy research, for a brave new future.
October 1973 – March 1974: The first Arab Oil Embargo (formally known as the 1973 Oil Crisis) erupts in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War (1973 Arab-Israeli War, October 6–25, 1973).
Evidence for warming accumulated. By 1975, Manabe and Wetherald had developed a three-dimensional Global Climate Model that gave a roughly accurate representation of the current climate. Doubling CO2 in the model’s atmosphere gave a roughly 2°C rise in global temperature. Several other kinds of computer models gave similar results: it was impossible to make a model that gave something resembling the actual climate and not have the temperature rise when the CO2 concentration was increased. (HCCS)
18 April 1977: President Jimmy Carter’s Address to the Nation on Energy.
The 1979 World Climate Conference of the World Meteorological Organization concluded “it appears plausible that an increased amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can contribute to a gradual warming of the lower atmosphere, especially at higher latitudes….It is possible that some effects on a regional and global scale may be detectable before the end of this century and become significant before the middle of the next century. (HCCS)
1979-1980: The 1979 (or Second) Oil Crisis erupts from the turmoil of the Iranian Revolution, and the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq War in 1980.
March 28, 1979: A nuclear reactor meltdown occurs at the Three Mile Island power station in Pennsylvania.
July 15, 1979: President Jimmy Carter addresses the nation on its “crisis of confidence” during its 1979 energy crisis (oil and gasoline shortages and high prices). This address would become known as the “malaise speech,” though Carter never mentioned “malaise.” Have you seen as honest an American presidential speech since? “Energy will be the immediate test of our ability to unite this nation.”
November 4, 1980: Ronald Reagan is elected president and the “big plunge” (the neoliberal shredding of the 1945 postwar social contract) begins. Poof went all my illusions about an American energy revolution.
April 26, 1986: A nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl power station in the Ukraine explodes, spewing radioactivity far and wide, and the fuel core melts down. The Chernobyl disaster was the worst nuclear power plant accident until the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of March 11, 2011.
1986: Ronald Reagan has the solar hot water system removed, which had been installed on the roof of the White House during the Carter Administration. The official US energy policy was obvious to me: solar energy and conservation were dead.
In June 1988, James E. Hansen [in Congressional testimony] made one of the first assessments that human-caused warming had already measurably affected global climate. Shortly after, a “World Conference on the Changing Atmosphere: Implications for Global Security” gathered hundreds of scientists and others in Toronto. They concluded that the changes in the atmosphere due to human pollution “represent a major threat to international security and are already having harmful consequences over many parts of the globe,” and declared that by 2005 the world should push its emissions some 20% below the 1988 level. (HCCS)
All that AGW scientific research has done since 1988 has been to add more decimal places to the numbers characterizing the physical effects. That was over a quarter century ago. So, I take it as a given that the American and even World consensus [so far] is in favor of probable human extinction sooner (by waste heat triggered climate change) rather than later (by expansion of the Sun into a Red Giant star). And, yes, the course of the extinction will proceed inequitably. Not what I want, but what I see as the logical consequences of what is. (End of the outline.)
Global warming is Earth’s fever from its infection with capitalism
So, whenever some government, corporate or media potentate discharges another toxic cloud of climate change denialism, realize that what they are actually and dishonestly telling you is: “I am going to keep making my financial killing regardless, and I don’t care who has to die for it.”
With Labor Day almost upon us, it’s appropriate we discuss anything germane to what was once referred quaintly and respectfully (if not affectionately) as the “working class.” Strikes, protests, street violence, the incremental passage of labor laws: All part of the American Labor Movement’s dramatic history.
Let us begin with a look back at what many labor activists regard as the precise moment when America’s unions began their dreadful and inexorable decline, and what labor expert Joseph McCartin once called, “one of the most important events in late twentieth century U.S. labor history.” We’re referring to the 1981 PATCO (Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization) strike. That’s the one where President Reagan fired everybody.
Because it was illegal for federal employees to go on strike, their startling walkout appeared to everyone (even hardcore union honchos were scratching their heads) as a clear-cut violation of federal law. Predictably, declaring the strike to be a threat to “national safety,” Reagan ordered them back to work, citing the Taft-Hartley Act (1947).
Of the nearly 13,000 who went on strike, only about 1,300 heeded the President’s ominous warning and returned to work. Ultimately, Reagan wound up firing a total of 11,345 air traffic controllers. These well-meaning men and women were not only fired, they were banned for life from ever holding a federal civil service job.
The PATCO debacle was huge, not only substantively but symbolically. By resolutely taking on a high-profile federal union, and slapping it around in public—slapping it around with everyone watching—Ronald Reagan not only transformed himself into a hero of the anti-labor Right, his actions caused Corporate America to stand on its hind legs and take notice.
The way Corporate America now saw it, maybe the country’s labor unions weren’t the big, bad muscle organizations we’d always thought they were. Maybe they weren’t nearly as formidable as we surmised. Indeed, maybe their bark was far, far worse than their bite.
In fact, like the schoolyard bully who melts into a quivering mass of jelly when confronted by the first kid with the guts to stand up to him, maybe America’s unions had been bullshitting us all along. In any event, the PATCO strike marked the beginning of all the bad stuff that has happened to unions over the last 36 years, stuff that is still happening.
But despite Reagan being the obvious villain, there are parts of the PATCO episode that remain disturbing. For one, PATCO (founded in 1968) was already viewed by the House of Labor as a “screwball” outfit. How screwball? In the 1980 presidential election, only three notable unions chose to endorse the Republican Reagan over the incumbent Democrat Jimmy Carter: the Teamsters (“screwball” in their own unique way), the air line pilots, and, yes, PATCO.
For another, the PATCO membership had elected a brand new president, one Robert Poli, a man who, by all accounts, was charismatic and profoundly effective as a public speaker—a rabble-rouser and motivator—but who was woefully inexperienced and virtually clueless as a “leader.” A loud-mouth firebrand….and little else.
And here’s the third thing. By walking off the job, these air traffic controllers, as gutsy and committed as they were (and one has to admire their solidarity and determination), had practically dared Reagan to fire them. “Here we are, Mr. President. We are going on strike, which we realize is illegal and punishable by termination. What are you going to do about it, sir? Frankly, we don’t think you have the balls to do anything.”
At a press conference, Reagan read a letter that these workers had signed upon being hired. It included this statement: “I am not participating in any strike against the Government of the United States or any agency thereof, and I will not so participate while an employee of the Government of the United States or any agency thereof.” Granted, the words were largely symbolic and corny, but these workers had given their oath, and that oath, once revealed, caused the public to line up against them.
But here’s the really incredible part. Reagan balked. Instead of immediately firing every union member who walked off the job, Reagan, inexplicably, backed off. Instead, he announced a 48-hour grace period. Even though these workers violated federal law, and could have instantly forfeited their jobs, Reagan gave them 48 hours to reconsider. Knowing how high the stakes were, Reagan offered them a second chance. A chance to think it over.
Unfortunately, the truculent Poli continued to whip the membership into a frenzy. He persuaded them to reject this peace offering, clinging to the view that the government was bluffing. And by doing so, the union basically pissed away the one chance it had of coming out of this thing looking good.
So there was a day in early August, 1981, when American workers were desperately in need of a smart, shrewd, and wisely pragmatic leader. Instead, they found themselves under the spell of a reckless self-promoter. To say it ended badly would be an understatement. Poli got bounced, thousands of people lost their jobs, and PATCO was decertified and dissolved later that same year.
Like obscene profits from great fraud or theft, “wonder weapons” of mass destruction, to which the atomic bomb certainly belongs, have their origins in the inability and unwillingness to accept the equality and dignity of one’s opponents/ competitors (never mind whether one’s cause/product is legitimate).
The ambivalence of the US position during WWII — the discrepancy which became apparent after 1945 between the stated and unstated policies — allowed and even promoted the mythic justification for US atomic bombing.
When I first moved to Germany more than thirty years ago, I was appalled at the insensitivity — to put it mildly — in US policy with the deployment of the Pershings. Placing new medium-ranged missiles in Germany at that time caused vocal opposition even among those whose anti-communist credentials (no virtue in my book, but for the “alliance” at least acceptable opposition) were undisputed. However, there was no evidence that anyone (in the US) was willing to grasp that the reply to Pershings would not be ICBMs but more probably Soviet medium-ranged delivery vehicles to Germany! The general US response was that Germany should appreciate the “protection” it was getting from the US. The fact that these missiles were a threat to Germany and the Soviet Union but not to the US was simply disregarded (as is the stationing of missiles on Russia’s borders today.)
The US has the largest gratuitous war machine on the planet. Whatever its claims, as the only belligerent in the past century’s two world wars not to suffer any destruction to its national territory (colonies aside), it can safely be said that it is the only country for whom war is exclusively business. As Smedley Butler said, war is a racket!
“Fire and Fury”: Who should be feared more? Macduff or Macbeth?
The recent threats to Korea — addressed to the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea — are ultimately “business” policies. That is why they are so difficult to challenge effectively. Mr Trump is not making statements which originate in any actual threat or the imperative of a response to such. He is driven by policy objectives that simply are not subject to open discussion let alone democratic process (like most business policy).
Bruce Cumings’ detailed study, The Origins of the Korean War, upon which I have repeatedly drawn in previous attempts to explain US regime policy not only in Asia, shows just how difficult it is to ascertain the underlying policies and interests driving US regime behavior when the war against Korea began. One is forced to infer, interpolate, extract conclusions from information the coherence and relevance of which to public policy is never openly admitted. This leaves what little potential for public — democratic — intervention seriously inhibited.
It is of little help to arrive at the legitimate system level analysis and say that it is American capitalism — a particularly virulent strain of that ideology — which drives US belligerence. This does not tell anyone how to stop particular instances of egregious violence.
One point in all this is that the US policy of non-proliferation is so obviously one directed solely at those countries not utterly allied or subservient to it. (Here it is important that the US allies perceived as “white” are allowed to have atomic bombs and delivery vehicles.) But beyond that, the NPT was also an agreement to reduce and eliminate all atomic weapons — an objective with which the US regime has never materially complied — in fact, quite the opposite. Such threats against Korea — conventional bombing capacity notwithstanding — are clearly only possible because the policy of first strike and super atomic superiority (including the enormous profits this earns for those who run the industry) have never been seriously challenged, revised or abandoned.
There is no doubt, in fact, if not in rhetoric, that the US is led by some of the most spiteful people on the planet for whom gratuitous violence is not only foreign policy, but domestic and cultural obsession. “White rage” and its attendant “lynch justice” are firmly entrenched elements of American culture, not just among the elite. Here in Portugal almost every public venue has a television screen. A friend of mine has several cable channels running in his restaurant– mostly fueled with American product. Since I do not have a television and have not had one for almost thirty years I “miss a lot”.
The TV/cable/cinema programming comprises entirely allusions to libertinism (music videos) or high tech mass violence (so-called crime drama and the endless supply of films and series with highly organised state violence, usually against people in the target countries of US policy). The worst we had when I was growing up was re-runs of WWII propaganda films, Aaron Spelling/Jack Webb Los Angeles police soaps and Hoover’s FBI propaganda. Looking back that seems all incredibly harmless.
Who produces this stuff — with the enormous support from DOD et al?
As I just argued albeit tongue in cheek, the atomic power of the President is not as easy to measure as it seems. In fact, the President — whether Truman or Trump — executes policy but does not really make it. Today no serious scholar can deny that Truman’s decision was prepared for his approval. In fact, everything was done to minimize the possibility that he would deny it. I believe we have to see Trump in the same capacity. Truman is formally responsible for the mass murder in Hiroshima and Nagasaki because the law and Constitution assign that responsibility to him and because he lacked the moral fortitude to refuse mass murder, like many before him. But he did not create the weapon or order its creation nor did he start the war in which it was used.
Donald Trump has always had an inflammatory style — even when he was only a NY real estate mogul. That is nothing new. So now he is President his style is not going to change. There is something actually comical about Trump’s appearances. Who remembers Reagan’s off the cuff “joke” about bombing the Soviet Union?1 These are not accidents. They express the contempt which all Presidents ex officio have for the targets of their atomic bombs. Who now remembers anything Georges Bush said during their respective terms in office? Every US president has had his style of presenting the wantonly murderous capacity of the US war machine. This is also nothing new.
One has to ask two questions, one historical and the other contemporary.
Historically: It must be asked how and why under the Obama reign the largest increase in the US atomic arsenal since 1989 was performed? Mr Trump came into office with vastly more lethality because of actions taken over the previous eight years approved by his predecessor and the heiress apparent-pretender.
Contemporary: second question is really two. What and above all who is driving this policy? Who or what is their target?2
I believe that there are no countries besides the US and Israel (which are for all intents and purposes one country) that seriously contemplate first strikes with atomic weapons. I also believe that the few sane people in the policy-making venues of the US regime know this — just as George Kennan knew it when he wrote his mendacious “X” article and Dean Acheson knew it too. This leaves us with two simple non-exclusive explanations for the present situation.
Enhancing deniability and lethality
One — the atomic bomb system is a perpetual motion machine for those who own it like DuPont inter alia. There is simply too much money to be made to ever willingly stop producing these weapons that no sane person would ever employ at the strategic level. However, there has been, it would seem, enormous progress in miniaturisation of atomic weapons — including depleted uranium or enhanced radiation — opening the possibility to genuinely “micro-nuke” US competitors.
I am convinced this was already tested against China. The point is that deniable atomic attacks have been on the drawing board for at least twenty years. Hollywood not only propagates fantasy but illustrates the nascent agenda of the national security state. The US generally accuses others of doing what it is, in fact, doing (e.g. brainwashing and germ warfare). So we have been saturated with films and other stories about micronukes in various forms in the hands of criminals (the illegal half of the Business community). Everyone outside the US generally knows more about US policy than the American public and as Cumings indicated in his Korea research the PDRK knew and paid more careful attention to US policy before the US war against Korea started than any reputable people in the US itself. They were not surprised like the average American — who is hermetically isolated from unpleasant reality.
In short, Trump may simply be echoing what has been apparent in the boardrooms of the US regime for the past fifteen years:
We have approached the level of atomic weapons development where we can deliver atomic devastation in ways that only experts will be able to verify. We will be able to graduate the use of our most powerful weapons in such a way that no one will be able to justify retaliation and so this option will disappear.
This is, in fact, the continuation of the policy of limited war — which was so far successful because only those who actually fought, were wounded or died, have any testimony to the fact that the US has been at war without interruption since 1945. So there is first the huge business in atomic weapons which needs targets to justify its existence. Trump is just keeping the public aware of targets so that the business continues unabated.
On one hand there is the imperative to have atomic threats to justify atomic weapons. If the only threats to US “security” came from Serbia or Samoa, this would not be very convincing and it is part of the US system that virtual unanimity for policy must be manufactured. That is about the only way to maintain the appearance of a democracy — aside from annual introduction of a “new” formula of Coca Cola or more massive versions of the terminally mediocre Microsoft products.
On the other hand, the US business elite cannot afford all out war with anyone who has the capacity to defend themselves. (Aside from the fact that the US military is only capable of “winning” aggressive war against the defenseless, like Grenada or Panama.) Yet economic domination of the world has been the number one mission of US policy since 1945. Now China (where there are many US factories) and the alliance with Russia (which under Putin seems to have resisted the continuation of the Kissinger policy of playing China and Russia against each other) can actually challenge US dominion. So the strategic issue is again (!) how to control China but not lose the economic advantages of producing there at high profit to feed US consumers.
Two: Asymetric war — as the new jargon likes to call the GWOT — is not really about the US against little “rogue states” or “state aspirants”. It is the US doctrine of “limited war” revised to include the new generation of micro-atomic weapons. The aim of asymetric war is to wage a tactically brutal assault against a US adversary/competitor which is apparently too small to allow a response that would a) threaten the US, in fact, or b) expose the US as the aggressor. Thus any response by the target would have to be (appear to the international public as) vastly disproportionate. Thus deterrence takes the old meaning from school days. The bully hits when no one is looking and knows that the counterblow comes just when the teacher is watching.
This is the kind of blackmail that all the films from Hollywood show — not because there are some “rogue criminal elements” waiting to act — but because this is the US policy for which the public has to be prepared. Just like they were prepared for the WTC destruction. Most people I know reacted the same as I did to the first images on TV — we thought this was a scene from one of those perennial Hollywood-NY disaster films.
(In fact, it was filmed by crews in place before the event so that all the work was done like Hollywood would have done it in the studio.) We have been watching US policy in preparation for the past twenty years. But for most people — including many from whom one would expect more sense — it was only decided in January of 2017.
Does this offer any options for ending the crisis? Not immediately. It does tell us, however, that Trump is not the crisis. Moreover his removal from office will not alter a policy he did not make. Even the obvious questions like “what about Mr Pence?” are not asked. If the crazies (i.e. those who believe that Trump must go at all costs) were actually to force the dismissal or resignation of Donald Trump, they would then have Mr Pence as President. The administration would not change at all. (Ronald Reagan actually covered the first Bush presidency. Although Alexander Haig may have thought he was president for a few hours– which says more about what actually happens in the White House than anything we read in the organs of the Business Party. The Bush dynasty began in 1980 and has more or less continued to this day.)
It’s the Open Door that lets all the (F)lies in…
It should tell the sane, educated and those with some access to public opinion shaping institutions that the driving force of the atomic industry and those who finance it has grown enormously, not declined and that this industry, not the POTUS, is driving the war machine. So if there are any systemic interventions possible, they must be aimed at closing down the atomic bomb industry entirely. To do this it is necessary to honestly identify the people in that industry, its producing, financing, and beneficiary members natural and corporate. After 1945, certain corporations were dissolved in Germany on the premise that they were criminal conspiracies. Notwithstanding the deception and circumvention — this was public policy. That means there are precedents for dealing not only with natural criminals but with their corporate shells. In fact, the so-called RICO Act is US law. Imagine General Butler defined war as a “racket”. Taking this literally all enterprises engaged in the war “industry” are “racketeers” in the meaning of the act…
It should also tell those same people that there is something fundamentally wrong with the way Asian policy is made and the policies themselves. Cumings’ book Dominion from Sea to Sea comes very close to stating the problem in its historical essence and showing why it is almost impossible to counter US policy: namely, it enjoys a centuries old consensus among the elite and one manufactured for just about a century now for everyone else. There has been no change in the fundamentals driving it — of which most people are only subliminally aware. Nothing — even on the so-called Left — has been or is being done on a meaninful scale to revise the view of the United States of America as “god’s gift to humanity”. As long as the vast bulk of the US population (and certainly almost all “whites” who also think Jesus God is just like them — even if they do not believe in either) is convinced that they live in God’s country they can be forgiven for thinking like Harry Truman, that the atomic bomb was god’s gift to them.
In all this lies one very serious core problem — the US is an empire and there are no empires which have voluntarily surrendered their claims to power and expansion.
If my assertion about the state of ordnance and doctrine is correct — and I have every reason to believe it is — then Korea is reacting to knowledge and awareness of this policy by extroverted means. China, on the other hand, is responding introvertedly. They see the difficulty of confronting this enhanced deniability. They also do not want to provide more fuel to inflame the US lynching party. And behind the scenes the instruments of covert power are supporting whatever business objectives may best be served by this enhanced bellicosity.
Of course, I write “it should tell the sane…” If by that one means those who publish the leading organs of official opinion and that which is “fit to print”if in support of same, then there is not much reason to expect a sane response. In these venues it is not the policy which is in dispute but the sociability among the factions. One cannot expect any efforts to reorganize and reorient leading opinion (the rest of opinion does not matter anyway).
So currently the only limitations on US policy and action will come from abroad in the form of challenges that the regime is unable to suppress or where they are unable to prevail. There are indications that China and Russia are, in fact, capable of sustaining such challenges. The US regime may be losing its international diplomacy campaign with Trump — which will probably be the only factor in a potential dismissal. He is obviously trying to counter that with obsequity toward the centres of bureaucratic power — the CIA and the Pentagon (and those who own these two bureaucracies).
It is apparent to anyone outside the US that the regime has no alternative to imperialism — it has cannibalised its entire economy to maintain its “open door” (if necessary by means of a solid kick with a “standard issue”) empire. Even the US cannot live by marketing alone. It has been reduced more or less to its origins, a country ruled by traffickers in drugs, arms, contraband, bonded labour, and stolen goods — whose claim to trade is based on the imposition of the USD. Unfortunately this empire has simply more destructive power (and the nihilism to exercise it) than any previous empire of such longevity. So unless the US regime is disarmed by its population (now it seems pretty much the other way around), we will just have to watch the carnage continue. The Open Door will continue to let the flies in and there will be plenty of dead flesh upon which their larvae will feed.
On 11 August 1984, America’s favorite President, Ronald Wilson Reagan, meanwhile the patron saint of the regime (Reagan had been a member of both major electoral machines), celebrated the atomic bombing of Japan 39 years later by suggesting it was time to bomb the Soviet Union.
Since it has been argued here on numerous occasions that the CIA — as the global enforcer of the US economic elite, especially in all its trafficking activities — makes much of the regime’s foreign policy, the heightened attention given to the PDRK could be explained by what this author writes.
Manuel Noriega, former president of Panama, died in prison this week at 83 after decades in custody. What exactly was his crime? He was a monster who turned on his enabler: George Herbert Walker Bush. Though Bush, 92, is not yet technically dead, he and Noriega will soon be chained together in Hell for all eternity.
George H.W. Bush was born not merely into wealth and privilege but into the elite financial fraternity that built the modern American national security state. His father, Prescott, along with Allen and John Foster Dulles, invested heavily in Nazi Germany, before and after the rise of Hitler. Under the Trading with the Enemy Act, the U.S. government seized the Union Banking Corporation for harboring millions in Nazi money. Prescott Bush was one of the bank’s six directors. Other companies Prescott was involved with also had their assets seized by the government.
But Prescott skated away, later becoming a U.S. Senator from Connecticut and a frequent golfing partner of President Eisenhower. The Dulles brothers suffered no adverse consequences from their profitable Nazi collusion either. John Foster, who served on the board of I.G. Farben, the builder of Auschwitz, became Eisenhower’s Secretary of State. Allen, who transacted billions of dollars of business with Nazi Germany in Switzerland, later headed up the CIA.
Like his father before him and his son after him, George Herbert Walker Bush went from prep school into Skull and Bones at Yale, ground zero for CIA recruitment. Armed with a sense of entitlement, immunity, and family money, Bush started Zapata Petroleum, later Zapata Offshore, which drilled wells off Cuba and Kuwait. Zapata’s lack of profitability led some Bush chroniclers to speculate that Zapata may have operated as an “intelligence front.” J. Edgar Hoover’s 1963 memo referring to “Mr. George Bush of the Central Intelligence Agency” seems to confirm his early intelligence role, though Bush and the CIA denied it.
Bush quit Zapata to enter Texas politics. When he lost a U.S. Senate race President Nixon appointed him Ambassador to the United Nations. In 1973 Nixon made Bush chairman of the Republican National Committee, as the presidency succumbed to Watergate. After Nixon resigned in August 1974, the new president, Ford, sent Bush to represent the United States in China, far from Watergate fallout. Late in 1975 Ford nominated Bush to be CIA Director. But his nomination met with resistance.
Watergate revelations of CIA aid to White House domestic political operations made the agency vulnerable to attack. Senator Frank Church, who led the Senate probe, called the CIA a “rogue elephant” and a “self-generating enterprise” that was “trying to control other countries through the covert manipulation of their affairs.”
After contentious confirmation hearings, Bush became the CIA Director. But neither he nor President Ford had any appetite for reform. Bush’s protective approach to the CIA gave the embattled agency breathing room and a lasting gratitude to George Herbert Walker Bush. The new CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, bears his name. It was then that Bush first met Manuel Noriega.
Noriega was born poor in Panama City in 1934. He went to military school and rose through the ranks of the National Guard. As a junior officer he took courses at the School of the Americas, then headquartered in the U.S. Panama Canal Zone. He became a supporter of Omar Torrijos, who led a 1968 coup against the President of Panama and made Noriega chief of military intelligence. As president, Torrijos negotiated a treaty with U.S. President Jimmy Carter ensuring that control of the Panama Canal Zone would revert to Panama in 1999.
By the time Noriega met Bush in 1976, he had already been on the CIA payroll for years. He acted as a conduit for U.S. money and weapons to the Contra militants in Nicaragua. He allowed the CIA to establish listening posts in Panama and assisted the Salvadoran government against leftist rebels there. The U.S. had known about Noriega’s drug trafficking since the 1960s, but shielded him from investigation.
Later, a U.S. Senate Subcommittee concluded that:
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Noriega was able to manipulate U.S. policy toward his country, while skillfully accumulating near-absolute power in Panama. It is clear that each U.S. government agency which had a relationship with Noriega turned a blind eye to his corruption and drug dealing, even as he was emerging as a key player on behalf of the Medellin Cartel…
No one’s eye was blinder to Noriega’s criminality than that of George Herbert Walker Bush, who increased Noriega’s salary, despite his unsavory reputation. When Carter became president in 1977 he replaced Bush at the CIA with Admiral Stansfield Turner, who promptly fired Noriega. But when Reagan won the White House in 1980, with Bush as his vice president, Bush made sure the CIA rehired the Panamanian.
By the time Noriega became Panama’s dictator in 1983, the Reagan-Bush administration was paying him $165,000 to $200,000 annually. Noriega proved helpful as Reagan expanded his secret war against Nicaragua’s Sandinista government in the 1980s, keeping a smooth flow through Panama of arms to the Contras. Weakened by his advanced age and advancing dementia, and the bullet he took during an attempt on his life, Ronald Reagan left a power vacuum in the White House that Bush and his smooth Houston lawyer pal, James Baker, were happy to fill.
As Bush prepared to run for president in 1987, a Newsweek cover story on him entitled “Fighting the Wimp Factor,” highlighted his image problem. He decided to attack Manuel Noriega. Noriega’s power had begun to weaken. His strongest U.S. allies – William Casey and Oliver North – were gone. He was indicted in Florida for drug trafficking. Reagan offered to drop the indictments if Noriega left Panama. But Bush and Baker did not want to be seen cutting deals with a drug dictator and looking wimpy.
At midnight, December 19, 1989, President George Herbert Walker Bush sent 26,000 U.S. troops – in the largest combat operation since Vietnam – to invade Panama, for the ostensible reason of bringing Manual Noriega to trial in the United States on drug charges and liberating Panama from his dictatorship. Mainstream American media broadcast the Bush claims without comment. Nor did they contest the official U.S. figure of 250 deaths from the attack.
Barbara Trent’s 1993 Oscar-winning documentary, The Panama Deception, revealed a very different reality in Panama. Her film shows the terrible physical destruction in Panama’s working-class neighborhoods. She discovered that the dead actually numbered between 2,500 and 4,000, along with 18,000 residents forced into detention centers and another 7,000 arrested without charges. She shows some of the mass graves where U.S. forces dumped thousands of bodies and interviewed detainees still warehoused in Panama years after the invasion. What Bush called a “liberation” she exposed as a gratuitous massacre.
Trent also uncovered the real reason for the invasion: to destroy the Panama Defense Forces (PDF), thus stopping the gradual turnover of the Panama Canal to the Panamanians, scheduled to begin ten days after the invasion. By the terms of the treaty, signed by President Carter in 1978, the United States would cede sovereignty of the canal to Panama unless Panama was incapable of defending it.
Having destroyed the PDF, the United States passed a law in 1991 to ensure continued U.S. presence in the Canal Zone on the grounds that Panama could not defend it. Chutzpah of a high order. Trent also learned that U.S. forces used the invasion to test new, unheard-of weapons on the Panamanian people, a kind of dress rehearsal for the Persian Gulf War the following year.
Trent’s powerful, important film is available to view in its entirety right now on YouTube. It’s a scathing indictment, not only of U.S. government hypocrisy and brutality, but of the complicit U.S. media that will not and does not question the deceptive, murderous practices of our government. PBS refused to screen Trent’s film, but as many Americans as possible need to see it. Its messages remain urgent.
Noriega hid in the Vatican embassy for several days after the Bush invasion, finally surrendering to spend the rest of his life in prison. For his cynicism and his vanity, using a massive invasion and the murder of thousands of Panamanians to distract from the economic problems of his presidency and dispel the onus of “the wimp factor,” George Herbert Walker Bush deserves to be remembered as a war criminal and an extreme violator of human rights, a disgrace to the presidency and to the species.
On our next episode of Chained Together in Hell, Bill Clinton will be affixed to Janet Reno, his co-conspirator in the unnecessary 1993 massacre of 76 people in Waco, Texas, including 16 children under the age of 10. On his other side, Clinton will be chained to Madeleine Albright, who said that a U.S. blockade of Iraq that killed half a million Iraqi children was “worth it.” Reno and Albright are two of the very few women Clinton did not covet while on this earth.
I am in Russia for two weeks with a delegation of 30 Americans organized by the Center for Citizen Initiatives. We have had informative meetings with numerous people but the following two were especially interesting and relevant to international politics: Vladimir Kozin, member of the Russian Academy of Military Science, and Mikhael Gorbachev, former President of the Soviet Union.
Meeting with Mikhael Gorbachev
Roots of the New Cold War
Vladimir Kozin is an arms control specialist and member of the Russian Academy of Military Science who has worked on arms control issues since the 1970’s. Kozin says that Russians see themselves being encircled by NATO. Of the 16 countries bordering Russia, eight have anti-Russia sentiments. He notes that the US military budget is twelve times greater than that of Russia and increasing.
Kozin says that it is a “fairy tale” that Russia interfered in the U.S. election. What is NOT a fairy tale is that the US spent a huge amount of money to influence Russian elections in the past and funded 400 Non Governmental Organizations which were part of the destabilization campaign in Ukraine leading to the 2014 coup.
Regarding key conflict points, Kozin says that Crimea was part of Russia since 1783. He notes that the despite the presence of 16,000 Russian troops and 18,000 Ukrainian troops, the Crimea plebiscite to re-unify with Russia was handled without violence, with huge turnout and overwhelming vote in favor.
Regarding hostilities in eastern Ukraine, Kozin questions why this has happened. If Scotland can consider secession from UK and Catalonia from Spain, what’s wrong with Donbass (eastern Ukraine) wanting more autonomy within Ukraine? Why has Ukrainian President Porokshenko turned to military conflict instead of negotiating with the forces in eastern Ukraine?
Kozin believes it is vital to have an arms control summit meeting between Presidents Trump and Putin. He thinks we should work toward the complete elimination of nuclear weapons by 2045. In the meantime, the easiest way to reduce tension and the risk of war would be an agreement on “No First Use of Nuclear Weapons”.
A Nuclear War Cannot Be Won
The former President of the Soviet Union, Mikail Gorbachev, is 87 years old but still sharp. He told us: “This is a time to be concerned. We should worry about relations between our two countries….. things cannot continue as they are.”
President Gorbachev recalled his inital meetings with President Reagan which came after six years of poor relations and hostility. In the first summit meeting, Reagan issued a long list of accusations against the Soviet Union; Gorbachev responded with his own accusations against the USA. After that meeting Gorbachev said “He’s not a hawk; he’s a dinosaur” while Reagan said about Gorbachev “He’s a die-hard communist.”
At the next summit meeting, Reagan continued lecturing Gorbachev. After listening for 15 minutes. Gorbachev stopped Reagan saying, “That’s enough. If you want to talk as equals we can go very far. Differences can be bridged. Problems can be resolved. But as equals.” Reagan asked how the Soviet Union would respond if the United States was at risk because of some kind of natural calamity. When Gorbachev said they would want to help, not take advantage, the mood changed.
Gorbachev recalled his own friendly experience talking with average Americans. He suggested that perhaps the USA needs its own perestroika.
He reminded us that it was President John F Kennedy who said “We need peace but not a Pax Americana ….. not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women”.
Gorbachev continued saying, “The current situation is not right. We need to change that. Let us stop provoking each other. Let us stop trying to tear up other countries. …. Our two countries are still central to world peace. We need peace in order to resolve other world problems. 1% of the world controls 90% of the wealth. The ruling class is happy with this but things cannot continue as they are …. budgets smell of gunpowder….. fear is being cultivated. This is resulting in a new arms race.”
Gorbachev asked “Does the USA want Russia to just submit?” Referring to Russia’s history with invasions by France in the early 1800’s and Germany in the 1940’s he explained “This is a country that can never submit…. There will be no winners in a nuclear war.”
In a sober assessment of Trump’s first 100 days as President, Vladimir Kozin concluded:
Aggravating these facts of life is the deep degree of mistrust between Washington and Moscow, which the Americans spawned and have continued to nurse. A vicious circle has emerged in the interrelationship between weapons and trust … Clearly such an irrational phenomenon cannot go on indefinitely.
From both Kozin and Gorbachev the message was clear: We need to do something to restore discussion and stop the slide toward ever greater tension and danger.