Category Archives: Weaponry

Let Them Eat Weapons: Trump’s Bizarre Arms Race

In late May of this year, President Donald Trump’s special envoy for arms control bragged before a Washington think tank that the U.S. government was prepared to outspend Russia and China to win a new nuclear arms race.  “The president has made clear that we have a tried and true practice here,” he remarked.  “We know how to win these races and we know how to spend the adversary into oblivion.”

This comment was not out of line for a Trump administration official.  Indeed, back in December 2016, shortly after his election, Trump himself proclaimed that the United States would “greatly strengthen and expand” the U.S. government’s nuclear weapons program, adding provocatively:  “Let it be an arms race.  We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”  In a fresh challenge to Russia and China, delivered in October 2018, Trump again extolled his decision to win the nuclear arms race, explaining: “We have more money than anybody else, by far.”

And, in fact, the Trump administration has followed through on its promise to pour American tax dollars into the arms race through a vast expansion of the U.S. military budget.  In 2019 alone (the last year for which worldwide spending figures are available), federal spending on the U.S. military soared to $732 billion.  (Other military analysts, who included military-related spending, put the figure at $1.25 trillion.)  As a result, the United States, with about 4 percent of the world’s population, accounted for 38 percent of world military spending.  Although it’s certainly true that other nations engaged in military buildups as well, China accounted for only 14 percent of global military spending that year, while Russia accounted for only 3 percent.  Indeed, the United States spent more on its military than the next 10 countries combined.

The vast military superiority enjoyed by the United States, however, was not nearly enough for the Trump administration.  In February 2020, the administration introduced a 2021 fiscal year budget proposal that would devote 55 percent of the federal government’s $1.3 trillion discretionary spending to the military.  By 2030, the military proportion of the federal budget would rise to 62 percent.

Today, about four months later, this top priority for military spending might strike many Americans as bizarre.  After all, a disease pandemic continues to plague the nation (with over 110,000 deaths thus far), a large portion of the economy has collapsed, unemployment has reached the catastrophic levels of the Great Depression, and American cities are torn by strife.  Wouldn’t this be an appropriate time to focus America’s financial resources on public healthcare, educational opportunity, decent housing, and a major jobs program―or, in the words of the U.S. constitution, to “promote the general welfare“?  But Republican officials argue that these and other public assistance measures are “too expensive.”

What are not “too expensive” are the administration’s big ticket weapons programs, which, even by military standards, are of dubious value.  Not surprisingly, Trump continued pouring money into purchasing Lockheed Martin’s F-35 combat aircraft, which, though an operational disaster, had cost U.S. taxpayers $1.4 trillion by 2017.  Another pet project, quickly embraced by Trump, was the newest and costliest U.S. aircraft carrier, delivered with fanfare to the Navy in late May 2017 for $13 billion.  Its only problem was that it had difficulty launching planes from its deck and facilitating their landing.  Yet another very expensive military project is U.S. missile defense.  Originally derided as “Star Wars” when Ronald Reagan began promoting it in the 1980s, it has become an obsession with Republicans, who have managed to secure more than $250 billion in U.S. government funding for it thus far.  Nevertheless, it continues to fail most of its tests against intercontinental ballistic missiles, despite the fact that these tests are heavily scripted.

One of the most cutting-edged of the U.S. government’s current military weapons projects is the hypersonic missile.  Capable of travelling five times faster than the speed of sound (3,800 mph), hypersonic missiles with nuclear warheads are immensely appealing to the military establishments of Russia, China, and the United States.  In this case, too, however, there is a serious problem:  Given the missile’s incredible speed, it produces immense heat while traveling through the atmosphere, thus diverting or destroying it before it reaches its target.  Even so, this weapons project should produce yet another bonanza for Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest arms manufacturer, which has already received $3.5 billion for preliminary work on it.

Of course, the Trump administration has not forgotten about an array of its high tech weapons that do work.  America’s 5,800 nuclear weapons, capable of being launched from land, sea, and air, provide staggering firepower―more than enough to destroy most life on earth.  The current nuclear arsenal, however, is viewed as insufficient by the Trump administration, which is engaged in a vast “modernization” program to rebuild the entire nuclear weapons complex, including new production facilities, warheads, bombs, and delivery systems.  The price tag for this enormous nuclear buildup, which will occur over the next three decades, has been estimated as at least $1.5 trillion.

Against a backdrop of economic and social collapse, plus potential global destruction, the obvious thing to do is to pull out of this immensely costly and bizarre arms race and, instead, foster arms control and disarmament agreements with other nations.  But Trump seems determined to cast off whatever progress in this direction his predecessors have made, scrapping the INF Treaty, withdrawing from the Iran nuclear agreement, terminating the New START Treaty, and scuttling the Open Skies Treaty.  For a variety of reasons—rewarding giant corporationsgetting reelected, and dominating the world―Trump remains fixated on “winning” the arms race.

When it comes to increasingly desperate Americans, their lives and livelihoods spiraling downward, his message seems to be:  Let them eat weapons!

Our Disaster

An entire generation of Yemeni children has suffered the traumas of war, many of them orphaned, maimed, malnourished, or displaced. The United Nations reports a death toll of 100,000 people in that nation’s ongoing war, with an additional 131,000 people dying from hunger, disease, and a lack of medical care. A report from Save the Children, issued in November 2018, estimated at least 85,000 children had died from extreme hunger since the war began in 2015.

Since then, 3.65 million people have been internally displaced and the worst cholera outbreak ever recorded has infected 2.26 million and cost nearly 4,000 lives. Attacks on hospitals and clinics have led to the closure of more than half of Yemen’s prewar facilities.

“Yemen remains the world’s worst humanitarian disaster,” the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs wrote on April 23. “Nearly 80 percent of the population requires some form of humanitarian assistance and protection. Ten million people are a step away from famine, and seven million people are malnourished.”

The war has had a horrific impact on all Yemeni civilians, but it has compounded vulnerability to violence for women and girls. A recent AP report described a network of secret detention centers where security forces have severely abused women they’ve targeted as dissenters. In the Sanaa governorate alone, an estimated 200 to 350 women and girls are being held, according to multiple human rights groups. A U.N. panel of experts accused Sultan Zabin, the head of the Sanaa criminal investigative division, of running an undisclosed detention site where women have been raped and tortured.

World health experts regard Yemen as a potential hot spot for the coronavirus and have worked frantically to prepare for its arrival.

“Five years of fighting have degraded the health infrastructure, exhausted people’s immune systems, and increased acute vulnerabilities,” the United Nations said in mid-April. As a result, warned Mark Lowcock, the U.N.’s top aid official, “COVID-19 in Yemen could spread faster, more widely, and with deadlier consequences than in many other countries.”

When Lowcock made this statement, Yemen had recorded just one confirmed case of COVID-19 and no deaths. As of May 31, Yemen had 337 confirmed cases and 89 deaths. On May 30, The Lancet quoted Altaf Musani, the World Health Organization’s representative in Yemen:

Based on recently applied models for the context in Yemen, we are estimating in a worst-case scenario with no mitigation measures 28 million people infected, at least 65,000 deaths, and around 494,000 hospitalisations. It is a deeply alarming situation, highly catastrophic if people do not make serious behavioural changes [and] if we do not make some course corrections.

The policies of the United States are deeply implicated in Yemen’s suffering, through the sale of billions of dollars in munitions to Saudi Arabia and other countries that have intervened in the civil war.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has urged the United Nations to reduce the aid it delivers to areas controlled by the Houthis.  A New York Times report quoted an unnamed diplomat as saying that Pompeo, at a 2019 conference in Warsaw, said the coalition forces should kick the stuffing out of the Houthis, although Pompeo, according to the unnamed diplomat, “used an earthier noun than stuffing.”

In March 2015, Saudi Arabia led a military coalition of nine Arab states to intervene in a conflict raging in Yemen. The coalition said it was acting to restore Yemen’s ousted president, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, to power.

But professor Shireen Al-Adeimi, a Yemeni who teaches at Michigan State University, contends the coalition’s real motive was to gain control of the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, a maritime “chokepoint” through which millions of barrels of crude oil flow each day.

The Saudi warmakers anticipated a brief war, dubbing it “Operation Decisive Storm,” and expecting to quickly overwhelm the rebellious fighters, called the Houthis. They believed the rebels would be no match for the combined military strength of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the seven other Arab countries in the coalition, who were collectively backed by the United States and the United Kingdom.

But the war dragged on for months, turning into a stalemate, with disastrous consequences for Yemeni civilians. The Saudis asked the United States for massive increases in the supply of weapons. By the end of 2015, Human Rights Watch documented the U.S. had sold Saudi Arabia 600 Patriot Missiles, a million rounds of ammunition, $7.8 billion in various weaponry, four Lockheed Littoral Combat Ships, and 10,000 advanced air-to-surface missiles, including laser-guided bombs and “bunker busting” bombs.

The Obama Administration, notes Al-Adeimi, sold Saudi Arabia $115 billion of weapons and provided additional support in the form of targeting assistance, training, and maintenance of aircraft and vehicles. The Trump Administration has continued to support Saudi Arabia, including its 2017 pledge to sell $350 billion in weapons to the repressive regime over a ten-year period. President Donald Trump cited this lucrative package in declining to take action against Saudi Arabia for murdering Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

The United States has also provided cover for Saudi Arabia in the U.N. Security Council, which passed a resolution in April 2015 that demanded an end to Yemeni violence but made no mention of the Saudi-led intervention.

Al-Adeimi understands the difficult position the United Nations is in, since it depends heavily on donations from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States. But she is dismayed by what she calls its “all-siding” the war — addressing the conflict as though it were between evenly matched opponents.

“One hundred thousand Yemenis have been killed,” Al-Adeimi says. “The Yemenis don’t have even one plane, much less fighter jets and warships!”

On March 27, the Trump Administration suspended aid to Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, where 70 percent of Yemen’s population live. It accuses the Houthis of obstructing aid deliveries. Meanwhile, the Saudis are enforcing a blockade on all of Yemen’s land, sea, and airports, forcing its population into dependence on relief organizations.

Aisha Jumaan, a Yemeni who works as an epidemiologist in Washington State, says the effect of these aid cuts was immediate. She worries that Yemen may be manipulated by donors who can threaten to withhold desperately needed food, medicine, water, and fuel.

Jumaan and her organization, the Yemen Relief & Reconstruction Foundation, along with Oxfam, the Norwegian Refugee Council, and the Yemeni Alliance Committee, are urging the United States to reconsider its aid suspension, to give Yemen all possible resources to prevent and respond to COVID-19.

In May 2017, the Saudi-led coalition’s war against Yemen had clearly gone on longer than predicted. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman appeared on national television and asked the Saudis to be patient. He said having a dialogue with the rebels was not possible, so the coalition was waiting them out, adding “Time is in our favor.”

Three years later, the war is still dragging on, and the flow of weapons from the United States continues unabated. Even now, in a shipyard in Marinette, Wisconsin, Lockheed Martin has a multibillion-dollar contract to build four Littoral Combat Ships, which will be delivered to Saudi Arabia.

In 2019, the investigative website Bellingcat reported that eleven individual U.S. states plus the District of Columbia have each exported more than $100 million worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Altogether, the United States provided up to $6.8 billion in weapons including bombs, rocket launchers, and machine guns through March 2019.

Some of these weapons may be linked to war crimes. Identifying marks on U.S. bombs used in the 2018 Dahyan bus bombing, which killed forty children and eleven adults, linked back to a Lockheed Martin plant in Pennsylvania.

On a monthly basis, Saudi Arabia’s state-owned shipping company, Bahri, sends cargo ships to Wilmington, North Carolina, the Port of Baltimore and other U.S. ports, to collect bombs, grenades, cartridges, and defense-related aircraft. The United States also supplies weapons to Bahrain and other countries actively participating in the Saudi-led war against Yemen.

On April 8, the Saudi-led coalition declared a unilateral two-week ceasefire, expressing concern about the spread of COVID-19. But within days, the Houthis were battling groups loyal to the coalition, which retaliated with dozens of air strikes. The Houthis had already issued their own proposal for ending the war and insisted that no durable peace could be achieved without the withdrawal of foreign troops and a termination of the blockade.

When the two-week ceasefire expired, a spokesperson for the Saudi-led coalition announced a month-long extension. Yet there were numerous reports of continued coalition air strikes. The Saudis may want to extricate themselves from the war, but so far they haven’t stopped the bludgeoning air strikes or lifted the blockade.

• A version of this article first appeared in The Progressive Magazine

Sanaa, Yemen. 30 April 2020. A health worker wearing a protective suit sprays disinfectant on the hands of people at a market in the old city of Sanaa, amid concerns of the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).  Photo Credit: Hani Al-Ansi/dpa/Alamy Live News.

Is the THAAD Missile Crisis in South Korea Escalating?  

Why are thousands of South Korean Riot Police Bashing Anti-THAAD Protestors?

Illustration: Shen Lan/GT

According to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency, on May 28th, 2020,  “The Ministry of National Defense and the USFK (United States Forces in Korea) engaged in a transportation operation in the middle of the night to bring equipment to the Seongju THAAD [missile defense] system in Gyeong sang buk do [Province]. The Ministry of National Defense said that it supported the land transportation operation by the USFK from the night of the 28th to the morning of the 29th.  The work was said to have ended at 6 am.”

This stealth operation in the middle of the night was nevertheless challenged by the residents of the area.  3700 South Korean riot police had to be deployed as a phalanx to cordon off the roads to enable the operation and to prevent obstruction of the transport.  Several residents were reported to have been injured during the clash between local residents and the police.

Routine Operation?  Not likely.

Although the South Korean government has been taking pains to characterize this as a “routine” maintenance/replacement operation–like an oil change for a WMD-related missile system– what is striking and surprising about this recent action is that it is the first land transport operation for THAAD since September 2017 (when the remaining 4 out of 6 missile batteries were installed, also against mass protest).   Since then, the USFK and Blackwater operators of the THAAD system have been like the French foreign legion at Dien Bien Phu—completely besieged on top of a hill, with all supplies airlifted in, and operating troops leaving or entering only by helicopter.  This is due to the constant protest and surveillance of the base by anti-THAAD protestors encamped all around it.

That this risky, costly, high manpower ground transport operation was undertaken signifies several things:

1) It’s not a routine “replacement”–it’s possibly a significant upgrade in systems, arsenal, or firepower: a one-time operation.
2) The claim by officials is that the operation was to “replace older missiles, a power generator, electronic devices”, and that “the new missiles are of the same type that the U.S. Forces Korea (UFSK) currently operates. As the mission was to replace expired ones, the number of updated ones is exactly the same as those to be taken out of the base,”

This claim is hardly credible.  It stretches credibility that the lifespan of a 1.3 billion dollar missile system is only 3 years, or that unused missiles “wear out” like cheap fashion or “expire” like bad yogurt.  Even a well-maintained urn of Kimchi can last longer than that.  (The poster boy for the built-in-obsolescence racket known as Microsoft only forces replacement of its systems every 5-10 years).

3) There has been no clear South Korean Ministry of Defense declaration or accounting to South Korea’s National Assembly on what was transported in or “replaced”–at least 4 trucks were covered up with black shrouds–most likely new missile batteries, launch units, possibly radar modules (see here for component pictures)   Is it a complete soup-to-nuts THAAD system?  This is unclear.  However, it definitely not like the brake pad change or cat-6 cable switch-out to replace “worn out” parts at the “end of their operating cycle” as is claimed by the government.

4) Nothing has been taken out (yet), so whatever this is at this point, it’s unlikely to be a simple “replacement”, but an augmentation or increase in equipment, systems, armaments, firepower.

5) The government also claims it was “to improve living conditions of troops at the base”.  It’s unclear how one would improve living conditions on a site that has access to an elite country club on top of a hill with sweeping views surrounded by lush nature.   Perhaps they need a golf course?  (see below)

6) The official also said “the operation has nothing to do with the U.S. move to improve its seven THAAD batteries in the region, including the one in Seongju.” Never believe something until it’s been officially denied, especially if the denial seems unnecessary or responds to a concern that has yet to be raised.

The withdrawal of the US from the ABM treaty–which subsequently allowed the development and deployment of THAAD at seven sites around the world, including Korea, and the 2019 disavowal of the INF treaty–permitting the emplacement of nuclear cruise missiles around China’s periphery are all ominous, threatening maneuvers that increase US firepower “overmatch” against China , and thus increase the risk of war.

As US-China relations were degrading, and frictions escalating, in mid February of this year, there was talk of “upgrading” the missile launchers and radar at the Seongju THAAD site–separating out components for more flexible firepower, as well as increasing the number of missiles.  That discussion was tabled, but the stealth–and misconduct–employed in the initial THAAD development and deployment in 2016-17, combined with the odd denial that this is currently happening should lead people to suspect that this may be actually happening.

In fact, in light of those plans, this is an ominous maneuver in terms of all the other military buildup and maneuvers going on in the South China Sea, along the Taiwan strait, and elsewhere.

Unsurprisingly, China has officially condemned this maneuver. 

This maneuver by the US also forces Moon into unwanted foreign relations friction with China after his party’s landslide legislative victory, at a time when the Trump administration is escalating on all fronts against China.

Fearful Assymetry: How THAAD Came to Korea

Although the US has wartime operational control of South Korean forces—nearly 5 million troops, and massive firepower arrayed in Korea, Okinawa, and Japan.  Despite this massive force projection platform, it is effectively in a stalemate with North Korea and China in East Asia and along the peninsula, due to the rough strategic parity of the forces deployed—and it has always sought to find a way to redress this state of affairs.

The THAAD—Terminal (Theater) High Altitude Area Defense system–a high tech anti-ballistic missile defense system built by Lockheed Martin and Raytheon–is an integral component/weapons platform of the Pivot to Asia, the US plan to encircle and contain China.

The US has wanted to place a THAAD system in Korea since at least 2013, and possibly since the declaration of the Pivot in 2011, as part of the military and geostrategic design of its encirclement:  THAAD destabilizes the existing balance of power in the region because it creates the possibility of neutralizing Chinese nuclear deterrence, i.e. China’s nuclear shield, and potentially enables a cost-free nuclear first strike by the US. While it’s sold as an anti-missile system against North Korean missile threats, everyone knows that it’s targeted against China, in particular the AN/TPY X-band radar, which renders China’s inland interior–up to 3000 km inland–transparent to US surveillance and attacks.  It also renders early warning of any Chinese missile launches.  Because of this, the Chinese consider THAAD to be a threat that cannot be tolerated, and has to be removed.

The system itself was initially placed in South Korea, under highly secretive and controversial circumstances, during the transitional period during the ouster of Park Geun Hye regime in 2016-2017.  Despite massive opposition of the Korean people-to THAAD system–it was announced, and then forcefully deployed: this was Park’s final ugly insult to the Koreans and her last sycophantic act of fealty to the US, a troubled legacy that Koreans are still struggling with.

Deceitful Deployment: Melons, Missiles, and Country Clubs
Park’s administration played 4 years of footsie under the table with the US: the US and South Korean governments assured  both Korea citizens and China that ”no decisions about deployment had been made”,  and only exploratory discussion was happening. This was despite strong signals from the US to South Korea that THAAD deployment was non-negotiable.  This “strategic ambiguity” turned out to be a ploy: a canard to calm down the raging Korean opposition to THAAD, and to avoid alienating Beijing.  During this time, the administration had been secretly scouting out locations for placement and negotiating specifics of emplacement.  Eventually, an artillery site adjacent to a melon farming area in Seong Ju County in the southern part of the country was found, and the deployment was initiated. However, the opposition to the deployment—massive, popular, and religious–was so overwhelming that the government relented, and looked around to find a different—and more defendable– site.  They quickly took over the Lotte Sky Hill Seongju Country Club, an exclusive private golf course belonging to the Lotte Conglomerate not far from the original artillery site.  This site was chosen because of its isolated, elevated terrain, and because the installation could happen immediately without “massive civil engineering work and infrastructure installation”.  This is a typical example of the incestuous nature of SK corporate-government-military nexus, and also speaks to the hurried, urgent, covert nature of the installation.

South Koreans, especially those living in the region had been massively opposed to the THAAD system for several reasons:

  • They understood that this would draw South Korean into a deadly arms race with China, and that Seong Ju (its THAAD missile batteries) and environs, as well as other parts of South Korea would become targets and collateral damage in any shooting war.
  • The lack of consultation and procedural democracy around the deployment rankled even the most stolidly conservative of Koreans.
  • The loss of land (in a small, highly populated country with scarce arable land), and the fear of families and crops being irradiated by high-energy X-band radar were serious concerns to farmers and activists.
  • Last but not least, US military bases tend to create massive social problems around them: prostitution, rape, gender-and-race-based violence, the degradation of civic and social life. The down-to-earth farmers of the region were not down for this.

In the period after THAAD deployment was suddenly announced, protests against the US-aligned Park Geun Hye government crested into the millions: over a period of months, throughout the dead of winter, over a quarter of the country’s population came out to protest her corrupt government.  Park’s popularity ratings dropped to 4%–below the confidence interval of the poll—before completely flatlining.  Years of neoliberal violence, labor abuse, colonial sycophancy, capitulation to US and Japan imperial designs, depraved indifference to human life, and unending corruption finally exploded into months of street protest. Park was eventually impeached, arrested, and imprisoned, and a caretaker Prime Minister was put into place. During this transitional period under the caretaker government, when the government was functioning on life support, the US bum-rushed the placement of the missiles—again during the dead of night—onto this golf course/country club in the South.  This action illegally bypassed the South Korean requirement of parliamentary review and approval.  It had been timed to occur before the election of a new South Korea president, to establish facts on the ground that would be hard to reverse with any subsequent administration.

On May of 2017, progressive president Moon Jae In, was elected to the South Korean presidency. President Moon had campaigned, among other things, on suspension of the THAAD deployment, contingent on further evaluation and environmental review.  However, not long after he took office, even more missiles were installed by the military leadership without notifying him, indicative of whom the South Korean military was really reporting to. This has been a thorn in his side since. President Moon, too, was pressured to increase THAAD deployment, and during the North Korea-US missile standoff in September of 2017, he relented to further temporary deployment.

The system is operated by the Combined Task Force Defender Unit, part of Delta-2, 2nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment of the US Forces Korea, with an assist from thecontractors of the mercenary company Blackwater.  What was originally a temporary, contingent deployment has clearly been converted into a permanent, enduring, and profitable assignment for some.

How to Solve the THAAD issue: A Modest Proposal

There is one long-shot solution to the THAAD debacle that does not involve war, insurrection, or destabilization.

Objectively, golf courses are an abomination–a waste of productive land and water for the exclusive and non-productive use of a miniscule elite.  However, President Trump is very keen on charging the Koreans for the costs and the operation of the THAAD (which the Koreans have so far resisted). This has resulted in considerable antagonism, as has the entire “cost-sharing” agreement: the US wants a 500% increase in the current protection racket payment of $1 Billion/year that South Korea pays for the privilege of having its country occupied with US forces.

The Koreans could offer to pay off the THAAD costs, and then ask for full possession of the THAAD missiles, which are currently under the control of the US.

Once the Korean government takes possession of them, they can disarm them and place them as massive public sculptures in a peace museum or public park as a sculptural examples of imperial phallic-narcissistic extremism.

Of course, the US won’t go for this immediately.  The only way to make this happen is if the Koreans could offer the  current THAAD site—what used to be the Lotte Skyhill Country Club and Golf Course—previously a magnificent, beautiful, ultra-luxurious 18 hole golf course and country club with exquisite, sweeping views–lofted 2200 ft above the surroundings–as an inducement to President Trump.  It would require some clean up and renewed landscaping, as military deployments tend to turn even pristine environments into a mélange of bachelor cave and toxic trash dump, but that could be arranged, and should be included in the offer.  After all, the only worse use of land than a golf course is a military base.

After the missiles are removed, the site cleaned up and landscaped, President Trump can then reopen the course for golf, creating a “marvelous, beautiful” private club, and play golf there, which it seems, is the only thing he loves more than firing missiles and tormenting women.

The US Empire gets a hefty check; the Trump Empire gets its 20th golf course–the Trump Skyhill Country Club and Golf Course, to add to the portfolio of “top notch, magnificent, prestigious” golf courses, and South Korea, North Korea, China, and North East Asia gain peace in the region.

Something for everyone. I think it’s a worthy trade off.

*****

For more on the deployment of the THAAD missiles within the context of South Korea’s recent history and politics, and the relationship with NK, China, the US, and Japan (KPFA flashpoints).

The Military-Industrial-Governmental Complex

Christian Sorensen’s ambitious Understanding the War Industry documents the US war economy with zest. It’s a dull, monotonous topic but vitally important, and he manages to make it interesting. You see the military-industrial-political complex as a vast, complex hive, embedded in the larger economic monster called the United States.

That union has always been tenuous, from the revolution to the civil war and today, requiring enemies to keep very different groups in line. Ironically, since it kicked the British out, the US (i.e., the colonial settler regime) is the one country in the world that has never been threatened by external enemies, making enemy-production the driving force behind the military (always on guard).

The US is not at all like, say, Russia or Iran, countries that have experienced horrible invasions more than once. Another irony here: compare Russian and Iranian military spending, indeed add up all the world’s military spending, and you will see that the enemy-less US outspends them all added together.

How best to understand why a country with no enemies is constantly preparing for and fighting wars, wasting untold trillions, with only negative results (death, maiming, environmental degradation, pollution, etc). Name me just one positive outcome from just the past two decades, the past half-century?

Sicko

Clearly the patient is sick. But is the war industry to blame? And is the illness an addiction, like heroin? Yes, heroin is produced in record quantities and distributed with the help of the war machine. But addictions can be controlled, and they only affect a small minority of the population. It’s possible to ‘just say no,’ though when a patient is sick with a real disease, heroin is at least some comfort.

Banksy’s gift to corona’s frontline troops

Sorensen compares the war industry to a cancer. Given the current viral pandemic, I think a virus is a better metaphor, and it is not the war industry per se that is the virus, but capitalism. It is capitalism’s logic of expansion, conquest, exploitation that drives the war machine.

Cancer isn’t contagious, like capitalism with its profit and consumerism fetishes. There is no pandemic of cancer, like the coronavirus now spreading uncontrolled around the world. The virus, very tiny and not even ‘alive’, replicating exponentially and mutating as needed, is the perfect analogue for capitalism, which is unseen, inhuman, and infects people without their knowing.

So don’t blame the war machine or think of it as a mysterious, spontaneous, malignant growth. Capitalism is a kind of deus ex machina, highly contagious, infecting and debilitating and even killing the victim. War and the war industry are merely the most horrible symptoms of the virus.

What is the nature of the virus? Where did it come from? How does it replicate? These are the questions driving scientists and politicians with respect to corona, and inspired Marx and are driving Sorensen and me in analysis of our ills.

Marx diagnosed the industrial world of the 19th century. He identified the new disease as capitalism, exploitation of man by man, and prescribed a radical cure: revolt and the control of the means of production by the 99% of society who are the working people that make up society. The cure was/is not easy, but the broad outlines included an end to war and exploitation.

How the virus works

Here are a few examples from Sorensen of how it replicates. Federal departments are encouraged to allocate 25% of procurement funds to small business. How thoughtful. Isn’t that Adam Smith at work: help small business against the big monopolies, keep capitalism healthy? The War Department (note: not ‘defense’ or ‘peace’) spends more for small business contracts than any other government department.  But these contracts by definition don’t need to be competitive. So the military is from the start padded at the cellular level.

But worse, ‘small’ is often not at all small. Corporations hold on to ‘small business’ classification long after they become large. Furthermore, a large corporation can use a smaller subsidiary to enable contracting as a small business, even though the parent company is a behemoth. Large corporations can sign up for the Pentagon’s Mentor Protege Program to help small businesses, giving the big fish the chance to partner or swallow (merge with) the little fish. Let’s not even bother mentioning contracts with universities, and how that poisons the well of applied knowledge. A failing grade from Adam Smith.

Or the co-optation of Indigenous peoples, although theirs is somewhat of a success story. The war machine is actually communism-in-action (for the military). You join, get fed and clothed, excel, and get respect for being a brave soldier. Natives have shone in the military ever since they were virtually wiped out and left destitute. They (and blacks and hispanics) join up at twice the proportion of the population. They see a glimmer of communism and like it.

Their tribal traditions of valour and battle were harnessed to the beast. Like small businesses, native companies get preferential treatment. But just as the virus of capitalism turns sh*t into gold, it turns gold into sh*t too. The tribes can sell services to the military, but often just farm them out to others, adding an extra layer of bureaucracy to earn a ‘profit’, like the notorious health maintenance organizations (HMOs) fleecing the country ‘for a good cause’.

Or like the bureaucracy in the Soviet Union, the bane of any attempt to replace capitalism. Plagued by bureaucratic inertia, the final period in the Soviet Union from Brezhnev to Gorbachev, was called ‘real existing socialism’, which was derided as neither ‘real’ nor ‘existing’. This is exactly where communism-for-the-War-Department is today in the US. There is no ‘war’, but there is no lack of bureaucracy.

Another irony: the War Department has never submitted annual audits (any audits) as all federal departments are supposed to. Congress finally passed the Chief Financial Officers Act in 1990, just as the Soviet Union was bureaucracy run mad, teetering on the edge of collapse, not a threat to anyone but itself.

The coast was clear, but would this timid step be a signal that the beast’s days were numbered, that it would finally be brought to account? Though the results were only of a small sampling of the monster’s activities, the grade was a failure, even though the auditors were all clients of the war machine and did their best to dot the i’s. Auditors didn’t find any evidence of fraud in a system inherently fraudulent, wasteful and abusive. Pigs really do fly.

As with the end of WWII, the collapse of communism was supposed to lead to a peace dividend. In both cases, within less than a year, war budgets of the beast were increasing. (For the Soviet Union in 1945, and for Russia in 1991, there was a peace dividend, as it was devastated in both cases, and had no help from the beast to rebuild its shattered economy.)

Sorensen served in the military and explains that ‘veteran’ is as loose a term as ‘small business’. Many (most?) ‘vets’ never leave the US, or just hang out in Europe, Korea or Japan for a few years. ‘Disabled’ is equally loose, as all vets-to-be are encouraged to bargain for some level of ‘disability’ to maximize their pensions and other perks upon retirement. You can retire after 10 years and run a small business as ‘disabled, veteran-owned’.

The disease affects different people differently. If you are really big and control lots of resources (US, Germany), you tend to become a bully, stealing from others or enslaving them to give you even more goodies. If you get lazy, you can farm out the work to willing servant-slaves (China, Bangladesh, etc.).

What holds the lesser mortals in toe is of course a big fist. And the longer you dominate, the more you have to exercise that fist as a warning. If someone defies you, your fist has to be ready to come down hard on him to stop others from getting any ideas.

Personal battle with virus

When I studied at Cambridge (1973-75), I was swept up in the excitement of Vietnam resistance to the US bully, rejoicing as we watched the last helicopter airlift the last US officials from the embassy in Saigon. My friends were the handful of British communists who studied there. My adviser told me about a professor friend at a sherry party asking, ‘How is Walberg doing? I hear he’s caught the bug.’ What he meant was I had joined in the Cambridge communist tradition, intellectuals enamored with the Soviet Union.

I was a bit offended, but dismissed that jibe and carried on. Eventually, of course, the Soviet Union collapsed, so by analogy, my worldview, the ‘bug’ I caught at Cambridge, should have died too. Indeed, for much of the world, faith in the final victory of socialism/communism died in 1991, just as many lost faith during earlier bouts of illness the Soviet Union suffered (collectivization, repression). But many of us remained alive and holding true to the faith. There Is No Alternative.

I think I understand all this now. It is capitalism that holds the world in thrall, a virus that infects the entire world, and can only be fought by those immune to its blandishments. The Soviet Union was building an alternative to capitalism, but that is hard work, kind of boring at times.

The virus, like corona, is well adapted to human instincts (aggression, sex, hunger, self protection). Scientists have discovered there is genetic make-up in humans that promotes selflessness, altruism, love, spirituality, but these are secondary traits, luxuries that are only available to nurture when man doesn’t have to worry about survival.

I continue to marvel that despite the constant invasions and sabotage the Soviet Union faced, confronted by a powerful capitalist world, it survived at all. That it saved the world from fascism alone should have earned it our eternal respect, but the sick patient was not interested in a cure. It was able to survive over the centuries by embracing total war as a less demanding cure for any symptoms of dysfunction.

Fighting virus = just war = socialism

That is not to promote pacifism. WWII was a just war, fighting a real enemy that gloried in genocide and slavery for no purpose but further world conquest. But that war was for socialism, and the West quickly adopted socialism for the duration of the war, since that was the way to motivate the people to make mortal sacrifices. Capitalism, benefiting only a small elite, was not enough incentive.

Our governments were forced then by necessity to made a social contract with citizens, so that citizens (not ‘consumers’) would be willing to put their lives on the line, knowing their government would guarantee work, unemployment insurance, pensions and a post-war equitable social order.

Churchill and FDR signed the Atlantic Charter in August 1941 and the Declaration by United Nations on 1 January 1942, the basis for the modern United Nations. That was what united us as one nation, and let us win WWII, rather than just churning out a lot of bombs. The war industry per se is neither good nor bad.

The (Liberal) Canadian government quickly set up Crown corporations, 28 of them by the end of the war, producing arms, tanks, whatever. But in 1945 the implicit contract with the Soviet Union, that the world was now anti-imperialist, socialist, not fascist, was torn up, and private capital reasserted its dominance in politics and economics.

Late stage symptom

Thus, the virus took hold again in 1945, a ‘second wave’. Like corona, capitalism mutates to meet any challenge. Faced with Hitler, it mutated into state socialism. Faced with a world in 1945 eager for real socialism, it mutated into the poisonous witchhunts of the 1950s. It laid America low morally, and finally infected the Soviet Union and killed it.

1947 comic and 2020 reissue

Douglas Valentine’s TDY (2000), a battle between the CIA, DEA, Pentagon and a hapless GI caught in the middle, depicts how ‘a generation lost faith in the ideal that all Americans are united in a common cause.’ In hindsight though, it was not Vietnam, but WWII that was the last common cause.

But fighting is what makes America America. The soldierly culture runs deep. I can’t seem to meet an American without some relative or friend in the armed forces. And the wars, from the 19th century and the slaughter of the native peoples, till WWI and today, have been mercenary, immoral wars.

WWII is the one exception. Where the US didn’t face the usual unending ‘insurgencies’, as the people welcomed the troops who delivered them from the Nazi scourge. Another irony: though the US toots itself (and Israel) as a force for peace, if you look at the ‘real, existing’ peace it provides, it’s one of instability, violence and death, the peace of the dead. We can only conclude that this is the intended result: chaos abroad requires the US war machine to pacify. This benefits the war machine, with some trickle-down to US workers and soldiers.

Real real peace would mean dismantling the machine. Sorensen’s mass of evidence points to this as the ultimate goal. Just contemplate with him the hundreds of bases in the US alone, ’employing’ tens of millions, sucking up the nation’s food, dumping countless tons of CO2 and NO2 into the air, sea, land.

Doing what? The US has NO enemies except the ones it makes. It could easily just stop bullying and dissolve the whole works, like Costa Rica. Imagine all those $X,000,000,000,000 used to, say, pay people a basic income, make university education free, provide a bicycle for everyone, free public transit. You get the picture. But instead, millions of men (and, as a nod to feminists and lgbtqa) women, gays and transsexuals spend their time thinking and looking tough, devoted to the US war machine terrorizing the world.

But, as Sorensen points out, except for WWII, nothing has changed at all since the US invaded the Philippines in 1898 (‘clear, hold and build’), Vietnam ‘strategic hamlets’, Afghanistan ‘provincial reconstruction teams’. A report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction concluded that ‘successes in stabilizing Afghan districts rarely lasted longer than the physical presence of coalition troops and civilians.’ By forcing American power onto helpless natives, the US replicates the insurgencies that have always plagued its imperial moves. And the natives today react much as the Filipinos did in 1898. Bottom line: Destroy the village to save it.

The peace movement then was vocal, mainstream, and upfront anti-imperialist (Anti-Imperialist League), led by Mark Twain and many other prominent cultural figures. To no avail. And when ‘our bastards’, like Batista in Cuba, Chavez in Venezuela, or Duterte in Philippines, tell the Yankees ‘out!’, it is like a cold chill, making the beast feel feverish, hatching ever new mutations, plans to thwart this latest challenge.

Strength through peace

There is no vaccine, we must fight to achieve that illusive ‘herd immunity’. Once enough countries wake up and attack the virus resolutely, that should keep us safe, though socialism doesn’t mean stagnation. To keep it healthy requires cultivating grassroots. When the roots die, the virus can creep back into our lives.

Why is Sam Husseini Channeling Neocon Conspiracy Theories on Covid-19?

Journalist Sam Husseini, was once known for challenging the Neocon warmongers on the Iraq War in a former lifetime. He now seems to have joined them, becoming a promoter of anti-China Neo-con conspiracy theories on the origins of Covid-19.

Husseini recently wrote a series of articles that recycle a large amount of right wing disinformation–alt-right fecal matter–and smeared them inside a juicy little hamburger of truth: the fact that the US engages in dangerous biowarfare research.

It is certainly true, if not really hot news, that the US has at least 2 dozen known biowarfare labs, many in Eastern Europe and the Ukraine. It’s unknown to what extent they comply with the regulations and oversight of the international bioweapons convention to which the US is a signatory.

It’s also true that the US has a long history of biowarfare and biowarfare research, going back at least to the Korean war. The use of biowarfare–Anthrax, Bubonic Plague, Cholera, Encephalitis–in Korea was such an international scandal that an entire mythology of communist “brainwashing” was invented to discredit the captured American pilots that confessed to these very real crimes against humanity.

It’s also true that accidental releases have happened from US biowarfare labs. For example, USAMRIID (Army biolab facility) at Fort Detrick was shut down in July, 2019 for leakage of contaminated waste.

But that said, Husseini is mistaken–or deeply dishonest–in suggesting that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was doing biowarfare research and thus possibly linked to the release of Covid-19 virus. It’s unclear why he is saying this, but In doing so, he is recycling the thoroughly discredited rumors of Rush Limbaugh, Josh Rogin, Steve Bannon, Tom Cotton, Mike Pompeo, and other rightwing hawks and loons. In other words, a journalist, who in another life, made a modest reputation for challenging neocon propaganda and disinformation, is now functioning as one of its key shills.

This propaganda relies on four thinking errors or deceits.

Failure of common sense: the language con

Husseini first pulls off this canard by arguing that there is no meaningful difference between biowarfare and biodefense. This is hardly true. Although there is always some overlap between basic science, medicine, preventive research, and warfare, there are also serious differences in emphasis, approach, practice, and funding that he glosses over. Husseini has to assert this tenuous proposition in order to implicate the Wuhan lab in suspected biowarfare malfeasance (or error), and to claim that there is a global biowarfare arms race between China and the US (rather than by the US against its opponents). That linguistic sleight of hand, in particular, the equivalence of biowarfare and biodefense is factually not true, and is certainly not true in one very obvious way regarding the Wuhan lab: if there were a biowarfare arms race happening around the world, the countries putatively at war with each other–the US and China–would not share or allow access to their labs to a competitor state, collaborate, or exchange their research and researchers. But the fact is the US was given wide access to the Wuhan Labs–not just scientists but also US State Department functionaries–as were French scientists. The Wuhan lab solicited US aid and funding. (Husseini seems to believe that biowarfare labs openly solicit funding from other countries). Scientists in the US and China collaborated and worked together collegially, trained each other, shared information, published papers, and still maintain some relations.

As a point of contrast, no one, not a single Chinese national has ever set foot in Fort Dietrick, the key US biowarfare research lab. No Chinese university has ever collaborated with them. No Chinese funding has been directed to it. No one knows exactly what they are researching. This is not the case with Wuhan—there is knowledge which viruses they had, and published papers on what they were researching, how they were being researched, as well as what safety protocols were in place. If we take into consideration the fact that Chinese researchers are no longer welcome to do even basic research in the US at this point in time, it’s inconceivable that the US would have been assisting the Chinese with weaponizing viruses that could potentially be used against them, or funding such work when even basic scientific research–and now graduate study in the sciences–is being obstructed in the US for the Chinese.

Until Husseini can refute this basic logic, it’s not possible to give his claim about the Wuhan labs any credence, never mind the fact that he offers no proof whatsoever, only the conflating of science with weapons development, “coincidence”, innuendo, and 3 degrees-removed-guilt-by-association.

Misinterpreting Research: The Science Con

Husseini has also misread the article in Nature Medicine. This is one of several key articles that has refuted the “bioweapon” theory that he argues for. He misunderstands what the specifics of the RBD (receptor binding domain) and the furin cleavage site entail from an evolutionary perspective. This misunderstanding may be due to a lack of scientific literacy on his part, for which one can’t fault him, except that he subjects this illiteracy onto others who are already confused or ignorant about the science. The Nature Medicine article argues–convincingly, if not conclusively–that natural selection, either in humans, or in an animal host is responsible for the very unique features of this novel virus: it demonstrates convincingly the fact that the virus could not have been engineered: a) it has no “backbone” that would correspond to or indicate that there is anything sequenced from existing components–it is truly novel b) the furin cleavage site of the spike protein–the part that makes the virus dangerous to humans–doesn’t correspond to any existing known virus (it has no close homologues in the Bat CoV RatG13, or the Pangolin CoV). It also does not to correspond to any samples held in Wuhan. That means it could not have been lab-engineered.

The “Gain of Function” Con: Weasels, Ferrets, Monkeys, and Evolution

Husseini, however, is not one to gainsay his rigid views, and along with other far-right operatives, tries to misdirect further. Although the refutation of the lab-created-bioweapon theory is a well-accepted conclusion in the scientific community and among medical and epidemiological professionals, Husseini argues that “gain of function” (weaponization of a virus) could have been induced by natural means (by inducing passage through animals). He’s trying to argue that SARS-CoV-2 could have been produced, by inducing natural evolution in the Wuhan lab in such a way that it would not show signs of engineering, and in a way that would weaponize it.

The Nature Medicine article refutes the possibility not just of genetic engineering, but also argues against naturally induced passage. Husseini is either misreading this conclusion, or is simply dishonest on this.

In this, he misunderstands the nature of gain of function through animal passage–he seems to confound engineering zoonotic transfer with gain of function within animal-restricted viruses or viruses that are already known to infect humans. (The example of the H5N1 is such an example). This also disregards the fact that the closest existing known virus is Bat CoV RatG13, which has a 96% similarity with SARS CoV-2. That differential, although seemingly close, is comparable to 20-50 years of natural evolution, and not something that can be bred through short animal passage (“ten passages through ferrets”) as Husseini implies in weasel prose. It’s as if someone were arguing that the proverbial monkey typing randomly on a typewriter would come up with a Shakespeare monologue; or plunking away at a piano, would come up with a Beethoven Sonata after a few tries. It’s possible mathematically/theoretically, and completely improbable in the time frames he imagines: yet another overlooked detail is that the BSL4 lab in the Wuhan institute of Virology has been operational for only 2 years.

Failure of Logic: The Leak Con

As even the intelligence community itself has debunked the “engineered” lie, Husseini and his cohort merchants of mendacity (Josh Rogin, Mike Pompeo), then shift down to another back up lie: even if it wasn’t lab-engineered, and even if there wasn’t a lab-induced “natural” “gain of function”, it’s possible that the Wuhan lab had collected samples of this dangerous virus–captured in nature (from bats), and leaked it by accident. In his words, “The virus could have been found in the wild, studied in a lab and then released.” (Proponents of this lie often append some kind of “horror” story about researchers getting crapped on by bats, or that the researchers cooked and ate the lab animals or eggs, or sold them to the Wuhan market for pocket money).

Apart from the sheer absurdity of these cooked up assertions, this is an irrational, illogical argument: if it was captured from the wild, then it exists already in nature, and it’s much more likely that the tens of millions of people around the world who routinely interact with or are exposed to bats would be vectors of zoonotic transfer, rather than a half dozen highly trained scientists who are trained in and mandated to adhere to the strictest biohazard safety standards and protocols—protocols which they themselves, as consummate professionals, helped pioneer.

In other words, if it’s already out in nature, it can’t be leaked out to nature.

Also, according to American researchers who have worked there and trained staff, the lab itself, whenever it works with viruses–any virus–,deactivates them, so only inactive viruses are worked with. Reserve samples are stored in liquid nitrogen, making it unlikely that they could ever become virulent.

Last but not least, the virus researcher herself, Shi Zheng Li has stated categorically that the lab did not have any such samples, and therefore could not have leaked them. In other words, we have consensus among the expert scientific community, eye witness testimony, scientific analysis, logic, probability, and common sense on one hand all arguing against the “lab leak” conspiracy theory. On the other hand, there is innuendo, lies, conflation, misdirection, and wishful/magical thinking seemingly ungrounded in anything but racism and the need to demonize and divert blame.

Prosecutorial Misconduct: The “Journalism” Con

It’s a hard pill to swallow, but it’s clear that Husseini is no longer doing journalism here, but acting as a corrupt prosecutor would: the way thousands of innocent “suspects” are accused and railroaded in the American courts. This is especially clear when he cherry picks and weaponizes the statement of scientist Shi Zheng Li at Wuhan. Shi recalls asking herself, “If coronaviruses were the culprit… could they have come from our lab?” This might ordinarily be considered a statement of the conscientiousness and care of a researcher to exclude every conceivable possibility, the desire to leave no stone unturned—as a good scientist should. Husseini cherry picks this statement as implication of guilt both of the lab and the researcher, and then dismisses further and careful refutation by her:

“Why should the world take her word? As Ebright…[says] “A denial is not a refutation.”

Shi is considered an impeccable professional academic, honored by the French government (“Chevalier des Ordres Palmares Academiques”) for her contributions to science. That Husseini resorts to tarring a researcher who has dedicated her life to saving lives and advancing science in this sarcastic manner reveals much about him and his values.

Now, it’s well known that Fort Detrick is a biowarfare institution, and that it was recently temporarily closed for certain violations. That fact is well established. It’s also known that the US is doing biowarfare research in many other institutions.

If Husseini was simply arguing that dangerous biowarfare research is happening around the world, or in the US, he could have made that argument, and made it easily. It’s easy fare to highlight the known dangers, the known failures, as well as the history of biowarfare by the US. Even if he wanted to capitalize or sensationalize off the existing news cycle, he could have simply asserted, “although the Wuhan leak theory has been effectively discredited by the intelligence and scientific communities, we still have ample reason to be worried about other potential leaks and bioweapons research.” There was no reason to bring the Wuhan lab into the biowarfare scare story, except that it feeds the conspiracies and the trolls, draws sensationalist, conspiratorial attention to his work, and gives support and succor to the endless bastinado of China-bashing.

What is to be made of someone who echoes extreme, debunked right wing lies while pretending to be critiquing them in generic terms?

These are some basic, commonsense questions that Husseini—and anyone implicating the Wuhan lab has to answer–even if we disregard all the science:

1. If there were a biowarfare arms race happening between the US and China–why would the Chinese government share or allow access to their labs to a competitor state, collaborate, or exchange their research and researchers?

2. If there were a biowarfare arms race happening between the US and China–why would the Chinese lab be [reduced to] soliciting funds from the US government?

3. Researchers of Chinese origin, or with Chinese ties, are hounded, surveilled, and practically banished from doing even basic research in the US at this point in time. They were terminated from MD Anderson’s cancer research, for example. In this witch hunt environment, why would the US be assisting the Chinese with weaponizing viruses that might theoretically be used against them?

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. They also require a modicum of logic.

Until Husseini (and his co-conspiracy-truthers) can coherently answer these questions, they are trafficking in contradiction, conspiracy, and absurdities.

From Absurdities to Atrocities:

The right-wing corporate media, the MSM, members of the administration, the Secretary of State, the President, key senators, right-wing think tanks and institutions, GOP talking points, Steve Bannon, the Committee on the Present Danger, Falun Gong, right-wing fascists around the world, extreme far right crackpots–all have been touting and stoking the lie that China is responsible one way or another for the virus. This propaganda has been echoed across the political spectrum, and “catapulted” 24-hrs a day, across all media—highbrow, low brow, broadsheet, tabloid, at the center and on the margins, we have been swimming in a morass of lies and deceit.

Nevertheless, every single one of these lies has been carefully shown to be without merit. As this has happened there has been a continually retrenchment, recycling, and refurbishing of the lies. First, there was the allegation that Covid was strictly a “communist” virus–something that could only arise in a depraved communist state—hundreds of thousands of dead put paid to that statement, showing the danger when ideology supersedes science. Then there was the allegation that there was some sort of cover up. As the facts came out, the duration of this coverup shrank from months, weeks, to days and looks likely be reduced to hours or minutes. There was also the allegation that it was spread deliberately by planes (full of infectious people) that flew out of Wuhan. That was easily debunked with actual flight schedules. Then the lie that the Chinese hid and hoarded PPE and masks (as if 4 Billion masks exported in a few weeks were hoarding). Virus “made in China”, and the virus “leaked by China” are the ugly, exhausted faggot ends of these absurd libels and lies.

By spreading the lies and errors behind this lie, Husseini is aligning with, or at least feeding those extreme, hate-filled politics and ideas.

Why would Husseini cast his lot with these crackpots? Only Husseini can answer this.

This type of propaganda should be very familiar to him. It fits a readily recognizable pattern: it’s simply a recycling of the WMD template during the run up to the Iraq War that he once opposed. That war, too, had its own WMD biowarfare labs: “mobile weapons labs” and other “dodgy dossiers” and “satellite pictures” that were shown to be false, as they have also been concocted for Wuhan. (The “labs” in question, were hydrogen generation units for weather balloons). Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, Tony Blair, and other powerful purveyors of systemic mendacity argued up and down the court that these were dangerous to the world–until they slinked off in infamy. Yet some people still believe these lies to be true.

We know that Covid-19 is raging throughout the world, creating untold suffering and pain, causing needless deaths, and ravaging entire countries and economies. As it does so, it is fundamentally revealing and delegitimating the existing structures of power that have brought us to the edge of this catastrophe, in particular, the US-imposed, neoliberal, imperialist-capitalist structures of the global economy. China, outside of that circuit of control, looks to have successfully controlled the virus for the moment, and is regrouping and restarting. At the current moment, China seems to offer one alternative model: a better, people-centered approach to public health, governance, and development. As the jubilant Schadenfreude against China suddenly turned suddenly to jealous rage for its successes in containment, the desire to re-direct confusion and outrage outward against the Chinese became evident: it ties to the current global moment where the US is losing its global “leadership” status, during a election season that needs to distract and redirect blame, and in a historical moment where the US has declared China an enemy, waged hybrid warfare, and is rooting around for reasons to further escalate hostilities against it. This is the reason for the ceaseless propaganda war–the absurdities pronounced daily and relentlessly, the absurdities, as Voltaire put it, that prepare you for atrocities: the atrocity of kinetic war.

Are Husseini and other hack “journalists” the “good Germans” in this war? Time will tell.

But in the meantime, no self-respecting human–with a smidgen of scientific knowledge or good sense–should give any space to these ideas.

*****

Here are some articles and presentations debunking the theory:

  1. The Lancet editor-in-chief: U.S. has wasted time
  2. American Researcher Who Worked In Wuhan Virology Lab Says It’s Unlikely Coronavirus Escaped From There
  3. Nature Medicine article
  4. Nature Medicine article, explained
  5. The Lancet Statement
  6. Vox explainer 1, 2
  7. Moon of Alabama debunks the theory and shows the media circuit.

Pivot To Peace Must Replace US Pivot To War With China

US and Chinese Fists and Weapons face-off (from the Financial Times)

The Trump administration, in seeking to divert attention from its bungled response to the COVID-19 pandemic and mishandling of the economic collapse, is escalating the bipartisan anti-China policy, which has a long history. This increases the potential of military conflict and economic war between our countries.

President Trump is making both a global depression and war more likely. The United States needs to de-escalate its conflicts and work with China and other countries to confront the pandemic and economic collapse, as well as the climate crisis and nuclear proliferation. This is not the time for escalation of conflicts, but for de-escalation and a new era of a multipolar and cooperative world.

Bipartisan Escalation Against China Is Longterm US Policy

While some blame Trump for the escalation of conflict with China, in this century, it began with President Obama’s pivot to Asia. It now includes a full spectrum dominance strategy of military, information, and economic aggression.

The roots of treating the Asian Pacific as a ‘US lake,’ just as Latin America is ‘our backyard,’ go back to 1878 when Navy Commodore Robert W. Shufeldt of the USS Ticonderoga described the Pacific as “the ocean bride of America.” Declaring a Monroe Doctrine for the Pacific, he described Asia as where the “search for Empire ceases and human power attains its climax.” Interestingly, it was the Panic of 1873 that led to a depression that resulted in a search for new markets. The US failed its invasion of Korea in 1871 and Shufeldt needed to improve US relations. In 1882,  his mission resulted in the first treaty in the Pacific Rim signed by the US and South Korea.

Today’s economic collapse is a major reason for Trump’s escalation with China but Trump is building on the policies of Barack Obama who declared himself the “first Pacific president” as part of a geopolitical strategy to challenge China. His Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote “America’s Pacific Century” that claimed the future will be decided in Asia and the US will be right at the center of the action. They put in place the Asian Pivot, an escalation of military confrontation with China with 60 percent of US war capacity shifting to the Pacific.

The US was already at war with China before Donald Trump entered the Oval Office. The US military and other branches of government were gearing up for a long-term conflict, involving both economic and diplomatic pressure on China with a buildup of military forces along the country’s periphery. Last Thursday, on Flashpoints on KPFA, KJ Noh pointed out that the Pivot came with the Air-Sea Battle War Doctrine designed to ensure the US maintained freedom of action throughout the globe. The US built a networked land, sea, air, space, and cyber collective warfighting capability with allied countries.

In 2011, the Council of Foreign Relations began urging the US to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF )Treaty. The RAND Corporation, which advises the US military, published “Thinking through the unthinkable” in 2016. It described how the US could win a war with China, which it argued the US needs to do before 2025. The strategy is to focus on the South China Sea in a long and costly way that cuts off Chinese fuel supplies and trade. Almost a decade ago, military strategists James Holmes and Toshi Yoshihara found the First Island Chain was a natural barrier that could bottle-up the Chinese Navy.

RAND urged the US to void the INF Treaty so missiles could be directed at China. In 2018, Trump declared–as if on his own volition–the US would drop out of the INF Treaty. The US falsely claimed Russia had violated the treaty, but it was really about targeting China. In August 2019, the US withdrew from the treaty and started developing new missiles. The US then conducted the first test launch of a new ground-launched cruise missile.

The US has also been expanding military bases and military agreements in the Pacific. In September 2019, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper called for further expanding military base locations in the Pacific region while speaking at the Naval War College, calling the Indo-Pacific “our priority theatre.” Esper believes “The United States network of alliances and partnerships provides us an asymmetric strategic edge that our adversaries cannot match.”

The hybrid war against China includes an information war as well as economic conflict. Just before the novel coronavirus pandemic, the propaganda war was most evident around the Hong Kong protests and the disinformation campaign about the Uyghurs. The US has been funding anti-China activities in Hong Kong since 1996. People have mistakenly called the anti-China protests ‘democracy protests’. While there was confusion about the protests, it is obvious when they called for “Trump to Save Us” and worked with right-wing anti-China senators that Hong Kong is part of Washington’s anti-China strategy. The US passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which the US will use to justify intruding into the internal affairs of China and Hong Kong.

Similarly, reports based on dubious studies claimed mass imprisonment of millions of Muslim Uyghurs, or even that there is a Muslim Holocaust in China. These were vast exaggerations used to stoke anti-China views. The US has long backed the World Uyghur Congress as part of its effort to undermine China from within. A small minority of poor, radicalized Uyghurs, who have been involved in terrorism and violence in China and have also fought with ISIS in Syria, are a problem for China.  People who visited the region and reported on the Uyghurs describe what we are hearing as ‘shameful lies’ peddled by the US empire.

Under Obama, economic domination involved the largest corporate trade agreement in history, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP included the United States and 11 Pacific Rim countries, excluding the largest economy in the hemisphere, China. It was designed to ensure US hegemony in the Asia Pacific through corporate dollar domination. Popular Resistance helped organize a five-year ‘movement of movements’ campaign that stopped the TPP. This defeat was seen as the beginning of the end of US hegemony in Asia.

But, the defeat of the TPP did not stop the US’ focus on Asia. In 2018, the United States announced a new national defense strategy, “Great Power Conflict,” with China as the top target. Around the same time, the Nuclear Posture Review announced the escalation of nuclear weapons development, which also started under Obama. The new arms race also includes space, traditional weapons, cyber defense, and surveillance.

The US fears the 21st Century will be the Chinese Century and is doing all it can to prevent that development. This has resulted in a bipartisan policy of militarily surrounding China with nuclear and other weapons.

The Trump COVID Escalation

The Trump administration is now using the novel coronavirus to escalate opposition to China. This includes a propaganda offensive that is becoming a Chinese version of Russiagate. The Trump administration made a point to call it the “Chinese” or “Wuhan virus” until it was told this was an inaccurate description as we still do not know where it began. The propaganda continues with claims that China was not transparent, is hiding the number of deaths, punished doctors who discussed the issue, and leaked or manipulated the virus.

A thorough reality check of these claims has shown them to be false but they have built hatred for China, resulting in prejudice against Asian people and laying the groundwork for escalation. Now Trump and Biden are accusing each other of being soft on China. Biden accuses Trump of not holding China accountable while Trump is seeking to use China as a scapegoat for his failed response to the virus. Fearmongering is being used to justify escalating the economic and military conflict with China.

The reality is China had a rapid, breathtaking, and impressive response to the virus that bought countries time to respond and won praise from health experts. China allowed public health officials to examine its response, independently confirming its successful response. China’s approach provides other nations with lessons they can learn to combat the virus. In addition, China is providing assistance to nations throughout the globe to help them respond to the pandemic. Indeed, while countries received little or no help from the European Union and the United States, China along with Cuba provided aid to them.

Last month, China’s top intelligence ministry, the Ministry of State Security, presented a report by China’s Institutes of Contemporary International Relations to top Beijing leaders that warned China needs to be prepared in a worst-case scenario for an armed confrontation with the United States. This risk comes from the backlash against China over the pandemic.

This week, Reuters reported the US is investing heavily in weapons for use against China. Budget documents show the Marines sought $125 million to buy 48 Tomahawk missiles next year and $3.2 billion for hypersonic technology, mostly for research on new, long-range missiles. The Pentagon also seeks $224 million for another 53 new Long Range Anti-Ship Missiles in 2021. They expect to have more than 400 of them in service by 2025. These will be used on Navy Super Hornet jets and Air Force B-1 bombers.

Testimony also reported the Marines had successfully tested new shorter-range anti-ship weapons, the Naval Strike Missile. Reuters reports “in a radical shift in tactics, the Marines will join forces with the US Navy in attacking an enemy’s warships. Small and mobile units of US Marines armed with anti-ship missiles will become ship killers.”  These would be dispersed at key points in the Western Pacific and along the First Island Chain.

China has urged the US to stop “moving around the chess pieces” in the Asia Pacific. A Chinese military spokesman, Senior Colonel Wu Qian, warned last October that Beijing would “not stand by” if Washington deployed land-based, long-range missiles in the Asia-Pacific. The US moves are leading to an arms race in the Asia Pacific. Reuters has published a series on China’s military that revealed in most categories, China’s missiles now rival or outperform US counterparts.

In addition to these plans, the US has already increased military activity in the Asia Pacific. The South China Morning Post reported on May 10, that the US increased military operations in waters close to China. This has included 39 flights over the South China Sea, East China Sea, Yellow Sea, and the Taiwan Strait, more than three times the number carried out in 2019. The US Navy also conducted four so-called freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea in the first four months of 2020 – compared with just eight for all of 2019.

A conflict between the United States and China presents a risk of global warfare as the US has directed NATO to focus on China and has been building military relations in the Asia Pacific, especially with its closest military ally, Japan. China has also built relationships with numerous countries including Russia. The United States has been increasing military spending in the region while Russia and China have responded with the development of new weapons and also increased spending. The Pentagon is planning for a new long war with China and Russia.

Stephen Melkisethian from cc-nc-nd-flickr

Time for a Pivot to Peace

Rather than a national security strategy of major power conflict, the US needs a strategy of major power cooperation. The United Nations has called for international cooperation and a global ceasefire, which the US blocked this week.

People need to promote and work toward peace as a top priority as the risk of conflict escalates. We urge you to sign onto Peace Pivot where you can find more information on the conflict between China and the US and what you can do about it. US elected officials should not be rewarded for China-bashing. We must work together to call out the falsehoods about China so that doing so backfires against the politicians who make them.

China’s rise from poverty to becoming an engine for the global economy should not be seen as a threat to the United States. China’s Belt and Road Initiative can help all nations. If the United States responds with an escalation of economic and military conflict it will undermine US leadership and bring greater insecurity to the world. The US must work with China, and other nations in this new multipolar world to stop the pandemic, economic collapse, climate catastrophe, and the risk of nuclear war.

US Commission on the Pandemic of 2020: No Culpability, No Accountability for 70,000 Americans Killed in 60 Days

We  present the narrative of this report and the recommendations that flow from it to the President of the United States, the United States Congress, and  the American people for their consideration.  Ten Commissioners—five  Republicans and five Democrats chosen by elected leaders from our nation’s capital at a time of great partisan division—have come together to present this report without dissent.  We have come together with a unity  of  purpose  because our nation demands it. [The US Pandemic of 2020], was a [time] of unprecedented shock and suffering in the history of the United States.  The nation was unprepared. How did this happen, and how can we avoid such tragedy again?…Our aim has not been to assign individual blame. Our aim has been to provide the fullest possible account of the events surrounding  [The US Pandemic of 2020] and to identify lessons learned. We have listened  to  scores of overwhelming personal tragedies and astounding acts of heroism and bravery. We have examined the staggering impact  of the events  of  [The US Pandemic of 2020] on the American people and their amazing resilience and courage as they fought back.

911 Commission Report

There will likely be a US Commission on the Pandemic of 2020, the verbiage of which will mirror the 911 Commission Report. Fault will be placed on a lack of federal, state and local coordination and sharing of medical intelligence among the three levels of American government. The US federal administration will be admonished with a few tough words and that, as they say, will be that.

In the meantime Wall Street, big corporations  and banks will have fattened  themselves at the $7 trillion trough provided by the Federal Reserve and the US Congress. Such an opportunistic robbery in the midst of a national tragedy could not have been planned any better. The 5 percent seized the day, for sure. Now they have 30 plus million unemployed by the  proverbial throat. Ignore those deaths down the hall, they say, work or die. Another victory for the creative destruction inherent in the world’s number one capitalist society.

Lunatics

At the time of this writing there are just over 68,000 American deaths, the result of COVID-19’s rampage through the United States exacerbated by the US federal government’s chaotic and disastrous leadership. The President of the United States and Commander in Chief Donald J. Trump certainly has blood on his hands, this time American blood right at home. Trump waffled, denied, self promoted, lied and, like a snake oil salesman of old, suggested lunatic remedies like anti-malaria drugs and, at one point, implying that the use of ingested bleach/disinfectant might offer a cure for COVID-19.

Such were the ravings of a batshit crazy and self promoting lunatic who happens to hold the highest office in the land while he also commands the toughest military force on the planet. And therein lies the rub: the ring kissers who surround and advise the president are just as culpable for the 70,000 deaths as Trump is, or should be. And what to say about those who put him in office in the first place or those who do his bidding hiding behind a “he’s the president” veil?

The saddest part of all this is that federal, state and local emergency plans were in place to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Deaths might have been reduced if the available planning guidance was consulted and put into place at first blush of the COVID-19’s presence in the United States.

Now, Trump is attempting to blame China for America’s woes. Russia will probably be next in line to take the fall for the staggering incompetence of the Trump Administration.

The United States has now been exposed—though many surmised prior to the US pandemic—that the country is on many levels, no better than Russia or China when it comes to medical care. The ruthless privatizing of the US healthcare system, ostensibly the best in the world for all Americans, was exposed as a poorly resourced and staffed system damaged by Trump and the privatization efforts of presidential administrations dating back to Ronald Reagan’s term in the 1980s.

Upper Tier Third World Country with Nukes

So, the US has a bunch of nuclear weapons and hundreds of thousands of military personnel. Yeah, so what? Russia and China have the same type of forces. Their military personnel are not as competent, you might argue;  but then again, what are we still doing in Afghanistan after all these years? What happened in Iraq, that broken country? Besides, nukes are the great leveler. So the US was supposed to have the best military in the world and yet we are still stuck fighting losing battles in foreign lands. And just as the US had the best military in the world the United States was supposed to have had the best medical care in the world. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry about it all.

I have always been for a strong, well-funded military. I enjoyed watching the US Air Force Thunderbirds and the Navy’s Blue Angel performing a flight over the DC Metropolitan area on 2 May 2020 in honor of health care workers who have put their lives on the line to treat COVID-19 patients. But as I watched the air show I thought the event made for a great propaganda move by the Pentagon, a reminder that the military has exclusive rights to the title “hero,” not some civilian nurse, doctor, emergency medical technician, firefighter or police officer. Besides, the Pentagon has a new budget to get through the US Congress and it can’t, so military officials say, afford any diminution of funding might go to improving the healthcare system, or even providing basic health insurance for all Americans.

Same Old Song and Dance: 1918-1919

When the arguments are trotted out by government officials saying they were not sure how to respond and that the pandemic was unprecedented in American history, send them to the reports analyzing Minneapolis and St. Paul’s response to the 1918–1919 influenza. The issues are nearly the same. According to a 2007 report at PubMed Central:

As influenza was beginning to take hold in the civilian population, there was disagreement between the Minneapolis and St. Paul health commissioners, Dr. Guilford and Dr. Simon, respectively. Their approaches varied; Dr. Guilford tended to be broadly proactive to prevent cases, whereas Dr. Simon tended toward initiating activities in response to individual cases. Dr. Guilford believed that closing public places was the best course of action and that isolation of individual cases was useless. Dr. Simon asserted that isolation of influenza cases would be more effective in preventing the spread of disease.

The St. Paul Health Department and the Minnesota State Board of Health met Dr. Guilford’s strong advocacy with opposition. Dr. Bracken, siding with St. Paul, questioned, “If you begin to close, where are you going to stop? When are you going to reopen, and what do you accomplish by opening?…Debate between the two cities on the merits of closing schools caused further strain…The measures used to contain influenza greatly affected the day-to-day lives of citizens. While some accepted the changes imposed on them, others protested regulations that they considered unfair. Some called for more stringent methods, while others blatantly broke the new rules that were intended to protect them…The use of gauze masks, more stringent sanitation laws, and vaccination campaigns were deployed in this effort…Clear authority and management by public health officials were generally lacking at the federal and state levels.

Stupid Country

Americans will never learn. We, I, are just too stupid and lazy to change the system. What can be done? The elite of the country, those 5 percenters who control the strings of we puppet citizens, will become bolder by the day. “Don’t want to work? Fine, there are 29 million people in line waiting for a job. Go pound sand!

I suppose Zibignew Brezinski was right all along. We are stupid at home and stupid abroad.

Persisting social crisis, the emergence of a charismatic personality, and the exploitation of mass media to obtain public confidence would be the stepping stones in the piecemeal transformation of the United States into a highly controlled society…I am very worried that most Americans are close to total ignorance about the world. They are ignorant. That is an unhealthy condition…We have a large public that is very ignorant about public affairs and very susceptible to simplistic slogans by candidates who appear out of nowhere, have no track record, but mouth appealing slogans.

Bloated

The Bloated Defense Department

The so-called Defense Department does not live up to its name; instead, the acronym and word Bloated describe this behemoth and its budget. We the people need defense, but the trillion tax dollars we spend a year do not provide it. Instead they pay for:

Some 800 US overseas military bases

Endless wars

The Nuclear Arsenal

Billions for Bombers and Battleships

These do nothing to make us secure.  They have benefited few people in the US or the world, apart from bloated arms manufacturers and merchants, bloated military contractors, bloated generals, bloated politicians, and those in the high echelons of bloated corporate power.

The Defense We Need

We need a strong, universal free-of-charge public health system to help defend us against COVID-19 and other health problems; the bloated Department steals resources that could provide the true security for a healthy population.

We need defense against climate disruption and heating of the planet. The bloated Department aggravates these problems by emitting more greenhouse gases than any other institution in the world and more than many entire nations.

We needed defense against Wall Street predators when they stole home ownership from millions of people – especially people of color and other working class people – during the 2008 economic meltdown. The bloated Department offered no defense.

Women especially need defense against sexual harassment, assault and domestic violence. The bloated Department exacerbates these problems: military culture promotes sexism, Military Sexual Trauma is rampant; the military protects sexual perpetrators of women and men within its ranks .

Veterans who have survived the endless and earlier wars need to heal from physical, emotional and moral injury.  The resources offered are inadequate and often inappropriate.  The bloated Department’s promotion of war and hyper-masculinity tends to aggravate veterans’ trauma.

The bloated Department did not even defend against a military attack on its own headquarters on September 11, 2001.  Nobody in the Pentagon lost their job over that “failure”.

Truth in Language

Toward the goal of ending war and militarism, let us have truth in language.  Bloated is an accurate word and acronym for the Department that oversees the enormously wasteful and destructive military. As the COVID pandemic makes painfully clear, funds now squandered on the military are urgently needed to meet the real security needs of US people – for healthcare, housing, infrastructure, and food security.

Let us also stop using the term defense expenditures when referring to costs that do not defend human beings from real problems that we face.  Military or war expenditures are accurate terms.

Changes in language in our writings, speeches, conversations and on social media can help change thinking and help lead to right action.

Will America’s Corruption End on a Ventilator or in a Mushroom Cloud?

Little by little, Americans are understanding just how badly our government has let us down by its belated and disastrous response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and how thousands more people are dying as a result. But there are two other crises we face that our government is totally unprepared for and incapable of dealing with: the climate crisis and the danger of nuclear war.

Since 1947, a group of scientists with the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists have warned us about the danger of nuclear war—using their Doomsday Clock to symbolize just how close we are to destroying human civilization on Earth. Over the years, the minute hand on the clock has gone back and forth, measuring the rising and falling risks.

Unbeknownst to most Americans, in January 2020, just before the Covid-19 crisis broke, the Atomic Scientists, who include 13 Nobel Prize winners and dozens of scientists and other experts, sounded the alarm that the double risks of nuclear war and climate change have now brought us closer to self-destruction than at the most dangerous moments of the Cold War. For the first time ever, they moved the hands of the Doomsday Clock beyond the 2-minute mark to 100 seconds to midnight.

“The world is sleepwalking its way through a newly unstable nuclear landscape,” they wrote, highlighting the New Cold War between the U.S. and Russia, plans to “modernize” their nuclear arsenals and “lowered barriers to nuclear war” as a result of new “low-yield” nuclear weapons. Arms control treaties between the U.S. and Russia that took decades to negotiate are being abandoned, removing restraints that were carefully calibrated to prevent either side from upsetting the balance of terror that made it suicidal to use nuclear weapons. What is now to prevent a conventional war from escalating to the use of “low-yield” nuclear weapons, or a low yield nuclear war in turn escalating to Armageddon?

On the climate crisis, the annual UN Conference of Parties (COP) in Madrid in December 2019 failed to agree on any new steps to cut carbon emissions, despite record heat, unprecedented wildfires, faster melting of glacial ice, and a scientific consensus that the commitments countries made in Paris in 2015 are not sufficient to avert catastrophe. Most countries are falling short of even those insufficient pledges, while U.S. CO2 emissions actually rose by 2.6% in 2018, after falling by only 11% under the Obama administration. Obama’s policy of using natural gas as a “bridge fuel” for U.S. power plants fueled a huge expansion in the fracking industry, and the U.S. is now producing more oil and more gas than ever before in our history.

Now the next COP in Glasgow has been postponed from 2020 to 2021 due to the pandemic, further delaying any chance of decisive action. Covid-19 is temporarily restraining our destruction of our own life support system. But this will be only a temporary respite unless we pivot from lockdowns to a COP in Glasgow that launches a global program to very quickly convert our energy systems from fossil fuels to green energy.

The Atomic Scientists wrote that both these existential dangers are severely compounded by political leaders who “denigrate and discard the most effective methods for addressing complex threats – international agreements with strong verification regimes – in favor of their own narrow interest and domestic political gain… these leaders have helped to create a situation that will, if unaddressed, lead to catastrophe sooner rather than later.”

It is the political leaders of the United States, not Russia or China, who have withdrawn from nuclear arms agreements, undermined the Kyoto Protocol (the only binding treaty to reduce greenhouse gases), rejected the jurisdiction of international courts, failed to ratify 46 multilateral treaties and systematically violated the UN Charter‘s prohibition against the threat or use of force.

The Republicans have been more aggressive in many of these policies, but Democratic leaders have also gone along with them, consolidating U.S. imperialism and disdain for international law as bipartisan U.S. policy. When UN Secretary General Kofi Annan told the BBC that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was illegal under the UN Charter, Senator Joe Biden, then Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, dismissed that out of hand. “Nobody in the Senate agrees with that,” Biden sneered. “There is nothing to debate. He is dead, flat, unequivocally wrong.”

The Democratic Party has now closed ranks behind Joe Biden as its presidential candidate, presenting Americans with a choice between two leaders from the two administrations that have governed the U.S. since 2009 and therefore bear the greatest responsibility for the current state of the nation. Biden has based his candidacy on the premise that everything was just fine in America until Trump came along, just as Trump based his 2016 candidacy on the idea that everything was great until Obama came on the scene.

Most Americans understand that our problems are more entrenched and systemic than that, but we remain trapped in a closed political system that presents us with limited choices between leaders who have already proved unable to solve our problems, even when the solutions are well-known or obvious and have broad public support, like Medicare For All.

When it comes to war and peace, the American public wants to keep the U.S. out of wars, but leaders of both parties keep fueling the war machine and stoking dangerous tensions with other countries. The Russiagate fiasco failed to bring down Trump, but it succeeded in unleashing a propaganda blitz to convince millions of Americans, from MSNBC viewers to Members of Congress, that Russia is once again an irreconcilable enemy of the United States and a threat to everything Americans believe in. In the hall of mirrors that is American politics, Democrats now hate Russia more than China, while Republicans hate China more than Russia—although the Biden campaign is now vying with Trump to see who can be more hostile to China.

Bipartisan hostility to Russia and China is only helping to justify the Pentagon’s pivot from “counterterrorism” to its New Cold War with our nuclear-armed neighbors and trillions of dollars in spending on new weapons that make the world more dangerous for all of us.

With almost no public debate, Members of Congress from both parties quietly rubber-stamp every record military budget placed in front of them. Only 8 Senators (4D, 4R) and 48 House Members (41D, 6R, 1I) dared to vote against final passage of the outrageous $712 billion 2020 Pentagon budget. The Trump administration is fully committed to Obama’s plan to spend at least a trillion dollars to “modernize” the U.S. nuclear arsenal, which the Atomic Scientists warn is taking us closer to nuclear catastrophe than ever. Of this year’s Democratic presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders is the only one who routinely votes against record military budgets, approving only 16% of military spending bills since 2013.

On this and many other issues, Sanders has dared to say what Americans know but no major party candidate would say before: that our neoliberal emperors sit stark naked on their thrones, tossing sacks of money to their friends as they rule over an obscene empire of corruption, inequality, war, poverty and racism.

In dogged defiance of American conventional wisdom, Sanders built a political movement based on real solutions to the structural problems of American society, directly challenging the powerful interests who control and profit from the corrupt status quo: the military-industrial complex; the prison-industrial complex; the medical-industrial complex; and the Wall Street financial complex at the heart of it all.

Sanders may have lost the Democratic nomination, but he successfully demonstrated that Americans don’t have to be passive in the face of a corrupt political system that is leading us down a path to self-destruction. We do not have to accept a dysfunctional for-profit healthcare system; ever-worsening inequality and poverty; structural racism and mass incarceration; an overheated, dying natural world; or a military-industrial complex that fears peace more than a nuclear apocalypse.

A political system that is structurally incapable of acting for the common good, even when millions of lives are at stake, is not just failing to solve our problems. It is the problem. Hopefully, as we struggle to emerge from today’s tragic pandemic, more and more Americans are understanding that healing our sick, corrupt political system is the vital key to a healthy and peaceful future.

Trudeau okays more arms sales to Saudi Arabia

As Canadians focus on the coronavirus pandemic the Trudeau government announced it was lifting its suspension of arms export permits to Saudi Arabia. It has also renegotiated the government’s $14 billion armoured vehicle deal with the belligerent, repressive, monarchy.

This is not surprising. The government set the stage for this decision when with its September review that found no evidence linking Canadian military exports to human rights violations committed by the Saudis. The Global Affairs review claimed there was no “credible” link between arms exports to the Saudis and human rights abuses even though the April 2016 memo to foreign minister Stéphane Dion originally approving the armoured vehicle export permits claimed they would assist Riyadh in “countering instability in Yemen.” The five year old Saudi led war against Yemen has left 100,000 dead. Throughout their time in office the Liberals have largely ignored Saudi violence in Yemen.

Despite a great deal of public attention devoted to a diplomatic spat after Riyadh withdrew its ambassador over an innocuous tweet from the Canadian Embassy in August 2018, the Liberals have sought to mend relations and continue business as usual. In December 2018 HMCS Regina assumed command of a 33-nation Combined Maritime Forces naval coalition patrolling the region from Saudi Arabia. Last September foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said, “Saudi Arabia is an important partner for Canada and we continue to work with Saudi Arabia on a number of different issues at a number of different levels.” For its part, the Canadian Embassy’s website continues to claim, “the Saudi government plays an important role in promoting regional peace and stability.”

According to an access to information request by PhD researcher Anthony Fenton, Freeland phoned new Saudi foreign minister Ibrahim Abdulaziz Al-Assaf in January 2019. In briefing notes for the (unannounced) discussion Freeland was encouraged to tell her counterpart (under the headline “points to register” regarding Yemen): “Appreciate the hard work and heavy lifting by the Saudis and encourage ongoing efforts in this regard.”

After Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s (MBS) thugs killed and dismembered journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018, Trudeau treaded carefully regarding the murder. Ten days after the Canadian Press reported, “the prime minister said only that Canada has ‘serious issues’ with reports the Washington Post columnist was killed by Saudi Arabian operatives inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Turkey.” Six weeks later the Liberals sanctioned 17 Saudi nationals over the issue but none of them were in positions of significant authority.

Foreign minister Freeland looked the other way when Saudi student Mohammed Zuraibi Alzoabi fled Canada last year — presumably with help from the embassy — to avoid sexual assault charges in Cape Breton. While Freeland told reporters that Global Affairs was investigating the matter, Halifax Chronicle Herald journalist Aaron Beswick’s Access to Information request suggested they didn’t even bother contacting the Saudi embassy concerning the matter.

In April 2019 the Saudis beheaded 37 mostly minority Shiites. Ottawa waited 48 hours — after many other countries criticized the mass execution — to release a “muted” statement. The Trudeau government stayed mum on the Saudi’s effort to derail pro-democracy demonstrations in Sudan and Algeria in 2018/19 as well as Riyadh’s funding for Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar’s bid to seize Tripoli by force.

While they implemented a freeze on new export permit approvals, shipments of Canadian weaponry continued. The year 2018 set a record for Canadian rifle and armoured vehicle sales to the Saudis. Over $17 million in rifles were exported to the kingdom in 2018 and a similar amount in 2019. Canada exported $2 billion worth of “tanks and other armoured fighting vehicles” to the Saudis in 2019. In February Canada exported $155.5 million worth of “Tanks and other armoured fighting vehicles” to Saudi Arabia.

The Global Affairs review that claimed there was no “credible” link between Canadian weapons exports to the Saudis and human rights abuses noted there were 48 arms export permit applications awaiting government approval.

As Fenton has documented in detail, armoured vehicles made by Canadian company Streit Group in the UAE have repeatedly been videoed in Yemen. Equipment from three other Canadian armoured vehicle makers — Terradyne, IAG Guardian and General Dynamics — was found with Saudi-backed forces in Yemen. Fenton has shown many examples of the Saudi-led coalition using Canadian-made rifles as well.

The Trudeau government arming the monarchy’s military while saying little about its brutal war in Yemen should be understood for what it was: War profiteering and enabling of massive human rights abuses.