U.S. and Partner Crews Conduct ‘PRESENCE PATROL’ Multilateral flight marks fifth of 2021

One U.S. Air Force B-1B “Lancer” aircrew flew a presence patrol mission in the Central Region that included several partner nation air forces today. The bomber task force mission – the fifth in U.S. Central Command's area of operation this year – was intended to deliver a clear message of reassurance, said the command's top general. “We are stronger together,” said Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander, U.S. Central Command. “Military readiness for any contingency or mission – from crisis response to (...)

Trouble

Trouble on the street last night:
police cars with mystery
flashing from their headlights, and neighbor
calling neighbor to find out
why.  Surely not the screech owl
with its corner of the dark
kept secret, or the rats
along the walls at speed, tickling
the stars with their tails. Rumors always
arrive heavily armed. There’s someone
in a lonely house
with obscene stickers on his car
who never speaks to us
but has body armor wrapped
around his heart. And we,
who are not zoned for disturbances
cannot help but ask what’s
going on, as eager for a scrap
of gossip as
the coyotes slipping down the wash
are to follow
the million dollar moon in a sixpenny sky.

The post Trouble first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Human Rights are for Everyone!

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people …

The General Assembly,

Proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples …

— preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

A few days back, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was angered by ambassadors from ten western countries — US, Germany, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden — who called for the release of Osman Kavala. Originally, Erdogan declared, “These 10 ambassadors must be declared persona non grata at once.” Eventually, Erdoğan would backtrack.

Kavala, often described as a philanthropist in western media, was arrested on 1 November 2017 and charged with “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” and “attempting to overthrow the government” in connection with the Gezi Park protests. Afterwards, Kavala was imprisoned in the maximum-security facility Silivri near Istanbul.

He was acquitted in February 2020, but soon after charged with involvement in the 15 June 2016 coup attempt. Kavala was also cleared of this accusation, but he was kept in jail on the charge of “political or military espionage.”

The incarceration of Kavala bears similarities with that of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange. However, a glaring difference stands out.

No western governments have spoken out for the human rights of Assange, including his native country, Australia.

However, the United Nations Human Rights Commission did have something to say. Its expert on torture, Nils Melzer, said,

The evidence is overwhelming and clear, Mr. Assange has been deliberately exposed, for a period of several years, to progressively severe forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the cumulative effects of which can only be described as psychological torture.

But western governments have been unmoved by such damning news. One might well surmise a tacit condonation among them for torture when carried out by western countries.

Assange is a philanthropist! His sacrifice through WikiLeaks, to inform people of the machinations of their governments (and without error), has thoroughly demonstrated this. Among the files published by WikiLeaks was revealing the CIA hacking tools and extremely notoriously, for the United States and its military, the video Collateral Murder.

The US is out to get Assange for exposing its crimes.


If you don’t understand German turn on the subtitles.

The British court, though, blocked his extradition to the US over concerns for Assange’s mental health and his risk of suicide. Nonetheless, the US appealed. Britain, for some inexplicable reason that defines logic and morality, returned a man who their judge deemed was at mental risk back to — what the UN torture expert said were conditions of “psychological torture” — the high-security Belmarsh Prison.

*****
Of course, justice and human rights must be for all. Kavala must receive justice. Assange must receive justice.

Currently, the US is awaiting a decision from Britain’s High Court on its appeal against the denial of Assange’s extradition by a lower court. The US is pressing ahead with the appeal despite the revelation subsequent to the lower court’s decision that the CIA informer, Sigurdur Thordarson, is a clinically diagnosed sociopath with a history of criminal activity who admitted to lying against Assange.

Human rights are for everyone. It is not just an obligation of governments to abide by their signature on the UNHDR; it is the duty of people of conscience to hold their governments to account, to do what they can to protect Julian Assange and any other wrongfully imprisoned or oppressed people.

The post Human Rights are for Everyone! first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Cover-up of U.S. Nuclear Sub Collision in South China Sea

“When elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled.”

So warned Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte in his address to the UN General Assembly on September 22, 2020. He was referring to the consequences for East Asia of a conflict between the US and China.

Fast forward to October 2, 2021, about one year later, and the first patch of grass has been stomped on by the U.S. elephant, trudging stealthily about, far from home in the South China Sea. On that day the nuclear-powered attack submarine, the USS Connecticut, suffered serious damage in an undersea incident which the U.S. Navy ascribed to a collision with an undersea object.

After sustaining damage, the submarine apparently surfaced close to the Paracel Islands which lie only 150 nautical miles from China’s Yulin submarine base in Hainan Province. The Connecticut is one of only three Seawolf class of submarines, which are assumed to be on spying missions. But they can be equipped with Intermediate Range (1250-2500 km) Tomahawk cruise missiles which can be armed with nuclear warheads. It is claimed that they are not so equipped at present because the Navy’s “policy decisions” have “phased out” their nuclear role, according to the hawkish Center For Strategic and International Studies.

When a US nuclear submarine with such capabilities has a collision capable of killing U.S. sailors and spilling radioactive materials in the South China Sea, it should be front page news on every outlet in the U.S. This has not been the case – far from it. For example, to this day (October 30), nearly a month after the collision, the New York Times, the closest approximation to a mouthpiece for the American foreign policy elite, has carried no major story on the incident, and in fact no story at all so far as I and several daily readers can find. This news is apparently not fit to print in the Times. (A notable exception to this conformity and one worth consulting has been Craig Hooper of Forbes.)

A blackout of this kind will come as no surprise to those who have covered the plight of Julian Assange or the US invasion of Syria or the barely hidden hand of the United States in various regime change operations, to cite a few examples

The U.S. media has followed the narrative of the U.S. Navy which waited until October 7 to acknowledge the incident, with the following extraordinarily curt press release (I have edited it with strike-outs and italicized substitutions to make its meaning clear.):

The Seawolf-class fast-attack submarine USS Connecticut (SSN 22) struck an object while submerged on the afternoon of Oct. 2, while operating in international waters in the Indo-Pacific region in the South China Sea near or inside Chinese territorial waters. The safety of the crew remains the Navy’s top priority The crew is being held incommunicado for an indefinite period. There are no life threatening injuries. This allows the extent of injuries to the crew to be kept secret.

The submarine remains in a safe and stable condition hidden from public view to conceal the damage and its cause. USS Connecticut’s nuclear propulsion plant and spaces were not affected and remain fully operational are in a condition that is being hidden from the public until cosmetic repairs can be done to conceal the damage. The extent of damage to the remainder of the submarine is being assessed: is also being concealed. The U.S. Navy has not requested assistance will not allow an independent inspection or investigation. The incident will be investigated cover-up will continue.

Tan Kefei, spokesperson for China’s Ministry of National Defense although not so terse, had much the same to say as my edited version above, as reported in China’s Global Times:

It took the US Navy five days after the accident took place to make a short and unclear statement. Such an irresponsible approach, cover-up (and) lack of transparency … can easily lead to misunderstandings and misjudgments. China and the neighboring countries in the South China Sea have to question the truth of the incident and the intentions behind it.

But Tan went further and echoed the sentiment of President Duterte;

This incident also shows that the recent establishment of a trilateral security partnership between the US, UK and Australia (AUKUS) to carry out nuclear submarine cooperation has brought a huge risk of nuclear proliferation, seriously violated the spirit of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, undermined the construction of a nuclear-free zone in Southeast Asia, and brought severe challenges to regional peace and security.

“We believe that the actions of the US will affect the safety of navigation in the South China Sea, arouse serious concerns and unrest among the countries in the region, and pose a serious threat and a major risk to regional peace and stability.

The crash of the USS Connecticut goes beyond the potential for harmful radioactive leakage into the South China Sea, with potential damage to the surrounding nations including the fishing grounds of importance to the economy. If the US continues to ramp up confrontation far from its home in the South China Sea, then a zone of conflict could spread to include all of East Asia. Will this in any way benefit the region? Does the region want to be turned into the same wreckage that the Middle East and North Africa are now after decades of US crusading for “democracy and liberty” there via bombs, sanctions and regime change operations? That would be a tragic turn for the world’s most economically dynamic region. Do the people of the region not realize this? If not, the USS Connecticut should be a wake-up call.

But the people of the US should also think carefully about what is happening. Perhaps the foreign policy elite of the US think it can revisit the U.S. strategy in WWII with devastation visited upon Eurasia leaving the US as the only industrial power standing above the wreckage. Such are the benefits of an island nation. But in the age of intercontinental weapons, could the US homeland expect to escape unscathed from such a conflict as it did in WWII? The knot is being tied, as Krushchev wrote to Kennedy at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and if it is tied too tightly, then no one will be able to untie it. The US is tying the knot far from its home this time half way around the world. It should not tie that knot too tight.

The post Cover-up of U.S. Nuclear Sub Collision in South China Sea first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Capitalism is Not Your Friend

The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force.

— Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology, (1932)

If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, there’s no progress. If you pull it all the way out that’s not progress. Progress is healing the wound that the blow made. And they haven’t pulled the knife out, much less healed the wound. They won’t even admit the knife is there.

— Malcolm X, in a March 1964 interview

How does our capitalist economic system work? Upon what structural elements does it depend, and how does money function in a modern economy? These are some questions nearly everyone has pondered at some point in their lives. As pretty much everyone knows, the system we call capitalism has built the modern world and is the basis for mainstream economic theory. According to most establishment pro-capitalist economists, capitalism can provide for a decent life for all of humanity, conserve wildlife and ecosystems, and maintain prosperity for nearly everyone if we only listen and apply their theories.

According to capitalists and their political, academic, and corporate advocates, all the failures, assumptions, loopholes, and lack of pricing in externalities can be fixed if we reform politics to properly account for a pristine capitalistic theory shorn of all the “ideological” laws and measures which get in its way. Is this really true, or are capitalists and pro-capitalist ideologues merely attempting to justify a system which benefits themselves at the expense of the world’s poor and working classes, as well as other species and the web of life which sustains us?

According to Merriam Webster, capitalism can be defined as: “an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision; and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.”

The obvious question to ask, then, is: does capitalism “deliver the goods?” Does our system properly price, produce, and distribute goods in a rational manner to account for human, non-human, and ecosystem needs? Is capitalism responsible for the technological and social progress we see around us? The answers, I believe, are most definitely no. Assembled below are a few of the main reasons why not.

1) Capitalism Is Unsustainable

Our economy runs on infinite growth and an assumption that the Earth’s resources are bottomless. Our pricing system cannot account for the “externalities” of capitalism, that is to say, it cannot properly price in all the waste, non-renewable fossil fuels, and resource extraction from the planet’s ecosystems. Capitalists sell products on the market without a thought as to how the planet can regenerate habitats, grow more trees, produce clean water, and properly regulate the climate.

Since capitalism relies on ever-increasing consumption, its logic dictates that it will destroy the entire world to make more money, since destruction and ecocide cannot be priced into its calculations. Further, since the capitalist “engine” of wanton consumption is internalized in each of us in Western society for it to function, we all are coerced into becoming idle consumers where greedy and narcissistic impulses are rewarded. Selflessness and sharing must be relegated to the ever-shrinking public or civic sphere, while private businesses and property relations dominate more and more of human existence, regardless of human needs.

While there are many more “middle class” people than ever before on our planet, the costs based on a capitalist-based growth model are too much to bear for the rest of the populace and the Earth’s ecosystems. Climate catastrophe threatens all of us, and the twin threat of habitat destruction and degradation likewise will lead to cascading waves of suffering for generations.

Environmental health impacts do not bode well for humanity either. For instance, by 2050 one third of all women and ½ of all men are predicted to have cancer at some point in their lives, and this is directly connected to industrial practices and resource extraction which pollutes the Earth with carcinogens. If the climate breaches a 1.5 Celsius increase from pre-industrial levels, we many reach a tipping point towards a “hothouse Earth” scenario where positive feedback loops push the increase to 4-6 degrees above the norm, which would wreak global devastation and an apocalyptic, dystopian future.

2) Capitalism Creates Unjustifiable Hierarchies

Today, it is obvious to the poor and the majority of the working classes that capitalism has spun out of control and is responsible for mass immiseration, imperialist wars, and ecological destruction. Yet to even tacitly acknowledge that this is happening in middle class and bourgeois society marks one as a “radical leftist”, a heretic, basically.

The religious fervor becomes obvious at this point- and arguments become emotional and infantile- when pro-capitalists insist that every positive of our current system is due to capitalism (and not labor re-producing life, products and services) while every negative gets rationalized away as due to the minor flaws of a system that just needs a little tinkering and reform around the edges. Within this mindset, conservatives frame the problem as too much regulation, or “crony capitalism”, while liberals insist that simply more regulation will solve all the ailments our system produces. From a leftist anti-capitalist perspective, however, we acknowledge that while more regulation would in fact alleviate many problems, they will not be enough to solve the conundrum of capital accumulation, overproduction and waste generation, and resource hoarding that lies at the heart of our economic engine.

Besides, the capitalist sycophants say and write, you’re writing this from your iPhone, so aren’t you being a hypocrite? Yet it is the labor of the working classes, not capitalism, which actually physically produces goods and services. The underlying subtext of their statement is obvious: you’re benefiting from the system too, so don’t rock the boat and screw up our gravy train of sweet treats, gadgets, entertainment, and the “comfort and security” that living in a globe-spanning military and economic empire provides. It’s quite sad, really, because there is simply no justification for the slave labor and habitat destruction that goes into making our technology, clothing, and various consumer items that we’ve been imprinted into believing that we “need”.

It is our capitalist-based jobs which compel us under the force of a gun to earn money to live, the implication being of course that if you don’t like it here, you’re welcome to leave and toil away in the mines and factories of developing nations. No serious thought is given to structurally revolutionize the system, because our capitalist masters would become angry, and we know what their wrath can be like, with centuries of massacres and oppression to show for it. In such a system, there is no such thing as a free contract between employees and employers. Corporations and employers have all the leverage and can effectively force employees to work or starve.

Capital today remains just as it always has, a rentier economy where the ownership class squeezes those who work with every conceivable form of rent, for housing, health care, transportation, various insurances, food, internet access, etc., until one’s earnings are whittled down to nil.

There are over one billion people in extreme poverty and by any reasonable metric more than half the globe lives in impoverished conditions of one form or another. The economic system that we know as capitalism has had over 200 years in control, and I’ve yet to hear any serious pronouncement from a capitalist economist on when poverty can be eliminated, and although some may even admit that other forms of social organization are superior in eliminating poverty, such as in indigenous cultures, the refrain is there is no going back, because of all the “progress” we’ve made. In other words, capitalists and their sycophants wholeheartedly believe “there is no alternative”, and what’s more, pro-capitalist ideologues generally have a cynical, dismal, social Darwinist, Hobbesian view of humanity and the masses.

3) Capitalism Is Inherently Exploitative and Alienating

Our system has managed to accumulate so much concentrated wealth because capitalism separates the worker from the means of production. In doing so, employees do not reap the full benefits at their jobs, as wages and salaries are determined by the contract signed with their employers. Rather than free and fair contracts between equals, workers do not have the leverage, or bargaining position, to ask for their proper payment because our system keeps people desperate and living from paycheck to paycheck, and even with solid unions, profit sharing, stock options, and collective bargaining agreements, workers are still stiffed and do not accrue the surplus value from what they have created.

Business owners thus extract the surplus value that is produced from workers. Employers give employees the bare minimum to keep on at their jobs. Profit sharing, unionizing, pensions, and other benefits have been on a steady decline for decades now as capital consolidates wealth. As prices for resources rise, corporations have found that the strategy to keep late capitalism going is to cut labor costs.

When the majority of the population is forced to choose between always working a job that barely allows one to make ends meet, or not even make ends meet; and homelessness, lack of health care, and/or starvation, to even call this situation “a job market” or “society” is a stretch. What we have is a system of severe coercion – an abusive relationship with capitalists that we rationalize as necessary- that we may deem necessary for “Western civilization” or “the economy” to function; but what we are facing is wage slavery, and systems of propaganda that, from birth, inure us to exploitative conditions and program us to accept jobs that do not allow for full economic freedom (due to exploitation) and do not allow us to reach our potentials for intellectual spiritual enjoyment and growth (due to alienation, as we shall see).

Capitalism alienates the worker because not only are we not valued economically, by not taking part in the ownership of the goods and/or services that a corporation produces, employees realize that the products they make/distribute/sell/etc are not actually useful to society, in fact much of what capital creates is in fact useless and harmful if not downright toxic and deadly to people and wildlife. Workers become disillusioned, and carry that resentment and frustration into all aspects of their lives. These dark clouds of energy created by the “satanic mills” in which we toil provide the tragic backdrop to our lives, sapping energy and robbing us of free will similar to how vampires and zombies are depicted in science fiction.

In this fraught environment, nearly everyone is competing, consciously or not, for a slice of that “American dream”, even if it means your friends across town will be evicted by rising real estate prices in your neighborhood, or if the town next to you is despoiled by coal mining while your town is protected by affluence or regulations against such industry. This can create resentment for those who do not realize, or cannot come to terms with the fact that, at least for now in the Western world, it is set up as a “dog eat dog”, “kill or be killed” economy.

However many people have been lifted out of poverty by capitalism, the surplus population of what are euphemistically called “unskilled workers” multiplies because there are simply not enough jobs available. Capital relies on the reserve army of labor to put downward pressure on wages. Also, inflation due to fiat currencies, financial and real estate speculation, the monopolization of industries, and price-gouging practices create the conditions whereby the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.

4) Capitalism Is Extremely Volatile

Historically, nearly every seven to eight years Western economies experience recessions or depressions due to inherent flaws in their makeup, and what these crashes share in common are financial speculation. When profit seems inevitable for investors in specific sectors of the economy, bubbles are formed where vast influxes of capital flow towards sectors that seem “too good to be true” in terms of returns on investment. As the old saying goes, when something seems too good to be true it usually is.

Whether in 2020 with the response to Covid-19 creating a lockdown-induced crash, in 2008 with the real estate crash, in the 2001 dot-com bubble, during the 1990-1991 recession caused by the Gulf War and restrictive monetary policy, the Savings and loan crisis of the 1980s as well as the 1987 stock crash, nearly the entire 1970s dealing with stagflation, to the Great Depression, and all the way back to the panics of 1873 and 1893, capitalism has shown it is fundamentally unstable.

When speculation, whether in real estate, stocks, corporations, cryptocurrencies, or any other investment becomes the primary driver of the economy, you’re cooked. It’s only a matter of time before the financial system resembles a house of cards, and just like a Ponzi scheme or a bank run, when the majority of banking customers, investors, or shareholders wants to pull out, the crash ensues.

This is simply because monetary systems around the globe are run by a scheme of incurring ever-greater debts, which means that the physical money supply is only a fraction of what “the economy” supposedly consists of. This is how all fiat currencies function today, as fractional reserve banking allows commercial and local banks to loan out far more than their actual assets. This means, in effect, that money is debt: only by printing, or today digitally creating new money through computing, banks loan out more than they have and increase their holdings through interest payments which borrowers pay back over time. Therefore, the entire economy relies on the money supply constantly expanding to repay what lenders are “owed”. Money, just like production of consumer goods, is a trap in which the entire economy and thus human life and labor becoming devoted to producing more and more, not for usefulness or human necessity, but simply to feed the bottomless pit of an ever-expanding appetite.

In Conclusion: Capitalism Can’t Deliver the Goods

As we’ve seen, capitalism produces many paradoxes and contradictions. To escape from feudalism, humanity developed “free markets” which have ended up enslaving most of the planet in some form or another. In order to start the engine of capitalism, genocide, slavery, imperialism, enclosure acts, and primitive accumulation were the fuels by which capital could be consolidated by the bourgeoisie and power centralized in the nation-state.

While the modern West has ensconced many of its citizens in affluence and privilege, much of the world has only known strife and poverty for the last 200 years as capitalist domination has accelerated. While the old model rested on territorial exploitation via imperial oversight, today’s empire is run from global metropoles of finance backed by threats of violence, via economic subordination, debt peonage via the World Bank and IMF, exploiting cheap labor, using WTO and intellectual property law which prevent developing nations from self-producing needed technology, infrastructure, and medicine. Having so brazenly exploited the periphery of empire for so long, with little pushback from a complaint citizenry, now the chickens are coming home to roost, as capitalism squeezes the middle class out of existence in the core of empire.

Today we find ourselves in a situation where capitalism has not just colonized most of the planet, but through ruling class control of the media also the minds of billions in the developed and developing worlds. The ruling class has put many into a false double-bind whereby the only solutions seem to be between a liberal order which promises more regulations, a more humane and less racist and sexist world, promises of a slightly more equitable social democratic framework, all the while failing on nearly all fronts due to the adherence to capitalist neoliberal economics and austerity politics; and a reactionary conservatism which promises to restore national greatness, yet stokes imperialist, racist, xenophobic, and atavistic impulses. Within this constrained and artificial binary choice, for most urbane people the liberal choice appears better, while for most rural citizens and those disconnected from the cultures of large cities, the conservative side seems more appealing.

Little to no thought is given to a post-capitalist, leftist politics which could emancipate the working classes of the world. Capitalism can no longer produce, allocate, and distribute resources effectively. While the media superstructure will continue to place blame on the pandemic for all of its woes, capitalist overproduction, systemic inflation, wage suppression, and the falling rate of profit are leading to another large economic crisis. Despite what mainstream news says, the supply chain problems we see today are not simply due to worker shortages or production bottlenecks; capital has misallocated labor towards jobs that produce little to no value to society, as well as systemically underpaying key labor sectors leading to massive job losses, while being unable to plan for key agricultural, logistical, and technological needs.

Progress which seems tied to capital in reality is due to the innate ingenuity and inventiveness of workers, i.e., the material and mental labor which produces essential commodities. Capital influxes which once seemed necessary to marshal large-scale organization and production are now superfluous in a post-scarcity world, where the seemingly rational invisible hand of the market and control of production through supply and demand gives way to ruthless monopolies and a planet-threatening military industrial complex. This was always the direction and logic capitalism would take, and while legal reforms could make impactful differences, the structural revolution which is necessary for human flourishing will inevitably need economic democracy in the workplace as a cornerstone of a sustainable, post-capitalist world.

Finally, climate change and habitat loss promise to erase the “gains” of capitalism, as global warming, scarcity of clean water, desertification, and degradation of farmlands threatens apocalyptic devastation for large swaths of the planet. Using non-renewable fossil fuels to guide expansion of the economy seemed great in the 19th century, but has proven to be a Faustian bargain. Conversion to renewable resources should be made according to popular will, not held back by the dictates of multinational corporations which sacrifice the environment, social (re)production, dignified lives for the masses, and future generations for short-term profit. New democratic structures will need to be built to rationally allocate resources and redistribute private property into communal holdings, as we can no longer rely on the capricious whims of capitalists or on the conspicuous consumption of the affluent nations to drive production and finance. In order for this to be achieved, many affluent Westerners will have to be reminded that the siren calls and pandering from capitalists who  have molded a self-satisfied and compliant citizenry are a poison to us all, and that regardless of one’s level of comforts, capitalism, in fact, is not our friend.

The post Capitalism is Not Your Friend first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Masquerade

They didn’t act like people and they didn’t act like actors. It’s hard to explain.

—  J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, 1951

There’s a reason that Catcher in the Rye, published 70 years ago, has become such an iconic book, praised and condemned in equal measure. It is because it is about lying, phoniness, acting, Hollywood, theater, plagiarism, and at its core, a society of liars. Actors in a masquerade willing to don masks and face other faces with the veiled glances of the defeated. It is about the massive social confusion that entered American life in an intense way following World War II, a world of propaganda and performance.  Although the book seems to be directed at adolescents, it is for adults, and while annoying many of them with its adolescent lingo, it cuts to the heart of our current life-the-movie society. Adults have become kids, and Holden Caulfield knew that they would. Or were. Maybe he wanted it. We now live in a society of costumed children, asking to be tricked.

“If you want to know the truth,” Holden keeps repeating, knowing that most people don’t, since they prefer the Show.

It is also a fall book with echoes of falling leaves in a dying land.  Football and war, Halloween and all souls drifting down in the crepuscular light of late October and the coming November remembrance of Veteran’s Day, once called Armistice Day, when the mad slow action film of WW I, the war to end all wars with millions dead in rat infested trenches, is commemorated, as if anything has changed and such memories are not secret celebrations of the heroic sacrifices the gullible make for their masters.  War is a racket; the ultimate racket.

Liam Clancy reminds us of this truth regarding the “Great” War and all the others that have followed. Millions of deaths brought on by lying government bastards.  Actors in the mass masquerade.

But it goes deeper than lying leaders. For lying is the leading cause of living death in the USA, and the pharmaceutical companies have no prescription for it. If they did, and if they cared, which they don’t, they would have manufactured such a drug long ago. It would have killed them of course, but since their business is profits not suicide, they don their masks of solicitude and bank the spoils, while producing poison to shoot people with.

The great English writer, D.H. Lawrence, warned us long ago to not let the living-dead eat us up. Yet we are still being devoured by a refusal that knows no name since it is not just them but us – victims and executioners, both in a mutual deadly game.

Death is a big hit, as everyone knows. It fascinates far more than does life. One glance at the mass media will confirm that.  Fear, death, and disaster are the daily menu, interspersed with kitsch uplift. Propaganda feeds on it. Up down all around spin that wheel and rattle your brains.

But the ghosts of fall remind us to beware of this necrophilia.  The dead return and wander among us, masked children wandering through the streets looking for handouts. Adults laughing those tight grim laughs. How cute!

Nietzsche said that “all things are entangled, ensnared, and enamored.” I find this especially true during the autumnal season, especially the Halloween weekend of ghosts, death, and masks. It is enchanting and disturbing if you give it thought. Its symbolism explains the Covid propaganda and panic more than a thousand factual articles. It explains the warfare state and adults’ refusal to defiantly oppose it. It explains the nihilistic underpinning of society and children’s fears and wishes to use a magic wand to change the world to one that celebrates life not death. That is the true treat that their unconscious playacting requests. But the candy the adults give them conceals the poison the adults can’t face.  The poison that they have ingested.

I think of how all persons are, by definition, masked, the word person being derived from the Latin, persona, meaning mask. Another Latin word, larva, occurs to me, it too meaning mask, ghost, or evil spirit. The living masks light up for me as I think of ghosts, the dead, all the souls and spirits circulating through our days, swirling like dead leaves in the wind.

While etymology might seem arcane, I think it offers us a portal into our lives, not just personally, but politically and culturally as well. Word usage is at the heart of linguistic mind control, and we are in a world where the minders of the public’s mind have become adept at fashioning language to their devious ends. Orwell predicted this in Nineteen Eighty-Four with his explanation of Newsspeak:

The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of Ingsoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible. It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought – that is, a thought diverging from the principles of Ingsoc – should be literally unthinkable, at least as far as thought is dependent on words.

A quick check of the latest dictionary updates will corroborate Orwell’s point about the future dictionary when Newspeak has been fully established, the meaning of words will be so changed that anything can mean anything, even its opposite.

Shakespeare, the ultimate wordsmith, was right, of course, to tell us that “all the world’s a stage,” though I would disagree with the bard that we are “merely” players. It does often seem that way, but seeming is the essence of the actor’s show and tell. But who are we behind the masks?  Who is it uttering those words coming through the masks’ mouth holes (the per-sona: Latin, to sound through)?

Halloween. The children play at scaring and being scared. Death walks among them and they scream with glee. The play is on. The grim reaper walks up and down the street. Treats greet them. The costumes are ingenious; the masks, wild. It’s all great fun, the candy sweet. So what’s the trick?  When does the performance end?

As Halloween ends, the saints come marching in followed by all the souls. The Days of the Dead. Spirits. Ghosts walk the streets.  Dead leaves fall. The dead are everywhere, swirling through the air, drifting. We are surrounded by them. We are them. Until.

Until when? Perhaps not until we dead awaken and see through the charade of social life and realize the masked performers are not just the deadly politicians and celebrities, not only the professional actors and the corporate media performers, but us.

And while these days of the dead and children’s games can bring us to wonder whether we act like people or actors – “even if it’s hard to explain” – whether behind the double masks we realize we can be genuine actors if we go deep enough, the celebration of Veterans/Armistice/Remembrance Day a few days later should  emphatically remind us of the Masters of War and the need to see through their masks, as Bob Dylan tells us. The evil performers who “play with my world like it’s your little toy” with their endless lies.

Norman O. Brown so well describes our stage set:

Ancestral voices prophesying war; ancestral spirits in the danse macabre or war dance; Valhalla, ghostly warriors who kill each other and are reborn to fight again. All warfare is ghostly, every army an exercitus feralis (army of ghosts), every soldier a living corpse.

It seems to me that Albert Camus was right, and that we should aspire to be neither victims nor executioners. To do so will take a serious reevaluation of the roles we play in the ongoing national tragedy of lie piled upon lie in aggressive wars around the world and in election farces that perpetuate them. The leading actors we elect are our responsibility. We produce and maintain them. They are our mirror images; we are theirs. It is the danse macabre, a last tango in the land of bad actors, our two-faced show. This masquerade ball that passes for political reality is infiltrated by the ghosts of all those victims we have murdered around the wide world. We may choose not to see them, but they are lurking in the shadowy corners. And they will haunt us until we make amends.

“Do you not know there comes a midnight hour when everyone has to throw off his mask?” warned Kierkegaard: “Do you believe that life will always let itself be mocked? Do you think you can slip away a little before midnight in order to avoid this? Or are you not terrified by it?”1

“Whenever I take up a newspaper,” Ibsen added: “I seem to see ghosts sliding between the lines. There must be ghosts all the  country over, as thick as the sands of the sea. And then we are, one and all, so pitifully afraid of the light.

Yet the children and the eloquent voices of the genuine actors I have so liberally quoted here remind us of what is possible if we chase the light and stop the masquerade. That would be cause for a real holiday celebration.

  1. Soren Kieerkegaard, Either/Or: A Fragment of Life,  University bookshop Reitzel, Copenhagen, February 20, 1843.
The post The Masquerade first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Dr. Deborah Birx’s Failed Attempt to Flip the Script

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Every report we have, from journalists and from first-hand accounts from people who were there, reveal that Dr. Deborah Birx – White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator – had a primary influence on President Donald Trump in his decisions to lockdown the economy. She is culpable for initiating one of the biggest fails in the history of public health, wrecking the lives of countless numbers of people.

Her idea, to which the US president was an early convert, was to mandate extreme measures, ending freedom of association in civic life, in order to contain and perhaps suppress a virus (or save the health system or flatten the curve or stop the spread or…something). It did not work. All over the world, there is no evidence that these lockdowns achieved anything but economic, social, cultural, and mass psychological destruction. 

Today she is working not only to evade personal responsibility but to pass the buck onto others who actually worked to repair the damage she created in the most destructive role of her long career in government. 

In testimony before the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, October 12-13, 2021, she shamelessly told high tales of her own heroism, how actual public-health experts who arrived later tried to undermine her, and how once Trump started ignoring her crankish and radical views, he thereby killed more than a hundred thousand of people. 

She testified that if Trump had continued to follow her prescriptions, “we probably could have decreased fatalities into the 30 percent less to 40 percent less range.” 

Notice the fake precision here, without a shred of evidence. On the other hand, we have vast evidence of the epic failure of lockdowns

She makes some very serious charges, while evading responsibility for her central role in the egregiously botched response. Birx not only pushed Trump to enact lockdowns. She personally called health officials in every state and demanded that they do the same. And did this for months. They complied based on her position and authority. 

Birx spoke at length at the fateful March 16, 2020 press conference – alongside Anthony Fauci (“he was my mentor”) – that announced the lockdowns. She pushed a wholly new and deeply dystopian social system of universal human separation: “we really want people to be separated at this time.”

She got her way. Not only for two weeks, as was initially promised, but for months and finally for 20 months in many places. That the US locked down in March 2020 also inspired many governments around the world to follow this strategy that began in China. Billions around the world have suffered grave harm. And even on the one metric that mattered to her – suppression of this one virus – the whole thing flopped to an extent that was previously unimaginable. 

As Scott Atlas has said, it makes sense (in our times when ethics mean next to nothing for public officials) that instead of apologizing that she would want to push the blame on others, simply because she bears so much responsibility for what happened in people’s lives. But rather than admit it, she deflected and blamed others. She even named Atlas himself and says that she stopped attending any meeting where he was present. This was not because she was protesting; it’s because he was up on the science and she was not. She didn’t desire to be embarrassed by that fact. 

Let us firmly establish that it was Birx who was most influential in talking Trump into betraying his every instinct. Two Washington Post reporters have documented this in their book Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration’s Response to the Pandemic That Changed History. They report that she initially refused the invitation to join the White House Task Force. And why? Here the reporters reveal her politics:
She was also making a political calculation. She had been in government long enough to know how to read the tea leaves. Even though the Democratic primary season was still under way, she believed that Biden could come out on top because he was the safest choice. And if he did win the primary, he could beat Trump. If she were to work in the Trump White House, it could be fatal for her federal career. She wasn’t ready for that.
There we go: even before getting to the White House, she was convinced that Trump would not win reelection. And that raises some profound issues concerning her advice. 

And what was that advice? The reporters explain the scene in mid March 2020:
[Jared] Kushner immediately called two of his close friends, Adam Boehler and Nat Turner, and asked them to help put together a set of guidelines over the weekend that could provide some kind of national recommendations. Boehler was a former summer roommate of Kushner’s during college and was currently heading a federal institution called the US International Development Finance Corporation. Turner was chief executive of Flatiron Health, a technology and services company that specializes in cancer research. Boehler and Turner burrowed into a room in the basement of the West Wing and started calling people who grasped both the scale of the crisis but also the politics. 

Over that weekend, they put together recommendations and then circulated them with Birx and Fauci. The guidelines were refined further before being presented to Trump in the Oval Office. They wanted to recommend shutting down in-person education at schools. Closing indoor dining at restaurants and bars. Canceling travel. Birx and Fauci saw the guidelines as a crucial pause that would buy them some time to better understand the pandemic. Shutting down flights was not enough, they said; more would have to be done….
The group apparently decided that Birx would be the best messenger to convince Trump:
If she were to convince the president to shut down the entire country, she was going to have to make a compelling case. She spent a weekend assembling all of the data from Europe that she could get her hands on. She then looked at the logarithmic curves of infections and deaths to try to predict when the United States would begin seeing an exponential growth of cases and fatalities. The data revealed how quickly the virus had moved through Italy, and she knew that it wasn’t isolated there; the Italians were just more efficient at tracking it. If it was moving like that throughout a major European country, she projected, a similar explosion was about to occur in the United States….

At the meeting, Birx walked the president through everything that she was seeing in Europe, forecasting what could happen if the US didn’t act. [Kushner friend Adam] Boehler offered the recommendation for fifteen days of restrictions, the kind of government crackdown that was anathema to every one of Trump’s instincts. But when they finished with the presentation, the first two words out of Trump’s mouth surprised them. “That’s it?” he asked. Trump had thought that they were going to tell him to call in the National Guard and lock people in their homes. He immediately approved their plan. At 3:21 p.m. on March 16, he delivered a speech that he—and many of his advisers—would come to regret.
At that historic and earth-shattering press conference, Birx played a central role. The reporters observe: 
Trump was reading from notes. The words had been written for him, but he was reading them nonetheless. He had spent the first three years of his presidency stripping back regulations and restrictions, complaining about the “deep state” and government overreach. He was now putting into place the biggest restrictions on Americans’ behavior in the past hundred years. The government’s program was called “15 Days to Slow the Spread.” It was a nationwide shutdown until the end of March, an unprecedented action. Just a few weeks earlier, Trump and his top aides had barely known who Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci were. Now they were teamed up with Jared Kushner and had played a critical role in convincing Trump to shut much of society down.
There we have it. 

A month later, Trump was getting restless. 15 Days had passed and Trump made an announcement that he wanted to open the country again by Easter, which fell on April 12, 2020. Trump met with advisors including Birx. The reporters go on:
Birx sat in silence, her right leg crossed over her left, staring at the president as the words left his mouth. Her expression betrayed nothing. Her military career had conditioned her to remain impassive while her commanding officer was speaking. But Easter? The idea was a nightmare. She had taken a lead role on the task force just one month earlier, and her influence was already slipping away. She had to try to stop this. Birx knew that the United States hadn’t yet reached the peak of infections, a grim milestone that public health experts didn’t anticipate for several more weeks. The number of reported new infections was doubling every few days; it had gone from just more than one thousand cases on March 16, the day the shutdown had gone into effect, to nearly eleven thousand the day of the virtual town hall. The rate wasn’t slowing down, and the count was artificially low because the United States was still doing so little testing. The fifteen-day shutdown would hardly be enough to seriously hamper the virus’s spread. If Trump reopened the country on Easter, the painful effort would have been for nothing.
What did she do about it? 
She knew that [Trump] was under pressure to reopen the economy by Easter, something she was determined to stop. So if he was going to agree to shut down the country for another thirty days when everyone was telling him not to, then, sure, she’d need him to be locked into the data—her data. For some time, her gamble paid off. Other task force members and White House aides marveled at the way she managed Trump, who thought she was elegant and liked working with her. She knew how to strike a delicate balance with him: she flattered him and told him a little bit of what he wanted to hear before offering her recommendations….

That Saturday night, just a few days after Trump had declared that he wanted everything to reopen by Easter, Birx and Fauci met with the president in the Yellow Oval Room, an ornate second-floor chamber in the White House’s private residence just inside the Truman Balcony….

Birx and Fauci knew the stakes: either they would convince the president to take drastic action that could save tens of thousands of lives, or they would fail to make their case. Birx sat across from the president, papers in hand. She had printed out her slides so that she could present them as a handout. She had come armed with other analyses and slides in case Trump wasn’t immediately convinced or he had questions that she could answer with more graphics. She hoped that Trump would be able to understand the work she had done and the case she and Fauci were about to make. But with Trump, you never knew what would happen. The doctors began by explaining to him that if he reopened the country now, the fifteen-day shutdown would have been for nothing. There hadn’t been enough time to see the effects of the painful step they had taken. The point of the shutdown had been to “flatten the curve,” which meant to slow down the exponential increase in new cases. The only way to do so, they said, would be through measures such as closing businesses and mandating social distancing so that the health care system wouldn’t face a crush of patients… 
Of course she prevailed yet again:
Trump knew that the crisis was serious, but thirty days? Was it really necessary? he asked them. Why did Birx think it was necessary? Did she really believe that 100,000 to 200,000 people could still die even if the country shut down? Yes, Birx insisted. Her numbers were not models based on theoretical assumptions, she explained; they were reality-based projections based on what she had learned from the European data….

Trump was expected to announce how much longer the shutdown would last at the March 29 press conference. White House officials had been debating whether to extend it for another week or two. About twenty-five minutes after Trump first took the podium, he made an announcement that would stun and anger some of his advisers: he was extending the shutdown guidelines until April 30.
And so on it went, with Fauci and Birx constantly moving the goalposts, sounding the alarm of new cases, urging the president to continue torturing people with lockdowns and closures, and wrecking what had previously been a strong and growing economy, and essentially working to doom his prospects for re-election that she never believed was possible anyway. 

This nonsense continued throughout the summer until at last Trump got fed up and started seeking out other advice from people who happened to understand viral dynamics, epidemiology, and public health. The lead person here was Scott Atlas whom she now blames for undermining Trump’s misplace and dangerous confidence that lockdowns could improve health outcomes. 

Thus can we see her direct culpability in causing the unprecedented wreckage, and now her attempt to avoid taking responsibility. 

The end of her career has an ironic and perhaps inevitable twist. As Jordan Shachtel notes, “Birx infamously resigned in disgrace after she was caught flouting her own guidance, when the longtime government bureaucrat secretly held a large gathering at one of her vacation homes in Delaware. That same week, Birx advised the public not to get together during the Thanksgiving holiday.”

The BBC reported on her thinking concerning why she violated her own edicts:
Explaining her decision to gather with her husband, daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren, she told Newsy: 'My daughter hasn’t left that house in 10 months, my parents have been isolated for 10 months. They’ve become deeply depressed as I’m sure many elderly have as they’ve not been able to see their sons, their granddaughters. My parents have not been able to see their surviving son for over a year. These are all very difficult things.'
Deborah Birx bears direct and documented responsibility for imposing these “difficult things” on hundreds of millions of people. She pleaded with us to understand that she had to violate her rules for personal reasons. Now she insists that we blame anyone but herself for outcomes that she knows all too well were her own doing. 

No member of Congress should ever sit by and listen to this nonsense without knowledge of the documented history of her personal responsibility for turning the land of the free and the home of the brave into a population of people cowering in their homes, banned from seeing family, with their schools, businesses, and churches shut by governments for months on end. The costs are legion and the damage will be felt for decades.

Reprinted with permission from Brownstone Institute.

What are the Prospects for Peace?

Events are unfolding at a quickening pace. Facing an alarming escalation in tensions around the world, we are looking to our most respected and renowned thought leaders for an honest assessment of both U.S. foreign and military policy to offer their most current thoughts and insights. We know they have some ideas for improving the prospects for peace.

*****

Abby Martin is an American journalist, TV presenter and activist. She helped found the citizen journalism website Media Roots and serves on the board of directors for the Media Freedom Foundation which manages Project Censored. She hosted Breaking the Set on the Russian state-sponsored network RT America from 2012 to 2015, and then launched The Empire Files in that same year as an investigative documentary and interview series on Telesur, later released as a web series. In 2019, she released the film documentary, The Empire Files: Gaza Fights for Freedom. She continues her work opposing imperialism and promoting peace, as an independent filmmaker and journalist. We are extremely honored that she took the time to talk to us and share her views. Her responses below are exactly as she provided.

The questions here are not philosophical or abstract. They focus on the realities of the international power struggle unfolding in real time. They directly address the role of the U.S. in the escalating tensions and its capacity to reduce them. We also probe the role of everyday citizens in affecting the relationship the U.S. now has and will have with the rest of the world community.

Here is what Abby Martin had to say.

John Rachel:  The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has recently put the hands of the Doomsday Clock to 100 seconds before midnight. Midnight means all out war, probably nuclear holocaust. This is the closest it has every been. Do you agree with this dire assessment?

Abby Martin: Just a minuscule percentage of the world’s nuclear arsenal being detonated would have cataclysmic effects, propelling us into a nuclear winter that could eventually end human life on earth. Hydrogen bombs are up to one thousand times stronger than those that decimated Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the US has thousands of them.

It’s chilling to face the reality that nuclear war is not some distant Cold War era threat, but a strong possibility in our near future. Due to incompetence or belligerence, any nuclear armed country could initiate this death spiral.

Right now we face an unprecedented ecological crisis in need of global cooperation. Instead of becoming a leader to reduce and dismantle nuclear weapons, the US is spending over a trillion dollars to modernize its nuclear arsenal. And despite being a signatory to the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, the US is buying hundreds more. In February, the Biden administration secured a contract with Northrop Grumman for 600 new nukes, for no reason other than to line the coffers of the defense industry.

DC think tank policy prescriptions about nuclear weapons are sponsored by the very arms companies rewarded with lucrative contracts for their recommendations, which always result in further militarization. We need to strategize how we can live in a world beyond nukes, because there will never be peace as long as these weapons exist.

JR: The U.S. always portrays itself as the greatest force on the planet for peace, justice, human rights, racial equality, etc. Polls tell us that most other nations actually regard the U.S. as the greatest threat to stability. What in your view is the truth here?

AM: One just has to leave the United States and speak to people in other countries, especially those long subjugated by the US, to see how true this idea really is. The United States is a global Empire, which imposes its world order through military force. A new study reveals that US “counterterrorism” operations have been active in 83 countries in the last three years alone. It does this not to spread “democracy” or “human rights”—a ridiculous assertion for an oligarchy that hosts the largest incarcerated population—but to extract resources and protect capital.

Whatever the US dictates, its junior collaborators follow suit and the rest know the penalty for bucking the beast—genocidal sanctions, coups, invasions and bombing campaigns. These criminal actions depend on a compliant corporate media that make them palatable to the public. But for those living under the sanctions and bombs, it’s clear who the real threat is.

JR:  Here’s a chicken-or-egg question: The U.S. accuses both Russia and China of rapidly expanding their military capabilities, claiming its own posturing and increase in weaponry is a response to its hostile adversaries, Russia and China. Both Russia and China claim they are merely responding to intimidation and military threats posed by the U.S. What’s your view? Do Russia and China have imperial ambitions or are they just trying to defend themselves against what they see as an increasingly aggressive U.S. military?

AM: The US military is bigger and more costly than the next ten countries combined. It is patently absurd to think that it is Russia or China, not the US that is setting the world stage militarily. For example, when the US violated the international treaty on outer space to create Space Force, Russia reacted by announcing it would pursue its own space defense to prepare for US plans.

Almost every think tank that influences US politics has set its sights on China under the great-power competition doctrine, and has articulated that Russia and China need to be the military focus instead of the Middle East. Most of their mapped out policy scenarios end in full blown war, something that would be catastrophic and completely unnecessary.

While both countries clearly have strategic geopolitical ambitions, Russia and China do not share the US’s imperial goals for global hegemony. China spreads its influence through production and financial investments but it only has one military base in Djibouti. When you compare this to the nearly 1,000 US bases littering the earth, the notion that the US is acting defensively is laughable.

JR: The U.S. always denies that it has imperial ambitions. Most unbiased experts say that by any objective standards, the U.S. is an empire — indeed the most powerful, sprawling empire in history. Does the U.S. have to be an empire to be successful in the world and effectively protect and serve its citizenry?

AM: The US is not only an Empire, it is the biggest and most powerful Empire the world has ever seen. It has 800 military bases in more than 70 countries and it bends other countries to its will through sanctions and war. It has interfered to subvert the democratic processes more than 50 times in Latin America alone. The US is not effective at protecting and serving its own citizenry, so it has no moral leg to stand on to justify this global military presence and daily violence. It is only successful if you look at control and domination as merits of success. The system it upholds exists to benefit very few people, which becomes a tinier pool every year, while the vast majority at the bottom suffer and die preventable deaths—structural violence under capitalism.

JR: In 2009, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton announced a reset with Russia, heralding greater cooperation and understanding. By 2014, Obama had made a sharp reversal. A sweeping regime of sanctions has since been imposed on Russia to cripple its economy. Hillary Clinton and the Democrats now relentlessly demonize Russia and Putin, blaming them for every imaginable ill. Both in the media and from official pronouncements by government officials, Russia has become the favorite whipping boy for both the U.S. and its “special friend”, Great Britain. Why? What happened?

AM: Some argue the love affair with Putin ended with his refusal to support the Iraq War and subsequently Russia’s support for US enemies like Assad, but many other factors play into why hostilities with Russia benefit the US. The US political system needs to manufacture consent for its global Empire by directing Americans’ attention and energy away from the corrupt oligarchs and corporate overlords who oppress us here at home to an external threat, like communism, terrorism, and now, Russia and China.

When Donald Trump became president, it was imperative to rationalize how someone so unsavory to liberal sensibilities won a democratic election. Instead of having reflection or accountability for the failures of the Democratic Party, and the anointment of a candidate like Hillary Clinton, the results were blamed on sinister foreign forces like Putin’s Russia, and entities like Russia Today. In fact, the US intelligence community cited my show Breaking the Set, which ended two years prior to the election, as a major factor that “sowed discord” and “fomented radical discontent” within US society, leading to the outcome of Trump’s victory.

Russia and China will continue to be hysterically fear mongered against because the arms industry needs to keep pumping out weapons to sell and the people need something, someone to blame for why our lives continue to degrade, other than our own government.

JR: The number of spy missions, nuclear-armed bomber flights, and war games near Russia’s borders have vastly increased over the past year. Same with China. Is all of this just business-as-usual geopolitical posturing? Or does it represent a dangerous escalation and a new ominous direction in U.S. strategic positioning? What is the justification for what Russia and China see as provocations and aggressiveness, if not actual preparation for a war?

AM: There is no rational justification for the continuous, aggressive US military buildup and maneuvering around Russia and China. The US routinely sends in ships and aircraft into the South China Sea to flex its muscles, which China recently denounced as a “threat to peace.” It is incomprehensible to imagine China conducting military operations in the Gulf of Mexico, but apparently China should accept the US doing this on a regular basis.

The US and its loyalists will defend this insanity by saying that the US is a beacon for good and needs to be on these countries’ doorsteps to keep these “authoritarian dictatorships” at bay, to save the world by preventing them from becoming *the next Empire.* None of this has any bearing in reality. Imperialism has nowhere to go but to expand, imperiling all life on earth. And US capitalism is threatened by China’s growing economic power. It does not want to exist in a multipolar world. It knows eventually it has to come to a head with what it sees as the great competitor, for no other reason than global domination.

JR: Between the FONOPS [Freedom of Navigation Operations] in the South China Sea and the recently expressed enthusiasm for Taiwan’s independence, the risk of military conflict with China keeps increasing. Where is this headed? If the People’s Republic of China decides to use military force for full reunification of Taiwan, do you see the U.S. going to war in an attempt to prevent it?

AM: A majority of Americans now favor using US troops to defend Taiwan if it is invaded by China, according to a recent poll. There is no other rationale to explain this mindset other than corporate media propaganda steadily pumping out anti-China stories and legitimizing it as an adversary.

The US claims it conducts its war games around China in part to bolster its support for Taiwan. Now the narrative being pumped out by Pentagon sources is that these war games often end with China beating the US, calling for further military spending in order to beat China. The inevitability of war with China is a tacitly accepted reality, with rarely any questioning about whether or not the US should be conducting these acts of aggression or militarily backing Taiwan at all. How does any of this protect the American people? Needless to say, all of this points to the very real and growing possibility that the US will start war with China over Taiwan, and we need to speak out against this utter madness before it is too late.

JR: In a democracy, at least in theory citizens have a say in all matters of public policy. Yet, in the end none of the recent military campaigns and undeclared wars seem to achieve much popular favor or support. What is and what should be the role of everyday citizens in determining the foreign policy and military priorities of the country? Or are such matters better left to the “experts”?

AM: The United States functions as an oligarchy rather than a democracy. Policies like are passed not due to public support but corporate interests. The overwhelming majority of people in this country support things like paid maternity leave, free college, and a higher minimum wage. Yet these things are painted as wedge issues that can never be accomplished due to the partisan divide. Corporations control the political process and the conversation around it, and they always win what they want.

This is why during the COVID pandemic, the oligarchs siphoned two trillion dollars from the working class, while one third of small businesses shut down and the poor suffered through mass evictions and joblessness. Due to the neoliberal indoctrination of public education and mass conditioning of American Exceptionalism, most Americans haven’t given a second thought to what the US does in our names around the world.

Many US journalists and politicians acknowledge that climate change is the largest threat facing humanity, but few point to the fact that the US military is the largest institutional polluter, and emitter of carbon emissions, and every single climate treaty excludes their responsibility.

The need for critical media literacy and mass organizing has never been more urgent. If you want to go down the rabbit hole with me to learn more about the true nature of the US go vernment and how we can unite to demilitarize our communities, check out The Empire Files.

*****

We are grateful to Abby Martin for her thought-provoking views. The interview was arranged by John Rachel, Director of the Peace Dividend Project. This effort embraces a powerful, unprecedented, end-to-end strategy for challenging the tyranny of neocon warmongers in Washington DC, ending the endless wars, and reversing the self-destructive foreign policy and military paradigm which now poisons U.S. relations with the rest of the world. Ms. Martin has also agreed to be interviewed for the full-length Peace Dividend documentary film, a devastating indictment of the corruption and fraud built into our excessive military budgets and imperial overreach. This movie will inform, unite and empower everyday citizens to have a voice in determining the future they want for themselves and their children.

The post What are the Prospects for Peace? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“On Liberty”

When I was in Law School, among the most revered legal opinions were those by Judge Learned Hand of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. They were precisely reasoned, not verbose, and reflected a very cultivated sense of justice, in the judgment of my law school professors. We were, nonetheless, encouraged to critique them in class.

What impressed me most about Judge Hand was a brief address he delivered in 1944, in the midst of World War II, to an audience gathered in New York’s Central Park on the occasion of “I Am an American Day.”

There was every temptation to give a “red, white and blue” speech of exuberant patriotic rhetoric. After all, the battles on the European and Pacific fronts were furious and producing mass casualties on all sides. Judge Hand resisted narrating the customary, nationalistic exaltations. Instead, he provided gentle transcendental wisdom for the ages. He spoke of people as being either the progenitors or destroyers of ‘liberty,’ as he broadly and deeply defined that abused word. We give birth or foster the light or darkness of a society. We are responsible, by clear inference, for allowing the concentrations of tyrannical exercises of power by the avaricious, despotic few over the many.

Judge Hand was fallible in his short discourse. Immigrants started to come to settle in America in the 17th century seeking various freedoms from oppression and want.  Unfortunately, these freedoms were collectively exercised at a deadly price to the First Natives of the continent – who bore the brutal brunt of genocide, terror, and armed seizure of their lands.

Read Judge Hand’s entire remarks below and note their prophetic pertinence for addressing today’s entrenched power brokers who put excessive profits over principle as they deepen and expand the ravaging corporate state.

The “Spirit of Liberty”

A speech given by Judge Learned Hand on May 21, 1944, in celebration of I Am an American Day.

We have gathered here to affirm a faith, a faith in a common purpose, a common conviction, a common devotion. Some of us have chosen America as the land of our adoption; the rest have come from those who did the same. For this reason we have some right to consider ourselves a picked group, a group of those who had the courage to break from the past and brave the dangers and the loneliness of a strange land. What was the object that nerved us, or those who went before us, to this choice? We sought liberty; freedoms from oppression, freedom from want, freedom to be ourselves. This we then sought; this we now believe that we are by way of winning.

What do we mean when we say that first of all we seek liberty? I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws and upon courts. These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it. While it lies there it needs no constitution, no law, no court to save it. And what is this liberty which must lie in the hearts of men and women? It is not the ruthless, the unbridled will; it is not freedom to do as one likes. That is the denial of liberty, and leads straight to its overthrow. A society in which men recognize no check upon their freedom soon becomes a society where freedom is the possession of only a savage few; as we have learned to our sorrow.

What then is the spirit of liberty? I cannot define it; I can only tell you my own faith. The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the mind of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias; the spirit of liberty remembers that not even a sparrow falls to earth unheeded; the spirit of liberty is the spirit of Him who, near two thousand years ago, taught mankind that lesson it has never learned but never quite forgotten; that there may be a kingdom where the least shall be heard and considered side by side with the greatest.

And now in that spirit, that spirit of an America which has never been, and which may never be; nay, which never will be except as the conscience and courage of Americans create it; yet in the spirit of that America which lies hidden in some form in the aspirations of us all; in the spirit of that America for which our young men are at this moment fighting and dying; in that spirit of liberty and of America I ask you to rise and with me pledge our faith in the glorious destiny of our beloved country.

The post “On Liberty” first appeared on Dissident Voice.