The bad news is that taxes in America are tilted in favor of the rich. The best news is that we could be only weeks away from a tilt in favor of the middle class: the reforms President Biden is urging to help balance the Administration’s $3.5 trillion budget bill.
The changes won’t be going as far as the president first proposed. Congress writes the laws, and House Democrats have already dialed back on Biden’s wish list. Even so, the bill will almost certainly reflect a sharp shift in America’s priorities.
As Biden himself puts it, “My tax policy is based on a simple proposition, which is to stop rewarding wealth and start rewarding work a little bit.”
Republicans oppose everything, and a few Democrats have differences as well. Here’s a quick rundown of some major items as legislators continue to shape the final bill.
A cut in the top marginal rate was part of Trump’s 2017 tax giveaway. Biden wants the rate back where it was, at 39.6 percent. It would apply to taxable incomes above $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for married couples.
The tax break on capital gains is a huge part of America’s tax handout to the haves. The current levy on long-term capital gains tops out at 20 percent, little more than half the top rate on income from work. Biden hoped to equalize those rates, but that hope is history.
The Democratic-controlled Ways and Means Committee opted instead for a hike in the capital gains tax to 25 percent. Significantly, the new rate would apply to any gains realized after September 13—preventing any stock sell-offs to avoid the 25 percent rate. The Committee also recommended a 3 percent surcharge on taxable incomes above $5 million.
Ending the carried interest loophole is another of Biden’s tax-fairness goals. Candidate Trump promised to do it, but President Trump reneged and let it stand: “a tax dodge for wealthy private equity and hedge fund managers,” allowing them to defer taxes and ultimately treat their income as lower-taxed capital gains.
Bills are advancing in both the House and the Senate to do what Trump turned his back on. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) has drafted the most extensive repeal: it doesn’t even include the Biden recommendation for a $400,000 income exclusion.
A supporter of the Wyden bill, former BlackRock managing director Morris Pearl, describes carried interest as an “absurd, regressive loophole with no credible economic justification…that has allowed some of the wealthiest people in the country to cut their tax bill nearly in half.”
Wealthy corporations have also been big winners in the tax-cut sweepstakes: Trump reduced the rate on corporate earnings from 35 percent all the way down to 21 percent. Biden was pushing for an increase to 28 percent—still less than it was before Trump—but he won’t be getting it.
The current Democratic plan calls for graduated corporate rates, moving from 18 percent for incomes below $400,000 to 26.5 percent on incomes above $5 million. The benefit of the lower rates would phase out for firms with incomes over $10 million.
Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) wants an even lower top rate. Nothing can pass if Manchin doesn’t come aboard (and every other Democrat as well). In other words, the numbers are still in flux.
Liberals are happy enough with what’s in the bill, but deeply unhappy about what isn’t. Listen to Inequality.org: “Without significant changes…billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos will hardly pay a nickel more in taxes. And families like the Waltons…will continue to amass huge dynastic fortunes.”
All the same, America could be on the verge of a seismic change in tax policy. After decades of tax laws that disproportionately favor the rich, Biden is shifting the focus to the broad middle class.
Instead of putting millions more into the pockets of millionaires, he intends to put billions more into the social safety net—into childcare and healthcare and education.
President Kennedy, 1961: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” President Biden to America’s wealthy, 2021: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what your taxes can do for your country.”
Congress willing, Biden’s message could be delivered within weeks.
I like to get down to brass tacks, into the muck, since I have been in on all aspects of academia and journalism, environmental activism, literary arts, and social work. I’m not pulling some trump card here, but in my more than six decades of confronting these amazingly dead-from-the-head-up members of the 80 percent, and those of the 20 percent, I have seen the complete shut down of discourse, critical thinking and shame.
They really do not care about their people. They really do not care about their patients. They really do not care about their troopers. They really do not care about their students. They really do not care about the homeless, the women in Afghanistan, the Blacks Lives, and all the other BIPOC folk. Crocodile tears and thespian performances do not equate to caring for people. This country, and the West in general, is one giant stage of actors and actresses.
It doesn’t matter if it is Kamala Harris, Stephen Miller, Donald Trump, Macron-Johnson-Trudeau, no matter who is in the acting part, they do not care about the homeless, the disabused, the marginalized.
It could be Howard Stern one moment giving nationwide bits of perverted advice, or it could be the head of the teachers’ union, Randi Weingarten, or it could be the head of the CDC, Microsoft, Apple, FDA, CIA, ICE, ATF, FBI, NAACP, ACLU, no matter, but they all have their limits toward basic freedoms and rights. One day a hero, but the next day scum.
I am talking about the mandates, the hard rule of outcasting, caste creation, and new stitched-on scarlet letters (a la digital dashboards). What is going on while the divide and conquer chatter and discord unfolds on corporate media and in the boardrooms of major and minor companies, in schools, universities, state, county, city agencies, and with the feds, while we watch sports, await Broadway opening up, line up for cruise ships, and eat-drink-&-be-merry in La-La Land.
The reality is clear — there are so many ways to disenfranchise the lot of us: Those who want to stop the mandated experimental jabs, the mandates for useless masks, the absurdity of social distancing and quarantines. Those of us who want robust discourse. Those of us who want to look at the evidence. Those of us who want to uncover the subterfuge. There are great pieces of journalism and deep and passionate opinion pieces on all of this — DARPA, WEF, Fauci, gain of function, Event 201, Dark Winter, and Fourth Industrial Revolution. More. However, when you get into the day to day weeds, with our jobs, our workplaces, with those administrators, things are not looking great.
I had the sickly unhealthy luxury of getting in on a huge national web call/Zoom with a major Human Resources management service, talking about what the thousands of companies they represent can do to force employees to go under the knife, err, jab. These people — your bloody neighbors, the soccer moms, the camping dads, the aunts who take the kids to museums, the grandfathers who have backyard gardens — are none other than the complete embodiment of Eichmann. The Eichmann Syndrome.
These are the $400,000 a year professional managerial class (sic) people running the HR departments, looking at the three major airlines (swooning over them) for the jab mandates — everything from weekly testing AND a $200 a month additional premium to health insurance, to allowing for a religious exemption for a vaccine (sic) but with unpaid forced leave. Whirlpool, man, bribing a $1000 for each employee now to go under the jab.
These HR people are looking at distinguishing jabbed from unjabbed, and they are utilizing all those HR tools in their toolboxes, thankful of the monopolies and big corporations for blazing the trail to take away the right to a livelihood, to informed consent, to travel, to basic human interchanges. They are writing the rules now as I write this around those of us who “get Covid and have to leave work,” but they are sly Eichmanns, as they are nuancing of the new normal of FMLA (family and medical leave act) laws, paid time off for recovery or hospitalization around Covid. They want to make it impossible to live on planet earth without subjugating oneself to the jab . . . and I mean, JABS, since booster x has a human biophysical life of three months, so bring on the Covid 18-pack. The bottom line is, today, September 14 will be harkening in a very different world in a month.
The lawyers are working long and hard to force the jab, to force employees to bend and falter, in order to kick out as many miscreants as possible. This is what your large HR groups are talking about as we debate Saudi Arabia, or 9/11, and as we look at the Continuous Wars, and as we look at cops down under pounding grannies’ heads for coming out to protest.
Typical HR booklets: Case Study: Protecting & Defending Intellectual Property; 5 Measures to Battle Construction Site Theft; Cybertheft & Participant Accounts: A Fiduciary Responsibility?; 6 Best Practices for Fraud Prevention; From Seed to Sale On-Demand Webinar Series: COVID-19 and Cannabis Operations. You get the picture: all about protecting the company, the rich folk, the administrators, stockholders, et al.
It’s as if people somehow thought the neoliberals, the democrats, the polite ones, the freaks of nanny statism, would somehow just stick to LGBTQA and transgender bathrooms issues (not). It is the tyranny of stupidity, and I have mentioned this in many pieces here and elsewhere, when you deny authority, when you question the paradigms, when you go up against administrators, college presidents, social services nonprofit CEO poverty pimps, well, the price is more than ostracizing and triangulating. It is the social isolation of the castes these people have set out, in their professional managerial class power.
You don’t need to lecture someone like me on the dirty dirt of republicans, at the governor level, on down. They are despicable. Yes, I am with groups who are against mandates, forced medical experiments on people that contain right wing religious freaks, and cops and fire fighters. These — right wing religious zealots, cops/pigs and overpaid firefighters — they are contrary to almost everything I have fought for, and they have been the despicable ones, too.
This is not a provocative image, pre-Covid:
But it is now. Imagine this image: But, of course, the dude on the right, well, he has zero concept of communism, but alas, these are strange times — leftists fighting the Draconian measures aligning with, well, cops and dudes like that — “the final variant is called communism.” Funny stuff, since the variants are all about capitalism, and the final conclusion to all this is about the point zero zero one percent riding roughshod over us, with the help of their elites and the Eichmanns. Those communist countries like Cuba and China have, well, non-mRNA true vaccines. But, little do they know, these AmeriKKKans.
This person below, well, both, are really part and parcel of the fascism that has been unleashed in USA in several iterations, and following US Patriot Act and the forced shoe donning at airports, we as a country are insipidly inane and accepting of all the wrong kinds of authority. Now, with the dementia democrats in office, the blue bloods, we are now forced to fall under their thumbs, and follow the science religion of a very suspect, dead-end route.
HR So, this meeting I snuck into, with HR fantastics swooning over Walmart’s vaccine policies and the “joints for vaccination” schemes, they are the people I have been warning my students and homeless clients and veterans and others about in order to learn from and defeat. This Rochelle is a monster in so many ways, and Fauci is too. We can’t even get one day of a Lancet article by two former FDA heads without Saint Fauci chiming in —
The current evidence on COVID-19 vaccines does not appear to support a need for booster shots in the general public right now, according to an international group of vaccine scientists, including some from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization.
The current evidence on COVID-19 vaccines does not appear to support a need for booster shots in the general public right now, according to an international group of vaccine scientists, including some from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization.
“Current evidence does not, therefore, appear to show a need for boosting in the general population, in which efficacy against severe disease remains high,” the scientists write in a new opinion piece, published Monday in the medical journal The Lancet.
The authors of the paper include two senior FDA vaccine leaders, Dr. Philip Krause and Marion Gruber, who will be stepping down in October and November, the FDA announced late last month. No further details were released about their retirements, although they sparked questions about whether the departures would affect the agency’s work.
Two senior leaders in the US Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine review office are stepping down, even as the agency works toward high-profile decisions around Covid-19 vaccine approvals, authorizations for younger children and booster shots.
But Fauci is now attacking these two who wrote in the Lancet their concerns, and they are not anti-vaccination folk. Speaking of the Lancet: —
A shocking admission by the editor of the world’s most respected medical journal, The Lancet, is saying that medical research is UNRELIABLE AT BEST IF NOT COMPLETELY BOGUS! Lancet editor, Richard Horton “… states bluntly that major pharmaceutical companies falsify or manipulate tests on the health, safety and effectiveness of their various drugs by taking samples too small to be statistically meaningful or hiring test labs or scientists where the lab or scientist has blatant conflicts of interest such as pleasing the drug company to get further grants.”
This statement ties in perfectly with the article we have had on our website and been recommending for almost five years now from the World’s Leading Expert on Medical Research, Dr. John Ioanidis from Greece. Dr. Ioannidis told the Atlantic Monthly in an article titled “Lies, Damn Lies, and Medical Science” that 90% of medical research is tainted if not outright bogus due to influence from the industry. (source)
But the HR consultants who charge millions for their services (sic) to companies on what to do with employees, with all the vagaries of those darned dirty and messy real people, now under the Covid Stain of Fascism, they all got their jabs because they are compliant, and they make individually amazing amounts of money for their, well, services. These are the dream hoarders, the true believers in taking as many rights away from people vis-à-vis workplace rules, regulations, laws, steps, credos, trainings, and more, to the point of creating entire legions of, well, the untouchables, the unhireables, terminated for noncompliance. These are mean folk, Hillary and Obama and Biden loving folk:
Obama, the dance man, 60th b-day party, during Covid Maskless Madness?
This is it for the great masses, as the screws get screwed down tighter and harder each minute. The news is vapid, and the depth of coverage on almost anything is boiler plate or pre-ordained by the commercial media honchos. And this is the final nail in the coffin for teachers,
To all of my American Federation of Teachers (AFT) union brothers and sisters across America I call upon you RIGHT NOW to immediately LEAVE THE AFT in protest as a moral obligation.
Randi Weingarten HAS FIRED ALL UNVACCINATED STAFF IN ALL AFT FACILITIES ACROSS THE COUNTRY.
So that’s not teachers, that’s secretaries, accountants, lawyers, custodians, doormen, etc…
I personally can and will NEVER return to the AFT as long as Randi is president and as long as this segregationist policy is in place.
The issue of AFT membership is no longer about what AFT does and doesn’t do FOR US as educators, it is now much bigger than that. IF you continue to pay dues to the AFT you are financially supporting a blatantly discriminatory and corrupt multi-million dollar organization.
Please stop supporting them right now. Vote with your money AND LEAVE THE AFT NOW! This is bigger than whether or not YOU still have a PCR testing option at your job or not. This is about choosing your side — do you stand with rank-&-file workers who choose to make their own medical decisions? OR do you stand with the biosecurity state?
Giving even one DIME to the AFT is supporting the biosecurity state. End that support right now!
Please spread this far and wide to all AFT members. We will post at our webaite very soon.
I don’t know what else to say, since so much of what is behind the biosecurity state, the mandates, all of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is tied to high tech and surveillance capitalism, much of which comes from the bowels of military, Israel, the chosen few.
In the final act of the 2011 film “Contagion,” people wore bar-coded wristbands to prove they had been inoculated against the deadly, pandemic virus. But in 2021, of course, the vaccinated will be able to use a blockchain-powered smartphone app, according to IBM and Salesforce.
The two tech giants are partnering up to help businesses and public spaces smoothly reopen as newly authorized COVID-19 vaccines become more available by integrating IBM’s Digital Health Pass with Salesforce’s web-based employee management platform.
“At the start of the pandemic, many organizations deployed simple COVID-19 screenings, such as self-reported health surveys, to support re-entry to workplaces and other institutions,” said Paul Roma, general manager of IBM Watson Health.
And this is not about health safety, about a shot passport. This is about moving everything into those HR digital libraries, containing background checks, drug screenings, mortgage records, all addresses lived at, court records, education records, criminal records, defaults on loans, credit reports, and, no, not too far fetched, an entire digital library of things written-snapped-photographer-tweeted-downloaded on the World Wide Web. And yet, again, just one little hour listening to the HR wonks talk about all the great things companies can do to coerce, cajole, conspire, contain, and co-opt their employees into doing anything: first the jab, and next some cool nanoparticle atomized air product, to calm the masses, to get more productivity, to erase emotions, what have you.
Just as many predicted over a year ago, the rollout of the vaccine for Covid-19 and its implementation has introduced intense polarization and social segregation through the implementation of mandatory vaccination for employees and vaccine passports. Medical authoritarianism and the burgeoning biosecurity state are here, expanding in real time. In New York City, San Francisco, France, and Italy, vaccine passports are mandatory for entrance to nearly any indoor public venue: restaurants, bars, museums, cinemas, and more. Also, hundreds of corporations, colleges, federal and state agencies are mandating rushed emergency experimental injections with no long-term knowledge of side effects.
Yes, we’re all well aware that the Pfizer vaccine just got full FDA approval. Did anyone think that it wouldn’t? Did anyone in the media bother to ask if the forces of power, money, and technocratic medical tyrants would back down and not give full approval, considering how these forces have managed to shape reality and scare to death half of the population over a disease with a very low mortality rate? Regardless of your opinion of how severe the disease is, mandates and passports are incontrovertibly coercive, tyrannical measures. If the vaccines do not stop transmission, which the medical authorities have already admitted to varying degrees, then what is the point of these mandates and passports?
Furthermore, the vaccine passport will effectively be discriminatory since minorities are less likely to get the vaccines. African Americans especially have lower vaccination rates, for good reasons, the US medical establishment experimented on black populations throughout the Cold War and even beyond. It’s not difficult to see the ramifications of bio-digital segregations. One does not need a PhD or medical degree; in fact, these “credentials” seem to blinker one’s view in support of this new form of discrimination.
In the view of what we might term the technocracy, or perhaps the emerging biosecurity establishment, it is virtuous to separate the “clean” vaxxed from the supposedly disease-carrying, uneducated, lower-classes who won’t take these experimental shots.
All of the power and money, all the “Science ” snowballed into an unstoppable corporate/government momentum which shows no signs of letting up. All that propaganda, the deliberate lies about mask efficiency (they don’t work) and vaccine holiness (they don’t prevent transmission) they’ve been shoving down the public’s throats for over a year and a half? Yeah, the nanny-state politico-medical tyrants are not going to give up this narrative without a fight. They are doubling down on the fear and quest for total obedience and control. It suits late-stage capitalism just fine if small and medium sized businesses go under and the excess labor supply of the unemployed are evicted and go hungry. They are extraneous to the monopoly cartels which run the “economy”, which is run by giant tech corporations, the stock market, the military-industrial complex, and the FIRE sector, multinational conglomerates who operate with almost no competition in nearly every industry.
There is no way to fight back against these abuses of power through the court system. In my opinion, the most rational approach would be to boycott, in any way possible, the corporations and public institutions that are going along with vaccine mandates and passports. Part of this involves the vote with your dollars approach. Hurting the corporate lemmings and technocrat sociopaths in their wallets and lack of tax revenues are the only things they will understand.
If you were thinking of traveling to Europe, skip France and Italy. Guess what? If globally millions of tourists suddenly gave the middle finger to these two countries and vacationed elsewhere, the dent in lost revenue and GDP might actually have some effect on the political establishment. In France and Italy citizens are rightly fed up with protests every day against the passports, and many vaccinated people have burned their vaccine papers in solidarity.
Similarly, if people in the US abstained from traveling to and spending money in NYC and SF, every restaurant owner, museum board, theater, and small business would then put immediate pressure on city, state, and federal politicians to ban vaccine passports, hopefully for good. If millions of people refuse to shop and do business with companies that have mandatory vaccination requirements for their employees, it would also put immense pressure to relent.
Investors should also divest from corporations that insist on mandating vaccines for employees. It may, in fact, be legal for companies to do so, but it is frankly coercive and is a sort of crossing of the Rubicon, blurring one’s private life and medical choices with public duties, to create a new type of “good citizen”, a biopolitical subject serving capitalism with zero critical thinking skills.
For those in the workforce facing mandates, such as federal/state public employees and health care workers, if possible it is definitely worth considering if another career/job can be found. If enough teachers, nurses, etc., quit or go on strike against their employee mandates, pressure can be applied and the mandates could potentially be lifted.
It’s worth pointing out that the goalposts continue to be changed from slowing the pace of transmission to eradicating the virus- from two weeks to flatten the curve (tacitly acknowledging that coronaviruses cannot really be stopped) to mandates for wide swaths of public and private work, as well as military and police presence on the streets of Australia, to name one of the most obvious police state measures. The goalposts are changing to determine our “good citizen” status. Before, one simply had to go along to get along, obey the laws, pay taxes, and keep one’s head down; now, not only are we expected to do and say the right things, but to inject the right experimental drugs into our bodies.
My humble prediction is the goalposts are going to continue to move. The game is akin to the frogs boiling slowly in the pot; by consenting to our own freedom being curtailed and our own imprisonment, the establishment gets what it wants without having to crack down using excessive force and coercion. The innate desire to have access to public spaces, to go on vacation, will lead many people ignorant of the wider implications to accept these new dystopian measures. The horizon of getting “back to normal” will recede faster as new variants naturally emerge, as viruses tend to do, and this will continue to be used as a new scare tactic, even as death rates effectively returned to normal four months ago (May of 2021) in the US, and many other countries show no more excess deaths, or none outside normal yearly variations, as well in 2021.
The virus is now endemic, but the powers that be are going to insist upon using it as a weapon for total control over the population. We’re through the looking-glass, we now have a form of “scientism” which is irrefutable no matter how unsettled the truth really is. Statistics such as death counts from Covid are unreliable, with doctors confessing to listing Covid-19 as the primary cause of death when it’s not- dying “from Covid” is conflated as dying “with Covid”. Deaths from the lockdowns are not seriously considered, even though many scientists are on record stating that the lockdowns led to a large chunk of the excess deaths.
Frankly, the near future looks pretty bleak for the US and the chances to have an open, honest dialogue about the seriousness of the pandemic, the capitalist world-system which stands to gain by using a 21st century tech-driven shock doctrine, and the police-state that will be built on the back of the panic caused by incessant propaganda. The fault lines are deepening and Democrats yammer to “trust the science” without any understanding themselves, and are willing to demonize anyone who doesn’t get an experimental jab or wear two masks while alone in their car; while Republicans continue to frame the “reopen the economy” debate in terms of those supposedly wonderful job-creating corporations, all the while being willing to sell the average worker out for an extra buck or two. Both parties are more than willing to screw over the poor, minorities, and working classes; if either cared about their citizens’ lives they wouldn’t throw people out into the streets via the mass evictions that are already underway.
As imperial decline and rot deepen, and the domestic surveillance apparatus pulls its noose tighter against our necks, our best bet to resist these freedom-crushing decrees is to deploy citizen power, mass protests, and coordinated direct action against inhumane vaccine mandates and police-state vaccine passports.
Emblematic of our times, the Berniecrat organization Our Revolution – never remotely revolutionary – has rebranded itself as “pragmatic progressive.” This innovation is based on the realization that progressive reforms will never be enacted unless they are fought for. And, since they are not about to fight President Biden, then it is only programmatic to accept that these reforms won’t happen.
Our Revolution surrenders
Good bye, Medicare-for-All, now that Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and even Bernie Sanders have abandoned the cause. Never mind that a majority of the electorate still favors the proposal. But to get Medicare-for-All, progressives would have to stand up to the Democratic Party. And that would entail a fight and therefore is not pragmatic.
A major reason for the Democrat’s obstruction of Medicare-for-All is that the health insurance industry and big pharma bought them off plus the entrenchment of corporate interests more broadly in the party. However, another factor is at work. Access to healthcare free-at-the-point-of-service would make working people more secure. For the exploiting class, it is better to forego a small gain in profits as the tradeoff for keeping workers precarious and thus less demanding. The people who run the Democratic Party know which side of the class barricades they are on; unfortunately, some progressives do not.
Some of the dump-Trump veterans, who are now AWOL in the battle against the current leader of the imperialist camp, proclaim Joe Biden is the political incarnate of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Lost in the fog of war is the fact that, for over forty years, Biden has been among the architects of the neoliberal project associated with the Democratic Leadership Group to bury FDR’s New Deal.
The New Deal was an experiment in a mild form of social democracy, where the capitalist ruling class allowed a degree of social welfare state functions in return for labor peace. Ever since Carter, gaining steam with Reagan and Clinton, and continuing now with Biden, neoliberal reform has entailed privatization of education, health, and other state enterprises, economic austerity for working people, and deregulation and tax relief for the corporations, while augmenting the coercive apparatus of the state. In short, since the 1970s, neoliberalism has been the form of contemporary capitalism.
This is what democracy looks like
In the run-up to the US 2020 presidential election, some erstwhile progressives told us to hold our noses and get on the Biden bandwagon. Then, as they worked alongside the decadent Democrats, they became desensitized to the redolence of being in proximity to power. And now some counsel us to stand down to the powerful and join in attacking the official enemies of Washington.
However, some Berniecrats have resisted the succor of the Democrat’s big tent and are still fighting the good fight under the banner of the Movement for a People’s Party. They have had the temerity to picket Squad member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to hold her feet to the fire on her campaign promises.
This is what democracy looks like. Politicians can hardly be blamed for gravitating to the rewards of party orthodoxy, if their constituents fail to demand that they follow through on the platform that got them elected. But for demanding that politicians that talk progressive also walk progressive, those who speak truth to power are attacked by those who no longer consistently do so.
So, we often see the following progression. After shirking from criticizing the powerful, the next career move is to find legitimacy by criticizing those who do. For example, the Young Turks show accused anti-imperialist Grayzone reporter Aaron Mate falsely and without evidence of being “paid by the Russians.”
This is symptomatic of elements of progressivism who have become ever more comfortable with the Democrats as the only alternative to what they perceive as the greater evil of the Republicans. Since they now eschew criticizing those actually in power, they are relegated to attacking the genuine left. Rather than “battling Biden” as they promised after “dumping Trump,” some progressives have descended the slippery slope into providing left cover for the Democrats both on domestic and, as argued below, international fronts.
Covering for imperialism
The domestic capitulation of some self-identified progressives also translates into a deafening silence about opposing the imperialism of the Democratic Party. Shortly after the dawn of the new millennium, the US anti-war movement experienced a resurgence against Republican President George W. Bush’s Iraq war. But soon as Democrat Barack Obama took office, with Bush’s Secretary of Defense Gates still in charge, the anti-war movement collapsed and has been since largely quiescent.
More recently, imperialist ventures have been greeted with more than silence. There are now, unfortunately, full-throated echoes of the imperialist’s talking points by former anti-war activists and intellectuals.
Take the arguably once progressive NACLA (North American Congress on Latin America) in a recent article specifically calling for “taking off the cloak of silence.” NACLAreports on the “long-standing totalitarian Cuban government.” According to the author, an expert on “social and cultural entrepreneurship” (i.e., promotion of capitalism), the US blockade of Cuba “isn’t responsible for the island’s economic downfall. Instead that is a result of the powerful [Cuban government] elite’s iron grip and stockpiling.” Of course, if that were anywhere near the truth, the US would have no need for the blockade.
This takes place in the context of President Biden doubling down on a regime-change offensive, reversing campaign promises to reverse Trump’s illegal sanctions on Cuba. Washington now believes Cuba is close to falling due to the deprivation caused by the ever-tightening US blockade exacerbated by the COVID pandemic.
Further, NACLA tells us that the view of Cuba as a “model for many anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist movements” is not only wrong but that the Cuban’s attempt at socialism is based on “an economic model that is inherently ineffective.” Unfortunately, that verdict has a perverse element of truth. As long as the US can impose suffocating unilateral coercive measures on Cuba and other small nations striving for an alternative to neoliberalism, the socialist model will not be allowed to succeed.
Socialism is supposed to satisfy people’s needs, while capitalism is inherently a system that creates unlimited perceived needs without the means for their fulfillment. That is, under capitalism, a system driven by individual greed, one cannot ever accumulate too much. The carrot on a stick, perpetually dangled out of reach, is the essence of what the author of the NACLA article proudly calls “entrepreneurship.”
But what happens when – as the NACLA article admonishes – the nation striving for socialism can no longer “cover the basic necessities to make daily life worth living”? Apparently, solidarity with the Cubans against attacks by the world’s superpower is not paramount for some self-identified progressives who issued a recent petition to the Cuban government.
Their Change.org petition, quoting Rosa Luxemburg on freedom from a repressive state, demanded the release of Frank García Hernández arrested by the Cuban government on July 11. However, the Mr. García had already been released the following day, while the petition was still being circulated.
Whatever the intentions of the individual signatories of the petition, its actual impact had nothing to do with freeing someone who was already free and everything to do with providing a left cover for imperialism. Had the signatories been genuinely concerned with what they perceived as an overreaction by the Cubans to a manifestly existential security threat to their revolution, they should have also addressed the petition to the White House and demanded the ending or at least easing of that security threat. Some of these same individuals have also signed petitions against Nicaragua, Syria, and other official enemies of the US.
Struggling on two fronts
Meanwhile, the neoliberal order is becoming more and more exposed, with billionaires increasing their net worth astronomically while working people face a yet to be contained pandemic with inadequate healthcare, unemployment, and austerity. This is fuel for the populist right-wing, which could be the shock troops of a fascist movement. But we are not there yet.
The legitimate concern about fascism, when associated exclusively with Trump and his followers, has been used by some self-identified progressives as an excuse to embrace the Democrats. The struggle against “neofascist” Trumpism has been coopted into a surrender into the main party now in charge of the imperialist state and increasingly distinguishing itself as the leadingproponent of war.
The January 6th riot by Trump supporters at the Capital Building was conflated by Democrats into a coup attempt of new kind where the perpetrators, instead of taking state power, took selfies and went home. Some of the villains of January 6th, Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, turned out to be friendly with the FBI and possible agents with get-out-of-jail-free passes.
It would be cold comfort for progressives to discover that they have triumphed against the crude fascism of working-class guys with tattoos only to find that the friendly fascism of Saint Robert Mueller’s national security state has prevailed. Progressives, who have their canons aimed at Mar-a-Lago, may be leaving their backs exposed to those who now hold state power in Washington.
The ensuing clamor after January 6 from would-be progressives to expand the already enormous police powers of the state against protesters is an example of the dictum that you should be careful about what you wish for. The state coercive apparatus – police, military, homeland security, FBI, CIA, NSA, etc. – has been and will be used against the left.
The genuinely progressive solution is not to support one or the other neoliberal party, which are collectively the perpetrators of the current calamity, but to struggle against the conditions that foster a right-wing insurgency. That is, resist both right-wing populism and the established ruling class, with the main emphasis on those in power.
The executive power in our government is not the only, perhaps not even the principal, object of my solicitude. The tyranny of the legislature is really the danger most to be feared, and will continue to be so for many years to come. The tyranny of the executive power will come in its turn, but at a more distant period.
― Thomas Jefferson, (Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville(
It is time to recalibrate the government.
For years now, we have suffered the injustices, cruelties, corruption and abuse of an entrenched government bureaucracy that has no regard for the Constitution or the rights of the citizenry.
By “government,” I’m not referring to the highly partisan, two-party bureaucracy of the Republicans and Democrats. Rather, I’m referring to “government” with a capital “G,” the entrenched Deep State that is unaffected by elections, unaltered by populist movements, and has set itself beyond the reach of the law.
We are overdue for a systemic check on the government’s overreaches and power grabs.
We have lingered too long in this strange twilight zone where ego trumps justice, propaganda perverts truth, and imperial presidents—empowered to indulge their authoritarian tendencies by legalistic courts, corrupt legislatures and a disinterested, distracted populace—rule by fiat rather than by the rule of law.
This COVID-19 pandemic has provided the government with the perfect excuse to lay claim to a long laundry list of terrifying lockdown powers (at both the federal and state level) that override the Constitution: the ability to suspend the Constitution, indefinitely detain American citizens, bypass the courts, quarantine whole communities or segments of the population, override the First Amendment by outlawing religious gatherings and assemblies of more than a few people, shut down entire industries and manipulate the economy, muzzle dissidents, reshape financial markets, create a digital currency (and thus further restrict the use of cash), determine who should live or die, and impose health mandates on large segments of the population.
These kinds of crises tend to bring out the authoritarian tendencies in government.
That’s no surprise: power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Where we find ourselves now is in the unenviable position of needing to rein in all three branches of government—the Executive, the Judicial, and the Legislative—that have exceeded their authority and grown drunk on power.
This is exactly the kind of concentrated, absolute power the founders attempted to guard against by establishing a system of checks of balances that separate and shares power between three co-equal branches: the executive, the legislative and the judiciary.
“The system of checks and balances that the Framers envisioned now lacks effective checks and is no longer in balance,” concludes law professor William P. Marshall. “The implications of this are serious. The Framers designed a system of separation of powers to combat government excess and abuse and to curb incompetence. They also believed that, in the absence of an effective separation-of-powers structure, such ills would inevitably follow. Unfortunately, however, power once taken is not easily surrendered.”
Unadulterated power in any branch of government is a menace to freedom.
There’s no point debating which political party would be more dangerous with these powers.
The fact that any individual—or branch of government—of any political persuasion is empowered to act like a dictator is danger enough.
So what can we do to wrest back control over a runaway government and an imperial presidency?
It won’t be easy.
We are the unwitting victims of a system so corrupt that those who stand up for the rule of law and aspire to transparency in government are in the minority.
This corruption is so vast it spans all branches of government: from the power-hungry agencies under the executive branch and the corporate puppets within the legislative branch to a judiciary that is, more often than not, elitist and biased towards government entities and corporations.
We are ruled by an elite class of individuals who are completely out of touch with the travails of the average American.
We are viewed as relatively expendable in the eyes of government: faceless numbers of individuals who serve one purpose, which is to keep the government machine running through our labor and our tax dollars. Those in power aren’t losing any sleep over the indignities we are being made to suffer or the possible risks to our health. All they seem to care about are power and control.
We are being made to suffer countless abuses at the government’s hands.
We have little protection against standing armies (domestic and military), invasive surveillance, marauding SWAT teams, an overwhelming government arsenal of assault vehicles and firepower, and a barrage of laws that criminalize everything from vegetable gardens to lemonade stands.
In the name of national security, we’re being subjected to government agencies such as the NSA, FBI and others listening in on our phone calls, reading our mail, monitoring our emails, and carrying out warrantless “black bag” searches of our homes. Adding to the abuse, we have to deal with surveillance cameras mounted on street corners and in traffic lights, weather satellites co-opted for use as spy cameras from space, and thermal sensory imaging devices that can detect heat and movement through the walls of our homes.
That doesn’t even begin to touch on the many ways in which our Fourth Amendment rights are trampled upon by militarized police and SWAT teams empowered to act as laws unto themselves.
In other words, freedom—or what’s left of it—is threatened from every direction.
The predators of the police state are wreaking havoc on our freedoms, our communities, and our lives. The government doesn’t listen to the citizenry, it refuses to abide by the Constitution, which is our rule of law, and it treats the citizenry as a source of funding and little else. Police officers are shooting unarmed citizens and their household pets. Government agents—including local police—are being armed to the teeth and encouraged to act like soldiers on a battlefield. Bloated government agencies are fleecing taxpayers. Government technicians are spying on our emails and phone calls. Government contractors are making a killing by waging endless wars abroad.
In other words, the American police state is alive and well and flourishing.
Nothing has changed, and nothing will change unless we insist on it.
Set in the year 2020, V for Vendetta (written and produced by the Wachowskis) provides an eerie glimpse into a parallel universe in which a government-engineered virus wreaks havoc on the world. Capitalizing on the people’s fear, a totalitarian government comes to power that knows all, sees all, controls everything and promises safety and security above all.
Concentration camps (jails, private prisons and detention facilities) have been established to house political prisoners and others deemed to be enemies of the state. Executions of undesirables (extremists, troublemakers and the like) are common, while other enemies of the state are made to “disappear.” Populist uprisings and protests are met with extreme force. The television networks are controlled by the government with the purpose of perpetuating the regime. And most of the population is hooked into an entertainment mode and are clueless.
Sounds painfully familiar, doesn’t it?
As director James McTeighe observed about the tyrannical regime in V for Vendetta, “It really showed what can happen when society is ruled by government, rather than the government being run as a voice of the people. I don’t think it’s such a big leap to say things like that can happen when leaders stop listening to the people.”
Clearly, our leaders have stopped listening to the American people.
We are—and have been for some time—the unwitting victims of a system so corrupt that those who stand up for the rule of law and aspire to transparency in government are in the minority. This corruption is so vast it spans all branches of government—from the power-hungry agencies under the executive branch and the corporate puppets within the legislative branch to a judiciary that is, more often than not, elitist and biased towards government entities and corporations.
We are ruled by an elite class of individuals who are completely out of touch with the travails of the average American. We are relatively expendable in the eyes of government—faceless numbers of individuals who serve one purpose, which is to keep the government machine running through our labor and our tax dollars.
What will it take for the government to start listening to the people again?
In V for Vendetta, as in my new novel The Erik Blair Diaries, it takes an act of terrorism for the people to finally mobilize and stand up to the government’s tyranny: in Vendetta, V the film’s masked crusader blows up the seat of government, while in Erik Blair, freedom fighters plot to unmask the Deep State.
These acts of desperation and outright anarchy are what happens when a parasitical government muzzles the citizenry, fences them in, herds them, brands them, whips them into submission, forces them to ante up the sweat of their brows while giving them little in return, and then provides them with little to no outlet for voicing their discontent: people get desperate, citizens lose hope, and lawful, nonviolent resistance gives way to unlawful, violent resistance.
This way lies madness.
Then again, this madness may be unavoidable unless we can wrest back control over our runaway government starting at the local level.
How to do this? It’s not rocket science.
There is no 10-step plan. If there were a 10-step plan, however, the first step would be as follows: turn off the televisions, tune out the politicians, and do your part to stand up for freedom principles in your own communities.
Stand up for your own rights, of course, but more importantly, stand up for the rights of those with whom you might disagree. Defend freedom at all costs. Defend justice at all costs. Make no exceptions based on race, religion, creed, politics, immigration status, sexual orientation, etc. Vote like Americans, for a change, not Republicans or Democrats.
Most of all, use your power—and there is power in our numbers—to nullify anything and everything the government does that undermines the freedom principles on which this nation was founded.
Don’t play semantics. Don’t justify. Don’t politicize it. If it carries even a whiff of tyranny, oppose it. Demand that your representatives in government cut you a better deal, one that abides by the Constitution and doesn’t just attempt to sidestep it.
There is a rapidly-growing body of scholarly and popular literature exposing, analyzing, and rejecting charter schools. While the analytical rigor and overall quality of this expanding content is steadily improving, it remains riddled with conceptual, ideological, and theoretical shortcomings that undermine the public interest.
One of the most stubborn themes in this regard is the notion, espoused frequently by many charter school critics, that charter schools are promoted mainly by conservatives, republicans, right-wingers, or libertarians. The implication is that democrats, lefties, or progressives are not really major promoters of charter schools and that the real problem is conservatives, republicans, etc.
Prominent democrats who have supported or continue to support these privately-operated contract schools run by unelected individuals include the Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo, the Governor of California Gavin Newsom, President Joe Biden, and former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton also supports charter schools. Even so-called “more lefty” democrats like senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have not really come out and resolutely opposed charter schools. Corey Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Robert “Beto” O’Rourke, Kirsten Gillibrand, and a long list of other democrats also fall into this retrogressive camp. And for their part, Democratic candidates in New York City’s 2021 mayoral race are openly and proudly boasting about their warm embrace of crisis-prone charter schools. It is as if voluminous research and extensive experience exposing endless problems with deregulated charter schools do not even exist; both are instantly wiped out by anti-consciousness.
If one were to examine the record of the country’s 50 governors, 50 state legislatures, all members of Congress, and the mayors of many cities, they would easily find a very large number of democrats who support charter schools or do not put up any serious opposition to them. This pleases the millionaires and billionaires behind charter schools.
Segregated, unaccountable, deunionized charter schools with high teacher turnover rates have always had bipartisan support; they have never been only a republican, conservative, or right-wing phenomenon. Other destructive policies like high-stakes standardized tests and various teacher evaluation systems have also had reliable support from a large number of democrats coast to coast. Democrats at all levels of government have also long supported cuts to education funding and healthcare funding while voting for funding for various wars and imperialist aggression. To be sure, over the decades numerous democrats at all levels of government have supported many different antisocial ideas, policies, and arrangements.
It should be recalled that charter schools are segregated, plagued by corruption, run by unelected individuals, largely deunionized, and unaccountable. Hardly a week goes by without news of someone being arrested in the charter school sector, which represents barely seven percent of all schools. Charter schools also spend lots of money on advertising, act like private entities, dodge transparency, violate open meeting laws, and have more inexperienced teachers and fewer nurses than public schools. They have been known to greatly inflate their student waitlists as well. Hundreds of charter schools close every year for financial malfeasance, mismanagement, or poor academic performance. Many charter schools do not even offer transportation for students, siphon enormous sums of money from under-funded public schools, over-test students, and routinely engage in discriminatory enrollment practices as well. Other problems could be cited.
It is critical to make a clean break from the unaccountable cartel party system of government and come to terms with the demise of liberalism and liberal institutions. Neither can open the path of progress to society. The outdated two parties of the rich have no prosocial solutions and refuse to modernize politics so as to empower the people to be sovereign decision-makers who decide the aim and direction of education and all the other affairs of society. People are under no obligation to “work with” an anachronistic setup that perpetuates the privilege of narrow private interests. People do not want to spend all their time humiliatingly begging politicians to serve the public interest.
Thinking, analyzing, and acting independently and speaking up in our own name is necessary at this time. All the old arrangements are obsolete and cannot open a path forward. The existing liberal democratic political institutions are blocking social progress. In this sense, it is an exciting time to think “outside the box,” to think independently, to think anew, and give rise to a new politics and outlook that rejects the historically superfluous rich and their political representatives. It can be done. In the hands of the people, power can be wielded quickly and decisively to accomplish great things that should have been attained long ago.
There’s been a new public fracturing of the intellectual left, typified by an essay last week from Nathan J Robinson, editor of the small, independent, socialist magazine Current Affairs, accusing Glenn Greenwald and Matt Taibbi of bolstering the right’s arguments. He is the more reasonable face of what seems to be a new industry arguing that Greenwald is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, setting the right’s agenda for it.
Under the title “How to end up serving the right”, Robinson claims that Greenwald and Taibbi, once his intellectual heroes, are – inadvertently or otherwise – shoring up the right’s positions and weakening the left. He accuses them of reckless indifference to the consequences of criticising a “liberal” establishment and making common cause with the right’s similar agenda. Both writers, argues Robinson, have ignored the fact that the right wields the greatest power in our societies.
This appears to be a continuation of a fight Robinson picked last year with Krystal Ball, the leftwing, former co-host of a popular online politics show called The Rising. Robinson attacked her for sharing her platform with the conservative pundit Saagar Enjeti. Ball and Enjeti have since struck out on their own, recently launching a show called Breaking Points.
Notably, Greenwald invited Robinson on to his own YouTube channel to discuss these criticisms of Ball when Robinson first made them. In my opinion, Robinson emerged from that exchange looking more than a little bruised.
As with his clash with Ball, there are problems with Robinson’s fuzzy political definitions.
Somewhat ludicrously in his earlier tussle, he lumped together Enjeti, a thoughtful right wing populist, with figures like Donald Trump and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, both of them narcissists and authoritarians (of varying degrees of competence) that have donned the garb of populism, as authoritarians tend to do.
Similarly, Robinson’s current disagreements with Greenwald and Taibbi stem in part from a vague formulation – one he seems partially to concede – of what constitutes the “left”. Greenwald has always struck me more as a progressive libertarian than a clearcut socialist like Robinson. Differences of political emphasis and priorities are inevitable. They are also healthy.
And much of Robinson’s essay is dedicated to cherrypicking a handful of tweets from Greenwald and Taibbi to make his case. Greenwald, in particular, is a prolific tweeter. And given the combative and polarising arena of Twitter, it would be quite astonishing had he not occasionally advanced his arguments without the nuance demanded by Robinson.
Overall, Robinson’s case against both Greenwald and Taibbi is far less persuasive than he appears to imagine.
But the reason I think it worth examining his essay is because it demonstrates a more fundamental split on what – for the sake of convenience – I shall treat as a broader intellectual left that includes Robinson, Greenwald and Taibbi.
Robinson tries to prop up his argument that Greenwald, in particular, is betraying the left and legitimising the right with an argument from authority, citing some of the left’s biggest icons.
Two, Naomi Klein and Jeremy Scahill, are former journalist colleagues of Greenwald’s at the Intercept, the billionaire-financed online news publication that he co-founded and eventually split from after it broke an editorial promise not to censor his articles.
Greenwald fell out with the editors in spectacularly public fashion late last year after they stifled his attempts to write about the way Silicon Valley and liberal corporate media outlets – not unlike the Intercept – were colluding to stifle negative coverage of Joe Biden in the run-up to the presidential election, in a desperate bid to ensure he beat Trump.
Greenwald’s public statements about his reasons for leaving the Intercept exposed what were effectively institutional failings there – and implicated those like Scahill and Klein who had actively or passively colluded in the editorial censorship of its co-founder. Klein and Scahill are hardly dispassionate commentators on Greenwald when they accuse him of “losing the plot” and “promoting smears”. They have skin in the game.
But Robinson may think his trump (sic) card is an even bigger left icon, Noam Chomsky, who is quoted saying of Greenwald: “He’s a friend, has done wonderful things, I don’t understand what is happening now… I hope it will pass.”
The problem with this way of presenting Greenwald is that the tables can be easily turned. Over the past few years, my feeds – and I am sure others’ – have been filled with followers asking versions of “What happened to Chomsky?” or “What happened to Amy Goodman and Democracy Now?”
The answer to these very reductive questions – what happened to Greenwald and what happened to Chomsky – is the same. Trump happened. And their different responses are illustrative of the way the left polarised during the Trump presidency and how it continues to divide in the post-Trump era.
Robinson treats the Trump factor – what we might term Post-Traumatic Trump Disorder – as though it is irrelevant to his analysis of Greenwald and Taibbi. And yet it lies at the heart of the current tensions on the left. In its simplest terms, the split boils down to the question of how dangerous Trump really was and is, and what that means for the left in terms of its political responses.
Unlike Robinson, I don’t think it is helpful to personalise this. Instead, we should try to understand what has happened to left politics more generally in the Trump and post-Trump era.
Parts of the left joined liberals in becoming fixated on Trump as a uniquely evil and dangerous presence in US politics. Robinson notes that Trump posed an especial and immediate threat to our species’ survival through his denial of climate change, and on these grounds alone every effort had to be made to remove him.
Others on the left recoil from this approach. They warn that, by fixating on Trump, elements of the left have drifted into worryingly authoritarian ways of thinking – sometimes openly, more often implicitly – as a bulwark against the return of Trump or anyone like him.
The apotheosis of such tendencies was the obsession, shared alike by liberals and some on the left, with Russiagate. This supposed scandal highlighted in stark fashion the extreme dangers of focusing on a single figure, in Trump, rather than addressing the wider, corrupt political structures that produced him.
It was not just the massive waste of time and energy that went into trying to prove the unprovable claims of Trump’s collusion with the Kremlin – resources that would have been far better invested in addressing Trump’s real crimes, which were being committed out in the open.
It was that the politically tribal Trump-Russia narrative engulfed and subverted a meaningful politics of resistance. It snared those like Wikileaks founder Julian Assange who had been trying to break open the black box of western politics. It fortified the US security services after they had been exposed by Edward Snowden’s revelations as secretly and illegally conducting mass spying on the public’s communications. It breathed a dangerous credibility into the corrupt Democratic party machine after its embarrassment over engineering Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy. And it revived the fortunes of an increasingly discredited liberal media that quickly won large ratings by promoting fabulists like Rachel Maddow.
Those on the left who tried to challenge Russiagate in order to focus on real political issues were stigmatised as Putin’s puppets, their arguments were labelled “fake news”, and they were gradually algorithmed into social media purdah.
Under the Russiagate banner, parts of the left were soon rallying, however reluctantly, behind corporate champions of the planet-destroying status quo.
But it was even worse than that. The fixation on the obviously hollow Russiagate narrative by the Democratic Party, the corporate media, Silicon Valley, and the US intelligence agencies served to prove to wide swaths of conservative America that Trump was right when he berated a “liberal” establishment for being invested only in its own self-preservation and not caring about ordinary Americans.
Russiagate did not just divide the left, it dramatically strengthened the right.
Free speech dangers
Robinson knows all this, at least intellectually, but perhaps because Trump looms so large in his thinking he does not weigh the significance in the same terms as Greenwald and Taibbi.
The problem with characterising Trump as a supremely evil figure is that all sorts of authoritarian political conclusions flow from that characterisation – precisely the political conclusions we have seen parts of the left adopting. Robinson may not expressly share these conclusions but, unlike Greenwald and Taibbi, he has largely ignored or downplayed the threat they present.
If Trump poses a unique danger to democracy, then to avoid any recurrence:
We are obligated to rally uncritically, or at least very much less critically, behind whoever was selected to be his opponent. Following Trump’s defeat, we are dutybound to restrain our criticisms of the winner, Joe Biden, however poor his performance, in case it opens the door to Trump, or someone like Trump, standing for the presidency in four years’ time.
We must curb free speech and limit the free-for-all of social media in case it contributed to the original surge of support for Trump, or created the more febrile political environment in which Trump flourished.
We must eradicate all signs of populism, whether on the right or the left, because we cannot be sure that in a battle of populisms the left will defeat the right, or that left wing populism cannot be easily flipped into right wing populism.
And most importantly, we must learn to distrust “the masses” – those who elected Trump – because they have demonstrated that they are too easily swayed by emotion, prejudice and charisma. Instead, we must think in more traditional liberal terms, of rule by technocrats and “experts” who can be trusted to run our societies largely in secret but provide a stability that should keep any Trumps out of power.
Greenwald and Taibbi have been focusing precisely on this kind of political fallout from the Trump presidency. And it looks suspiciously like this, as much as anything else, is what is antagonising Robinson and others.
Greenwald’s own experiences at the Intercept underline his concerns. It was not just that Greenwald was forced out over his efforts late last year to talk about the documents found on Hunter Biden’s laptop and the questions they raised about his father, the man who was about to become US president. It was that the Intercept stopped Greenwald from talking about how the entire liberal corporate media and all of Silicon Valley were actively conspiring to crush any attempt to talk about those documents and their significance – and not on the basis of whether they were genuine or not.
Greenwald walked away from what amounted to a very well-paid sinecure at the Intercept to highlight this all-out assault on democratic discourse and the election process – an assault whose purpose was not the search for truth but to prevent any danger of Trump being re-elected. By contrast, in a tweet thread that has not aged well, Robinson along with many others quibbled about the specifics of Greenwald’s case and whether it amounted to censorship, very much ignoring the wood for the trees.
Now that @ggreenwald's Biden article has been published, the relevant question for evaluating whether the Intercept was justified in refusing to publish it is: are its claims false/insufficiently supported? How did it fall short of publication standards? https://t.co/5CwJT72XpC
Greenwald and Taibbi talk so much about the role of the traditional media and Silicon Valley because they understand that the media’s professed liberalism – claims to be protecting the rights of women, ethnic minorities and the trans community – is a very effective way of prettifying corporate authoritarianism, an authoritarianism the left claims to be fighting but has readily endorsed once it has been given a liberal makeover.
It is not that the “liberal” establishment – the corporate media, Silicon Valley, the intelligence services – is actually liberal. It is that liberals have come increasingly to identify with that establishment as sharing their values.
For this reason, Robinson obscures the real nature of the divide on the left when he discusses the power of the Supreme Court. He criticises Greenwald and Taibbi for ignoring the fact that the right exercises absolute power through its packing of the court with rightwing judges. He accuses them of instead unfairly emphasising the power exercised by this “liberal” establishment.
But despite Robinson’s claims, the Supreme Court very obviously doesn’t wield “all the power”, even with its veto over legislation and actions of the administration. Because an even greater power is invested in those institutions that can control the public’s ability to access and interpret information; to find out what is being done in the shadows; and to make choices based on that information, including about who should represent them.
Information control and narrative management are the deepest forms of power because they shape our ability to think critically, to resist propaganda, to engage in dialogue and to forge alliances that might turn the tide against a profoundly corrupt establishment that includes both the Supreme Court and Silicon Valley. Robinson ignores this point in his essay, even though it is fundamental to assessing “What happened to Greenwald and Taibbi?”. A commitment to keeping channels of information open and ensuring dialogue continues, even in the post-Trump era, is what happened to them.
Hard drives smashed
The crux of Robinson’s argument is that Greenwald and Taibbi have made a pact with the devil, gradually chaining their more progressive credentials to a Trumpian rightwing populism to defeat the “liberal” establishment. That, Robinson suggests, will only strengthen and embolden the right, and ensure the return of a Trump.
The evidence Robinson and others adduce for Greenwald’s betrayal, in particular, are his now regular appearances on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, where Greenwald and Carlson often find common ground against the authoritarian excesses of that same “liberal” establishment.
That should not surprise us. Carlson and the right have an interest in the break-up of Silicon Valley’s tech monopolies that favour a Democratic Party authoritarianism over their own Republican Party authoritarianism. Greenwald has an interest in the break-up of Silicon Valley’s tech monopolies too but for a very different reason: because he is against monopolies designed to keep the public propagandised and manipulated.
Opposing them both is an authoritarian “liberal” establishment – the Democratic Party, traditional corporate media, Silicon Valley, the intelligence services – that have every interest in perpetuating their control over the tech monopolies.
Robinson contrasts Greenwald’s behaviour to his own clean hands as the editor of the small socialist magazine, Current Affairs.
But we should note that Robinson has compromised himself far more than he cares to admit. For several years he used the liberal corporate outlet of the Guardian as a platform from which to present a watered-down version of his own socialist politics. To do so, he had to ignore the paper’s appalling record of warmongering abroad and of subverting socialists like Jeremy Corbyn at home.
Robinson finally came unstuck when a Guardian editor effectively fired him for writing a satirical tweet about the huge sums of aid given by the US to Israel each year to kill and maim Palestinians under occupation and destroy their infrastructure.
My latest: In sacking a columnist over a tweet criticising US military aid to Israel, the Guardian wasn't stopping 'antisemitism'. It was policing speech to stop the left drawing attention to the continuing colonial nature of western societies https://t.co/E2gORnn5x8
One can debate whether it is wise for the left to use essentially hostile corporate platforms – liberal or conservative – to advance its arguments. But that is not the debate Robinson is trying to provoke. And for obvious reasons: because in piggybacking on the Guardian, Robinson did what Greenwald has done in piggybacking on Tucker Carlson. Both have used the reach of a larger corporate outlet to build their audience and expand the number of people exposed to their more progressive ideas.
There is an apparent difference, though. In Robinson’s case, he has admitted with impressive frankness that he would have been willing to self-censor on Israel had he been told by the Guardian beforehand that speaking out was likely to cost him his job. That sets his own position apart from Greenwald, who decided to walk from the Intercept rather than allow his work to be censored.
Nonetheless, it is far from clear, as Robinson assumes, that liberal corporate outlets are a safer bet for the left to ally with than rightwing corporate outlets.
Greenwald, remember, was eased out of the “liberal” Guardian many years before Robinson’s sacking after he brought the paper the glory associated with the Snowden revelations while also incurring the intelligence services’ wrath. Those revelations exposed the dark underbelly of the US national security state under the “liberal” presidency of Barack Obama, not Trump. And years later, Greenwald was again pushed out, this time from the supposedly even more “liberal” Intercept as part of its efforts to protect Biden, Obama’s Democratic party successor.
Greenwald wasn’t dispatched from these publications for being too righ-twing. Tensions escalated at the Guardian over the security service backlash to Greenwald’s unwavering commitment to free speech and transparency – just as the Guardian earlier fell out with Assange faced with the security services’ retaliation for Wikileaks’ exposure of western war crimes.
The Guardian’s own commitment to transparency was surrendered with its agreement to carry out the UK security services’ demand that it smash hard drives packed with Snowden’s secrets. The destruction of those files may have been largely symbolic (there were copies in the possession of the New York Times) but the message it sent to the left and to the UK intelligence agencies was clear enough: from now on, the Guardian was resolutely going to be a team player.
What these experiences with the Guardian and the Intercept doubtless demonstrated to Greenwald was that his most fundamental political principles were essentially incompatible with those of the “liberal” media – and all the more so in the Trump era. The priority for liberal publications was not truth-telling or hosting all sides of the debate but frantically shoring up the authority of a “moderate” technocratic elite, one that would ensure a stable neoliberal environment in which it could continue its wealth extraction and accumulation.
Robinson implies that Greenwald has been embittered by these experiences, and is petulantly hitting back against the “liberal” establishment without regard to the consequences. But a fairer reading would be that Greenwald is fighting against kneejerk, authoritarian instincts wherever they are found in our societies – on the right, the centre and the left.
The irony is that he appears to be getting a better hearing on Tucker Carlson than he does at the Guardian or the Intercept. Contrary to Robinson’s claim, that says more about the Guardian and the so-called liberal media than it does about Greenwald.
Captured by wokeness
Robinson also misrepresents what Greenwald and Taibbi are trying to do when they appear on rightwing media.
First, he gives every impression of arguing that, by appearing on the Tucker Carlson show, Greenwald naively hopes to persuade Carlson to switch allegiance from a right wing to left wing populism. But Greenwald doesn’t go on the Tucker Carlson show to turn its host into a leftist. He appears on the show to reach and influence Carlson’s millions of viewers, who do not have the same investment in neoliberalism’s continuing success as the multi-millionaire Carlson does.
Is Greenwald’s calculation any more unreasonable than Robinson’s belief while writing for the Guardian that he might succeed in turning the Guardian’s liberal readers into socialists? Is Robinson right to assume that liberals are any less committed to their selfish political worldview than the right? Or that – when their side is losing – liberal readers of the Guardian are any less susceptible to authoritarianism than rightwing viewers of Fox News?
Robinson also wrongly accuses Greenwald and Taibbi of suggesting that the CIA and major corporations have, in Robinson’s words, “become captured by culturally left ‘woke’ ideology”. But neither writer appears to believe that Black Lives Matter or #MeToo is dictating policy to the establishment. The pair are arguing instead that the CIA and the corporations are exploiting and manipulating “woke” ideology to advance their own authoritarian agendas.
Their point is not that the establishment is liberal but rather that it can more credibly market itself as liberal or progressive when a Trump is in power or when it is feared that a Trump might return to power. And that perception weakens truly progressive politics. By donning the garb of liberalism, elites are able to twist the values and objectives of social movements in ways designed to damage them and foster greater social divisions.
A feminism that celebrates women taking all the top jobs at the big arms manufacturers – the corporations whose business is the murder of men, women and children – is not really feminism. It is a perversion of feminism. Similarly, establishment claims to “wokeness” provide cover as western elites internally divide their own societies and dominate or destroy foreign ones.
“Woke authoritarianism”, as Robinson mockingly terms it, is not an attribute of wokeness. It is a description of one specific incarnation of authoritarianism that is currently favoured by an establishment that, in the post-Trump era, has managed more successfully to cast itself as liberal.
The central issue here – the one Robinson raises but avoids discussing – is what political conditions are most likely to foster authoritarianism in the US and other western states, and what can be done to reverse those conditions.
For Robinson, the answer is reassuringly straightforward. Trump and his rightwing populism pose the biggest threat, and the Democratic party – however dismal its leaders – is the only available vehicle for countering that menace. Therefore, left journalists have a duty to steer clear of arguments or associations that might confer legitimacy on the right.
For Greenwald and Taibbi, the picture looks far more complicated, treacherous and potentially bleak.
Trump fundamentally divided the US. For a significant section of the public, he answered their deep-seated and intensifying disenchantment with a political system that appears to be rigged against their interests after its wholesale takeover by corporate elites decades ago. He offered hope, however false.
For others, Trump threatened to topple the liberal facade the corporate elites had erected to sanctify their rule. He dispensed with the liberal pieties that had so effectively served to conceal US imperialism abroad and to maintain the fiction of democracy at home. His election tore the mask off everything that was already deeply ugly about the US political system.
Did that glimpse into the abyss fuel the sense of urgency among liberals and parts of the left to be rid of Trump at all costs – and the current desperation to prevent him or someone like him from returning to the Oval Office, even if it means further trashing free speech and transparency?
In essence, the dilemma the left now faces is this:
To work with the Democrats, with liberals, who are desperate to put the mask back on the system, to shore up its deceptions, so that political stability can be restored – a stability that is waging war around the globe, that is escalating the threat of super-power tensions and nuclear annihilation, and that is destroying the planet.
Or to keep the mask off, and work with those elements of the populist left and right that share a commitment to free speech and transparency, in the hope that through open debate we can expose the current rule by an unaccountable, authoritarian technocratic class and its corporate patrons masquerading as “liberals”.
The truth is we may be caught between a rock and hard place. Even as the warning signs mount, liberals may stick with the comfort blanket of rule by self-professed experts to the bitter end, to the point of economic and ecological collapse. And conservatives may, at the end of the day, prove that their commitment to free speech and disdain for corporate elites is far weaker than their susceptibility to narcissist strongmen.
Robinson no more has a crystal ball to see the future than Greenwald. Both are making decisions in the dark. For that reason, Robinson and his allies on the left would be better advised to stop claiming they hold the moral high ground.
Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is as much American as he is Israeli. While other Israeli leaders have made their strong relationship with Washington a cornerstone in their politics, Netanyahu’s political style was essentially American from the start.
Netanyahu spent many of his formative years in the United States. He lived in Philadelphia as a child, graduated from Cheltenham High School and earned a degree in Management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1976. He then opted to live in the US, not Israel, when he joined the Boston Consulting Group.
Presumably for familial reasons, namely the death of his brother Yonatan, Netanyahu returned to Israel in 1978 to head the ‘Yonatan Netanyahu Anti-Terror Institute’. This did not last for long. He returned to the US to serve as Israel’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 1984 to 1988. At the time, Israel was ruled by a coalition government, which saw the rotation of two different prime ministers, Labor Party leader, Shimon Peres and Likud leader, Yitzhak Shamir.
Then, terms like ‘Labor’ and ‘Likud’ meant very little to most American politicians. The US Congress was, seemingly, in love with Israel. For them, Israeli politics was a mere internal matter. Things have changed in the following years, in which Netanyahu played a major role.
Even in the last three decades when Netanyahu became more committed to Israeli politics, he remained, at heart, American. His relationship with US elites was different from that of previous Israeli leaders. Not only were his political ideas and intellect molded in the US, he also managed to generate a unique political brand of pro-Israel solidarity among Americans. In the US, Netanyahu is a household name.
One of the successes attributed to Netanyahu’s approach to American politics was the formation of deep and permanent ties with the country’s burgeoning Christian fundamentalist groups. These groups, such as John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel, used the support for Israel – based on messianic and biblical prophecies – as a point of unity and a stepping stone into the world of politics. Israel’s Netanyahu used them as reliable allies who, eventually, made up for the growing lack of enthusiasm for Israel among liberal and progressive circles across the US.
The Israel-evangelical connection may have seemed, at the time, a masterful stroke that could be attributed to the political ‘genius’ of Netanyahu. Indeed, it looked as if Netanyahu had guaranteed American loyalty to Israel indefinitely. This assertion was demonstrated repeatedly, especially as the fundamentalists came to Israel’s rescue whenever the latter engaged in war or faced any threat, whether imagined or fabricated.
As American politics shifted towards more populist, demagogic and conservative ideologies, the evangelicals moved closer to the centers of power in Capitol Hill. Note how Tea-party conservatism, one of the early sparks of the chaotic Trumpism that followed, was purportedly madly in love with Israel. The once marginal political camps, whose political discourses are driven by a strange amalgamation of prophecies and realpolitik, eventually became the ‘base’ of US President Donald Trump. Trump had no other option but to make the support for Israel a core value to his political campaign. His base would have never accepted any alternative.
A prevailing argument often suggests that Netanyahu’s mortal error was making Israel a domestic American issue. Whereas the Republicans support Israel – thanks to their massive evangelical constituency – the Democrats have slowly turned against Israel, an unprecedented phenomenon that only existed under Netanyahu. While this is true, it is also misleading, as it suggests that Netanyahu simply miscalculated. But he did not. In fact, Netanyahu has fostered a strong relationship with the various evangelical groups, long before Trump pondered the possibility of moving to the White House. Netanyahu simply wanted to change the center of gravity of the US relationship with Israel, which he accomplished.
For Netanyahu, the support of the American conservative camp was not a mere strategy to simply garner support for Israel, but an ideologically motivated choice, linking Netanyahu’s own beliefs to American politics using the Christian fundamentalists as a vehicle. This assertion can be demonstrated in a recent headline from The Times of Israel: “Top evangelical leader warns: Israel could lose our support if Netanyahu ousted.”
This ‘top evangelical leader’ is Mike Evans who, from Jerusalem, declared that “Bibi Netanyahu is the only man in the world that unites evangelicals.” Evans vowed to take his 77 million followers to the opposition of any Israeli government without Netanyahu. Much can be gleaned from this but, most importantly, US evangelicals consider themselves fundamental to Israeli politics, their support for Israel being conditioned on Netanyahu’s centrality in that very Israeli body politic.
In recent weeks, many comparisons between Netanyahu and Trump began surfacing. These comparisons are apt, but the issue is slightly more complex than merely comparing political styles, selective discourses and personas. Actually, both Trumpism and Netanyahu’s brand of Likudism – call it Netanyahu-ism – have successfully merged US and Israeli politics in a way that is almost impossible to disentangle. This shall continue to prove costly for Israel, as the evangelical and Republican support for Israel is clearly conditioned on the latter’s ability to serve the US conservative political – let alone spiritual – agenda.
Similarities between Trump and Netanyahu are obvious but they are also rather superficial. Both are narcissistic politicians, who are willing to destabilize their own countries to remain in power, as if they both live by the French maxim, Après moi, le déluge – “After me, the flood”. More, both railed against the elites, and placed fringe political trends – often marred by chauvinistic and fascist political views – at center stage. They both spoke of treason and fraud, played the role of the victim, posed as the only possible saviors, and so on.
But popular political trends of this nature cannot be wholly associated with individuals. Indeed, it was Trump and Netanyahu who tapped into, and exploited, existing political phenomena which, arguably, would have taken place with or without them. The painful truth is that Trumpism will survive long after Trump is gone and Netanyahu-ism has likely changed the face of Israel, regardless of Netanyahu’s next step.
Whatever that next step may be, it will surely be situated in the same familiar base of Netanyahu’s angry army of Israeli right-wing zealots and Christian fundamentalists in the US and elsewhere.
Thomas Friedman’s recent column in the New York Times reflecting on Israel’s 11-day destruction of Gaza is a showcase for the delusions of liberal Zionism: a constellation of thought that has never looked so threadbare. It seems that every liberal newspaper needs a Thomas Friedman – the UK’s Guardian has Jonathan Freedland – whose role is to keep readers from considering realistic strategies for Israel-Palestine, however often and catastrophically the established ones have failed. In this case, Friedman’s plea for Joe Biden to preserve the ‘potential of a two-state solution’ barely conceals his real goal: resuscitating the discourse of an illusory ‘peace process’ from which everyone except liberal Zionists has moved on. His fear is that the debate is quietly shifting outside this framework – towards the recognition that Israel is a belligerent apartheid regime, and the conclusion that one democratic state for Palestinians and Jews is now the only viable solution.
For more than five decades, the two-state solution – of a large, ultra-militarized state for Israel, and a much smaller, demilitarized one for Palestinians – has been the sole paradigm of the Western political and media class. During these years, a Palestinian state failed to materialize despite (or more likely because of) various US-backed ‘peace processes’. While Americans and Europeans have consoled themselves with such fantasies, Israel has only paid them lip-service, enforcing a de facto one-state solution premised on Jewish supremacy over Palestinians, and consolidating its control over the entire territory.
But in recent years, Israel’s naked settler-colonial actions have imperiled that Western paradigm. It has become increasingly evident that Israel is incapable of making peace with the Palestinians because its state ideology – Zionism – is based on their removal or eradication. What history has taught us is that the only just and lasting way to end a ‘conflict’ between a native population and a settler-colonial movement is decolonization, plus the establishment of a single, shared, democratic state. Otherwise, the settlers continue to pursue their replacement strategies – which invariably include ethnic cleansing, communal segregation and genocide. These were precisely the tactics adopted by European colonists in the Americas, Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Friedman’s function in the Western media – conscious or not – is to obfuscate these historical lessons, tapping into a long legacy of unthinking colonial racism.
One of the central pillars of that legacy is an abiding fear of the native and his supposedly natural savagery. This has always been the unspoken assumption behind the interminable two-state ‘peace process’. A civilized and civilizing West tries to broker a ‘peace deal’ to protect Israel from the Palestinian hordes next door. But the Palestinians continuously ‘reject’ these peace overtures because of their savage nature – which is in turn presented as the reason why Israel must ethnically cleanse them and herd them into reservations, or Bantustans, away from Jewish settlers. Occasionally, Israel is forced to ‘retaliate’ – or defend itself from this savagery – in what becomes an endless ‘cycle of violence’. The West supports Israel with military aid and preferential trade, while watching with exasperation as the Palestinian leadership fails to discipline its people.
Friedman is an expert at exploiting this colonial mentality. He often avoids taking direct responsibility for his racist assumptions, attributing them to ‘centrist Democrats’ or other right-minded observers. Coded language is his stock in trade, serving to heighten the unease felt by western audiences as the natives try to regain a measure of control over their future. In some cases the prejudicial framing is overt, as with his concern about the threat of an ascendant Hamas to women’s and LGBTQ rights, couched in an identity politics he knows will resonate with NYT readers. But more often his framing is insidious, with terms like ‘decimate’ and ‘blow up’ deployed to cast Palestinians’ desire for self-determination as violent and menacing.
Friedman’s promotion of the two-state model offers a three-layered deception. First, he writes that the two-state solution would bring ‘peace’, without acknowledging that the condition for that peace is the Palestinians’ permanent ghettoization and subjugation. Second, he blames the Palestinians for rejecting just such ‘peace plans’, even though they have never been seriously offered by Israel. And finally, he has the chutzpah to imply that it was the Palestinians’ failure to negotiate a two-state solution that ‘decimated’ the Israeli ‘peace camp’.
Such arguments are not only based on Friedman’s dehumanizing view of Arabs. They are also tied to his domestic political concerns. He fears that if Joe Biden were to acknowledge the reality that Israel has sabotaged the two-state solution, then the President might disengage once and for all from the ‘peace process’. Of course, most Palestinians would welcome such an end to US interference: the billions of dollars funnelled annually to the Israeli military, the US diplomatic cover for Israel, and the arm-twisting of other states to silently accept its atrocities. But, Friedman argues, this withdrawal would carry a heavy price at home, setting off a civil war within Biden’s own party and within Jewish organizations across the US. God forbid, it might ‘even lead to bans on arms sales’ to Israel.
Friedman reminds us of Israeli businessman Gidi Grinstein’s warning that in the absence of a ‘potential’ two-state solution, US support for Israel could morph ‘from a bipartisan issue to a wedge issue’. The columnist writes that preserving the two-state ‘peace process’, however endless and hopeless, is ‘about our national security interests in the Middle East’. How does Friedman define these interests? They are reducible, he says, to ‘the political future of the centrist faction of the Democratic Party.’ A ‘peace process’ once designed to salve the consciences of Americans while enabling the dispossession of Palestinians has now been redefined as a vital US national security issue – because, for Friedman, its survival is necessary to preserve the dominance of foreign policy hawks in the Democratic machine. The argument echoes Biden’s extraordinarily frank admission made back in 1986 that ‘were there not an Israel the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her interests in the region’.
Friedman then concludes his article with a set of proposals that unwittingly expose the true consequences of a two-state settlement. He insists that Biden build on his predecessor’s much ridiculed ‘peace plan’, which gave US blessing to Israel’s illegal settlements on vast swaths of the occupied West Bank, penning Palestinians into their Bantustans indefinitely. Trump’s plan also sought to entrench Israel’s control over occupied East Jerusalem, remake Gaza as a permanent battlefield on which rivalries between Fatah and Hamas would intensify, and turn the wealth of the theocratic Gulf states into a weapon, fully integrating Israel into the region’s economy while making the Palestinians even more dependent on foreign aid. Polite NYT opinionators now want Biden to sell these measures as a re-engagement with the ‘peace process’.
The US, writes Friedman, should follow Trump in stripping the Palestinians of a capital in East Jerusalem – the economic, religious and historic heart of Palestine. Arab states should reinforce this dispossession by moving their embassies from Tel Aviv to West Jerusalem. Neighbouring countries are encouraged to pressure the Palestinian Authority, via aid payments, to accede even more cravenly to Israel’s demands. (Of course, Friedman does not think it worth mentioning that Palestine is aid-dependent because Israel has either stolen or seized control of all its major resources.)
Once this subordinate position is guaranteed, divisions within the Palestinian national movement can be inflamed by making Hamas – plus the two million Palestinians in Gaza – dependent on the PA’s patronage. Friedman wants the Fatah-led PA to decide whether to send aid to the Gaza Strip or join Israel in besieging the enclave to weaken Hamas. For good measure, he also urges the Gulf states to cut off support to the United Nations aid agencies, like UNRWA, which have kept millions of Palestinian refugees fed and cared for since 1948. The international community’s already feeble commitment to the rights of Palestinian refugees will thus be broken, and the diaspora will be forcibly absorbed into their host countries.
Such proposals are the last gasp of a discredited liberal Zionism. Friedman visibly flounders as he tries to put the emperor’s clothes back on a two-state solution which stands before us in all its ugliness. The Western model of ‘peace-making’ was always about preserving Jewish supremacy. Now, at least, the illusions are gone.
The U.S. corporate media usually report on Israeli military assaults in occupied Palestine as if the United States is an innocent neutral party to the conflict. In fact, large majorities of Americans have told pollsters for decades that they want the United States to be neutral in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
But U.S. media and politicians betray their own lack of neutrality by blaming Palestinians for nearly all the violence and framing flagrantly disproportionate, indiscriminate and therefore illegal Israeli attacks as a justifiable response to Palestinian actions. The classic formulation from U.S. officials and commentators is that “Israel has the right to defend itself,” never “Palestinians have the right to defend themselves,” even as the Israelis massacre hundreds of Palestinian civilians, destroy thousands of Palestinian homes and seize ever more Palestinian land.
The disparity in casualties in Israeli assaults on Gaza speaks for itself.
At the time of writing, the current Israeli assault on Gaza has killed at least 200 people, including 59 children and 35 women, while rockets fired from Gaza have killed 10 people in Israel, including 2 children.
In response to largely peaceful “March of Return” protests at the Israel-Gaza border in 2018, Israeli snipers killed 183 Palestinians and wounded over 6,100, including 122 that required amputations, 21 paralyzed by spinal cord injuries and 9 permanently blinded.
As with the Saudi-led war on Yemen and other serious foreign policy problems, biased and distorted news coverage by U.S. corporate media leaves many Americans not knowing what to think. Many simply give up trying to sort out the rights and wrongs of what is happening and instead blame both sides, and then focus their attention closer to home, where the problems of society impact them more directly and are easier to understand and do something about.
So how should Americans respond to horrific images of bleeding, dying children and homes reduced to rubble in Gaza? The tragic relevance of this crisis for Americans is that, behind the fog of war, propaganda and commercialized, biased media coverage, the United States bears an overwhelming share of responsibility for the carnage taking place in Palestine.
U.S. policy has perpetuated the crisis and atrocities of the Israeli occupation by unconditionally supporting Israel in three distinct ways: militarily, diplomatically and politically.
On the military front, since the creation of the Israeli state, the United States has provided $146 billion in foreign aid, nearly all of it military-related. It currently provides $3.8 billion per year in military aid to Israel.
In addition, the United States is the largest seller of weapons to Israel, whose military arsenal now includes 362 U.S.-built F-16 warplanes and 100 other U.S. military aircraft, including a growing fleet of the new F-35s; at least 45 Apache attack helicopters; 600 M-109 howitzers and 64 M270 rocket-launchers. At this very moment, Israel is using many of these U.S.-supplied weapons in its devastating bombardment of Gaza.
The U.S. military alliance with Israel also involves joint military exercises and joint production of Arrow missiles and other weapons systems. The U.S. and Israeli militaries have collaborated on drone technologies tested by the Israelis in Gaza. In 2004, the United States called on Israeli forces with experience in the Occupied Territories to give tactical training to U.S. Special Operations Forces as they confronted popular resistance to the United States’ hostile military occupation of Iraq.
The U.S. military also maintains a $1.8 billion stockpile of weapons at six locations in Israel, pre-positioned for use in future U.S. wars in the Middle East. During the Israeli assault on Gaza in 2014, even as the U.S. Congress suspended some weapons deliveries to Israel, it approved handing over stocks of 120mm mortar shells and 40mm grenade launcher ammunition from the U.S. stockpile for Israel to use against Palestinians in Gaza.
Diplomatically, the United States has exercised its veto in the UN Security Council 82 times, and 44 of those vetoes have been to shield Israel from accountability for war crimes or human rights violations. In every single case, the United States has been the lone vote against the resolution, although a few other countries have occasionally abstained.
It is only the United States’ privileged position as a veto-wielding Permanent Member of the Security Council, and its willingness to abuse that privilege to shield its ally Israel, that gives it this unique power to stymie international efforts to hold the Israeli government accountable for its actions under international law.
The result of this unconditional U.S. diplomatic shielding of Israel has been to encourage increasingly barbaric Israeli treatment of the Palestinians. With the United States blocking any accountability in the Security Council, Israel has seized ever more Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, uprooted more and more Palestinians from their homes and responded to the resistance of largely unarmed people with ever-increasing violence, detentions and restrictions on day-to-day life.
Thirdly, on the political front, despite most Americans supporting neutrality in the conflict, AIPAC and other pro-Israel lobbying groups have exercised an extraordinary role in bribing and intimidating U.S. politicians to provide unconditional support for Israel.
The roles of campaign contributors and lobbyists in the corrupt U.S. political system make the United States uniquely vulnerable to this kind of influence peddling and intimidation, whether it is by monopolistic corporations and industry groups like the Military-Industrial Complex and Big Pharma, or well-funded interest groups like the NRA, AIPAC and, in recent years, lobbyists for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
On April 22, just weeks before this latest assault on Gaza, the overwhelming majority of congresspeople, 330 out of 435, signed a letter to the chair and ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee opposing any reduction or conditioning of US monies to Israel. The letter represented a show of force from AIPAC and a repudiation of calls from some progressives in the Democratic Party to condition or otherwise restrict aid to Israel.
President Joe Biden, who has a long history of supporting Israeli crimes, responded to the latest massacre by insisting on Israel’s “right to defend itself” and inanely hoping that “this will be closing down sooner than later.” His UN ambassador also shamefully blocked a call for a ceasefire at the UN Security Council.
The silence and worse from President Biden and most of our representatives in Congress at the massacre of civilians and mass destruction of Gaza is unconscionable. The independent voices speaking out forcefully for Palestinians, including Senator Sanders and Representatives Tlaib, Omar and Ocasio-Cortez, show us what real democracy looks like, as do the massive protests that have filled U.S. streets all over the country.
US policy must be reversed to reflect international law and the shifting US opinion in favor of Palestinian rights. Every Member of Congress must be pushed to sign the bill introduced by Rep. Betty McCollum insisting that US funds to Israel are not used “to support the military detention of Palestinian children, the unlawful seizure, appropriation, and destruction of Palestinian property and forcible transfer of civilians in the West Bank, or further annexation of Palestinian land in violation of international law.”
Congress must also be pressured to quickly enforce the Arms Export Control Act and the Leahy Laws to stop supplying any more U.S. weapons to Israel until it stops using them to attack and kill civilians.
The United States has played a vital and instrumental role in the decades-long catastrophe that has engulfed the people of Palestine. U.S. leaders and politicians must now confront their country’s and, in many cases, their own personal complicity in this catastrophe, and act urgently and decisively to reverse U.S. policy to support full human rights for all Palestinians.