Category Archives: The Pentagon

Iron Dome: Don’t be deceived, US aid to Israel is not about saving lives

Battles in the US Congress that erupted again this week, holding up an extra $1bn in military funding for Israel, underscored just how divorced from reality the conversation about US financial aid to Israel has become, even among many critics.

For 48 hours last month, a small group of progressive Democrats in the US House of Representatives succeeded in sabotaging a measure to pick up the bill for Israel to replenish its Iron Dome interception missiles. The Iron Dome system was developed by Israel, with generous financial backing from successive US administrations, in the wake of the 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon. Today, it ostensibly serves to protect Israel from short-range, largely improvised rockets fired intermittently out of Gaza.

Supplies of the Iron Dome missiles, each of which cost at least $50,000, were depleted back in May, when Israel triggered widespread confrontations with Palestinians by intensifying its settlement of Palestinian neighbourhoods near Jerusalem’s Old City and violently raiding al-Aqsa Mosque. Palestinian militant groups fired large numbers of rockets out of Gaza, which has been blockaded by Israel for the past 15 years. Iron Dome intercepted the rockets before they could land in Israel.

The group of progressive Democrats, known popularly as the Squad, scotched an initial move by their congressional leadership to include the $1bn assistance to Israel in US budget legislation. But the money for Iron Dome was quickly reintroduced as a stand-alone bill that passed overwhelmingly, with 420 votes in favour and nine against. Two representatives, one of them the prominent Squad member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,  voted “present” – counting effectively as an abstention.

This week, the furore moved to the Senate when Rand Paul, a strong Republican critic of US foreign aid, refused to nod through the bill and thereby give it unanimous assent. It will now need to go through a more complicated legislative process.

The latest funding for Iron Dome comes in addition to the $3.8bn Israel receives annually from the US in military aid, which has made Israel the biggest recipient, by far, of such largesse. Putting the new tranche of Iron Dome aid into perspective, it is twice what Washington contributes annually to Nato’s budget.

The previous administration, under former President Donald Trump, turned US funding for Nato into a big domestic controversy, arguing that the US was shouldering too much of the burden. But there has been barely a peep about the massive military bill the US is footing for Iron Dome.

Debate stifled

The Squad’s main achievement in launching its brief blocking move was to force out into the open the fact that the US is paying for Israel’s stockpile of missiles. Like the House leadership, the Israel lobby had hoped the money could be transferred quietly, without attracting attention.

What little debate did ensue related to whether Israel really needs US military assistance. A few commentators asked why Washington was kitting out one of the richer countries on the planet with missiles in the midst of a pandemic that has hit the US economy hard.

But the lobby quickly stifled a far more important debate about whether the US should be encouraging Israel’s use of Iron Dome at all. Instead, US funding for the interception missile system was presented as being motivated solely by a desire to save lives.

In attacking Paul’s decision to block the bill, the biggest pro-Israel lobby group in Congress, AIPAC, argued this week that his move would “cost innocent lives, make war more likely, and embolden Iran-backed terrorists”.

It was precisely the claim that the Iron Dome is defensive that appeared to push Ocasio-Cortez, usually seen as one of the few US politicians openly critical of Israel, into a corner, leading to her abstention.

Images from the House floor showed her tearful and being given a hug by another representative after the vote. She later attributed her distress in part to how Iron Dome funding had a polarising effect at home, noting that the House bill was a “reckless” move to “rip our communities apart”.

That was an apparent reference to factional tensions within the Democratic Party between, on one side, many Jewish voters who back what they see as Israel’s right to defend itself and, on the other, many Black and Hispanic voters who think it is wrong for the US to financially support Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.

Some saw her indecision as evidence of her ambitions to run for the Senate, where positions critical of Israel would be more likely to damage her prospects of success.

Expiring in silence

In Israel, and in Jewish communities beyond, the conversation about US support for Iron Dome is even more detached from reality. The nine US representatives who voted against were roundly castigated for willing the deaths of Israelis by voting to deny them protection from rockets fired from Gaza. In predictable fashion, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, called those who voted against “either ignorant or antisemitic”.

But some liberals took the argument in a different, even more fanciful direction. They called the Squad “hypocrites” for voting against the $1bn funding, arguing that Iron Dome missiles not only save Israelis, but Palestinians too. One Haaretz commentator went so far as to claim that Palestinians were actually the main beneficiaries of the Iron Dome system, arguing: “The fact Israel has a defensive shield against rocket attacks makes a wide-scale military operation with thousands of – mainly Palestinian – casualties less likely.”

Of course, there is the small question of whether Israel has indeed been “forced” into its attacks on Gaza. It is precisely its military superiority – paid for by the US – that has freed it to carry out those massive attacks, in which large numbers of Palestinians, including hundreds of children, are killed, rather than negotiate an end to its decades-long occupation.

Just as in life, bullies resort to intimidation and violence because they feel no need to compromise. But even more to the point, Iron Dome is central to Israel’s efforts to keep Palestinians imprisoned in Gaza, entirely subjugated and stripped of any power to resist.

With Israel patrolling tiny Gaza’s land borders and coast, sealing off the enclave from the rest of the world, Palestinians have few options to protest their slow starvation – or to gain attention for their plight. Israeli snipers have fired on Palestinians staging unarmed, mass protests at the fence caging them in, killing and wounding thousands. The Israeli navy fires on or sinks Palestinian boats, including fishing boats, in Gaza’s waters if they stray more than a few kilometres from the shore.

Iron Dome, far from being defensive, is another weapon in Israel’s armoury to keep Palestinians subdued, impoverished, corralled and silent. For those claiming to want peace in Israel-Palestine, the extra funding for Iron Dome just made that prospect even less likely. As long as Palestinians can be made to slowly expire in silence – their plight ignored by the rest of the world – Israel is free to seize and colonise yet more of what was supposed to become a future Palestinian state.

Systems of domination

But there is another reason why Ocasio-Cortez should have voted against the Iron Dome resupply, rather than tearfully abstaining – and that is for all our sakes, not just the sake of Palestinians.

The US foots the bill for Iron Dome, just as it does for most of Israel’s other weapons development, for self-interested reasons: because it helps its own war industries, as Washington seeks to maintain its military dominance globally.

With western populations less willing to sacrifice their sons and daughters for the sake of modern wars, which seem less obviously related to defence and more transparently about the control of key resources, the Pentagon has worked overtime to reframe the public debate.

It is hard to disguise its global domination industries as anything but offensive in nature. This is where Israel has played a critical role. Not only has Israel helped to develop weapons systems like Iron Dome, but – despite being a nuclear-armed, belligerent, occupying state – it has leveraged its image as a vulnerable refuge for the long-persecuted Jewish people. It has been able to make more plausible the case that these domination systems really are defensive.

In recent decades, Israel has developed and tested drone technology to surveil and assassinate Palestinians, which has proved invaluable in the US and UK’s long-term occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. Israel’s latest “swarm” technology – making drones even more lethal – may prove particularly attractive to the Pentagon.

Israel has also been the ideal partner for the Pentagon in testing and refining the battlefield use of the new generation of F-35 fighter planes, the most expensivemilitary product in US history. Uniquely, Israel has been allowed to customise the jet, adapting its capabilities in new, unforeseen ways.

Bowing to US hegemony

The F-35’s ultimate role is to make sure major rival airforces, such as Russia’s and China’s, are elbowed out of the skies. And Israel has been at the forefront of developing and testing a variety of missile interception systems, such as Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and Arrow, which are intended to destroy incoming projectiles, from short-range rockets to long-range missiles.

Last December, Israel announced it had successfully launched Iron Dome interception missiles for the first time from the sea. Reports noted that the US arms maker Raytheon and the US defence department were involved in the tests. That is because, behind the scenes, the US is not only paying for the development and testing of these systems; it is also guiding the uses to which they will be put. The Pentagon has bought two Iron Dome batteries, which, according to Israeli media, have been stationed in US military bases in the Gulf.

The US has its own interception systems under development, and it is unclear which it will come to rely on most heavily. But what is evident is that Washington, Israel and their Gulf allies have Iran in their immediate sights. Any country that refuses to bow to US global hegemony could also be targeted.

US interest in these missiles is not defensive. They are fundamental to its ability to neutralise the responses of rivals to either a US military attack, or more general moves by the US to dominate territory and control resources.

Just as Palestinians have been besieged by Israel for 15 years, the US and Gulf states may hope one day to deal a knockout blow to Iran’s oil exports. Washington would be able to ignore current concerns that Tehran could retaliate by firing on shipping through the Strait of Hormuz or on hostile Middle Eastern capitals. If Iran’s missiles can be intercepted, it will be incapable of defending itself against increasing economic or military aggression from the US or its neighbours.

Less safe world

Following the US withdrawal from Afghanistan this summer, there has been plenty of naive talk that the US is seeking a diminished role in the world. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Ultimately, the US is seeking global dominance at arm’s length – through a combination of long-range military power, cyber warfare, robotics and artificial intelligence – that it hopes will lift the restraints imposed by American casualties and domestic opposition.

Israel’s playbook with regards to Palestinians is one that elites in Washington trust can be exported to other corners of the globe, and even outer space. Interception missiles lie at the heart of that strategic vision, as a way to neutralise and silence all resistance. This is why no one who cares about a less violent, exploitative and dangerous world should be indifferent to, or neutral on, congressional funding for Iron Dome.

Missile interception systems are the face not of a more defensive, safer world, but of a far more nakedly hostile, aggressive one.

• First published at Middle East Eye

The post Iron Dome: Don’t be deceived, US aid to Israel is not about saving lives first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Why Does Congress Fight Over Childcare But Not F-35s?

Photo credit: Rise Up Times

President Biden and the Democratic Congress are facing a crisis as the popular domestic agenda they ran on in the 2020 election is held hostage by two corporate Democratic Senators, fossil-fuel consigliere Joe Manchin and payday-lender favorite Kyrsten Sinema.

But the very week before the Dems’ $350 billion-per-year domestic package hit this wall of corporate money-bags, all but 38 House Democrats voted to hand over more than double that amount to the Pentagon. Senator Manchin has hypocritically described the domestic spending bill as “fiscal insanity,” but he has voted for a much larger Pentagon budget every year since 2016.

Real fiscal insanity is what Congress does year after year, taking most of its discretionary spending off the table and handing it over to the Pentagon before even considering the country’s urgent domestic needs. Maintaining this pattern, Congress just splashed out $12 billion for 85 more F-35 warplanes, 6 more than Trump bought last year, without debating the relative merits of buying more F-35s vs. investing $12 billion in education, healthcare, clean energy or fighting poverty.

The 2022 military spending bill (NDAA or National Defense Authorization Act) that passed the House on September 23 would hand a whopping $740 billion to the Pentagon and $38 billion to other departments (mainly the Department of Energy for nuclear weapons), for a total of $778 billion in military spending, a $37 billion increase over this year’s military budget. The Senate will soon debate its version of this bill—but don’t expect too much of a debate there either, as most senators are “yes men” when it comes to feeding the war machine.

Two House amendments to make modest cuts both failed: one by Rep. Sara Jacobs to strip $24 billion that was added to Biden’s budget request by the House Armed Services Committee; and another by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for an across-the-board 10% cut (with exceptions for military pay and healthcare).

After adjusting for inflation, this enormous budget is comparable to the peak of Trump’s arms build-up in 2020, and is only 10% below the post-WWII record set by Bush II in 2008 under cover of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It would give Joe Biden the dubious distinction of being the fourth post-Cold War U.S. president to militarily outspend every Cold War president, from Truman to Bush I.

In effect, Biden and Congress are locking in the $100 billion per year arms build-up that Trump justified with his absurd claims that Obama’s record military spending had somehow depleted the military.

As with Biden’s failure to quickly rejoin the JCPOA with Iran, the time to act on cutting the military budget and reinvesting in domestic priorities was in the first weeks and months of his administration. His inaction on these issues, like his deportation of thousands of desperate asylum seekers, suggests that he is happier to continue Trump’s ultra-hawkish policies than he will publicly admit.

In 2019, the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland conducted a study in which it briefed ordinary Americans on the federal budget deficit and asked them how they would address it. The average respondent favored cutting the deficit by $376 billion, mainly by raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations, but also by cutting an average of $51 billion from the military budget.

Even Republicans favored cutting $14 billion, while Democrats supported a much larger $100 billion cut. That would be more than the 10% cut in the failed Ocasio-Cortez Amendment, which garnered support from only 86 Democratic Reps and was opposed by 126 Dems and every Republican.

Most of the Democrats who voted for amendments to reduce spending still voted to pass the bloated final bill. Only 38 Democrats were willing to vote against a $778 billion military spending bill that, once Veterans Affairs and other related expenses are included, would continue to consume over 60% of discretionary spending.

“How’re you going to pay for it?” clearly applies only to “money for people,” never to “money for war.” Rational policy making would require exactly the opposite approach. Money invested in education, healthcare and green energy is an investment in the future, while money for war offers little or no return on investment except to weapons makers and Pentagon contractors, as was the case with the $2.26 trillion the United States wasted on death and destruction in Afghanistan.

A study by the Political Economy Research Center at the University of Massachusetts found that military spending creates fewer jobs than almost any other form of government spending. It found that $1 billion invested in the military yields an average of 11,200 jobs, while the same amount invested in other areas yields: 26,700 jobs when invested in education; 17,200 in healthcare; 16,800 in the green economy; or 15,100 jobs in cash stimulus or welfare payments.

It is tragic that the only form of Keynesian stimulus that is uncontested in Washington is the least productive for Americans, as well as the most destructive for the other countries where the weapons are used. These irrational priorities seem to make no political sense for Democratic Members of Congress, whose grassroots voters would cut military spending by an average of $100 billion per year based on the Maryland poll.

So why is Congress so out of touch with the foreign policy desires of their constituents? It is well-documented that Members of Congress have more close contact with well-heeled campaign contributors and corporate lobbyists than with the working people who elect them, and that the “unwarranted influence” of Eisenhower’s infamous Military-Industrial Complex has become more entrenched and more insidious than ever, just as he feared.

The Military-Industrial Complex exploits flaws in what is at best a weak, quasi-democratic political system to defy the will of the public and spend more public money on weapons and armed forces than the world’s next 13 military powers. This is especially tragic at a time when the wars of mass destruction that have served as a pretext for wasting these resources for 20 years may finally, thankfully, be coming to an end.

The five largest U.S. arms manufacturers (Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics) account for 40% of the arms industry’s federal campaign contributions, and they have collectively received $2.2 trillion in Pentagon contracts since 2001 in return for those contributions. Altogether, 54% of military spending ends up in the accounts of corporate military contractors, earning them $8 trillion since 2001.

The House and Senate Armed Services Committees sit at the very center of the Military-Industrial Complex, and their senior members are the largest recipients of arms industry cash in Congress. So it is a dereliction of duty for their colleagues to rubber-stamp military spending bills on their say-so without serious, independent scrutiny.

The corporate consolidation, dumbing down and corruption of U.S. media and the isolation of the Washington “bubble” from the real world also play a role in Congress’s foreign policy disconnect.

There is another, little-discussed reason for the disconnect between what the public wants and how Congress votes, and that can be found in a fascinating 2004 study by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations titled “The Hall of Mirrors: Perceptions and Misperceptions in the Congressional Foreign Policy Process”

The “Hall of Mirrors” study surprisingly found a broad consensus between the foreign policy views of lawmakers and the public, but that “in many cases Congress has voted in ways that are inconsistent with these consensus positions.”

The authors made a counter-intuitive discovery about the views of congressional staffers. “Curiously, staffers whose views were at odds with the majority of their constituents showed a strong bias toward assuming, incorrectly, that their constituents agreed with them,” the study found, “while staffers whose views were actually in accord with their constituents more often than not assumed this was not the case.”

This was particularly striking in the case of Democratic staffers, who were often convinced that their own liberal views placed them in a minority of the public when, in fact, most of their constituents shared the same views. Since congressional staffers are the primary advisors to members of Congress on legislative matters, these misperceptions play a unique role in Congress’s anti-democratic foreign policy.

Overall, on nine important foreign policy issues, an average of only 38% of congressional staffers could correctly identify whether a majority of the public supported or opposed a range of different policies they were asked about.

On the other side of the equation, the study found that “Americans’ assumptions about how their own member votes appear to be frequently incorrect … [I]n the absence of information, it appears that Americans tend to assume, often incorrectly, that their member is voting in ways that are consistent with how they would like their member to vote.”

It is not always easy for a member of the public to find out whether their Representative votes as they would like or not. News reports rarely discuss or link to actual roll-call votes, even though the Internet and the Congressional Clerk’s office make it easier than ever to do so.

Civil society and activist groups publish more detailed voting records. Govtrack.us lets constituents sign up for emailed notifications of every single roll-call vote in Congress. Progressive Punch tracks votes and rates Reps on how often they vote for “progressive” positions, while issues-related activist groups track and report on bills they support, as CODEPINK does at CODEPINK Congress. Open Secrets enables the public to track money in politics and see how beholden their Representatives are to different corporate sectors and interest groups.

When Members of Congress come to Washington with little or no foreign policy experience, as many do, they must take the trouble to study hard from a wide range of sources, to seek foreign policy advice from outside the corrupt Military-Industrial Complex, which has brought us only endless war, and to listen to their constituents.

The Hall of Mirrors study should be required reading for congressional staffers, and they should reflect on how they are personally and collectively prone to the misperceptions it revealed.

Members of the public should beware of assuming that their Representatives vote the way they want them to, and instead make serious efforts to find out how they really vote. They should contact their offices regularly to make their voices heard, and work with issues-related civil society groups to hold them accountable for their votes on issues they care about.

Looking forward to next year’s and future military budget fights, we must build a strong popular movement that rejects the flagrantly anti-democratic decision to transition from a brutal and bloody, self-perpetuating “war on terror” to an equally unnecessary and wasteful but even more dangerous arms race with Russia and China.

As some in Congress continue to ask how we can afford to take care of our children or ensure future life on this planet, progressives in Congress must not only call for taxing the rich but cutting the Pentagon — and not just in tweets or rhetorical flourishes, but in real policy.

While it may be too late to reverse course this year, they must stake out a line in the sand for next year’s military budget that reflects what the public desires and the world so desperately needs: to roll back the destructive, gargantuan war machine and to invest in healthcare and a livable climate, not bombs and F-35s.

The post Why Does Congress Fight Over Childcare But Not F-35s? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

U.S. Congressional Support for More War spending and AUKUS Anti-China Pact Exposes Cynicism of Biden’s UN Speech Calling for More Diplomacy

In the same week that Biden delivered a speech at the United Nations where he argued that force had to be “our tool of last resort, not our first,” and that “many of our greatest concerns cannot be solved or even addressed by the force of arms,” the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), that represented another record-breaking increase in Pentagon spending, was passed in the House of Representatives. The message, following that of the racist Theodore Roosevelt, is that if there is going to be dialog the U.S. is still going to “speak softly and carry a big stick” to keep the natives in line.

The authorization to spend 780 billion dollars on the military, which included an increase of twenty-four billion dollars more than the Biden White House requested, came just a few days after Biden announced to the world that the U.S., United Kingdom and Australian governments (AUKUS) would collaborate to provide nuclear powered submarines for Australia. Without mentioning the real target of that dangerous escalation, the Chinese and the world understood that this was a message intended for them.

So, no one listening to President Biden in that General Assembly gathering took the U.S. administration seriously. And certainly, those of who have been the victims of U.S. violence should not either. We know through painful experience that white supremacist, colonial hubris imprisons U.S. policy makers rendering them unable to change course away from their disastrous commitment to global full spectrum dominance.

U.S. policy makers from both parties are gripped by the pathological belief that they can prevent further erosion of U.S. power and exercise global hegemony through military means. But continued reliance on military power to advance U.S. global hegemony creates a contradictory relationship with the public that makes militarism extremely vulnerable – potentially. Because, in order to allow the plunder of the people’s resources by corporations whose business is war, the consent, or at least acquiesce of the people is required.

There is a complete disconnect between the Congress that continues to be able to muster up bipartisan support for war and the public that has increasingly grown weary of these adventures and their costs in terms of lives, resources, and U.S. prestige.

The obvious commitment to military spending and military pacts like AUKUS and NATO is increasingly being questioned by the public. While Congress is on board to support these agreements and militarization as policies meant to intimidate China and Russia (as well as military interventions into the global South), a majority of the people from both parties are actually in opposition to continued war and militarization. Moreover, the failure to provide protections for the human needs of the people of the U.S., with the debate over a social infrastructure bill stalled in Congress, is only deepening the legitimation crisis.

The sharpening contradictions between a public still reeling from consequences of covid and a Congress that, in its need to support the positions of its rich benefactors, will allow critical support for the working class like the eviction moratorium and emergency unemployment benefits to end, is creating a potentially explosive situation politically.

War is, and has always been, a class issue. The poverty-conscripted U.S. army and the increasingly insecure and suffering civilian working classes are finding it almost impossible to embrace policies that have resulted in a staggering $8 trillion dollar rip-off of the people’s resources, thousands of U.S. lives lost and over a million lives of the targets of U.S. aggression during the twenty year-long phony war on terror.

What does this mean for Black and poor people? The racist spectacle on the Texas border with cowboys whipping Black people primarily from Haiti and the systematic violation of Haitians’ right to seek asylum with the swift deportation of thousands was a metaphor for the real value of Black lives in the U.S. and globally.

It also means more war on African and colonized peoples in the U.S.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) highlighted the connections between the Pentagon’s massive budget, surplus weaponry, and widespread police violence in the U.S., as she argued for an amendment to the NDAA that would have ended the Department of Defense 1033 program, the program that transfers military-grade weapons from the Pentagon to federal, state, and local Law Enforcement Agencies across the country:

“With police departments nationwide set to receive a massive influx of military equipment under the 1033 program following the Afghanistan war,” Pressley told The Intercept, “Congress must take decisive action before further lives are lost and more trauma is inflicted on our communities.”

Her appeal was ignored.

Contained in the 2022 NDAA that the House of Representatives approved on September 24th are resources to continue the 1033 program. The NDAA also contained resources to fund the vast global military command structures like AFRICOM on the African continent and the over eight hundred military bases across the planet.

War, militarism, and subversion is central to the U.S. imperial project. It is not just against Black people. The U.S. is actively engaged in subversion of democracy in Nicaragua, continues the assault on Venezuela and the illegal embargo on Cuba, while imposing economic sanctions on over thirty nations.

The diplomats in that great hall at the UN knew that Biden was lying about  U.S. diplomacy. And, like them, those of us at the receiving end of U.S. criminality have always understood that Biden had to lie because state violence is at the core of the settler and imperial projects like the U.S, and even more so when the colonial project becomes an empire. That is the reality we in the U.S. and the world face no matter who sits in the white peoples’ house and no matter what pretty words are read out at the United Nations General Assembly meetings.

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So You Go Deaf at a Protest: *MIC/MICC* at the Helm

*Military Industrial Complex, or Lawrence Wilkerson’s, Military Industrial Congressional Complex*

You get a story on the supposed Havana Syndrome, and then you also get the concept of mass psychogenic illness (you know, it’s all in your head, buster, those heart palpitations, the sweats, the throbbing veins, after getting mRNA “vaccinated”) explained, and, well, no huge outrage on these weapons of mass destruction created by USA, Israel, UK, France other shit-holes. None. Yes, of course, China and Russia, they have their directed energy weapons, their lasers, their rail guns.

As a collective, we just take it up the rear end daily, a thousand times, with these illustrations of the perversion of the inventors (scientists) and the CEOs and their armies of Eichmanns and then their armies of wrench turners and computer motherboard makers to help build these tools of oppression and murder. .

Get this one here:

The United Kingdom deployed an American-made Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD), in essence, a sound cannon, during the London 2012 Olympics. Products like LRAD represent a shift from military to domestic usage of directed energy weapons, Dawson noted, explaining:

DEW manufacturers seem to be developing more hand-held versions of what was industrial-scale military weaponry. So they are transitioning from something that was the size of a truck used in Afghanistan or Iraq and turning it into something more like a taser that can be held by a police officer. In fact, the Taser Corporation, as well as other manufacturers of crowd-control weaponry, are listed in the WikiLeaks files as being manufacturers of directed energy weapons.”

LRADs are used at airports to deter wildlife from runways. But they are also commonly used by law enforcement against protestors, such as at Occupy Oakland, the George Floyd protests, and at the 2017 Women’s March.

 EU police officer deploys an LRAD

[An EU police officer deploys an LRAD near a popular refugee crossing point on the Greek – Turkish border, May 21, 2021. Giannis Papanikos | AP]

LRAD focuses a piercing and unbearable noise at those at whom it is pointed, leaving targets dizzy and suffering headaches. It is undoubtedly effective, but also poses a risk to human health. The National Institutes of Health advises that permanent hearing loss can begin when exposed to sounds of more than 85 dB. Yet police LRADs are capable of producing sounds of higher than 150 dB. There are serious concerns that the LRAD will be used liberally and illegally to disperse peaceful demonstrations. This is already happening: in 2017, the city of New York was forced to pay $748,000 to Black Lives Matter protestors targeted with LRAD. The NYPD suspended its use.

So, look at the thug, with earplugs and fake mask on, while using a weapon turned on refugees. Now if this is not a picture of the Great White Sadistic Race, then, I can’t begin to help you, kind reader.

Our tax dollars at this murderous work —

Read Alan MacLeod’s piece here — Havana Syndrome, Directed Energy Weapons, and the New Cold War

It’s the supplements, stupid!

So, from illegal and unethical and monstrous weapons against we the people, to the power of the Food and Drug Administration’s prostitutes in the employ of Big Pharma and Big Med:

Yep, emergency use authorization to approve the universal jabbing of hundreds of bottles of boosters on the wall, that FDA is something else —

Resveratrol, a plant-derived polyphenol found in grapes, could be eliminated in supplement form like pyridoxamine (B6) was a number of years ago due to an FDA back-channel that lets Big Pharma turn supplements into drugs. If Big Pharma asks the FDA to remove resveratrol, the agency’s job of eliminating these supplements is made much easier if it gets the “mandatory filing” requirement that it wants. We need to fight for major changes in the law and to block this “mandatory list” from ever passing to protect our access to important supplements.

Resveratrol has been available as a supplement for years. But we know from FDA documents that the agency rejected a “new supplement” notification for resveratrol, stating that resveratrol doesn’t meet the legal definition of a supplement because a drug company started investigating it as a drug in 2001, and the agency has no evidence that resveratrol was sold as a supplement before that date. This means that the drug company could, at any time, petition the FDA to remove resveratrol supplements from the market. This is what happened to pyridoxamine, a form of B6, and it still isn’t available as a supplement even though no drug ever came to market; it could also happen to CBD and l-glutamine.

So, imagine, all those supplements, all those proven natural elements to keep us out of the medical system. Out of the death chambers of doctors’ offices and mass murder hospitals. You know, this FDA and CDC and NIH group of liars, or in some camps, poison delivery villains:

Rumble — Expert Testimony provided by Dr. Christina Parks, Ph.D, to the Michigan House of Representatives in hearing on HB 4471. This is an unedited screen recording. This science of viruses, what they can and cannot do, and that is a huge discussion point, though I see this doctor talking to glazed eyes in the Michigan House — Eight minutes to get illuminated so please, watch. This absurdity, using boosters of those mRNA jabs to stop the Delta Variant? Makes zero sense. Listen, watch, and enlighten yourself.

If there are no national leaders, folks with bully pulpits, with media stages, to really drill down on the absurdity of this country, these trillions lost/stolen of our tax dollars, then the cascading number of stories will continue to come out with no umph, no fanfare, no repercussions.

The Pentagon doesn’t care that it snuffed out innocent lives in an airstrike; it does that all the time and its officials would do it a lot more if that’s what it took to secure their futures as lobbyists, consultants, board members and executives for defense industry corporations after they retire from the military. And the mass media don’t care either; they only cared about this one particular highly politicized airstrike during a withdrawal from a military engagement the mass media vehemently opposed.

“Pentagon acknowledges Aug. 29 drone strike in Afghanistan was a tragic mistake that killed 10 civilians.” Can you believe that headline? Not “admits” but “acknowledges”. Not “killed children while targeting an aid worker based on flimsy evidence” but “was a tragic mistake”. How many times did New York Times editors rewrite this? Imagine if this had been a Russian airstrike.

It’s the CIA (and assassinations) Stupid! 

And so, we get back to the USA, CIA, all those nefarious mutants from the UK, Israel, et al. I was almost five when Dag Hammarskjoild was murdered (1961). This documentary goes around the evidence, gets into the ugly reality of MI6 and CIA and apartheid whites wanting to eradicate the Blacks in, well, Black Africa. Lo and behold, the documentary that looks into the UN chief’s murder exposes another reality — a clandestine group using fake medical doctors and fake clinics to inoculate Blacks (poor, of course) with HIV, to help spread the deadly virus.

Former President Harry Truman told reporters two days after Dag Hammarskjöld’s death on Sept. 18, 1961 that the U.N. secretary-general  “was on the point of getting something done when they killed him. Notice that I said ‘when they killed him.’”

The mystery of the second U.N. secretary-general’s death festered until the 2011 book Who Killed Hammarskjöld? by British researcher Susan Williams, who uncovered new evidence that pointed to the likelihood that U.S., British and South African intelligence had a hand in his death in a plane crash in Northern Rhodesia, today’s Zambia. He was on his way to negotiate a cease-fire in Katanga’s separatist war from the Congo.

Williams’ findings led to an independent commission that called on the U.N. to reopen its 1962 probe in the killing, which ended with an open verdict. “The possibility … the plane was … forced into descent by some form of hostile action is supported by sufficient evidence to merit further inquiry,” the commission concluded.

All roads lead to hell, when it comes to USA, Israel, UK, EU and Canada. Exterminate all the Brutes!

“I wanted to push the boundaries of conventional documentary filmmaking and find a freedom to tell this story by any means necessary.” Director Raoul Peck sits down to discuss the creative intentions behind documentary series Exterminate All the Brutes.

Check out more on Dag over at Consortium News —

Oh, the truths of the day, around 6 million people dead because of the War on Terror. Six million!

New Byline Times report which found that

“at least 5.8 to 6 million people are likely to have died overall due to the War on Terror – a staggering number which is still probably very conservative.”

Image

 

The post So You Go Deaf at a Protest: *MIC/MICC* at the Helm first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Despite its exit, the US will continue to wage war on Afghanistan

The United States has always been a bad loser. Whether it has viewed itself as an imperial power, a military superpower or, in today’s preferred terminology, the “world’s policeman”, the assumption is that everyone else must submit to its will.

All of which is the context for judging the outcry in western capitals over the US army’s hurried exit last month from Kabul, its final hold-out in Afghanistan.

There are lots of voices on both sides of the Atlantic lamenting that messy evacuation. And it is hard not to hear in them – even after a catastrophic and entirely futile two-decade military occupation of Afghanistan – a longing for some kind of re-engagement.

Politicians are describing the pull-out as a “defeat” and bewailing it as evidence that the US is a declining power. Others are warning that Afghanistan will become a sanctuary for Islamic extremism, leading to a rise in global terrorism.

Liberals, meanwhile, are anxious about a renewed assault on women’s rights under the Taliban, or they are demanding that more Afghans be helped to flee.

The subtext is that western powers need to meddle a little – or maybe a lot – more and longer in Afghanistan. The situation, it is implied, can still be fixed, or at the very least the Taliban can be punished as a warning to others not to follow in its footsteps.

All of this ignores the fact that the so-called “war for Afghanistan” was lost long ago. “Defeat” did not occur at Kabul airport. The evacuation was a very belated recognition that the US military had no reason, not even the purported one, to be in Afghanistan after Osama bin Laden evaded capture.

In fact, as experts on the region have pointed out, the US defeated itself. Once al-Qaeda had fled Afghanistan, and the Taliban’s chastened fighters had slunk back to their villages with no appetite to take on the US Robocop, each local warlord or tribal leader seized the moment. They settled scores with enemies by informing on them, identifying to the US their rivals as  “terrorists” or Taliban.

US commanders blew ever bigger holes through the new Pax Americana as their indiscriminate drone strikes killed friend and foe alike. Soon most Afghans outside the corrupt Kabul elite had good reason to hate the US and want it gone. It was the Pentagon that brought the Taliban back from the dead.

Deceitful spin

But it was not just the Afghan elite that was corrupt. The country became a bottomless pit, with Kabul at its centre, into which US and British taxpayers poured endless money that enriched the war industries, from defence officials and arms manufacturers to mercenaries and private contractors.

Those 20 years produced a vigorous, powerful Afghanistan lobby in the heart of Washington that had every incentive to perpetuate the bogus narrative of a “winnable war”.

The lobby understood that their enrichment was best sold under the pretence – once again – of humanitarianism: that the caring West was obligated to bring democracy to Afghanistan.

That deceitful spin, currently being given full throat by politicians, is not just there to rationalise the past. It will shape the future, too, in yet more disastrous ways for Afghanistan.

With American boots no longer officially on the ground, pressure is already building for war by other means.

It should not be a difficult sell. After all, that was the faulty lesson learned by the Washington foreign policy elite after US troops found themselves greeted in Iraq, not by rice and rose petals, but by roadside bombs.

In subsequent Middle East wars, in Libya, Syria and Yemen, the US has preferred to fight more covertly, from a greater distance or through proxies. The advantage is no American body bags and no democratic oversight. Everything happens in the shadows.

There is already a clamour in the Pentagon, in think tanks, among arms manufacturers and defence contractors, and in the US media, too, to do exactly the same now in Afghanistan.

Nothing could be more foolhardy.

Brink of collapse

Indeed, the US has already begun waging war on the Taliban and – because the group is now Afghanistan’s effective government – on an entire country under Taliban rule. The war is being conducted through global financial institutions, and may soon be given a formal makeover as a “sanctions regime”.

The US did exactly the same to Vietnam for 20 years following its defeat there in 1975. And more recently Washington has used that same blueprint on states that refuse to live under its thumb, from Iran to Venezuela.

Washington has frozen at least $9.5bn of Afghanistan’s assets in what amounts to an act of international piracy. Donors from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to the European Union, Britain and the US are withholding development funds and assistance. Most Afghan banks are shuttered. Money is in very short supply.

Afghanistan is already in the grip of drought, and existing food shortages are likely to intensify during the winter into famine. Last week a UN report warned that, without urgent financial help, 97 percent of Afghans could soon be plunged into poverty.

All of this compounds Afghanistan’s troubles under the US occupation, when the number of Afghans in poverty doubled and child malnutrition became rampant. According to Ashok Swain, Unesco’s chair on international water cooperation, “more than one-third of Afghans have no food, half no drinking water, two-thirds no electricity”.

That is an indictment of US misrule over the past two decades when, it might have been assumed, at least some of the $2tn spent on Afghanistan had gone towards Washington’s much-vaunted “nation-building” project rather than guns and gunships.

Now Afghans’ dire plight can be used as a launchpad for the US to cripple the Taliban as it struggles to rebuild a hollowed-out country.

The real aspiration of sanctions will be to engineer Afghanistan’s economic collapse – as an exemplar to others of US power and reach, and vindictiveness, and in the hope that the Afghan people can be starved to the point at which they rise up against their leaders.

Deepen existing splits

All of this can easily be framed in humanitarian terms, as it has been elsewhere. Late last month, the US drove through the United Nations Security Council a resolution calling for free travel through Kabul airport, guarantees on human rights, and assurances that the country will not become a shelter for terrorism.

Any of those demands can be turned into a pretext to extend sanctions to the Afghan government itself. Governments, including Britain’s, are already reported to be struggling to find ways to approve charities directing aid to Afghanistan.

But it is the sanctions themselves that will cause humanitarian suffering. Unpaid teachers mean no school for children, especially girls. No funds for rural clinics will result in more women dying in childbirth and higher infant mortality rates. Closed banks end in those with guns – men – terrorising everyone else over limited resources.

Isolating the Taliban with sanctions will have two entirely predictable outcomes.

First, it will push the country into the arms of China, which will be well-positioned to assist Afghanistan in return for access to its mineral wealth. Beijing has already announced plans to do business with the Taliban that include reopening the Mes Aynak copper mine.

As US President Joe Biden’s administration is already well-advanced in crafting China as the new global menace, trying to curtail its influence on neighbours, any alliance between the Taliban and China could easily provide further grounds for the US intensifying sanctions.

Secondly, sanctions are also certain to deepen existing splits within the Taliban, between the hardliners in the north and east opposed to engagement with the West, and those in the south keen to win over the international community in a bid to legitimise Taliban rule.

At the moment, the Taliban doves are probably in the ascendant, ready to help the US root out internal enemies such as the ISKP, Islamic State group’s offshoot in Afghanistan. But that could quickly change if Washington reverts to type.

A combination of sanctions, clumsy covert operations and Washington overplaying its hand could quickly drive the hardliners into power, or into an alliance with the local IS faction.

That scenario may have already been given a boost by a US drone strike on Kabul in late August, in retaliation for an ISKP attack on the airport that killed 13 US soldiers. New witness testimonies suggest the strike killed 10 Afghan civilians, including seven children, not Islamic militants.

Familiar game plan

If that weren’t bad enough, Washington hawks are calling for the Taliban to be officially designated a “foreign terrorist organisation“, and the new Afghan government a state sponsor of terrorism, which would make it all but impossible for the Biden administration to engage with it. Others such as Lindsey Graham, an influential US politician, are trying to pile on the pressure by calling for troops to return.

How readily this mindset could become the Washington consensus is highlighted by US media reports of plans by the CIA to operate covertly within Afghanistan. As if nothing has been learned, the agency appears to be hoping to cultivate opponents of the Taliban, including once again the warlords whose lawlessness brought the Taliban to power more than two decades ago.

This is a game plan the US and Britain know well from their training and arming of the mujahideen to oust the Soviet army from Afghanistan in the 1980s and overthrow a few years later Afghanistan’s secular communist government.

Biden will have an added incentive to keep meddling in Afghanistan to prevent any attacks originating from there that could be exploited by his political opponents and blamed on his pulling out troops.

According to the New York Times, the CIA believes it must be ready to “counter threats” likely to emerge from a “chaos” the Taliban will supposedly unleash.

But Afghanistan will be far less chaotic if the Taliban are strong, not if – as is being proposed – the US undermines Taliban cohesion by operating spies in its midst, subverts the Taliban’s authority by launching drone strikes from neighbouring countries, and recruits warlords or sponsors rival Islamic groups to keep the Taliban under pressure.

William J Burns, the CIA’s director, has said the agency is ready to run operations “over the horizon“, – at arm’s length. The New York Times has reported that US officials predict “Afghan opponents of the Taliban will most likely emerge who will want to help and provide information to the United States”.

This strategy will lead to a failed state, one immiserated by US sanctions and divided between warlords feuding over the few resources left. That is precisely the soil in which the worst kind of Islamic extremism will flourish.

Destabilising Afghanistan is what got the US into this mess in the first place. Washington seems only too ready to begin that process all over again.

• First published in Middle East Eye

The post Despite its exit, the US will continue to wage war on Afghanistan first appeared on Dissident Voice.

How Can America Wake Up From Its Post-9/11 Nightmare?

Looking back on it now, the 1990s were an age of innocence for America. The Cold War was over and our leaders promised us a “peace dividend.” There was no TSA to make us take off our shoes at airports (how many bombs have they found in those billions of shoes?). The government could not tap a U.S. phone or read private emails without a warrant from a judge. And the national debt was only $5 trillion – compared with over $28 trillion today.

We have been told that the criminal attacks of September 11, 2001 “changed everything.” But what really changed everything was the U.S. government’s disastrous response to them.

That response was not preordained or inevitable, but the result of decisions and choices made by politicians, bureaucrats and generals who fueled and exploited our fears, unleashed wars of reprehensible vengeance and built a secretive security state, all thinly disguised behind Orwellian myths of American greatness.

Most Americans believe in democracy and many regard the United States as a democratic country. But the U.S. response to 9/11 laid bare the extent to which American leaders are willing to manipulate the public into accepting illegal wars, torture, the Guantanamo gulag and sweeping civil rights abuses — activities that undermine the very meaning of democracy.

Former Nuremberg prosecutor Ben Ferencz said in a speech in 2011 that “a democracy can only work if its people are being told the truth.” But America’s leaders exploited the public’s fears in the wake of 9/11 to justify wars that have killed and maimed millions of people who had nothing to do with those crimes. Ferencz compared this to the actions of the German leaders he prosecuted at Nuremberg, who also justified their invasions of other countries as “preemptive first strikes.”

“You cannot run a country as Hitler did, feeding them a pack of lies to frighten them that they’re being threatened, so it’s justified to kill people you don’t even know,” Ferencz continued. “It’s not logical, it’s not decent, it’s not moral, and it’s not helpful. When an unmanned bomber from a secret American airfield fires rockets into a little Pakistani or Afghan village and thereby kills or maims unknown numbers of innocent people, what is the effect of that? Every victim will hate America forever and will be willing to die killing as many Americans as possible. Where there is no court of justice, wild vengeance is the alternative.”

Even the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, talked about “insurgent math,” conjecturing that, for every innocent person killed, the U.S. created 10 new enemies. And thus the so-called Global War on Terror fueled a global explosion of terrorism and armed resistance that will not end unless and until the United States ends the state terrorism that provokes and fuels it.

By opportunistically exploiting 9/11 to attack countries that had nothing to do with it, like Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Syria and Yemen, the United States vastly expanded the destructive strategy it used in the 1980s to destabilize Afghanistan, which spawned the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the first place.

In Libya and Syria, only ten years after 9/11, U.S. leaders betrayed every American who lost a loved one on September 11th by recruiting and arming Al Qaeda-led militants to overthrow two of the most secular governments in the Middle East, plunging both countries into years of intractable violence and fueling radicalization throughout the region.

The U.S. response to 9/11 was corrupted by a toxic soup of revenge, imperialist ambitions, war profiteering, systematic brainwashing and sheer stupidity. The only Republican Senator who voted against the war on Iraq, Lincoln Chafee, later wrote, “Helping a rogue president start an unnecessary war should be a career-ending lapse of judgment.”

But it wasn’t. Very few of the 263 Republicans or the 110 Democrats who voted for the Iraq war in 2002 paid any political price for their complicity in international aggression, which the judges at Nuremberg explicitly called “the supreme international crime.” One of them now sits at the apex of power in the White House.

Trump and Biden’s withdrawal and implicit acceptance of the U.S. defeat in Afghanistan could serve as an important step toward ending the violence and chaos their predecessors unleashed after the September 11th attack. But the current debate over next year’s military budget makes it clear that our deluded leaders are still dodging the obvious lessons of 20 years of war.

Barbara Lee, the only Member of Congress with the wisdom and courage to vote against Congress’s war resolution in 2001, has introduced a bill to cut U.S. military spending by almost half:  $350 billion per year. With the miserable failure in Afghanistan, a war that will end up costing every U.S. citizen $20,000, one would think that Rep. Lee’s proposal would be eliciting tremendous support. But the White House, the Pentagon and the Armed Services Committees in the House and Senate are instead falling over each other to shovel even more money into the bottomless pit of the military budget.

Politicians’ votes on questions of war, peace and military spending are the most reliable test of their commitment to progressive values and the well-being of their constituents. You cannot call yourself a progressive or a champion of working people if you vote to appropriate more money for weapons and war than for healthcare, education, green jobs and fighting poverty.

These 20 years of war have revealed to Americans and the world that modern weapons and formidable military forces can only accomplish two things: kill and maim people; and destroy homes, infrastructure and entire cities. American promises to rebuild bombed-out cities and “remake” countries it has destroyed have proven worthless, as Biden has acknowledged.

Both Iraq and Afghanistan are turning primarily to China for the help they need to start rebuilding and developing economically from the ruin and devastation left by America and its allies. America destroys, China builds. The contrast could not be more stark or self-evident. No amount of Western propaganda can hide what the whole world can see.

But the different paths chosen by U.S. and Chinese leaders are not predestined, and despite the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the U.S. corporate media, the American public has always been wiser and more committed to cooperative diplomacy than America’s political and executive class. It has been well-documented that many of the endless crises in U.S. foreign policy could have been avoided if America’s leaders had just listened to the public.

The perennial handicap that has dogged America’s diplomacy since World War II is precisely our investment in weapons and military forces, including nuclear weapons that threaten our very existence. It is trite but true to say that, ”when the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”

Other countries don’t have the option of deploying overwhelming military force to confront international problems, so they have had to be smarter and more nimble in their diplomacy, and more prudent and selective in their more limited uses of military force.

The rote declarations of U.S. leaders that “all options are on the table” are a euphemism for precisely the “threat or use of force” that the UN Charter explicitly prohibits, and they stymie the U.S. development of expertise in nonviolent forms of conflict resolution. The bumbling and bombast of America’s leaders in international arenas stand in sharp contrast to the skillful diplomacy and clear language we often hear from top Russian, Chinese and Iranian diplomats, even when they are speaking in English, their second or third language.

By contrast, U.S. leaders rely on threats, coups, sanctions and war to project power around the world. They promise Americans that these coercive methods will maintain American “leadership” or dominance indefinitely into the future, as if that is America’s rightful place in the world: sitting atop the globe like a cowboy on a bucking bronco.

A “New American Century” and “Pax Americana” are Orwellian versions of Hitler’s “Thousand-Year Reich,” but are no more realistic. No empire has lasted forever, and there is historical evidence that even the most successful empires have a lifespan of no more than 250 years, by which time their rulers have enjoyed so much wealth and power that decadence and decline inevitably set in. This describes the United States today.

America’s economic dominance is waning. Its once productive economy has been gutted and financialized, and most countries in the world now do more trade with China and/or the European Union than with the United States. Where America’s military once kicked open doors for American capital to “follow the flag” and open up new markets, today’s U.S. war machine is just a bull in the global china shop, wielding purely destructive power.

But we are not condemned to passively follow the suicidal path of militarism and hostility. Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan could be a down payment on a transition to a more peaceful post-imperial economy — if the American public starts to actively demand peace, diplomacy and disarmament and find ways to make our voices heard.

— We must get serious about demanding cuts in the Pentagon budget. None of our other problems will be solved as long as we keep allowing our leaders to flush the majority of federal discretionary spending down the same military toilet as the $2.26 trillion they wasted on the war in Afghanistan. We must oppose politicians who refuse to cut the Pentagon budget, regardless of which party they belong to and where they stand on other issues. CODEPINK is part of a new coalition to “Cut the Pentagon for the people, planet, peace and a future” — please join us!

— We must not let ourselves or our family members be recruited into the U.S. war machine. Instead, we must challenge our leaders’ absurd claims that the imperial forces deployed across the world to threaten other countries are somehow, by some convoluted logic, defending America. As a translator paraphrased Voltaire, “Whoever can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

— We must expose the ugly, destructive reality behind our country’s myths of “defending U.S. vital interests,” “humanitarian intervention,” “the war on terror” and the latest absurdity, the ill-defined “rules-based order” whose rules only apply to others — never to the United States.

— And we must oppose the corrupt power of the arms industry, including U.S. weapons sales to the world’s most repressive regimes and an unwinnable arms race that risks a potentially world-ending conflict with China and Russia.

Our only hope for the future is to abandon the futile quest for hegemony and instead commit to peace, cooperative diplomacy, international law and disarmament. After 20 years of war and militarism that has only left the world a more dangerous place and accelerated America’s decline, we must choose the path of peace.

The post How Can America Wake Up From Its Post-9/11 Nightmare? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Afghanistan Collapse reveals Beltway Media’s Loyalty to Permanent War State

Biden’s popular and long overdue withdrawal from Afghanistan triggered a big media meltdown that exposed its de facto merger with the military.

In the wake of a remarkably successful Taliban offensive capped by the takeover of Kabul, the responses of corporate media provided what may have been the most dramatic demonstration ever of its fealty to the Pentagon and military leadership. The media did so by mounting a full-throated political attack on President Joe Biden’s final withdrawal from Afghanistan and a defense of the military’s desire for an indefinite presence in the country.

Biden’s failure to establish a plan for evacuating tens of thousands of Afghans seeking to the flee the new Taliban regime made him a soft target for the Beltway media’s furious assault. However, it was Biden’s refusal last Spring to keep 4,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan on an indefinite basis – flouting an aggressive Pentagon lobbying campaign – that initially triggered the rage of the military brass.

The media offensive against Biden’s Afghan withdrawal advanced arguments that the military could not make on its own – at least, not in public. It also provided the military with important cover at the moment when it was at its most vulnerable for its disastrous handling of the entire war.

Among the most disingenuous attempts at salvaging the military’s reputation was a Washington Post article blaming the Afghan catastrophe on an over-emphasis on “democratic values” while ignoring the the tight alliance between the U.S. military and despotic warlords which drove local support for the Taliban.

Playing the al Qaeda threat card

On the eve of the Taliban takeover of Kabul, the New York Times’s David Sanger and Helene Cooper fired the opening salvo of the Beltway media’s assault on Biden’s decision. Sanger and Cooper began by acknowledging that the U.S. military had “overestimated” the results of its intervention for years, and that the failure of the Afghan government to pay soldiers for months had sapped the will to resist the Taliban.

But they then homed in on Biden’s refusal to keep troops in Afghanistan for counter-terrorism purposes. Recalling that Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley had tried in the Spring to compel Biden to maintain 3,000 to 4,500 troops in the country, Sanger and Cooper cited “intelligence estimates predicting that in two or three years, Al Qaeda could find a new foothold in Afghanistan.”

That speculation was based on the assumption that the Taliban would allow such a development despite its well-established record of opposing al Qaeda’s use of its territory to plan terrorism abroad. In fact, the Taliban’s policy went back to before 9/11, when Osama bin Laden formally agreed to honor the Taliban’s restrictions while secretly plotting the 9/11 attacks in Germany rather than in Afghanistan.

In the wake of the U.S. withdrawal, the Taliban has an even stronger motivation to prevent any jihadist organizations from planning international terror attacks from Afghan territory.

To support their broadside against Biden’s withdrawal, the Times’ Sanger and Cooper turned to the retired general with arguably the greatest personal vested interest in an indefinite U.S. military presence in Afghanistan: former U.S. commander in Afghanistan Gen. David Petraeus, who oversaw the war effort from 2010 through 2011 and has since led a group of former commanders and diplomats lobbying for an endless US presence in the country.

Petraeus asserted that Biden failed to recognize the risk incurred by the swift withdrawal” of intelligence drones and close air support, and thousands of contractors who had kept the Afghan Air Force flying.”

Next, Sanger and Cooper turned to Richard Fontaine, the chief executive of one of the most militaristic think tanks in Washington, the Center for a New American Security (CNAS).

As The Grayzone has reported, CNAS has reaped millions in funding from the arms industry and US government institutions to advance Pentagon and military thinking inside the Beltway. Among the many Beltway media insiders that enjoy writers in residence fellowships at the think tank is the New York Times’ Sanger.

For his part, Fontaine complained that the Biden administration had failed to continue providing the contractors that the Afghan Air Force depended on to keep its planes in the air. But he failed to acknowledge the obvious point that contractors would be unable to function in Afghanistan without sufficient U.S.-NATO troops to provide military protection on the ground.

On August 16, after the US-backed Afghan government was eliminated, the liberal interventionist magazine, Foreign Policy, chimed in with another attack on Biden featuring interviews with “a dozen people who held posts in Afghanistan.”

According to Foreign Policy, current and former diplomats anonymously expressed “deep anger, shock and bitterness about the collapse of the government they spent decades trying to build.” Several currently-serving officials were quoted — again off the record — about their considering resigning in protest, citing an “overwhelming sense of guilt and fear for the lives of former Afghan colleagues and local staff whom the American government left behind.”

That same day, the New Yorker’s Robin Wright expressed similar anguish over the harrowing images of U.S. defeat in Afghanistan. In an article subtitled, “It’s a dishonorable end that weakens U.S. standing in the world, perhaps irrevocably,” she lamented that the United States “is engaged in what historians may some day call a Great Retreat from a ragtag army that has no air power….”

The U.S. retreat from Afghanistan, Wright asserted, is “part of an unnerving American pattern dating back to the 1970s,” starting with Reagan’s pull-out from Beirut and Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq in 2011. Echoing those insisting on an indefinite U.S. military role in Afghanistan, Wright claimed that because the Taliban had “won a key battle against democracy in Afghanistan,” the country would “again, almost certainly become a haven for like-minded militants, be they members of al Qaeda or others in search of a sponsor.”

Meanwhile, during an August 21 panel on PBS’s Washington Week, Peter Baker of the New York Times, Anne Gearan of the Washington Post and Vivian Salama of the Wall Street Journal formed a one-note chorus blaming Biden’s hasty withdrawal for the crowds of anguished Afghans desperately seeking to escape the Taliban at Kabul’s airport.

The implicit – and clearly fanciful – premise of the discussion was that the United States could have somehow embarked weeks or months earlier on a sweeping program to rescue tens and possibly hundreds of thousands of interpreters and other collaborators with the U.S. military, and that it could all be done cleanly and efficiently, without triggering any panic.

A second theme pressed by the New York Times’ Baker was that Biden had been heedless of the risks of his policy to U.S. national security. Baker said Biden had made up his mind a decade ago that the U.S. must withdraw from Afghanistan and was determined to do it “regardless of what Gen. Milley and others might have warned him about the danger of a collapse.” Baker made the same argument, along with the others embraced by his big media colleagues, in a long-winded August 20 news analysis.

Flournoy obscures the real cause of military failure

The Washington Post’s national security reporter, Greg Jaffe, took a different tack from most of his Beltway colleagues in his coverage of the Afghanistan endgame. In an August 14 article, Jaffe implicitly acknowledged the widely-accepted fact that the war had been an abject failure, contradicting claims by military leaders. Unfortunately, the reporter offered space for one particularly credibility-deprived former official that was obviously designed to deaden popular hostility toward those responsible for the fiasco.

Among the most questionable characters to lay into Biden’s withdrawal strategy was Michelle Flournoy, who was expected to be appointed as the next Secretary of Defense until Biden froze her out because of her role in advocating the failed troop surge in Afghanistan during the Obama administration.

Flournoy had been Obama’s Undersecretary of Defense for Policy and was responsible for supporting the commanders in the field from the Pentagon. Prior to that role, she co-founded CNAS, the arms industry-backed, Democratic Party-affiliated propaganda mill for the Pentagon and military services.

In a revealing interview with the Post’s Jaffe, the former Pentagon official blamed the failure of the U.S. war in Afghanistan on an excessive commitment to “democratic ideals,” arguing they supposedly blinded the policymakers to the realities on the ground. It all started, she claimed, with “the Afghan constitution that was created in Bonn and…was trying to create a Western democracy.” The policymakers set the bar “on our democratic ideals, not on what was sustainable or workable in an Afghan context,” she added.

But the problem was not an excessive U.S. concern for promoting democracy, but the way that U.S. policy sold out “democratic ideals” to support a group of warlords who represented the essence of anti-democratic despotism.

In explaining the Obama administration’s decision to more than double the totals of U.S. troops, Flournoy claimed that she and other U.S. officials only discovered the festering wound of Afghan corruption when it was too late, fatally dooming the military strategy. “We had made a big bet only to learn that our local partner was rotten,” she insisted.

However, Flournoy deliberately obscured the crucial fact that the U.S. war was based from its very inception on an alliance with a group of corrupt and murderous warlords. The military leadership, as well as the CIA, relied on the warlords because they had militias and were ready to oppose the Taliban. The warlords offered a steady supply of militiamen as police in the provinces and were given well-paid contracts to provide security for the constant flow of convoys to and from U.S. and NATO bases.

But the militia-police maintained their loyalty to their respective warlords, rather than to any civilian government in Kabul, and in return were given a free hand to steal from Afghans, falsely accuse them of crimes, torture them and release them only for a ransom. In many cases, the police extorted money from local families by abducting and raping their wives, daughters and sons — a pattern of abuse documented by Amnesty International as early as 2003.

The Taliban easily ousted the U.S.-supported regime from large parts of Afghanistan’s Helmand province beginning in 2005-06 because of the local population’s hatred of the lawless warlord militias designated by the U.S. military as police. And when U.S. troops re-occupied those districts in 2009, the militias returned to their brutal ways — including abducting and raping pre-teen boys, prompting bitter complaints from the local residents to the U.S. marines and threats to support the Taliban if the U.S. didn’t intervene to stop them.  But the U.S. military never moved to disturb its cozy relationship with the warlords.

So Flournoy’s claim that senior military and Pentagon officials were unaware of the corruption of their Afghan allies until after the Obama administration’s massive commitment of troops is simply devoid of credibility. When she and other key policymakers made their “big bet” later in 2009, they were fully aware that the U.S. was backing a group of powerful warlords whose militia-police were committing heinous abuses against the population that forced Afghans to support the Taliban as their only defense.

The patent falsehoods peddled by the Beltway press corps in response to the Biden withdrawal reveals just how tightly they have become linked to the interests of the military and Pentagon. And its flamboyant opposition to a pull-out favored by a solid majority of the American public is yet another factor that will accelerate the decline of an already cratering corporate media.

• First published in The Greyzone

The post Afghanistan Collapse reveals Beltway Media’s Loyalty to Permanent War State first appeared on Dissident Voice.

How the Taliban surge exposed Pentagon’s lies

A month ago, as the US army prepared to end the 20-year occupation of Afghanistan and hand over responsibility to local security forces it had armed and trained, maps showed small, relatively isolated pockets of Taliban control.

At the weekend, the Islamist fighters marched unchallenged into Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, bringing almost the entire country under their thumb. US intelligence assessments that it would take the Taliban up to three months to capture Afghanistan’s capital proved wildly inaccurate.

It took a few days.

Foreign nationals were left scrambling to Kabul’s airport while American officials were hurriedly evacuated by helicopter, echoing the fall of Saigon in 1975, when US embassy staff were chased out of South Vietnam after years of a similarly failed war.

On Sunday Afghan President Ashraf Ghani issued a statement that he had fled the country – reportedly in a helicopter stuffed with cash – to “avoid bloodshed“. But all the evidence indicates his corrupt security forces were never in a position to offer serious resistance to a Taliban takeover.

Jumping ship

The speed with which the Taliban have re-established their hold on a country that was supposedly being reconstructed as some kind of western-style liberal democracy is astonishing. Or, at least, it is to those who believed that US and British military commanders, western politicians and the mainstream media were being straight all this time.

The real explanation for the Taliban’s “surprise” success is that western publics were being duped all along. The United States’ longest war was doomed from the start. The corrupt, entirely unrepresentative members of the Kabul elite were always going to jump ship as soon as Washington stopped pumping in troops and treasure.

According to Forbes magazine, as much as $2 trillion was poured into Afghanistan over the past 20 years – or $300m a day. The truth is that western politicians and the media intentionally colluded in a fiction, selling yet another imperial “war” in a far-off land as a humanitarian intervention welcomed by the local population.

As Daniel Davis, a former US army lieutenant colonel and critic of the war, observed at the weekend: “Since early 2002, the war in Afghanistan never had a chance of succeeding.”

Nonetheless, many politicians and commentators are still sounding the same, tired tune, castigating the Biden administration for ‘betraying‘ Afghanistan, as if the US had any right to be there in the first place – or as if more years of US meddling could turn things around.

Colonial chessboard

No one should have been shocked by the almost-instant collapse of an Afghan government and its security services that had been foisted on the country by the US. But it seems some are still credulous enough – even after the catastrophic lies that justified “interventions” in Iraq, Libya and Syria – to believe western foreign policy is driven by the desire to assist poor countries rather than use them as pawns on a global, colonial chessboard.

Afghans are no different from the rest of us. They don’t like outsiders ruling over them. They don’t like having political priorities imposed on them. And they don’t like dying in someone else’s power game.

If the fall of Kabul proves anything, it is that the US never had any allies in Afghanistan outside of a tiny elite that saw the chance to enrich itself, protected by US and British firepower and given an alibi by western liberals who assumed their own simplistic discourse about identity politics was ripe for export.

Yes, the Taliban will be bad news for Afghan women and girls – as well as men – who are concerned chiefly with maintaining personal freedom. But a tough conclusion western audiences may have to draw is that there are competing priorities for many Afghans who have suffered under decades of invasions and colonial interference.

Just as in Iraq, large segments of the population appear to be ready to forgo freedom in return for a guarantee of communal stability and personal safety. That was something a US client regime, looking to divert aid into its own pockets, was never going to guarantee. While the US was in charge, many tens of thousands of Afghans were killed. We will never know the true figure because their lives were considered cheap. Millions more Afghans were forced into exile.

Spoils of war

Nothing about western intervention in Afghanistan has been as it was portrayed. Those deceptions long predate the invasion by the US and UK in 2001, supposedly to hunt down Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda fighters following the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre.

Seen now, the attack on Afghanistan looks more like scene-setting, and a rationalisation, for the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq that soon followed. Both served the neoconservative agenda of increasing the US footprint in the Middle East and upping the pressure on Iran.

The West has long pursued geostrategic interests in Afghanistan – given the country’s value as a trade route and its role as a buffer against enemies gaining access to the Arabian Gulf. In the 19th century, the British and Russian empires used Afghanistan as the central arena for their manoeuvring in the so-called  “Great Game“.

Similar intrigues drove US-led efforts to expel the Soviet army after it invaded and occupied Afghanistan through the 1980s. Washington and Britain helped to finance, arm and train Islamist fighters, the mujahideen, that forced out the Red Army in 1989. The mujahideen went on to oust the country’s secular, communist government.

After their victory against the Soviet army, the mujahideen leadership split, with some becoming little more than regional warlords. The country was plunged into a bloody civil war in which the mujahideen and warlords looted their way through the areas they conquered, often treating women and girls as the spoils of war.

Despite Washington officials’ constant trumpeting of their concern at Taliban violations of women’s rights – in what became an additional pretext for continuing the occupation – the US had shown no desire to tackle such abuses when they were committed by its own mujahideen allies.

Rule of the warlords

The Taliban emerged in the 1990s from religious schools in neighbouring Pakistan as civil war raged in Afghanistan. They vowed to end the corruption and insecurity felt by Afghans under the rule of the warlords and mujahideen, and unify the country under Islamic law.

They found support, especially in poor, rural areas that had suffered most from the bloodletting.

The subsequent “liberation” of Afghanistan by US and British forces returned the country, outside a fortified Kabul, to an even more complex havoc. Afghans were variously exposed to violence from warlords, the Taliban, the US military and its local proxies.

To much of the population, Hamid Karzai, a former mujahideen leader who became the first Afghan president installed by the US occupation regime, was just another plundering warlord – the strongest only because he was backed by US guns and warplanes.

It was telling that five weeks ago, asked about the prospects of the Taliban returning to power, Biden stated that “the likelihood there’s going to be one unified government in Afghanistan controlling the whole country is highly unlikely.” Not only was he wrong, but his remarks suggested that Washington ultimately preferred to keep Afghanistan weak and divided between feuding strongmen.

That was precisely the reason most Afghans wanted the US gone.

Washington poured at least $88bn into training and arming a 300,000-strong Afghan army and police force that evaporated in Kabul – the government’s supposed stronghold – at the first sight of the Taliban. American taxpayers will be right to ask why such phenomenal sums were wasted on pointless military theatre rather than invested back home.

The US military, private security contractors, and arms manufacturers fed at what became a bottomless trough – and in the process were ever more deeply invested in maintaining the fiction of a winnable war. An endless, futile occupation with no clear objective swelled their budgets and ensured the military-industrial complex grew ever richer and more powerful.

Every indication is that the same war-industry juggernaut will simply change course now, playing up threats from China, Iran and Russia, to justify the continuation of budget increases that would otherwise be under threat.

Missing in action

The motive for US officials and corporations to conspire in the grand deception is clear. But what about the mainstream media, the self-declared “fourth estate” and the public’s supposed watchdog on abuses of state power? Why were they missing in action all this time?

It is not as though they did not have the information needed to expose the Pentagon’s lies in Afghanistan, had they cared to. The clues were there, and even reported occasionally. But the media failed to sustain attention.

As far back as 2009, as the US was preparing a pointless surge of troops to tackle the Taliban, Karl Eikenberry, then ambassador to Afghanistan, sent a cable to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that was leaked to the New York Times. He wrote that additional US forces would only “delay the day when Afghans will take over”. A decade later, the Washington Post published secret documents it called the Afghan Papers that highlighted the Pentagon’s systematic deceptions and lying. The subtitle was “At war with the truth”.

Bob Crowley, an army colonel who had advised US military commanders in Afghanistan, observed: “Every data point was altered to present the best picture possible.” The Post concluded that the US government had made every effort to “deliberately mislead the public”.

John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghan reconstruction appointed by Congress in 2012, had long detailed the waste and corruption in Afghanistan and the dismal state of the Afghan forces. But these reports were ignored or quickly disappeared without trace, leaving the Pentagon free to peddle yet more lies.

Cheerleading, not scrutinising

In the summer, as he issued yet another report, Sopko made scathing comments about claims that lessons would be learnt: “Don’t believe what you’re told by the generals or the ambassadors or people in the administration saying we’re never going to do this again. That’s exactly what we said after Vietnam … Lo and behold, we did Iraq. And we did Afghanistan. We will do this again.”

A good part of the reason the Pentagon can keep recycling its lies is because neither Congress or the media is holding it to account.

The US media have performed no better. In fact, they have had their own incentives to cheerlead rather than scrutinise recent wars. Not least, they benefit from the drama of war, as more viewers tune in, allowing them to hike their advertising rates.

The handful of companies that run the biggest TV channels, newspapers and websites in the US are also part of a network of transnational corporations whose relentless economic growth has been spurred on by the “war on terror” and the channelling of trillions of dollars from the public purse into corporate hands.

The cosy ties between the US media and the military are evident too in the endless parade of former Pentagon officials and retired generals who sit in TV studios commenting as “independent experts” and analysts on US wars. Their failures in Iraq, Libya and Syria have not apparently dented their credibility.

That rotten system was proudly on display again this week as the media uncritically shared the assessments of David Petraeus, the former US commander in Afghanistan. Although Petraeus shares an outsize chunk of responsibility for the past two decades of military failure and Pentagon deception, he called for the “might of the US military” to be restored for a final push against the Taliban.

Were it still possible to hold US officials to account, the Taliban’s surge over the past few days would have silenced Petraeus and brought Washington’s huge war scam crashing down.

Instead, the war industry will not even need to take a pause and regroup. They will carry on regardless, growing and prospering as though their defeat at the hands of the Taliban signifies nothing at all.

• First published at Middle East Eye

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Security U.S. Fears of China Nuclear Expansion… Déjà Vu of Soviet Missile Gap Hype

China is providing the equivalent scaremongering of the Soviet “missile gap” in order to sustain America’s militarist-dependent capitalist economy.

Media reports from the U.S. this week – regurgitated by the European press – highlighted concerns that China is embarking on a massive scale-up of underground silos for launching nuclear weapons.

Hundreds of silos are alleged to be under construction in the western regions of Xinjiang and Gansu, according to U.S. media reports citing commercial satellite data. American military officials and State Department diplomats are quoted as saying they are “deeply concerned” by the purported expansion of China’s nuclear arsenal.

For its part, Beijing has not yet commented on the claims of new nuclear silos. Some Chinese media reports say that the excavation could be due to something else entirely – the construction of large-scale wind farms. A Global Times dismissed the U.S. claims as “hyped”.

Context, as ever, is crucial. For a start, the U.S. headlines are equivocal and heavily qualified, indicating that the information is far from conclusive.

The Wall Street Journal reported: “China Appears to Be Building New Silos for Nuclear Missiles, Researchers Say”.

While CNN headlined: “China appears to be expanding its nuclear capabilities, U.S. researchers say in new report”.

Despite the lack of definite information that didn’t stop Pentagon and government officials from saying they were “deeply concerned”, thus adding a veneer of factuality to reports that were speculative.

Here’s another consideration. So what if China is expanding its nuclear arsenal with new silos? The People’s Republic of China has a stockpile of warheads numbering 350. The United States has a stockpile of some 5,550 warheads, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

The U.S. has a nuclear offensive power 15 times greater than China. So even if China is planning to double its arsenal of nuclear weapons, according to the Pentagon, that increase is still a fraction of American destructive capability.

Beijing maintains that the onus is on Washington to de-escalate its nuclear arsenal. The United States and Russia have resumed talks this week in Geneva on renewing arms-control efforts – efforts that have been put on hold by Washington since the Trump administration. Washington and Moscow – both possessing over 90 percent of the world’s total nuclear warheads – need to get on with their obligations for disarmament before China is reasonably brought into the discussion, along with other minor nuclear powers, such as Britain and France.

Another consideration for context is the ramping up of hostility by the United States towards China. The Biden administration is continuing the aggressive agenda of its Trump and Obama predecessors. Arming the renegade Chinese island territory of Taiwan, sailing warships into the South China Sea, media vilification of China over allegations of human rights abuses, genocide, malign conduct in trade, cyber attacks, and the Covid-19 pandemic. All of this speaks of stoking confrontation with China and inflaming U.S. public opinion to accept war with China.

Pentagon officials tell Congressional hearings that they consider war with China a distinct possibility in the near term.

Given this context, it would be reasonable to expect China to expand its nuclear defenses in order to shift the American calculation away from contemplating a war. The problem is not the alleged Chinese military buildup. It is Washington’s criminal policy of hostility towards Beijing that is fueling the risk of war.

But here is another key factor: the United States is undergoing a trillion-dollar upgrade of its nuclear arsenal. That began under Obama and was continued under Trump and now Biden. That puts alleged Chinese expansion into perspective. The United States has already nuclear power that dwarfs China’s and yet the U.S. is expanding what is a provocative threat to China.

Furthermore, Washington’s nuclear upgrade of its triad of submarines, silo-based intercontinental ballistic missiles and strategic bombers is hurtling out of control financially.

A recent report by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office warned that the trillion-dollar nuclear upgrade was ballooning with “stupefyingly expensive” cost overruns. In just two years, the cost was over-budget by $140 billion and the upgrade program is to run for a total of three decades.

This eye-watering waste of taxpayers’ money has led some U.S. lawmakers to call for drastic cuts in nuclear arms expenditure. Senator Ed Markey and others have decried “our bloated nuclear weapons budget”. Given the crumbling state of America’s civilian infrastructure, popular opposition to exorbitant military spending is potentially a major political problem for the Pentagon and its industrial complex.

The U.S. media hype over the alleged expansion of Chinese silos begins to look like déjà vu of the alleged “missile gap” with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. In the 1950s and 60s, Washington and the compliant corporate media became animated by CIA data that purported to show the Soviet Union outpacing the U.S. in the numbers of nuclear missiles. It turned out that the “missile gap” was non-existent. But the fear-mongering it engendered, in turn, created public acceptance of massive military expenditure by Washington that has become structural and chronic to this day. The warped allocation of financial resources is a parasitical drain on American society. Any rational, democratic mind would abhor the grotesque priorities.

China today is providing the equivalent scaremongering of the Soviet “missile gap” in order to sustain America’s militarist-dependent capitalist economy.

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Authoritarians Drunk on Power: It Is Time to Recalibrate the Government

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.

We have arrived at the dystopian future depicted in the 2005 film V for Vendetta, which is no future at all.

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.

That’s their job: make them do it.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, all freedoms hang together. They fall together, as well.

The police state does not discriminate. Eventually, we will all suffer the same fate.

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