Category Archives: United States

American Anti-Soviet Union morphs into American Anti-Russia

Unpersons

One reason it’s so easy to get an American administration, the mainstream media, and the American people to jump on an anti-Russian bandwagon is, of course, the legacy of the Soviet Union. To all the real crimes and shortcomings of that period the US regularly added many fictitious claims to agitate the American public against Moscow. That has not come to a halt. During a debate in the 2016 Republican presidential primary, candidate Ben Carson (now the head of the US Housing and Urban Development agency) allowed the following to pass his lips: “Joseph Stalin said if you want to bring America down, you have to undermine three things: Our spiritual life, our patriotism, and our morality.” This is a variation on many Stalinist “quotes” over the years designed to deprecate both the Soviet leader and any American who can be made to sound like him. The quote was quite false, but the debate moderators and the other candidates didn’t raise any question about its accuracy. Of course not.

Another feature of Stalinism that was routinely hammered into our heads was that of the “non-person” or “unperson” – the former well-known official or writer, for example, who fell out of favor with the Stalinist regime for something he said or did, and was thereafter doomed to a life of obscurity, if not worse. In his classic 1984 George Orwell speaks of a character who “was already an unperson. He did not exist: he had never existed.” I was reminded of this by the recent sudden firing of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. Matthew Lee, the courageous Associated Press reporter who has been challenging State Department propaganda for years, had this to say in an April 1 article:

Rex Tillerson has all but vanished from the State Department’s website as his unceremonious firing by tweet took effect over the weekend.

The “Secretary of State Tillerson” link at the top of the department’s homepage disappeared overnight Saturday and was replaced with a generic “Secretary of State” tab. When clicked, it leads to a page that informs visitors in a brief statement that Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan “became acting Secretary of State on April 1, 2018.” It shows a photo of Sullivan signing his appointment papers as deputy in June 2017 but offers no explanation for the change in leadership.

In addition to that change, links that had connected to Tillerson’s speeches, travels and other events now display those of Sullivan. The link to Tillerson’s biography as the 69th secretary of state briefly returned a “We’re sorry, that page can’t be found” message. After being notified of the message, the State Department restored the link and an archive page for Tillerson’s tenure was enabled.

The most repeated Cold War anti-Communist myth was, of course, Nikita Khrushchev’s much quoted – No, eternally quoted! – line: “We will bury you.” On November 20 1956 the New York Times had reported: “In commenting on coexistence last night Mr. Khrushchev said communism did not have to resort to war to defeat capitalism. “Whether you like it or not, history is on our side,” he said. “We will bury you.”

Obviously, it was not a military threat of any kind. But tell that to the countless individuals who have cited it as such forever.1 So, as matters turned out, did communism, or call it socialism, bury capitalism? No. But not for the reason the capitalists would like to think – their superior socio-economic system. Capitalism remains the world’s pre-eminent system primarily because of military power combined with CIA covert actions. It’s that combination that irredeemably crippled socialist forces in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Philippines, Guatemala, Haiti, Ecuador, the Congo, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Chile, Angola, Grenada, Nicaragua, Bulgaria, Albania, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, El Salvador, etc., etc., etc.

We’ll never know what kind of societies would have resulted if these movements had been allowed to develop without US interference; which, of course, was the idea behind the interference.

Political assassination. Political propaganda.

In the Cold War struggles against the Soviets/Russians the United States has long had the upper hand when it comes to political propaganda. What do the Russkis know about sales campaigns, advertising, psychological manipulation of the public, bait-and-switch, and a host of other Madison Avenue innovations. Just look at what the American media and their Western partners have done with the poisoning of the two Russians, Sergei Skripal and his daughter, in the UK. How many in the West doubt Russia’s guilt?

Then consider the case of Hugo Chávez. When he died in 2013 I wrote the following:

[W]hen someone like Chávez dies at the young age of 58 I have to wonder about the circumstances. Unremitting cancer, intractable respiratory infections, massive heart attack, one after the other … It is well known that during the Cold War, the CIA worked diligently to develop substances that could kill without leaving a trace. I would like to see the Venezuelan government pursue every avenue of investigation in having an autopsy performed. (None was performed apparently.)

Back in December 2011, Chávez, already under treatment for cancer, wondered out loud: “Would it be so strange that they’ve invented the technology to spread cancer and we won’t know about it for 50 years?” The Venezuelan president was speaking a day after Argentina’s leftist president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, announced she had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. This was after three other prominent leftist Latin America leaders had been diagnosed with cancer: Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff; Paraguay’s Fernando Lugo; and the former Brazilian leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

“Evo take care of yourself. Correa, be careful. We just don’t know,” Chávez said, referring to Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, and Rafael Correa, the president of Ecuador, both leading leftists.

Chávez said he had received words of warning from Fidel Castro, himself the target of hundreds of failed and often bizarre CIA assassination plots. “Fidel always told me: ‘Chávez take care. These people have developed technology. You are very careless. Take care what you eat, what they give you to eat … a little needle and they inject you with I don’t know what.”2

When the new Venezuelan president, Nicolas Maduro, suggested possible American involvement in Chávez’s death, the US State Department called the allegation “absurd” even though the United States had already played a key role in the short-lived overthrow of Chávez in 2002. I don’t know of any American mainstream media that has raised the possibility that Chávez was murdered.

I personally believe, without any proof to offer, (although no less than is offered re Russia’s guilt in the UK poisoning) that Hugo Chávez was indeed murdered by the United States. But unlike the UK case, I do have a motivation to offer: Given Chávez’s unremitting hostility towards American imperialism and the CIA’s record of more than 50 assassination attempts against such world political leaders, if his illness and death were NOT induced, the CIA was not doing its job. The world’s media, however, did its job by overwhelmingly ignoring such “conspiracy” talk, saving it for a more “appropriate” occasion, one involving their favorite bad guy, Russia.

If I could speak to British prime-minister Theresa May and her boorish foreign minister Boris Johnson I’d like to ask them: “What are you going to say when it turns out that it wasn’t Russia behind the Skripal poisonings?” Stay tuned.

Another of the many charming examples of Cold War anti-communism

Nostalgia is on the march in Brazil, a longing for a return to the military dictatorship of 1964-1985, during which nearly 500 people were killed by the authorities or simply disappeared. It was a time when the ruling generals used systemic brutality, including electric shocks, as well as psychological torture in their effort to cement power and ward off what they called “communism”. They also stole many of the very young children of their victims and gave them to their followers, whom the children then believed to be their parents.

Crime is the main problem in Brazil today, the leading reason for the desire to return to the good old days of dictatorial rule. An estimated 43 percent of the Brazilian population supports at least a temporary revival of military control, according to a 2017 poll, up from 35 percent in 2016. Fear of violence, whether it be terrorism or street crime, has fueled support for authoritarian parties and bolstered populist leaders with tough-on-crime, anti-immigrant platforms around the world, from President Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines to Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in Austria to a fellow named Trump in the good ol’ US of A.

“Thanks to you, Brazil did not become Cuba!” the crowd chanted at a recent demonstration in Brazil, some snapping salutes.3

This is indeed the height of irony. In all likelihood many of those people were not strangers to hunger, struggling to pay their rent, could not afford needed medical care, or education; yet, they shouted against a country where such deprivations are virtually non-existent.

The United States, of course, played a significant role in the 1964 overthrow of the Brazilian democracy. How could it be otherwise in this world? Here is a phone conversation between US President Lyndon B. Johnson and Thomas Mann, Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, April 3, 1964, two days after the coup:

Mann: I hope you’re as happy about Brazil as I am.

LBJ: I am.

Mann: I think that’s the most important thing that’s happened in the hemisphere in three years.

LBJ: I hope they give us some credit instead of hell.4

Does the man ever feel embarrassed?

In his desperation for approval, our dear president has jumped on the back of increased military spending. Speaking to the presidents of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania he said that he should be given “credit” for pressuring countries like theirs to give more money to NATO. None of presidents had the nerve to ask Mr. Trump why that is a good thing; perhaps pointing out that some of the millions of dollars could have been used to improve the quality of their people’s lives.

A few days later, at the White House Easter Egg Roll the president “bragged to a crowd of children about increasing military spending to $700 billion.” One can imagine what their young minds made of this. Will they one day realize that this man called “The President” was telling them that large amounts of money which could have been spent on their health and education, on their transportation and environment, was instead spent on various weapons used to kill people?

The size of the man’s ego needs can not be exaggerated. The Washington Post observed that Trump instructed the Lithuanian president

to praise him on camera, just as he said she had done privately in the Oval Office. She obliged, saying changes to NATO would not be possible without the United States and that its ‘vital voice and vital leadership’ are important. Trump pressed her: ‘And has Donald Trump made a difference on NATO?’ Those in the room laughed, as she confirmed he has made a difference.5

Thank God some of those in the room laughed. I was beginning to think that all hope was lost.

The stars we honor

Is it a sign of America’s moral maturation that numerous celebrities have been forced to resign or retire because of being exposed as sexual predators?

Maybe. To some extent. I hope so.

But I’d be much more impressed if talk shows and other media stopped inviting and honoring much worse people as guests – war criminals, torturers, serial liars, and mass murderers; people like George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Madeline Albright, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Henry Kissinger, Donald Rumsfeld, John Bolton, and many military officials.

  1. For a book-length discussion of cold-war anti-communist propaganda see Morris Kominsky, The Hoaxers (1970).
  2. The Guardian (London), December 29, 2011.
  3. Washington Post, March 16, 2018.
  4. Michael Beschloss, Taking Charge: The White House Tapes 1963-1964 (1997), p.306.
  5. Washington Post, April 5, 2018.

Fisk Puts to Test the Free-Press Myth in Douma

Here’s how a free press, one owned by a handful of corporations, uses its freedom. It simply tells you what it is good for its business interests, or more generally for the political and business environment it operates in. It’s not interested in truth or airing all sides, or even necessarily basic facts.

The only restraint preventing the corporate media from outright lying to promote its material interests is the fear of being found out, of readers starting to suspect that they are not being told the whole truth.

If that sounds like conspiratorial nonsense to you, consider this single example (there are lots more if you trawl through my past blog posts). Let’s take the matter of veteran Middle East reporter Robert Fisk arriving in Douma this week, the first western correspondent to get there. Fisk is like some relic from a bygone era, when journalists really sought to arrive at the truth, often at great personal danger, not simply win followers on Twitter.

Until his arrival, all the information we were receiving about Douma in the west originated not with on-the-ground reporters, but with jihadist groups or those living under their Islamist reign of terror. That was true of the Youtube videos, the accounts from western reporters based far off in other countries, the human rights organisations, the World Health Organisation, and so on. The fog of war in this case was truly impenetrable.

So Fisk’s arrival was a significant event. He was clearly aware of the journalistic burden on his shoulders. Those still in Douma, after the jihadists fled, we can assume, are mostly supporters of the Syrian government. Even if they are not, they may be fearful of retaliation from the Syrian army if they speak out against it.

So Fisk, a very experienced reporter who has won many awards, was careful in the way he handled the story. Unlike many reporters, he is prepared to add context to his reports, such as the manner or tone of the person he talked to – clues to help him and us decode what they might really be thinking or meaning, rather than just what they are saying.

But the content of what he reported was incendiary. Just a few days after the US, UK and France had bombed Syria, in violation of all principles of international law, on the grounds that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons in Douma, Fisk interviewed a doctor at the clinic where the victims were treated. The doctor said no chemical attack occurred. The video footage from last week was genuine, the doctor added, but it showed civilians who had inhaled dust after a Syrian bombing attack, not gas.

Fisk’s account is clearly honest about what he was told. And the doctor’s account clearly is plausible – it could fit what the video shows. So, whether right or wrong, it is a vital piece of the jigsaw as we, ordinary citizens, decide whether our governments were justified – before United Nations inspectors had even arrived – in acts of aggression against another sovereign nation, and whether, in the case of the UK, Theresa May was entitled to act without reference to parliament. These are matters Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the UK’s opposition Labour party, has been trying to raise in the face of a solid media consensus in favour of bombing.

Given this context, the UK media ought to have been putting Fisk’s report at the centre of their Syria coverage yesterday and today, especially the liberal Guardian, the paper that Labour party members have relied on for decades. So how did the Guardian fare?

The Guardian now has an enormous output of articles, not least its Comment is Free section. So it would be foolhardy of me to say with absolute conviction that the Guardian made no reference anywhere in its pages to Fisk. But if it did so, it was extremely well concealed. A Google search of “Fisk”, “Guardian” and “Douma” throws up nothing. I can locate nothing in searching the Syria news articles and the op-eds published in the physical newspaper either.

So the Guardian appears to have intentionally blocked its readers from learning about the Fisk report, even though it is highly relevant to an informed debate about western actions in Syria, actions that are themselves part of a political debate being led by Corbyn. Denying this information to its readers means the Guardian is actually helping to weaken Corbyn in his battle to hold May to account.

But it does not end there. The Guardian does briefly reference Fisk, it just does so without naming him. At the same time, the Guardian seeks to discredit his reporting using the very same, highly compromised sources that have been relied on till now from Douma. In short, the Guardian appears to be carrying out a damage limitation operation, refusing to report transparently Fisk’s revelations in an attempt to shore up the existing narrative rather than test it against the new narrative offered by Fisk.

Buried away in two lines in an article by Patrick Wintour and Julian Borger, we get this in today’s Guardian:

A group of reporters, many favoured by Moscow, were taken to the site on Monday. They either reported that no weapon attack had occurred or that the victims had been misled by the White Helmets civilian defence force into mistaking a choking effect caused by dust clouds for a chemical attack.

So Fisk, Britain’s most famous and respected Middle East correspondent (can you name another one?), is not only not identified but dismissed generically as one of a group of reporters “favoured by Moscow”.

A second report, headlined “Syrian medics ‘subjected to extreme intimidation’ after Douma attack”, by Martin Chulov and Kareem Shahin, far away in Beirut and Istanbul respectively, confidently denigrates Fisk’s account, again without identifying him or mentioning that he was there. Again, it merely alludes to the content of Fisk’s account and only in so far as it is necessary to undermine it.

Instead, it gives top billing to unchallenged claims by Dr Ghanem Tayara, a Birmingham-based doctor now in Turkey who is the director of the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations, which favours the overthrow of the Syrian goverment.

After many paragraphs of Dr Tayara’s allegations against Bashar Assad’s government, Fisk’s account is given this cursory and hostile treatment near the end of the article:

Medics and survivors who have remained in Douma, and others who have fled for northern Syria, ridiculed competing claims that the attack either did not take place, or did not use gas. …

Some doctors have appeared on Syrian television to deny that anything took place in Douma. A doctor who spoke to the Guardian said: “Our colleagues who appeared on television were coerced, because some hadn’t served in the military or completed their degree, and for other reasons, some had family in Damascus. They decided to stay in exchange for being reconciled with the regime. But the regime used them.”

Another medic who treated victims said: “Anyone who has knowledge of what happened cannot testify. What was being said is that the medical centres would be destroyed on top of those working in it.”

These countervailing voices are important. They are another piece of the jigsaw, as we try to work out what is really going in places like Douma. But publications like the Guardian are consistently presenting them as the only pieces their readers need to know about. That isn’t journalism.

There are good reasons to be suspicious of everything that comes out of the Syria war arena, where all sides are treating the outcome as a zero-sum battle. But western corporate media are clearly not fulfilling their self-declared role either as an impartial messenger of news, or as a watchdog on power. They have taken a side – that of the governments of the US, UK and France, their regional partners Saudi Arabia and Israel, and what are by now mostly proxy jihadi fighters in Syria.

The Guardian failed the most elementary test of honest journalism in its treatment of Fisk’s report. It may be an egregious example but after many years of the Syria war it is very far from being unique.

The Sleep of Civilization

Wealth maketh many friends; but the poor is separated from his neighbour.
— Proverbs 19:4″

James “Mad Dog” Mattis spoke this week, at a pentagon press briefing, saying, among other things, that it was a time for all civilized nations to unite. The use of this trope ‘civilized’ echoes colonial sensibility. It is part of general shifting of meaning in the rhetoric of Empire over the last, say, 80 years.

Never mind that the occasion of this speech, as seems increasingly the norm, was based on mostly propaganda. No evidence for a chemical attack was actually provided. Just as the evidence in the Skripal (attempted) murder (sic) is conspicuously lacking.

This is a time when war criminals (unprosecuted, of course) can simply count on the utter amnesia of both the public and the quisling western press.

So let’s go back and check a few boxes on Mattis. This is the man who oversaw the war crimes of Fallujah and then helped cover them up. One can read about it here

So how is it that Mattis can so confidently count on the silence and complicity of the corporate press? Mattis is no doubt sociopathic. He is a lizard eyed lisping sadist and yet he is fawned over and described as the ‘the most revered Marine in a generation’ by the same prostrate press. The adoration of the military in western media is at an all time high. And entertainment today is laden with the most jingoistic and nativist rhetoric imaginable. Hollywood today produces fiction that is uniform in its opinions and values. Watch this season of Designated Survivor. I know that is asking a lot, but do it anyway. Kiefer Sutherland is one of those actors who in middle age has begun to take on the tight lipped appearance of an aggrieved or constipated Quaker. The show is so stunningly reactionary that one finds some difficulty in arriving at the right words. But it is not an anomaly. Half of network prime time drama is military-based in theme. And today Hollywood staff writers can count on CIA or Pentagon “advisors” taking an active part in the creation of scripts. The blurring of fiction and Imperial fiction, as it were. There are ongoing themes in this Sutherland show about Russian interference in US democracy and most recently a story built around a tiny Asian nation with an insane dictatorial leader who wants nuclear weapons. The depictions of the Asian characters is only slightly less cartoon like than Charlie Chan. And always there are the requisite evil Muslim terrorist.

But back to the disturbing figure of Jim Mattis. His call sign is “chaos”. He is reported to be worth in the neighborhood of five million dollars. This is an absurd low ball figure, but whatever. He is a graduate of Central Washington U. and something called the National Defense University. A quick iinternet search reveals this is a special educational institution on the grounds of Fort Leslie in DC and chartered by the Joint Chiefs. One does wonder what a typical class at NDU looks like.

As for the “pacification” of Fallujah. Brett Wilkins wrote…

According to witnesses and survivors of the assault, Marines indiscriminately killed men, women, children, the elderly and disabled alike. Civilians waving white flags of surrender were cut down by snipers, who also targeted ambulances carrying the wounded and dying to the few functioning clinics not destroyed by US bombs. “I see people carrying a white flag and yelling at us, saying, ‘We are here, just try to save us,’ but we could not save them because whenever we opened the ambulance door, the Americans would shoot at us,” Dr. Salam Ismael, head of Iraq’s young doctors association, told American investigative reporter Aaron Glantz, who covered the battle as an unembedded journalist. “We tried to carry food or water; the snipers shoot the containers of food.

No civilizational norms violated there. Nope. Mattis also was the man who had all charges dropped against the soldiers that took part in the rampage at Haditha. Civilians shot point blank, often women and children, and the elderly — in their homes.  Callsign “Chaos”.

Gary Kohls, MD, writing at Veterans Today….

Several of the PEOTUS’ cabinet appointees are high-ranking “lifer” military officers who have an innate disdain for democratic values (as would be expected for anybody whose career has been lived in the bubble of a hierarchical culture whose main junk values are 1) shoot first/ask questions later and 2) the use of dominative power over “enemies” via military violence.

Kohls was primarily writing about Jim Mattis. But honestly, even a cursory examination of ANY four star General will yield similar biographical facts and similar personality disorders. You don’t rise through military ranks without a core ruthlessness, and an innate sadism.
After the bombing of a wedding party in the Iraq desert, Mattis is quoted as saying…

Ten miles from the Syrian border and 80 miles from the nearest city and a wedding party? Don’t be naïve. Plus they had 30 males of military age with them. How many people go to the middle of the desert to have a wedding party?

The rank Orientalism of this comment, the arrogant indifference to the history and culture of Islam, to the Arab world in general, is also the hallmark of the successful military commander. Kill em all and let God sort it out. Of course, at the time of his nomination the NY Times published an op ed whose headline identified Mattis as a “pontential force for restraint”. That crazy old paper of record. And Mattis is routinely described as an intellectual, a ‘warrior monk’, and yet he doesn’t know anything of nomadic desert societies and culture. He didn’t even consider there might be a cultural gap here, or consider he might need to check alternative readings of the Muslim world, ones not provided for by that steller education at National Defense U. Mattis is not an intellectual, not even by the standards of that warped sub phylum of humanity that is the military.

The media coverage of Syria, in the UK and US, is blatantly biased and pro intervention. The fact that FOX news reactionary Tucker Carlson is the sanest voice in mainstream media is very telling. Carlson hasn’t “woke”…. he just saw a niche demographic that might boost his ratings. Still…he was, in fact, correct.

Danny Haiphong wrote

Tucker Carlson understands that he must appeal primarily to Republican voters weary of US interventions they see as products of Democratic Party-led wars even if establishment Republicans are no less hawkish than Democrats. Meanwhile, Goodman and her funders have subtly aligned with the Democrats as the new leaders of the War Party. War is the only tool at the disposal of imperialism, and there isn’t a single voice in Washington or the “liberal” media unwilling to use it.

Under these conditions, infantile leftists and faux socialists in the Democratic Party camp have felt compelled to choose a side in the imperial madhouse. They claim that Democrats are “Presidential” while Putin and Assad are villains of humanity. No criticism is thrown at the Democratic Party, which sent a delegation led by Nancy Pelosi to Israel just days prior to the planned gun down of Palestinian resistance forces in Gaza. It doesn’t seem to matter how many Syrians or Palestinians are killed by the forces of imperialism when the so-called left is under the swoon of the CIA. So-called US leftists have caught anti-Putin fever at the expense of all other political questions.

This includes the murder of Black people by the police in the US. Barely any attention was paid in the US to the murders of Stephon Clark and Saheed Vassell over the last few weeks. Only community members and the usual left organizations made any noise about these state-sanctioned murders. The same goes for Israel’s wonton massacre of participants in Gaza’s Great March for Return. In the absence of a mass movement, people in the US and West are becoming mere onlookers in a changing a world.

This last few months has revealed as never before both the callous cruelty of the ruling class in the U.S. and UK, but also the degrading of education … for lack of a better description. At the UN, British envoy Karen Pierce, mistakenly thought Karl Marx was a Russian. In a prank phone call Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, thought there was a country called Binimo. And Trump himself noted something or other about an imaginary African country called Nambia. Boris Johnson began an extemporaneous recitation of a Kipling poem (Road to Mandalay) in a temple in Myanmar. And then was told it was inappropriate by an aid, trying to save him further embarrassment, and STILL Johnson didn’t understand.

All of these examples are not mere gaffes, amusing mistakes, but rather a general indifference to the cultures of the world, in fact, an indifference to the world beyond their own small corner of it. Indifferent and hostile. Remember when George Bush, now in full rehabilitation mode by his media handlers, mocked Karla Faye Tucker, on death row, who was begging for her life. That is exactly the cruelty one sees across the board in the leaders of the West today. One wonders does Mattis or Bush or Bolton think the use of Agent Orange transgressed civilizational norms? Did Hiroshima?

What strikes me most acutely, these last few months, is the extraordinary cultural chauvinism of the U.S., or rather mostly of white U.S., as well as an institutionalized orientalism. Most White Americans, as a general statement, think they are better than the rest of the world. And most Americans have scant knowledge about the rest of the world. So the belief in cultural (and moral) superiority is based on what? The answer is not simple, but as a general sort of response, this trust in “our” superiority is built on violence. On an ability to be effectively violent. Most British, too, think they are superior to those ‘wogs’ south of their emerald isle. But since the setting of the sun on Empire, ‘officially’, the British hold to both a sense of superiority and a deep panic inducing sense of inferiority — at least to their American cousins. They are still better than those fucking cheese eating frogs or the krauts or whoever, but they accept that the U.S. is the sort of heavyweight champ of the moment. Meanwhile, the tragic and criminal fire at Grenfell Towers in London elicited a public discourse that perfectly reflected the class inequality of the UK, but also reflected, again, the colonialist mentality of the ruling party and their constituency.

Stephen Brenner wrote of the fire and the government response to it..

There is Sir Martin Moore-Bick,** the former High Court Judge, who has been appointed by May to head a board of inquiry. Fears of a protracted inquiry producing an anodyne report were aroused when Moore-Bick went out of his way to declare that the scope of the investigation would be severely limited to determining the immediate cause of the fire and why it spread so rapidly. Answers to both questions already are known. The Sir Inquisitor-to-be has given the game away in adding that “I do not expect everyone to be pleased by the conclusion of the inquiry” – yet to begin. Moore-Bick’s unprompted utterance shows just how pervasive is the Americanization of British political culture. Unnecessary, embarrassing ejaculations like this have become impulsive – defying the dictates of prudent restraint. No one is confused as to who the “everyone” he has in mind refers to. An impression reinforced by the denial of the residents’ right to ask questions in person as to the scope and form of the inquiry. The only open question is the exact tint that the whitewash will take (stitch-up in British dialect). The first testimony will not be heard until mid-September when panel members, as yet unnamed, get back from their holidays.

Graham Peebles adds

Grenfell Tower forms part of the Lancaster Road West Estate in Notting Hill Gate. An area that, like many other parts of the capital, has been subjected to a gentrification assault accompanied by systematic social cleansing that goes back decades and has intensified over the last 10 –15 years. In addition, the Grenfell affair demonstrates that the United States is not alone in its tolerance for actions that should be a national disgrace but are slighted by a political class incapable of feeling shame. The callous, off-hand treatment given the Grenfell victims is reminiscent of how colonial administrators dealt with expendable natives. If a proper criminal process were undertaken, a reasonable verdict would be Involuntary Manslaughter.

But that is exactly it. The colonial template is one etched in acid in the collective imagination of the West. At least the English speaking West. Expendable natives…which is what Jim Mattis sees everywhere that he dumps depleted Unranium and Willy Pete. It is what Madelaine Albright saw in Iraq or Hillary Clinton in Libya or Barack Obama in Sudan, Yemen, and…well… four or five other countries. It is what most U.S. police departments see in neighborhoods ravaged by poverty. As in those old Tarzan films, when the sound of drums is heard, the pith helmeted white man notes…”the natives are restless tonight”. When one discusses Syria, the most acute topic this week, remember that for Mad Dog and Boss Trump, or for the loopy John Bolton, these are just natives in need of pacification. Giving money to ISIS or Daesh, or whoever, as a cynical expression of colonial real politik, is nothing out of the ordinary. It is what the UK and US have done for a long while. It’s Ramar of Jungle handing out beads to the *natives*.

Domestically, take the example of Flint, Michigan. At the drinking water. When the unelected state appointed emergency manager switched from the Detroit River to the Flint River to supply water to the residents of Flint, the result was a spike in all diseases of insanitation. Everyone knew this was going to happen. The General Motors plant had stopped using Flint River water because it was corrosive to the auto parts they were manufacturing. But poor black kids, who cares. The U.S. has a long history of such stuff, from Love Canal, New York, to the chemical dump in the Elk River in West Virginia. You will notice a theme here. It is class. You don’t find ash spills like what happened near the Emery River in Tennessee occurring in Mill Valley or Scarsdale or Bel Air. Inflicting suffering on the poor is perfectly acceptable to the ruling class. To them, privilege is a sign of superiority. And the less deserving are only there to serve.

The problem with the current wave of propaganda from western sources is that very little, if any, evidence is given. The term ‘very likely’ is much in vogue, probably because it leaves such a huge ‘walk it back’ escape route. Except there is less and less effort to even bother. In one sense the solidification of class power came out of neoliberal policies in the 1970s. The top 1% (really, the top half of one percent) increased their wealth dramatically, with the same occurring in the UK. Clinton pushed these principles even further and then Bush and Blair further still. We are now living the dream of the Washington Consensus economists. And it worth noting the founding statement of Hayak’s Mt. Pelerin Society, in 1947. For Hayak was the godfather of neoliberalism and Milton Freidman his heir.

The central values of civilization are in danger. Over large stretches of the earth’s surface the essential conditions of human dignity and freedom have already disappeared.

There is that word again. Of course, this was really only justification for the 1% to expand the reach of Western capital. To exploit labor and extract resources. And when recalcitrant countries did not submit quickly enough, the CIA was always available (ask Iran, or Chile, or Angola. The latter more of a symbolic lesson for those uppity nations even thinking about not following orders. It also marked open U.S. cooperation with apartheid South Africa. And in opposition to the troops Castro sent to assist the MPLA opposition to the ruthless US supported Jonas Savimbi). This restoration of ruling class power, though, was and is always looking over its shoulder. For the reality is that such profound inequality means life becomes unsustainable, even for the top 0.1% is repressed. And such repression takes effort. And that effort is giving birth to the madness one sees today. From Grenfell Tower to Flint Michigan, to Gaza or Libya or Syria — the principles driving the violence are the same. And it matters not if the urbane and articulate Obama is President, or if the troglodyte Trump, if it is Blair or May, for they are only reciting from a small financial Catechism of financial laws, and these laws are breaking down in the face of environmental degradation and an inequality so extreme that its almost impervious to calculation. They are only the voice of their class.

This idea of civilized man has come to be an almost code-word for class hierarchy. The violence against Palestinians is simply inseparable from the violence that killed Stephon Clark. The violence that makes children sick in Michigan is the same one that causes oil spills or disasters such as the Lac-Mégantic train crash near Quebec, Canada. And, it is the same bigoted smug confidence of bourgeoise identity political thinking. The one that demands Islam rid itself of veils, or that ridicules ANY thinking or practice divergent from Western norms. You cannot expect the system to produce change if the system is based on punishing change. The status quo must be protected. For the ownership class world poverty is mostly the fault of the poor.

The admission that neoliberalism has failed in terms of its announced goals has forced its proponents to a tactical retreat—defending the broad thrust of the neoliberal policy agenda under cover of “reform.” The result is an augmented Washington Consensus that blames client states and not international institutions or transnational capital for the failures of neoliberalism. It is the poor who are expected to make still further adjustments along neoliberal lines. From this point of view, what comes after neoliberalism must be more neoliberalism.

— William K. Tabb, “After Neoliberalism“, Monthly Review, June 1, 2003.

This idea of civilizational norms is connected to a deeply rooted assumption about the virtue of Democracy. Israel is described as Democratic but Cuba is not, for example. The reality, of course, is that the CIA and US ruling class spend most of their energy in deterring democracy (to quote Chomsky).

Any real discussion of democracy needs to be extended beyond the undemocratic nature of the global economic institutions to a larger discussion of democracy, one that goes beyond whether votes are counted fairly, opposition candidates allowed to participate on an equal basis, and the voices of ordinary people heard by their elected leaders. Democracy needs finally to be discussed in relation to class rule in capitalist societies.

— William T. Kabb, “After Neoliberalism“, Monthly Review, June 1, 2003.

As Samir Amin pointed out, the “international community” (the G7 plus that bastion of democracy, Saudi Arabia) is utterly unconcerned with the opinions of 85% of the world’s population. So, both on a political/economic level, and on a cultural level, the Imperialist U.S. sees it as an innate right to decide the policies of the global south. It is anti democratic. The ruling class sees the right to enforce inequality as something of a Natural law. The anti Russian propaganda was born when Putin refused to sign off on the Nazi putsch in Ukraine. The US/Japan/NATO alliance is one that demands both economic submission and increasingly a cultural submission as well. And any rejection of this means a military forced submission. Democracy has come to be a shorthand for submission to neo-liberal economic policy dictated by Washington. Freedom is what happens after *we* destroy your country.

That Mattis or May or various other servants of Empire can talk of civilzational norms with a straight face is actually pretty remarkable. The list of crimes is so extensive that one barely knows where to begin. We could ask about Gary Webb and cocaine and the CIA. Or about the School of the Americas, or My Lai or the siege at Waco. Or….but I feel this stuff really should be well known by now. I am more concerned in a sense with the small cultural appropriations and the gestures of an Orientalist sensibility that I see almost daily in western media. And the growing anti-semitism which one finds even on the left. And the seemingly intractable racism of white America. I just stop having the ability to keep track of it all.

How can the white bourgeoisie demand adherence to their values with such tenacity? Do they really see themselves as somehow representative of some ideal? Tolerance means only adherence to their worldview. To their values. It is this nattering about ecological issues while never questioning the US military machine. But these refrains seem to stick in the collective consciousness of the west…”gas your own people” is one. As if gassing someone else were less objectionable. It is a media universe of entrenched meaningless slogans. It always reminds me of the outcry about steroid abuse. Maybe ask why big Pharma manufacture so many steroids. The medical uses for which are very limited. But no, it is easier to punish this or that athlete who in their desperation is looking for an edge, a way to reach that economic pinnacle so few reach. But question Eli Lilly? Never.

The ruling class has always made money, always been ruthless, but again, the 1970s marked the solidification of systematic plunder, a cohesive and seamless river of money upwards. And enforced by the CIA. One should not forget that the CIA was founded by rich white ruling class scions of banking and finance. Allan Dullus, straight out of Wall Street, William Simon, Richard Mellon Scaife, Frank Shakespeare, and Bill Donovan. I mean the CIA calls itself “the Company”…bit of a tip off, that. If one struggles to grasp foreign policy decisions, always look at US business interests in the region. Remember these are ruthless people (MK ULTRA, Operation Mockingbird, etc). And the media was always part of this. The Graham family of Washington Post fame were directly linked to the CIA. William Paley, Henry Luce, Arthur Hays Sulzberger, and hundreds other are all intimate with the CIA. And it is no different now. It was the Clinton cartel that spent inordinate energy and time infiltrating Hollywood. The result is House of Cards, Homeland, Designated Survivor, and all the countless rest. Uniformity of message. Uniformity of values.

I do wonder at times the role of Evangelical Christianity as it runs smack into the Catholic stake-outs in the corridors of power. Perhaps they cooperate, I don’t know. Religion is second to money, anyway. And then there is the role of Israel, that anti democratic neo colonial apartheid state in the Middle East. The ascension of the settler fanatic mirrors the ascension of Dominionists in the current US government. Fanatical zealots. Intolerant and profoundly ignorant of most things outside of their narrow set of concerns. And again, anti democratic. Israel serves the U.S. ruling class, not the other way round. There is no global Jewish plot as I keep reading in social media. The feeding of this bit of classic antisemitism is probably sourced by Israel itself. Nothing serves their PR better than spikes in antisemitism. But Israel is, for sure, more powerful than ever before. More influential.

There is, best case scenario, a new Cold War in place. Worst case scenario, well, doesn’t matter. The real danger is the generalized ignorance now on display. Ruthless and sadistic one can predict, but irrational zealotry and stupidity…that is harder to deal with. And this is for certain the Age of Stupid. As for civilization, I’m coming to think we might well do fine without it.

Israel celebrates “Pyrrhic Victory” as it turns 70

It appears Israelis have every reason to be in festive mood this week as they celebrate the 70th anniversary of their state’s founding.

This “Independence Day”, which Israel marks according to the Hebrew calendar, on April 19, the regional, security and diplomatic environment looks to be the most favourable Israel has faced in its short history.

The Palestinians have been crushed, and Israel faces no international pressure to concede a two-state solution. The Arab states are in disarray, with growing signs that Saudi Arabia and some other Gulf states may be ready to normalise relations.

The Trump administration is little more than a cheerleader for Israel, and has pre-empted Palestinian ambitions for statehood by moving its embassy to Jerusalem next month.

And Israel has one of the few economies that is thriving despite the global recession sparked by the financial meltdown a decade ago.

Nonetheless, analysts warn, the picture over the coming decades may prove to be far less rosey than it appears now. The relatively free hand Israel currently enjoys comes with new costs and dangers, they argue.

“This is more like a pyrrhic victory,” Amal Jamal, a politics professor at Tel Aviv University, told Al Jazeera.

“Israel has won this round of the battle, but at a price it probably can’t afford in the coming rounds.”

‘The end of the Jewish state’

That sentiment is shared in unlikely places. Last month Israel’s popular Yedioth Aharonoth daily published the assessments of six former heads of Israel’s spy agency Mossad, headlined: “The country is in grave condition.”

One, Dani Yatom, went so far as to predict “the end of the Jewish state”. Another, Nahum Admoni, warned that the rift within the Israeli Jewish public was “greater than at any other time” in Israel’s history.

Michal Warschawski, an Israeli analyst and founder of the Alternative Information Centre, argued that Israel was suffering from “classic hubris”.

“Israel is strong, rich and has powerful allies. That explains its extreme arrogance at the moment,” he told Al Jazeera.

“We are now in a strange situation in which the security apparatus has more insight into Israel’s problems than the politicians.”

An indication of Israel’s troubles ahead are the popular, unarmed protests that have exploded on to the Palestinian political scene along Gaza’s perimeter fence.

For decades Israel’s internal security has been carefully built on an intricate system of containing, isolating and repressing Palestinians with walls, checkpoints and blockades.

But the Gaza protests suggest to some observers that Israel’s complex fortifications could quickly turn into a house of cards if unarmed resistance by Palestinians grows or spreads.

Israeli military commanders have repeatedly warned that they have no strategy for countering a mass popular revolt. The use of snipers to terrify away protesters was a sign of Israel’s desperation, say analysts.

Veteran Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery observed in a column at the weekend: “Like the British in India and the white racists in the US, the Israeli government does not know how to deal with unarmed protest.”

Assad Ghanem, a political scientist at Haifa University, told Al Jazeera: “What happens to Israel will depend in part on what Palestinians choose to do, and Palestinians aren’t going to accept third or fourth-class status forever.”

He noted that historically Palestinians had looked to the wider Arab world for support, including military assistance.

“For the first time, the Palestinians are on their own. They have slowly internalised the fact that Israel cannot be defeated with arms, and they must move towards a non-armed struggle.”

Israel would be in “serious difficulty” if the protests in Gaza spread, unifying Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Israel and the refugee camps of Lebanon and Syria. “Israel cannot repress all these fronts at the same time,” he said.

Jamal, of Tel Aviv University, observed that the Palestinian struggle would be influenced by changing international circumstances.

“The Israeli right is behaving as if the shift to the right in the west will last forever. It won’t – there will be a backlash,” he argued.

‘No depth to international support’

But if Israel has reason to worry about where increasing hopelessness may drive the Palestinians, it has additional dark clouds looming on the horizon.

International support for Israel has no depth, according to Jeff Halper, an Israeli analyst.

“Israel may have the support of western governments, but it has lost the fight for international public opinion. Its defenders sound increasingly shrill and isolated,” he told Al Jazeera.

Ilan Pappe, an Israeli historian, noted that Israel’s position was severely weakened by its explicit abandonment of any peace process.

“While the two-state framework was formally on the table, it was much easier for people to accept the current reality,” he told Al Jazeera. “But without it, Israel is naked, it is exposed as an apartheid state.”

That, said Jamal, would make it much harder for Israel to maintain alliances with progressives movements in the US and Europe.

He pointed to Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Britain’s opposition Labour party, as an example of the new breed of politician prepared to be outspoken in support of the Palestinians. Polls have also revealed for the first time widespread antipathy towards Israel from within the ranks of the Democratic Party in the US.

“Palestinian strategies of resistance can accelerate this trend,” Jamal added.

Shift to the right

The dramatic shift in Israel towards the far right in recent years, with a series of ever more ultra-nationalist governments under Benjamin Netanyahu, has provoked growing polarisation among Israeli Jews and mounting alienation from liberal Jews overseas.

Traditionally, the latter have been vocal advocates for Israel abroad, especially in the United States.

In the run-up to the 70th anniversary celebrations, there has been an outpouring of fears from liberal commentators about the future.

Bradley Burston observed that Israel was now led by “a government of the racist, by the racist, for the racist”, while Chemi Shalev warned that it was time for liberal Jews in Israel and the US to “circle their wagons” against the Israeli leadership.

Emilie Moatti argued that the “thuggery” of the current government would soon seem moderate in comparison to the “nightmarish circus up the road”.

Meanwhile, analyst Yossi Klein argued: “A clerical fascist state will rise here much faster than you think.” He added that Israel was rapidly becoming a country that “you have to get out of, and fast”.

Such fears have been exacerbated by a raft of discriminatory and racist legislation and relentless efforts to delegitimise the Israeli supreme court and human rights groups.

“It is not just the illusion of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state that is crumbling, Israel is actively abandoning any pretence of being democratic. It is more interested in its Jewishness,” Warschawski said.

Jamal said Israel was becoming “a theocratic, nationalist state” dominated by religious extremists and the settlers. “That is not a direction those Israelis who want peace can go in. The secular population will have to fight for what’s left of Israel’s democracy,” he said.

Pappe said growing economic gaps between a rich elite and the country’s middle classes were also straining traditional internal solidarity.

In 2015 the finance ministry warned that over the coming years Israel was on track for a Greek-style fiscal meltdown.

“Israel has the largest gap between rich and poor in the OECD [an organisation promoting economic cooperation between the world’s 35 most developed countries],” said Pappe.

“The middle classes can hardly survive, and mostly are living off overdrafts. They are on the verge of protests.”

Young looking to leave

All agreed that Israel risked a brain drain – and a loss of legitimacy – as younger liberal Israelis looked for options to leave.

Jamal said: “Israel has traded on the claim that the occupation is temporary. But clearly that is no longer tenable. So Israelis will have to choose. There can one sovereign state for everyone living here, or there can be apartheid.”

Halper struck a similar note. “What has saved Israel has been the fact that there is no countervailing push for a resolution of the conflict,” he said. “Israel has won the argument by default.

“One state is in the air, and it could quickly build a dynamic of its own, both locally and outside. The churches, trade unions, solidarity groups, civil society organisations are all looking for someone to articulate a new way ahead.”

And Israel could soon find itself deprived of its traditional supporters abroad to help it counter the intensified international solidarity with Palestinians, such as the boycott (BDS) movement.

Warschawski said: “In a generation the unconditional support Israel has enjoyed from Jewish organisations overseas will become a thing of the past. Young Jews either don’t care about Israel or are openly critical of it.”

A survey in February found only 40 per cent of American Jews under the age of 35 in the San Francisco area were “comfortable with the idea of a Jewish state”, compared to nearly three-quarters of those over 65.

In a sign of the Israeli right’s growing fears, settler leader Naftali Bennett, the Jewish diaspora minister, announced last month plans for Israel to forge ties with tens of millions of people it has classified as “potential Jews” or those with an “affinity” to the Jewish people.

Anshel Pfeffer, an analyst with the Haaretz daily, argued that Israel realised it could no longer rely on overseas Jews, in an article headlined: “Disappointed with the Diaspora, Israel is now looking to replace it”.

Pappe said in practice, as liberal Jews abandoned Israel, it would have to climb into bed with US Christian Zionists, religious fundamentalists who backed Trump in large numbers in the last presidential election.

“Jews have needed to believe that Israel embodies moral and universal values. Christian Zionists don’t care. They will support it whatever it does,” he said.

Rising global powers could also make a difference to Israel’s fortunes long term, acting as a counterweight to current US dominance.

Jamal noted that, in preparation, Israel was already trying to develop closer economic and military ties to India and China.

Halper said: “Israel has depended on the US being the main player in the Middle East. But Russia is already getting more involved, and there are signs that China will eventually do so too.

“That will require Israel to navigate a more difficult military and diplomatic environment.”

• First published in Al Jazeera

America’s Dystopian Future

Imagine a privatized America where rugged individualism reigns supreme within a vast network of corporate America, Inc., similar to 19th century wild west lifestyle, no social security, no Medicare, no Medicaid, no public law enforcement as individuals stand their own ground. Read all about it in Scott Erickson’s The History of the Decline and Fall of America’s Dystopian Future, (Azaria Press, 2018).

Erickson’s newly released semi-fictional satire of American history and subsequent decline into deepening pits of despair is a sure-fire treasure trove of Americana, at its best. It’s a page-turner par excellence, rich in accurate textured American history and jam-packed with imagery of a dystopian future that is simply unavoidable based upon America’s character and development over the past two centuries. The dye was cast long before onset of dystopian existence.

The History of the Decline and Fall of America highlights and exposes inherent limitations of democratic capitalism whilst explaining in full living color a future American dystopia that is fully expected based upon America’s beginnings from the time of Captain John Smith at historic Jamestown (1607). The history lesson therein is superb, not missing a beat of what shaped America up to the final tipping point of neoliberal dogma and beyond into a deep dark world order.

This beautifully written and conceived historical fiction is a witty tour de force of America past, present, and future, weaving together all of the historical elements into one coherent story from the widely accepted version of American “business success ” of the early period, but over time wistfully morphing into abject failure!

That process of failure, the root causes, is what intrigues. For example, “Americans were not only inventing a country but inventing what it meant to be an American.”  Indeed, America came into being as a brand new experiment in capitalistic democracy. Within that quest for a new way forward, inclusive of equality and fraternity amongst equals, Erickson discovers and reveals unique American traits that belie that mission, leading to a neoliberal/privatization hellhole that goes horribly wrong.

That fascinating pathway is explained via enchanting quips, for example, de Tocqueville’s remarkably astute comment: “I know of no country, indeed, where the love of money has taken a stronger hold on the affections of men.” This one isolated statement from the 1830s tells a tale of American character molded by artificiality of wealth creation simply for the sake of possessing it. America’s pursuit of happiness was the “pursuit of affluence” and remained its dominant trait for the “remaining 200-plus years of American history.”

Indeed, those predominant American character traits are flushed-out and analyzed in the context of eventual failure, of a dystopian world order emanating out of America’s clumsy experimentation with empire-building and constantly striving for the pot at the end of the rainbow, meaning economic growth above all else. It was a frontier spirit that fed into elusive goals of preeminence: “The frontier resulted in Americans being doers rather than thinkers….”

Real scenes of real American cocksuredness, as well as the clumsiness associated with raw ignorance, come to life; e.g., during the presidential race between Ike and Adlai Stevenson in 1954: “A revealing incident occurred while Stevenson was campaigning for president. A citizen shouted to Stevenson that he ‘had the vote of every thinking person.’ Stevenson replied, ‘That’s not enough. We need a majority!”

This is excellent history, comparable to a textbook, as well as a peek into the future shaped via trends rooted throughout Americana. Erickson’s lessons in American history are genuine and accurate, which gives the book depth and a powerful sense of significance well beyond similar treatises that try to lay the challenging groundwork leading to how a nation turns sour into a dystopian society.

He weaves the path of Manifest Destiny all the way from 1840s to the planting of the American flag on the surface of the moon. Until the 1970s when American pre-eminence tipped downward, humiliated in Vietnam in what future generations came to know as “The Vietnam Syndrome,” the psychological attempt to live with the unacceptable reality that it was possible for America to not win.

Not only was America no longer a winner in war, its “unparalleled level of affluence… began to decline.” The 1970s marked the high point, forever downward into a bottomless septic tank, a cloaca of messy foul shit earmarking America’s final destiny, third world status within a realm of excessive, pretense of wealth glistening behind spiked electronic gates.

The signs of decline were easy to spot by the early-mid 2000s:

… the situation had declined dramatically. According to statistics from 2015, among industrialized nations, America was notable for having the highest poverty rate, the lowest score on the UN index of ‘material well-being of children,’ the highest health care expenditures, the highest infant mortality rate, the highest prevalence of mental health problems, the highest obesity rate, the highest consumption of antidepressants per capita, the highest homicide rate, and the largest prison population per capita. By international standards, the rural counties of southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky qualified as developing countries, as did large sections of American cities such as Detroit, Cleveland, Gary, and many others. (p. 112)

Thereafter, America’s youth no longer embraced the long-standing belief that they would have more than their parents. No, they knew it would be less and less. America entered a “permanent recession” cycle.

By the late 2030s America experienced a series of extreme crises.  A number of cities declared bankruptcy. Houston, America’s 4th largest city, goes bankrupt. Cleveland goes bankrupt. The head of the Federal Reserve quits and becomes a banjo player in a bluegrass group. America’s banking system collapses under the weight of fishy loans and massive crazed derivatives all permitted by increasingly hands-off regulations. The brutal hand of libertarianism smears a once proud republic.

Regular citizens, entire families carry torches surrounding Wall Street in protest of lost savings, ATMs not functioning, banks closed. An economic death spiral unleashed. The Save America Act followed, consisting of pure right wing neoliberal fix-its to save corporate America, to save Wall Street, turning to America, Inc. as the only answer to all that ails.

And, as the financial markets unravel in the face of nationwide bankruptcies, the government convincingly informs the public: “We need to defy the Constitution in order to preserve it… Americans were so thoroughly confused about the relationship between government and economics that most of them thought that the terms democracy, free-enterprise, and capitalism were the same thing.” (Pg. 165)

As time progresses, America’s Labor Day is changed to Management Day, and the Catholic Church is permitted to re-name the Statue of Liberty as “Our Lady of Perpetual Economic Growth.” America the nation turns into America, Inc. It is the only way the establishment knows to drive the country out of its doldrums. As such, The Star Spangled Banner is changed to The Free Market Ramble.

Privatization of the entire country in harmony with massive tax cuts alongside elimination of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public education, law enforcement, postal service, and maintenance of roads and infrastructure, thereafter, people take care of themselves from birth to the death, alone with family backing. Self-directed medical care becomes a beacon of survival of the fittest of the fittest. Those that participated as youngsters in Boy/Girl Scouts have a leg up in a society that increasingly places emphasis on rugged individualism. However, the many, many weaklings stumble in rows after rows of slimy gutters.

In the end, and similar to America’s 2008-09 financial collapse, which was only a warm up for much bigger things to come:

The decisive trigger, the one that pushed America beyond the point of no return, was the total collapse of the economy. It had been something of a miracle that the doomed economy had not collapsed long before. Toward the end it had been sustained by little more than momentum, since according to all economic indicators it should not have been functioning at all. The economic system based on infinite growth had reached the point where it could grow no more. American banks could not pay off previous debt by making further loans to generate more money. The pyramid scheme was over… An eerie calm descended upon all those involved in economics and finance.

Near Deadly Political Gas Attack On Americans

“Historically, reactionary forces on the verge of extinction invariably conduct a last desperate struggle against the revolutionary forces, and some revolutionaries are deluded for a time by this phenomenon of outward strength but inner weakness, failing to grasp the essential fact that the enemy is nearing extinction while they themselves are approaching victory.”

In the face of steadily deteriorating imperial power, the reactionary forces of global capital have pressed the panic button and are performing far worse than rats on a sinking ship, unless those rats were armed with nuclear weapons and were as deluded as the politburo of western capitalism. Unfortunately some who were previously considered advocates of change are now among the deluded mentioned in the quote and have become foremost protectors of the reactionary political economics of global capital controlled by the market forces of Artificial Intelligence. As the world lurches closer to what could become a nuclear confrontation and the western toadies of empire raise wimpy voices in an atonal chorus of support for accusations against logic and reality, it would be nice to think the quote had it right and that this is just a sign of their and not our extinction. But while we need to keep the faith and work for a better future it must be noted that things get worse and more worrisome in the present.

The most recent nerve gas charges in Syria coming from the mental bowels of western reactionaries were as believable as the last ones, which means hysterically funny when not tragically frightening. The only truthfulness comes from America’s Pinhead-In-Chief who actually believes that Assad is as dumb as American policy pundits and would use poison gas to kill for no reason other than sadistic pleasure, or at least to conveniently cause photo-ops of suffering babies being protected by performers in uniform. Only slack-jawed oafs could believe that at a time of near total victory over the American sponsored and trained anti-civil warriors Assad would be so venal, stupid and morally corrupt as to order such a thing and most American leadership jackals would know it was political bullshit and simply lie about how terrible and dreadful and monstrous all of this was. Trump, in his incredibly ignorant honesty, actually believes it, which makes him the most sincere potential mass murderer we’ve ever had in the now diverse formerly “white” house. That’s not really a comfort but more a terrible statement about the murderous political pimps we deify as great leaders of the past, both historic and very recent.

Following the equally unbelievable charges against Russia and Putin which had them-him putting nerve-gas-poison on a doorknob to kill an ex-spy who had been exiled-swapped to and living anonymously in England for years, and leaving out the numbskull idiocy of any alleged super-agent doing so and jeopardizing any visitor, salesperson, neighbor or delivery person who might have touched the door before the intended victims whose conditions of recovery remained buried on back pages while headlines screamed “murder most foul”. This fetid gas emanating from England’s governmental toilet was quickly taken up by America’s own reality TV government, thus raising the intellectual stench to that of an international moral sewer. If only the UK and USA had to pay the price of this foulness that might be another point for the quote’s analysis, but when the western toilet overflows, the world becomes inundated with the mental excrement and polluting waste of a more dangerous kind than the usual outcome of minority private profit at majority public loss. This could have blundered into a confrontation between nuclear powers far more threatening than the slow destruction of our environment under western control directed by the master race of self chosen rulers in the USA and Israel. Some reactionary pessimists might welcome the possible destruction of humanity but the rest of us far outnumber them and need to begin acting as a democratic majority of our race.

Luckily, sensibility in Russia, Syria, Iran and other parts of the global majority became more powerful at a time of extremely serious crisis. The reaction, especially by Russia, to the publicity stunt bombing of Syria’s alleged poison gas supply, a product said to no longer be in existence by another member of the presidential pimp parade several years ago, was as should have been expected by knowledgeable observers, at an intellectual and moral level unperceivable by the class of murderous intellectual clowns running our circus. While it may seem too much to ask of our own population, much of it kept obsessed with scandals about Trump’s alleged sex life with rich and soon to be even richer “me too” porn queens, Russian meddling in our pet food purchases or world history according to Marvel Comics, it might be a good idea for all those truly seeking change in our system – not just its diverse front men and women – to keep the faith and take the actions necessary to end the crisis of the moment so that we might avoid an even worse crisis in the immediate future, transforming it to truly come closer to “approaching victory”, as the political philosopher quoted at the beginning mentioned. His name is Mao Tse Tung, and in the Marxist tradition, he didn’t only analyze reality but worked very hard to lead a revolution that radically changed it. Only private wealth worshippers and political cynics believe he failed but the hundreds of millions of Chinese previously consigned to peasant and working class poverty whose lives were totally transformed might inform them, and us, otherwise.

We need to learn more about the actual conditions in the lives of people in other places but we first need to fully understand our own homeland and what our rulers do to the rest of the world in our name, while keeping us in the dark about reality. As in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Libya, Palestine and Ukraine, to mention only a few places where we murder, maim and prevent social justice and democracy while piously extolling their virtues. They can only continue to do that if we continue to let them, and inspiration can come from actually learning what people in other nations have achieved, against seemingly impossible odds, to enable us to not only believe in creation of a better world, but actually bring it from theoretical dream to practical reality. That means clearing the poisoned political gas filling our heads and analyzing reactionary rule in order to replace it with revolutionary democracy. Soon. Like now.

Macron’s Syria Game

There is a certain bullishness in French circles these days, even if there was an initial attempt, with the Macron government, to calm matters down.  The need to assert Gallic might in the face of brutality has again surfaced; and has a familiar ring to it.  With Syria’s Bashar al-Assad getting more comfortable with military progress, officials in the United States, France and Britain are chewing finger nails and churning out policy papers of concern.

For them, Syria remains a chess piece they never quite controlled, an entity filled with failed “free” rebel fighters and packed with such agents of spoliation as murderous jihadi groups. But one group’s murderous antics are another’s decent balancing act in terms of strategy.

Even before US President Donald Trump decided to huff and issue the order that lead to the launch of 105 missiles from the triumvirate, France’s President Emmanuel Macron was being egged on to do something.  He was also egging himself on to target the Assad regime for its alleged use of chemical weapons, despite having previously suggested that there was no “legitimate successor” to the Syrian President.

This impulse to punish, to instigate the use of force for the specific purpose of correcting a supposed violation of international norms was already being flagged last summer. “When you set out red lines, if you are unable to force them, then you decide to be weak.”

The Syrian imbroglio has not been an easy one to define for Macron.  His predecessors – Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande were of the more traditional Gallic mould of intervention and interference, finding untrammelled sovereignty in North Africa and the Middle East a bit difficult to stomach.  Macron, at least initially, found the nightmare of intervening in Libya part of a neo-conservative impulse, and issued that sober warning that failed states were hardly in France’s best interest.

On the issue of chemical weapons, Hollande was punitively clear, instructing the French Air Force in the aftermath of the Ghouta attacks in August 2013 to ready for strikes on Syrian command centres linked to the attack.  But he pinned such a move on joint US support.  Having issued a “red line” ultimatum, US President Barack Obama signalled his wish to leave the strike party.

This instance of an ally backing down infuriated the already irritable French grouping.  Assad was to be rid of, but to do so would require whole-hearted backing from Washington’s war machine.  France’s foreign minister Laurent Fabius was all rather gung-ho about it: something needed to be done, and not getting one’s hands dirty was a sign of fatal weakness.

His interpretation of the consequences arising from such vacillation were broad and inventive.  By not striking Assad, claimed Fabius in a radio interview on Europe 1 in February 2016, the Western alliance bore witness to “a turning point, not only in the crisis in the Middle East, but also for Ukraine, Crime and the World.”  Those horrible Russians, again, with their insatiable belligerence, their territorial hunger!

Macron is now marking himself up as a true realist, a sombre assessor of more limited aims.  Less than a neo-colonial, he is a pseudo-neo-colonial, still keen to intervene in theatres of traditional French interest.

One recent example stands out: establishing a French troop presence to shadow Kurdish ambitions within the Syrian Democratic Forces from the prying moves of Turkey in north-eastern Syria while also combating Islamic State ambitions.  “He assured the SDF,” went a statement from the French President in March, “of France’s support for the stabilization of the security zone in north-east Syria, within the framework of an inclusive and balanced governance, to prevent any resurgence of Islamic State.”

He also claims to have persuaded his US counterpart to remain in Syria, despite repeated mutterings and tweets to the contrary. “Ten days ago,” claimed Macron in an interview, “President Trump was saying ‘the United States should withdraw from Syria.’  We convinced him it was necessary to stay for the long term.”

Even more of an achievement, he felt it worth noting that he had been the voice of reason for a rampant Trump itching to strike. Macron “persuaded him that we needed to limit strikes to chemical weapons [sites], after things got a little carried away over tweets.”

The US interpretation on this as unsurprising as it is predictable.  “The US mission has not changed,” came White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders.  Trump had “been clear that he wants US forces to come home as quickly as possible.”  Trump reiterated that sense in his Friday speech to the nation.  “We cannot purge the world of evil, or act everywhere there is tyranny.”  He looked “forward to the day when we can bring our warriors home.”  Macron might have been reading different smoke signals, even if there was some smoke to read.

The battle over Syria as a matter of “long term” garrisons suggests a very important point for Macron’s strategy.  While Russia continues its customary backing of the government of the day, the French, with moderate support from the UK and even more moderate support from Trump, are seeking a garrison presence in some form – call them what you like: specialists, experts or just plain saboteurs – to keep Syria in orbit.  For them, Assad and his Russian backers cannot be permitted a free hand.

Fisk Rips Away Excuses for Air Strike on Syria

It seems that many who supported the weekend’s air strikes on Syria are missing the significance of Robert Fisk’s report this morning from Douma, the site of a supposed chemical weapons attack last week.

Fisk is the first western journalist to reach the area and speak to people there. One is a senior doctor at the clinic that treated victims of what a video purported to show were chemical weapons used by the Syrian government.

That doctor says the video was real, but did not show the effects of a chemical weapons attack. It showed something else. This is what the doctor is reported saying:

I was with my family in the basement of my home three hundred metres from here on the night but all the doctors know what happened. There was a lot of shelling [by government forces] and aircraft were always over Douma at night — but on this night, there was wind and huge dust clouds began to come into the basements and cellars where people lived. People began to arrive here suffering from hypoxia, oxygen loss. Then someone at the door, a ‘White Helmet’, shouted ‘Gas!”, and a panic began. People started throwing water over each other. Yes, the video was filmed here, it is genuine, but what you see are people suffering from hypoxia – not gas poisoning.

On my social media pages there are plenty of armchair warriors furiously denying the importance of this report, by claiming either that the doctor made up the story or that Fisk is a mouthpiece for the Assad regime, or maybe both.

That will not wash for reasons that ought to be obvious – and it still won’t wash even if the testimony later turns out to be wrong.

The air strikes on Syria at the weekend were patently illegal according to international law. That would have been the case even had there been a chemical weapons attack in Douma, in part because it would have been necessary for independent inspectors to determine first whether the Syrian government, and not the jihadists there, was responsible.

The air strikes would have been illegal too, even if it could have been shown that a chemical weapons attack had taken place and that Assad personally ordered it. That is because air strikes would have first required authorisation from the UN Security Council. That is why international law exists: to regulate affairs between states, to prevent militarism of the “might is right” variety that nearly destroyed Europe 80 years ago, and to avoid unnecessary state confrontations that in a nuclear age could have dire repercussions.

Had Assad been shown to be responsible, Russia would have come under enormous international pressure to authorise action of some kind against Syria – pressure it would have been extremely hard for it to resist.

But had it resisted that pressure, we would have had to live with its veto at the Security Council. And again, for very good reason. Israel, the US and the UK have used depleted uranium munitions in the Middle East, and Israel and the US white phosphorous. But who among us would think it reasonable for Russia or China to unilaterally carry out punishment air strikes on Maryland (US), Porton Down (UK) or Nes Ziona (Israel), and justify the move on the grounds that the US and UK could veto any moves against themselves or their allies at the Security Council? Who would want to champion belligerent attacks on these sovereign states as “humanitarian intervention”?

But all of this is irrelevant because whatever incontrovertible information the US, UK and France claimed to have that Syria carried out a chemical weapons attack last week is clearly no more reliable than their claims about an Iraqi WMD programme back in 2002.

Fisk does not need to prove that his account is definitively true – just like a defendant in the dock does not need to prove their innocence. He has to show only that he reported accurately and honestly, and that the testimony he recounted was plausible and consistent with what he saw. Everything about Fisk’s record and about this particular report suggests there should be no doubt on that score.

Fisk’s report shows that there is a highly credible alternative explanation for what happened in Douma – one that needs to be investigated. Which means that an attack on Syria should never have taken place before inspectors were able to investigate and report their findings.

Instead, the US-UK-France launched air strikes hours before the UN inspectors were due to begin their work in Syria, thereby pre-empting it. At the time those air strikes took place, the aggressor states had neither legal nor evidential justification for their actions. They were were simply relying on the reports of parties, like the White Helmets, that have a vested interest in engineering the Syrian government’s downfall.

As is now known beyond doubt, our leaders lied to us about Iraq and about Libya. Some of us have been warning for some time that we should be highly sceptical of everything we are being told by our governments about Syria, until it is verified by independent evidence.

All of us have a moral responsibility to stop simply believing what our governments and their propagandists in the corporate media tell us, whether we do it out of a kneejerk authoritarian impulse or because we have some romantic notion that, despite the evidence, our leaders are always the good guys and their leaders are always the bad guys.

Just consider for a moment the UK’s support for, and involvement in, the horrifying Saudi war against Yemen, or US politicians’ blanket silence on Israel’s massacre of unarmed demonstrators in Gaza. Our leaders have no moral high ground to stand on. Their foreign policy decisions are about oil, defence contracts and geo-strategic interests, not about protecting civilians or fighting just wars.

However bad Assad is, and he is a dictator, he is responsible for far fewer deaths and much less suffering in the Middle East than either George W Bush or Tony Blair.

Former New York Times correspondent Stephen Kinzer sets out a very plausible reason why the US, UK and France keep intervening in Syria. It is not about children or chemical weapons. It is to prevent the Syrian government and Russia triumphing over the jihadists, as they have been close to doing for some time.

These western states are adamantly opposed to allowing a peaceful resolution in Syria, Kinzer observes, because it:

might allow stability to spread to nearby countries. Today, for the first time in modern history, the governments of Syria, Iraq, Iran and Lebanon are on good terms. A partnership among them could lay the foundation for a new Middle East.

That new Middle East, however, would not be submissive to the United States-Israel-Saudi Arabia coalition. For that reason, we are determined to prevent it from emerging. Better to keep these countries in misery and conflict, some reason, than to allow them to thrive while they defy the United States. …

From Washington’s perspective, peace in Syria is the horror scenario. Peace would mean what the United States sees as a ‘win’ for our enemies: Russia, Iran, and the Assad government. We are determined to prevent that, regardless of the human cost.

UPDATE:

Fisk’s account is corroborated by another reporter there, Pearson Sharp of the conservative news network One America. Unlike Fisk, who I know has a long track record as a highly credible reporter of events in the Middle East, Sharp is an unknown quantity to me. But it may be significant that he echoes Fisk in saying that no one he spoke to, even in the neighbourhood where the attack supposedly occurred, seemed aware that chemical weapons had been used.

Crimes of a Monster: Your Tax Dollars at Work

Is ours a government of the people, by the people, for the people, or a kakistocracy rather, for the benefit of knaves at the cost of fools?

— James Russell Lowell, 19th century American poet/critic/editor/diplomat, in a 1876 letter to Joel Benton.

Let us not mince words.

We are living in an age of war profiteers.

We are living in an age of scoundrels, liars, brutes and thugs. Many of them work for the U.S. government.

We are living in an age of monsters.

Ask Donald Trump. He knows all about monsters.

Any government that leaves “mothers and fathers, infants and children, thrashing in pain and gasping for air” is evil and despicable, said President Trump, justifying his blatantly unconstitutional decision (in the absence of congressional approval or a declaration of war) to launch airstrikes against Syria based on dubious allegations that it had carried out chemical weapons attacks on its own people. “They are crimes of a monster.”

If the Syrian government is a monster for killing innocent civilians, including women and children, the U.S. government must be a monster, too.

In Afghanistan, ten civilians were killed—including three children, one an infant in his mother’s arms—when U.S. warplanes targeted a truck in broad daylight on an open road with women and children riding in the exposed truck bed. They had been fleeing airstrikes on their village.

In Syria, at least 80 civilians, including 30 children, were killed when U.S.-led air strikes bombed a school and a packed marketplace.

In Yemen, a U.S. drone bombed a caravan of vehicles on their way to or from a wedding, leaving “scorched vehicles and body parts … scattered on the road.” As investigative journalist Tom Engelhart documents, that 2013 bombing was actually the eighth wedding party (almost 300 civilians dead) wiped out by the U.S. military, totally or in part, since the Afghan War began in 2001. “Keep in mind that, in these years, weddings haven’t been the only rites hit,” notes Engelhart. “US air power has struck gatherings ranging from funerals to a baby-naming ceremony.”

Then there was a Doctors without Borders hospital in Kunduz that had 12 of its medical staff and 10 of its patients, including three children, killed when a U.S. AC-130 gunship fired on it repeatedly. Some of the patients were burned alive in their hospital beds.

Yes, on this point, President Trump is exactly right: these are, indeed, the crimes of a monster.

Unfortunately, this monster—this hundred-headed gorgon that is the U.S. government and its long line of political puppets (Donald Trump and before him Obama, Bush, Clinton, etc.), who dance to the tune of the military industrial complex—is being funded by you and me.

The blood of innocent civilians is on our hands whether we choose to recognize it or not.

It is our tax dollars at work here, after all.

Unfortunately, we have no real say in how the government runs, or how our taxpayer funds are used.

We have no real say, but we’re being forced to pay through the nose, anyhow, for endless wars that do more to fund the military industrial complex than protect us, pork barrel projects that produce little to nothing, and a police state that serves only to imprison us within its walls.

The only alternative to paying one’s taxes is jail, and there are few people willing to go to jail for a principle anymore.

Still, while we may not have much choice in the matter of how our taxes are used, we still have a voice and a vote, and it’s time the American people made their voices—and their votes—heard about the way our taxes are used and misused by this government of wolves and thieves and liars.

Consider: we get taxed on how much we earn, taxed on what we eat, taxed on what we buy, taxed on where we go, taxed on what we drive, and taxed on how much is left of our assets when we die.

Indeed, if there is an absolute maxim by which the federal government seems to operate, it is that the American taxpayer always gets ripped off.

This is true whether you’re talking about taxpayers being forced to fund high-priced weaponry that will be used against us, endless wars that do little for our safety or our freedoms, or bloated government agencies such as the National Security Agency with its secret budgets, covert agendas and clandestine activities. Rubbing salt in the wound, even monetary awards in lawsuits against government officials who are found guilty of wrongdoing are paid by the taxpayer.

Not only are American taxpayers forced to “spend more on state, municipal, and federal taxes than the annual financial burdens of food, clothing, and housing combined,” but we’re also being played as easy marks by hustlers bearing the imprimatur of the government.

With every new tax, fine, fee and law adopted by our so-called representatives, the yoke around the neck of the average American seems to tighten just a little bit more.

Everywhere you go, everything you do, and every which way you look, we’re getting swindled, cheated, conned, robbed, raided, pick-pocketed, mugged, deceived, defrauded, double-crossed and fleeced by governmental and corporate shareholders of the American police state out to make a profit at taxpayer expense.

Yet as Ron Paul observed, “The Founding Fathers never intended a nation where citizens would pay nearly half of everything they earn to the government.”

The overt and costly signs of the despotism exercised by the increasingly authoritarian regime that passes itself off as the United States government are all around us: warrantless surveillance of Americans’ private phone and email conversations by the NSA; SWAT team raids of Americans’ homes; shootings of unarmed citizens by police; harsh punishments meted out to schoolchildren in the name of zero tolerance; drones taking to the skies domestically; endless wars; out-of-control spending; militarized police; roadside strip searches; roving TSA sweeps; privatized prisons with a profit incentive for jailing Americans; fusion centers that collect and disseminate data on Americans’ private transactions; and militarized agencies with stockpiles of ammunition, to name some of the most appalling.

Meanwhile, the three branches of government (Executive, Legislative and Judicial) and the agencies under their command—Defense, Commerce, Education, Homeland Security, Justice, Treasury, etc.—have switched their allegiance to the Corporate State with its unassailable pursuit of profit at all costs and by any means possible.

As a result, we are now ruled by a government consumed with squeezing every last penny out of the population and seemingly unconcerned if essential freedoms are trampled in the process.

As with most things, if you want to know the real motives behind any government program, follow the money trail. When you dig down far enough, you quickly find that those who profit from Americans being surveilled, fined, scanned, searched, probed, tasered, arrested and imprisoned are none other than the police who arrest them, the courts which try them, the prisons which incarcerate them, and the corporations, which manufacture the weapons, equipment and prisons used by the American police state.

It gets worse.

Because the government’s voracious appetite for money, power and control has grown out of control, its agents have devised other means of funding its excesses and adding to its largesse through taxes disguised as fines, taxes disguised as fees, and taxes disguised as tolls, tickets and penalties.

The government’s schemes to swindle, cheat, scam, and generally defraud Americans have run the gamut from wasteful pork barrel legislation, cronyism and graft to asset forfeiture schemes, the modern-day equivalent of highway robbery, astronomical health care “reform,” and costly stimulus packages.

Americans have also been made to pay through the nose for the government’s endless wars, subsidization of foreign nations, military empire, welfare state, roads to nowhere, bloated workforce, secret agencies, fusion centers, private prisons, biometric databases, invasive technologies, arsenal of weapons, and every other budgetary line item that is contributing to the fast-growing wealth of the corporate elite at the expense of those who are barely making ends meet—that is, we the taxpayers.

Those football stadiums that charge exorbitant sums for nosebleed seats? Our taxpayer dollars subsidize them.

Those blockbuster war films? Yep, we were the silent investors on those, too.

Same goes for the military equipment being peddled to local police agencies and the surveillance cameras being “donated” to local governments.

In other words, in the eyes of the government, “we the people, the voters, the consumers, and the taxpayers” are little more than indentured servants.

We’re slaves.

If you have no choice, no voice, and no real options when it comes to the government’s claims on your property and your money, you’re not free.

You’re not free if the government can seize your home and your car (which you’ve bought and paid for) over nonpayment of taxes.

You’re not free if government agents can freeze and seize your bank accounts and other valuables if they merely “suspect” wrongdoing.

And you’re certainly not free if the IRS gets the first cut of your salary to pay for government programs over which you have no say.

It wasn’t always this way, of course.

Early Americans went to war over the inalienable rights described by philosopher John Locke as the natural rights of life, liberty and property.

It didn’t take long, however—a hundred years, in fact—before the American government was laying claim to the citizenry’s property by levying taxes to pay for the Civil War. As the New York Times reports, “Widespread resistance led to its repeal in 1872.”

Determined to claim some of the citizenry’s wealth for its own uses, the government reinstituted the income tax in 1894. Charles Pollock challenged the tax as unconstitutional, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor. Pollock’s victory was relatively short-lived. Members of Congress—united in their determination to tax the American people’s income—worked together to adopt a constitutional amendment to overrule the Pollock decision.

On the eve of World War I, in 1913, Congress instituted a permanent income tax by way of the 16th Amendment to the Constitution and the Revenue Act of 1913. Under the Revenue Act, individuals with income exceeding $3,000 could be taxed starting at 1% up to 7% for incomes exceeding $500,000.

It’s all gone downhill from there.

Unsurprisingly, the government has used its tax powers to advance its own imperialistic agendas and the courts have repeatedly upheld the government’s power to penalize or jail those who refused to pay their taxes.

All the while the government continues to do whatever it likes—levy taxes, rack up debt, spend outrageously and irresponsibly, wage endless wars that make no one safer but fatten the bank accounts of the defense contractors—with little thought for the plight of its citizens.

Somewhere over the course of the past 240-plus years, democracy has given way to kleptocracy (a government ruled by thieves), and representative government has been rejected in favor of a kakistocracy (a government run by the most unprincipled citizens that panders to the worst vices in our nature: greed, violence, hatred, prejudice and war) ruled by career politicians, corporations and thieves—individuals and entities with little regard for the rights of American citizens.

The American kleptocracy continues to suck the American people down a rabbit hole into a parallel universe in which the Constitution is meaningless, the government is all-powerful, and the citizenry is powerless to defend itself against government agents who steal, spy, lie, plunder, kill, abuse and generally inflict mayhem and sow madness on everyone and everything in their sphere.

This dissolution of that sacred covenant between the citizenry and the government—establishing “we the people” as the masters and the government as the servant—didn’t happen overnight.

It didn’t happen because of one particular incident or one particular president.

It has been a process, one that began long ago and continues in the present day, aided and abetted by politicians who have mastered the polarizing art of how to “divide and conquer.”

By playing on our prejudices about those who differ from us, capitalizing on our fears for our safety, and deepening our distrust of those fellow citizens whose opinions run counter to our own, the powers-that-be have effectively divided us into polarized, warring camps incapable of finding consensus on the one true menace that is an immediate threat to all of our freedoms: the U.S. government.

We are now the subjects of a militarized, corporate empire in which the vast majority of the citizenry work their hands to the bone for the benefit of a privileged few.

Adding injury to the ongoing insult of having our tax dollars misused and our so-called representatives bought and paid for by the moneyed elite, the government then turns around and uses the money we earn with our blood, sweat and tears to target, imprison and entrap us, in the form of militarized police, surveillance cameras, private prisons, license plate readers, drones, and cell phone tracking technology.

All of those nefarious government deeds that you read about in the paper every day: those are your tax dollars at work. It’s your money that allows for government agents to spy on your emails, your phone calls, your text messages, and your movements. It’s your money that allows out-of-control police officers to burst into innocent people’s homes, or probe and strip search motorists on the side of the road, or shoot an unarmed person. And it’s your money that leads to innocent Americans across the country being prosecuted for innocuous activities such as raising chickens at home, growing vegetable gardens, and trying to live off the grid.

Just remember the next time you see a news story that makes your blood boil, whether it’s a child being kicked out of school for shooting an imaginary arrow, or a homeowner being threatened with fines for building a pond in his backyard, remember that it is your tax dollars that are paying for these injustices.

So what are you going to do about it?

There was a time in our history when our forebears said “enough is enough” and stopped paying their taxes to what they considered an illegitimate government. They stood their ground and refused to support a system that was slowly choking out any attempts at self-governance, and which refused to be held accountable for its crimes against the people. Their resistance sowed the seeds for the revolution that would follow.

Unfortunately, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, in the 200-plus years since we established our own government, we’ve let bankers, turncoats and number-crunching bureaucrats muddy the waters and pilfer the accounts to such an extent that we’re back where we started.

Once again, we’ve got a despotic regime with an imperial ruler doing as they please.

Once again, we’ve got a judicial system insisting we have no rights under a government which demands that the people march in lockstep with its dictates.

And once again, we’ve got to decide whether we’ll keep marching or break stride and make a turn toward freedom.

But what if we didn’t just pull out our pocketbooks and pony up to the federal government’s outrageous demands for more money?

What if we didn’t just dutifully line up to drop our hard-earned dollars into the collection bucket, no questions asked about how it will be spent?

What if, instead of quietly sending in our checks, hoping vainly for some meager return, we did a little calculating of our own and started deducting from our taxes those programs that we refuse to support?

If we don’t have the right to decide what happens to our hard-earned cash, then we don’t have very many rights at all.

If the government can just take from you what they want, when they want, and then use it however they want, you can’t claim to be anything more than a serf in a land they think of as theirs.

This was the case in the colonial era, and it’s the case once again.

Where on Earth is the Just Economy that works for all, Including Afghan Children?

Political and business leaders have refined the art and science of lying about the economy. From their suites, chauffeur-driven limousines, private yachts and jets, they aren’t too concerned about whether the economy works for everyone, except in speeches and elections. As they tuck into their next fine dining experience, they know that it’s easier and more profitable to mummify the paralysis of spectacular inequality.

How grossly and mathematically unjust is this inequality? In 2017, Oxfam calculated that the world’s eight richest individuals has as much wealth as the poorest half of the world.

We need only simple math to see through the financial subterfuge adults put on like power dressing. On the 11th of April 2018, David Daniel Oldfield, Asia Development Bank Principal Economist for Central and West Asia, said this of Afghanistan’s economy:

… your economy is growing too slowly, if you have two percent growth that you had in some years, and your population growth is three percent or higher you cannot keep people out of poverty.

Afghan children who help carry the brunt of this poverty understand the complicity of all in this GDP charade, not through numbers, but through daily labour and universal conscience.

An April 2018 report by Afghanistan Human Rights Commission shows that of the 1.2 million child laborers in the country, 16 percent of them are subjected to some form of abuse, of which 43 percent is physical abuse.

In this context, it is revolutionary education and understanding at the Borderfree Street Kids School in Kabul that has enabled Habib to testify towards the end of a video:

Before this school, I had no particular hope in life. My hope was in money. I wanted to be the richest man in the world. I’m gradually losing the desire for money. As I understood nonviolence and what it means, my interest in money diminished.

The revolution we need to save ourselves is to understand the fake-ness not only of news today, but the fake-ness and fable of today’s monetary systems. The money we have manufactured is killing our own kind, and Mother Earth as well.

Habib’s difficult story is not atypical. After Habib’s father was killed in a suicide bomb attack 7 years ago, Habib started working in the streets to help make ends meet. For a miniscule fee, he had a weighing scale that showed passing pedestrians how obese or undernourished they were. He has gone through severe personal trauma in the years since, including ‘escape’ from extremists who tried to recruit him into their militant ranks. Now, daily, through relationships among the Afghan Peace Volunteers, Habib is recovering gradually – grieving, doubting, imagining, feeling and daring to live again, towards a liberated purpose and meaning.

Clearly, the corrupt, corporate and militarized economic system is not designed to offer anyone a fair chance to live decently. Instead, it promotes business-as-usual, making people like Habib fight for ‘capitalistic scraps’. While the U.S. has spent US$32 million dollars an hour since 2001 to push their wars around the world, including in Afghanistan, the everyday economic experience of ordinary Afghans is one of slog and slavery.

Zakia, a new volunteer teacher for the street kids, and second-year sociology undergraduate at Kabul University, recounted her almost unbelievable extended family tragedy:

Over the past five years, my extended family of close and distant relatives have lost 46 young members of their families in this worsening war. They were soldiers and policemen. None of them wanted to risk being killed, but there are simply no other jobs. My mother has so much grief that she’s always ill.

Advocacy and protest aren’t enough.

In such pilfering times, environmental, economic justice and peace groups need to pool their energies together, and give Habib, Afghan youth and billions of impoverished people around the world alternative avenues for education and work.

Afghan children and youth, like those you see in the photos below, need ‘new’ schools and universities, as well as ‘new’ jobs and livelihoods. They need a surviving opportunity to learn and live as ‘new’ human beings.

If we bank on the ‘fate’ that these ‘new’ schools and ‘new’ livelihoods will miraculously arise from war-driven governments and their machineries, we are fantasizing. We will continue to witness the migration, enslavement and demise of large numbers of fellow human beings.

Why can’t we hear what Afghan street kids and youth are telling us? There aren’t any places which intentionally teach them life-affirming, nonviolent knowledge and skills. There are very few living-wage, life-giving jobs.

It isn’t that Afghan children and youth or entire generations don’t wish to choose peace.

There are no choices.

Notes on the Borderfree Street Kids School

The mission of the Borderfree Street Kids School is to share creative and critical thinking and learning skills with 100 Afghan street kids, so they can care for Mother Nature, the human family and all of life, and so they can become students and practitioners of nonviolence.

On 20th January 2015, Zekerullah and street kids organized a walk and asked for a school for 100 students. Though an Afghan official had spoken about the lack of government resources for such a school, their dream was fulfilled when the Afghan Peace Volunteers started the Borderfree Street Kids School on 21st March 2015.

The school enrolls 100 street kids and vulnerable kids for a period of three years, during which they have Dari, Math and nonviolence classes. They also have the chance to learn a livelihood skill to be tailors/seamstresses, plumbers or electricians.

To help the families of the students with their basic needs, each student is given a monthly food gift of rice, oil, beans, lentils and chickpeas.

The first 3-year batch of street kids graduated recently in March 2018,

The school has 14 volunteer teachers, and is coordinated by a living wage staff of the Afghan Peace Volunteers, Masuma.

The students have Dari, Math and nonviolence lessons, including nonviolence towards the environment.

The first batch of 100 street kids graduated in March 2018 and 100 fresh street kids and vulnerable kids have been enrolled for the next three years till 2021.

Some of the street kids are continuing as Afghan Peace Volunteers.

Newly enrolled students also came to the event, filling the hall with more than 200 people

Habib testified on graduation day about how his learning in the school had changed him. He wants to be a doctor and a peace activist