Category Archives: US Congress

Constitution Day 2021: It’s Time to Make America Free Again

That was when they suspended the Constitution. They said it would be temporary. There wasn’t even any rioting in the streets. People stayed home at night, watching television, looking for some direction. There wasn’t even an enemy you could put your finger on.

— Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale, 1985

The Constitution of the United States represents the classic solution to one of humankind’s greatest political problems: that is, how does a small group of states combine into a strong union without the states losing their individual powers and surrendering their control over local affairs?

The fifty-five delegates who convened in Philadelphia during the sweltering summer of 1787 answered this question with a document that called for a federal plan of government, a system of separation of powers with checks and balances, and a procedure for orderly change to meet the needs and exigencies of future generations.

In an ultimate sense, the Constitution confirmed the proposition that original power resided in the people —not, however, in the people as a whole but in their capacity as people of the several states.  To bring forth the requisite union, the people through the states would transfer some of their powers to the new federal government.  All powers not reserved by the people in explicit state constitutional limitations remained in the state governments.

Although the Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787, the fear of the new federal government was so strong that a “bill of rights” was demanded and became an eventuality.

Intended to protect the citizenry’s fundamental rights or “first liberties” against usurpation by the newly created federal government, the Bill of Rights—the first ten amendments of the Constitution—is essentially a list of immunities from interference by the federal government.

Unfortunately, although the Bill of Rights was adopted as a means of protecting the people against government tyranny, in America today, the government does whatever it wants, freedom be damned.

“We the people” have been terrorized, traumatized, and tricked into a semi-permanent state of compliance by a government that cares nothing for our lives or our liberties.

The bogeyman’s names and faces have changed over time (terrorism, the war on drugs, illegal immigration, a viral pandemic, and more to come), but the end result remains the same: in the so-called name of national security, the Constitution has been steadily chipped away at, undermined, eroded, whittled down, and generally discarded with the support of Congress, the White House, and the courts.

A recitation of the Bill of Rights—set against a backdrop of government surveillance, militarized police, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture, eminent domain, overcriminalization, armed surveillance drones, whole body scanners, stop and frisk searches, vaccine mandates, travel lockdowns, and the like (all sanctioned by Congress, the White House, and the courts)—would understandably sound more like a eulogy to freedoms lost than an affirmation of rights we truly possess.

What we are left with today is but a shadow of the robust document adopted more than two centuries ago. Sadly, most of the damage has been inflicted upon the Bill of Rights.

Here is what it means to live under the Constitution, post-9/11 and in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic.

The First Amendment is supposed to protect the freedom to speak your mind, assemble and protest nonviolently without being bridled by the government. It also protects the freedom of the media, as well as the right to worship and pray without interference. In other words, Americans should not be silenced by the government. To the founders, all of America was a free speech zone.

Despite the clear protections found in the First Amendment, the freedoms described therein are under constant assault. Increasingly, Americans are being arrested and charged with bogus “contempt of cop” charges such as “disrupting the peace” or “resisting arrest” for daring to film police officers engaged in harassment or abusive practices. Journalists are being prosecuted for reporting on whistleblowers. States are passing legislation to muzzle reporting on cruel and abusive corporate practices. Religious ministries are being fined for attempting to feed and house the homeless. Protesters are being tear-gassed, beaten, arrested and forced into “free speech zones.” And under the guise of “government speech,” the courts have reasoned that the government can discriminate freely against any First Amendment activity that takes place within a so-called government forum.

The Second Amendment was intended to guarantee “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” Essentially, this amendment was intended to give the citizenry the means to resist tyrannical government. Yet while gun ownership has been recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court as an individual citizen right, Americans remain powerless to defend themselves against SWAT team raids and government agents armed to the teeth with military weapons better suited to the battlefield. As such, this amendment has been rendered nearly null and void.

The Third Amendment reinforces the principle that civilian-elected officials are superior to the military by prohibiting the military from entering any citizen’s home without “the consent of the owner.” With the police increasingly training like the military, acting like the military, and posing as military forces—complete with heavily armed SWAT teams, military weapons, assault vehicles, etc.—it is clear that we now have what the founders feared most—a standing army on American soil.

The Fourth Amendment prohibits government agents from conducting surveillance on you or touching you or invading you, unless they have some evidence that you’re up to something criminal. In other words, the Fourth Amendment ensures privacy and bodily integrity. Unfortunately, the Fourth Amendment has suffered the greatest damage in recent years and has been all but eviscerated by an unwarranted expansion of police powers that include strip searches and even anal and vaginal searches of citizens, surveillance (corporate and otherwise) and intrusions justified in the name of fighting terrorism, as well as the outsourcing of otherwise illegal activities to private contractors.

The Fifth Amendment and the Sixth Amendment work in tandem. These amendments supposedly ensure that you are innocent until proven guilty, and government authorities cannot deprive you of your life, your liberty or your property without the right to an attorney and a fair trial before a civilian judge. However, in the new suspect society in which we live, where surveillance is the norm, these fundamental principles have been upended. Certainly, if the government can arbitrarily freeze, seize or lay claim to your property (money, land or possessions) under government asset forfeiture schemes, you have no true rights.

The Seventh Amendment guarantees citizens the right to a jury trial. Yet when the populace has no idea of what’s in the Constitution—civic education has virtually disappeared from most school curriculums—that inevitably translates to an ignorant jury incapable of distinguishing justice and the law from their own preconceived notions and fears. However, as a growing number of citizens are coming to realize, the power of the jury to nullify the government’s actions—and thereby help balance the scales of justice—is not to be underestimated. Jury nullification reminds the government that “we the people” retain the power to ultimately determine what laws are just.

The Eighth Amendment is similar to the Sixth in that it is supposed to protect the rights of the accused and forbid the use of cruel and unusual punishment. However, the Supreme Court’s determination that what constitutes “cruel and unusual” should be dependent on the “evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society” leaves us with little protection in the face of a society lacking in morals altogether.

The Ninth Amendment provides that other rights not enumerated in the Constitution are nonetheless retained by the people. Popular sovereignty—the belief that the power to govern flows upward from the people rather than downward from the rulers—is clearly evident in this amendment. However, it has since been turned on its head by a centralized federal government that sees itself as supreme and which continues to pass more and more laws that restrict our freedoms under the pretext that it has an “important government interest” in doing so.

As for the Tenth Amendment’s reminder that the people and the states retain every authority that is not otherwise mentioned in the Constitution, that assurance of a system of government in which power is divided among local, state and national entities has long since been rendered moot by the centralized Washington, DC, power elite—the president, Congress and the courts.

If there is any sense to be made from this recitation of freedoms lost, it is simply this: our individual freedoms have been eviscerated so that the government’s powers could be expanded.

Yet those who gave us the Constitution and the Bill of Rights believed that the government exists at the behest of its citizens. It is there to protect, defend and even enhance our freedoms, not violate them.

It was no idle happenstance that the Constitution opens with these three powerful words: “We the people.” As the Preamble proclaims:

We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this CONSTITUTION for the United States of America.

In other words, we have the power to make and break the government. We are the masters and they are the servants. We the American people—the citizenry—are the arbiters and ultimate guardians of America’s welfare, defense, liberty, laws and prosperity.

Still,  it’s hard to be a good citizen if you don’t know anything about your rights or how the government is supposed to operate.

As the National Review rightly asks:

How can Americans possibly make intelligent and informed political choices if they don’t understand the fundamental structure of their government? American citizens have the right to self-government, but it seems that we increasingly lack the capacity for it.

Americans are constitutionally illiterate.

Most citizens have little, if any, knowledge about their basic rights. And our educational system does a poor job of teaching the basic freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. For instance, a survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found that a little more than one-third of respondents (36 percent) could name all three branches of the U.S. government, while another one-third (35 percent) could not name a single one.

A survey by the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum found that only one out of a thousand adults could identify the five rights protected by the First Amendment. On the other hand, more than half (52%) of the respondents could name at least two of the characters in the animated Simpsons television family, and 20% could name all five. And although half could name none of the freedoms in the First Amendment, a majority (54%) could name at least one of the three judges on the TV program American Idol, 41% could name two and one-fourth could name all three.

It gets worse.

Many who responded to the survey had a strange conception of what was in the First Amendment. For example, 21% said the “right to own a pet” was listed someplace between “Congress shall make no law” and “redress of grievances.” Some 17% said that the First Amendment contained the “right to drive a car,” and 38% believed that “taking the Fifth” was part of the First Amendment.

Teachers and school administrators do not fare much better. A study conducted by the Center for Survey Research and Analysis found that one educator in five was unable to name any of the freedoms in the First Amendment.

In fact, while some educators want students to learn about freedom, they do not necessarily want them to exercise their freedoms in school. As the researchers conclude, “Most educators think that students already have enough freedom, and that restrictions on freedom in the school are necessary. Many support filtering the internet, censoring T-shirts, disallowing student distribution of political or religious material, and conducting prior review of school newspapers.”

Government leaders and politicians are also ill-informed. Although they take an oath to uphold, support and defend the Constitution against “enemies foreign and domestic,” their lack of education about our fundamental rights often causes them to be enemies of the Bill of Rights.

So what’s the solution?

Thomas Jefferson recognized that a citizenry educated on “their rights, interests, and duties”  is the only real assurance that freedom will survive.

As Jefferson wrote in 1820:

I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of our society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.

From the president on down, anyone taking public office should have a working knowledge of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and should be held accountable for upholding their precepts. One way to ensure this would be to require government leaders to take a course on the Constitution and pass a thorough examination thereof before being allowed to take office.

Some critics are advocating that students pass the United States citizenship exam in order to graduate from high school. Others recommend that it must be a prerequisite for attending college. I’d go so far as to argue that students should have to pass the citizenship exam before graduating from grade school.

Here’s an idea to get educated and take a stand for freedom: anyone who signs up to become a member of The Rutherford Institute gets a wallet-sized Bill of Rights card and a Know Your Rights card. Use this card to teach your children the freedoms found in the Bill of Rights.

If this constitutional illiteracy is not remedied and soon, freedom in America will be doomed.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, we have managed to keep the wolf at bay so far. Barely.

Our national priorities need to be re-prioritized. For instance, some argue that we need to make America great again. I, for one, would prefer to make America free again.

The post Constitution Day 2021: It’s Time to Make America Free Again first appeared on Dissident Voice.

How the Taliban surge exposed Pentagon’s lies

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

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

It took a few days.

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

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

Jumping ship

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

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

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

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

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

Colonial chessboard

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

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

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

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

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

Spoils of war

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rule of the warlords

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Missing in action

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

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

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

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

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

Cheerleading, not scrutinising

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• First published at Middle East Eye

The post How the Taliban surge exposed Pentagon’s lies first appeared on Dissident Voice.

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

The executive power in our government is not the only, perhaps not even the principal, object of my solicitude. The tyranny of the legislature is really the danger most to be feared, and will continue to be so for many years to come. The tyranny of the executive power will come in its turn, but at a more distant period.

― Thomas Jefferson, (Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville(

It is time to recalibrate the government.

For years now, we have suffered the injustices, cruelties, corruption and abuse of an entrenched government bureaucracy that has no regard for the Constitution or the rights of the citizenry.

By “government,” I’m not referring to the highly partisan, two-party bureaucracy of the Republicans and Democrats. Rather, I’m referring to “government” with a capital “G,” the entrenched Deep State that is unaffected by elections, unaltered by populist movements, and has set itself beyond the reach of the law.

We are overdue for a systemic check on the government’s overreaches and power grabs.

We have lingered too long in this strange twilight zone where ego trumps justice, propaganda perverts truth, and imperial presidents—empowered to indulge their authoritarian tendencies by legalistic courts, corrupt legislatures and a disinterested, distracted populace—rule by fiat rather than by the rule of law.

This COVID-19 pandemic has provided the government with the perfect excuse to lay claim to a long laundry list of terrifying lockdown powers (at both the federal and state level) that override the Constitution: the ability to suspend the Constitution, indefinitely detain American citizens, bypass the courts, quarantine whole communities or segments of the population, override the First Amendment by outlawing religious gatherings and assemblies of more than a few people, shut down entire industries and manipulate the economy, muzzle dissidents, reshape financial markets, create a digital currency (and thus further restrict the use of cash), determine who should live or die, and impose health mandates on large segments of the population.

These kinds of crises tend to bring out the authoritarian tendencies in government.

That’s no surprise: power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Where we find ourselves now is in the unenviable position of needing to rein in all three branches of government—the Executive, the Judicial, and the Legislative—that have exceeded their authority and grown drunk on power.

This is exactly the kind of concentrated, absolute power the founders attempted to guard against by establishing a system of checks of balances that separate and shares power between three co-equal branches: the executive, the legislative and the judiciary.

“The system of checks and balances that the Framers envisioned now lacks effective checks and is no longer in balance,” concludes law professor William P. Marshall. “The implications of this are serious. The Framers designed a system of separation of powers to combat government excess and abuse and to curb incompetence. They also believed that, in the absence of an effective separation-of-powers structure, such ills would inevitably follow. Unfortunately, however, power once taken is not easily surrendered.”

Unadulterated power in any branch of government is a menace to freedom.

There’s no point debating which political party would be more dangerous with these powers.

The fact that any individual—or branch of government—of any political persuasion is empowered to act like a dictator is danger enough.

So what can we do to wrest back control over a runaway government and an imperial presidency?

It won’t be easy.

We are the unwitting victims of a system so corrupt that those who stand up for the rule of law and aspire to transparency in government are in the minority.

This corruption is so vast it spans all branches of government: from the power-hungry agencies under the executive branch and the corporate puppets within the legislative branch to a judiciary that is, more often than not, elitist and biased towards government entities and corporations.

We are ruled by an elite class of individuals who are completely out of touch with the travails of the average American.

We are viewed as relatively expendable in the eyes of government: faceless numbers of individuals who serve one purpose, which is to keep the government machine running through our labor and our tax dollars. Those in power aren’t losing any sleep over the indignities we are being made to suffer or the possible risks to our health. All they seem to care about are power and control.

We are being made to suffer countless abuses at the government’s hands.

We have little protection against standing armies (domestic and military), invasive surveillance, marauding SWAT teams, an overwhelming government arsenal of assault vehicles and firepower, and a barrage of laws that criminalize everything from vegetable gardens to lemonade stands.

In the name of national security, we’re being subjected to government agencies such as the NSA, FBI and others listening in on our phone calls, reading our mail, monitoring our emails, and carrying out warrantless “black bag” searches of our homes. Adding to the abuse, we have to deal with surveillance cameras mounted on street corners and in traffic lights, weather satellites co-opted for use as spy cameras from space, and thermal sensory imaging devices that can detect heat and movement through the walls of our homes.

That doesn’t even begin to touch on the many ways in which our Fourth Amendment rights are trampled upon by militarized police and SWAT teams empowered to act as laws unto themselves.

In other words, freedom—or what’s left of it—is threatened from every direction.

The predators of the police state are wreaking havoc on our freedoms, our communities, and our lives. The government doesn’t listen to the citizenry, it refuses to abide by the Constitution, which is our rule of law, and it treats the citizenry as a source of funding and little else. Police officers are shooting unarmed citizens and their household pets. Government agents—including local police—are being armed to the teeth and encouraged to act like soldiers on a battlefield. Bloated government agencies are fleecing taxpayers. Government technicians are spying on our emails and phone calls. Government contractors are making a killing by waging endless wars abroad.

In other words, the American police state is alive and well and flourishing.

Nothing has changed, and nothing will change unless we insist on it.

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

Set in the year 2020, V for Vendetta (written and produced by the Wachowskis) provides an eerie glimpse into a parallel universe in which a government-engineered virus wreaks havoc on the world. Capitalizing on the people’s fear, a totalitarian government comes to power that knows all, sees all, controls everything and promises safety and security above all.

Concentration camps (jails, private prisons and detention facilities) have been established to house political prisoners and others deemed to be enemies of the state. Executions of undesirables (extremists, troublemakers and the like) are common, while other enemies of the state are made to “disappear.” Populist uprisings and protests are met with extreme force. The television networks are controlled by the government with the purpose of perpetuating the regime. And most of the population is hooked into an entertainment mode and are clueless.

Sounds painfully familiar, doesn’t it?

As director James McTeighe observed about the tyrannical regime in V for Vendetta, “It really showed what can happen when society is ruled by government, rather than the government being run as a voice of the people. I don’t think it’s such a big leap to say things like that can happen when leaders stop listening to the people.”

Clearly, our leaders have stopped listening to the American people.

We are—and have been for some time—the unwitting victims of a system so corrupt that those who stand up for the rule of law and aspire to transparency in government are in the minority. This corruption is so vast it spans all branches of government—from the power-hungry agencies under the executive branch and the corporate puppets within the legislative branch to a judiciary that is, more often than not, elitist and biased towards government entities and corporations.

We are ruled by an elite class of individuals who are completely out of touch with the travails of the average American. We are relatively expendable in the eyes of government—faceless numbers of individuals who serve one purpose, which is to keep the government machine running through our labor and our tax dollars.

What will it take for the government to start listening to the people again?

In V for Vendetta, as in my new novel The Erik Blair Diaries, it takes an act of terrorism for the people to finally mobilize and stand up to the government’s tyranny: in Vendetta, V the film’s masked crusader blows up the seat of government, while in Erik Blair, freedom fighters plot to unmask the Deep State.

These acts of desperation and outright anarchy are what happens when a parasitical government muzzles the citizenry, fences them in, herds them, brands them, whips them into submission, forces them to ante up the sweat of their brows while giving them little in return, and then provides them with little to no outlet for voicing their discontent: people get desperate, citizens lose hope, and lawful, nonviolent resistance gives way to unlawful, violent resistance.

This way lies madness.

Then again, this madness may be unavoidable unless we can wrest back control over our runaway government starting at the local level.

How to do this? It’s not rocket science.

There is no 10-step plan. If there were a 10-step plan, however, the first step would be as follows: turn off the televisions, tune out the politicians, and do your part to stand up for freedom principles in your own communities.

Stand up for your own rights, of course, but more importantly, stand up for the rights of those with whom you might disagree. Defend freedom at all costs. Defend justice at all costs. Make no exceptions based on race, religion, creed, politics, immigration status, sexual orientation, etc. Vote like Americans, for a change, not Republicans or Democrats.

Most of all, use your power—and there is power in our numbers—to nullify anything and everything the government does that undermines the freedom principles on which this nation was founded.

Don’t play semantics. Don’t justify. Don’t politicize it. If it carries even a whiff of tyranny, oppose it. Demand that your representatives in government cut you a better deal, one that abides by the Constitution and doesn’t just attempt to sidestep it.

That’s their job: make them do it.

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

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

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From BLM to Palestine: Only a Marriage of Movements can Counter a Marriage of Empires

On this one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder, I’m thinking about settler colonial nations who routinely spend great amounts of capital to militarily and politically repress indigenous and popular uprisings led by the most historically oppressed peoples of the world.

The United States and Israel—two settler-colonial nation states whose drive to exterminate and replace indigenous peoples with settler colonists has led to unending repression and brutality for decades (in the case of Israel) and centuries (in the case of the United States). These two inherently genocidal projects also happen to be financially, materially, logistically and geopolitically intertwined. They depend on each other.

As President Biden so aptly put it in his Congressional speech in 1986, “We look at the Middle East. I think it’s about time we stop, those of us who support, as most of us do, Israel in this body, for apologizing for our support for Israel. There’s no apology to be made. None. It is the best $3 billion investment we make. Were there not an Israel, the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her interest in the region. The United States would have to go out and invent an Israel.”

Israel is described as “the most militarized nation in the world” by the Global Militarization Index. The US provides Israel $3.8 billion a year in cash and weapons, to make sure it is so. The marriage of these two settler empires makes it such that any US Congressional attempts to thwart Israel’s ongoing brutality against Palestinians are probably about as likely to be effective as Hamas’ rockets launched at Israel’s Iron Dome.

The US also provides Israel massive state-sponsored propaganda, backed by incredibly powerful Israeli lobbying groups like AIPAC, to make sure this funding stays in place and is not ever ideologically challenged inside the United States or Israel. These lobbying groups picked up steam and recruited more right-wing backers during Trump’s tenure, enhanced by his extreme support of Zionism, Netanyahu, the relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, and further funding for Israel’s settler colonial projects. But to be clear, US support for Israel is a bipartisan project, and it has been for decades. Even so-called progressive Democrats like Rep. Mondaire Jones of New York and Rep. Ro Khanna of California, have just signed onto an AIPAC letter, whose aim is to prevent any cuts in funding to Israel, in response to Minnesota Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum’s new bill, HR2590, designed to “block Israel from using U.S. military aid to demolish Palestinian homes, arrest Palestinian children, and annex Palestinian land.”

AIPAC and its bipartisan allies have also, for decades, functioned to make sure that anyone who dares question “Israel’s right to self-defense” loses all political credibility, career opportunity, and is unilaterally smeared by Democrats and Republicans alike. From AP Press writers who get fired because they used to support Palestine in college, to US Congress members who joke about “the Benjamins,” criticizing Israel in any form has become a form of political suicide inside the United States. Recent attempts to criminalize anyone who supports the BDS movement have become clear violations of the First Amendment according to the ACLU, and yet, US states are moving ahead with these measures, despite legal challenges in the courts. Now that is one powerful international propaganda apparatus.

So it is against this David-and-Goliath-style backdrop that we see the beginnings of the US-Israeli-military-public-relations façade beginning to crumble inside the realm of US public opinion, as decades of organizing work on behalf of Palestinian human rights begin to slowly trickle up into the halls of Congress. According to a new Gallup poll, there’s a “53 percent majority of Democrats favor pressuring Israel—a 10-point jump since 2018—and progressive figures are clearly betting that the broader electorate is more willing to hear critics out than ever before.

This is a significant shift, especially inside a country where both major parties’ unilateral support for Israel has gone unquestioned for decades. And in the last few weeks, we’ve also seen some of the most progressive US Congressional members take courageous stances on Palestinian human rights: Rashida Tlaib’s impassioned speech on the House floor, AOC’s reference to Israel as an “apartheid state,” Bernie’s “resolution of disapproval” and other attempts to block an increased $735 million in additional weapons package.

These rhetorical shifts are tremendous acts of resistance inside the proverbial belly of the beast. And they certainly represent a broader shift in US public opinion, which we also see shifting internationally, given the massive Palestine solidarity protests throughout the United States, Europe and Australia, over the last few weeks. But make no mistake—these rhetorical shifts inside the US halls of power are not the same thing as fundamentally shifting US policy, which is deeply invested in maintaining and supporting its own economic, geo-political and military interests inside what UC Barbara Sociologist William I. Robinson calls the “global police state.” The following is an excerpt from Robinson’s book, Global Police State:

The Occupied Palestinian Territory has been transformed into probably the most monitored, controlled, and militarized place on earth. It epitomizes the dream of every general, security expert and police officer to be able to exercise total bio-political control. In a situation where the local population enjoys no effective legal protections or privacy, they and their lands become a laboratory where the latest technologies of surveillance, control, and suppression are perfected and showcased, giving Israel an edge in the highly competitive global market. Labels such as ‘Combat Proven,’ ‘Tested in Gaza,’ and ‘Approved by the IDF’ (Israeli Defense Forces) on Israeli or foreign products greatly improves their marketability.

These methods of control and repression fine tuned against the Palestinians have been exported by Israel to racist police in US inner cities, Brazilian security forces that patrol the impoverished residents of the Rio favelas, Colombian and Guatemalan military and paramilitary forces in their battles against social movements, Central Asian intelligence officers monitoring human rights activists and journalists, Chinese Army agents developing domestic systems of social control, and corporate clients and repressive states and police agencies the world over.

Indeed, many Palestinian activists who have found solidarity with indigenous rights activists in the United States have noted, as recently as Standing Rock in 2016:

Many of the law enforcement officers at Standing Rock have been trained in Israel. The weapons and tactics are identical. The use of high pressure water cannons, rubber bullets, rubber coated steel bullets, the use of attack dogs, and sound grenades are the same in both places.

And over the last few years, Amnesty International and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), have published reports detailing how Israeli training of US police officers has resulted in systematic brutality. Amnesty International’s report cites “widespread constitutional violations, discriminatory enforcement and a culture of retaliation” within the Baltimore Police Department. JVP’s report went on to say, “Police brutality of the kind that led to the death of George Floyd is both deeply embedded in American policing and also reinforced by the exchange of the ‘best practices’ and expertise in counter-terrorism techniques taught to US law enforcement officials during their training in Israel. Thousands of these officials from across the US have been sent to Israel for training, and thousands more have participated in conferences and workshops with Israeli personnel.”

The Middle East Monitor writes:

George Floyd’s killing is the latest, but probably not the last, example of classic American policing to mirror Israel’s ‘best law enforcement practice.’ It is being put to deadly use on the streets of America. If black lives really do matter in 21st century America, then the ‘deadly exchange programmes’ with Israel should be brought to an end without delay.

So this is the fundamental barrier for our movements trying to stop US aid to Israel. For decades, we’ve watched US Presidents offer Israel and Palestine peace deal after peace deal. We’ve seen an inordinate number of trips from Washington to Israel to host diplomatic talks about “two-state solutions.” Throughout all of these duplicitous negotiations, the US government has pretended to be an honest broker in the Israel-Palestine conflict. It is not. It never has been. It never will be. And while there may be much-welcomed symbolic efforts coming down the pike to pass resolutions condemning Israeli violence as a sort of symbolic offering to human rights groups, the United States will not cut off aid to Israel any time soon. Nor will it ever be able to broker an honest peace deal, as long as its geopolitical, economic and military interests are fundamentally tied to those of Israel.

Both Israel and the United States are settler-colonial projects whose very existence is based on oppressing and replacing its indigenous peoples, as well as repressing popular resistance movements that emerge within their national borders. Both states now exist within a new global context described by Bill Robinson — a transnational capitalist project of building a global police state against ever-increasing popular uprisings. This is the current political moment in which we find ourselves. These well-intentioned measures from even the most progressive US Congress members are definitely worth celebrating for their rhetorical and symbolic progress. They are not, however, likely to become law, nor result in any fundamental reduction in military aid or support to Israel. We are going to need a lot more to break up the geopolitical marriage of these two capitalist, settler empires. Only relentless, intersectional and international solidarity movements against white supremacy, transnational capitalism, and settler colonialism have the power to do that.

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How the United States Helps To Kill Palestinians

Photo credit: Stop the War Coalition

The U.S. corporate media usually report on Israeli military assaults in occupied Palestine as if the United States is an innocent neutral party to the conflict. In fact, large majorities of Americans have told pollsters for decades that they want the United States to be neutral in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But U.S. media and politicians betray their own lack of neutrality by blaming Palestinians for nearly all the violence and framing flagrantly disproportionate, indiscriminate and therefore illegal Israeli attacks as a justifiable response to Palestinian actions. The classic formulation from U.S. officials and commentators is that “Israel has the right to defend itself,” never “Palestinians have the right to defend themselves,” even as the Israelis massacre hundreds of Palestinian civilians, destroy thousands of Palestinian homes and seize ever more Palestinian land.

The disparity in casualties in Israeli assaults on Gaza speaks for itself.

  • At the time of writing, the current Israeli assault on Gaza has killed at least 200 people, including 59 children and 35 women, while rockets fired from Gaza have killed 10 people in Israel, including 2 children.
  • In the 2008-9 assault on Gaza, Israel killed 1,417 Palestinians, while their meagre efforts to defend themselves killed 9 Israelis.
  • In 2014, 2,251 Palestinians and 72 Israelis (mostly soldiers invading Gaza) were killed, as U.S.-built F-16s dropped at least 5,000 bombs and missiles on Gaza and Israeli tanks and artillery fired 49,500 shells, mostly massive 6-inch shells from U.S.-built M-109 howitzers.
  • In response to largely peaceful “March of Return” protests at the Israel-Gaza border in 2018, Israeli snipers killed 183 Palestinians and wounded over 6,100, including 122 that required amputations, 21 paralyzed by spinal cord injuries and 9 permanently blinded.

As with the Saudi-led war on Yemen and other serious foreign policy problems, biased and distorted news coverage by U.S. corporate media leaves many Americans not knowing what to think. Many simply give up trying to sort out the rights and wrongs of what is happening and instead blame both sides, and then focus their attention closer to home, where the problems of society impact them more directly and are easier to understand and do something about.

So how should Americans respond to horrific images of bleeding, dying children and homes reduced to rubble in Gaza? The tragic relevance of this crisis for Americans is that, behind the fog of war, propaganda and commercialized, biased media coverage, the United States bears an overwhelming share of responsibility for the carnage taking place in Palestine.

U.S. policy has perpetuated the crisis and atrocities of the Israeli occupation by unconditionally supporting Israel in three distinct ways: militarily, diplomatically and politically.

On the military front, since the creation of the Israeli state, the United States has provided $146 billion in foreign aid, nearly all of it military-related. It currently provides $3.8 billion per year in military aid to Israel.

In addition, the United States is the largest seller of weapons to Israel, whose military arsenal now includes 362 U.S.-built F-16 warplanes and 100 other U.S. military aircraft, including a growing fleet of the new F-35s; at least 45 Apache attack helicopters; 600 M-109 howitzers and 64 M270 rocket-launchers. At this very moment, Israel is using many of these U.S.-supplied weapons in its devastating bombardment of Gaza.

The U.S. military alliance with Israel also involves joint military exercises and joint production of Arrow missiles and other weapons systems. The U.S. and Israeli militaries have collaborated on drone technologies tested by the Israelis in Gaza. In 2004, the United States called on Israeli forces with experience in the Occupied Territories to give tactical training to U.S. Special Operations Forces as they confronted popular resistance to the United States’ hostile military occupation of Iraq.

The U.S. military also maintains a $1.8 billion stockpile of weapons at six locations in Israel, pre-positioned for use in future U.S. wars in the Middle East. During the Israeli assault on Gaza in 2014, even as the U.S. Congress suspended some weapons deliveries to Israel, it approved handing over stocks of 120mm mortar shells and 40mm grenade launcher ammunition from the U.S. stockpile for Israel to use against Palestinians in Gaza.

Diplomatically, the United States has exercised its veto in the UN Security Council 82 times, and 44 of those vetoes have been to shield Israel from accountability for war crimes or human rights violations. In every single case, the United States has been the lone vote against the resolution, although a few other countries have occasionally abstained.

It is only the United States’ privileged position as a veto-wielding Permanent Member of the Security Council, and its willingness to abuse that privilege to shield its ally Israel, that gives it this unique power to stymie international efforts to hold the Israeli government accountable for its actions under international law.

The result of this unconditional U.S. diplomatic shielding of Israel has been to encourage increasingly barbaric Israeli treatment of the Palestinians. With the United States blocking any accountability in the Security Council, Israel has seized ever more Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, uprooted more and more Palestinians from their homes and responded to the resistance of largely unarmed people with ever-increasing violence, detentions and restrictions on day-to-day life.

Thirdly, on the political front, despite most Americans supporting neutrality in the conflict, AIPAC and other pro-Israel lobbying groups have exercised an extraordinary role in bribing and intimidating U.S. politicians to provide unconditional support for Israel.

The roles of campaign contributors and lobbyists in the corrupt U.S. political system make the United States uniquely vulnerable to this kind of influence peddling and intimidation, whether it is by monopolistic corporations and industry groups like the Military-Industrial Complex and Big Pharma, or well-funded interest groups like the NRA, AIPAC and, in recent years, lobbyists for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

On April 22, just weeks before this latest assault on Gaza, the overwhelming majority of congresspeople, 330 out of 435, signed a letter to the chair and ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee opposing any reduction or conditioning of US monies to Israel. The letter represented a show of force from AIPAC and a repudiation of calls from some progressives in the Democratic Party to condition or otherwise restrict aid to Israel.

President Joe Biden, who has a long history of supporting Israeli crimes, responded to the latest massacre by insisting on Israel’s “right to defend itself” and inanely hoping that “this will be closing down sooner than later.” His UN ambassador also shamefully blocked a call for a ceasefire at the UN Security Council.

The silence and worse from President Biden and most of our representatives in Congress at the massacre of civilians and mass destruction of Gaza is unconscionable. The independent voices speaking out forcefully for Palestinians, including Senator Sanders and Representatives Tlaib, Omar and Ocasio-Cortez, show us what real democracy looks like, as do the massive protests that have filled U.S. streets all over the country.

US policy must be reversed to reflect international law and the shifting US opinion in favor of Palestinian rights. Every Member of Congress must be pushed to sign the bill introduced by Rep. Betty McCollum insisting that US funds to Israel are not used “to support the military detention of Palestinian children, the unlawful seizure, appropriation, and destruction of Palestinian property and forcible transfer of civilians in the West Bank, or further annexation of Palestinian land in violation of international law.”

Congress must also be pressured to quickly enforce the Arms Export Control Act and the Leahy Laws to stop supplying any more U.S. weapons to Israel until it stops using them to attack and kill civilians.

The United States has played a vital and instrumental role in the decades-long catastrophe that has engulfed the people of Palestine. U.S. leaders and politicians must now confront their country’s and, in many cases, their own personal complicity in this catastrophe, and act urgently and decisively to reverse U.S. policy to support full human rights for all Palestinians.

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Squad & Co: Unite as a Block to Downsize Biden’s Military Budget

Photo credit:  ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons)

Imagine this scenario:

A month before the vote on the federal budget, progressives in Congress declared, “We’ve studied President Biden’s proposed $753 billion military budget, an increase of $13 billion from Trump’s already inflated budget, and we can’t, in good conscience, support this.”

Now that would be a show stopper, particularly if they added, “So we have decided to stand united, arm in arm, as a block of NO votes on any federal budget resolution that fails to reduce military spending by 10-30 percent. We stand united against a federal budget resolution that includes upwards of $30 billion for new nuclear weapons slated to ultimately cost nearly $2 trillion. We stand united in demanding the $50 billion earmarked to maintain all 800 overseas bases, including the new one under construction in Henoko, Okinawa, be reduced by a third because it’s time we scaled back on plans for global domination.”

“Ditto,” they say, “for the billions the President wants for the arms-escalating US Space Force, one of Trump’s worst ideas, right up there with hydroxychloroquine to cure COVID-19, and, no, we don’t want to escalate our troop deployments for a military confrontation with China in the South China Sea. It’s time to ‘right-size’ the military budget and demilitarize our foreign policy.”

Progressives uniting as a block to resist out-of-control military spending would be a no-nonsense exercise of raw power reminiscent of how the right-wing Freedom Caucus challenged the traditional Republicans in the House in 2015. Without progressives on board, President Biden may not be able to secure enough votes to pass a federal budget that would then green light the reconciliation process needed for his broad domestic agenda.

For years, progressives in Congress have complained about the bloated military budget. In 2020, 93 members in the House and 23 in the Senate voted to cut the Pentagon budget by 10% and invest those funds instead in critical human needs. A House Spending Reduction Caucus, co-chaired by Representatives Barbara Lee and Mark Pocan, emerged with 22 members on board.

Meet the members of the House Defense Spending Reduction Caucus:

Barbara Lee (CA-13); Mark Pocan (WI-2); Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12); Ilhan Omar (MN-5); Raùl Grijalva (AZ-3); Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11); Jan Schakowsky(IL-9); Pramila Jayapal (WA-7); Jared Huffman (CA-2); Alan Lowenthal (CA-47); James P. McGovern (MA-2); Peter Welch (VT-at large); Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14); Frank Pallone, Jr (NJ-6).;  Rashida Tlaib (MI-13); Ro Khanna (CA-17); Lori Trahan (MA-3); Steve Cohen (TN-9); Ayanna Pressley (MA-7), Anna Eshoo (CA-18).

We also have the Progressive Caucus, the largest Caucus in Congress with almost 100 members in the House and Senate. Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal is all for cutting military spending. “We’re in the midst of a crisis that has left millions of families unable to afford food, rent, and bills. But at the same time, we’re dumping billions of dollars into a bloated Pentagon budget,” she said. “Don’t increase defense spending. Cut it—and invest that money into our communities.”

Now is the time for these congresspeople to turn their talk into action.

Consider the context. President Biden urgently wants to move forward on his American Families Plan rolled out in his recent State of the Union address. The plan would tax the rich to invest $1.8 trillion over the next ten years in universal preschool, two years of tuition-free community college, expanded healthcare coverage and paid family medical leave.

President Biden, in the spirit of FDR, also wants to put America back to work in a $2-trillion infrastructure program that will begin to fix our decades-old broken bridges, crumbling sewer systems and rusting water pipes. This could be his legacy, a light Green New Deal to transition workers out of the dying fossil fuel industry.

But Biden won’t get his infrastructure program and American Families Plan with higher taxes on the rich, almost 40% on income for corporations and those earning $400,000 or more a year, without Congress first passing a budget resolution that includes a top line for military and non-military spending. Both the budget resolution and reconciliation bill that would follow are filibuster proof and only require a simple majority in the House and Senate to pass.

Easy.

Maybe not.

To flex their muscles, Republicans may refuse to vote for a budget resolution crafted by the Democratic Party that would open the door to big spending on public goods, such as pre-kindergarten and expanded health care coverage. That means Biden would need every Democrat in the House and Senate on board to approve his budget resolution for military and non-military spending.

So how’s it looking?

In the Senate, Democrat Joe Manchin from West VA, a state that went for Trump over Biden more than two-to-one, wants to scale back Biden’s infrastructure proposal, but hasn’t sworn to vote down a budget resolution. As for Senator Bernie Sanders, the much-loved progressive, ordinarily he might balk at a record high military budget, but if the budget resolution ushers in a reconciliation bill that lowers the age of Medicare eligibility to 60 or 55, the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee may hold his fire.

That leaves anti-war activists wondering if Senator Elizabeth Warren, a critic of the Pentagon budget and “nuclear modernization,” would consider stepping up as the lone holdout in the Senate, refusing to vote for a budget that includes billions for new nuclear weapons. Perhaps with a push from outraged constituents in Massachusetts, Warren could be convinced to take this bold stand. Another potential hold out could be California Senator Dianne Feinstein, who co-chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, the committee that oversees the budgeting for nuclear weapons. In 2014, Feinstein described the US nuclear arsenal program as “unnecessarily and unsustainably large“.

Over in the House, Biden needs at least 218 of the 222 Democrats to vote for the budget resolution expected to hit the floor in June or July, but what if he couldn’t get to 218? What if at least five members of the House voted no—or even just threatened to vote no—because the top line for military spending was too high and the budget included new “money pit” nuclear land-based missiles to replace 450 Minute Man missiles.

The polls show most Democrats oppose “nuclear modernization”—a euphemism for a plan that is anything but modern given that 50 countries have signed on to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons making nuclear weapons illegal and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) requires the US pursue nuclear disarmament to avoid a catastrophic accident or intentional atomic holocaust.

Now is the time for progressive congressional luminaries such as the Squad’s AOC, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Presley to unite with Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal, as well as Barbara Lee, Mark Pocan and others in the House Spending Reduction Caucus to put their feet down and stand as a block against a bloated military budget.

Will they have the courage to unite behind such a cause? Would they be willing to play hardball and gum up the works on the way to Biden’s progressive domestic agenda?

Odds improve if constituents barrage them with phone calls, emails, and visible protests. Tell them that in the time of a pandemic, it makes no sense to approve a military budget that is 90 times the budget of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Tell them that the billions saved from “right sizing” the Pentagon could provide critical funds for addressing the climate crisis. Tell them that just as we support putting an end to our endless wars, so, too, we support putting an end to our endless cycle of exponential military spending.

Call your representative, especially If you live in a congressional district represented by one of the members of the Progressive Caucus or the House Spending Reduction Caucus. Don’t wait for marching orders from someone else. No time to wait.  In the quiet of the COVID hour, our Congress toils away on appropriations bills and a budget resolution. The showdown is coming soon.

Get organized. Ask for meetings with your representatives or their foreign policy staffers. Be fierce; be relentless. Channel the grit of a Pentagon lobbyist.

This is the moment to demand a substantial cut in military spending that defunds new nuclear weapons.

The post Squad & Co: Unite as a Block to Downsize Biden’s Military Budget first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Ten Problems With Biden’s Foreign Policy and One Solution

The Biden presidency is still in its early days, but it’s not too early to point to areas in the foreign policy realm where we, as progressives, have been disappointed — or even infuriated.

There are one or two positive developments, such as the renewal of Obama’s New START Treaty with Russia and Secretary of State Blinken’s initiative for a UN-led peace process in Afghanistan, where the United States is finally turning to peace as a last resort, after 20 years lost in the graveyard of empires.

By and large, though, Biden’s foreign policy already seems stuck in the militarist quagmire of the past twenty years, a far cry from his campaign promise to reinvigorate diplomacy as the primary tool of U.S. foreign policy.

In this respect, Biden is following in the footsteps of Obama and Trump, who both promised fresh approaches to foreign policy but for the most part delivered more endless war.

By the end of his second term, Obama did have two significant diplomatic achievements with the signing of the Iran nuclear deal and normalization of relations with Cuba. So progressive Americans who voted for Biden had some grounds to hope that his experience as Obama’s vice-president would lead him to quickly restore and build on Obama’s achievements with Iran and Cuba as a foundation for the broader diplomacy he promised.

Instead, the Biden administration seems firmly entrenched behind the walls of hostility Trump built between America and our neighbors, from his renewed Cold War against China and Russia to his brutal sanctions against Cuba, Iran, Venezuela, Syria and dozens of countries around the world, and there is still no word on cuts to a military budget that has grown by 15% since FY2015 (inflation-adjusted).

Despite endless Democratic condemnations of Trump, Biden’s foreign policy so far shows no substantive change from the policies of the past four years. Here are ten of the lowlights:

  1. Failing to quickly rejoin the Iran nuclear agreement. The Biden administration’s failure to immediately rejoin the JCPOA, as Bernie Sanders promised to do on his first day as president, has turned an easy win for Biden’s promised commitment to diplomacy into an entirely avoidable diplomatic crisis.

Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA and imposition of brutal “maximum pressure” sanctions on Iran were broadly condemned by Democrats and U.S. allies alike. But now Biden is making new demands on Iran to appease hawks who opposed the agreement all along, risking an outcome in which he will fail to reinstate the JCPOA and Trump’s policy will effectively become his policy. The Biden administration should re-enter the deal immediately, without preconditions.

  1. U.S. Bombing Wars Rage On – Now In Secret. Also following in Trump’s footsteps, Biden has escalated tensions with Iran and Iraq by attacking and killing Iranian-backed Iraqi forces who play a critical role in the war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Biden’s February 25 U.S. airstrike predictably failed to end rocket attacks on deeply unpopular U.S. bases in Iraq, which the Iraqi National Assembly passed a resolution to close over a year ago.

The U.S. attack in Syria has been condemned as illegal by members of Biden’s own party, reinvigorating efforts to repeal the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for the Use of Military Force that presidents have misused for 20 years. Other airstrikes the Biden administration is conducting in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria are shrouded in secrecy, since it has not resumed publishing the monthly Airpower Summaries that every other administration has published since 2004, but which Trump discontinued a year ago.

  1. Refusing to hold MBS accountable for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khasssoghi. Human rights activists were grateful that President Biden released the intelligence report on the gruesome murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi that confirmed what we already knew: that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS) approved the murder. Yet, when it came to holding MBS accountable, Biden choked.

At the very least, the administration should have imposed the same sanctions on MBS, including asset freezes and travel bans, that the U.S. imposed on lower-level figures involved in the murder. Instead, like Trump, Biden is wedded to the Saudi dictatorship and its diabolical Crown Prince.

  1. Clinging to Trump’s absurdist policy of recognizing Juan Guaidó as President of Venezuela. The Biden administration missed an opportunity to establish a new approach towards Venezuela when it decided to continue to recognize Juan Guaidó as “interim president”, ruled out talks with the Maduro government and appears to be freezing out the moderate opposition that participates in elections.

The administration also said it was in “no rush” to lift the Trump sanctions despite a recent study from the Government Accountability Office detailing their negative impact on the economy, and a scathing preliminary report by a UN Special Rapporteur, who noted their “devastating effect on the whole population of Venezuela.” The lack of dialogue with all political actors in Venezuela risks entrenching a policy of regime change and economic warfare for years to come, similar to the failed U.S. policy towards Cuba that has lasted for 60 years.

  1. Following Trump on Cuba instead of Obama. The Trump administration overturned all the progress towards normal relations achieved by President Obama, sanctioning Cuba’s tourism and energy industries, blocking coronavirus aid shipments, restricting remittances to family members, putting Cuba on a list of “state sponsors of terrorism,” and sabotaging Cuba’s international medical missions, which were a major source of revenue for its health system.

We expected Biden to immediately start unraveling Trump’s confrontational policies, but catering to Cuban exiles in Florida for domestic political gain apparently takes precedence over a humane and rational policy towards Cuba, for Biden as for Trump.

Biden should instead start working with the Cuban government to allow the return of diplomats to their respective embassies, lift all restrictions on remittances, make travel easier, and work with the Cuban health system in the fight against COVID-19, among other measures.

  1. Ramping up the Cold War with China. Biden seems committed to Trump’s self-defeating Cold War and arms race with China, talking tough and ratcheting up tensions that have led to racist hate crimes against East Asian people in the United States. But it is the United States that is militarily surrounding and threatening China, not the other way round. As former President Jimmy Carter patiently explained to Trump, while the United States has been at war for 20 years, China has instead invested in 21st century infrastructure and in its own people, lifting 800 million of them out of poverty.

The greatest danger of this moment in history, short of all-out nuclear war, is that this aggressive U.S. military posture not only justifies unlimited U.S. military budgets, but will gradually force China to convert its economic success into military power and follow the United States down the tragic path of military imperialism.

  1. Failing to lift painful, illegal sanctions during a pandemic. One of the legacies of the Trump administration is the devastating use of U.S. sanctions on countries around the world, including Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, North Korea and Syria. UN special rapporteurs have condemned them as crimes against humanity and compared them to medieval sieges. Since most of these sanctions were imposed by executive order, President Biden could easily lift them. Even before taking power, his team announced a thorough review, but, three months later, it has yet to make a move.

Unilateral sanctions that affect entire populations are an illegal form of coercion, like military intervention, coups and covert operations, that have no place in a legitimate foreign policy based on diplomacy, the rule of law and the peaceful resolution of disputes. They are especially cruel and deadly during a pandemic and the Biden administration should take immediate action by lifting broad sectoral sanctions to ensure every country can adequately respond to the pandemic.

  1. Not doing enough to support peace and humanitarian aid for Yemen. Biden appeared to partially fulfill his promise to stop U.S. support for the war in Yemen when he announced that the U.S. would stop selling “offensive” weapons to the Saudis. But he has yet to explain what that means. Which weapons sales has he cancelled?

We think he should stop ALL weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, enforcing the Leahy Law that prohibits military assistance to forces that commit gross human rights violations, and the Arms Export Control Act, under which imported U.S. weapons may be used only for legitimate self defense. There should be no exceptions to these U.S. laws for Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Israel, Egypt or other U.S. allies around the world.

The U.S. should also accept its share of responsibility for what many have called the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world today, and provide Yemen with funding to feed its people, restore its health care system and rebuild its devastated country. A recent donor conference netted just $1.7 billion in pledges, less than half the $3.85 billion needed. Biden should restore and expand USAID funding and U.S. financial support to the UN, WHO and World Food Program relief operations in Yemen. He should also press the Saudis to reopen the air and seaports, and throw U.S. diplomatic weight behind the efforts of U.N. Special Envoy Martin Griffiths to negotiate a ceasefire.

  1. Failing to back President Moon Jae-in’s diplomacy with North Korea. Trump’s failure to provide sanctions relief and explicit security guarantees to North Korea doomed his diplomacy and became an obstacle to the diplomatic process under way between Korean presidents Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in, who is himself the child of North Korean refugees. So far, Biden has continued this policy of Draconian sanctions and threats.

The Biden administration should revive the diplomatic process with confidence-building measures such as opening liaison offices, easing sanctions, facilitating reunions between Korean-American and North Korean families, permitting U.S. humanitarian organizations to resume their work when COVID conditions permit, and halting U.S.-South Korea military exercises and B-2 nuclear bomb flights.

Negotiations must involve concrete commitments to non-aggression from the U.S. side and a commitment to negotiating a peace agreement to formally end the Korean War. This would pave the way for a denuclearized Korean Peninsula and the reconciliation that so many Koreans desire — and deserve.

  1. No initiative to reduce U.S. military spending. At the end of the Cold War, former senior Pentagon officials told the Senate Budget Committee that U.S. military spending could safely be cut by half over the next 10 years. That goal was never achieved, and instead of a post-Cold War “peace dividend,” the military-industrial complex exploited the crimes of September 11, 2001 to justify an extraordinary one-sided arms race. Between 2003 and 2011, the U.S. accounted for 45% of global military spending, far outstripping its own peak Cold War military spending.

Now the military-industrial complex is counting on Biden to escalate a renewed Cold War with Russia and China as the only plausible pretext for further record military budgets that are setting the stage for World War III.

Biden must dial back U.S. conflicts with China and Russia, and instead begin the critical task of moving money from the Pentagon to urgent domestic needs. He should start with at least the 10 percent cut that 93 Representatives and 23 Senators already voted for. In the longer term, Biden should look for deeper cuts in Pentagon spending, as in Rep. Barbara Lee’s bill to cut $350 billion per year from the U.S. military budget, to free up resources we sorely need to invest in health care, education, clean energy and modern infrastructure.

A Progressive Way Forward

These policies, common to Democratic and Republican administrations, not only inflict pain and suffering on millions of our neighbors in other countries, but also deliberately cause instability that can at any time escalate into war, plunge a formerly functioning state into chaos or spawn a secondary crisis whose human consequences will be even worse than the original one.

All these policies involve deliberate efforts to unilaterally impose the political will of U.S. leaders on other people and countries, by methods that consistently only cause more pain and suffering to the people they claim – or pretend – they want to help.

Biden should jettison the worst of Obama’s and Trump’s policies, and instead pick the best of them. Trump, recognizing the unpopular nature of U.S. military interventions, began the process of bringing U.S troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq, which Biden should follow through on.

Obama’s diplomatic successes with Cuba, Iran and Russia demonstrated that negotiating with U.S. enemies to make peace, improve relations and make the world a safer place is a perfectly viable alternative to trying to force them to do what the United States wants by bombing, starving and besieging their people. This is, in fact, the core principle of the United Nations Charter, and it should be the core principle of Biden’s foreign policy

The post Ten Problems With Biden’s Foreign Policy and One Solution first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Ten Problems With Biden’s Foreign Policy and One Solution

The Biden presidency is still in its early days, but it’s not too early to point to areas in the foreign policy realm where we, as progressives, have been disappointed — or even infuriated.

There are one or two positive developments, such as the renewal of Obama’s New START Treaty with Russia and Secretary of State Blinken’s initiative for a UN-led peace process in Afghanistan, where the United States is finally turning to peace as a last resort, after 20 years lost in the graveyard of empires.

By and large, though, Biden’s foreign policy already seems stuck in the militarist quagmire of the past twenty years, a far cry from his campaign promise to reinvigorate diplomacy as the primary tool of U.S. foreign policy.

In this respect, Biden is following in the footsteps of Obama and Trump, who both promised fresh approaches to foreign policy but for the most part delivered more endless war.

By the end of his second term, Obama did have two significant diplomatic achievements with the signing of the Iran nuclear deal and normalization of relations with Cuba. So progressive Americans who voted for Biden had some grounds to hope that his experience as Obama’s vice-president would lead him to quickly restore and build on Obama’s achievements with Iran and Cuba as a foundation for the broader diplomacy he promised.

Instead, the Biden administration seems firmly entrenched behind the walls of hostility Trump built between America and our neighbors, from his renewed Cold War against China and Russia to his brutal sanctions against Cuba, Iran, Venezuela, Syria and dozens of countries around the world, and there is still no word on cuts to a military budget that has grown by 15% since FY2015 (inflation-adjusted).

Despite endless Democratic condemnations of Trump, Biden’s foreign policy so far shows no substantive change from the policies of the past four years. Here are ten of the lowlights:

  1. Failing to quickly rejoin the Iran nuclear agreement. The Biden administration’s failure to immediately rejoin the JCPOA, as Bernie Sanders promised to do on his first day as president, has turned an easy win for Biden’s promised commitment to diplomacy into an entirely avoidable diplomatic crisis.

Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA and imposition of brutal “maximum pressure” sanctions on Iran were broadly condemned by Democrats and U.S. allies alike. But now Biden is making new demands on Iran to appease hawks who opposed the agreement all along, risking an outcome in which he will fail to reinstate the JCPOA and Trump’s policy will effectively become his policy. The Biden administration should re-enter the deal immediately, without preconditions.

  1. U.S. Bombing Wars Rage On – Now In Secret. Also following in Trump’s footsteps, Biden has escalated tensions with Iran and Iraq by attacking and killing Iranian-backed Iraqi forces who play a critical role in the war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Biden’s February 25 U.S. airstrike predictably failed to end rocket attacks on deeply unpopular U.S. bases in Iraq, which the Iraqi National Assembly passed a resolution to close over a year ago.

The U.S. attack in Syria has been condemned as illegal by members of Biden’s own party, reinvigorating efforts to repeal the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for the Use of Military Force that presidents have misused for 20 years. Other airstrikes the Biden administration is conducting in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria are shrouded in secrecy, since it has not resumed publishing the monthly Airpower Summaries that every other administration has published since 2004, but which Trump discontinued a year ago.

  1. Refusing to hold MBS accountable for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khasssoghi. Human rights activists were grateful that President Biden released the intelligence report on the gruesome murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi that confirmed what we already knew: that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS) approved the murder. Yet, when it came to holding MBS accountable, Biden choked.

At the very least, the administration should have imposed the same sanctions on MBS, including asset freezes and travel bans, that the U.S. imposed on lower-level figures involved in the murder. Instead, like Trump, Biden is wedded to the Saudi dictatorship and its diabolical Crown Prince.

  1. Clinging to Trump’s absurdist policy of recognizing Juan Guaidó as President of Venezuela. The Biden administration missed an opportunity to establish a new approach towards Venezuela when it decided to continue to recognize Juan Guaidó as “interim president”, ruled out talks with the Maduro government and appears to be freezing out the moderate opposition that participates in elections.

The administration also said it was in “no rush” to lift the Trump sanctions despite a recent study from the Government Accountability Office detailing their negative impact on the economy, and a scathing preliminary report by a UN Special Rapporteur, who noted their “devastating effect on the whole population of Venezuela.” The lack of dialogue with all political actors in Venezuela risks entrenching a policy of regime change and economic warfare for years to come, similar to the failed U.S. policy towards Cuba that has lasted for 60 years.

  1. Following Trump on Cuba instead of Obama. The Trump administration overturned all the progress towards normal relations achieved by President Obama, sanctioning Cuba’s tourism and energy industries, blocking coronavirus aid shipments, restricting remittances to family members, putting Cuba on a list of “state sponsors of terrorism,” and sabotaging Cuba’s international medical missions, which were a major source of revenue for its health system.

We expected Biden to immediately start unraveling Trump’s confrontational policies, but catering to Cuban exiles in Florida for domestic political gain apparently takes precedence over a humane and rational policy towards Cuba, for Biden as for Trump.

Biden should instead start working with the Cuban government to allow the return of diplomats to their respective embassies, lift all restrictions on remittances, make travel easier, and work with the Cuban health system in the fight against COVID-19, among other measures.

  1. Ramping up the Cold War with China. Biden seems committed to Trump’s self-defeating Cold War and arms race with China, talking tough and ratcheting up tensions that have led to racist hate crimes against East Asian people in the United States. But it is the United States that is militarily surrounding and threatening China, not the other way round. As former President Jimmy Carter patiently explained to Trump, while the United States has been at war for 20 years, China has instead invested in 21st century infrastructure and in its own people, lifting 800 million of them out of poverty.

The greatest danger of this moment in history, short of all-out nuclear war, is that this aggressive U.S. military posture not only justifies unlimited U.S. military budgets, but will gradually force China to convert its economic success into military power and follow the United States down the tragic path of military imperialism.

  1. Failing to lift painful, illegal sanctions during a pandemic. One of the legacies of the Trump administration is the devastating use of U.S. sanctions on countries around the world, including Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, North Korea and Syria. UN special rapporteurs have condemned them as crimes against humanity and compared them to medieval sieges. Since most of these sanctions were imposed by executive order, President Biden could easily lift them. Even before taking power, his team announced a thorough review, but, three months later, it has yet to make a move.

Unilateral sanctions that affect entire populations are an illegal form of coercion, like military intervention, coups and covert operations, that have no place in a legitimate foreign policy based on diplomacy, the rule of law and the peaceful resolution of disputes. They are especially cruel and deadly during a pandemic and the Biden administration should take immediate action by lifting broad sectoral sanctions to ensure every country can adequately respond to the pandemic.

  1. Not doing enough to support peace and humanitarian aid for Yemen. Biden appeared to partially fulfill his promise to stop U.S. support for the war in Yemen when he announced that the U.S. would stop selling “offensive” weapons to the Saudis. But he has yet to explain what that means. Which weapons sales has he cancelled?

We think he should stop ALL weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, enforcing the Leahy Law that prohibits military assistance to forces that commit gross human rights violations, and the Arms Export Control Act, under which imported U.S. weapons may be used only for legitimate self defense. There should be no exceptions to these U.S. laws for Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Israel, Egypt or other U.S. allies around the world.

The U.S. should also accept its share of responsibility for what many have called the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world today, and provide Yemen with funding to feed its people, restore its health care system and rebuild its devastated country. A recent donor conference netted just $1.7 billion in pledges, less than half the $3.85 billion needed. Biden should restore and expand USAID funding and U.S. financial support to the UN, WHO and World Food Program relief operations in Yemen. He should also press the Saudis to reopen the air and seaports, and throw U.S. diplomatic weight behind the efforts of U.N. Special Envoy Martin Griffiths to negotiate a ceasefire.

  1. Failing to back President Moon Jae-in’s diplomacy with North Korea. Trump’s failure to provide sanctions relief and explicit security guarantees to North Korea doomed his diplomacy and became an obstacle to the diplomatic process under way between Korean presidents Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in, who is himself the child of North Korean refugees. So far, Biden has continued this policy of Draconian sanctions and threats.

The Biden administration should revive the diplomatic process with confidence-building measures such as opening liaison offices, easing sanctions, facilitating reunions between Korean-American and North Korean families, permitting U.S. humanitarian organizations to resume their work when COVID conditions permit, and halting U.S.-South Korea military exercises and B-2 nuclear bomb flights.

Negotiations must involve concrete commitments to non-aggression from the U.S. side and a commitment to negotiating a peace agreement to formally end the Korean War. This would pave the way for a denuclearized Korean Peninsula and the reconciliation that so many Koreans desire — and deserve.

  1. No initiative to reduce U.S. military spending. At the end of the Cold War, former senior Pentagon officials told the Senate Budget Committee that U.S. military spending could safely be cut by half over the next 10 years. That goal was never achieved, and instead of a post-Cold War “peace dividend,” the military-industrial complex exploited the crimes of September 11, 2001 to justify an extraordinary one-sided arms race. Between 2003 and 2011, the U.S. accounted for 45% of global military spending, far outstripping its own peak Cold War military spending.

Now the military-industrial complex is counting on Biden to escalate a renewed Cold War with Russia and China as the only plausible pretext for further record military budgets that are setting the stage for World War III.

Biden must dial back U.S. conflicts with China and Russia, and instead begin the critical task of moving money from the Pentagon to urgent domestic needs. He should start with at least the 10 percent cut that 93 Representatives and 23 Senators already voted for. In the longer term, Biden should look for deeper cuts in Pentagon spending, as in Rep. Barbara Lee’s bill to cut $350 billion per year from the U.S. military budget, to free up resources we sorely need to invest in health care, education, clean energy and modern infrastructure.

A Progressive Way Forward

These policies, common to Democratic and Republican administrations, not only inflict pain and suffering on millions of our neighbors in other countries, but also deliberately cause instability that can at any time escalate into war, plunge a formerly functioning state into chaos or spawn a secondary crisis whose human consequences will be even worse than the original one.

All these policies involve deliberate efforts to unilaterally impose the political will of U.S. leaders on other people and countries, by methods that consistently only cause more pain and suffering to the people they claim – or pretend – they want to help.

Biden should jettison the worst of Obama’s and Trump’s policies, and instead pick the best of them. Trump, recognizing the unpopular nature of U.S. military interventions, began the process of bringing U.S troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq, which Biden should follow through on.

Obama’s diplomatic successes with Cuba, Iran and Russia demonstrated that negotiating with U.S. enemies to make peace, improve relations and make the world a safer place is a perfectly viable alternative to trying to force them to do what the United States wants by bombing, starving and besieging their people. This is, in fact, the core principle of the United Nations Charter, and it should be the core principle of Biden’s foreign policy

The post Ten Problems With Biden’s Foreign Policy and One Solution first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Return of the Leviathan: The Fascist Roots of the CIA and the True Origin of the Cold War

In whose interest did the creation of the Cold War serve and continues to serve? Cynthia Chung addresses this question in her three-part series.

*****

In 1998, the Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group (IWG), at the behest of Congress, launched what became the largest congressionally mandated, single-subject declassification effort in history. As a result, more than 8.5 million pages of records have been opened to the public under the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act (P.L. 105-246) and the Japanese Imperial Government Disclosure Act (P.L. 106-567). These records include operational files of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the CIA, the FBI and Army intelligence. IWG issued three reports to Congress between 1999 and 2007.

This information sheds important light and confirms one of the biggest-kept secrets of the Cold War – the CIA’s use of an extensive Nazi spy network to wage a secret campaign against the Soviet Union.

This campaign against the Soviet Union, which began while WWII was still raging, has been at the crux of Washington’s tolerance towards civil rights abuses and other criminal acts in the name of anti-communism, as seen with McCarthyism and COINTELPRO activities. With that fateful decision, the CIA was not only given free reign for the execution of anti-democratic interventions around the world, but anti-democratic interventions at home, which continues to this day.

With the shady origin of the Cold War coming to the fore, it begs the questions; ‘Who is running American foreign policy and intelligence today? Can such an opposition be justified? And in whose interest did the creation of the Cold War serve and continues to serve?’ This paper is part one of a three-part series which will address these questions.

Allen Dulles, the Double Agent who Created America’s Intelligence Empire

Allen Dulles was born on April 7th, 1893 in Watertown, New York. He graduated from Princeton with a master’s degree in politics in 1916 and entered into diplomatic service the same year. Dulles was transferred to Bern, Switzerland along with the rest of the embassy personnel shortly before the U.S. entered the First World War. From 1922 to 1926, he served five years as chief of the Near East division of the State Department.

In 1926, he earned a law degree from George Washington University Law School and took a job at Sullivan & Cromwell, the most powerful corporate law firm in the nation, where his older brother (five years his senior) John Foster Dulles was a partner. Interestingly, Allen did not pass the bar until 1928, two years after joining the law firm; however, that apparently did not prevent him in 1927 from spending six months in Geneva as “legal adviser” to the Naval Armament Conference.

In 1927 he became Director of the Council on Foreign Relations (whose membership of prominent businessmen and policy makers played a key role in shaping the emerging Cold War consensus), the first new director since the Council’s founding in 1921. He became quick friends with fellow Princetonian Hamilton Fish Armstrong, the editor of the Council’s journal, Foreign Affairs. Together they authored two books: Can We Be Neutral? (1936) and Can America Stay Neutral? (1939). Allen served as secretary of the CFR from 1933-1944, and as its president from 1946-1950.

It should be noted that the Council on Foreign Relations is the American branch of the Royal Institute for International Affairs (aka: Chatham House) based in London, England. It should also be noted that Chatham House itself was created by the Round Table Movement as part of the Treaty of Versailles program in 1919.

By 1935, Allen Dulles made partner at Sullivan & Cromwell, the center of an intricate international network of banks, investment firms, and industrial conglomerates that helped rebuild Germany after WWI.

After Hitler took control in the 1930s, John Foster Dulles continued to represent German cartels like IG Farben, despite their integration into the Nazi’s growing war machine and aided them in securing access to key war materials.1

Although the Berlin office of Sullivan & Cromwell, (whose attorneys were forced to sign their correspondence with “Heil Hitler”) was shut down by 1935, the brothers continued to do business with the Nazi financial and industrial network; such as Allen Dulles joining the board of J. Henry Schroder Bank, the U.S. subsidiary of the London bank that Time magazine in 1939 would call “an economic booster of the Rome-Berlin Axis.” 2

The Dulles brothers’, especially Allen, worked very closely with Thomas McKittrick, an old Wall Street friend who was president of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). Five of its directors would later be charged with war crimes, including Hermann Schmitz, one of the many Dulleses’ law clients involved with BIS. Schmitz was the CEO of IG Farben the chemical conglomerate that became notorious for its production of Zyklon B, the gas used in Hitler’s death camps, and for its extensive use of slave labour during the war. 3

David Talbot writes in his “The Devil’s Chessboard”:

The secretive BIS became a crucial financial partner for the Nazis. Emil Puhl – vice president of Hitler’s Reichsbank and a close associate of McKittrick – once called BIS the Reichsbank’s only ‘foreign branch.’ BIS laundered hundreds of millions of dollars in Nazi gold looted from the treasuries of occupied countries.

The Bank for International Settlements is based in Switzerland, the very region that Allen Dulles would work throughout both WWI and WWII.

The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was formed on June 13, 1942 as a wartime intelligence agency during WWII. This was a decision made by President Franklin Roosevelt. William J. Donovan was chosen by Roosevelt to build the agency ground up and was created specifically for addressing the secret communication, decoding and espionage needs that were required for wartime strategy; to intercept enemy intelligence and identify those coordinating with Nazi Germany and Japan.

The OSS was the first of its kind, nothing like it had existed before in the U.S., it was understood by Roosevelt that such an agency held immense power for abuse in the wrong hands and it could never be allowed to continue once the war against fascism was won.

Allen Dulles was recruited into the OSS at the very beginning. And on November 12th, 1942 was quickly moved to Bern, Switzerland where he lived at Herrengasse 23 for the duration of WWII. Knowing the shady role Switzerland played throughout WWII with its close support for the Nazi cause and Allen Dulles’ close involvement in all of this, one should rightfully be asking at this point, what the hell were Donovan and Roosevelt thinking?

Well, Dulles was not the only master chess player involved in this high stakes game. “He was a dangle,” said John Loftus, a former Nazi war crimes investigator for the U.S. Justice Department. They “wanted Dulles in clear contact with his Nazi clients so they could be easily identified.” 4 In other words, Dulles was sent to Switzerland as an American spy, with the full knowledge that he was, in fact, a double agent, the mission was to gain intel on the American, British and French networks, among others, who were secretly supporting the Nazi cause.

One problem with this plan was that the British MI6 spy William Stephenson known as the “Man Called Intrepid” was supposedly picked to keep tabs on Dulles5; little did Roosevelt know at the time how deep the rabbit hole really went.

However, as Elliott would write in his book As He Saw It, Roosevelt was very aware that British foreign policy was not on the same page with his views on a post-war world:

You know, any number of times the men in the State Department have tried to conceal messages to me, delay them, hold them up somehow, just because some of those career diplomats over there aren’t in accord with what they know I think. They should be working for Winston. As a matter of fact, a lot of the time, they are [working for Churchill]. Stop to think of ’em: any number of ’em are convinced that the way for America to conduct its foreign policy is to find out what the British are doing and then copy that!” I was told… six years ago, to clean out that State Department. It’s like the British Foreign Office….

As the true allegiance of BIS and Wall Street finance became clear during the war, Roosevelt attempted to block BIS funds in the United States. It was none other than Foster Dulles who was hired as McKittrick’s legal counsel, and who successfully intervened on the bank’s behalf.6

It should also be noted that Bank of England Governor Montague Norman allowed for the direct transfer of money to Hitler, however, not with England’s own money but rather 5.6 million pounds worth of gold owned by the National Bank of Czechoslovakia.

With the end of the war approaching, Project Safehaven, an American intelligence operation thought up by Roosevelt, was created to track down and confiscate Nazi assets that were stashed in neutral countries. It was rightfully a concern that if members of the Nazi German elite were successful in hiding large troves of their wealth, they could bide their time and attempt to regain power in the not so distant future.

It was Allen Dulles who successfully stalled and sabotaged the Roosevelt operation, explaining in a December 1944 memo to his OSS superiors that his Bern office lacked “adequate personnel to do [an] effective job in this field and meet other demands.” 6

And while Foster worked hard to hide the U.S. assets of major German cartels like IG Farben and Merck KGaA, and protect these subsidiaries from being confiscated by the federal government as alien property, Allen had his brother’s back and was well placed to destroy incriminating evidence and to block any investigations that threatened the two brothers and their law firm.

Shredding of captured Nazi records was the favourite tactic of Dulles and his [associates] who stayed behind to help run the occupation of postwar Germany,” stated John Loftus, former Nazi war crimes investigator for the U.S. Justice Department  7

It is without a doubt that Roosevelt was intending to prosecute the Dulles brothers along with many others who were complicit in supporting the Nazi cause after the war was won. Roosevelt was aware that the Dulles brothers and Wall Street had worked hard against his election, he was aware that much of Wall Street was supporting the Germans over the Russians in the war, he was aware that they were upset over his handling of the Great Depression by going after the big bankers, such as J.P. Morgan via the Pecora Commission, and they hated him for it, but most of all they disagreed with Roosevelt’s views of a post war world. In fact, they were violently opposed to it, as seen by his attempted assassination a few days after he won the election, and with General Smedley Butler’s exposure, which was broadcasted on television, of how a group of American Legion officials paid by J.P. Morgan’s men 8 approached Butler the summer of 1933 to lead a coup d’état against President Roosevelt, an attempted fascist takeover of the United States in broad daylight.

Roosevelt was only inaugurated March 4, 1933, thus it was clear, Wall Street did not have to wait and see what the President was going to do, they already had a pretty good idea that Roosevelt intended to upset the balance of imperial control, with Wall Street and the City of London as its financial centers. It was clear Wall Street’s days would be marked under Roosevelt.

However, Roosevelt did not live past the war, and his death allowed for the swift entry of a soft coup, contained within the halls of government and its agencies, and anyone who had been closely associated with FDR’s vision was pushed to the sidelines.

David Talbot writes in his The Devil’s Chessboard:

Dulles was more instep with many Nazi leaders than he was with President Roosevelt. Dulles not only enjoyed a professional and social familiarity with many members of the Third Reich’s elite that predated the war; he shared many of these men’s postwar goals.

The True Origin Story of the Cold War

In L. Fletcher Prouty’s book The CIA, Vietnam and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy, he describes how in September 1944, while serving as a captain in the United States Army Air Forces and stationed in Cairo, he was asked to fly what he was told to be 750 U.S. Air crewmen POWs who had been shot down in the Balkans during air raids on the Ploesti oil fields. This intel was based off of his meeting with British Intelligence officers who had been informed by their Secret Intelligence Service and by the OSS.

Prouty writes:

We flew to Syria, met the freight train from Bucharest, loaded the POWS onto our aircraft, and began the flight back to Cairo. Among the 750 American POWs there were perhaps a hundred Nazi intelligence agents, along with scores of Nazi sympathetic Balkan agents. They had hidden in this shipment by the OSS to get them out of the way of the Soviet army that had marched into Romania on September 1.

This September 1944 operation was the first major pro-German, anti-Soviet activity of its kind of the Cold War. With OSS assistance, many followed in quick succession, including the escape and carefully planned flight of General Reinhart Gehlen, the German army’s chief intelligence officer, to Washington on September 20, 1945.

In Prouty’s book, he discusses how even before the surrender of Germany and Japan, the first mumblings of the Cold War could be heard, and that these mumblings came particularly from Frank Wisner in Bucharest and Allen W. Dulles in Zurich, who were both strong proponents of the idea that the time had come to rejoin selected Nazi power centers in order to split the Western alliance from the Soviet Union.

Prouty writes:

It was this covert faction within the OSS, coordinated with a similar British intelligence faction, and its policies that encouraged chosen Nazis to conceive of the divisive “Iron Curtain” concept to drive a wedge in the alliance with the Soviet Union as early as 1944—to save their own necks, to salvage certain power centers and their wealth, and to stir up resentment against the Russians, even at the time of their greatest military triumph.

The “official history” version has marked down the British as the first to recognise the “communist threat” in Eastern Europe, and that it was Winston Churchill who coined the phrase “Iron Curtain” in referring to actions of the communist-bloc countries of Eastern Europe and that he did this after the end of WWII.

However, Churchill was neither the originator of the phrase nor the idea of the Iron Curtain.

Just before the close of WWII in Europe, the German Foreign Minister Count Lutz Schwerin von Krosigk made a speech in Berlin, reported in the London Times on May 3, 1945, in which he used the Nazi-coined propaganda phrase “Iron Curtain,” which was to be used in precisely the same context by Churchill less than one year later.

Following this German speech, only three days after the German surrender, Churchill wrote a letter to Truman, to express his concern about the future of Europe and to say that an “Iron Curtain” had come down. 9

On March 4 and 5, 1946, Truman and Churchill traveled from Washington to Missouri, where, at Westminster College in Fulton, Churchill delivered those historic lines: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an Iron Curtain has descended across the continent.”

The implications of this are enormous. It not only showcases the true origin of the source that trumpeted the supposed Cold War threat coming from Eastern Europe, the very Nazi enemy of the Allies while WWII was still being waged, but also brings light to the fact that not even one month after Roosevelt’s death, the Grand Strategy had been overtaken. There would no longer be a balance of the four powers (U.S., Russia, Britain and China) planned in a post war world, but rather there would be an Iron Curtain, with more than half of the world covered in shadow.

The partners in this new global power structure were to be the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, and Japan, three of the WWII victors and two of the vanquished. It did not matter that Russia and China fought and died on the side of the Allies just moments prior.

With Ho Chi Minh’s Declaration of Independence on September 2nd, 1945, the French would enter Vietnam within weeks of WWII ending with the United States joining them a few months after Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech. And thus, in little over a year after one of the bloodiest wars in history, the French and the Americans set off what would be a several decades long Indochinese war, all in the name of “freedom” against a supposed communist threat.

Prouty writes:

As soon as the island of Okinawa became available as the launching site for [the planned American invasion of Japan], supplies and equipment for an invasion force of at least half a million men began to be stacked up, fifteen to twenty feet high, all over the island. Then, with the early surrender of Japan, this massive invasion did not occur, and the use of this enormous stockpile of military equipment was not necessary. Almost immediately, U.S. Navy transport vessels began to show up in Naha Harbor, Okinawa. This vast load of war materiel was reloaded onto those ships. I was on Okinawa at that time, and during some business in the harbor area I asked the harbormaster if all that new materiel was being returned to the States.

His response was direct and surprising: ‘Hell, no! They ain t never goin’ to see it again. One-half of this stuff, enough to equip and support at least a hundred and fifty thousand men, is going to Korea, and the other half is going to Indochina.’

The Godfather of the CIA

“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free”.

The inscription chosen by Allen Dulles for the Lobby of CIA Headquarters from John 8:31-32

On September 20th, 1945, President Truman disbanded the OSS a few weeks after the official end of WWII. This was the right thing to do, considering the OSS was never intended to exist outside of wartime and President Roosevelt would have done the same thing had he not passed away on April 12th, 1945. However, Truman was highly naïve in thinking that a piece of paper was all that was required. Truman also had no understanding of the factional fight between the Roosevelt patriots who truly wanted to defeat fascism versus those who believed that it was always about war with the Soviet Union, and would even be open to working with “former” fascists in achieving such a goal.

Truman thought of the OSS as a homogenous blob. He had no comprehension of the intense in-fighting that was occurring within the United States government and intelligence community for the future of the country. That there was the OSS of Roosevelt, and that there was the underground OSS of Allen Dulles.

Soon thereafter, on September 18th, 1945, the CIA was founded, and was to be lamented by Truman as the biggest regret of his presidency. Truman had no idea of the type of back channels that were running behind the scenes, little did he know at the time but would come to partially discover, the disbanding of the OSS which took control away from William J. Donovan as head of American intelligence opened the door to the piranhas. The FDR patriots were purged, including William J. Donovan himself, who was denied by Truman the Directorship of the CIA. Instead Truman foolishly assigned him the task of heading a committee studying the country’s fire departments.

In April 1947, Allen Dulles was asked by the Senate Armed Services Committee to present his ideas for a strong, centralized intelligence agency. His memo would help frame the legislation that gave birth to the CIA later that year.

Dulles, unsatisfied with the “timidity” of the new CIA, organised the Dulles-Jackson-Correa Committee report, over which Dulles, of course, quickly assumed control, which concluded its sharply critical assessment of the CIA by demanding that the agency be willing to essentially start a war with the Soviet Union. The CIA, it declared, “has the duty to act.” The agency “has been given, by law, wide authority.” It was time to take full advantage of this generous power, the committee, that is Dulles, insisted.

Dulles, impatient with the slow pace of the CIA in unleashing chaos on the world, created a new intelligence outpost called the Office of Policy Coordination in 1949. Frank Wisner (who worked as a Wall Street lawyer for the law firm Carter, Ledyard & Milburn and was former OSS, obviously from the Dulles branch) was brought in as OPC chief, and quickly brought the unit into the black arts of espionage, including sabotage, subversion, and assassination 10  By 1952, the OPC was running forty-seven overseas stations, and its staff had nearly three thousand employees, with another three thousand independent contractors in the field.

Dulles and Wisner were essentially operating their own private spy agency.

The OPC was run with little government oversight and few moral restrictions. Many of the agency’s recruits were “ex” Nazis.11  Dulles and Wisner were engaged in a no-holds-barred war with the Soviet bloc with essentially no government supervision.

As Prouty mentioned, the shady evacuation of Nazis stashed amongst POWs was to be the first of many, including the evacuation of General Reinhart Gehlen, the German army’s chief intelligence officer, to Washington on September 20, 1945.

Most of the intelligence gathered by Gehlen’s men was extracted from the enormous population of Soviet prisoners of war – which eventually totaled four million – that fell under Nazi control. Gehlen’s exalted reputation as an intelligence wizard derived from his organization’s widespread use of torture.12

Gehlen understood that the U.S.-Soviet alliance would inevitably break apart (with sufficient sabotage), providing an opportunity for at least some elements of the Nazi hierarchy to survive by joining forces with the West against Moscow.

He managed to convince the Americans that his intelligence on the Soviet Union was indispensable, that if the Americans wanted to win a war against the Russians that they would need to work with him and keep him safe. Therefore, instead of being handed over to the Soviets as war criminals, as Moscow demanded, Gehlen and his top deputies were put on a troop ship back to Germany! 12

Unbelievably, Gehlen’ spy team was installed by U.S. military authorities in a compound in the village of Pullach, near Munich, with no supervision and where he was allowed to live out his dream of reconstituting Hitler’s military intelligence structure within the U.S. national security system. With the generous support of the American government, the Gehlen Organization –as it came to be known – thrived in Pullach, becoming West Germany’s principal intelligence agency12  And it should have been no surprise to anyone that “former” SS and Gestapo officials were brought in, including the likes of Dr. Franz Six. Later, Six would be arrested by the U.S. Army counterintelligence agents. Convicted of war crimes, Six served a mere four years in prison and within weeks of his release went back at work in Gehlen’s Pullach headquarters!. 13

For those who were able to believe during the war that the Russians were their true enemies (while they died for the same cause as the Americans by the millions in battle) this was not a hard pill to swallow; however, there was pushback.

Many in the CIA vehemently opposed any association with “former” Nazis, including Admiral Roscoe Hillenkoetter, the CIA’s first director, who in 1947 strongly urged President Truman to “liquidate” Gehlen’s operation. It is not clear what stood in the way of this happening, but to suffice to say, Gehlen had some very powerful support in Washington, including within the national security establishment with primary backing from the Dulles faction. 13

Walter Bedell-Smith, who succeeded Hillenkoetter as CIA Director, despite bringing Allen Dulles in and making him deputy, had a strong dislike for the man. As Smith was getting ready to step down, a few weeks after Eisenhower’s inauguration, Smith advised Eisenhower that it would be unwise to give Allen the directorship of the agency. 14 (18) Eisenhower would come to deeply regret that he did not heed this sound advice.

With the Eisenhower Nixon victory, the culmination of years of political strategizing by Wall Street Republican power brokers, the new heads of the State Department and the CIA were selected as none other than Foster and Allen Dulles respectively; and they would go on to direct the global operations of the most powerful nation in the world.

It is for this reason that the 1952 presidential election has gone down in history as the triumph of “the power elite.”15

  1. David Talbot, Devil’s Chessboard, pg 21.
  2. Ibid., pg 22.
  3. Ibid., pg 27.
  4. Ibid, pg 26.
  5. Ibid, pg 23.
  6. Ibid., pg 28.
  7. Ibid., pg 29.
  8. Ibid., pg 26.
  9. L. Fletcher Prouty,  The CIA, Vietnam and the Plot to Assasinate John F. Kennedy, pg 51.
  10. David Talbot, The Devil’s Chessboard, pg 128.
  11. Ibid., pg 128.
  12. Ibid., pg 228.
  13. Ibid., pg 229.
  14. Ibid., pg 174.
  15. C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite, February 15, 2000.
The post Return of the Leviathan: The Fascist Roots of the CIA and the True Origin of the Cold War first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Congress’s Soft Spot for Rich Retirees

More than a generation ago, a bipartisan Congress added a clever new twist to tax breaks for the rich. It created a long, drawn-out tax break for rich retirees—and these days it’s getting even longer.

Not even the pandemic could interfere. On the contrary, it gave lawmakers an extra opportunity to tip the scale in favor of the upscale.

They tipped it only months before the virus. They slipped a special, rich-retiree giveaway into the first pandemic relief bill.  Now they’re coming back with a new bipartisan bill that doubles down on, you guessed it, making rich retirees even richer.

Leading the way are Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and ranking member Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX). They’ll be reintroducing the second Secure Act, including a provision that pushes back the age for required minimum distributions from retirement accounts (RMDs) to 75. No matter that it was pushed back only last year from 70 ½ to 72; when it comes to comforting the comfortable, Congress can never act too quickly or do too much.

A quick review of RMDs:

Retirement accounts are not only savings vehicles, they’re major tax breaks as well. They’ve given millions of workers more than four decades of untaxed contributions and tax-free capital gains. Congress set up RMDs to ensure that the Treasury begins to collect, via yearly withdrawals, those long-deferred tax revenues.

Ironically, though, the starting age for RMDs turned a tax recovery law into a tax holiday bonus for a privileged minority: people who don’t need the money, from the affluent to the super-rich. For them it’s a breeze not dipping into their accounts. Their balances just keep on growing, keep on compounding. Long after retirement, they’re still not paying any retirement account taxes.

The free pass ends only when RMDs kick in and require what most account holders have been doing for years—tapping their IRAs and 401(k)s and paying income tax on the withdrawals (which can begin starting at age 59 ½).

The original RMD age was 70 1/2—so, from the very beginning, the affluent were given an extra 11 years of double tax breaks on their accounts—tax-deferred capital gains and no taxable withdrawals. They added more tax-free time in 2020 when, as stated earlier, the starting age was reset at 72.

The rates for required withdrawals act as one more boon for the un-needy, starting out low and staying low. The initial withdrawal rate for most accounts is currently under 4% and won’t reach double-digits until age 93. Even those rates will drop a touch starting next year, bringing them in line with the latest life expectancy data.

None of this, it seems, does enough for wealthy retirees. The revised Secure Act would push the beginning RMD age back to 75. Ways and Means Chairman Neal plans to reintroduce the second Secure Act in this Congress and expects the same “broad bipartisan support” as the original got in 2019.

The provision calling for later RMDs should get a broad bipartisan heave-ho. Besides throwing money at people who don’t need it, it withholds money from a Treasury that does need it. With the federal deficit at a record high and headed higher, it’s fiscal foolishness to postpone taxable distributions (especially distributions bound to be large and already delayed for over a decade).

There’s no good reason for later RMDs. The one that’s constantly trotted out is a fig leaf so flimsy it should be X-rated. It’s being done, the argument goes, to help Americans “facing an increased risk of outliving” their retirement assets.

Please! The retirees who really face that risk often withdraw more than the minimum and tap into their accounts long before the RMD years (to say nothing of the millions who have minimal retirement savings, if any).

Shame on Congress—Democrats and Republicans alike—for shamelessly pushing another handout to the haves. Here’s a better bipartisan idea to fold into the second Secure Act: automatic, federally-administered IRAs for all workers not currently enrolled in workplace retirement plans.

Lawmakers should be helping people who need help, not people who don’t.

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