Stupidity denotes the inability of a person to understand something due to insufficient intelligence, thus leading to the misinterpretation of a fact. (Thesaurus.com)
How Does The United States Manage to Remain World Leader in Covid 19 Mismanagement?
It’s a magical mix of of stupidity and greed in the most advanced country in the world that makes this seemingly impossible outcome inevitable. Every-man-for-himself, rugged-individualist Americans cannot win against a widespread, highly-contagious virus, regardless of their high tech and bags of money. Winning in this case requires an everyone-pulling-together effort for the common good. It sounds like socialism, doesn’t it. That’s because it is like socialism. Could that be why large segments of Americans are rejecting the collective effort–the masks, the social distancing and prophylactic measures? Whatever the case, stupidity rules.
Like everything else that’s mortally wrong with American society, the collosal losing response to the Covid 19 epidemic is a result of faulty philosophy. As much as Americans love a shooting war, there are no military solutions to a pandemic. Fighting a virus on the rampage requires the rigorous and uniform application of boring preventive measures that are disastrous for the economy in the short term. “Uniform” refers to all sections of the country, all creeds and political persuasions, rich and poor, black and white and all colors in between. America’s current approach to the problem–overlapping and conflicting authority at the federal, state and local levels, and tolerating organized resistence to vital public health measures–is a recipe for disaster. The current disaster has claimed 648,000 lives–and counting–thus far. More than 600,000 unnecessary deaths boggle the mind. This price is far too high. Even so, the country marches stupidly on.
Is this stupidity catching? Yes, and it is highly contagious, thanks principally to the actions and omissions of low people in high places. The word and example of any state governor, legislator, or member of the United States Congress has a following, by default. They are, after all, elected by thousands or even millions of voters. What motivates these seemingly short-sighted politicians to lead their innocent followers into the hell of fatally-flawed public health policies?
Their justification conforms to mindless right-wing, laissez-faire agendas that extend to every aspect of American life, from hands-off-everything government policy to iron-clad opposition to regulating business. Political campaign planners rely on varied agendas to assure the fidelity of their candidates’ followers. These agendas may be ambitious like the megalomaniac Project for a New American Century or simple campaign slogans like “Make America Great Again.”
Everyone with two fingers of forehead understands these problems and their fatal outcomes, but too many adepts of ultra-conservative ideologies prefer to overrule common sense and sane public health policies with their noxious agendas. They not only harm themselves but do untold damage to people near and far (starting with their own elderly family members) by perpetuating the spread of the virus through deadly chain reactions. This is the stupidity of the thoughtless application of the Americans’ sacrosanct “individual freedom.” They are riding that tired old horse into their early graves.
The other collective that wields an unnatural–and unnaturally stupid– influence in American society is that of the merely rich. An American billionaire, no matter how crass, venal or damaging to others, enjoys massive admiration and support in that benighted country, though his or her only merit is posessing a lot of money, no matter how they came by it nor what foolish–or actually dangerous–initiatives they sponsor with it.
Stupidity Goes Hand in Hand with Other Undesirables
Supine stupidity does not come along by itself. It is usually accompanied by a group of undesirable friends and allies with equally noxious effects on American society. Hyper patriotism (and its first cousin, exceptionalism), and primitive religious cults are usually found in first rank of the mix. None of these phenomena are dangerous in and of themselves. As we used to say when we were kids, “It’s a free country.” However, taken together, they contribute to a mode of baseless, unfounded thinking that is not really thinking, rather the parroting of false premises that are useful to ruling elite. The most sinister friend of that group is militarism, fabulously profitable for a few, but mortally dangerous for millions in America and around the world. The patriotic and militarist lies, so easy to propagate in a naive society, have deep roots in America, and will take a long time, if ever, to uproot.
Who Suffers from the Pandemic?
Everybody suffers, some catastrophically, some less, but, directly or indirectly, everybody suffers. Nobody gets off scot-free… except the Chinese, who took universal, rational measures against the pandemic from day one, and never looked back.
The people and organizations who benefit from America’s current level of public-health stupidity are the usual suspects, the same elements who foment and reap benefits from an ignorant, arrogant and bigoted electorate on other playing fields. They’re the country’s smash-and-grab political demagogues first and foremost. Then, of course, there’s Big Pharma, already blessed with an iron-clad law (the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003), that prohibits the government from negotiating prices on medications sold to the Medicare system. Unless that legislation is amended, the economic results for drug companies from Covid vaccines and treatments can be expected to take their profits into another dimension.
What’s to Be Done?
The cure for countries that are occupied by stupidity is not hard to prescribe: it’s educating the country’s young people for life among one’s fellow human beings. The rest is secondary and falls into place once the matter of cordial coexistence is in hand. Though it’s not hard to recommend, this solution is one of life’s most difficult tasks to achieve. This is especially true in a country like the United States with a set of national values based on laser-beam self interest and darkest Darwinian competitiveness, with all of its powerful industrial and economic interests tearing through the society like an amoral buzz saw. Then there’s the question of size. Effecting any change in a land so extensive and varied is a monumental order. All of these elements coinciding make the most fundamental element in the mix–a willingness to convene among people of all types, conditions, and opinions–virtually unachievable. Until that first step is taken, however, nothing is possible. Will the Americans be able to make that move in time? Thereon hinges the future of their country–and the entire world–for better or for worse.
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There’s a line from a great John Lee Hooker song that pops up at our house from time to time and always gets a big laugh: “This is nineteen and fifty-two, baby, I’m gonna turn over a brand new leaf…”
If you’re over the age of 16, you may have discovered by now that it’s not always easy to turn that leaf over, especially if you live in the United States. Large parts of the rest of the world are substantially different. The differences have to do with sovereignty and priorities. In most European countries the citizens rule their own countries by means of highly-respected, honest, and closely monitored democratic governments. As for their criteria, most of them have to do with the wellbeing of the citizens.
In the United States sovereignty rests, through devious indirect control of all three branches of government, in the hands of big interests: Big Oil, Big Tech, Big Pharma, Big Banks, Big Tobacco, Big Defense Industries… Everthing that could conceivably be privatized has been privatized. Most Americans perceive this as normal. The all-powerful private sector is erroneously seen as a given, but it’s not. It’s a choice. Why would the citizens of an advanced society entrust the running of their country to a small minority of mega-wealthy money jugglers and industrialists with one priority: the absolute rule of the greatest country in the world, with policies that benefit only themselves? What could persuade a sovereign people living under a democratic Constitution to relinquish the rule of the their country to such a band of parasites?
The answer is both simple and complicated. The people have been tricked. It’s been a long time coming, but today big business’s dominance of the United States is pretty much absolute. Who’s going to turn over the new leaf now? And how? And when? One great uncertainty hovers over all the rest: Is it already too late?
All for Profit in the Past, Present and Future
All the trappings of a modern democratic government in the United States are just a shadown drama of shifting kimonos on a rickety, ill-lit stage. In all matters of fundamental importance, American business calls the shots. And we don’t have to guess at their priorities. They are all about securing their own rule and maximizing profit for their managers and stockholders with little or no regard for the hopes and aspirations–and at times the very survival–of everyday people, both at home and abroad. Who are the stockholders, anyway? Curiously it’s mainly the bankers, industrialists and their congressional facilitators, themselves.
Other kinds of issues are considered vital in more truly advanced countries, beginning with the character of their maximum leaders and the impression of sanity and seriousness they project at home and abroad. Every American president since George W. Bush has been perceived by discerning observers, in greater or lesser degree, as a sinister clown. Then there are the principal subjects of concern in any truly advanced country: education, public health, equality of opportunity, racial justice, the climate crisis, truth and decency in dealings with their world neighbors–issues that hardly enter into American government calculations, regardless of which of their political parties–Tweedle Dum or Tweedle Dee–is in office.
Do you doubt it? Ask any black or brown American. Ask any American family living in a car or on the street, or any head of a family who works two McJobs and still can’t afford to rent a decent home. Question any Iraqi, Afghan, Libyan, Iranian, Somali, Central or South American. Inquire of China, or even Japan, whom America ushered into the history books as the first country to endure not one but two surprise nuclear bombings. (Why two? Because America had two different bomb models, playfully dubbed “Fat Man” and “Little Boy,” and President Truman wanted to test them both in real-world situations.)
A History of Exploitation, Genocide, and Other Iniquities
American colonists from the very beginning felt that they had a God-given right to eliminate the heathen Native Americans. The few that survive today are just a result of a slipshod genocide. Slavery in America rested on the same God-given foundations. Despite a series of poorly-executed laws to end the horrors of slavery after the Civil War, it didn’t die. It mutated. Thanks to Jim Crow laws, passed in all southern states and given a wink and nod from Washington, black people in the south suffered decades more of brutal exploitation. Nor is that sordid heritage over yet. Today the American penal system–the largest in the world–has picked up where Jim Crow left off, disproportionally incarcerating and exploiting black citizens in similar or worse conditions than their slaveholder forbears.
America’s special brand of racism has broken the back of their democracy, a fact that has been highlighted by the recent spate of voter suppression initiatives around the country. The US is home to so many–and such virulent–racists that they can severely limit voting rights through democratic processes alone: racist-majority state legislatures, courts, juries, and police, not to mention the majority of race haters militating in the Republican Party.
Where America Excels
There is one field in which American technology is unsurpassed, and that is the business of communications, persuasion and salesmanship. They have never been bettered in the business of mind twisting, devious salesmanship and the diffusion of false “facts.” They have convinced the majority of American citizens that their country is a hilltop beacon of freedom and democracy with the sacred obligation to take that enviable model abroad to less fortunate countries.
That basic “truth” has given rise to myriad bastard offspring, including the subversion of legitimate governments and “regime change,” assassinations of legitimate political leaders included (Guatemala, Iran, the Republic of the Congo, Chile…). Nor were they averse to outright invasions (Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia); along with those that are currently/still brewing (Yemen, Libya, another Afghanistan, Syria, Taiwan, Cuba, Venezuela, another Iraq…)
The American salesmanship voodoo is wonderfully exemplified in the decades-long campaign to involve allied defense establishments in the Lockheed-Martin F-35 Lightning II project to develop an advanced fifth-generation stealth fighter aircraft. This endeavor began its life in 1992 as a congressional pork-barrel operation situating manufacturing operations in 48 of the 50 states. This is standard operating procedure both for winning widespread backing in Congress and creating a project that would be too big to fail. They were right on both counts, as the project is still stumbling forward 20 years later.
The product is a multi-faulty multi-service fighter plane with expensive and ungainly separate versions for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. It also resembles a textbook fraud, by casting all prospective clients as partners, thereby making them co-responsible for the aircraft’s myriad development glitches, holdups, and astronomical cost overruns. It is, in short, a big-B boondoggle, the most expensive weapons system in military history, to the tune of $1.7 trillion. Aviation and military procurement insiders refer to it as “the fighter plane that sank the Pentagon.” According to an article in Forbes (Feb. 23, 2021), the US Air Force has just declared the F-35 unfit for duty. “The 25-ton stealth warplane has become the very problem it was supposed to solve. And now America needs a new fighter to solve that F-35 problem.” One wonders about the experts from other countries who signed on to the program. What convinced them, the carrot or the stick? Do they have important stock portfolios? Do their kids go to elite schools in America?
A Grisly Endgame
American business had its demise dialled into its DNA. As companies became more concentrated and monopolistic, with more advantages and fewer controls engineered by their legislative arm, more of their domestic competitors were driven to the wall. That led to layoffs and deteriorating conditions for workers. Little by little big business in America was killing the market it needed to stay afloat and now the job is almost finished. Ironically, this process, while stifling trade in America, opened up fabulous opportunities for the Chinese, who are creating millions of jobs and getting rich as America’s manufacturing arm.
China’s annual Gross Domestic Product growth rate has hovered just under 10% since 1978 when they began reforming their economy, never dropping below 7.9%, even during the pandemic. By way of comparison, the US GDP growth rate over that same period never reached 5%. These numbers go a long way towards explaining America’s perception of China today as an arch enemy. The Americans have always had trouble distinguishing between adversaries and enemies. The difference seems to be: you can bomb the latter. This last graph reflects the growth of Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) in the United States over the past two decades. They’re buying up their last viable competitor.
Two of the sectors that still thrive in the US are the so-called “defense industries” and financial services. The needs of the former dictate America’s policy of forever war, making defense a distinctly risky business. The latter are essential to the management of the fortunes of America’s 20.27 million millionaires and 724 billionaires, none of whom sleep in their cars nor on the street.
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Let’s start with “exceptional.” It’s not complicated. Something exceptional is out of the ordinary, usually on the positive side: an exceptional athlete, an exceptional writer or teacher or mechanic… From there to American Exceptionalism in the current sense is a long leap.
Stephen M. Walt is a professor of international relations at Harvard University. Writing on ForeignPolicy.com, October 11, 2011, Walt characterizes America’s unique exceptionalism with cool realism:
Most statements of “American exceptionalism” presume that America’s values, political system, and history are unique and worthy of universal admiration. They also imply that the United States is both destined and entitled to play a distinct and positive role on the world stage.
The only thing wrong with this self-congratulatory portrait of America’s global role is that it is mostly a myth. Although the United States possesses certain unique qualities — from high levels of religiosity to a political culture that privileges individual freedom — the conduct of U.S. foreign policy has been determined primarily by its relative power and by the inherently competitive nature of international politics. By focusing on their supposedly exceptional qualities, Americans blind themselves to the ways that they are a lot like everyone else.
Nevertheless, Americans are undoubtedly exceptional, if not always in good ways. As Walt points out, they’re uniquely unaware of the ways they are like everyone else. That fact alone negates most of the exceptional rights Americans–especially those in power–like to arrogate to themselves in their dealings with other countries. Manifest Destiny didn’t disappear with the Mexican War nor the snatching of Hawaii. It’s still alive and kicking, though a long series of American governments have pretended–and continue to pretend–not to notice. They prefer to emphasize the supposed democratizing effects of American intervention. That is a bald lie of course, but they’ve been peddling it more or less successfully for generations. Lately, however, it’s growing exceptionally thin.
Under the immense influence of the military/industrial complex and loose-cannon, high-tech American billionaires like Robert Mercer with his sinister election-meddling dwarves, American government–and ultimately American society–changed radically. With virtually absolute power over America’s priorities this new ruling clique permitted itself the luxury of taking off the gloves and baring its fists both at home and abroad. As a consequence people, both east and west, are living worse lives, if they’re living at all.
The American power elite consider their military supremacy a determining factor, the definitive justification for imposing their truculent rule everywhere. But they hadn’t counted on the remarkable resilience of poor people defending their homelands, nor the rise of China, nor the implications of a China-Russia coalition. And when the Taliban reared its turbanned head last week and booted the occupiers out of Afghanistan after 20 years, the geopolitical world experienced a sea change. America’s undisputed world suzerainty had ended.
It’s no mystery that the United States has always been a place where the playing field was tilted in favor of big enterprise. The American rich can now purchase politicians and, through them, impose their wills on the country and the world. This reality goes a long way towards explaining why many foreign countries look askance at American-style democracy, which suddenly doesn’t have any clothes on.
How Are They Exceptional? Let Me Count the Ways
The Americans are exceptional for still trying to sell the “Free World,” which Neil Young dismounted utterly in 1989 with his brilliantly cheeky “Rockin’ in the Free World.” To mention the Free World today in enlightened company elicits a snort-beer-through-the-nose hilarity.
They’re exceptional for losing wars one after another to theoretically much weaker countries. How do they manage that?
Their response to the Covid-19 pandemic was so exceptional–the worst in the world–that I won’t bother elaborating on it. The interesting sidebar on this story is how the pandemic revealed a major flaw in American-style democracy. Americans have so much “freedom” that the government couldn’t implement an effective universal plan to fight the virus, and they paid the consequences with more than half a million deaths. China, on the other hand, an unvarnished dictatorship, dictated a set of regulations that stopped the virus in its tracks and permitted social and economic life in their country to go on as usual and steal a march on the rest of the world in the process.
Their firearms policies, which are careening from the ridiculous to the sublimely insane, are unique in the world, truly exceptional. Though school shootings figure first in American press coverage, gun suicide numbers are much higher, especially among war veterans. All of them should have been prevented decades ago. The Second Amendment is just a smokescreen.
Their recent foreign-policy blunders, at the hands of Antony Blinken, a truly exceptional Secretary of State, are making observers around the world ask themselves about the qualifications of the man who appointed him.
Their exceptional education system precludes most young Americans, including black and brown youth, from getting college educations. And those who do manage to graduate are saddled with terminally debilitating college debt.
Their responce to hard-core American racism–in all of its manifestations, from police brutality on the streets, to mandatory sentencing in the courts and disproportionate presence of minority inmates in American prisons–is pathetically exceptional.
You Can Take the Boy Out of the Country…
Even the most liberal Americans are tarred by their country’s uber-patriotic, exceptionalist brush. It was inevitable. They were all born and raised under the American bell jar, obliged to breathe toxic air and drink tainted water, both literally and figuratively. Even the best efforts of left-wing professors are incapable of changing those perceptions. America is where young Americans got their first driver’s license, their best friend, their first kiss. In all fairness, America has undeniable attractions–the mountains and seashores, those amber waves of grain. It’s a land of opportunity, if only for a fast-diminishing few. It has brilliant, committed minds like those of Noam Chomsky, Chris Hedges and all the other clear-eyed thinkers and truth tellers. But it doesn’t have enough of them to offset the dream of the quick buck, glittering consumerism, the greatest brain-washing operation the world has ever seen, and the promise of eternity up in heaven, speaking in tongues.
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The fallout from Biden’s decision to pull his troops out of Afghanistan has left a new balance of winners and losers in the 20-year-old Afghan game.
President Biden’s Abrupt Decision to Pull Out Has Repositioned the World
The Taliban have just taken Kabul without firing a shot. It’s not a joke, though it certainly plays out like one. Who facilitated this grave and unexpected sea change in the delicate Afghanistan situation? It was President Biden, actually, by telegraphing his intention to pull all American troops out of that beleaguered country by September 11, thereby leaving the gates of Kabul wide open to Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada, the Commander of the Taliban Faithful. Akhundzada’s troops are fortuitiously reinforced lately by all the great American war-making equipment they recovered from fleeing Afghan troops. Get used to the Taliban leader’s name. You’re going to be seeing and hearing it a lot in the future.
As things stand right now 11:30 a.m., Granada time, Tuesday, August 17, 2021, American and Taliban soldiers have managed to clear the airstrip at Bagram Airport where masses of people are waiting–hoping against hope–to be airlifted out. Planes are now landing and taking off at a brisk pace, essentially the time it takes them to load. The first flight out this morning was a C-17 transport plane carrying 120 Indian diplomats and embassy workers. It landed at the Indian Air Force base at Jamnagar, the largest city on the western side of India, at 11:15 a.m. local time.
President Joe Biden has lost none of his American chutzpah during these trying times. This morning he was reported as threatening the Taliban with immediate retaliation to any attempt on America or American interests. With American aircraft taking off and landing by the mercy of Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada (remember him?) and with his 6,000 troops surrounded by some 85,000 Taliban fighters, high on victory, Biden’s bravado sounds a bit foolhardy.
The fallout from Biden’s decision to pull his troops out of Afghanistan has left a new balance of winners and losers in the 20-year-old Afghan game. Let’s look at them in order of merit:
The Taliban have fought relentlessly for military and political dominance of their country for nearly 20 years. In the eyes of many of their countrymen they are the heroes who have finally managed to boot out the foreign invaders.
The Chinese, who have deployed and continue to deploy a sane, sensible foreign policy–no war, no bases, no threats, offering just mutually beneficial development and infrustructure assistance to Afghanistan and other appropriate countries around the world. (What is meant by “appropriate?” It means countries with valuable natural resources who need help to exploit them and otherwise develop their countries.)
Donald Trump and his sector of the Republican Party. With so much at stake and so much of that up in the air, the ex-president’s credibility, vis a vis that of the current president, has taken a massive leap forward, a step that significantly advances his cause in the 2022 mid-term elections and beyond.
All of America’s adversaries, whose objectives instantly shine a little bit brighter.
Ironically, we are obliged to add to this list of potential winners the American Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex. Despite their ongoing 20-year cockup in Afghanistan and their recent blindness to emerging Afghan geopolitical realities, American governments will always place their trust in military solutions. So the great arms developers, manufacturers and traffickers will no doubt continue their lugubrious triunfal march. Will they convince President Biden that, given his latest world-class fumble and its repercussions for American prestige around the world, he might recover some of his credibility by going back to war against the Taliban? Almost nobody has any confidence in his proposed “counterterrorism-from- over-the-horizon solution.”
USNews.com paints a rock-and-a-hard-place metaphor:
This defining moment for Biden’s legacy has been met with growing speculation that the U.S. may have to return to its longest war zone as the Taliban continues to take ground, execute America’s local allies and, many fear, position itself to overrun the U.S.-backed government in Kabul. But the situation on the ground, along with the domestic appetite for furthering U.S. conflicts abroad, make that impossible. Political and logistical realities have shifted dramatically in and around the country, and other powers in the region, namely Russia and China, are actively working to prevent the U.S. from ever re-entering.
President Joe Biden. As if he didn’t have enough problems already, President Biden has committed a massive–and massively evident–mistake. He has left himself, his country, his allies and the Afghan people at the mercy of the Taliban, a dangerous, fanatical religious movement that now seems to hold all of Afghanistan in its grip.
The Democratic party, inextricably linked to Biden and his mega-faux pas.
For the American people, who are not feeling terrible buoyant right now, this turn of events can only increase their feelings of instability and uncertainty.
The US intelligence services. These may not be as intelligent as we thought.
The Afghan people. The magnitude of this loss will depend upon the severity of the Taliban regime.
Many of the world’s investors, right down to the IMF, who will find Afghanistan’s fabulous mineral riches not quite such a sure investment as they were three days ago. Afghanistan has over 1,400 mineral fields, containing barite, chromite, coal, copper, gold, iron ore, lead, naturalgas, petroleum, precious and semi-precious stones, salt, sulfur, talc, and zinc, among many other minerals. Gemstones include high-quality emerald, lapis lazuli, red garnet and ruby. According to a joint study by The Pentagon and the United States Geological Survey, Afghanistan has an estimated US$1 trillion of untapped minerals. (Source: Wikipedia)
President Biden’s Image Chipped and Tarnished
For many of us, Joe Biden has been on thin ice from the outset of his presidency. It was clear that he was nobody’s first choice, with the possible exception of the Democratic National Committee. They would prefer a reliable old pol from the entrails of the machine. But he’s too old. He’s doddering a little bit. The backup he gets from his staff is lackluster at best. At this point in his trajectory he badly needs a resounding victory, not an abject defeat. The worst of this situation is that it’s not just a personal setback. It’s a humiliation for his country. And his country is the United States of America.
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Not incidentally, this so-called democratization of small countries rich in natural resources took a terrible toll in lives of American young people, and even more horrifying among the youth of the countries being democratized.
And Everyone Else’s
Growing old is accompanied by well-known symptoms of decadence and decay, senility and death. But there’s a bright side. Old age is also a period–for many the first period–that permits us to neglect destroyer distractions and offers us the time, tranquility, and the perspective to try to make sense of what’s been going on around us during our entire lives. At least it permits us to turn our back on the terrible humdrum of post-modern civilization and “pop culture.” At best it helps us to insert ourselves into what remains of the human tradition, and concentrate less on reality television and other irrelevant dross, and more on important realities and aspirations. At times their similarity can be both shocking and revealing. Two facts are undisputable from former decades to our own times: To adapt a quote from The Leopard, “Everything had to change so everything could stay the same.” (Source: Il Gattopardo, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa)
To that I would add, “or get worse.” Just consider the nefarious novelties that George W. Bush and Donald Trump introduced into American government and the vital agencies Trump virtually eliminated. And that’s not the worst of it. They dragged along the least scrupulous elements–practically everybody–in the Republican Party, the party of Lincoln, along with them. Jesus weeps. One of those novelties was the massive, senseless expansion of America’s tradition of forever-war.
Hell Can Actually Be Quite Heavenly
The wonderful American propaganda industry–this is what they´re good at–tried to convince the world that they were spreading democracy, but they didn’t have much success, except with that critical sector made up of allies with their snouts in the American trough. Not incidentally, this so-called democratization of small countries rich in natural resources took a terrible toll in lives of American young people, and even more horrifying among the youth of the countries being democratized. America and their accomplices slashed a wide swath through generations of third-world citizens, both military and civilian, then swept the evidence under the rug or buried it under a dung heap of euphemisms: “enemy combatants” (soldiers stripped by American bureaucrats of their Geneva convention rights), “friendly fire,” “the Free World,” “collateral damage,” “enhanced interrogation tecnhiques,” “extraordinary rendition…” And anyone who defends their country is a “terrorist” and is droned as such.
The lists of countries participating in the American running-dog coalitions read like crude parodies of comic-book adventures. Do you remember the “Coalition of the Willing,” put together by Geoge W. Bush’s State Department (on Colin Powell’s watch) in March, 2003? That was the recruitment of allies to play mainly testimonial roles in the Iraq war. There were 48, 47 or 46 countries; they kept backing out. The ridiculous-to-the-sublime factor was provided by a bevy of South Pacific micro-island nations, actually US possessions. The three major countries that contributed troops to the invasion force were the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland. One wonders how the citizens of those countries look back on that episode today.
The Man Who Lived Through the Whole Mess and Wrote It Up
Daniel A. Sjursen is a retired U.S. Army officer, a West Point graduate, a historian, contributing editor at Antiwar.com, senior fellow at the Center for International Policy (CIP), and director of the Eisenhower Media Network (EMN). He served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and later taught history at West Point. His most recent work is A True History of the United States (2021), a critical look at his country from the beginning. His first book, and the one that brought him to the country’s attention–some would say notoriety–was a critical analysis of the Iraq War in the form of a memoir: Ghostriders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge (2016). Next came Patriotic Dissent, America in the Age of Endless War (2020), which Amazon.com describes as:
“… a personal cry from the heart by a once model U.S. Army officer and West Point graduate who became a military dissenter while still on active duty. Set against the backdrop of the terror wars of the last two decades, Sjursen asks whether there is a proper space for patriotism that renounces entitled exceptionalism and narcissistic jingoism.”
Danny is angry, and he has the intelligence and integrity to express that anger in writing. It is a formidable gift to the American people, though many of them might not consider it that. His recent first-person account of his past 20 years in and out of the US military was published on the LA Progressive in an article entitled “Twenty Years on From West Point’s Gates and the War on Terror.” The thread that runs throughout the article is the human toll that America’s endless wars have taken on the nation’s soldiers. The bottom line of his account of the last 20 years of carnage is this:
“… at the macro level, the strategic ineptitude and imperial delusions of our generals, admirals, and senior civilian leaders got no less than 7,057 American sons and daughters killed and 53,750 wounded in post-9/11 forever wars.”
Nor does this laudable soldier/protestor forget the numbers of victims in the countries being so generously democritized by American firepower:
In 2019 alone, US and allied airstrikes killed at least 700, and according to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), such aerial attacks killed some 4,390 Afghan civilians from 2006 to September 2020. Furthermore, the US conceded that 1,398 noncombatants were killed in coalition air and artillery strikes during the 2015-20 anti-ISIS campaigns in Iraq and Syria. Overall, estimates of the number of civilian killed in the direct, proxy, and communal-chaos induced violence of America’s post-9/11 adventures range from a conservative 335,000 to a couple of million dead men, women, and children.
Sjursen cites other seldom-quoted statistics, such as the chilling number of US soldiers who committed suicide. By 2020, despite falling casualty rates in wars, largely thanks to the recruitment of proxy armies, US military suicides were rising alarmingly. In 2020 alone 301 US soldiers committed suicide – a 43 percent increase from 2007, and almost double the number that took their own lives in 2001. What changed so radically in these young people’s lives?
Other Concerns Over 20 Years
Sjursen is a well-rounded critic, as evidenced in other issues he addresses briefly in his LA Progressive article. He disapproves of both of the post- September-11 mideast troop surges in Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which he participated in on the ground. He was equally critical of the Pentagon’s switch to warlord proxy wars, and the thousands of American soldiers serving on bases abroad. We don’t even know how many military personnel are involved. That number is classified. Sjursen says, “One wonders if America’s statistical shift towards worldwide militarism is the biggest open secret in history.”
Nor is he happy with the cloaking and undercounting of civilians killed in US drone and piloted-aircraft strikess in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. He finds the torture of enemy prisoners untenable, saying, “…systemic prisoner abuse and downright torture at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Base, countless CIA “black sites,” and America’s still-open, in-house purgatory of Guantanamo Bay.” His opposition to America’s astronomical defense budgets and obscene cost overruns is absolute, declaring,”All told, Washington has spent a minimum of $6.4 trillion and counting in taxpayer dollars on a 20-year crusade as doomed as the original medieval march of European knights to the Holy Land.”
In all, Danny Sjursen will be an interesting person to follow in coming years. You can follow him on Antiwar.com, where he is known as Maj. Danny Sjursen, USA (ret.)
Thanks for following, commenting and, especially, sharing.
It has been 10 years since then-president Donald Trump made his despective remarks about “shithole countries” that raised such a brouhaha at home and abroad. According to the LA Times on the following day the offending words were:
“What do we want Haitians here for?” the president asked, according to the people briefed. “Why do we want all these people from Africa here? Why do we want all these people from shithole countries?” Then he added ludicrously, “We should have people from places like Norway.”
LA Times, Jan. 11, 2018
I think it’s time to deconstruct the declaration. ·What, exactly, is a shithole country? What are its salient characteristics? How do we identify it? What, if anything, can we learn from the former president’s declaration? What do the shithole countries tend to have in common. Shall we make a list?
Getting a Grip on the Elusive Shithole
They tend to be run by a coterie of dishonest and ruthless politicos who serve at the behest of shadowy monied interests.
They skim so much wealth off the top of their country’s economy that there is virtually nothing left for basic services and infrastructures for the society at large.
They are run along military/police lines. These two sectors have carte blanche.
What little wealth generated is siphoned off by non-resident, usually foreign owners.
Their communication with their citizens have nothing to do with truth or utility, rather political expediency.
The court of last resort in most of these countries has little to do with the judiciary. It’s often the clandestine services.
Education–the key to true democracy–in these countries is disconsidered and underfinanced. Schools for the children of the masses of the population are left to crumble and teachers are underrated, under-equipped and underpaid. Think of the importance good teachers had in your own life. Where would you be without them? The sons and daughters of the ruling elite have the option to attend exclusive schools, abroad.
Firearms policies in the worst of these countries are notoriously lax or unenforced. Legally-armed crazies roam the streets unsettling and destabilizing the citizens, who find themselves perpetually on the wrong foot. “Will I make it safely home from work today. Will I be gunned down in my workplace? Will my children be safe at school? Will they make it home safely? Shall I buy them bullet-proof book bags?” The absurdity of the non-regulation of firearms reinforces the absurdity all the other potential dangers the government fails to regulate: rents, living wages, killer capitalism, and everything else designed to clog the prosperity funnel that drains wealth from the poor to the rich. The trickle-down theory is shithole economics.
Exaggerated levels of nationalism and a perverted “patriotism” permeate the worst of these societies from cradle to grave, and degrade its values. A noxious by-product of these is the default justification of heinous human-rights abuses in other people’s countries. The ultimate expression of this thinking is overweening, forever-war militarism.
Besides being a plague on their neighbors, these countries show utter disregard for the rights and welfare of their own citizens, as if these were a burden on national resources, not the exact opposite: the very essence and reason-for-being of an honest and truly democratic government. The most egregious examples of this phenomenon are racial minorities, who are the brunt of the worst injustices that flawed countries can dish out, whether at home, in the streets on in the prisons.
Wait, There’s More
The usual trope of shithole countries is some sort of castrated, conditional so-called democracy with its hands tied by self-seeking politicos engendering democracy-crippling legislation like the Patriot Acts or high court decisions like Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission.
A pervading climate of hate permeates all. The left hates the right, the right hates the left. The rich hate the poor and vice versa. The whites hate the blacks and everybody hates the Russians, who also happen to put their trousers on one leg at a time. In these militarized societies nobody seems to be able to distinguish between adversaries and enemies. To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Poverty is weaponized. A father or mother who is worrying about where their children’s next meal is coming from, or whether they’re going to be evicted at the end of the month, is in no condition to demand decent social services or a living wage. It is this impoverished lumpenproletariat (Source: Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto) that pays the price of justification of paupers’ conditions for the whole society. Without them the ruling thugs have no-one to point to as examples of just how sordid they can make your life.
Where to Apply These Damning Epithets
That’s up to you, dear reader. You are the jury and the judge.You must decide where to direct your hammer. But before you strike, permit me the luxury of citing a few words from the poet, Robert Burns. They’re archly familiar and seem to me to be particularly apt in this case:
O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us. To see oursels as ithers see us!
American greatness is not a soaring stock market, the world’s most powerful military, furibund nationalism, an imperialist foreign policy based on lies, rapine, opportunism and the classification of civilian dead and wounded as “collateral damage.” It is not advanced systems of surveillance and repression, nor sophisticated medical systems and procedures exclusively for those who can afford them. It’s not kowtowing to white supremacists and nazis, nor separating families and consigning them to wire cages where they can be–and are being–sexually abused by their keepers. It is not a regime dedicated to subjugating, subverting and exploiting resource-rich countries, usually by buying off, threatening, or elimnating their leaders.
What It Is
It is basic wellbeing for 100% of the population, including decent housing, living wages, free education from pre-school through university or advanced vocational training, universal health care, and of course, paid maternal and paternal leave for blessed events. Pleaase don’t pretend that this is economically impossible for the richest country in the world. It isn’t. Most of Europe has these rights guaranteed already. These lucky countries–let’s call them “commonwealths”–also offer egalitarian civil rights, non-politicized judiciaries, and humanitarian penal systems designed to rehabilitate, not castigate. Most of them have clear divisions between church and state. A truly democratic government has no need for “spiritual advisors.” They are just a cheap, reliable form of influence peddling aimed at under-educated electors.
Here’s the Hard Part
Let’s start out by acknowledging the reality. The citizens of the United States are victims of more than a century of brainwashing in favor of hardball nationalism, predatory capitalism, and ruthless imperialism in their dealings with other countries. These bitter facts have been downplayed for Americans during many decades, cloaked in secrecy and hypocrisy: “Our mission in Iraq is to liberate the Iraquis from a cruel dictatorship and to neutralize their weapons of mass destruction…” And don’t forget the false-flag operations and other black ops.
It was not until the events of September 11, 2001, that President George W. Bush removed the gloves and unleashed the dogs of war on Afghanistan and Iraq in broad daylight. Ironically, neither of those countries was responsible for the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, nor were either of the ensuing wars won by the Americans. Iraq continues to fester. And even after being mauled by the Russian military for 10 years (March 1979-February 1989) the Afghan resistance managed to entertain the American forces for two decades more. Today the Biden team has picked up where the Trump administation left off, and American troops are on their way out of Afghanistan. The Taliban now controls 60% of the country and well-informed observers think they will be in control of the entire country within a year or less. So much for American military grandeur.
Education or Child Abuse?
There are all kinds of child abuse–physical, psychological, economic, sexual– and all of them leave lasting consequences. But there’s another one that seldom gets mentioned and it’s as damaging as all the others. It’s the moral and ideological abuse caused by teaching children false “truths” and baseless historical “facts.” Teaching children that they are superior and uniquely entitled, simply for being Americans, is profoundly damaging. Teaching them that Americans are endowed with unique “rights” to rule other people’s countries as if they were their own is dishonest and deforming. Raising them to believe that happiness can be bought is soul destroying. All of these familiar American commonplaces are sowing destructive mental illness in the DNA of a great nation. The country’s toleration of white supremacist and Nazi ideologies sets dismal examples for these same American young people. Nonetheless, all of this brainwashing is their daily bread.
Young Americans are schooled with pre-cooked ideas based on misinformation, exaggeration, magical thinking, opportunism, cynicism, and ultra-nationalism. They are thus conditioned to become Pavlovian responders who drool and snarl at the mention of words like “socialist,” “Russian” or “universal medical care,” all of which are considered totalitarian. (In fact, the only Americans who enjoy the cozy benefits of socialism are members of the military and the United States Congress, the only two American collectives entitled to universal health care–including dental.) These ready-to-digest anti-collectivist notions are instilled from earliest childhood along with Santa Claus, the Baby Jesus, and the Tooth Fairy, and are essentially indelible. Konrad Lorenz would say they are “imprinted” on American young people. No amount of plain-vanilla facts will ever erase their influence.
The Road to Authentic Greatness
In order to achieve authentic greatness the country requires flipping over like a pancake. Anything less would not make a significant difference. American values and attitudes have been twisted and perverted for so long and so effectively that the possibility of rectifying them in the short or medium term looks remote. Americans would be obliged to unlearn/relearn most of their deepest-rooted underlying beliefs in an impossibly short time:
American exceptionalism–Americans are not endowed with special unique rights and privileges over other people and their countries, resources, beliefs and customs, nor to impose their supposedly “superior” predatory free-market capitalist values on anyone, neither foreign nor domestic. The same goes for their religions. They are not entitled to use their abundant resources to evangelize whole societies of innocent underdeveloped countries with American varieties of absurd magical religions. People, no matter how innocent, are entitled to have their traditional beliefs and customs respected. If America is ever to be great it must rid itself of its superiority delusions and start to respect other people’s lives, ideas, values, and natural resources, however appetizing their oil, minerals and pineapple plantations may be.
American “Rugged Individualism”–Most Americans see themselves first and foremost as individuals, not as members of a collective. In fact, any form of collectivism sounds subversive to most of them. They are stubbornly proud to be self sufficient, to make their own way in the world, not relying on the assistance or support of their neighbors or the government and actively despising those who do. They tend to forget how public schools, libraries, and fire departments have helped them along the way. Most of them would be hard pressed to define “solidarity.”
American Democracy–Despite record levels of corruption, voting limitations and financing procedures that would be illegal in an authentic democracy, Americans consider their democracy to be exemplary, worthy of being exported to less fortunate nations. They are so devoted to their brand of truncated democracy that they are prepared to invade any country with another form of government and execute “regime change.” That is to say, start killing its citizens and not stopping until they have accepted the American imposition of a form of government more to their (the Americans’) liking. This is doubly true for any country with “communist” or “socialist” in its name, governing philosophies that cannot be tolerated by American patriots under any circumstances.
American History–To most Americans the history of their country is a saga of freedom and heroism, a model for the elevation of other less-fortunate nations. Not only is this the impression the majority of Americans embrace, but it’s actually taught in 11th-grade American history classes across the country. The very textbooks are larded with lies, euphemisms and ommisions which support the myths of American beneficence and idealism, when nothing could be farther from the truth. Specious notions of America’s demented “manifest destiny” to grab, occupy and exploit other people’s countries would be comical if they were not so sordid and costly in terms of human lives and suffering. No, America, your destiny was never “manifest.” It has always been–and remains–counterfeit, illicit, and brutally implememented.
A First Step–A positive first step in achieving American greatness would be to start admitting immigrants fleeing from the hell holes the Americans have created for them in Central America and other places and providing them with homes, jobs and education for their children.
This could not be done all at once, of course, but gradually. In a generation or two they will have made a significant contribution to American society. These refugees, having trudged the length of the isthmus between North and South America, bearing their babies and all their earthly goods on their backs, will have also brought with them the thing that the United States needs most urgently: humanity. Humanity is not a collateral nor incidental element in the greatness of a country.
It’s the very heart and soul. It’s not high finance nor sophisticated military hardware that makes a country great. It’s the thoughtfulness, generosity and moral rectitude of its people. Without these vital factors a country is prone to fall victim to cynicism, greed, and brutality to the point where poverty is a crime and a great swath of citizens are obliged to live without the means of fulfilling the most basic needs for human life in a modern society.
The American news today is about macro realities: economics, war, crime and offical corruption. The mainstream news sources–all big businesses–seldom stoop to the human level and when they do it’s merely anecdotical. What’s to become of the poor, the weak, the infirm, the homeless, the under-educated and the hopeless? They’re Americans, too, and must be entered into the greatness spread sheet. For now they’re computed just as liabilities from the point of view of government bean counters. Nevertheless, one wonders how much potential is lost among these “losers?” How many Stephen Hawkings, or Jesse Owens, or Nina Simones or García Márquez’s?
So, who will embark on the re-humanization of America? We have seen that it’s not complicated. Which is not to say that it will be easy. Or even possible.
The word for this singular situation, I believe, is “evil.” How does a great society deal with such widespread, ingrown evil? There aren’t enough exorcists to go around.
Looking at America from Far Off
I should have written this long ago. It might have headed off some misunderstandings regarding what I’m up to with this blog I’ve been writing over the past three years. You may have noticed that all my articles are critical of your country. I owe you an explanation. I write out of concern for what a series of American politicians and big military, religious, and business leaders are doing to your country and the world, with the acquiescense of a majority of American citizens. Seen from here–I’m writing from Spain where I have lived for the past 50 years–the scene over there looks grave and getting graver.
That’s what set me off on this writing project. I can’t just stand by passively. But what can I possibly do from here? I’m nobody. I’m far away. I embrace unpopular left-wing political views. I’m not even a billionaire. But I feel I have to do something. The “what” is a foregone conclusion. I’ll do the only thing I know how to do: write it up. I’ve got books, an internet connection, time on my hands, and a desire to make a positive contribution. I may not make a big difference, but I might make a little one.
My basic premise is simple. There’s something gravely wrong with a country that glorifies its snipers and despises its peacemakers, whose answer to war is more war and whose response to racism is more racism. That country needs help. Therein lies our first great question: is that country–the USA–beyond help? Have many decades of twisted history, old-time religion, and pumping up with patriotic nonsense created a populace that is unresponsive to any thought but standard American ideology. You know, rugged individualism, iron-clad racism, forever war, privatization of everything and knee-jerk justification of American iniquity, however horrendous, however conspicuous.
Disclaimer: If you haven’t noticed already, my point of view is conditioned by the fact that I have lived in Europe for a long time.
The Implacable Bottom Line
One would like to think that there was a time when the USA rested on more humane pillars, starting with common sense and equally common decency, then honesty, fair play, even a sprinkling of generosity. But that was before the invention of the spread sheet, with its cold, incontrovertible accountant’s logic and implacable bottom line. There’s not much room left in America’s business as usual for humanity or honesty to prevail. Those values have been replaced by greed and ruthless self deception. Do you need evidence of the ruin? Take a look at any member of the United States Congress’s voting record and collate it with the entities that financed his or her latest campaign. Out the window with the environment, the climate crisis, health care for all, the peace initiatives, fair voting practices, and your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. By the way, who’s going to chisel that subversive little poem off the base of the Statue of Liberty?
I think it’s relevant to point out that there’s nothing secret about this evolution of American society. Twenty-five years ago the New York born astrophysicist and science paladin, Carl Sagan, published The Demon-Haunted World, Science as a Candle in the Dark. Among other brilliant observations in this book, he wrote this prediction of America’s future, which is to say, today:
I have a foreboding of America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time–when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all of the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness. The dumbing down of American is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30-second sound bites now down to 10 seconds or less, lowest-common-denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.
Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World
That was 25 years ago and I find nothing there I could take issue with today. Do you disagree? Turn on your television.
America as Snuff Film
The United States has problems that are unknown to countries that are not currently living in outright war. These problems, unique in the advanced world, are grave and entirely of the Americans’ own making, home spun dystopia. The first problem that comes to everyone’s mind when looking at the United States from abroad is the lack of gun control. In any civilized country, this problem is absurd to the point of silliness. Everybody, everywhere knows that firearms must be regulated. If not, grave problems will arise in any society. Everywhere, that is, except the United States, thanks to an interested interpretation of an arcane clause in the country’s Constitution, specific to the era of the war of independence against the British more than two and a half centuries ago. This clause, the second amendment, gives rise to a pretext, held by gun nuts and manufacturers, that all American adults are entitled by law to bear firearms. The only exceptions to that constitutionally-backed right are US military bases, where firearms are strictly controlled. Why has no one over there noticed that this state of affairs is silly–and also dangerous?
The other issue that strikes normal foreigners when they think about American life and society is racism. They don’t understand it, they deplore it, and they wonder what diabolical mechanisms keep it alive. And it’s not just Mississippi. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, legislation to make it complicated for racial minorities to vote has recently been enacted in 17 states around the country, and similar initiatives are afoot that bring the potential total of voter-blocking states up to 48. The Brennan Center’s Voting Laws Roundup updates the figures to June 21, 2021.
As of June 21, 17 states enacted 28 new laws that restrict access to the vote. With some state legislatures still in session, more laws will certainly follow, which we will track in the next roundup later this year. More restrictions on the vote are likely to become law, as roughly one-third of legislatures are still in session. Indeed, at least 61 billswith restrictive provisions are moving through18 state legislatures. More specifically, 31have passed at least one chamber, while another 30 have had some sort of committee action (e.g., a hearing, an amendment, or a committee vote). Overall, lawmakers have introduced at least 389 restrictive bills in 48 states in the 2021 legislative sessions.
What kind of a country is this, where elements in 48 of 50 states want to block minority voters? That, though it’s hard to believe, is the least of the problems minorities face in the US. What about the American police routinely shooting black and brown men and women, seemingly for sport, and getting off free or almost free? How does one explain these anomalies to people who have grown up in normal countries? One can’t. Why doesn’t the United States government enact federal legislation to eliminate these raging abuses? They can’t. The political backing in the electorate for such action is conspicuously lacking. In short, a majority of Americans prefer things the way they are.
If the politicians can’t or won’t do anything, there must be someone else strong and decent enough enough to take action. America is profoundly Christian. What about the churches? That won’t work, either. An article by Robert P. Jones, author of White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity, cited by NBC News on July 28, 2020, explains:
A close read of history reveals that we white Christians have not just been complacent or complicit; rather, as the nation’s dominant cultural power, we have constructed and sustained a project of perpetuating white supremacy that has framed the entire American story. The legacy of this unholy union still lives in the DNA of white Christianity today–and not just among white evangelical Protestants in the South, but also among white mainline Protestants in the Midwest and white Catholics in the Northeast.
The word for these singular situations, I believe, is “evil.” How does a great society deal with such widespread, ingrown evil? There aren’t enough exorcists to go around.
Why does this subhead refer to “preemptive?” In the first place, it’s a term that Americans understand and put to frequent use, usually in the context of war. Preemptive war is understood as the anticipatory use of force. It can either be construed as defense against imminent aggression, or simply a sneak attack. Where a given case lies on the continuum between one and the other depends upon a country’s values, interests and point of view. Preemptive war was the kernel of the Bush Doctrine, a set of foreign policy principles that paved the way for the US’s gratuitous invasion of Iraq in 2003, among other egregious international boutades. Insofar as the American demise looks evident and imminent, “preemptive” is the operative adjective for its post mortem.
When we were kids in a treehouse we subscribed to the myth that if you killed a snake, even cut his head off, he wouldn’t die until the sun went down. These are America’s last hours before sunset.
Each generation comes around with a new set of standards and values. Some of them make sense, advance the cause of humanity, and feel like progress. There’s the Renaissance, the American Revolution, the New Deal… Others, are senseless, destructive, inhumane. The Twenties were senseless, but not in the way the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s were. These fatal decades saw the widespread flowering of a set unthinkable ideologies, and saw the Depression, the Holocaust, the Rape of Nanking, Italian Fascism, German Nazism, the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the specious desolation of Vietnam, all under the shadow of American exceptionalism and opportunism disguised as humanitarianism. That was the novelty that turned the 20th century into the American century. They co-opted it under false pretenses.
Their weapons in this struggle were revolutionary. They were intangible–words. The Americans became the world’s consummate communicators. Never mind that a great part of what they communicated wasn’t true. That actually helped advance the American cause, which was a lie in itself. From the very inception of the United States at the end of the 18th century, they had an exaggerated exceptionalist conception of themselves. A prescient person in those times might have intuited the Americans’ vocation for conquest and dominance. Many of the observations that Alexis de Tocqueville made after his research trip around the US seeking novel solutions that might be applied in Europe, and published in his two-volume, Democracy in America, in 1835 and 1840, hold true to a surprising extent today, nearly two centuries later. Here, a few shining examples:
“I do not know if the people of the United States would vote for superior men if they ran for office, but there can be no doubt that such men do not run.”
“There is a natural prejudice which prompts men to despise whomsoever has been their inferior long after he is become their equal…”
“I am of the opinion, on the whole, that the manufacturing aristocracy which is growing up under our eyes is one of the harshest that ever existed in the world; but at the same time it is one of the most confined and least dangerous. Nevertheless, the friends of democracy should keep their eyes anxiously fixed in this direction; for if ever a permanent inequality of conditions and aristocracy again penetrates into the world, it may be predicted that this is the gate by which they will enter.”
“Now that I am drawing to the close of this work, in which I have spoken of so many important things done by the Americans, to what the singular prosperity and growing strength of that people ought mainly to be attributed, I should reply: To the superiority of their women.”
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America
Big Data Changes the Game
The 20th century laid the ground work for today’s big-data, digital-communications, social media, high-speed-networked hackers’ and election fixers paradise (See Christopher Wiley’s book, Mindf*cked). This phenomenon is just another example of American communications black ops, both at home and around the world. American disengenuous whingeing about Russian hackers is unceasing, though they know very well themselves that the world’s largest and most important cyber-criminal organization is their own National Security Agency (NSA). Any self-respecting western media organization is aware of that, too, but they either don’t remember–or dare–to publish it.
The twenty first century arrived with a bitter surprise for the United Statesians. They found themselves mired in the dystopia brought on by the rule of greed, racism, and inequality in their country and were about to discover that they weren’t the only ones with ideas, initiatives, resources and allies. They had overlooked a relevant fact brought out recently by Evert-Jan Ouweneel, a Dutch academic, lecturer and visionary: over the past twenty centuries, the Chinese and the Hindus had dominated eighteen. The recent two-century lapse was due to unforeseen rapid industrialization in the West, but the Chinese in particular have shown they have overcome that hurdle and are barrelling towards a new supercharged normal.
Ouweneel sums up the current situation in a brief paragraph:
But things are changing dramatically again. China and India are catching up, with China behaving like a petrol engine and India like a diesel engine (needing more time to warm up). The leverage of the West is diminishing, their head start disappearing. And this time, China and India can combine their industrial power with their immense population. Once both countries are ‘up to date’ and ‘up to scale’, their huge work force and internal market will allow them to go above and beyond. China may have reached this point already, India is on its way.
Evert-Jan Ouweneel, Urbanlogics.eu
The American responses to the Chinese phenomenon were foreseeable. First they launched the Chinese imperialism ploy, attributing Chinese claims to sovereignty over Hong Kong and Taiwan to an infirm lust for territorial expansion. None of that. Both Hong Kong and Taiwan (Formosa) have their historical roots deep in the Chinese mainland and both have pertained to China at least since the early part of the Qing Dynasty, which ruled China from 1644 to 1912, when it was finally brought down by a revolution led by Sun Zhongshan and his Revive China Society. China ruled Formosa (Taiwan) until Japan occupied the island during the First Sino-Japanese War in 1895, and held it till 1945.
Following the end of World War II, the nationalist government of the Republic of China (ROC), led by the Chiang Kai Chek’s Kuomintang (KMT), took refuge on Taiwan after losing control of mainland China to Mao Tse Tung and the Chinese communists. The KMT ruled Taiwan as a single-party state for forty years. China wants it back. The issue is complicated by the fact that the Taiwanese held their first presidential elections in 1996.
As for Hong Kong, Britain grabbed that Chinese city with classic British panache in 1841 during the first opium war–fought to secure the right of the British to continue to sell opium to the Chinese–and held onto it as long as they could, until 1997. Then they returned it–by treaty–to the Chinese fold. A case can be made for the fact that recent “democratic” breast beating in Hong Kong–very much in line with American-democracy-as-a-marketing-ploy–may be baseless.
Projecting American Military Superiority
The Unites States budget for 2021, part of $2.3 trillion spending package that includes pandemic relief and federal spending, includes $696 billion for the Pentagon. The full-year Pentagon spending bill represents a $2.6 billion increase over the 2020-enacted level but $2.1 billion less than President Donald Trump’s 2021 budget request. How many schools and hospitals does that sum represent? We’re not talking here about the full military budget, rather just the $2.6 billion increase over the previous year’s record sum.
There are many perfectly respectable countries in the world where this sort of spending on weapons of mass destruction would be considered mental illness. And, given the universal nature of nuclear warfare, all of these countries have skin in the game. But they have no say in the matter. They’re just standing by, awaiting some petulant US President’s next fit of pique. According to former Trump spokesperson Jason Miller, quoted in Forbes.com (July 9, 2021), there’s a 50-50 chance that Donald Trump will run for President again in 2024.
What would it take to precipitate such a war? Let’s look, for example, at American military provocations in the South China Sea, provocations which are currently under way. The name itself gives us a hint as to the gravity of the American swaggering. The “South China Sea” is not the South Louisiana Sea, nor the South Texas Sea… What are American warships doing careening about over there and inviting friends over for tea on the poop deck? What would the United States have to say to Chinese warships cavorting in the waters between Cuba and Florida?
Such is the Americans’ faith in their military superiority that, not only are they willing to risk nuclear winter, but they are spending their country’s life blood on it. The nuclear fetish goes something like this:
What would you rather have, America, schools at the levels of excellence of South Korea or Denmark, or more H-bombs?
But you already have more nuclear bombs than any other country in the world. Isn’t that enough?
No, we want more!
But even one nuke is enough to trigger a reaction that would end human life on earth forever.
Never mind, we want more!
Who are the only Americans with any possible interest, in promoting such an insane scenario? America’s all-powerful arms manufacturers, of course. Companies like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon, and dozens of others virtually own a controlling interest in the United States Congress, purchased with campaign contributions. Between their obscene wealth, their overriding greed, and the clout they wield in Washington, they are capable of precipitating the world’s next war. Which could be its last.
It’s easy to see the results of American recruitment of allies. There is never a shortage of countries, large and small, to join with the United States in their most varied international adventures, however grotesque these may be. This summer is seeing a bellicose campaign against Russia and China, featuring schoolyard-bully diplomatic initiatives, virulent media campaigns and too-close-for-comfort military maneuvers. In former times, the same deficient rationale gave us the American “sanctions” scams, the gratuitous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and, before that, Vietnam. The daunting Cold War laid the groundwork for the ongoing campaign to recruit “allies” in the noble cause of American world hegemony.
But we are never shown the process of winning over those strange bedfellows. What are the mechanisms that permit the Americans to persuade the leaders of otherwise sane countries–places like Canada, Australia and even Norway, by all the usual yardsticks the most egalitarian, most humane country in the world, to join them in the Americans’ own version of the 1,000-year Reich?
This extravagant prophesy is not only a Hitlerian reference. The United States, a profoundly Christian if somewhat heterodox country, found its millenial vocation in the same place as Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister: in the Bible. It was revealed to both in the book of Revelations 20:6: “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.”
Religion Rears Its Pious Head
Elaine Pagels, professor of religion at Yale, and one of the world’s most qualified biblical scholars, author of Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation, commented in a 2012 interview:
… the book of Revelation opens with a series of visions in which Jesus appears to a prophet and tells him what’s going to happen soon, and then the prophet says he goes up into heaven and sees the throne of God and is told by angels the course of future history, which includes four horsemen of the apocalypse coming, each one representing disaster on Earth.
One brings war that kills a third of the inhabitants of the Earth. Another one brings famine and plague and catastrophe all over the world. These visions talk about cosmic war, in which the forces of evil seem to have taken over the world, and claim that God’s power is now going to come and challenge those forces, and there will be cataclysmic battles of monsters until finally Jesus returns with armies of angels and destroys all the forces of evil and creates an entirely new world.
You may be inclined to accept or reject this apocalyptic view of the world’s imminent end, but there is no doubt that many of the United States’ past, present, and future leaders believe in it literally and are prepared to bet the farm on it. It’s ironic that Americans should put so much stock in this scenario, as it is not clear what their role in it might be. Are they the faithful who are awaiting liberation by armies of angels, or are they the bringers of war that “kill a third of the inhabitants of the earth,” and sow “famine and plague and catastrophe all over the world?” From here it looks as if they might be the latter. Today the all-powerful American military is the global Goliath busily seeking his David. According to Mark Twain, the quintessential American truth teller, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”
The Americans seem to be able to assemble a bank of allies almost at will for any of their lugubrious initiatives, even if some of them are laughable miniature Pacific islands. What are the steps in the American recruitment of allies? How do they go about luring normal countries into their strange games of propaganda, deception and war? Who has to be won over in each country to win collaboration in the Americans’ grimy geopolitical adventures? How many people, in what institutions, and at what level, do the Americans have to bring on board in order to create an “ally?”
Do they have to convince a majority of a country’s legislative and/or executive branches to get the job done, or just a few key flexible figures? (Here I can’t help but recall the famous photograph of American President, George W. Bush, British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and the Spanish President, José María Aznar, meeting in the Azores to sign Iraq’s unwarranted death warrant. Were these three sociopathic chief executives solely responsible for launching an invasion of Iraq which, four years later, had left a balance of 650,000 Iraqi dead, all of them innocent?
How Do They Do It?
How do the Americans achieve these macabre arrangements? It’s not always easy but they are experts with long experience in the business. Their techniques date at least from the passing of the National Security Act, signed into law by President Harry S. Truman in July 1947, which reorganized the structure of the U.S. armed forces following World War II.
It created the office of Secretary of Defense to oversee the nation’s military establishment. It also established the National Security Council (NSC) and separate departments for each branch of the armed forces, as well as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The National Security Agency (NSA) was founded five years later, on November 4, 1952. Despite the CIA’s reputation for worldwide skullduggery, the NSA is the pre-eminent American intelligence agency, the largest both in terms of budget and personnel. (Source: Britannica.com)
Both agencies’ remit was limited by Congress to overseas espionage and counter-intelligence operations, the CIA with old-fashioned spies, the NSA with high-tech communications interceptions and code breaking. As time passed both organizations grew like baby gorillas into formidable personae that sometimes collaborated and sometimes competed, sometimes informing their supervisors in the government and sometimes not. The recent citizen surveillance revelations in the US have brought to light the role of the NSA in surveilling domestic communications and the massive gathering of data on US citizens. Was the CIA also involved? Are the American clandestine services running other shady, illegal operations at home? We don’t know and, barring a security leak or a whistleblower, we will never know. They’re secret.
Some of their shenanigans are so secret that not even the President is informed. One of these cases was uncovered during the Bush II presidency. Slate reporter, Fred Caplan, writes, “Of all the shocks and revelations in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA torture, one seems very strange and unlikely: that the agency misinformed the White House and didn’t even brief President George W. Bush about its controversial program until April 2006.” The Bush team’s cover story was that it was a measure to assure the president’s “credible deniability” should the operations inadvertently come to light. (Source: Slate , Dec. 10, 2014)
The Russkies Provide Cover for the Whole Show
Always under the banner of anti-communism and the Russian threat, the nascent American security state promoted a military association of North American and European countries by convincing them they needed to be protected by American troops, armour and aviation and, above all, harbored beneath their nuclear umbrella. They called this collective “the North Atlantic Treaty Organization” (NATO), and it was tremendously successful for the Americans on several levels.
Twelve countries took part in the founding of NATO: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In 1952, Greece and Turkey became members of the Alliance, joined later by West Germany (1955) and Spain (1982). In exchange for the promise of American military protection, NATO provided the rationale for what turned out to be a sinister information and influence superhighway into the heart of Europe.
The Americans soon discovered the convenience of grouping their allies together, thus dealing with a single collective contact, the NATO Secretary General. It is a much faster and effective way to maintain control, hinged only on the extent to which the incumbent Secretary General can be controlled. That’s usually not a problem. The current office holder, since 2014, is the Norwegian politician and two-time prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg.
The Scandinavian Playing Field
Ironically, it is Scandinavia, that fairy-tale cluster of ideal little countries, where two of the greatest mysteries of the last four decades lie. Though we don’t have space to look too deeply into them here, they are the seemingly gratuitous assassination of Swedish prime minister, Olof Palme in 1986, and the mass murders by means of a car bomb in the government quarter of Oslo and the gun killing of socialist youth on the Norwegian island of Utøya in 2011, leaving a total of 77 people dead and hundreds wounded.
Are these mysteries actually unsolved? Or are they just more of Donald Rumsfeld’s “unknown unknowns?” The latter case has curious parallels with a series of senseless murders that occurred in the 1970s and 80s in Italy and were blamed on left-wing extremist militants. In 1990 the Italian judge, Felice Casson, discovered documents on “Operation Gladio” in the archives of the Italian secret service in Rome and forced Prime Minister, Giulio Andreotti, to confirm to the Italian parliament the existence of a clandestine army. This casual series of events let a massive cat out of the bag. Gladio was a decades-long, Europe-wide NATO-run terrorist operation with the objective of discrediting the rising European left. One wonders what NATO geostrategic genius thought that one up and what he’s got in mind for a second course. (Source: Daniele Ganser, NATO’s Secret Armies, Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe)
The first thing the Americans gained with the creation of NATO was a series of invaluable footholds on Russia’s doorstep. Now that NATO membership has grown from 12 to 30 countries, the situation is gravely aggravated, with many of the new American allies tucked cozily up against Russia’s borders. At the same time the Americans added thousands of military personnel and untold tons of weaponry to their Europe-based war potential. Not to mention the sum of the intelligence collected over the years by the new members. NATO was a splendid windfall for the United States and its military-industrial-congressional complex.
Secrecy Trumps Democracy
The creation, seven decades ago, of two powerful and highly-secret American security agencies with virtually unlimited budgets and a worldwide field of operations, ostensibly for the purpose of safeguarding American democracy and propagating that ideology around the world, has had precisely the opposite results. The CIA has a decades-long reputation for direct and proxy bullying and subverting of countries that are unwilling to submit to the American ideological and military yoke.
The full list is too long to cite here but it includes Iran, today’s special American enemy. Their story of humiliation and exploitation at the hands of the ruthless American proxy, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, explains that country’s clear views today on the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. Next came Guatemala and Chile and most of the rest of Latin America. Then, Panama and Grenada, left-wing mini states, both invaded by much superior US forces; a killing-sparrows-with-elephant-guns strategy that became an American favorite. They even coined a cute name for it: “shock and awe.”
Perhaps the best example of this penchant for overkill are the fleets of gigantic eight-engined Boeing B-52 Stratofortress strategic bombers (called “BUFFs” by the in-crowd, Big Ugly Fat Fuckers) operating over Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, day after day for years, killing every living thing in their path. The Stratofortresses entered service in the US Air Force in 1955, and 76 of them remain in service today. After being upgraded between 2013 and 2015, the last of them are expected to serve into the 2050s. An article in Wired magazine reminds us that mid-twenty-first-century B-52s would be the equivalent of First World War Sopwith Camels flying today, a century later.
The B-52’s bombing campaigns in Southeast Asia began in 1964 with Operation Rolling Thunder. Its objective was North Vietnam and it lasted almost four years. Rolling Thunder was later acknowledged as a strategic failure. Operation Arc Light, which ultimately included missions over Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, lasted from 1965-73. There were many more “operations.” Of the 10-12,000 American aircraft brought down in Vietnam, 31 of them were B-52 Stratofortresses. The wreckage of one of them is on display today at Hanoi’s B-52 Victory Museum.
(Source: Herman L. Glister, The Air War in Southeast Asia, Case Studies of Selected Campaigns, 1993)
The Expert on the Subject
There’s an expert on the subject of the Americans international lying, bribing and arm twisting for patriotic, economic and recruiting ends, a whistleblower who participated in those activities in his youth. In his first book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man (2004), that became a NY Times best seller translated into 30 languages, John Perkins relates his personal experience in the world of economic hit men (EHM), jackals, and well-dressed representatives of the CIA, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. Perkins clearly knows what he’s talking about, though his proposed solutions for a brighter future sound like sophomoric wishful thinking. In his personal narration he tells us what he did in the offices of heads of state and corporate magnates and what happened then, even mentioning names of persons and companies in many instances. But he does not delve into the bucket of nuts and bolts that reveal just how the results were achieved. The closest he comes to revealing all is a reference to what happens when neither the economic hit men nor the jackals achieve the desired results. They were the not pretty stories that played out in Guatemala (Arbenz) Chile (Allende), Panama (Torrijos and Noriega), Ecuador (Roldos) …
The American establishment’s heavy-handed approach abroad is an open secret. Perkins cites an article from the Los Angeles Times on early meddling in Venezuela:
Bush administration officials acknowledged Tuesday that they had discussed the removal of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez for months with military and civilian leaders from Venezuela.
Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times, April 17, 2002
In a later book , an older, wiser John Perkins reflects:
When you conquered with EHMs, you could do it secretly. This raised a question I was beginning to ask myself frequently about the toll such a concealment took on a democracy that presupposes an informed electorate. If voters were ignorant of their leaders’ most important tools, could a nation claim to be a democracy?
John Perkins, The Secret History of the American Empire
A Case in Point
What has been the result of this prodigious partnering around the world since the end of the Second World War? Funnily enough, the Book of Revelation predicted the result. Like a true horseman of the Apocalypse the United States brings “famine and plague and catastrophe all over the world.” Let’s look at a single case, that of Panama, whose importance derives from the canal and not much else. Two Panamian leaders ran afoul of the American elite, and both paid with their lives.
Omar Torrijos demanded that the Pentagon remove from Panamanian soil the School of the Americas, their academy of torture, murder and subversion where Latin America’s most ruthless right-wing military men were formed. The school was then transferred to Ft. Benning, Georgia, and renamed The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), in 2001. Its motto is nicely ironic: “Libertad, Paz y Fraternidad” (“Freedom, Peace, and Fraternity”). Its alumni list reads like a Who’s Who of Latin American dictators. Torrijos also renegotiated the Panama Canal Treaties with the United States, achieving, by means of some brilliant maneuvering in the United Nations Security Council, the return of the canal to Panamanian control at noon on December 31, 1999.
But people who outsmart the US government do not get off easy. Torrijos’ plane crashed inexplicably in a mountainous zone of the country and all six passengers were killed on July 31, 1981. Manuel Noriega, Torrijos’ Chief of Military Intelligence, maneuvered his way into power in 1983. According to Perkins, Noriega’s fatal misstep was to film some of young George W. Bush’s excesses on the licentious Panamanian island of Contadora and store the material in a vault in Panama City. When President George H.W. Bush found out he sent an invasion force to Panama to destroy the evidence, and to extradite Noriega to the United States. He was to die in a Panama City prison in 2017 of blood poisoning at the age of 83. It was later revealed that Noriega was a longtime CIA asset formed at the School of the Americas, and that he had been involved in Torrijos’ fatal plane crash.
In the End, We Can Only Guess
So, what are the mechanisms at work and who, ultimately, decants a foreign country for a potentially dangerous liason with the United States? What are the issues–or the interests–that determine the decision? It’s not easy to know with any certainty, as these questions are cloaked in secrecy by professional–though imperfect–secret keepers. We get occasional glimpses under the tent, but seldom enough to crack the barrier of “plausible deniability” that protects critical information and powerful players. Does even the United States Congress know what is going on at all times? Or the President? We have seen that they do not. In the end, it seems we’re living in a world where the American clandestine power elite calls the shots, with little regard for legality or decency. Their priority seems to be almost exclusively military, but is military mastery enough? Are their moves motivated by authentic national interests or shadowy profit-driven influencers? How long can this unusual situation sustain itself? To find the answer these questions you’ll have to talk to the principal protagonists of international change for the future. Do you speak Mandarin?
It’s the world’s intelligence agencies against the rest of us. Who’s going to bell that cat?
And Denmark Is Just the Tip of the Iceberg
Denmark was a benchmark. What happened? Until a little more than a week ago Denmark was considered by the entire world to be one of the four pillars of Scandinavia’s renowned decency and equal opportunity. Suddenly we find them secretly aiding and abetting the National Security Agency (NSA), the US cyber-spy/surveillance behemoth, to eavesdrop on leaders of Denmark’s European family of nations. As if that weren’t sordid enough, if we tug on the Danish thread we discover some frightening little-known surveillance/cyber-spying facts that are even more alarming.
Scandinavia has long been a model for the rest of the developed world, something other countries could aspire to. Even their politicians were honest, if you can imagine that. Denmark was at the forefront, notably in education and democratic government. It ranked eighth in 2019 in the Statistics Times.com Democracy Index, after Norway, Iceland, Sweden, New Zealand, Finland, Ireland, and Canada. That was three slots down from its 2018 ranking, at number five. On this same list the United States ranked 25th and fell into the category of “flawed democracies.” (Source: statisticstimes.com)
The Danes Let the Cat Out of the Bag
The excrement hit the ventilator on Sunday, May 30, when the Danish international broadcaster in English, DR, perhaps in a damage-control effort, reported that during the period 2012-2014 the Danish cyber-intelligence agency had passed files of German chancellor, Angela Merkel’s private telephone conversations to the NSA. This information was worldwide news in 2013, but the implications of the item were drastically obscured or underplayed at the time.
Let’s look at the pedigree of the other party to the matter, the National Security Agency (NSA). It was officially created by President Harry Truman, who upgraded a unit that deciphered coded communications in World War II, awarded it a new name and greatly expanded its budget and its remit. It’s now responsible for global monitoring, collection and processing of information and data for foreign and domestic intelligence and counterintelligence purposes. It is a branch of the US Department of Defense, under the authority of the director of National Intelligence. Today it is the largest of the U.S. intelligence organizations in terms of personnel and budget. We’re not sure what else it does, as it’s also the most secret of American defense agencies.
Edward Snowden and Julian Assange Jerk the Blanket
According to dw.com, Germany’s international broadcast service, the Danish government knew of the involvement of their country’s secret service in the NSA scandal at least since 2015. It was Edward Snowden, an NSA asset under contract to Booz Allen Hamilton before he became a whistleblower on an extended vacation in Russia, who alerted the Danes to their own intelligence service’s cooperation with the NSA. Snowden’s information, shared through Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks site, indicated that the Danish Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste (FE) military intelligence branch was also passing illicit information to the NSA on high-level politicians from Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands and France, as well as Germany.
The unduly generous Danish intelligence service also helped the US agency to spy on the Danish foreign and finance ministries as well as a Danish weapons manufacturer. They also cooperated with the NSA on spying operations against the US government itself. This operation forms part of a larger scheme of things. Upon discovering exactly how far the cooperation between the two countries’ intelligence services went, the Danish government promptly fired the entire leadership of the FE in 2020–just five years after they allegedly discovered the abuses. (Source: dw.com)
The Press Steps In
France 24, the French international news service, was among the first off the line with this:
“The Danish Foreign Intelligence Service has worked closely with American spies for decades,” adding, “American cyber-spies want to wiretap the whole world, including their allies…”
Barton Gellman, the Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter for The Washington Post, who had covered Snowden’s revelations, commented on the seriousness of the leaks, alleging:
Taken together, the revelations have brought to light a global surveillance system that cast off many of its historical restraints after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Secret legal authorities empowered the NSA to sweep in the telephone, Internet and location records of whole populations.
The Washington Post
According to Gellman, the Snowden/Wikileaks documents unveiled details of the NSA’s distribution of data gathered in their domestic spying operations, not only to the FBI and the CIA, but also to the intelligence services of foreign countries including Britain,France, and Germany. The Wikileaks documents also reveal arrangements for foreign governments to share intercepted data of each other’s citizens. The revelations were made public over the course of several months since June 2013, by the press in several nations.
Worse Than We Were Led to Believe
According to an article in The Guardian, published on 8 July 2015, the Wikileaks documents reveal that the NSA recorded German chancellor, Angela Merkel’s telephone conversations (as well as text messages and even her fax communications), and those of her closest advisors for years, as well as those of her predecessors. The Wikileak documents indicate that this spying had been longer and more extensive than anyone knew, insofar as the NSA had the phone numbers of 125 highly-placed German officials earmarked for long-term surveillance.
Midst all this information promiscuity before the Wikileaks release, none of these abuses were made public. Courthouse News.com reports that the pilfered information was based on an internal Danish government investigation that the Danes had allegedly sat on for years. The reports shed more light on secret NSA surveillance programs that American whistleblower Edward Snowden first exposed in 2013.
U.S. President Joe Biden was the vice president when Snowden went public. At a moment when Biden is trying to reenergize the transatlantic relationship, the new revelations about Denmark’s willingness to let the American spy agency eavesdrop on its neighbors — reportedly, Germany, Sweden, Norway and France — damages the unity of the EU and erodes trust.
A Fascinating Historical Precedent from Iran
This article in Iran’s Tehran Times, June 1, 2021, connects with similar events over the past half century. It tells the story of Crypto AG, an apparently Swiss company but in reality CIA and West German Intelligence owned operation. Crypto AG manufactured encryption machines. The worksmanship on the machines was characteristically excellent, but they included a hidden extra. Copies of all the supposedly secret messages they “encrypted” were sent directly to the CIA. The machines were sold to more than 120 countries–mostly non-western governments– well into the 21st century.
Be Especially Careful with Your Friends
Due to the United States’s intimate relations with Israel, their intelligence sharing brings with it unique problems. Shortly after the Danish revelations of 2013, Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill collaborated on an article for The Guardian. The story, based on Edward Snowden’s Wikileaks, affirms that “NSA shares raw intelligence including Americans’ data with Israel,” and elaborates on the dangers that entails, as well as evaluating the comparative benefits for each country. The short answer: Israel wins hands down. In another top-secret document seen by the Guardian, dated 2008, a senior NSA official points out that Israel aggressively spies on the US.
“On the one hand, the Israelis are extraordinarily good Sigint (signals intelligence) partners for us, but on the other, they target us to learn our positions on Middle East problems,” the official says. “A NIE [National Intelligence Estimate] ranked them as the third most aggressive intelligence service against the US.”
It’s Time to Talk about Treason
“Treason” is a concept usually employed or implied in connection with whistleblowers and spies. According to a commentary written for Constitution Center.org by Paul T. Crane, U.S. Department of Justice; and Deborah Pearlstein, Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Floersheimer Center for Constitutional Democracy at New York’s Yeshiva University ; Article 3 of Section III of the US Constitution defines treason in the United States:
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason…
All of that is quite clear, but it leaves us with an important doubt. Is the law reciprocal? Is the US government to be held responsible for the betrayal of their own citizens, a sort of inverted treason? “Yes, but it’s not ‘levying war,'” they will say. That is a specious excuse. Like all the rest of the American wars of late, it’s not declared, but it’s waged by the US Department of Defense, America’s largest government agency, through the richly-endowed, highly-confidential National Security Agency. If it walks like a duck…
In today’s state of affairs it is impossible to qualify or quantify the amount of damage done by the NSA’s fingering of American citizens to foreign military organizations, but it’s safe to surmise that it’s not inconsiderable. What recourse is available to Americans who consider themselves gravely wronged by their own government for no apparent reason? Clearly, this is a question for the federal courts to determine, those courts that were so richly larded with extreme-right-wing judges under the Trump administration. Whatever the circumstances and impediments, this is a matter that bears serious study and maybe legal action.
The Old Days
In the old days, perhaps two weeks ago, citizens of virtually all countries lived in fear of other countries. And that fear was fomented by most of them in order to provide psychological cover for their international intelligence dalliances. Now it emerges quite clearly that it’s not “other countries” they have to fear. It’s the frightful combination of their own all-powerful security agencies. The “information agencies” are no longer just about information–they never were–and we have just had a privileged peep into their joint operations.
Today they are suspects of the first order. And they’re all in the conspiracy together. They’re fabulously well financed. They count on their own and proxy armies, already in place around the world. They are equipped with the latest in high-tech weaponry and increasingly-important big-data technology. They are experts in sowing disharmony, distrust, and instability in fragile societies, and they’re being kicked out of some of their current spheres of operation. They have a reliable track record of takeovers and regime changes. The only thing they lack is scruples. Do you doubt that at this very moment one of them is sitting with his feet up on his desk, musing, “Why don’t we just take over the world?” Though, we don’t need to worry about that preliminary stage. They are already under way.
Before pronouncing this a “conspiracy theory,” let me suggest that we consider it merely a hypothesis.
Neither peace nor honor are merely announced. They have to be earned and acknowledged by the rest of the world.
by Mike Booth
by Mike Booth
Part six of a six-part series, It’s Getting Late, America
It Requires Peace and Honor and the US Lacks Both
Every American president since Lyndon Johnson (1963-69) has had one problem in common: “peace with honor.” They just can’t seem to get it right, though it is essential to do so. The all-important reputation of the greatest country in the world depends on it. Achieving peace with honor on the international stage means the difference between being perceived as a thuggish, unprincipled military power and a country of exemplary decency and democratic values. America still isn’t clear that it’s not possible to pursue the former policy while pretending to represent the latter.
Surprisingly, one of the first English-speaking authors to deal with “peace with honor” was A.A. Milne (yes, the father of Winnie-the-Pooh) in his 1935 book, Peace with Honor. In it Milne proposes a utopian plan for attaining peace through universal acceptance by world leaders of a true and honest pursuit of arbitration in good faith, not merely self preservation and nationalist prestige. It was not going to happen.
The next American President to be seen grappling with “peace with honor” was Richard Nixon. As was to be expected of Nixon, anything to do with honor was out of the question. As in everything else he lied, bluffed, procrastinated and always sought his personal self aggrandizement first. He thought peace with honor was achieved by proclaiming it. Neither peace nor honor are merely announced. They have to be earned and acknowledged by the rest of the world. Nonetheless, after gravely discrediting himself, both at home and abroad, the expert American communications morticians managed to resuscitate Nixon as a respected elder statesman. His Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, betrayed everybody and for that he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. (Source: Kissinger, The Price of Power, Seymour M. Hersh, 1983)
It Would Have Helped to Win Something
American-style permawar brings with it permanent problems. They thought they might obviate most of these problems by winning, but they aren’t very good at that, either. Vietnam was the first and most flagrant case of losing to a theoretically inferior enemy, but there were more. Where they did supposedly win, with their invasions of Panama (December 20, 1989 – January 31, 1990, Operations “Nifty Package” and “Just Cause”) and the verdant little isle of Grenada in the Caribbean (Operation “Urgent Fury,” Oct 25, 1983 – Dec 15, 1983), the victories were hollow, due both to the massive David-vs.-Goliath factor and the manifest innocence of the miniscule countries invaded.
Nonetheless, President Ronald Reagan tried to take advantage of the dubious opportunity to compensate the loss of the Vietnam War (which the Vietnamese call the “American War.”) After the deeply-flawed invasion of Grenada was concluded, Reagan, the consummate statesman, announced on 13 December 1983,”…our days of weakness are over. Our military forces are back on their feet and standing tall.” (Source: The New York Times, 13 December, 1983) And you thought Bush II was the first absolute moron president.
Lacking significant victories in their chosen wars, the American military behemoth, with the weight of its worldwide lack of credibility hanging around it’s neck, is obliged to negotiate the end games (some of which are going on as we speak, in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria), tasks which are never easy, especially considering that first constraint on the American negotiators is the familiar hairy old bugbear: peace with honor.
Quitter? Coward? Loser?
America cannot permit itself to be perceived as a quitter, a coward or a loser. It has to maintain its street cred, something that is hard to do when you haven’t won a significant victory in the last three quarters of a century. It’s not even clear to what extent they won World War II. A convincing case can be made that the second great war was won in the skies over the County of Kent (The Battle of Britain, July-October, 1940) and at the gates of Leningrad (The Siege of Leningrad, 8 September, 1941 – 27 January, 1944), without an American hero in sight.
For decades the American war machine has managed to cover its ass with the usual smoke and mirrors, but the smoke has been clearing for years and now no longer obscures much of anything. It’s diaphanously obvious that the Americans didn’t send somewhere between 235,ooo and 750,000 troops to Iraq to free the Iraqi people from a bloodthirsty dictator–who not long before had been the Americans’ own bloodthirsty dictator. It was the oil, stupid, along with “lots of good targets” highlighted by President George W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense at the time, Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld dated back to the Nixon administration, when he accepted an appointment by Richard Nixon to head the Office of Economic Opportunity in 1969. It seems that some of the Nixon legacy still clung to his boots after all those years.
Will Afghanistan Be Different?
As for Afghanistan, according to a United States Geological Survey report published in 2007, Afghanistan is sitting atop enough priceless minerals to make Ft. Knox look like a lemonade stand. We’re talking about perhaps some three trillion dollars worth altogether, a third of that being gold and lithium. Ask the Taliban, who are financing their formidable war machine with the products of their mines, their poppy fields and their blackmail businesses.
From the beginning the American adventure in Afghanistan looked to the Pentagon like a slam dunk. Not only was it against a primitive enemy, but it included a succulent bonus, an opportunity to outfox the Russians by arming the simple-minded Afghan shepherds and cultivators of opium poppies with Stinger anti-helicopter missiles, thereby humiliating the Americans’ favorite enemy without even dirtying their hands. All that was left to do then was to send in some crack troops equipped with the latest high-tech war toys and mop up the aforementioned simple-minded Afghans and grab all the mineral marbles. Come to think of it, what made the thinkers from those toxic American think tanks think that those simple-minded shepherds and farmers could beat the Russians, but not put up stiff opposition to the Americans themselves?
Now the Gringos find themselves, after fighting America’s longest and most fruitless war, looking for a way out, and not just any way out. Given the American imperative to save face at all costs, it has to be via the sacrosanct, if elusive, “peace-with-honor” route. Unfortunately for them, that’s not going to happen. Too many cats are out of the bag. Too many countries have taken the American bait only to find that there was a hook in it. Even the British were victims, when they were sucked into the Iraq war on promises of all the money to be made “rebuilding Iraq.” The Brits actually started forming partnerships to move in and get to work scooping up all that money. And let’s not forget the aforementioned Taliban, who are sitting pretty.
Time and again the world has seen how Americans have slipped out of unendable wars they have created by pretending that the liberation and democratization they promised had been achieved. Their last-ditch tactic is simply to walk away. At the peace talks before Ho Chi Minh and General Vo Nguyen Giap–the real heroes of the Vietnam War–ended it by winning, American negotiators, coached by Henry Kissinger, promised the Vietnamese reparations and help rebuilding their shattered and poisoned country. That never happened. Nixon and Kissinger simply walked away.
Has President Biden won a peace with honor in Afghanistan? He hasn’t won anything yet. He has simply announced his country’s intention to pull all US military personnel out of Afghanistan by September 11. Does that include the mercenary “contractors,” the Special ops teams, the armed drones, paid-off politicians, and smart bombs? In any case, it’s just talk. What about Iraq? Does America’s president have something honorable in mind? Can he implement it in the face of a feral Republican Senate?
The Bitter Bottom Line
As with all other sticky issues in geopolitics, the achievement of peace with honor rests on sound philosophy and human decency. But if those factors fail the policy is foredamned. So, how is it possible that generations of American leaders haven’t noticed that you cannot build an edifice of honor on a foundation of villainy. Peace without honor is not peace. A defeat by any other name is still a defeat. Nor can you conceal that reality for long. The world eventually sees the truth, despite the most fervent efforts of the greatest country on earth to conceal it.
America wasn’t created by gunslingers. It was made by pioneer women and crooked magnates.
by Mike Booth
This is Part five of a six-part series, It’s Getting Late, America
What America Needs in Order to Float
The tragic flaws in America’s recent history are not just attributable to low men in high places. There’s another element, perhaps as important: the inherent faults in American democracy. Just as a boat requires water to float, an effective democracy requires an informed populace, good will, and a willingness to compromise in order to make progress. America today has none of those elements.
The electoral process in a democracy doesn’t begin at voting age. It begins in early childhood–as young as three–in which family and the surrounding society cooperate in immersing their children in a humane, collaborative, egalitarian world, not one ruled by bellicose individualism, racism and militarism. Scandinavia didn’t become great until the Vikings laid down their axes.
President Donald Trump was elected in a free and fair election after having enunciated his absurd program based on simplistic, laissez-faire-for-some- tough-luck-for-the-rest ideology with no relation to reality beyond the mindless gutting of vital government competencies and agencies, and the denigration of President Barak Obama’s legacy.
The looming 2016 electoral debacle should have been evident to anyone with eyes to see. But a majority of American voters were blind to these realities. It didn’t take a massive majority to install Trump in the White House. A quick look at the Russian revolution will convince you of how effective a small-but-committed party can be.
The Founders Secured the Young Republic
America’s founders thought long and hard about measures to protect their fledgling republic from evil, with carefully stipulated election procedures, constitutional checks and balances, scrupulous separation of powers, and a Supreme Court with lifelong justices. The only loophole they left for themselves and the rest of the gentle folk in the case of a mob takeover of the election process was the Electoral College. That cumbersome, anti-democratic invention was supposed to function as a firewall in the case of populist undesirables winning a presidential election. It was an anachronism then and remains one today.
Ironically, the result of the 2016 presidential election was a perfect example of what the founders wanted to prevent with the electoral college–the co-opting of an election by an unscrupulous, racist, retrograde mob–the Republican Party. This is not to say that all of the Republican legislators were sociopaths, but they were all aware that their voting base was cognitively deficient and driven by hate, racism, and apocalyptic religion. Almost all of them pandered to that base. The few who didn’t paid a high career price.
The intellectually-handicapped nature of a significant sector of American society turned out to be an advantage for the GOP. That electorate was easy to manipulate with the rudimentary means at hand: good ole-time racism, rancid knee-jerk anti-communism, insults and name calling, lies and half truths, and quotes from holy scripture. That and plenty of right-wing money and big-data technology was enough to get the job done.
Trump’s Unique Talent
Once in office President Trump began to play his confused, misled public like a virtuoso. This was his unique talent. For that he was a regular idiot savant. Though he couldn’t tell you on what day of the week the battle of Hastings was fought, he could bring a crowd to climax by declaiming “facts” and sleaze that he pulled out of his sleeve on the run. His perfect resonance with his congregation was–and remains–remarkable. That said, those marks had been groomed over many years by P.T. Barnum, Billy Graham and Madison Avenue, each in their own deadly effective way.
The dumbing down of America wasn’t limited just to the three R’s. It included the most forgotten yet most important subject of all–philosophy. Not rocket science philosophy, just day-to-day good manners and kindness, civic sense, generosity, and concern for the good of all people in a commonwealth. American young people learned all the opposite: rugged individualism. America’s worst enemy in the 20th century wasn’t Soviet Russia. It was John Wayne.
Trump’s great luck was that the mediocrity of his own mind and values meshed nicely with those of enough of his countrymen to get him elected President of the United States. His critics should never lose sight of the fact that Trump didn’t create America. America created Trump. Getting rid of him won’t solve the ingrained problems.
Teach Your Children Well
Here lies the ultimate justification for free and equal education dedicated to truth and excellence, with quality facilities and competent, well-paid and appreciated, professional teachers. Unfortunately, too many of the American political elite don’t object to the dumbing down of the populace, both intellectually and morally. They prefer it, as the result is a bovine electorate that will chew contentedly on any cheap ideological cud. One of their most effective distractions is religion.
The free-thinking founders of the United States would be distressed to discover that modern America has reverted to medieval standards in matters of religion. It was the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower (1952-60) that saw the institutionalized collusion between a president and a fundamentalist evangelist. Eisenhower and Billy Graham formed a formidable team dedicated to christianizing American from top to bottom, including the government. From then on that brand of pandering to magical religious influencers became the norm. A large part of American political candidates still rely on them for votes and financing.
Again it was President Trump who took the concept to its logical absurdity when he named a bimbo “prosperity gospel” televangelist (“If you can’t send that $100,000 check, send one for $20.”) as his “presidential spiritual advisor.” She looks incongruous in the White House, as if she might be more appropriate in an old-time sideshow between the sword swallower and the bearded lady.
We know that the United States has some of the finest thinkers in the world, but are there enough of them to counterbalance the influence of the swarm of venal televangelists, the megachurches, and the semi-literate uber patriots and true believers? What about state supported religious schools under the guise of “charter schools?” Was Trump’s naming of Betsy d’Vos as Secretary of Education a master stroke of modern surrealism? Does this American religious tsunami help to account for the current Chinese technological sovereignty? Ninety percent of Chinese citizens are non-religious persons.
They Want to Be Happy
Americans in democracy want to be happy, but thanks to their misdirected upbringing they don’t know what happiness is. They strive for ever more stuff and think that bling will make them happy. It will, up to a point, but that point is limited and more stuff won’t make them happier. What would make them profoundly happy, though most of them haven’t considered it, is a project to achieve a better world–or a better corner of the world–with equality, racial harmony, mutual respect, diplomacy instead of war, cooperation instead of killer competition. What is considered simple normality in other parts of the world would be a great step forward for Americans.
But it doesn’t seem to be in the cards. The US Congress, itself, is a microcosm of all the dystopia and unhappiness in America. It’s a hive of internecine hate and conflict, of “special” interests. What makes the interests of the rich so special, anyway? Most of Washington’s legislators are ignorant of the fact that scruples are not just for mouthing in televised debates. They’re there to make life better for everyone. America wasn’t created by gunslingers. It was made by pioneer women and crooked magnates. Happiness is about making things, whether it be a model airplane or a family, and the best things cannot be created by one person alone. They result from team efforts. “Team” in America connotates competition, conflict or combat. That’s their default setting. In other parts of the world it suggests cooperation.
It seems that everything wrong with America is rooted in the false values that Americans fed to their children along with their Cheerios. So there you have them, the peddlers of eternity, the political social climbers, the lost lumpenproletariat, the sadistic cops, the disappeared girls, the pederast priests, the prostitutes and pimps in public life, and all the other extravagant types from central casting. Do any of them know where those high-gloss lacquered horses of the American merry-go-round are taking them?
Coming next week, The last part of a six-part series, It’s Getting Late, America
The tragic by-product of all this race-based hate and unfairness is a fact that glows in the American darkness like a diabolical beacon: racism has always been and remains the most palpable negation of American greatness.
Republican State Legislators Are Twisting Them
America has a critical illness that has nothing to do with Covid 19. The symptoms are the attempts by states in significant sectors of the country to rewrite election laws in detriment to black and brown voters. Leading the pack is the Georgia state legislature.
What makes this organized effort particularly ironic is the renewed threat it poses to America’s already tarnished democratic image. Reactionary lawmakers in state capitals such as Atlanta, Des Moines, Phoenix, and many others seem to think that nobody is looking. But the entire world is following this latest assault on the Americans’ vaunted democracy.
The issue is aggravated by their unique ability to peddle their inhumanity it as a curious brand of democracy. Its crowning achievement, after centuries of culturation under a sinister bell jar filled with hate, lies, economic interests, and religious voodoo, is the Georgia Republican Party. But Georgia is just the poster girl. The campaign extends farther afield.
The Brennan Center for Justice’s “Voting Laws Roundup: February 2021” states:
In a backlash to historic voter turnout in the 2020 general election, and grounded in a rash of baseless and racist allegations of voter fraud and election irregularities, legislators have introduced well over four times the number of bills to restrict voting access as compared to roughly this time last year. Thirty-three states have introduced, prefiled, or carried over 165 restrictive bills this year (as compared to 35 such bills in fifteen states on February 3, 2020).
Ninety Eight Pages of Restrictive Voting Regulations
According to Business Insider, President Biden and a majority of Democrats have come down firmly against the Georgia Republicans’ Election Integrity Act 2021, the new 98-page collection of voting laws, thinly disguised but essentially designed to tilt Georgia’s electoral regulations in favor of white voters. Provisions of the new laws range from the ridiculous to the sublime:
the requirement of a photo ID
limitations on absentee voting by mail
new powers to intervene in county election offices and remove and replace election officials
wierdest of all, the prohibition of providing food or drink to anyone standing in the voting line. You cannot take a drink of water to your grandmother who has been waiting in line for hours. Fulton County, which includes most of Atlanta, had the longest voting lines in the country in 2020.
Vox.com elaborates on other provisions of the bill.
It permits Georgia citizens to file any number of challenges to the eligibility of particular voters, thereby weaponizing the state’s most reactionary citizens.
It imposes new limitations on ballot drop boxes that effectively ban their widespread deployment outside of a governor-declared emergency. It is precisely the governor who sponsors the bill.
It applies voter ID laws to mail-in ballots by requiring voters to submit their driver’s license or state ID number as part of their vote-by-mail application. This subjects voters without those documents to an additional ID process.
It creates a “fraud hotline” that allows people to file anonymous complaints regarding alleged fraudulent voting, again pandering to and recruiting the reactionary base. The anonymity provision is particularly perverted.
Less anecdotical but just as critical are aspects of the new law that regulate how voting rules are implemented, handing power to the Republicans who control the state legislature. Those powers permit them to replace personnel considered to be “performing poorly.”
Life Under the Toxic Bell Jar
Democrats affirm that these new regulations and their implantation by Georgia Republicans are prejudicial to African Americans in the state. President Joe Biden is reported by ABC.go.com as saying, “This is Jim Crow in the 21st Century… It must end. We have a moral and Constitutional obligation to act.” He told reporters the Georgia law is an “atrocity” and the Justice Department is looking into it. Republicans say that the contrary is true, that the new law guarantees more honest elections.
The southern racists’ war against the voting rights of people of color has been constant since immediately after the American Civil War. The Black Codes enacted then all over the south were restrictive laws designed to limit the freedom of African Americans and ensure their availability as a cheap labor force after slavery was abolished by President Linoln. His emancipation proclamation had liberated some four million slaves in the American south, but left the the question of the freed blacks’ status in southern society somewhat ambiguous.
Though the Black Codes were all repealed in 1866 when Reconstruction began, in a short time the black people of the south were re-enslaved under a set of different laws and pretexts which came to be known as Jim Crow laws. Southern recalcitrance assured success of the repression and the onset of 144 years (and counting) of dogged southern resistance to racial equality. This psychotic clinging to racism distinguished the United States in the world community. Today it falls well behind South Africa.
The Nomenclature of Slavery
After the failure of Reconstruction in 1877, and the removal of black men from political office, the Southern states doubled down on a series of laws intended to circumscribe the lives of African Americans. Harsh contract laws penalized anyone attempting to leave a job before an advance had been worked off. So-called “Pig Laws” unduly penalized poor African Americans for crimes such as stealing a chicken, and vagrancy statutes made it a crime to be unemployed. Misdemeanors were treated as felonies, with harsh sentences and fines. Once the offenders were jailed they could not escape even when their prison term was up because they couldn’t pay their fines. So they remained victims of different forms of indentured servitude. These so-called Pig Laws stayed on the books for decades, and were expanded with even more discriminatory provisions during the Jim Crow era. This lasted until the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The story of this period is told eloquently in the moving hour-and-a-half PBS documentary, Slavery by Another Name, available free on YouTube.
Despite not having achieved their goal of establishing themselves as the superior race in the American south, the white southern racists broke new ground in man’s inhumanity to man. In doing so they highlighted the most nightmarish aspects of the American Dream. In only one place were they publicly admired. In the 1930s, when Hitler and his Nazi ghouls were seeking models to emulate in creating their state racism policies, they turned to the United States and found inspiration, not only in the treatment of African Americans in the south, but other non-white people all over the country. The Asians who were brought to the western US in the 1850s to work in mining and railroad construction were considered little more than subhuman coolies, eminently expendable. Today’s violence against them is not a novelty. Washington Post staff writer, Gillian Brockell, writes in her recent article, “The long, ugly history of anti-Asian racism and violence in the U.S.:”
And in 1854, the California Supreme Court reinforced racism against Asian immigrants in People v. Hall, ruling that people of Asian descent could not testify against a White person in court, virtually guaranteeing that Whites could escape punishment for anti-Asian violence. In this case, it was murder: George Hall shot and killed Chinese immigrant Ling Sing, and the testimony of witnesses was rejected because they were also Asian.
The Washington Post, March 18, 2021
The High Price of American Racism
The tragic by-product of all this race-based hate and unfairness is a fact that glows in the American darkness like a diabolical beacon: racism has always been and remains the most palpable negation of American greatness. There it is, for anyone who has eyes to see. The recently-enacted voter suppression laws in Georgia and other states only serve to reaffirm the ongoing horror. What’s the best counter that Republicans, both south and north, can come up with after 400 years of race-based homicidal injustice? “Let’s talk about the Chinese Uighur Muslims.” What they choose not to talk about are the hundreds of thousands of Muslims erradicated by American bombs since the launch of the Gulf War in 1990.
What Humanity Is This?
The new racist voting laws, coupled with the existing penal system which permits prisons to exploit inmates economically, only serve to revive America’s least noble tradition. What claims to humanity can apply to a group of persons that works fervently to segregate, marginalize and imprison people of other races, annulling their very lives and wellbeing? That is the quintessential American question that civilized citizens of countries around the world have been asking themselves for centuries. This latest outbreak of insidious American voter suppression legislation arrived unexpectedly, which is not to say that it took anyone by surprise.
We can only guess what the offspring of that sinister cephalopod might have spawned since 2018 and what terrifying political future we can look forward to.
by Mike Booth
This is Part 4 of a six-part series, It’s Getting Late, America
Pulling the Threads Together
I am just finishing reading an unsettling book called Mindf*cked by Christopher Wylie, a young Canadian who, more or less unwittingly, was instrumental in the gestation of the project that came to be known as Cambridge Analytics (CA). Brainchild of an alt-right partnership between demonic American political operative, Steve Bannon, and billionaire, Robert Mercer, its objective was to produce a foolproof machine for tampering with–and winning–elections. Wylie, employee-turned-whistleblower, writing in 2018-19 after leaving the company, maintains that this data mining/social networking octopus surpassed its creators’ highest expectations and was capable then of taking over the world. It debuted with decisive interventions in both the British Brexit referendum and the election of President Donald Trump. Along the way it flirted with the Russians, harbored Paul Manafort and was eventually shut down after being discredited by the British justice system, whose star witness was a young Canadian called Wylie.
Near the end of his book Wylie sums up the scene at Cambridge Analytica during his time there:
Inside CA I saw the true face of greed, power, racism and colonialism. I saw how multimillionaires behaved when they wanted to shape the world in their own image. I saw the most extravagant and dark corners of our society. As an accuser I saw what they were capable of in order to protect their profits.
Christopher Wylie, Mindf*cked
We can only guess what the offspring of that sinister cephalopod might have spawned since 2018 and what terrifying political future we can look forward to. And it’s not only applicable to politics. The combined use of massive data bases and internet communications in commerce, in war and about anything else, can be applied by the cyber-entrepreneurs in any field they want to turn their hands to. Some of these hands are grimy, as Wylie points out repeatedly in his riveting book.
The underhanded manipulation of an American presidential election and a historic British referendum to sever it’s close ties with Europe is bad enough, but the now-defunct CA opened the floodgates to a galaxy of spinoff companies willing to put the technology to work on less-than-honorable projects, just for the money. Wylie’s book was written in 2018. Since then the CA algorithms have been refined, giving those who control them the power to make free and fair elections impossible wherever and whenever they choose. Beyond that, they are capable of engendering an online alt-right hate group and, when it’s ripe, convoking real-life violence. Wylie, who was brought on board early on as a decent Canadian data-and-network-hip computer kid, was ostensibly hired to write software for legitimate commercial and humanitarian use. Then he discovered he was laying the groundwork for for illicit use of the technology by an unscrupulous far-right sect. So he exited Cambridge Analytica and, with his book, became a whistleblower.
According to Wylie, Cambridge Analytica was an almost-instant success:
The list of CA clients started to grow and soon became a Who’s Who of the American right. The Trump and Cruz campaigns earned us $5 million each. The Senate campaigns of Roy Blunt of Missouri and Tom Cotton of Arkansas were also lucrative. And, of course, there was the campaign for the Oregon Republican, Art Robinson, who collected urine samples and church organs, ran for Congress, and lost.
Newsweek Reports US Secret Army Operates Without the Knowledge or Consent of Congress
Before I can finish Wylie’s book I’m bowled over by Newsweek‘s latest scoop–two years in the making by William M. Arkin, one of the country’s most knowledgeable and respected military observers. It’s about a giant new secret American fighting force, the biggest and most technologically advanced the world has ever seen.
In keeping with its clandestine nature, the core mission of this new army of spooks seems to be staying secret. This fetish is embodied in what they call “signature reduction,” which boils down to an elaborate set of measures to create and maintain false identities for its operatives, both online and off. This is more complicated than it seems at first glance, due to the easily accessible omniscience of the internet, principally Facebook, the mother of all databases and, of course, Google, along with every other data collection available for sale. Without these coverup measures every character in the Signature Reduction organization could be positively identified via their bank accounts, medical records, family (a most sensitive concern here…), employment history, friends, etc. Everything is cloaked and clandestine: people, vehicles, aircraft, internet use… There are even tricked-up systems to fool fingerprinting and facial recognition.
Arkin lays out the playing field in his introduction:
The force, more than ten times the size of the clandestine elements of the CIA, carries out domestic and foreign assignments, both in military uniforms and under civilian cover, in real life and online, sometimes hiding in private businesses and consultancies, some of them household name companies. The explosion of Pentagon cyber warfare, moreover, has led to thousands of spies who carry out their day-to-day work in various made-up personas, the very type of nefarious operations the United States decries when Russian and Chinese spies do the same.
William Arkin in Newsweek, Mon, May 17, 2021)
There Might Be Some Reservations
This new, surreptitious army includes some of the US military’s most lethal special-ops troops and their most cutting edge cyber-warfare units. It’s not clear yet whether these troops work alongside existing special combat and intelligence-gathering units or at their margin. It’s active on the home front and maintains its operations in strict secrecy. That’s interesting, as it sounds like the Schutzstaffel, a project launched by the German chancellor in 1933. That was Hitler’s SS and he found it very useful, as its loyalty was not to government nor military institutions, but to Hitler personally. The rise of something similar directed against American citizens in their home country today might raise some questions. Let’s look at a few of them:
Secret from whom? The President? The Congress, or part of it? The intelligence services? The rest of the military command? The Russians? Facebook? Amazon? Microsoft? Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, et al? Big oil, big pharma, big tobacco, big everything? The citizens, always the last to discover the truth?
When and how did it originate and with what pretensions? Who’s the father, the mother, the children and the cousins?
How is the organization financed? It’s always fascinating to follow the money.
Does it operate primarily at home or abroad?
Who’s in charge? Who’s to be held accountable? Or is responsability/ accountability irrelevant in this brave new world? Who does the one in charge report to?
Has it had any successes? Any failures?
Does it identify with either of the existing American political parties? Or is the Pentagon creating a new Schutzstaffel party?
How did it manage to stay secret until now? How did it come to light?
If it comes to High Noon between the Signature Reduction honcho and President Joe Biden, who wins?
Is it safe to assume that China is lagging behind the US in these matters?
More of the Same?
According to Arkin’s article, special operations forces make up more than half of the Signature Reduction force. That’s 30,000 mercenaries loosed on an unsuspecting country–and world. Military intelligence types are the second-most populous element in the SR mix, which includes 130 private companies, dozens of government agencies and a budget of some $900 million. Spycraft isn’t cheap.
P.S. Would anyone venture to guess how many of those “130 private companies” are the offspring of Cambridge Analytica?
Though Americans haven’t noticed yet, their recent massive arms sales to Taiwan are the equivalent of the Chinese doing the same thing in Puerto Rico. And the four-allies naval maneuvers in the East China Sea is the equivalent of the Chinese navy careening around the Caribbean.
Part 3 of the 6-part series, It’s Getting Late, America
Don’t Pretend You Weren’t Warned
Outgoing President Dwight Eisenhower, in his last public address from the White House warned the country at large of the looming threat of America’s increasingly powerful military-industrial complex. In his televised farewell speech to the nation on January 17, 1961, Eisenhower chose to bypass Congress and take his clearly-stated, emphatic message directly to the American people. (See video of the relevant parts of the speech.)
Just as he prophesied, the military industrial complex has become an insoluble problem, controlling both ends of the military supply chain with major influence in American foreign policy, especially after signing on a critical third partner, the United States Congress. They achieved that master stroke the way everything else is accomplished in Washington: cash on the barrel head. They weren’t short of cash and they already had a small army of lobbyists in place. It occurred to one of them that the members of congress might appreciate some help with campaign financing. That was a dam-busting realization.
The lobbyists soon discovered that they could win over politicians as unconditional allies simply by replenishing their re-election war chests, until then a perennial problem for legislators. All the very patriotic creators of America’s weapons of destruction and domination had to do was to toss the odd six-figure bone to the greedy lawmakers. The legality of this clear conflict-of-interest procedure had already been ironed out by the 2010 landmark Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United v FE case that liberalized campaign financing by corporations.
The bottom line is that big business then had the tools, money, and the necessary cynicism to control Congress and the foreign policy cabal at will. The process of selling ever-more-exotic and expensive arms systems became automatic. Big-bucks customers, driven by little-boy fascination for wind-up toys and the desire to humiliate their friends and neighbors, kept coming back for more. The existential danger this conveyor-belt process supposes for the entire world became a secondary issue. The scenario can get surreal. Though Americans haven’t noticed yet, their recent massive arms sales to Taiwan are the equivalent of the Chinese doing the same thing in Puerto Rico. And the four-allies naval maneuvers in the East China Sea is the equivalent of the Chinese navy careening around the Caribbean. Why isn’t President Joe Biden aware of these unsettling realities? Aware? President Biden is a six-times-reelected, 36-year veteran of the United States Senate. He must be aware. The question is: does he realize how dangerous such gratuitous provocation can be?
The Long Tail of Responsibilities
Are we talking about war here? No, though the Americans have killed millions of people, both soldiers and civilians, around the world since the Second World War, the United States has not been in a legal war since 1945. As a consequence they have not respected the rules of war for three quarters of a century, a fact with a long tail of responsibilities under international law. What they have engaged in incessantly are counter-insurgency operations; regime-change interventions, anti-communist crusades; colonial-support ops; insertions of like-minded dictators; resource grabs; military takeovers; false-flag operations; proxy campaigns; POW captures and imprisonment sine die; and countless other lethal follies denominated by euphemisms.
President George W. Bush, his administration, and his allies (Tony Blair, José María Aznar), for example, should have been prosecuted by an international court for war crimes and crimes against humanity in carrying out their October 7, 2001, “Operation Enduring Freedom,” in Iraq. A nice irony that name. It must have prompted a lot of snickers around the table. Or perhaps not. That sort of cynicism is daily bread in Washington.
Every Rule and Regulation Has a Workaround
President Joe Biden’s recently appointed Secretary of Defense received a lot of attention when he was the candidate. Lloyd Austin, was black and a four-star Army general, retired just four years previously. He required a waiver to assume the position; the rules require a six-year separation from the military. That was the news and controversy. You have to read down to paragraph eight of the usnews.com article to find that he was an ex-member of the board of directors of Raytheon, the country’s fifth-most-important defense contractor, billing some $27.5 billion in 2020, 94% of that amount from the US government. (Source: defensenews.com) It seems that this is precisely what Eisenhower was alerting Americans about all those years ago.
Among the 11,524 registered active lobbyists in the United States (2020 figures), 448 of them are former members of Congress. OpenSecrets.org has prepared the following list of names of these revolving-door politicians for us:
You don’t have to be a legal eminence to conclude that Trump’s mismanagement of the pandemic–and yes, Obama did leave him a written contingency plan for just such an eventuality–constitutes the greatest instance of criminal negligence in American history.
Part 2 of the 6-part series, It’s Getting Late, America
Could He Have Done It Any Wronger?
Like everything else that Donald Trump did and undid during his administration, his inadequate response to the coronavirus emergency was determined by a lethal combination of his familiar ignorance and arrogance. What makes this case more serious than the others was the magnitude of the damage that was done.
This affirmation is not idle. Trump’s lack of leadership in the Covid crisis cries out to be compared to the responses of the leaders of more responsible countries such as South Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, New Zealand, and even China, all of which have managed to outsmart and outmaneuver the virus and put their countries back on the road to normal life and prosperity. At the same time, the United States, supposedly the world’s leading country in science, innovation, and everything else, was not only worse than those countries in containing the virus, but it was–and is–the absolute worst in the world. “The world” includes China, with a population four times that of the United States, but with far fewer Covid victims.
We’re looking at more than 581,516 (https://ourworldindata.org/, May 8, 2021) US deaths, and counting, thus far. President Joe Biden frequently compares the Covid loss of life in the US to statistics from American military combat deaths from World War I through Vietnam. The figure he cites is 395,370 dead. That is after we subtract the 2,977 victims of 9/11, which he included, perhaps, for political/patriotic reasons. If we adjust the numbers of the military deaths by adding the non-combatants the balance is 580,135, still slightly under the cumulative number of gratuitous Covid deaths.
It’s a Prima Facie Case
You don’t have to be a legal eminence to conclude that Trump’s mismanagement of the pandemic–and yes, Obama did leave him a written contingency plan for just such an eventuality–constitutes the greatest instance of criminal negligence in American history. It’s a prima facie case against the ex-president that any rookie prosecutor could win in a court of law in any proper country. So what happened in the United States? Is this the maximum expression of American exceptionalism? The voters elevate a grotesquely damaging figure to the head of the government and, when his willful malfeasance converts their country into a human abbatoir, from world leader into world laughing stock, he is not held responsible for the untimely deaths of more than half a million Americans.
Yet he continues to wave his demented flag and to accrue followers around the country, as if he had not just perpetrated the greatest crime in his country’s history. What’s going on here? How does he manage to continue to blunder glibly forward, even after being removed from office by a majority of American voters? What ever happened to justice? Why isn’t ex-president Trump in custody, awaiting trial? Could it have to do with the 234 judges he appointed and saw confirmed by a Republican-controlled Senate during his single term of office? Or is there a shortage of prosecutors?
(For a cordial rundown on the cutbacks to essential US government agencies and their hair-raising consequences, pick up Michael Lewis’s, The Fifth Risk, in which he explains with clarity and humanity how the United States government was “under attack by its own leaders.” This is what he had to say about Trump’s disdain for science:
Trump’s budget, like the social forces behind it, is powered by a perverse desire–to remain ignorant. Donald Trump didn’t invent this desire. He was just its ultimate expression.
Michael Lewis, The Fifth Risk
Smart Social Science vs. Right-Wing Thuggery
It is refreshing to see that the Capital assailants are going before judges. And now there’s an interesting twist in the case. They aren’t who we thought they were. New studies directed by Professor Robert Pape at the University of Chicago, reveal that 45% of the 420 (and counting) rioters who were prosecuted for the assault on the US Capital were not primarily wild kids, radicals nor down-and-outers. They were middle-aged solid citizens, company executives, business owners, doctors and lawyers between the ages of 34 and 46. Ironically, neither are they from from depressed areas, but from thriving, mainly Democratic, counties around the country. Pape also has well-founded notions regarding the principal motive that drives them. It’s one that few of us have heard of: replacement fear. That is, the fear that underprivileged minorities are being favored to the point that they will “replace” the traditional–white–holders of jobs and social standing. It sounds to me like just another of the 57 varieties of American racism. And it’s a distressing indicator of just how deeply right-wing thinking has penetrated in America. Here’s a link to the interview with Professor Pape.
What Else Could Possible Go Wrong?
Not much, really, with the possible exception of:
the country’s creaky infrastructure
the war provocations against Russia and China
the public schools, the non-profit charter schools, the for-profit charter schools
the privatization of everything
the infantiloid America-first foreign policy (We know you want to prioritize American interests, Antony. That’s a given. But a proper diplomat doesn’t just say it flat out to their faces on the nine-o-clock news.)
the off-the-rails clandestine so-called intelligence services (Military intelligence is to intelligence what military music is to music.)
the deranged illuminati billionaires
the United States Congress (with few exceptions and Liz Cheney isn’t one of them)
hypocrisy by the boat load (The world’s premier cyber criminal is the NSA.)
the traditional media, which Matt Taibbi says is about to disappear and they deserve it
Los Angeles, which gets everything wrong
New York, which thinks it’s the center of the world, and used to be
fracking, coal mining and Monsanto-Bayer (I thought Bayer was Aspirin.)
super carriers (which cost around $13 billion dollars each and have a foreseeable combat life span of about 17 minutes)
land mines (which are great for amputating Third World kids’ legs, but not much else)
the Republican Party
the Democratic National Committee, which is the brains behind Hillary and Joe
the culling of wolves (There are plenty of other predators who need culling first.)
the insane sanctions on Cuba, where they have shown the world how to turn poverty into dignity
Big Pharma lobbying and Covid vaccination speculating
mandatory sentences (What the hell do they have judges for?)
the ruthless persecution of some of the world’s finest people: the whistleblowers.
golf courses (Maybe the golfers will then wilt away.)
Mitch McConnell and Whatsherface, his Senate parliamentarian (How the hell did those two ghouls get a stranglehold on the country?)
Elliott Abrams (He’s decrepit and Latin America has suffered enough.)
There’s a lot more but it’s getting late, America…
Come back next week for more news you try not to think about.
That’s why this story is essentially about American predatory strategies, misdeeds, cynicism and opportunism, all topped off by a frosting of steely hypocrisy, expert lies and artful deception. With these ingredients you can imagine the cake.
by Mike Booth
Time to Think About the End
Today nobody knows how much time we have left. According to my best estimate, the game is over. We’re just waiting for the clock to run out. In that brief meantime I must tell the story of America’s–and by extension the world’s– demise in the clearest, sparest, most urgent way possible. I have to go on record on the off chance that my account might turn up in the time capsule that the next occupants of earth find when they arrive.
The most recent developments in these end times have been worldwide, but were mainly perpetrated or inspired by the American government, both overtly and covertly. They began on a mass scale at the end of the Second World War when the United States found itself holding all the cards necessary to take over the world. So they did. That’s why this story is essentially about American predatory strategies, misdeeds, cynicism and opportunism, all topped off by a frosting of steely hypocrisy, expert lies and artful deception. With these ingredients you can imagine the cake.
This introduction sounds like a pitch from the televangelists of the Apocalypse. We have too many of those already. But my cause, though it sounds similar, is the opposite. My apocalypse is not based on scripture nor other mythical and magical premises. It`s not making any promises nor profits. The objective is not to offer you a back door to heaven; it’s just to try to explain what happened when a band of greed-and-power-driven amoral rich people and institutions got a death grip on the United States–and the world–strangling them mercilessly over seven or eight decades. I think I can explain how it occurred. I don’t want you to pass through the gates of hell, still wondering what happened.
The Beginning of the End
The underpinnings of the American empire were laid down in international agreements forged at the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944 with the predictable end of the Second World War in sight. There, in the bucolic setting of a New Hampshire ski resort, 730 delegates of all 44 countries allied in the fight against the Nazis, gathered allegedly to hammer out agreements, but in reality to rubber stamp the proposals put forth by the American committee led by Harry Dexter White, a brilliant economist with the US Treasury Department. Ironically, White, the maximum exponent of American neo-colonial capitalism, was later accused, though not convicted, of being a Russian spy.
Key agreements signed at Bretton Woods regulated post-war policy on international monetary and financial order, as well as the regulation of trade after the conclusion of World War II. Those agreements created the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, later part of the World Bank group) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), two powerful entities that established the US dollar as the international reserve currency. Bretton Woods policies, with later refinements and the burgeoning national security state, provided a solid footing for American domination world wide. Or almost world wide. There were a couple of notable exceptions, both of them, curiously, communists.
In 1976, Marcus Raskin, American social critic, activist, philosopher, and co-founder of the progressive think tank, the Institute of Policy Studies, summed up the situation in an article entitled : Democracy vs. the National Security State, published in the Duke University Law Journal, Law and Contemporary Problems:
“It is not possible to understand the national security state and reasons which give rise to the need for dismantling it without mentioning the profound and wrenching events of the last fifty years. The national security state emerges from war, from fear of revolution and change, from the economic instability of capitalism, and from nuclear weapons and military technology. It has been the actualizing mechanism of ruling elites to implement their imperial schemes and misplaced ideals.”
There followed in orderly succession the creation in of the National Security Act of 1947, which established both the National Security Council and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which had been working clandestinely in Europe as the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) since 1942. Its first commander was the colorful Colonel William (Wild Bill) Donovan, whose statue stands today in the lobby of the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Then came NATO in 1952, a brilliant piece of strategy that permitted the Americans to surveil and supervise their sorely debilitated European allies as a group, while portraying the operation as a mutual defense pact against possible Russian military incursions. These theoretical incursions were highly unlikely, due to the battered condition of Russia after bearing the brunt of the allied victory in World War II. With all of these measures in place the United States definitively had the world frying pan by the handle.
The only igualitarian element in this ruthless series of takeovers was the fact that its exploitation tactics were applied similarly at home and abroad. It wasn’t only the families of Southeast Asia and the Middle East that were submitted to the treatment. It was also applied to the working families of Flint and Pittsburg, by means of tax breaks for the rich, anti-union legislation, the off-shoring of everything, and the derogation of regulations on toxic big business, though admittedly without the cluster bombs and white phosphorous.
Mike Lofgren Will Make You Laugh and Cry
The most readable, and amusing, account of the process of American degeneration at the hands of the Republican Party was written by a Washington, lifetime insider, Mike Lofgren, who worked as a Republican Party operative for 28 years, until he could no longer stand it. Then he became Washington’s most knowledgeable whistle blower and told all in the brilliant 2012 book, The Party is Over, How Republicans Went CRAZY, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted. This sounds like the title of a skit from Saturday Night Live, but it’s a well-documented account of Republican Party malefeasance in the years that included the presidencies of Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, and Obama. “I wrote the book,” Lofgren said in one of his presentations in 2012, “because I am a concerned citizen.” His second book, The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government, was published in 2016.
If you don’t already know Lucian Truscott, you might enjoy meeting him via his Newsletter. He put his finger in America’s mortal racism wound the other day:
If you wait long enough, they finally get around to telling you who they really are and what they really want. Today, the Tennessee House of Representatives passed a bill that will ban the teaching of critical race theory in Tennessee schools. The bill is similar to those Republicans are attempting to pass in many states where they control the governorship and legislature. Before it left office, the Trump administration promoted the banning of teaching so-called “divisive concepts” such as the 1619 Project and critical race theory to public school students. Among those concepts are the idea that the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist, and that slavery had a role in the founding of the country.
In order to commence mass incarceration, first you have to criminalize some behavior patterns. Harry J. Anslinger, longtime director of America’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics, took a giant step in that respect with his pioneering criminalization and persecution of marihuana in the early 1930s. A contemporary version of a similar phenomenon is the Patriot Act, which set civil liberties back centuries. Never have America’s proud citizens been so perfectly surveilled and bereft of essential civil liberties. What a serendipitous set of circumstances were conjoined on September 11, 2001, just when George W. Bush urgently needed an overseas war and a domestic crackdown on dissent, what a fortuitous coincidence.
What About the Better Class of People?
So much for the underprivileged; what about the overprivileged? Their maintenance incurs costs, too. Let’s look first at the most overprivileged sector of the entire US uber-capitalist zoo, the military-industrial-government complex. It starts with the incestuous relationships between government officials and the lobbyists for all the business behemoths: energy, big pharma, insurance, banking and financial services, the tech whiz kids and, of course, the arms business. The tools of the trade in these sectors are revolving doors, cost-plus contracts, scare propaganda, astronomically overpriced goods and services, a captive mass media and, perhaps the most egregious element, the utter impunity under which they operate.
The government writes its own laws, interprets them and enforces them. If Al Capone had worked under those conditions he would today dominate the bathtub gin market in the entire Milky Way Galaxy. Then there’s military spending. According to Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections, if the plans described in the 2020 Future Years Defense Program (FYDP) were implemented, defense costs would increase from the $718 billion for 2020 to $776 billion (in 2020 dollars) by 2034, not that anyone–including the authors themselves–actually believes those modest figures.
The other sectors of big business aren’t too bad off, either. Their top executives are entitled to benefits unheard of in human history, approaching the Sultan of Brunei with his collection of 5,000 cars, including 600 Rolls-Royces. These benefits are the product of decades of rule under Republican ideology. (Yes, the Republicans continued to rule during the Obama years.) That impoverished ideology is straight out of the standard American right-wing (which would be the far right wing in any other place in the world) playbook: lower taxes, so-called “free-market” capitalism, severe immigration policies, virtually-unlimited military spending, insane gun rights, abortion restriction, deregulated business and strictly-regulated unions.
At this rate and with these rules of the game the United States will never again be able to lift its head as a world leader, nor will its citizens live decent lives. Its leadership is already being contested by honest competitors on all sides. It’s clear that the principal cause of American decline is the price Americans pay to maintain their advantaged classes. What to do with the rich? To do to them what they have done to the underprivileged might be considered too extreme. That is, to persecute them, to criminalize their country clubs and private jets, to surveil their extravagant habits and vices, to imprison them and, in extreme cases, shoot them down in the street with total impunity. The solution is much less dramatic that all that, and it’s perfectly obvious and do-able: tax them.
A Few Relevant Facts
Just a few scraps from a recent piece in TheBalance.com should suffice to illustrate how ex-President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) is affecting Americans:
The top individual tax rate dropped from 39.6% to 37%, and numerous itemized deductions were eliminated. (For comparison purposes, the top federal income tax rate in 1952 and 1953, was 92 percent.)
The TCJA also cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% effective in 2018. The corporate cuts are permanent. The individual changes expire at the end of 2025.
The Tax Foundation has indicated that those who earn more than 95% of the population will receive a 2.2% increase in after-tax income. Those in the 20% to 80% range would receive a 1.7% increase.
Rejoice if you have an important property portfolio. The TCJA doubled the estate tax exemption from $5.6 million in 2017 to $11.2 million in 2018.
The TCJA act will add $1 trillion to the debt over the 10 years it’s in effect.
That last item on the list poses an obligatory question: What would that $1,000,000.000000 have contributed to the wellbeing of Americans? How many schools and hospitals would it have built, how many bridges and highways? How much medical care would it have meant, and how many college educations? How much public housing, how many social programs? By extension, how many lives would have been uplifted? All of these lost benefits and much more are the cost of coddling the rich.
The cost of overprivilege to America is not only economic. It’s also costly in terms of credibility on the world stage. Comparisons are inevitable and the United States doesn’t fare well. No sane person in the real world can understand the justification of massive tax cuts for the rich in these times, nor in the prosecution of unending wars under false pretenses. The Iraqis and Afghans cry out to heaven for justice.
And this is not to mention the “defense” budgets cooked up in hell. Their principal purposes are two:
To enrich the American arms industry, its investors and running dogs.
To create myriad dangerous enemies for the US and divide the world into enemies and allies, thus assuring a thriving arms market.
The elimination of merely half of this obscene military spending and the application of that wealth to America’s real problems would relax tensions worldwide and further increment the Americans’ quality of life. Everybody wins at home and abroad except America’s army of war mongers. And they have won too much already.
We hear a lot about how the underprivileged are costing the American taxpayer too much. The poor and the handicapped, the aged, the homeless, the damaged veterans, the unemployed and the uninsured masses contribute nothing to the GDP and represent a considerable drain on the national treasure. The symptoms are evident: poverty, illiteracy, crime, drug abuse and trafficking, dystopian families, fatherless homes, prison populations soaring… A disproportionate number of these unfortunate citizens are from racial minorities, many of them with deprivation in their family trees, having grown up with their fathers and grandfathers in prison, raised by heroic mothers fighting a losing battle.
Richest Country or One of the Poorest?
The American way of dealing with the homeless as post-industrial refuse is symptomatic. Instead of help they get harassment, instead of understanding, scorn. The disingenuous question arises inevitably: “Why don’t those single mothers raising families in cars in Walmart parking lots get jobs?” Some of them manage to do just that but with a $7.25 minimum wage they will never lift their families out of that station wagon.
Why isn’t the richest country in the world among the leaders in questions of humanity? The answer is not as complicated as it might seem. The roots of the problem are sunk deeply into a misfit ideology so rancid that it passes for scripture and spawns injustice, inequality and grotesque national priorities. The system was skewed from the beginning, based as it was on Darwinian struggle, ruthless self interest and pie-in-the-sky religion. Over the past three or four decades things have only gotten worse, aggravated by the inequality generated by high-tech windfall wealth and increasingly right-wing, lower-taxes-remove-regulations governments. The Covid-19 pandemic was the frosting on the cake, baring all the deficiencies and their catastrophic results. How many billions more does Jeff Bezos need to be able to give his employees living wages and healthy working conditions at Amazon?
The Greatest Irony
The greatest irony is that, when the the country and its people are most in need of well-run, effective government programs and services, the country’s leaders busy themselves with classic DC schoolyard infighting. You only need to go over the past year of headlines to see the fruitlessness of it all. Those headlines also comprise a textbook on how not to manage America’s most serious domestic emergency in a century and, incidently, how to engineer gratuitously the deaths of more than half a million Americans. If we set aside the Democrats’ decades of bumbling, they can plead innocence, as the Republicans were holding the reins of power during the emergency. As for the Republicans, their almost unanimous rallying around a clearly-deficient president and his atypical collaborators places the responsibility squarely on their shoulders. We’re not sure if they are insane or merely incompetent, but it’s all the same.
Meanwhile, the emergency is far from over and most of ex-President Trump’s card-carrying Republican accomplices are still comfortably ensconced in the US Congress. Aren’t they aware that they are sitting on the wrong side of history? Nobody who can tie his or her shoes could be so stupid. Clearly their first priority has nothing to do with the wellbeing of the American people, who have never been so abandoned by their leaders. Could it be that those right-wing congressional leaders are concerned first and foremost with their own re-election? Is it possible that they’re neither that stupid nor that distracted, but merely cynical. Five-hundred-thousand American lives worth of cynicism?
They Write Their Own Ticket
It’s all too easy for members of the American government to tilt the playing field in their own favor. They are the ones who make the laws in the legislative branch, interpret them in the judicial and execute them in the executive. Add to that the revolving doors, gerrymandering and other election perversions, big-bucks lobbying, and the cascade of abuses legalized by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, and it’s no wonder the country is their oyster. Among the worst of their self-serving practices is the indecent collusion with the arms industry. Though they would have you believe otherwise, those permanent wars and that unnatural cozying up to Saudi Arabia are not due to bad people envying America’s freedom.
“Freedom,” for the I’m-all-right-Jack caste of Americans has more to do with free markets than free people. While underprivilege in other industrialized countries elicits compassionate responses in their governing classes, in the United States it generates disgust and disdain. Why doesn’t that old wino sleeping on the bench get a job? It might have to do with losing his resumé on a muddy hillside at Khe Sanh while your father was lying low at Princeton.
American Style Solutions
This is not to say that the American system doesn’t have solutions for the problems posed by homeless people camping out on the streets of otherwise pleasant neighborhoods. Police regularly upturn and carry off the tents of the street people and force them to “move on.” In some of the more progressive places the city council will buy them a ticket to get out of town. Where proper countries have social housing, the richest country in the world has police brutality and internal deportation handed out generously to its own citizens. These measures cost American cities some money, but not as much as they would have to spend to house the poor. The bottom line is that the privileged are envied and fawned upon, the underprivileged despised and jailed, considered too-expensive excess ballast in the hold of the ship of state.
The most common measure that Americans use for dealing with their “undesirables” is prison, in spite of the fact that it’s the costliest solution of all. Could it be plain racism, fringed with sadism? Are the American prison authorities enamoured of the punitive aspects of incarceration. Could white supremacy be a factor? Whatever the case, there they are building ever-more-sophisticated and costly lockups and honing the legal aspects. You can’t just throw people in jail willy nilly, at least in the numbers the Americans think they require.
Perhaps the Most Important Scientist Since Sir Isaac Newton
Edward Norton Lorenz was a chess player and mathematician with an avid curiosity and the intelligence and perseverance to put it to work. It is largely thanks to Dr. Lorenz that today’s weather forecasts are expressed in probability percentages, or numerical weather prediction. But that’s not all. After an impeccable intellectual formation, passing through Dartmouth and Harvard, he earned master’s and doctoral degrees in meteorolgy at MIT, where he was to spend his entire career as a research scientist.
Lorenz’s weather studies led him by a fascinating mathematical route to Chaos Theory and the Butterfly Effect, the gist of which is that minute changes in conditions of a process can randomly produce massive variations in the outcome. The best-known expression of this phenomenon is a short story by science-fiction writer, Ray Bradbury. In Bradbury’s story, “A Sound of Thunder,” a time traveler visiting the Late Cretaceous Period steps on a butterfly. When he returns to his own time he discovers that major historical shifts have resulted from that seemingly insignificant incident. The irony in this case is that Bradbury’s story was published in 1952, 11 years before Lorenz announced his Chaos Theory discovery in a scientific paper in 1963.
Did You Ever Ask Yourself Why the US Has the Largest Prison Population in the World?
America is a country largely dedicated to conspicuous consumption. But to consume you need money. And you do what you have to do to get it. Unable to make big money quickly in hedge fund operations, the American underclasses resort to drug peddling and petty–or not so petty–crime. From there it’s a short hop to jail. This superhighway to the penal system wasn’t always that way. There was a point in the country’s history when they had to choose whether to treat illegal drug usage as a health problem or a matter for the criminal courts. They opted for the hard line and planted the seeds of dramatic changes in American society that have borne strange fruit.
If a Butterfly Can Change History, What Can a Hard-Core Misanthrope Achieve?
This random historical decision fell to a particularly brutal, self-serving Washington bureaucrat, Harry J. Anslinger, who was appointed by President Herbert Hoover in 1930 to run the new Federal Bureau of Narcotics. He was to hold that post for 32 years, during the presidencies of Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy. He spent the last two years of his career as U.S. Representative to the United Nations Narcotics Commission, where he exported his retrograde racist doctrine around the world.
Anslinger is a prime example of how a single misanthrope can place his stamp on future generations. His anti-marihuana campaign was created in large part in order to criminalize musicians and people of color as well as to expand his own diminishing authority after the end of Prohibition. Whatever the motivation, that decision criminalized an innocuous substance and ruined countless lives.
If the United States today boasts the largest prison population in the world it’s thanks to Anslinger, who began his career in law enforcement as a humble railway cop. His legacy as a ruthless racist addicted to power, lives on today in the justice and penal systems. It was Harry J. Anslinger who advocated mandatory sentences for drug offenders and handcuffed Billy Holiday to her deathbed. There is no doubt that it cost the system a fortune over the years to build the world’s largest prison complex and maintain all those newly-coined felons, but it had to be done in order to keep Anslinger’s star on the rise. He is also on record for uttering these illuminating thoughts:
“Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.” “You smoke a joint and you’re likely to kill your brother.” And “There are 100,000 total marihuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing result from marihuana use. This marihuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.”
In a revealing article on Timeline.com entitled How a racist hate-monger masterminded America’s War on Drugs, Laura Smith writes that, shortly after Billy Holiday’s death in 1939:
Anslinger went after musicians again by trying to block the union membership of those with drug convictions. The lives of jazzmen, he said, “reek of filth.” “Arrests involving a certain type of musician in marihuana cases are on the increase,” he wrote in a draft letter to the president of the American Federation of Musicians. In a hearing with the Ways and Means Committee, Anslinger repeated this refrain: “I am not talking about the good musicians, but the Jazz type.”
Over the years, Anslinger became recognized as the country’s preeminent authority on drugs and had a hand in all of the country’s repressive drug legislation. Though he was retired from his position by President Kennedy in 1962, his retrograde racist policies were passed on to successive administrations. In 1971, President Richard Nixon picked up the ball, declaring his own “war on drugs.” His aide and Watergate co-conspirator John Ehrlichman later revealed that war’s motivations in Harpers:
The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people … We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities.
The Butterfly Strikes Back
According to the National Institute of Corrections, of the 9.25 million people currently held in detention the world over, 50 percent are in the United States. Counting only the adult population, about one in 90 people are behind bars, a large proportion of them for drug offenses, many of them unjustly.
But times are changing. Here’s a map of current cannabis legalization progress in the US:
Marijuana Moment.net, affirms that eight more states are considering legalizing marihuana en 2021. US Senator Chuck Schumer (Dem. NY) says Federal Marihuana Legalization Is A Priority In Democrats’ ‘Big, Bold Agenda:’ “It’s past time to work to undo the harm done by misplaced priorities… It’s time to decriminalize marihuana nationally.”
Haven’t Americans noticed that a revamped fundamentalist Christianity has run amok in their country, occupying parcels of power that have traditionally been vetoed to sectarian religion? Political America, with its underlying ideology and institutions, was conceived by the founders to be rigorously separate from religion. Their concept of religious freedom, expressed in the very first amendment to the US Constitution, guaranteed freedom for all religions, except for the freedom to govern. Both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison felt that state support for any religion was improper. They argued that compelling citizens to support through taxation a faith they did not follow violated their natural right to religious liberty.
Just as Jefferson and Madison, the principal authors of the Declaration of Inedpendence and the US Constitution, respectively, considered religion a personal matter, not one to be imposed upon the citizenry as a whole. Religion has no legitimate role in the executive nor the legislative, nor the judicial branches of government. Adding religious components to American democracy runs the risk of converting the country into an Iranian-style theocracy. In fact, the first steps in that direction have already been taken, both with President Obama’s Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnership and President Trump’s White House’s Faith and Opportunity Initiative.
You Have to See It to Believe It
The most extravagant writer of fiction could not have invented the grotesque metamorphosis that Americans have imposed on their religion. Not all of them, mind you, but enough of them to assure that the humble, humane Christian gospel will never be the same again in America. And the intrusion of this hyped-up-and-dumbed-down religious movement is having an equally damaging effect on the American government and the country as a whole. This intrusion of semi-literate televangelists into the government at its highest levels may or may not be in accordance with the Constitution, but it certainly merits some serious debate, and that debate isn’t happening.
We shouldn’t be surprised that the Americans have metamorphosed Christianity, to their own use, but the direction and extent of that Americanization is alarming. One of the immediate results should preoccupy Christian congregations. The behavior of a large segment of American Christians reflects the same dangerous characteristics they love to blame on fanatical versions of other religions around the world: integrist fundamentalism, homicidal bellicosity and God-is-on-our-side militancy, among other perversions. Meanwhile, traditional Christians from abroad look at the sideshow cavortings of their American co-religionaries and can’t believe what they see.
Dwight Eisenhower and Billy Graham Got Their Heads Together
President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s relationship with evangelist, Billy Graham, who went on to become “spirtual counsel” to a dozen presidents, probably should have been questioned on day one. But it was the 1950s, a decade of extraordinary religious revival, and both Eisenhower and Graham played important roles in encouraging this movement. Eisenhower was a war hero and popular president and his partnership with Graham set the stage for decades of mutually beneficial collaboration between politicians and religious leaders.
This cozy relationship that has prospered over the years represents one of history’s most successful symbiotic unions between religious influence peddling and political opportunism. It was the influence of the American Evangelical Christians that inspired President Trump to authorize the transfer of the Israeli capital from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, ostensibly in order to fulfill the biblical prophesies regarding the end times. The born-again folks are convinced that such maneuvers will help rapture them into heaven sooner. That’s not a wholly illegitimate aspiration, unless one of them happens to be responsible for American foreign policy. P.S. What empowers an American president to “authorize” the displacement of the capital of a sovereign country from one place within that country to another?
US sui generis Christians took Jesus Christ and pressed him into the American mold. They hyped him up, turning a simple shepherd of souls into an arch ally of semi-literate televangelists preaching the “prosperity gospel” to a gullible–and massive–American congregation. “Prosperity gospel”=”Send me money and I’ll tell God to make you rich.” They know the formula works, at least for them. Most of them live in millionaire’s mansions and fly around in private jets. Some of them have already graduated to a second, bigger one.
There Have Been Some Changes Made
The American remake of traditional Christianity made it more imminent: “The end times are upon us…” American religions hucksters resolve the problem of “closing the deal” quite elegantly: “The end of the world is coming.” The American remake is more ubiquitous: It takes advantage of the mass media to be constantly in America’s face. It’s clearly more profitable. And it’s more accessible. Anybody can play, especially if they’ve got money.
This variety of American Christianity reached the turning point when southern politicians discovered the polling power of hillbilly Christianity of the Southern Baptist Convention persuasion (with 47,530 [2019 data] congregations in its fold). It was a partnership made in heaven. Both enterprises benefitted. Fundamentalist Evangelical and Pentecostal religion (the difference between the two, in layman’s terms, seems to be that the latter are blessed with the ability to speak in tongues) started moving into north and western parts of the country and southern politicians began to acquire new-found power in the US Congress. Trump’s election was the cherry on top.
A New Element in the Mix–The Bug’s Ear
After simmering on a slow burner for a few decades this curious stew gave America, among other marvels, Paula White, another big-house, hot-jet televangelist and President Donald Trump’s personal spiritual advisor. White is undeniably coarse and intellectually limited but she connects with millions of like-minded American Christians–and voters–and brings a new quality to high-flying, low-brow American religious discourse: sex appeal. She’s as cute as a bug’s ear. This novelty further increments her gross.
DA Fletcher is gravely concerned about this kind of shenanigans in what he and many others feel should to be serious and solemn territory. He writes in his 2007 book, One Nation Over God, The Americanization of Christianity, this white-hot denunciation of the American way of religion:
Throughout American history, from the earliest moments until the present, American Christians have been more American than they have been Christian… Not only have the basic tenets of the Christian faith been compromised and violated, in the interest of protecting our right to practice our faith along with our basic American freedoms, we have been guilty of denying the rights and freedoms of any who is seen to oppose. The conceit that being American warps being Christian is at the center of American Exceptionalism, Manifest Destiny, the Revolutionary War, the Indian wars, the endless debate over immigration, racism and slavery, poverty and homelessness, consumerism and materialism, and ultimately the way Christianity gets defined and lived out.
DA Fletcher, One Nation Over God, The Americanization of Christianity
How would history have changed if it had occurred to President Kennedy to send a couple of boatloads of powdered milk and process cheese to Cuba in their time of need?
War by Other Means
According to the Council on Foreign Relations website (cfr.org) “economic sanctions” are the withdrawal of customary trade and financial relations for foreign- and security-policy purposes.” Sanctions may prohibit commercial activity with an entire country, like the U.S. embargo of Cuba, or they may be targeted, blocking transactions by and with particular businesses, groups, or individuals. They include travel bans, asset freezes, arms embargoes, capital restraints, foreign aid reductions, and trade restrictions. Economic sanctions are not necessarily imposed because of economic circumstances—they may also be imposed for a variety of political, military, and social issues. They can also be overused:
Economic sanctions are increasingly being used to promote the full range of American foreign policy objectives. Yet all too often sanctions turn out to be little more than expressions of U.S. preferences that hurt American economic interests without changing the target’s behavior for the better. As a rule, sanctions need to be less unilateral and more focused on the problem at hand. Congress and the executive branch need to institute far more rigorous oversight of sanctions, both prior to adopting them and regularly thereafter, to ensure that the expected benefits outweigh likely costs and that sanctions accomplish more than alternative foreign policy tools.
President Donald Trump Found Sanctions Handy
American use of punitive sanctions against other countries was relatively unusual until Trump ratcheted up their frequency. The Trump administration imposed sanctions at a record-shattering pace of about three times a day during the president’s time in office, a total of more than 3,900 distinct sanctions actions, according to data collected by Los Angeles international law firm, Gibson Dunn. These measures targeted companies, individuals and even oil tankers tied to Iran, North Korea, China, Venezuela and Russia. The beauty of sanctions from the Trump government’s point of view was that they were easy to implement. All that was required for the president to set in motion their damaging–sometimes lethal–proceedings was to proclaim them. Many of these sanctions actions amount to war by other means, entailing the same damage to the society, the same victims, the same disorder, and the same suffering. Just less paperwork.
The legality of sanctions as means of enforcement traditionally provided incentives for obedience with the law. A judge may sanction a party during a legal proceeding, thus imposing penalties. The key concepts here are “the law,” “a judge” and “legal proceeding,” factors conspicuously lacking in many of Trump’s sanctions, which often seem more like simple gratuitous harrassment. The new President Biden has hinted that he will review the Trump sanctions, but it remains to be seen what that review will amount to.
What’s with America’s Iran Mania?
The countries that have suffered most in recent years from American sanctions are Iran, Venezuela and Cuba. As for Iran, why do successive American governments harbor so much rancour vis a vis Iran when, in reality, the shoe should be on the other foot. And for cogent reasons:
In 1953 the US orchestrated a gratuitous regime-change operation of a popular, democratically-elected Iranian government.
Then they ushered in a 25-year-long dictatorial regime under the Shah, whose SAVAK secret police, created with the help of the CIA, were legendary for their creative interrogation, torture and execution techniques. This regime ruled from 1957 until it was disolved by the Iranian Revolution in 1979.
Still not satisfied, the CIA enouraged Iraq’s dictator, Sadam Hussein, and his army of Sunni Muslim troops to start a war with Iran. The Americans supported them with materiel, targetting information, in-air refueling and other intelligence work for the duration of that war which ended in a UN-brokered stalemate in 1988.
That war had a fascinating aftermath, one which cast a shadow of doubt on American strategy. When they handed the government of Iraq to the Iraqi Shiite Muslims they seemingly forgot that Iran was also a Shiite country . The Iraqi leaders and their Iranian brothers in the faith took less than the blink of an eye to make common cause against the Americans, who are still in the process of backing out of Iraq–where they wrought so much destruction and human tragedy. There is a lesson in this tragic series of events: You probably shouldn’t go into the business of hearts and minds if you’re heartless and mindless
The frosting on this strange cake didn’t appear until January, 2020, with the Trump-ordered drone assassination of Iran’s preeminent old soldier, Qasem Soleimani, while enroute to a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi. Other forms of American sanctions, while damaging and reprehensible, can be responded to through diplomatic or legal channels. But the murder of Soleimani while on a diplomatic mission amounts to an authentic casus belli. The equivalent in the United States would be to assassinate General Colin Powell and his collaborators while they are being driven to work.
Very Unstable, Very Erratic
It’s common knowledge that Donald Trump has an unstable, erratic character and that he was advised at the time of Soleimani’s assassination by some of America’s most bloodthirsty neo-con strategtists. After the 2020 election citizens of good faith around the world were looking forward to a fresh approach from the White House, occupied by a person who would have the courage and magnanimity to reset US/Iranian relations on a less bellicose basis. keeping in mind actions like the US sequestering of an Iranian petroleum tanker en route to Venezuela and selling its cargo. What was that about? To an impartial observer it makes no sense, enjoys no legtitimacy. In no way can it be considered diplomacy. It was just baseless Trumpish bullying and this distinction is not lost on the world.
At last a new “normal” president was elected and began to make long-overdue corrections. But President Biden’s decisions on Iran were anything but correct. Instead of a rapid rectification of the American naval blockade of Venezuela (another act of war), and an apology for the killing of Soleimani, as well as a mutual reconsideration of the Iran nuclear agreement that Trump had senselessly breached, America’s new president lurches forward with the same old unreasonable demands and crass threats. Considering the context of American abuses and boutades, not only was that dubious diplomacy; but bad manners. Has the new American president been Zooming too much with Prime Minister Netanyahu?
From Iran to Cuba Is a Short Hop
The case of Iran is reminiscent of that of Cuba. After Fidel Castro’s ragtag revolutionary forces deposed American-backed dictator, Fulgencio Batista, in 1959, President John F. Kennedy and his pack of best and brightest foreign-policy advisors (the ones who brought you Vietnam) took particular pleasure in turning their backs on the Cuban people during the times of scarcity that followed Batista’s downfall. They also launched the clumsy and unsuccessful CIA-organized Bay of Pigs invasion by counter-revolutionary Cubans based in 1961. The humiliation that accompanied that resounding failure reverberated for decades. Miami still has a Bay of Pigs Memorial in Little Havana.
Fidel Castro, meanwhile, turned to the Russians to sell Cuba’s sugar, and before long they were partners. How would history have changed if it had occurred to President Kennedy to send a couple of boatloads of powdered milk and process cheese to Cuba in their time of need? But no, the Kennedy brothers, John and Bobby, not only doubled down on their Cuban sanctions, but initiated a decades-long CIA campaign (dubbed The Cuban Project or Operation Mongoose) to try to assassinate El Comandante. Castro died in his bed in 2016 at the age of 90.
Today the Cuban people remain victims of the American punitive embargo, the longest in modern history. For everything they have endured during 60 years of iron-clad resistance to American punishment the Cuban people have earned the civilized world’s admiration. Under the circumstances Cuba’s achievements have been monumental. The impoverished little Caribbean country today has a 100% literacy rate and one of the finest public health systems in the world. Their medical scientists have just announced their own Covid 19 vaccine. Will 11 million Cubans ever be liberated from the curse that befell them essentially because the Kennedys got miffed in 1961?
American schoolchildren are taught that one of the gravest dangers their country faces is socialism, particularly in its most virulent variety, communism. These collectivist ideologies are not only dangerous for their subversive content but also for their tendency to spread from one country to another, domino fashion. Most of America’s wars over the past century have been to contain communism, with the exception of the Second World War in which the Soviet Union was America’s most valuable ally. Nevertheless, America’s implacable wars against communism have taken a terrible toll in lives and property both among foreign citizens categorized as socialists, and American patriots themselves.
Young Americans are also taught that there are two key institutions that maintain a constant vigil against communist and socialist encroachment, thus keeping America safe. These are the US Congress and Armed Forces, which are on constant alert worldwide to detect, engage and defeat socialist regimes wherever they arise, or even threaten to arise. Their concerns extend to the home front, where communist and socialist sympathizers are surveilled and controlled by ever-vigilant authorities, the FBI in particular. They are aware that socialism is insidious and can take root anywhere.
That’s why the US Congress and the military maintain a constant anti-socialist and anti-communist awareness. They are trained to identify and eliminate leftist trends in American society. That said, some cynics have pointed out that these conscientious controllers have overlooked two semi-clandestine socialist groups in their own country. Ironically, these are precisely the US Congress and the Armed Services, the only collectives in America who enjoy socialist-style health services. Fortunately, this minor anomaly doesn’t prevent them from crushing socialism in other people’s countries.
President Donald J. Trump may have been impeached twice and defeated at the polls after his first term, but that doesn’t mean that Trumpism is over. Far from it. Look no further than January 6, 2021, a day that shall live in Trumpish infamy. The outgoing president wanted to make history and he did, but not in a nice way. Add to this the rest of his legacy: the demolishing of essential federal agencies, the children imprisoned in cages without their parents, the rape of the land, the insanely expensive and illegally financed border wall, and all the rest. Nor should we forget the fact that the 45th President of the United States of America is only marginally literate. But he’s gone now, you say. Yes, he’s practically gone, but that is now a moot point. He has lit the fire in the forest and America the beautiful will never be the same again.
That fire didn’t take long to become a conflagration of white supremacism, neo-nazism, lynchmob values, unjust justice, and dangerous levels of hyper-patriotism. The Trumpists gamed the system to maintain lifetime power, securing three Supreme Court justices, hundreds of federal judgeships and massive tax cuts for the rich. Exceptionalism and lowbrow sacralization became common currency in American government. Trump’s personal pandering to extravagant, born-again rapture sects has converted them into a formidable electoral bloc.
His use of this religious phenomenon to advance his personal agenda is a historically ugly example of political opportunism, cynicism and hypocrisy. All of this reflects ill on the already tarnished image of the United States worldwide. Serious leaders of important countrys around the world–both allies and adversaries– don’t know whether to laugh or cry. This perception of the United States as a laughing stock, a dangerously unstable enemy and a less-than-reliable partner did not go away altogether when a new, “normal,” president was elected.
Trump’s Malfeasance Presidency
The United States government has had mediocre presidents before, misguided legislatures, fanatical figures, and serious spates of corruption. Not many of those anomalies, however, went far beyond passing aberrations. But never has an American regime been so self-consciously aware as that of Donald Trump that its mission was to demolish government and all its agencies, to shatter the very foundations of the country’s normality in order to transfer political power to business interests. These captains of industry have already bought up much of the government piece by piece through lobbyists and the financing of legislators. This corporate money is easy to turn into votes, and those votes into re-election, something that no congressperson can resist. So the United States Congress is severely compromised.
This deference to big business has long been the objective of the American right. President Calvin Coolidge set the benchmark in an address to the American Society of Newspaper Editors in Washington, D.C. on January 17, 1925: “The business of Americans is business.” Though the library of Congress dresses it up as: “After all, the chief business of the American people is business. They are profoundly concerned with producing, buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world.“
Almost three decades later, in 1953, General Motors president, Charles E. Wilson, followed up with “What’s good for General Motors is good for America, and vice versa.” Again, the Library of Congress offers a more cosmetic version. In the context of a Senate confirmation hearing in which Wilson’s appointment as Secretary of Defense was being considered, Republican Senator Robert C. Hendrickson of New Jersey asked Wilson if he thought he would be capable of taking a decision that would be beneficial to the interests of the United States government, if detrimental to those of General Motors. Wilson replied:
Yes, sir; I could. I cannot conceive of one because for years I thought what was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa. The difference did not exist. Our company is too big. It goes with the welfare of the country. Our contribution to the Nation is quite considerable.
Bog-Standard Republican Values
The values of Trump’s America were and largely remain standard Republican conservatism characterized by support for lower taxes, free-market capitalism, a strong national defense, gun rights, deregulation, capital punishment, restrictions on labor unions, and thinly-disguised racism. They oppose abortion and feel comfortable in bed with televangelists speaking in tongues. Today’s republicans don’t talk much about education, environmental protection, social services, equality in all of its aspects, nor good faith in international dealings. Did they forget these concepts? No, they simply omit them as irrelevant.
America’s “strong national defense” sounds dandy in theory but, when the gloves are off, can be clearly seen as simple bare-knuckled militarism and good-for-business imperialism. If it weren’t for their blind trust in the dubious ethos of America first, permanent war and snatch-and-grab economics, they might be able to get away with their bulwark-of-democracy pretensions. But that America-first bias, coupled with the astuteness and cynicism of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), seldom fails when it comes to bribing and threatening the greed-driven governing minorities of resource-rich countries into ceding their natural resources to Uncle Sam.
If diplomacy should stumble the CIA has its own specialist army, the Special Activities Division, a covert paramilitary operations unit founded in 1995 and rebaptized “Special Activities Center” in 2016. It is made up of a selection of crack troops from across the American special forces galaxy. They are not only particularly persuasive but also totally unaccountable, a hermetic cylinder of plausible denial. When politicians affirm that all American troops area being withdrawn from a given country which they haven’t been able to defeat in combat, these are the dudes who stay behind. Being covert and unaccountable they’re ideal for that role.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank are renowned for cleverly tipping the natural resources of underdeveloped countries into the American funnel. Their maneuverings provide the underpinnings for maintaining US economic dominance, as well as indirectly helping to fuel Chinese expansion around the world. The World Bank is an American bank with headquarters at 1818 H Street, N.W. Washington, DC. Its pretext of giving while taking has a lot in common with another charitable American Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
One Overriding Question Remains
Trumpism has set the benchmark for greed, mendacity, onanistic narcissism, nepotism, and the worship of the rich. In order for the United States to return to the real world someone has to reverse all those pernicious values. America has a new president. Joe Biden is a product of the normal Democratic party infrastructure. He doesn’t seem to be insane or severely mentally and morally handicapped. His appointments thus far indicate that he wants to be all things to all people. Good luck to him. The concern of Americans–and the rest of the world–is: Will President Biden be capable of burying the perverse values of Donald Trump and his Trumpish hordes and bringing the United States back to normal? Not necessarily great; we’ll settle for just normal.
What is the most lucrative business of all? War, of course, the only industry in which the products are systematically blown up creating, ipso fact, more demand.
Anyone Who Tells You Otherwise Is a Snake Oil Salesman
America has been from the very beginning a country of marks, swindled by sidewinders and claim jumpers. What were the Puritan priests of the Plymouth Colony if not a caste of sanctimonious, mind-stifling con men whose divinely-inspired, witch-burning mentality has perdured down to our own times? They were–and remain–America’s Spanish Inquisition and their strangle hold on a vast swath of the country’s population remains intact and is not about to be thwarted in our lifetime.
What Happened Then?
Flash forward 400 years. Sure, the country is bigger and has more labor-saving devices but a priestly caste remains in the business of cultivating voodoo and inequality. Now it has new practitioners, the asset managers, a powerful branch of the accounting sect, which rose to prominence in the mid-20th century. The asset managers are just another iteration of America’s time-honored inequality creators, this time on a galactic scale. They are the other pandemic of the industrial age. Every time a well-meaning American government thinks it has defeated these economic imbalances, whether it be with the enactment of the Wagner Act or the Glass Stegall Act, the epidemic morphs into another guise and marches boldly on. Ironically it’s this uber-capitalistic virus that always discovers more creative ways to protect itself from democratic control, whether it’s lobbyists pushing trade liberalization, a Citizens United Supreme Court decision, the rest of the country’s high courts stuffed with Neanderthal judges appointed for life or legislators bought, sold and rented under the table.
What happened in the period between New England theocracy and the New York-Washington-West Coast influence corridor? How could four centuries of struggle leave Americans in the same unfortunate situation in which they found themselves shortly after landing at Plymouth Rock? The answer to this question is the key to America’s past–and future. At no time or place in history has there existed such a population of hapless suckers at the disposal of an elite of clever bad guys–ruthless, self-serving, power-grabbing, manipulating flimflammers and bamboozlers. Does that too-long list of adjectives sound like an inventory of requirements for candidates to the United States Congress?
Did any member of that august body ever come out poorer than when they went in? If their first priority was ever that of managing the country to the benefit of its citizens, that anomaly didn’t last long. It was soon usurped by the compelling necessity to be re-elected. From that flip of priorities sprang a whole Pandora’s Box of governmental ills, from gerrymandering and voter suppression to today’s big-league game of crony capitalistic footsy between corporate movers and shakers and elected Washington officials. And let’s not delve into what happens when a psychopath is elected President.
Scamming in the Free World
The country took a great leap backward when its politicians started hobnobbing with its con men. After a couple of centuries of pseudo-democratic maneuvering by America’s ruling classes–legislators-on-the-make, the clans of the railroad and oil barons, farmaceutical magnates, insurance scammers, armament killers, big-data bandits, private-airliner preachers, internet bright boys and the rest of the whole granfalloon–they now have the playing field pretty well groomed to their liking. Not only that, they dictate the rules of the game. This falls to Congress members, who write ever-more misdirected laws, or even better, have those laws written for them by lobbying agencies. There are more lobbyists than legislators in Washington. Indirectly, of course, they’re written by rich corporate sponsors who subsidize worthy congress members. How many of American members of Congress consider themselves worthy of re-election? That number approaches 100%. By the time all these “special interest” thugs take their share of the pork there’s not much left in the barrel for incidental details like schools and public health.
Unlike presidents, members of congress are subject to no term limits. They can be re-elected to unlimited six-year terms of office and the permutations of this rule can yield bizarre results. With more than 59 years in the House of Representatives, John Dingell, Jr., of Michigan, who finally died in 2019 at the age of 92, holds the record for longest consecutive service. Dingell, Jr. is a special case. Not only was he a nearly-six-decade incumbent, but he was elected in a special election to take his deceased father, John Dingell, Sr.’s place in the House. Dingell, Sr. had occupied that office for 22 years before his son took over. The saga continues. Dingell’s wife, Debbie, ran for her husband’s seat and won it in 2014, becoming the first U.S. non-widowed woman in Congress to succeed her husband. The dynasty might not be over yet. Dingell, Jr. is survived by three of his four children from his first marriage, all of them well prepared to take a seat in the House of Representatives. Some observers think that this extravagant quasi royal line might have been obviated with a simple two-term limit to House membership.
The American Way of Life: Greed, Hypocrisy and Lynch Mob Values
America has always been a rich breeding ground for extravagant entrepreneurism, a fabulously well-endowed place to cultivate greed in all its grotesque guises. What is the most lucrative business of all? War, of course, the only industry in which the products are systematically blown up creating, ipso fact, more demand. America has developed the biggest and most-profitable form of war of all: perpetual war. In the 76 years since the end of World War II, the war that permitted America to put the pieces in place to dominate the world, the country has been been at war during all but just under 20 years.
Arthur Charpentier writes in freakonometrics.hypotheses.org/
“America Has Been At War 93% of the Time – 222 out of 239 years since 1776. The U.S. has only been at peace for less than 20 years total since its birth. Since 1945, the United States has very rarely achieved meaningful victory. The United States has fought five major wars — Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan — and only the Gulf War in 1991 can really be classified as a clear success.”
Charpentier is perhaps being a bit naive in his analysis. In order to acertain the “success” of America’s wars one must define success. If by success we mean “victory over an enemy on the battlefield,” then he’s correct. But if we measure success by the profits generated for America’s massive arms manufacturers, the Americas victories in all these wars have been overwhelming. And this is the yardstick employed by the American oligarchy. The military victories, strictly speaking, and the loss of lives are largely irrelevant.
Like any other vigorous American growth enterprise, the war business lends itself to diversification. They have wars both cold and hot. When the activities of pulverizing other people’s countries slow down, they have other outlets for their belicose trade. There’s the War on Terror, the War on Drugs, the War on Literacy, the War on Domestic Liberalism, the War on the Environment… There’s even the War on Poverty but that one has the lowest priority.
Is There a Cure?
There is a cure for America’s maladies and it’s close at hand, but nobody has any time for it. Americans are so distracted by ever-more-ingenious geegaws that they are coasting bovinely through the gates of hell. Just out of curiosity, what is that cure? Is it still available? It is and it’s so obvious you shouldn’t have to ask. Books are America’s last hope. The last promising author, perhaps capable of lifting America out of it’s hell-bent confusion and complacence, was a young man called David Foster Wallace. Born in Ithica, NY in 1962, he had heart and wit perhaps sufficient to awaken America’s dazed and doped-up populace and set it on the road to recovery. But it was not to be. Wallace looked into the heart of the beast and hanged himself from a rafter in his house at the age of 46. He had a lovely singing voice. Was he crazy? Probably, but some observers think that, if he had moved to Europe, he would still be alive today.
As for “Making America Great Again,” was there ever a time when Americans were endowed with greatness? There was, actually, but it was a long time ago. Luckily for us, that greatness was brilliantly portrayed in Cheyenne Warrior, a movie released in 1994. You can see it on YouTube for free. You’ll like it. It’s a western. Kelly Preston is very pretty and you will meet a great American, one of many. The film comes recommended by David Foster Wallace.
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Once an honest leader with healthy aspirations for his country and its people starts to make Washington nervous, either for supposed leftist tendencies or for control of his country’s natural resources, the American regime-change Godzilla is set in motion. Godzilla’s first step is to paint the leader as an autocrat through an intense disinformation campaign, both in the media and on the ground. Once the critical mass of public opinion at home and abroad is convinced that he’s the Bad Guy–and this can take 20 years or more–the CIA can remove him in order to protect the oppressed citizens of his country. There are other methods in the CIA playbook, but this is the most insidious way of twisting our perception of other countries’ leaders, thus “justifying” their elimination and that of their governments.
The most egregious example of this sinister takeover ploy is the long-festering case of Cuba. (Not to worry. They somehow managed not to succeed.) Fulgencio Batista, the brutal dictator of Cuba for decades, ran the country directly or indirectly from the Revolt of the Sergeants in 1933, in which he named himself a colonel, appointed himself chief of the armed forces, and directed the five-man junta that ruled the country. After losing an election in 1952 he annulled the vote, assumed the presidency and ruled the country personally until he was unseated by force in 1959. During the Batista regime a series of American governments at first turned a blind eye and then actively supported the dictator. They had no objection to his turning Cuba into America’s casino and brothel. He was their man.
A Young Cuban Changed the Game
The young Cuban who led the revolutionary movement that deposed Batista was the son of a wealthy Spanish farmer of Cuba´s Oriente Province. He studied at a Jesuit high school and adopted its moral teachings, if not its theology. In 1945, he began studying law at the University of Havana and, though “politically illiterate” in the beginning, was soon a student activist, then a revolutionary. Fidel Castro’s first attempt to overthrow the Batista regime, mounting an attack by 135 revolutionaries on the Moncada Barracks on July 26, 1953, was a failure. After the debacle Castro presented himself in the Batista court voluntarily, was convicted of insurrection and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He served less than two, thanks to an amnesty. Though the Moncada battle was lost, it was the first step in a revolution that was to triumph just six years later in 1959.
When John F. Kennedy became president in January of 1961, he took umbrage at what he considered the grave impertinence of the young Cuban revolutionary–Castro was 35 years old in 1961–and soon turned loose the old CIA spymaster, Allen Dulles, with orders to eliminate him. This was the first US plot against Castro’s life and more would follow. A member of his security team estimated that 634 attempts had been made on el comandante’s life. Many of them were amateurish but many of them were not.
In an article in the June 26, 2015 issue of Politico.com, Philip Shenon, a former Washington and foreign correspondent for the New York Times, affirms:
The most important information that McCone withheld from the [Warren]commission in its 1964 investigation, the report found, was the existence, for years, of CIA plots to assassinate Castro, some of which put the CIA in cahoots with the Mafia. Without this information, the commission never even knew to ask the question of whether Oswald had accomplices in Cuba or elsewhere who wanted Kennedy dead in retaliation for the Castro plots.
The Bay of Pigs and Other Kerfuffles
Midst the unending flurry of assassination attempts came the July, 1961, Bay of Pigs Invasion, in which the CIA armed, trained and transported a group of Cuban exiles and American mercenaries to invade the southwest coast of Cuba and, with the help of local dissidents, overthrow the Castro government. American cooperation went so far as the bombing of Cuban airports a couple of days previously with B26 bombers.
Unfortunately for the invaders and American prestige around the world the “local dissidents” never materialized and the operation was a fiasco. Castro later offered to exchange all the prisoners for 500 tractors, but the Americans did not appreciate his sense of humor.
Cuba has lived under the shadow of an American trade embargo since 1960 making it the longest embargo of its kind in modern history. Its terms were reinforced in 1992 with the Cuban Democracy Act. The United States has gone so far as threatening to stop financial aid to other countries if they trade non-food items with Cuba. Another even-more-grotesque factor in the embargo drama is the perceived necessity by members of the US Congress to pander to pro-embargo Cuban-American exiles, whose votes are crucial in Florida.
The Americans’ insistence on their 60-year embargo is doubly remarkable, considering Cuba’s offenses, which are limited to deposing a US-supported dictator, thwarting a series of American assassination attempts and repelling an American-engineered invasion. That is to say, by outsmarting and outplaying Uncle Sam for six decades, something Sam resents intensely. Along the way the Cubans, under Castro’s autocratic leadership, have set world standards both in education and health care. Cuba exports doctors around the world.
In that extreme context of constant harassment and under the Americans’ eternal embargo, how was Castro, incesssantly slandered and driven into corners, supposed to adhere to democratic purity and not resort to authoritarian measures? Like any other living organism on the planet, his first obligation was to survive.
Nor is the case of Cuba unique. There’s Venezuela, submitted for at least the last 20 years to a gratuitous barrage of cruel and unusual threats and “sanctions” that Uncle Sam has pulled out of his sleeve. Hugo Chavez was a savior for his pueblo and his elections were considered models of freedom and fairness for all of Latin America. Those of the 1998 and 2000 elections were certified by by President Jimmy Carter’s election monitoring foundation. Just what is Venezuela guilty of, anyway? It has been a soverign nation since Simon Bolivar led it to independence from Spain in 1821 after a war which killed half its white population. Its crimes since the 1920s are limited to discovering what its all-powerful northern neighbor covets lasciviously: vast oil deposits, perhaps the world’s largest.
One only needs to read the lead of The Making of Juan Guaidó: US Regime-Change Laboratory, Dan Cohen and Max Blumenthal’s article on TheGrayzone.com (January 29, 2019), to come to grips with Juan Guaidó, selected and groomed by the National Endowment for Democracy, a CIA front organization that functions as the US government’s main arm for promoting regime change, as a surrogate for Venezuela’s duly elected president, Nicolas Maduro:
Before the fateful date of Jan. 22, fewer than one in five Venezuelans had heard of Juan Guaidó… Even in his own party, Guaidó had been a mid-level figure in the opposition-dominated National Assembly, which is now held under contempt according to Venezuela’s constitution. But after a single phone call from from U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, Guaidó proclaimed himself as president of Venezuela. Anointed as the leader of his country by Washington, a previously unknown political bottom dweller was vaulted onto the international stage as the U.S.-selected leader of the nation with the world’s largest oil reserves.
How Many More?
Bill Blum lists in his 2000 book, Rogue State, A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, 65 countries that have been victims of US meddling of one sort or another between 1945 and 2000 when the book came out. Cuba figures high on his list. Venezuela just misses the cut. Even so, there is no shortage of beneficiaries of American pretended largesse. Some cases are more devastating than others. The cases of the CIA’s Iran regime change (1953), Chile’s coup d’etat 1973 and the Guatemalan genocide of its native people (1960–1996) come immediately to mind. And there are many more. Today’s question is, how many more are there to come?