Featured

The Race Is on for Coronavirus Vaccine Profits

Biotech_race_for_vaccine

Health and Business, or Vice Versa

It’s potentially the greatest opportunity ever presented to the world of business. Coincidentally it’s also the greatest opportunity for massive fraud. It’s the elusive Covid-19 vaccine. One wonders what is going through the heads of the pharmaceutical executives competing for the biggest prize ever, a vaccine that every person in the world urgently needs, and for which the producers can virtually name their own price, just as they do with the medicines they sell to the American Social Security administration.

It also presents the greatest opportunity to save lives, reactivate economies, and bring the world back to life. But, given the American pharmaceutical industry’s track record, one suspects that the economic incentive is their first priority. Let’s take a look at how they’re doing thus far.

Operation Warp Speed, the Trump Administration’s Six-Billion-Dollar Vaccine Betting Shop

As of early July this program of massive Trump administration cash handouts extends to eight pharmaceutical companies for expediting development and preparation for the clinical trials necessary for the manufacturing of their respective vaccine candidates: Johnson & Johnson (Janssen Pharmaceutical), AstraZeneca-University of Oxford, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Merck, Vaxart, Inovio, and Novavax. According to Science magazine, Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), said a group of vaccine experts his agency convened to work with Warp Speed did a scientific review of 50 candidate COVID-19 vaccines. Members of that group have expressed surprise at some of Warp Speed’s choices.

Dr. Michael Abrams, M.P.H., Ph.D., of the Public Citizen Health Research Group is more straightforward:

It is sadly predictable that Big Pharma responds to a global pandemia by trying to bring to market only those drugs that maximize its profits. (Audio Source: DemocracyNow.org)

The ensuing controversy was immediate. The most authorized questions came from the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. On the opening day of their hearing, Senator Patty Murray (D–WA) advised the witnesses

“We’re going to need to hold this administration accountable to avoid repeating mistakes and delays… The administration still has not provided any explanation of how it is selecting vaccine candidates, what the risks are of narrowing down that shortlist or addressed concerns about potential conflicts in contracts that predate this crisis.” (Source: Sciencemag.org)

The Stuff of Instant Billionaires

modernavaccine

Operation Warp Speed has made the United States the front runner in the race to produce a solution to the Covid-19 pandemic. Not entirely surprisingly, the economic secondary effects are getting more press than the possible health benefits. The stock market movements generated by the major players are unprecedented, considering that none of their products have cleared the testing hurdles necessary to confirm a viable vaccine. What’s more bizarre is that one of the most heavily endowed companies, to the tune of  $1.6 billion, according to The New York Times, is the small company, Novavax, which has never brought a vaccine to market in its more than 30-year history. Another of the leading companies in the race, Moderna, Inc., in business since 2010, also has yet to produce any vaccine capable of passing US government certification requirements, but has enjoyed nearly a billion dollars in Operation Warp Speed grants.

This is not the only apparent anomaly that makes Moderna a subject of morbid curiosity. They also employ an unusual cat-and-mouse communications policy that seems more focused on influencing its stock-market value than discussing progress in the development of its product. Moderna’s CEO, Stéphane Bancel, a French businessman and 9% owner of Moderna who joined theme in 2016, comes from a sales background. Stat News has reported that Bancel leads “a highly secretive culture with little outside review of its science or research.” In April 2020, with the Moderna share price rising on news of imminent Phase 2 human trials for its potential COVID-19 vaccine, his stake of 9% stake became worth more than $1 billion.

The rest of Moderna’s top executives, who also hold major equity in the company, and tend to come and go, are doing a brisk business selling pieces of their pig-in-a-poke, thanks largely to the company’s astutely ambiguous communications policies. The Moderna executives have made so much money already that the question of achieving a successful vaccine begins to look like a secondary consideration. What seems remarkable to an impartial outside observer is the fact that these big investors in Moderna, Inc. are investing in a promise, not a product.

Didn’t the Obama Administration Leave Trump a Pandemic Roadmap?

In keeping with a 2016 law on improving presidential transitions, Obama’s White House National Security Council left the Trump administration a 69-page Pandemic Playbook on how to respond to a pandemic. The document, the existence of which was publicly revealed by Politico in March, is called the Playbook for Early Response to High-Consequence Emerging Infectious Disease Threats and Biological Incidents.

According to an article in the Mercury News:

The playbook includes step-by-step advice regarding questions to ask, decisions to make, and which federal agencies are responsible for what. It includes sample documents that officials could use for inter-agency meetings. And it explicitly lists novel coronaviruses as one of the kinds of pathogens that could require a major response. 

So why  did Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, say in an online discussion hosted by the Trump campaign on May 11, 2020:

They claim pandemics only happen once every hundred years but what if that’s no longer true? We want to be early, ready for the next one, because clearly the Obama administration did not leave to this administration any kind of game plan for something like this. (Source: The Washington Post)

Perhaps it was because he heard the President say it.

Cheeky Brits Question President Trump’s Coronavirus Response

The Guardian’s Simon Tisdall, unhindered by the American mainstream press’s “restraint” says:

Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, which he once dismissed as a hoax, has been fiercely criticised at home as woefully inadequate to the point of irresponsibility. Yet also thanks largely to Trump, a parallel disaster is unfolding across the world: the ruination of America’s reputation as a safe, trustworthy, competent international leader and partner. Call it the Trump double-whammy. Diplomatically speaking, the US is on life support.

Tisdall quotes Stephen Walt, professor of international relations at Harvard:

The Trump administration’s self-centred, haphazard, and tone-deaf response [to Covid-19] will end up costing Americans trillions of dollars and thousands of otherwise preventable deaths,” wrote . But that’s not the only damage the United States will suffer. Far from ‘making America great again’, this epic policy failure will further tarnish [its] reputation as a country that knows how to do things effectively.

If any trace of fraud or dicey dealings should appear in the matter of the future American vaccine—and it wouldn’t be the first time–who is left holding the bag? Big Pharma? The Trump administration? Maybe it would be a safer bet to wait for the German-Chinese vaccine that is just now entering the testing phase in China.

Even if a viable vaccine were achieved, the American vaccine program would  still not be home free. Recent polls have found as few as 50% of  people in the United States are committed to receiving a vaccine, with another quarter wavering. Some of the communities most at risk from the virus are also the most leery: Among Black people, who account for nearly one-quarter of U.S. COVID-19 deaths, 40% said they wouldn’t get a vaccine in a mid-May poll by the Associated Press and the University of Chicago. (Source: ScienceMag.org)

Then there’s the question of pricing. The American public has not forgotten the remdesivir scandal in which its California manufacturer, Gilead, was accused of price gouging for setting a price of their partially effective treatment for Covid-19 at $2,340 for a five-day course. U.S. insurers, in addition to Medicare and Medicaid, would be required to pay 33% more, or $3,120. Gilead hasn’t disclosed how much it costs to make remdesivir, although a recent study in the Journal of Virus Eradication suggested it is 93 cents for a day’s supply. (Source: StatNews.com)

Don’t Worry, Some Americans Can Feel Secure

At least eight US pharmaceutical companies, chosen after a rigorous selection process, the criteria for which have not been revealed, are hard at work in laboratories, banks and stock markets, in an effort to create a Covid-19 vaccine that not only maximizes the profits from the operation but actually works to prevent the disease. So, not all of the American coronavirus vaccine panorama is bleakness. Let’s look at the brighter side. Whether or not US pharmaceutical giants–and not so giant–ever manage to produce an effective vaccine against Covid-19, some of them, employing tried and true American marketing techniques, are already making a great deal of money.

###

Thanks for following, commenting and sharing.

Featured

You Can Stop Worrying About a Civil War

Military Takeover2

And Start Thinking about a Military Takeover

Two years ago I posted here a two-part article about the possibility of a second civil war in the US that I called The Next American Civil War. The opinions reflected in that article were not mainly mine. They were expressed by qualified experts whose overall conclusions were that the probability of civil war in the US over the next 10-15 years ranged from 5% to 95%, with an average of 35%. But after seeing recent events in Portland, I’m inclined to think that America’s most imminent threat is not a civil war. Considering the likely distribution of forces in the country it’s more apt to be a quick-and-dirty military takeover.

Most Americans are not radical Trump supporters. Polls reveal that half of them reject President Trump’s ultra-nationalistic, white-supremacist, right-libertarian views and lowbrow stage presence. They don’t want to live in a dog-eat-dog society, nor get too “involved” in politics, much less street altercations. They just want to muddle through, from election to election. They live hoping that the government will somehow sort itself out and life in their country will return to normal, much as President Trump hopes that the coronavirus pandemic will one day just “disappear.”

Can’t we reliably suppose that the country is in the clear when it comes to domestic military melodrama, thanks to the majority of “moderate” voters? No, we cannot, as a majority of moderates is seldom decisive for the very fact of being moderate and having to weigh in against a minority of hard-core militants. That is not to say that civilians can be expected to play a major role in deciding the fate of America if it were to come down to a cataclysmic, anti-democratic situation.

A “Military” Takeover Would Be Quicker, Neater

Should the US armed forces go to the streets, they would likely be the ones to decide the issues. They form a well-trained, cohesive force, loyal first to one another, then to their officers. They’re well armed and disciplined and they follow orders. That’s the problem. You won’t find many free thinkers or rebels among them. That has been systematically trained out of them.

Under the authority of a carismatic leader they could take control of the country before the democratic machinery of government could even finish its morning coffee. This has been the truth of revolutions from time immemorial. Though they are a minority of the population, the armed forces are the ideal collective to take over a country. Many of the great revolutions and watershed battles of history, from Hannibal to Washington, Lenin and Mao Tse Tung, have been launched—and won—by committed minorities. That’s what we’re talking about here, a revolution. And revolutions are won or lost thanks to the mindset of their troops. What then is the mindset of the American military today?  Are the profesional American soldiers, sailors and flyers, from top to bottom of the ranks, up for a right-wing populist coup d’etat? That is the operative question because, in the end, it would all depend on them.

According to a 2018 Military Times poll , support for Trump began diminishing among US military personnel in 2018, but not as much as the opposition might wish. A more recent Military Times poll from December 2019 finds Trump support slipping further, with half of active-duty service members unhappy with Trump.

Troops unhappy with Trump
Graphic results of a December, 2019 “Military Times” poll.

The above pie graph would seem to indicate that troops who perceive President Trump as the adversary have the advantage in a confrontation. Is that a certainty? Far from it. The process of defending a democratic government under threat works much slower than that of a typical military coup. Takeovers are carefully planned, timed and coordinated. They hit hard and fast. The government supposedly has intelligence sources and contingency plans. Even so, their reaction is a reaction, inevitably less effective. Even this scenario might be too optimistic. They might be more like the cuckolded husband: the last one to find out. That’s what happened when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989. Nobody in the US intelligence services was expecting it.

A Military Coup Is Extremely Unlikely, Unless…

(From Business Insider, Oct. 5, 2019) While military coups are actually quite rare, they do have some things in common, according to Nathaniel D.F. Allen, assistant professor at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. “Most military coups occur when things are not going well – during an economic downturn, mass protests over living conditions, and government corruption.” The US has certainly passed this first hurdle. Nobody could affirm that things are going well there today. Allen adds, “One of the most important factors is popular unrest.” The US can tick that box, as well.

A military coup is extremely unlikely to occur in the US for a number of reasons, says Allen, citing the high standard of living and balance of power between political and military forces,” adding, “But ensuring broad popular support and committing to good governance is a part of fending off a military overthrow.”

The problem with Allen’s reassuring remarks is that a lot has changed in America over the past year. The coronavirus pandemic has made short work of “the high standard of living and balance of power between political and military forces.” As for “broad popular support” and “good governance,” are concerned, that’s two more strikes against a democratic solution to the American emergency. Today everything looks increasingly off balance and up for grabs. It is beginning to look like fertile soil for a military takeover. In this most-likely theoretical case the US military would not have to “overthrow” President Donald Trump. He would be the instigator, on board from day one cheering the takeover. And the “enemy” would be the Constitution of the United States.

Plenty of Room for Pessimism

Just a month before Allen’s article was published,  The Atlantic ran in November, 2019, Mark Bowden’s story called “Top Military Officers Unload on Trump.” The subtitle sounds familiar: “The commander in chief is impulsive, disdains expertise, and gets his intelligence briefings from Fox News. What does this mean for those on the front lines?”

Bowden’s account of his talks with “officers up and down the ranks,” is riveting. Four of them were three and four-star generals, now retired. Three of them had worked directly with President Trump. Bowden opens his article with this chilling caveat:

Cognizant of the special authority they hold, high-level officers epitomize respect for the chain of command, and are extremely reticent about criticizing their civilian overseers. That those I spoke with made an exception in Trump’s case is telling, and much of what they told me is deeply disturbing. In 20 years of writing about the military, I have never heard officers in high positions express such alarm about a president. Trump’s pronouncements and orders have already risked catastrophic and unnecessary wars in the Middle East and Asia, and have created severe problems for field commanders engaged in combat operations.

This long Atlantic article is a litany of typically Trumpish presidential flubs and bloopers, along with numerous false starts and double-backs, but no apologies from the Commander in Chief. Bowden ends his article with a quote from one of the generals he interviewed: “The hard part is that he may be president for another five years.”

###

Thanks for following, commenting a sharing.

Featured

Let’s Talk About Evil, America

American Evil3

We Must Make Some Value Judgments

When I was a sophomore in college we used to sit up all night in the mezzanine lounge at Case Hall (MSU) and talk about life. It was probably because we had time and what the Spanish call “inquietud,” roughly “restlessness,” but more extensive. I thrived on those conversations but also found them frustrating thanks to a smart student from New York who was a bit older than the rest of us and was a folk singer. He commanded some respect.

Whenever I would arrive at what I thought was an acceptable conclusion on any subject he would say, “Ah, Mike, you can’t affirm that. That’s a value judgment.” And he was always right. This went on for the better part of the school year. Then, one night in the spring of 1963, around four in the morning, he had me cornered again and it occurred to me to reply, “Jesus Christ, Harvey, that’s what we’re here for, to learn to make valid value judgments.” Since then I’ve been free.

The dictionary says of evil: “profound immorality and wickedness, especially when regarded as a supernatural force,”citing this example: “his struggle against the forces of evil.” It goes on: “morally reprehensible, bad, wrong, sin, immorality, vice, iniquity, baseness, perversion, corruption, depravity, villainy, atrocity, malevolence…” I would add my own personal flavors of evil: “hypocrisy, aggression, embargos and sanctions, genocide, falsity, dishonesty, opportunism, ruthlessness, greed, dirty tricks, black ops, exceptionalism, lies and euphemisms, false flags, regime change, free world, economic crimes, manifest destiny, militarism, and utter lack of human values…”

American Evil Is Firmly Rooted in Hypocrisy

Of all of these hypocrisy is the most serious as it encompasses all the others. It is one thing to commit cold-blooded murder but another to try to justify or even glorify it. This is where American ideologues–from both political parties–excel. They regularly “justify” regime change, invasions, occupations, naval blocades, indiscriminate mass bombings, illegal ordnance, relocations of civilians, indefinite detention without due process of law, torture, assassination, embargos and sanctions… all of which are crimes against humanity. All of which are quintessential American evil.

Their “justifications” attempt to convert a rogues’ gallery into a Sunday school class. It cannot be done. The so-called justifications for the Vietnam war were the standard old saws of the day: anti-communism and the domino theory. Sure, General Vo Nguyen Giap was about to drag his ragtag army 7,000 miles across the Pacific and take San Francisco by surprise.  The justification for initiating hostilities in Vietnam was a coldly fabricated lie: the Tonkin Gulf Incident. The American ship was not touched by even a feather. The story was made up of whole cloth, a fact that was later acknowledged by the Americans themselves. As for anti-communism, that began at the end of the First World War (Start by googling “Polar Bear Expedition, 1918.”) and they haven’t come up with a better idea since.

Not that it ever was a good, honest idea. The Russians were never a threat to America until the Americans foisted on them the necessity of protecting themselves. They were loyal allies during the World War II, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt was convinced he could work with Stalin after the war. Then Roosevelt died unexpectedly and Churchill and Truman took over the peace negotiations. Churchill, a British aristocrat, never forgot how his fellow aristocrats were executed during the revolution in Russia (1917-23) and he retained a visceral anti communism for the rest of his life. As for Truman, he was a failed haberdasher from Missouri who once applied for membership in the Ku Klux Klan. He was promoted by the St. Louis Democratic Party machine then run by “Boss Pendergast” and became vice president over a better man (Roosevelt’s choice Henry Wallace) thanks to Democratic machine manipulation. The result of Truman’s atypical presidency was the double atomic bombing of Japanese civilians (double evil), and the Cold War, (long-term evil), just resurrected to deal with China (delayed evil).

Iraq and Afghanistan, the Frosting on the Cake

The Iraq wars were cut from the same cloth. The victim is a sovereign country struggling to get by under the repressive regime of a tinpot dictator, one of many.  They were making it through until President George W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney, in the aftermath of 9/11, decided that Iraq was oil rich, endowed with excellent targets and it would be less complicated than fighting a war in the Himalayas.  It was an easy matter for the Americans to concoct the weapons-of-mass-destruction pretext and peddle it to a series of reliable running-dog allies. They, incidentally, could then participate in the fabulous business opportunities Iraq offered. The massive death and destruction wreaked on Iraq is not over yet and Abu Ghraib is permanently etched in the American history of evil.

What’s next? Iran and Venezuela, the former a long-time victim of Britain and the United States dating back to the 1908 Anglo-Persian Oil Company concession, the latter cursed with some of the richest reserves of natural resources in the world, neither of which has committed grave offenses against the United States. That is excepting the Iranian hostage crisis, 1979-1981. But that was small change compared to the CIA regime-change operation that re-installed the ruthless and corrupt Shah in power for 12 years after ousting the elected President Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953. In the following year the foreign oil firms were reinstated in the business of exploiting Iran’s oil under the Consortium Agreement.

Homespun Evil Never Left

Then there’s the pervading evil at home. How is it that the United States, supposedly one of the most profoundly Christian countries in the world, can harbor so much evil, especially in places where Christians congregate? Racism is America’s foundation evil, and it’s thrivingl today. Instead of being eliminated root and branch after the Civil War, it has evolved from cotton-field exploitation and lynching parties to seriously-skewed legal and incarceration systems and trigger-happy police officers. Will the current protests make a difference? We don’t know yet.

According to The Journal of the American Medical Association, there are seven social processes that grease “the slippery slope of evil”:

  • Mindlessly taking the first small step
  • Dehumanization of others
  • De-individuation of self (anonymity)
  • Diffusion of personal responsibility
  • Blind obedience to authority
  • Uncritical conformity to group norms
  • Passive tolerance of evil through inaction or indifference

This process is virtually codified in the American ethos based on extreme individualism, greed, authoritarianism, conformism, and social indifference.

It seems that human values are based on tenuous premises, sustained by concepts like “natural law,” “the laws of God,” and simple humanity. But they’re the best we have, and without them we’re lost. There are, of course, degrees of lost, which go from simply aimless wandering to willfully and unredeemably lost in a never-ending morass of evil. That’s where the United States is now on July 27, 2020.

###

Thanks for following, commenting and sharing.

Featured

Trump Activates Fascist Takeover

Feds2

“They speak about the dumbing of America as a foregone thing, already completed, but, duh, it’s a process, and we haven’t seen
anything yet.”–Michael Herr, Kubrick (2000)

Full-Blown Fascism Lifts Off in America

The deployment of President Trumps “federal troops” in Portland–a traditional progressive bastion–and his promises to take similar measures  in Chicago, New York, Albuquerque, Detroit and other Democratic strongholds, forms the edge of the wedge of a truculent new strategy with three obvious objectives:

  • To consolidate his campaign for re-election and rally his followers with theatrical shows of force.
  • To intimidate his opposition all over the country.
  • And this is the most worrying: To rehearse on the street his studied, incremental fascist takeover of America.

    What are they hiding beyond the bread vans, the riot gear and the anonymity?

Disclaimer: When I say “his” troops and “his” strategy, I’m not referring to Trump personally. Nor would I dare to suggest that he “studied” anything. I think it’s clear by now that Donald J. Trump is incapable of the structured thinking required to elaborate a coherent plan, whether it be for a political or a military campaign or both. In normal circumstances the activation of this blatant boots-on-the-street operation would seem premature. The elections are still 13 weeks away. But a series of grave recent events has obliged what’s left of the Trump team to anticipate the program. The exploding coronavirus epidemic and Trump & Company’s extreme incompetence in dealing with it, his alarming descent in the polls–his revered “ratings”–and the corresponding rise of Joe Biden, demanded a high-profile response.

They would have us believe that the presence on the streets of the “feds” is intended to quell the unrest, but the truth is the exact opposite, and they know it. As Beau of the Fifth Column, an exceptionally lucid southern journalist, points out, the US military’s own manuals on civil unrest make clear that the intervention of troops serves mainly to grow the number of protestors and intensify the situation in the streets. Trump’s stormtroopers are not there to extinguish the fire, but to fan the flames. Beyond this point anything can happen. Are they looking to provoke a Kent State University moment? That would certainly dissuade minority voters from going to the polls.

To further obfuscate the panorama the Trumpers have launched the opening salvos of a new Cold War against China. This is a dangerous and gratuitous Trump initiative, unnecessary, untimely and counterproductive, especially when led by his Dummkopf Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. The Pompi is not worried, though, as he’s got an ace up his sleeve. He knows that he’s capable of igniting a nuclear war in the Middle East that will jump start the Apocalypse which will, through a miraculous biblical process called “The Rapture,” propel Pompeo and the rest of his Evangelical/Pentecostal cohorts directly into Heaven. Happily for them, this process brings with it a curious by-product. At exactly the same time as the faithful are being sucked up, the rest of us–you, me and, ironically, Donald J. Trump–will be rocketed directly into Hell. This, of course, sounds silly to us but it doesn’t to Mike Pompeo, perhaps history’s all-time worst choice for any country’s chief of diplomacy.

What Can We Know?

How little we know, and what they’re telling us can’t be trusted. Trump & Co. are masters of the fumbling falsehood. If the troops are from the Border Patrol’s BORTAC elite unit brought up from the Mexican border, as the government alleges, why are they operating out of unmarked white bread vans? Doesn’t BORTAC have transport of its own? So, the questions arise: Who is in those white vans and on the street gassing, grabbing, and harassing demonstrators? Why don’t they identify themselves? Why don’t they follow standard arrest procedures? Why aren’t the detainees read their rights? Whom do the “feds” answer to? What is their chain of command? Are they trained for dealing with civil disturbances? Do they operate under the Uniform Code of Military Justice? What rights do the detainees enjoy and what recourse after they are released? Do they have access to the paperwork. Is there any paperwork? What are the federal troops hiding beyond the bread vans, the riot gear and the anonymity? Who is going to prosecute them when the time comes? Until we have answers to all of these questions the so-called “feds” are under suspicion of mass kidnapping.

On July 23, yesterday, President Trump announced the units of “federal troops” that he would be using when extending the operation to other cities, all governed by Democratic administrations. He mentioned the FBI, The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the US Marshall Service, and Homeland Security. That’s practically the whole Department of Justice. It seems an incongruous lot to be out on the streets perfoming crowd control duties. Or is the President simply lying? We know that the Big Bald Lie is his specialty. Don’t be suprised to discover, in the aftermath of this giant re-election clusterfuck, that the “federal troops” were actually just well-dressed mercenaries rented by the Trump re-election campaign committee.

Hamilton Nolan writes in The Guardian today (24/7/2020):

If there was ever a tipping point, we are past it. Trying to stare hard at the daily news to determine the exact point at which we slip into fascism is like staring at a baby to see when it turns into an adult. By the time you perceive it, it’s already happened. It is important to understand that the crackdown phase that we are now in – the unaccountable government forces, the riot police, the teargas, the targeted political prosecutions that will come next – are not something new, but something old. This isn’t about Donald Trump. This is about America, baby. This is what we do.

Who’s in Charge?

Chad F. Wolf  is the man, the thug from central casting who currently holds the position of acting Secretary of Homeland Security. He was previously a lobbyist for Wexler & Walker, a now-defunct lobbying firm, who helped clients win contracts from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), his previous employer. During his tenure in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) he was one of the creators of the Trump administration’s family separation policy, the kids-in-cages operation. In February 2019 he was nominated to the position of Under Secretary, but his confirmation was delayed by a protest from Senator Jacky Rosen regarding poor conditions for children at DHS facilities. (Source: Wikipedia)

Now, with this ghoulish baggage, he’s turned loose on the streets of America, to make the country even greater (They already lead the world with more than 140,000 coronavirus dead.) and to guarantee re-election for President Donald J. Trump.

###

P.S. Let me recommed a book which has been on my bedside stand for three or four decades. In it you may recognize patterns of America’s past and future under President Donald Trump. It was written after the Second World War by William L. Shirer, a reporter who been through it all, and based on first-hand German and American sources, many of which are no longer available. The book is called The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1960).

Thanks for following, commenting and sharing.

Featured

This United States Will Self Destruct in 90 Days

Trumps_America

American Democracy’s in a Downward Spiral

Is It Terminal?

Freedom House is a Washington-based think tank with an illustrious pedigree dating back to the age of bi-partisan cooperation in the US government. Created in 1941 with the mission of battling isolationism in America and fascism around the world, its two honorary chairs were the First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Wendell Willkie, who was the Republican presidential candidate in 1940, before losing to Eleanor Roosevelt’s husband, Franklin. Over the years, Freedom House has studied a broad spectrum of threats to freedom, from McCarthyism to Soviet oppression. Since 1973, it has published “Freedom in the World,” an annual country-by-country report that has been called the “Michelin Guide to democracy’s development.”

This single high-court decision is responsible for converting the US Congress from a truly representative legislative body into a brothel in which most of its members are available in exchange for fees sufficient to reassure their re-election. That sounds crude, but it’s cruder than it sounds.

The 2020 edition recorded the fourteenth straight year of deteriorating freedom around the world; sixty-four countries have lost liberties in the past year, while only thirty-seven registered improvements. Its assessment of the United States is also disturbing. In 2009, the U.S. had a score of ninety-four out of a hundred, which ranked it near the top, just behind Germany, Switzerland, and Estonia. In the decade since, it has slipped eight points; it now ranks behind Greece, Slovakia, and Mauritius. Looking at the United States, Freedom House analysts note the trends that they usually assign to fragile corners of the globe: “pressure on electoral integrity, judicial independence, and safeguards against corruption. Fierce rhetorical attacks on the press, the rule of law, and other pillars of democracy coming from American leaders, including the president himself.” (Source: FreedomHouse.org)

President Donald Trump’s latest and most sinister act of political theatre was the deployment of camouflage-clad troops on the streets of Portland, Oregon the other day. There they began grabbing demonstrators and dumping them into unmarked white bread vans. The press rushed to dub them “federal troops,” but the truth is that at this writing we don’t yet know whose troops they are. Do they belong to the Regular Army, the National Guard, the CIA or other clandestine forces, or are they mercenaries? What was their mission? Are they crowd-control specialists? Who commands them? What is their chain of command? Do they respect the Uniform Code of Military Justice? Meanwhile, all we know is that they were nattily dressed, were kidnapping people and smelled like the dress rehearsal for a fascist takeover. 

The Economics Behind American Democracy’s Demise

The essential economic explanation of the decline of American democracy over the past 20 years can be seen in the “elephant chart,” one of the past decade’s most famous economic graphs, one that aims to summarize the state of the world–and especially the American–economy in the post-Cold War era:

Elephant chart

Using World Bank data from researchers Christoph Lakner and Branko Milanovic, the chart shows how each part of the world’s income distribution fared from 1988 to 2008. There are two big winners: the rapidly-rising middle classes in  East Asia (especially China) and South Asia (especially India); and the ultrarich, who are concentrated in affluent countries of Europe and North America. Not surprisingly, the meteoric ascent of the incomes of the rich coincides with what Freedom House refers to as the “slipping” of democratic standards around the world and, especially, the United States. (Source: Vox.com)

“Poderoso Señor es Don Dinero”–Money Talks

The end of this destabilizing economic trend is not in sight. The more money accumulates in the hands of the super rich, the more resources they can marshall to keep the big wheel turning. A Spanish proverb says, “Mr. Money is a powerful gentleman,” and that’s a universal truth. The extent to which big money is devouring democracy in the US since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision legitimized big business contributions–and ending legal limits–to election campaigns, is astonishing. This single high-court decision is responsible for converting the US Congress from a truly representative legislative body into a brothel in which most of its members are available in exchange for fees sufficient to reassure their re-election. That sounds crude, but it’s cruder than it sounds.

The LA Times, said this about the Citizens United decision:
The biggest effect of the ruling has been to engage and empower the very wealthiest Americans, across the political spectrum. The top 100 individual donors contributed $339 million in the 2012 presidential campaign year. That figure leaped to $768 million in the next presidential campaign year, 2016.

Spending on presidential elections grew 66% from the 2000 campaign between Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore to the 2016 campaign between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. At the same time, spending on congressional campaigns grew 143%.

According to Protect Democracy, a legal-watchdog group dedicated to combatting the rise of authoritarianism in America, “the growth and spread of democracies that defined the 20th Century peaked in the early days of the 21st; since 2005, the state of democracies around the world has receded.” Ian Bassin, the executive director of Protect Democracy, also cites the elephant graph as a reliable indicator of America’s democratic decline.

Legend has it that he was one of the models for the character of Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove and also gave Kubrick the idea for the Doomsday Machine.

According to Bassin, the most significant public protest in the name of democracy was on the first day of Donald Trump’s Presidency. Since then many Americans have become inured to Trump’s abuses and retro-advances. First, they started ignoring the tweets. Then they passed on his rallies, his lies, and random acts of transgression. American legal activists working against the slide documented by Freedom House consider that, since Trump was acquitted in his  impeachment trial, he has entered a bolder phase. In its latest squeezing of the press, the Trump campaign has sued The Times, the Washington Post and CNN for libel.

America’s Hit Bottom, Now What?

At the beginning of the sixties Herman Kahn was a brilliant 40-year-old defense analyst at the Rand Corporation in Santa Monica, California. Legend has it that he was one of the models for the character of Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove and also gave Kubrick the idea for the Doomsday Machine. At the beginning of his career Kahn wrote two influential books: On Thermonuclear War in 1960 and Thinking about the Unthinkable in 1962. In these books Kahn elaborated on what the whole country was concerned about in those days: nuclear war with Russia. From that time until a few months ago that was the inexorable “unthinkable” threat to America. The bomb.

This Trump family clown show plays out while the country–leaderless–is immersed in the most dangerous depths of of the coronavirus pandemic.

 

As we know, “God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform.” (William Cowper, 1773.) The United States has just been blindsided by the perfect unimaginable threat, and it’s not the bomb. It’s the coronavirus pandemic, a menace that proves to become an order of magnitude larger than World War II, the country’s last existential threat.

There is, however, a deciding difference between America’s plight at the outset of World War II in 1941 and the spot it finds itself in today: leadership. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was a competent honest man and, equally important, a president determined to look out for all the citizens of his country. He guided the United States sanely and skillfully through the war in Europe and the Pacific and left his country the undeniable world leader before dying an untimely and deeply lamented death.

The Man Responsible

President Donald J. Trump is the man is responsible for guiding the United States safely through today’s potentially much bigger crisis. The virus is playing unrelenting hardball and, even to attenuate it, requires a leader with high-level qualities. He or she must be magnanimous and absolutely disinterested, concentrated fully on the present and future wellbeing of his people–all of them. He must be intelligent, mentally agile and with high degrees of conviction and valor. He must be physically, mentally and morally strong. It is essential that he be backed up by a team of loyal-to -the-Constitution, competent professionals. Above all else he must be capable of instilling confidence in the vast majority of his citizens, and those of the rest of the world, who look traditionally to the United States for leadership. His last priority must be his own wellbeing and prosperity.

Unfortunately, based on his performance during his presidency thus far, President Trump is so manifestly deficient on all these counts that there is little hope for the future of his country. And the future is bearing down like an implacable freight train.

Underlying all the President’s deficiencies is a cheap, simplistic ideology essentially limited to removing all barriers to predatory laissez faire capitalism, lowering taxes,  eliminating essential social programs for the citizenry, and letting the uber-rich run the country through a marionette Congress. Not only is this meager political philosophy not working. It is impoverishing his country and turning it literally into an international laughing stock.

This situation is growing graver by the day. It’s almost as if the President were mentally and morally handicapped. Whenever he’s caught out, instead of rectifying, he doubles down. Just the other day, after his daughter, a federal employee, is called out for endorsing a brand of beans, the President himself appears in the media sitting in the oval office behind his desk, which displays an assortment of goods from the same manufacturer, who had, coincidentally, publically praised the President a couple of days previously. Did he also make a generous contribution to Trump’s re-election campaign?

Trumps_with_beans

This Trump family clown show plays out while the country–leaderless–is immersed in the most dangerous depths of of the coronavirus pandemic. The United States was–and is–leading the world in coronavirus cases and deaths. The graph is soaring upwards, the populace is wallowing in sanitary anarchy, Trump’s SS-style secret police are on the streets of Portland, and the White House spokesperson is assuring Americans that  Trump government will not yield to “science.” This is a recipe for the annihilation of the the US part of North American continent. And, given the vigor of the virus, we won’t have to wait long to see it consummated. Say, 90 days.
###
Thanks for following, commenting and sharing.
Featured

US Firearms Deaths, So Much Left to Do

Sandy_Hook

So Much Has Been Said; So Little Has Been Done

Perhaps Americans should be reminded that the regular-as-clockwork firearms deaths in their country are unnecessary. How do we know that? We know it because they don’t happen with such monotonous regularity in other advanced countries. Then why do they occur so often in the US? They happen for a lot of reasons but the principal one is that there is a criminal conspiracy under way in the US to perpetuate the so-called gun culture, regardless of the tens of thousands of firearms victims every year.

American citizens want stricter gun control. (See extensive Gallup poll results on “Guns” over the past 20 years and more.) But what Americans want, even in cases as egregious as this one, is irrelevant. Their hands are tied by a cabal of gun manufacturers, right-wing extremists, second-ammendment nuts. outdoorsmen, and terrified white male citizens who fear their homes will be invaded by long-haired guitarists.

The most meaningful anti-gun movements are not being organized by the usual suspects. They’re being created and worked by kids such as the young survivors from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School killings on Valentine’s Day, 2018, in Parkland, Florida. The Parkland shootings have been the catalyst for a lot of anti-gun-violence activism by young people. Here’s a link to a site that lists seven such groups.

On the other side of the fence is the pro-gun Second Amendment Check website that published the NRA-ILA’s lists on their site. If you follow the link and scroll down through the lists, especially the last one, which lists the names of “individuals and celebrities,” you might get the creepy feeling that they all look like hit lists. And BBC News contributes this chilling list of American gun-violence statistics compiled in 2018.

Gun Deaths Are Rooted in Bogus American “Philosophy”

Guns and gun killings in the US are the symptoms of an underlying systemic evil. That evil is philosophical, not ballistic. In the land of the quick buck, self-made men, rugged individualists, and thuggish authorities, guns are necessary fashion accessories. Nobody  has stopped to realize that the most rugged individualist of all is the shooter, who is prepared to die to affirm his sick agenda. And the rest of the gun lobby, though not pulling the trigger, are his partners.

They provide him with dubious psuedo-philosophical underpinnings. Their principal argument is based on the sacrosanct American Constitution, specifically the Second Amendment, which guarantees American citizens the right to “keep and bear arms.” In the view of the gun crowd the Second Amendment trumps an “unalienable right” enunciated in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence: the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happinesss.

This inverted pro-gun argument would be thrown out by an honest, unbiased judge, but in the wake of right-wing judicial appointments on all levels in recent years, that judge would be hard to find. The justices of the United States Supreme Court, are appointed to lifetime terms by the President. How’s that for separation of powers? As a consequence, in judicial matters, and barring a miracle, this generation of American citizens are essentially bereft of  justice in gun violence cases.

It is shocking that the anti-firearms activists in the US are so meek as to be campaigning only in favor of limited gun control, such as banning 30-round magazines. A shooter with six-round magazines can kill just as many people. It just takes him a few seconds longer. If they banned all firearms the United States would inevitably become a better country. But the American anti-gun lobby is so intimidated by the pro-death lobbies that they dare not demand more. They are well meaning and hard working but they simply don’t have the kind of clout the National Rifle Association has. The NRA can skip carefree through the carnage, dispensing condolences and glibly proposing more guns to solve gun violence. Would this criminal cynicism be permitted in any other country in the civilized world? Come to think of it, is this case of cynicism enough to exclude the United States from the civilized world?

There is ample justification for banning all guns. Killing animals for “sport” is not much nobler than killing people. We are all  warm-blooded mammals. A total ban would certainly have a dramatic effect on the killing of human beings. That is important if  you place a high value on the lives of human beings. But there are large sectors of the US electorate that place those lives far down their list of priorities. For them there are many desirable results that come before human life. There’s profit and property, racial superiority, patriotism, empire, and countless other specious justifications. Until the anti-gun people can counter all of these powerful–though-false factors, they have no hope of producing gun-violence change in the United States.

Mass Shootings and Suicides

A study carried out by Frederic Lemieux and reported in Scientific American on June 13, 2016, concludes:

Mass shootings also took place in 25 other wealthy nations between 1983 and 2013, but their number in the United States far surpasses that of any other country included in the study during the same period of time. The US had 78 mass shootings during that 30-year period.

The highest number of mass shootings experienced outside the United States was in Germany – where seven shootings occurred. In the other 24 industrialized countries taken together, 41 mass shootings took place. In other words, the US had nearly double the number of mass shootings than all other 24 countries combined in the same 30-year period.

As American mass shootings are frequent and sensational and naturally offer gory  stories and arresting images, they are regularly featured in the media.

A Congressional Research Service (CRS) report from 2013 identified 78 “public mass shootings” between 1983 and 2012, which claimed 547 lives. For context, 11,622 people (more than 20 times the mass shooting toll over three decades) died in gun homicides in 2012 alone…

Massive media coverage is particularly intense when the killings take place in schools and the victims are children. But as heart wrenching as these incidents are, they are not the principal problem. In fact, an article on Vox.com from November 14, 2018 reports that mass shootings (incidents in which four or more people are killed) represent only about one percent of American gun deaths. So what’s the other 99%?

According to the Vox article, most of US gun deaths are suicides, which are more frequent in places with more guns. As the United States has approximately as many guns as it has citizens, the suicide rate is high. Research, compiled by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, has found  that suicides in recent years were around 60 percent of US gun deaths.

Is There Hope for Change?

Considering the systemic origins of US gun deaths and their roots sunk into the deep substrate of American dystopia, it would be unreasonable to expect significant change in gun death numbers without similar significant change in all the rest of the American realities. That would entail some minimum prerequisites:

    • A government run by sensate, compassionate politicians along the lines of Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand.
    • A Supreme Court made up of similar-minded justices.
    • A majoritarian mass movement of convinced, progressive Americans.
    • Some serious financing.

Do you foresee the remotest possibility of all those conditions coming together? Your answer to that question is a reliable predictor of America’s hope for gun deaths change.

Thanks for following, commenting  and sharing.

 

 

 

 

Featured

USS Liberty–Crew Murdered by Israel, Betrayed by Their Commander in Chief 2/2

USS Liberty survivors
US sailors transport the wounded from the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty, 1967.

Is Help on the Way?

USS Liberty veteran and author, Jim Ennes, observes, “The attack on the USS Liberty remains the only major maritime incident in all US history that has not been publicly investigated by the United States Congress.”

There was a US aircraft carrier within ten minutes’ flight time of the scene of the attack. Why didn’t they intervene immediately? Planes actually did take off, but they were ordered back to the carrier on direct orders from the highest level in Washington . There is only one plausible explanation for such questionable orders. Someone in Washington wanted to give the Israeli attackers time to finish off the USS Liberty and its crew. It would not be untoward to suggest that it was that same highest-level authority who organized the subsequent coverup.

One thing is clear, if the Israeli attack was intentional and planned to sink the USS Liberty and kill every mother’s son on board, and if the US government engineered a conscientious coverup of the facts of the event, we are looking at the gravest American debacle and cloaking operation since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in November of 1963. And there are aspects of the USS Liberty case that arguably make it even more outrageous. The Kennedy killing was–allegedly–the work of a single deranged gunman, followed by a proper Congressional investigation presided over by the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court.

But the events surrounding the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967 and their subsequent top-level coverup implicate both the Israeli and United States governments. This is a sole case in the annals of US Naval history and a blatant injustice to the American dead, wounded and the rest of the survivors. USS Liberty veteran and author, Jim Ennes, observes, “The attack on the USS Liberty remains the only major maritime incident in all US history that has not been publicly investigated by the United States Congress.”

“It Helps to Show That We’re Peaceful”

This scene, recorded by Jim Ennes in his book, shows just how innocently the Liberty entered the Israeli abattoir on the day of the attack:

At about 10:30 we received another visit from the flying boxcar,
now more curious and coming closer. Watching the airplane through
binoculars, I told the quartermaster to call the captain by telephone
to inform him of the visit. The airplane paralleled our course to
starboard, turning left in front of the ship in a pattern that was now
becoming routine. Another left turn and he appeared on our port
side. Again I checked our flag, found it flying freely as usual, and
noted that the relative wind was still from dead ahead and of sufficient
speed to display the colors clearly.

“Well, they certainly know who we are by now, don’t they?” said
Captain McGonagle, who had come to the bridge
quickly in response
to the telephone call. “It’s good that they are checking
us out this
carefully. This way there won’t be any mistakes. Early this

afternoon they’ll probably come out by boat to give us a closer look. “It’s
good that we have sunbathers on deck,” added McGonagle. “It helps to
show that we’re peaceful.”

The Israeli Navy and Air Force Could Not Sink the Liberty

This betrayal, I submit, set the all-time low mark in American military, diplomatic, and presidential history.

Ironically, the combined efforts of Israeli air force jets employing rockets, fragmentation bombs, and napalm; and navy torpedo boats were unable to sink the old repurposed Worldl War II Victory ship. The torpedo boats launched five torpedoes, four of which missed their target, though the fifth blasted a 40-foot breach in the Liberty’s hull and converted 25 of her crew members into a mass of bloody collateral damage. But they did not succeed in sinking the ageing, repurposed World War II Victory ship, the crew of which managed to maintain it afloat as palpable evidence of Israel’s cynical betrayal of their American ally.

After the attack and the removal of the dead and wounded, the Liberty limped under its own power to a drydock in Malta where the ship was given a cosmetic going over so that, from the outside, it looked as if nothing had happened to it. When it arrived back at it’s home port, observers had no reason to suspect that it had come under any attack. Shortly afterwards the Liberty was decomissioned and junked.

If the Israeli assault was an exercise in unalloyed evil, the United States’ response might be considered even worse. The US government’s coverup, spearheaded by President Lyndon Johnson personally, turned the country’s back on 294 Americans who had been strafed, napalmed, machine gunned, and torpedoed in the line of duty, with 34 of them killed and 174 wounded.  His priority was to excuse and cloak the worst offense in American maritime history, with complete indifference to the crew members of the Liberty, who had lost limbs and lives in a gratuitous attack by a trusted ally. Is there any cogent explanation for the President’s ghoulish procedure?

Beware the Help from the Lobby

Research since the events has distilled a credible explanation: The Israeli government threatened President Johnson with turning loose the powerful US Israel lobby–the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)–and their affilliates across the country. Their power, even in those days, was such that their campaign donations could profoundly influence US elections. And Johnson was coming up to the 1968 re-election campaign. The prima facie evidence indicates that the president felt his re-election hinged on the support of the Israel lobby in the US. He opted, of course, for re-election. His choice to stay in office entailed betraying the honor of 294 hard suffering Americans and of the United States itself, though setbacks in the Vietnam War later convinced him to abandon his campaign for re-election. This betrayal, I submit, set the all-time low mark in American military, diplomatic, and presidential history.

Only one ship approached the Liberty to offer help. Here’s Ennes’ account:

On the bridge, men continued to scan the sky and to search the
horizon for American ships or airplanes. No American forces were
sighted. The first sighting was not American, but Russian. Soviet
guided missile destroyer 626/4 arrived after midnight-hours ahead
of Martin’s forces-to send a flashing-light message in English.
DO YOU NEED HELP? asked the Russian.
NO, THANK YOU, the conning officer replied.
I WILL STAND BY IN CASE YOU NEED ME, the Russian answered.
Thus the Soviet skipper remained near Liberty to wait with her
for the arrival of American ships.

While the Liberty survivors were gathering the body parts of their mates and stowing them in plastic bags for shipment home, the US-Israeli partnership went sailing blithely on as if nothing had happened. In fact, in the public perception, thanks to a near-perfect coverup, nothing had happened. Bad things can occur by accident in war. Everybody knows that except the Liberty’s surviving crew members. They lived that apocalyptic day, perceived its intentionality first hand, and endured the horror of the attack–and will continue to endure it–till their dying days. Their survivors’ association (www.usslibertysurvivors.org) continues to struggle to keep the Liberty’s story alive and to insist upon a proper congressional investigation but, after half a century, there’s not much hope left.

“Friendly Betrayal” Is Like “Friendly Fire”

We have learned what was lost on that clear, sunny day in 1967. Besides an ageing Victory ship and 34 members of its crew, America lost its international reputation for honesty, trust, and simple decency, though it gained fame for the lowest form of state cynicism. More recent history has shown that the gruesome mechanisms that carried the day in 1967 have been substantially reinforced since 1967. The US Israeli lobby is all powerful in the US Congress and the White House today. This is from the NY Times, July 23, 2019:

WASHINGTON — The House…on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan resolution condemning the boycott-Israel movement as one that “promotes principles of collective guilt, mass punishment and group isolation, which are destructive of prospects for progress towards peace.” The 398-to-17 vote, with five members voting present, came after a debate that was equally lopsided; no one in either party spoke against the measure. 

In an ironic reflection of the “USS Liberty Incident,” President Donald Trump still depends upon AIPAC & Co. to secure his re-election in 2020.

As for the state of Israel, it enjoys its far-right Likud government and its perennial president Netanyahu. It remains the darling of American subsidies, mainly for military materiel.  The Israelis are still freely grabbing Palestinian land and casting a lustful eye on Iran. According to MiddleEastMonitor.com, they have made common cause with the Saudis in the devastation of Yemen. In short, it’s bloody business as usual, and the remaining survivors of the Liberty will soon be gone and forgotten, buried under a heavy load of “friendly” betrayal.

Thanks for following, commenting and sharing.

Back to Part 1

Featured

USS Liberty–Crew Murdered by Israel, Betrayed by Their Commander in Chief 1/2

Never forget

Friend or Foe?

It’s been five decades and a bit since the “US Liberty Incident” and I’ve been living in the dark all this time. I suspect you may have, too. When the Israeli air force and navy launched a devastating unprovoked attack on an American technical research  (electronic spy) ship in international waters just thirteen miles off the Gaza Strip during the 1967 Six Day War, I naturally accepted the US government’s explanation: that it was due to a tragic case of misidentification on the part of the Israelis.

That they should knowingly attack a United States ship for no cogent reason seemed unlikely to me. The Israelis were, after all, friends, allies and massive American aid recipients. It couldn’t happen. Besides, President Lyndon Johnson, himself, declared that it was a tragic accident, putting the whole matter to rest. Johnson was lying, as we shall see.

Liberty_cover
The other night I’m wandering around YouTube when I run across a 2014 documentary called The Day Israel Attacked America, Al Jazerra investigates the shocking truth behind a deadly Israeli attack on a US naval vessel. Al Jazeera is the Qatari online news channel. I’ll listen to anybody if they’ve got reasons. This time they had reasons in spades. What I found most convincing–and most horrifying–was the live testimony of the surviving crew members. One of them, Lt. James Ennes, then age 24, wrote it down in a book 13 years later: Assault on the Liberty–USS Liberty Memorial. Ennes was one of many crew members who continued to work to keep the ship afloat and help the wounded throughout the attack, though wounded himself.

His notes on the dust cover set the scene vividly:

In June, 1967, jet aircraft and motor torpedo boats of Israel brutally assaulted an American naval vessel, USS Liberty, in international waters off the Sinai Peninsula in the Mediterranean Sea. The attack was preceded by more than six hours of intense low-level surveillance by Israeli photo-reconnaissance aircraft, which buzzed the intelligence ship thirteen times, sometimes flying as low as 200 feet directly overhead. The reconnaissance pilots were heard by intercept operators in Germany and by American airborne intercept operators reporting to their headquarters that they could see an American flag and men sunbathing on deck.

The carefully orchestrated assault that followed was initiated by high-performance jet aircraft, was followed up by slower and more maneuverable jets carrying napalm, and was finally turned over to lethal torpedo boats which fired five torpedoes. Four missed. The one torpedo that hit the ship blasted a forty-foot hole in the ship’s side.

The attack lasted more than two hours — killing 34 Americans and wounding 174 others — and inflicted 821 rocket and machine-gun holes. And when the Liberty stubbornly remained afloat despite her damage, Israeli forces machine-gunned her life rafts and sent troop-carrying helicopters in to finish the job. US Air Force intercept operators heard Israeli jets being vectored to “the American ship” which they were ordered to sink quickly. Those who have seen these transcripts insist that they leave no doubt that the Israelis knew they were attacking an American ship.

Before USS Liberty arrived in the area, U.S. Sixth Fleet Commander Admiral William Martin promised to provide air support within ten minutes if an emergency arose. Yet when the ship did come under attack, the White House blocked any air rescue for more than 90 minutes. Officers on the bridge of the aircraft carrier Saratoga heard Liberty’s radio operators calling for help while bombs burst in the background, but were forbidden to help. When Navy jet aircraft were finally authorized to come to the ship’s aid, the Israeli government suddenly ended the attack and withdrew, claiming that they had mistaken the ship for an Egyptian horse transport named El Quseir. Only then did the identity of the assailants become known.

Details of the attack were hushed up in both countries. Israel claimed that her forces mistook USS Liberty for an Egyptian ship, and our government publicly accepted that excuse despite evidence to the contrary. Meanwhile, in top secret diplomatic mail, US Secretary of State Dean Rusk accused the Israelis of demonstrating “blatant disregard for human life” and said that the attack was no accident. Then our government downplayed the intensity of the surveillance and the severity of the attack and imposed a news blackout to keep the official story under control. The official version is that the Liberty was reconnoitered only three times and then only from great distance. The American people were told that the air attack lasted only five minutes and that it was followed by a single torpedo and an immediate apology and offer of assistance.

Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time of the Liberty incident, said that he, “cannot accept the claim by the Israelis that this was a case of mistaken identity.”

 

Questions Left Pending

No Congressional investigation regarding the USS Liberty Incident was ever carried out, though the surviving crew members have been clamoring for one since the events occurred. (See the USS Liberty Veterans Association website: https://www.usslibertyveterans.org/)

Nevertheless, a 1967 US Naval Court of Inquiry investigation concluded that the testimony record revealed “a shallow investigation, plagued by myriad disagreements between the captain and his crew.” (Although severely wounded. Comdr. W. L. McGonagle, the commanding officer, remained at the conn to guide the ship out of shallow water. He was later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for valor. There was no suggestion of a quid pro quo.)

According to the record of proceedings, four days were spent hearing testimony: two days for fourteen survivors of the attack and several U.S. Navy expert witnesses, and two partial days for two expert U.S. Navy witnesses. No testimony was heard from Israeli personnel involved. The conclusion of this somewhat haphazard inquiry, according to Wikipedia, was that:

The official U.S. records of the Liberty incident were designated top-secret and closed to the general public. The U.S. government and Israel jointly stated: “That the Israeli attack upon the USS Liberty had been the result of error, and nothing more.” However, Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time of the Liberty incident, said that he, “cannot accept the claim by the Israelis that this was a case of mistaken identity.”

President Johnson Himself Led the Hasty Coverup

Pentagon officials waited nearly forty minutes to inform Johnson, who was in an important meeting. Then National Security Advisor Walt Rostow telephoned the President to tell him that a U.S. Navy ship was in trouble.

Jim Ennes describes the President’s reaction:

The immediate White House reaction to the attack, I am told
by a former staff member, was to accept Israel’s apology at face
value even though there was considerable skepticism that the 
attack was entirely accidental. The President could ill afford a 
confrontation with Israel.His major concern was to bring about 
an end to the war before the Soviet Union stepped in; a 
confrontation with Israel would likely destroy the leverage he 
needed.

After some discussion, Johnson detailed Clark Clifford to head an 
investigation into the circumstances of the attack, and the White
House resolved to bite its collective tongue until the Clifford report 
came in. By this time, the Israeli government had hastily summoned 
the US naval attache to report that an unidentified “maybe Navy” 
ship had been erroneously attacked. 

When the Clifford report eventually came in, it contained no
evidence that the attack was deliberate, and White House tolerance
of the affair as a “feasible” error of war thus became permanent.

As soon as President Johnson learned of the attack and spoke with the Israelis on the subject, he launched an immediate all-points coverup which included swearing the surviving crew to silence and threatening them with prosecution if they should leak any information regarding the events they lived aboard the Liberty on June 8, 1967.

Three Questions

Three questions immediately arise: Why did the Israelis do it?  Why did the American forces in the area stand off. And why such an urgent coverup on the part of the US President? The vital issues posed by the USS Liberty case are moral questions of the first rank. The Israeli military command knowingly designed and executed an operation the object of which was to sink the Liberty and assure that its crew members were all killed. It was not just to neutralize the Liberty’s offensive capabilities–which were nil insofar as its armament was limited to four merely testimonial 50-caliber machine guns, useless against the array of armament the Israelis turned loose on them. The Israelis knew what they were doing and they were aware of just how irregular it was. What possible justification could they have for the proposed cold-blooded murder of the entire crew of a harmless American ship. Subsequent research suggests two possibilities:

  1. The object of the operation was to sink the ship, eliminate the crew to the last man and blame the outrage on the Egyptians, a classic false-flag operation. In order for it to succeed they had to assure that the ship was at the bottom of the sea and not a single witness was left alive. This is the least convincing explanation.
  2. Aware that the Liberty was monitoring radio messages in the area, the Israeli command feared that, as one of the United States’ most sophisticated National Security Agency’s (NSA) listening operations, it would pick up the chatter regarding the Israeli’s planned land grab in the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights programmed for the following day. This was an illegal operation under international law, one that they had previously renounced, but it was nevertheless carried out and remains in force until today, more than half a century later. This version makes more sense.

###

Thanks for following, commenting and sharing.

Go to Part 2/2

Featured

Darwinian Auto Genocide in America 2/2

US_Virus_Map_29062020

Seen from abroad today, as the deadly statistics surge–2.5 million cases and 125,000 deaths to date–it looks as if the Americans are orchestrating their own genocide.

They’ve Got Schisms in their Isms

“But a solution that covers all Americans indistinctly is socialism!” you say. That’s correct. But, call it what you will, some form of socialism is the only possible solution to the Americans’ current crisis. A virus on the rampage doesn’t distinguish between the struggling poor folks and the “better class of people.” It rips through all their houses and schools, their churches and country clubs. That said, the consequences for racial and ethnic minorities are vastly more serious, due to their already tenuous living conditions. (Source: cdc.gov) If the American government were capable of organizing and implementing a country-wide set of measures–testing, contact tracing, social distancing, masks and universal medical care–they certainly wouldn’t call it socialism. But if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…

Such an optimistic eventuality as effective government intervention is far from assured in today’s Washington, because the Trump administration is the least enlightend since Atilla the Hun. Then too, Americans have been inculcated for generations with the notion that collective solutions are un-American and it probably wouldn’t occur to them to demand any. (We might make an exception of Massachusetts which, not for no reason, is called not a “state,” but a “Commonwealth.” Even Mitt Romney was infused with that spirit when he was governor there and instituted the most advanced public health system in the US.) Continue reading “Darwinian Auto Genocide in America 2/2”

Featured

Darwinian Auto Genocide in America 1/2

genocide_definition

The Americans Are Eliminating Themselves

The United States, which has been leading the world in coronavirus cases and deaths for the past few weeks, has turned a corner. While countries around the world have taken effective public health measures to attenuate the effects of the virus on their societies, Americans are doing the opposite. The resurgence of the virus in their country has been the most virulent in the world and their numbers are now significantly above previous levels from the height of the pandemic, and still rising. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently stated, “Forget worrying about the second wave; we’re still in the first wave and we haven’t seen the worst of it.” Observing them from a safe distance–the other side of the Atlantic–people are asking themselves, “How on earth can this be happening? What inconceivable series of events might have caused the greatest country on earth to deteriorate into the leader of the Third World?

There Are Various Reasons

1/ A gravely deficient existing infracture in place when the virus struck. The United States is unique among industrialized countries for its lack of a universal health care system. A significant sector of their population is without health coverage of any sort. Data from the US Census Bureau indicates that a total of 27.5 million Americans had no health insurance during 2018. Faced with a life-threatening accident or illness and lacking the money to pay the hospital they’re obliged to go home and die.

But now Americans are faced with a novel twist in the script. The fate of rich and poor alike is linked like Siamese twins. If one catches it, the other one does, too. In order to save themselves the rich must help save their less-fortunate others. Will the American power elite be capable of perceiving that fact? If they do, will they be able to take the appropriate–and inevitably expensive–measures necessary to give everybody in their country an equal chance of survival? Or will they just slip deeper into denial mode to the detriment of all?

“But a solution that covers all Americans indistinctly is socialism!”

2/ A lack of contingency planning. When Senate Majority leader, Mitch McConnell’s boldly asserts when discussing pandemic preparedness and COVID-19, that clearly, the Obama administration did not leave any kind of game plan for something like this…” he is either confused or lying. According to Kaiser Health News (khn.org),  this document entitled “Playbook for Early Response to High-Consequence Emerging Infectious Disease Threats and Biological Incidents” was produced in 2016 under President Obama’s leadership. Unfortunately, President Trump scrapped the plan in one of his eliminate-the-Obama-legacy tantrums. In 2018, he gave the order to shut down the White House pandemic response initiative left in place by the Obama administration.

So when the virus struck there were no contingency plans nor preparations at hand. Could Trump be charged with criminal malfeasance for this action, or at least committed to a mental institution? In any case, the Trump administration entered the fray too late and gravely lacking plans and expertise. The American people continue to pay the penalty in human lives.

The other recent Trump initiative to discredit Obama is his dragging the Affordable Care Act before the Supreme Court in an effort to get it rescinded, an act so grotesque during a pandemic that it makes him look like an evil Don Quixote.

3/ No unified leadership nor coordinated response country wide. A pandemic does not respect state lines. It was clear from the outset of the coronavirus that a unified all-across-the-country plan and careful implementation would be necessary to deal with it. Instead of taking that elementary step the Trump admnistration entered into a fruitless, time-wasting period of negotiations in competition with the individual states over the procurement of face masks, protective clothing for health workers, etc. In this process the putative author of The Art of the Deal lost more precious time and the penalty was exacted again in American lives. In terms of leadership, Trump’s refusal to wear a mask during his  public appearences, takes us into surrealism. It has been clear for a long time that President Trump and his curious governing team were more interested in making political hay than in protecting American citizens. Trump’s only priority has always been and remains reelection.

4/ An ideology that has predisposed the US to inadequate answers to a threat that begs for a collective response. It is not enough to assure the lives of a select group of citizens and leave the rest to their own devices. This, though atypical in the rest of the world, is the standard American response. In this case, however, it won’t work. As long as there’s a single family living in third-world conditions in the remotest corner of the country, all Americans are at risk. In order to defeat–or even retard–the virus the entire population must be included in the plan of reaccion to the virus, regardless of race, religion, social class, gender or sexual orientation.

This isn’t always easy in the US where the backlash of American individualism frequently rears its head. What is local administration supposed to do when hysterical citizens rally together, sometimes violently, in crowded venues, to denounce the infringement of their first-amendment freedom of assembly? Just telling them that it’s for their own good doesn’t seem to work. Eventually, Darwinism will take care of them, but what about their family, friends and neighbors? Coronavirus is highly contagious.

5/ A confused and ill-prepared population. Wallowing in a hodgepodge of distractions and false values, a significant minority of Americans are largely incapable of confronting any serious threat to their society. Their reactions don’t go much beyond thuggish armed street disorders, the classic magical religious responses, and the sword rattling of semi-illiterate white supremacists, to fuck-it-let’s-have-a-beer frivolity. Taken altogether we might refer to all these “strategies” as Lemmingism.

###

Thanks for following, commenting and sharing

Go to Part 2

 

Featured

Teaching Your Children Solid Lies–2/2

American_Exceptionalism

The American Foundation Lie

One lie rules all the others. It’s the lie of American exceptionalism. American children are nursed on it along with their mothers’ milk. It comes in various guises but they all have to do with the “fact” that Americans are different from the rest of humanity: somehow better, more idealistic, more generous, more industrious,  more advanced, more democratic, cleaner, more godly. And these qualities, of course, entitle Americans to certain inalienable privileges.

Soldiers are trained to kill for their country. The unsuspecting recruits usually don’t discover that it’s a scam until it’s too late.

Branding Patriotism

American_Flag_mfg

Patriotism as big business thrives on the lies that teachers tell American schoolchildren. Americans purchase some 150 million US flags every year, 10-20 million of which are imported from China (and are not subject to President Trumps import tariffs). No other country in the world reveres its flag as the US does. The caskets of their soldiers returning from foreign wars are wrapped in it, making the package look more like a Christmas present than a dead boy. People from other countries consider it an American fetish. It does, however, advance the American ultra-nationalist agenda. Flag enthusiasm is the abracadabra that permits them to justify the unjustifiable on countless occasions and in countless contexts.

American patriotism has also been reduced to selling cars and credit cards. The Brandkeys.com site lists America’s most-patriotic brands. A national sample of 5,862 consumers, 18 to 68 years of age, balanced for gender and political party affiliation, drawn from the nine U.S. Census Regions, evaluated brand resonance for “patriotism.” Here are the top 10:

1 Jeep
2 Disney
3 Ford
4 Coca-Cola
5 Levi Strauss
6 American Express / MSNBC
7 Hershey’s
8 AT&T / The New York Times
9 Walmart
10 FOX News

According to Statista.com 72% of Americans are “Extremely” or “Very” Proud to be American

The Kardashianization of America could turn out to be a prime cause of the country’s ongoing decline.

Not Just Textbooks

It’s not just textbooks that keep the beloved American myths alive. Lots of other factors help to condition the intellectual atmosphere under the American bell jar.

The Military–With all its heroism, terrorism, expensive toys and glorious history of victories declared, the military is the lie personified. Soldiers are educated by semi-literate drill sergeants to kill “for their country” to defend the Constitution. The unsuspecting recruits usually don’t discover it’s a scam until it’s too late. The price they pay is exhorbitant.

The Scouts–The Scouting movement, with its uniforms, marching, saluting, survival skills, and patriotic cant, has been since its inception in 1910 a para-military organization, virtually a children’s army that has had a massive influence on American boys. Until recently it was statutorially bound to churches, another quintessential Americanizing factor for young people to get their heads around. Things are about to changing radically, however, as the scouts and the church are now legally separated and, as this NY Times headline from Feb. 18, 2020 points out: Boy Scouts Seek Bankruptcy to Survive a Deluge of Sex-Abuse Claims. Pederasty has a long history in scouting, starting with its founder, British Lt. General Baden Powell, who revealed his “affection for boys” in his diaries. It’s possible that today’s mix of scandal and economic disaster will mean the end of scouting.

The Media–Television, Hollywood movies, right-wing radio, and the mainstream press don’t require much government control to put out the “correct” ideological messages. Virtually all of these media are owned by conglomerates that benefit from the promotion of tendentious American mythology.  Nine-eleven, of course, opened the floodgates for jingoist content of all sorts.

Who is acknowledged by the American people as the most patriotic American of our time, in answer to the question: “Name anyone – alive or dead – you feel best personifies the value of “patriotism” in the United States'” Originally posted on Brandkeys, as part of a study of consumer values in America, the answer to this question is not hard to guess.  John Wayne’s character and unwavering patriotism still stand the test of time, as consumers answered, unaided, that John Wayne is the most patriotic person in 21st-century America, quite a feat as he died from lung cancer in 1979. 

Pop Culture and Consumerism–The roles of pop culture and consumerism in the nurturing of American lies is indirect but essential. Both of these all-encompassing phenomena occupy and infantilize the nation’s thinking and lifestyle so thoroughly that there remains little room in the collective mind for anything else. The Kardashianization of America could turn out to be a prime cause of the country’s ongoing decline.

The Trouble with Lies Is That They Come Unraveled with Time

The American exceptionalist lies, which were never taken seriously abroad, started to be doubted even by some enlightened Americans themselves in the light of their government’s gratuitously savage foreign wars and economic imperialism. That tide began to turn with the anti-Vietnam-war demonstrations organized by “radical” American students in the sixties. Bearing banners and yelling slogans on the streets of American cities was considered “radical” while indiscriminate mass murder by grid bombing carried out by American B-52 Stratofortress bombers was mere business as usual. Not much has changed in the intervening half century, considering right-wing America’s truculent response to today’s Black Lives Matter marches, which President Donald Trump, the law-and-order candidate, is astutely using as a creepy springboard for his 2020 presidential campaign.

Isn’t It Time to Heal America?

It shouldn’t be too hard to heal America. All they would have to do is face the facts–not the myths–honestly, renounce the lies publicly, repent openly, repeal the noxious textbooks, correct the mendacious institutions and take significant measures to address inequality. Working hard with broad cooperation, dedication, and perseverance that healing shouldn’t take more than three generations. The Germans and the Japanese achieved it in two.

###

Thanks for following, commenting and sharing.
Back to Part 1
Featured

Teaching Your Children Solid Lies –1/2

Lies_My_Teacher_Told_Me_
This book, published almost 25 years ago and republished twice since, drew the curtain back on how young Americans were–and are–systematically lied to about their country’s history and its role in the world.

American High School History Classes Teach Mythology

In 1995 American sociologist James W. Loewen published Lies My Teacher Told Me, an essential book that illuminates the indoctrination that passes for education in American high school history classes. The book was so important that updated versions have been published twice since then.

Loewen’s methodology was simple enough: buy a dozen of the most popular textbooks of American history for 11th-grade high-school students, meticulously analyse each one of the books, compare them, evaluate them, and place them on the history-mythology continuum.

The results of this analysis reveal that mythology wins. The first priority of all these seminal books in the formation of young American minds is to foment “traditional American values,” not to teach the unvarnished facts of history.

Goodreads.com has this to say:

Marred by an embarrassing combination of blind patriotism, mindless optimism, sheer misinformation, and outright lies, these books omit almost all the ambiguity, passion, conflict, and drama from our past.

Racism, for example, is not mentioned in any of them. Slavery, in particular, was the driving force behind major events like the Louisiana Purchase and the Civil War. Loewen points out that, “as long as history textbooks make white racism invisible, neither they nor their students who use them will be able to analyze race relations intelligently.”

No Warts on America

Why do textbooks promote wartless stereotypes?” asks Loewen. “The authors’ omissions and errors can hardly be accidental.” He then chooses two paradigmatic figures from American history to illustrate his point: President  Woodrow Wilson, the 28th US commander in chief, and the remarkable blind and deaf humanitarian, Helen Keller. Wilson is known, and enters into high-school history books, as the altruistic promotor of the post World War I League of Nations and for his 14-points declaration which included  proposals to ensure world peace in the future, open agreements, arms reductions, freedom of the seas, free trade, and self-determination for oppressed minorities. Wilson even suggested that there would be another world war within a generation should the U.S. fail to join the League. Woodrow was quite the statesman and diplomat.

President Wilson’s Sinister Side

What few US high school history books mention is that Wilson was authoritarian and racist at home, having promoted the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition act of 1918, which Loewen refers to as “probably the most serious attacks on the civil liberties of Americans since the short-lived Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798.” Wilson, with his persecution of progressive causes–he promoted the notorious Palmer Raids against left-wing unions–and foreign interventions, paved the way for McCarthyism, the Patriot Acts,  and the disastrous invasions of Iraq. Under Wilson the US intervened in Latin America more often than at any other time in American history. Loewen cites an article published in the Saturday Evening Post in 1919, “After World War I, the Wilson administration’s attacks on civil liberties increased, now with anti-communism as the excuse. Neither before nor since these campaigns has the United States come closer to being a police state.” That was in 1919. Much “progress” has been made in the advancement of the American police state since then and we’re seeing the results of that progress on American streets today.

Helen Keller Was Much More

Helen Keller, Loewen’s other example, is portrayed in the history books as an admirable case of individual victory against tremendous odds, an American success story. Her activities recorded for American high-school students are limited to her remarkable educational achievements and her charitable work. But Keller’s life was much more remarkable than that. Loewen recounts:

She was a radical socialist. She joined the Socialist Party of Massachusetts in 1909. She had become a social radical even before she graduated from Radcliffe and not, she emphasized, because of any teachings available there. After the Russian Revolution she sang the praises of the new communist nation. ‘In the East a new star is risen!’ Gradually she moved to the left of the Socialist party and became a Wobbly, a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), the syndicalist union persecuted by Woodrow Wilson.

Inexplicably, none of this information made it into any history texts for American students.

The Shining City on the Hill,Champions of Self Deception

“The land of the free and the home of the brave…” begins to sound a little shopworn after watching children, forcefully separated from their families, imprisoned in wire cages on the evening news. As for “bravery,” that’s hard to detect in killer operations conceived in the White House, launched from underground bunkers in the Nevada desert by expert computer gamers and destined to take out terrorists, along with their mothers and children, their cousins, neighbors and the milk man on dusty streets of impoverished Middle Eastern countries. Emma Lazarus’ poetic fragment from the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” sounds like empty claptrap in a country that is more concerned with “free” markets than free people. But those distinctions elude most Americans today. To them “fraydom is fraydom,” whether delivered by lies or by drones.

The United States Armed Forces are there to safeguard those fraydoms. But there are some anomalies in that, too. Recently there was some talk inside the Trump administration of renting out American military units to the Saudis. Seen from a shrewd businessman’s point of view the deal would permit the US to recover some of their investments in “national security,” but they might have trouble explaining it to the mothers of American military personnel killed and maimed over there. In former times those deaths could be explained away as “in defense of American democracy” or “protecting the American homeland” but what American mother would sell her son’s or daughter’s life in defense of Saudi oil wells, war on Yemen, and bone saws?

###

Thanks for following, commenting and sharing.
Go to Part 2
Featured

Which Shithole Country?

Trump_Shithole2

The Day “Shithole Entered the Presidential Lexicon

On January 11, 2018, during an Oval Office meeting with several U.S. senators about a new immigration package for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries, President Donald Trump inadvertanly opened a fresh controversy regarding just what constituted a “shithole country.” He didn’t elaborate on it. In fact, he later denied having said, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” (The Atlantic, Jan. 12, 2019)

Someone should ask President Trump what his criteria are for assigning countries to his “shithole” category. They may have to explain what “criteria” means… and that it’s plural because it’s Latin… Oh, never mind.

I think it’s safe to assume that a “shithole country” is a place where people live in a deep, dank hole that they’re not about to escape from any time soon. How did a series of unfortunate little countries get into that ugly situation? Was it just assigned to them by “history?” Not exactly, it’s about imperialism–first Spanish, then American. Those little countries were fine until the white man began to exploit them. And that exploitation–some of the cruelest in history–goes a long way to explain their ending up in dark holes. President Trump mentions specifically the cases of Haiti and El Salvador.

Columbus ravages Haiti
Christopher Columbus takes Christian values to the New World.

They hacked them to pieces, slicing open their bellies with their swords as though they were so many sheep herded into a pen.

The Western Hemisphere’s First White Supremacy

Haiti was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493 and named by him, “La Isla Espanola.” It was the venue for the Europeans’ first genocide of Native Americans. Because, contrary to American legend, Columbus was not a nice man and neither were his colonists. Within twenty-five years of Columbus’ arrival in Haiti, most of the island’s Taíno people had died from enslavement, massacre, or disease. En route to enslaving the entire population of the island–and exporting some of them to other islands–the Spanish regularly hunted down escaping islanders, murdered them and fed their carcasses to the dogs they had thoughtfully brought along with them from Spain. Today not a chromosome remains of  the DNA of the original inhabitants of what was to become Haiti.

Washington Post writer, Gillian Brockell, elaborates:

Bartolomé de las Casas arrived in Hispaniola in 1502, when he was 18. For decades, he participated in the mistreatment of the Taíno and the introduction of enslaved Africans, before renouncing it all, becoming a Dominican friar and confessing what he had witnessed in “A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies.”

“It is worth quoting him at length,” says Brockell, “this excerpt is very graphic:”
They [Spanish explorers] forced their way into native settlements, slaughtering everyone they found there, including small children, old men, pregnant women, and even women who had just given birth. They hacked them to pieces, slicing open their bellies with their swords as though they were so many sheep herded into a pen. They grabbed suckling infants by the feet and, ripping them from their mothers’ breasts, dashed them headlong against the rocks. (The Washington Post, Oct. 14, 2019)

Flash forward 500 years, and the Haitians are again experiencing problems of white supremacy. In 2004 the US State Department was not happy with Haiti’s newly elected–for the second time–president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. So they shipped him out–escorted by American diplomats to an American airplane–in a coup d’etat that cleared the atmosphere for American business as usual.

El Salvador Similarly Razed

More than 75,000 Salvadorans were killed in the fighting, most of them victims of the military and its death squads.

El Salvador is another classic case of brutal imperialism, and its perpetrators are still slithering around Washington. The prime example is the elderly neocon apparatchik, Elliott Abrams, recently recycled as the American envoy to Venezuela.  Abrams will always be remembered for trying to cover up before the American Congress the El Mozote massacre where, in March 1993, the Salvadoran Truth Commission reported that more than 500 civilians were “deliberately and systematically” executed in that village in December 1981 by forces affiliated with the Salvadoran government.

Time magazine says of Abrams:

Abrams, a longstanding neoconservative diplomat, served in the State Department during the Reagan Administration and played a key role in U.S. interventions in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala in the 1980s. He later joined the New York-based think tank, the Council on Foreign Relations, as a senior fellow. His appointment to oversee the U.S.’s response to the situation in Venezuela, where Trump has refused to rule out “a military option,” led many to raise concerns over his past dealings in the region, including his entanglement in the notorious Iran-Contra scandal. (Time, Feb. 14, 2019)

In the early 1980s the American clandestine services joined the illegitimate Salvadoran military junta in its struggle against the Farabundo Martí National Liberation front (FMLN)–a coalition of left-wing groups. The Americans financed, trained, equipped and transported the government troops. 

Raymond Bonner writes in The Atlantic, Jan. 20, 2018,

It was a civil war of the 1980s, one that pitted leftist revolutionaries against the alliance of countries, oligarchs, and generals that had ruled the country for decades—with U.S. support—keeping peasants illiterate and impoverished. It was a bloody, brutal, and dirty war. More than 75,000 Salvadorans were killed in the fighting, most of them victims of the military and its death squads. Peasants were shot en masse, often while trying to flee. Student and union leaders had their thumbs tied behind their backs before being shot in the head, their bodies left on roadsides as a warning to others.

This gratuitous “civil war” lasted for more than 12 years. An unknown number of people who were “disappeared” are included in the UN estimates of 75,000 victims between 1979 and 1992. The war ended with the Chapultepec Peace Accords, but in 2016 the El Salvador Supreme Court ruled that the 1993 amnesty law was unconstitutional and that the El Salvador government could prosecute war criminals. (Wikipedia)

Trump’s Dangerous Militarization of US Politics by Ishaan Tharoor 

The world’s sole superpower is starting to look like more fragile countries elsewhere. Trump and his loyalists are only the second camp in the Western Hemisphere this past month to entertain notions of domestic military crackdowns: Supporters of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro have urged a full-fledged takeover of the administrative state as the president faces a storm of controversies amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Tharoor compares American racist horrror with the events of Tiannanmen Square in 1989. “Only under a dictatorship could such things happen, we say, forgetting OcoeeOpelousasTulsa, or Kent State.”

(The Washington Post, June 5, 2020)

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that the twisted conception of Latin American–and American–history held by American presidents since the promulgation of the Monroe Doctrine in 1823 is a series of “errors” and abuses that need clearing up. There may be a “shithole country” involved in the tragic stories cited by President Trump, but it’s neither Haiti nor El Salvador. Their roles were relegated, throughout their history, to those of simple victims of colonial savagery .

January 12, 2019 on The Daily Show

Trevor Noah sums it up in one minute, seven seconds:

###

Thanks for following, commenting and sharing.
Featured

Deep State Blues

Mike_Lofgren

Note: This article is mainly based on a 2014 interview with Bill Moyers (The Deep State Hiding in Plain Sight) on his Moyers and Company online program and the essay (Anatomy of the Deep State) that Mike Lofgren wrote for Moyers’ website at the same time. Also worthy of note is the mindset of Moyers, the interviewer. When he retired the first time in December 2004, the AP News Service quoted Moyers as saying, “I’m going out telling the story that I think is the biggest story of our time: how the right-wing media has become a partisan propaganda arm of the Republican National Committee. We have an ideological press that’s interested in the election of Republicans, and a mainstream press that’s interested in the bottom line. Therefore, we don’t have a vigilant, independent press whose interest is the American people.”

In the Beginning Was Mike Lofgren

Mike Lofgren has the benign face and mild demeanor of a high-school Latin teacher, but his message is anything but mild. Instead of prying Latin declensions into the heads of reluctant sixteen year olds, Lofgren spent his 28-year working life as a Republican Congressional staffer. So he has a privileged take on what goes on inside Congress, particularly the Republican Party. And he’s smart. Lofgren’s books and articles since retirement make clear that he is not cowed by people in high places. Just the title of his first  book (2013) gives us a hint: The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless and the Middle Class Got Shafted. The Washington Post characterized the book as “forceful, hard-hitting and seductive.” Lofgren said at the time, “I wrote the book because I am a concerned citizen.”

If you read the papers, both mainstream and alternative, though you may have long suspected something along the lines of the Deep State thesis, you could never substantiate it. This interview and Lofgren’s books will permit you do do just that. Even before his books he limbered up with a series of telling essays on Truthout.com. The first one, in September, 2011, was Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult. In it he explains why he retired, affirming that he was “appalled at the headlong rush of Republicans to embrace policies that are deeply damaging to this country’s future; and contemptuous of the feckless, craven incompetence of Democrats in their half-hearted attempts to stop them.” Mike Lofgren first used the term “Deep State” in his Goodby to All That essay, referring to a “web of entrenched interests in the US government and beyond (most notably Wall Street and Silicon Valley, which controls access to our every click and swipe) that dictate America’s defense decisions, trade policies and priorities with little regard for the actual interests or desires of the American people.”

“… rotton captives to corporate loot…”

He charged there that both major American political parties are “rotten captives to corporate loot,” but that while Democrats are merely weak and out of touch, the Republican Party “is becoming more like an apocalyptic cult.” That was in 2011, nine years ago. In the meantime his “…is becoming…” has evolved. It now would read “has become a fully-fledged apocalyptic cult.” Lofgren describes highly-placed Republicans as caring only about their rich donors; being predisposed toward war; and pandering to the anti-intellectual, science-hostile, religious fundamentalist fringe.

This essay published on BillMoyers.com is so cogent, so knowledgeable and so impervious to the passage of time, that it is still required reading. As usual, I printed it out and started highlighting the most salient paragraphs with a green felt-tipped marker. When I was finished I found page after page of solid green. Want to try it yourself? Here’s the link.

The Whole Point

With Lofgren’s second book, The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government (2016), he takes us even deeper into the Potomac swamp which, he affirms, now extends from New York to California. An observant reviewer on Amazon.com puts his finger on one of Lofgren’s most important revelations regarding the Deep State:

The whole point of the Deep State is that it is NON PARTISAN. It transcends democrats and republicans and you simply have to follow the money. Anyone who thinks that Donald Trump is not part of this – after appointing a cabinet of billionaires and generals, de-regulating Wall Street even further, and driving up the military budget while threatening to curtail what little social services we have left, have clearly drunk the Kool-Aid. You don’t get to be President unless you have the tacit support of the Deep State.

Trump’s Two-Headed Deep State

The best explanation of the Deep State is Mike Lofgren’s own in his 2014 Anatomy of the Deep State essay:

“There is the visible government situated around the Mall in Washington, and then there is another, more shadowy, more indefinable government that is not explained in Civics 101 or observable to tourists at the White House or the Capitol… Yes, there is another government concealed behind the one that is visible at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, a hybrid entity of public and private institutions ruling the country according to consistent patterns in season and out, connected to, but only intermittently controlled by, the visible state whose leaders we choose.”

Everything that President Trump says or writes, awakens the same questions: Is he confused or is he trying to confuse me? Or both? The subject of the Deep State is no exception. He frequently sees it–and uses it–as a whipping boy but sometimes, usually when he’s in trouble, he turns to it as an ally. Here’s Business Insider (on the subject:

Rather than referring to a “shadow or parallel system of government” operating outside official channels, for Trump the deep state is the government —
or at least those parts of it that frustrate him in any way.

The HuffPost (Jan. 27, 2020) has compiled some examples:

  • In November 2017, he blamed “deep state authorities” for a failure to continue investigating Hillary Clinton’s emails, calling those authorities “Rigged and corrupt.”
  • That same month, he tweeted that the FBI and the Justice Department were withholding information about “surveillance of associates of Donald Trump.” This was, he said, “Big stuff. Deep State,” and he demanded that someone “Give this information NOW!”
  • In September 2018, he suggested that the deep state does have its extra-governmental allies, “the Left” and “the Fake News Media”: “The Deep State and the Left, and their vehicle, the Fake News Media, are going Crazy — & they don’t know what to do. The Economy is booming like never before, Jobs are at Historic Highs, soon TWO Supreme Court Justices…”

Just a Conspiracy Theory?

Some people withhold that the Deep State is just a fantasy of conspiracy theorists. Who believes that? Like everything else in politics what people believe depends upon what they are presupposed–or paid–to believe. If you google Mike Lofgren’s books and essays and look at the readers’ reviews, you’ll find that the big half of them award him four or five stars and the rest, just one.  My guess is that most of those one-star readers are Republicans who haven’t actually read the book but are embittered by the fact that he let their cat out of the bag.

The Best Alternative Would Look Something Like This

This video might seem out of place here, but look again.  This, I submit, is the exact opposite of the President that the US currently enjoys, and the quintessence of what non-Trumpish Americans are seeking today for the leadership of their country.

J.F. Kennedy’s American University Commencement Speech 1963

Five months later President Kennedy was murdered in Dallas. Not five years later Martin Luther King was murdered in Memphis.

Good luck, America.

 

###

Thanks for following, commenting and sharing

 

Featured

Why the Morbid Fixation on President Donald Trump?

Trump's iPhone.
President Trump has an iPhone with one ap: Twitter.

Are We Neurotic or Is He Too Much?

My wife wakes me up this morning at a quarter to six.
“Good morning, what is it?”
“Oh, nothing, never mind.”
“What do you mean ‘never mind?’ You woke me up to tell me something.”
“Yes, but it was about Trump, never mind.”

We–you, me, my wife and millions more around the world–are not neurotic regarding the threats posed by President Donald J. Trump. We’re gravely concerned. And we have cause to be worried. For the first time in our lives our fate is in the hands of an apparent megalomaniac sociopath who has stretched the already alarming degree of American executive power to the snapping point. We have seen him arrogate to himself powers that few previous presidents have ever considered: the power to lie obviously and repeatedly; the power to slander and ridicule his political opponents, the press and his own staff; the power to defy normal standards of decency and humanity. Gravest of all, he has in his right forefinger the  power to launch single handedly world history’s sixth great extinction. In reality, the “nuclear button” is not a button. It’s a briefcase. According to the Washington Post, the president is always accompanied by a military aide carrying a “football” with launch codes for America’s nuclear weapons. The football is a metal Zero Halliburton briefcase.

President Donald Trump personifies the quintessentially American saying: “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” His public image is deplorable for about half of America, but it could not be more highly esteemed by the other half. Whatever he says, whatever he does, he manages to keep the country–and the world–in thrall, as if we were all watching the evolution in slow motion of the same multi-vehicle car wreck. He has taken the American presidency into the realm of snuff films. It’s too sick, too outrageous to bear. But we can’t resist watching. And when he oversteps even his own limits, instead of apologizing, he doubles down. Nobody has ever seen, nor imagined, this sort of presidential behavior.

Trump’s Communications Strategy

It’s not clear where the idea came from but President Trump employs a novel medium for getting his presidential messages out to his following: the tweet. It’s perfect for his peculiar style of communicating as Twitter messages are limited to 280 characters (raised from 140 in November of 2017) and he rarely needs more space to express his narrow range of boasts, threats, insults, and dismissals. This communications channel is immediate, direct, universal and free. And it’s capable of reaching in real time the entire 81% installed base of smart phones in his country.

This system does, however, have two drawbacks for the president.

  1. It exposes him to ridicule for his fifth-grade spelling.
  2. It gains him criticism for his frequent temper tantrums.

But this is a small price to pay in exchange for direct, unedited access to the American electorate. We must never forget that President Trump has only one objective: reelection. Any other consideration is not even secondary; it’s non existent. His followers don’t seem to object, and the rest of the electorate is irrelevant for President Trump.

What’s more, the recipients of his tweets are not limited to Twitter users, as the American media–both mainstream and alternate– give them viral treatment, passing them on to you whether you like it or not. So the entire US territory–and a great part of the rest of the world–is treated to a permanent warm bath of the president’s smarmy banalities. Before we start feeling too superior in the face of this lowbrow communications campaign, we must remember an overriding fact: It works for him. It probably got him elected in 2016 and may do so again in 2020.

The President’s Act

Perhaps the greatest part of President Trump’s draw is due to the fact that he is unique among the world’s leaders, past and present. The world has never seen anything like him. His oafish part-clown, part-bully persona evokes different levels of shock and awe depending upon which part of the world is watching. In the more open and informal, English-speaking countries like Canada and Australia his messages and their curious presentation leave listeners either laughing or mildly horrified–or more often both. But in more traditional, straight-laced nations like Japan and China the President of the United States looks and sounds as if he were from another planet, which is not to say he’s not fascinating in the way a tornado ripping down Main St. is fascinating. Unfortunately for him, however, fascinating  is not the same as trustworthy.

President Trump’s manners are exaggerated and unusual. His barging, me-first gestures, his stiff, posturing body language and awkward speech patterns have prompted some experts in abnormal behavior to suggest that the president may be entering into senile dementia. An opinion article in USA Today from Dec. 2019 affirms:

If Donald Trump were your father, you would run, not walk, to a neurologist for an evaluation of his cognitive health. You don’t have to be a doctor to see something is very wrong. 

Troll

The Collateral Damage

At the same time that President Trump is mesmerizing the country and winning reactionary, corporate, and Evangelical votes with his grotesque stagecraft, something different is going on the wings. His hand-picked crew of anti-government trolls–picked for their simple-minded ideology and loyalty to Trump, not their expertise–is busy dismounting the American government as we know it. The running of a country as big and complex as the United States requires brilliant managers, specialists trained,  experienced, and dedicated.

These have traditionally been people who could have made more money in the private sector, but have opted for public service. That is to say, some of the best, and most capable and disinterested people in the country. To take them off the job and replace them with unqualified minions dedicated to following orders from a chain of command that leads ultimately to deep-state oligarchs, places the entire country in serious danger. It’s like pulling all the air traffic controllers out of America’s control towers.

Shouldn’t something be done? Obviously. One thing is a riveting spectacle, quite another a mortal danger to the entire world. The obvious solution would be that the American voters were to vote President Trump out of office. Could that happen? Theoretically, yes. But what if he were to lose the election–despite the sophisticated methods of election tuning at his disposal–would Trump go tamely? Or would he precipitate Armageddon? This is just one more fascinating question that holds the world in thrall and to which only the president has the answer.

###

Thanks for following, commenting and sharing.

 

 

 

 

Featured

Get Out as Fast as You Can

Leaving_Trump

Americans, You’re in a Dangerous Place

Looking back at the essays I’ve written–more than 150 of them–for this blog over the past three years I note that in most of them there’s a tacit subtext for Americans: “Get out of there.” The United States is no longer a safe, healthy place for you to live and raise your children and grandchildren. Before it’s too late you need to get them out of the only country in the world where children wear bullet-proof knapsacks to school. And I’m not talking just about the obvious physical dangers such as police brutality; school shootings; violent racism, and the lack of a proper public health system. This factor alone has contributed to tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths of Americans during the  coronavirus emergency.

Even if those obvious dangers were not present the US would still be an unsuitable place to educate children. The reasons are less obvious but more cogent. The United States has a sick, false and ultimately dangerous value system. Americans overvalue things that are frivolous, irrelevant and inhuman and undervalue those that are essential to harmonious human life, things like altruism, civility, tolerance, and generosity.  They’re seeing more than ever now the results of twisted values on their streets and in their institutions. The brutality and inadequacy of President Donald Trump makes it easy for them to pass the blame to him. But President Trump didn’t make America; America made President Trump.

If you discuss the issues sincerely and dispassionately with a thinking person from any other country in the world, most of them will agree that today’s US is far down the road to moral, intellectual and economic ruin. It has been on that track for decades but, since President Donald Trump took office in 2017, the situation has spiraled out of control and the future looks even less promising.

A President for His Times

President Trump is the perfect prototype of what’s wrong with America. Any normalcy  that he might embody is overshadowed by his shady past, his lies, his conflicts of interest, and his unsettling stage presence. His lack of any normal social, intellectual and moral responses prompts people around the world to hold their heads in their hands and ask, “How is it possible for a person so bereft of normal human qualities to be elected president of what we have always considered the greatest country in the world?” This greatness may have been real 40 or 50 years ago, but not today. The only field on which the United  States can claim world leadership is the field of battle, though it’s not clear to what extent that superiority represents an advantage for them.

Despite spending sums that are galloping towards a trillion dollars annually, maintaining more than 800 military installations around the world, and boasting the world’s greatest fleet of killer drones, the Americans are still incapable of winning a war, not even in starving Yemen. They did not win in Irak and they are still grasping for an “honorable” way of backing out of Afghanistan after waging war against that impoverished country for more than a dozen years. Now they are rattling their missiles at Iran and Venezuela. In view of their track record, what do they expect to achieve, beyond lining the pockets of Lockheed Martin, Boeing and the rest of the select mob of American war profiteers? And let’s not forget the tremendous political clout those gentlemen wield.

This insistence on permanent war helps to explain the deficiencies faced by the American people at home: poverty, inequality, crippling racism, crumbling infrastructures and falling standards in public health and education, along with pre-civil-war levels of civil unrest. (I refer not to the last civil war, but to the next one.) These deficiencies and more have brought the people onto the streets and the country to its knees.

Consider How People Live in Other Countries

Comparisons may be odious but in this case I think it’s legitimate to look at the ranking of the United States among other nations and compare their conditions of health and welfare. The data that follow come from reliable international sources, many of them from the United States. Let’s start with overall health. According to the 2019 edition of the Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index, Spain is the healthiest country in the world, followed by Iceland, Japan, and Switzerland. The US is number 35 in the ranking. Life expectancy is also indicative of overall wellbeing. According to Worldography.info, who average the age for both sexes, the United States clocks in at number 46, with 78.11 years of life expectancy, just below Cuba and 44 other countries. At the top is Hong Kong with 89.29 years.  How does the US do in literacy? Andorra, Greenland, North Korea, and Uzbekistan enjoy 100% literacy rates as of 2015-16, according to the German site, citypopulation.de.  The Washington Post (Mar. 8, 2016) says under the headline Most literate nation in the world? Not the US, that the US has advanced from 11th to seventh place. That js a remarkably positive result for a country whose president refuses to read and is incapable of writing a proper sentence. This president may be a unique case in the entire world.

Other Benchmarks are Equally Telling

What about infant mortality? According to CIA.gov, the US ranks 36th (estimated data 2017) with 5.7 deaths per 1000 live births. These numbers are significantly bettered by countries such as Hungary (4.90), Poland (4.40), Portugal (4.30), Slovenia  (3.90), Spain (3.30) along with a couple of dozen more. Neither do the American results for electoral integrity fare very well in the world. “U.S. ELECTIONS RANK LAST AMONG ALL WESTERN DEMOCRACIES,” reads the headline on the electoralintegrityproject.com site (an electoral monitoring project run by Harvard and Sydney Universities) on January 7, 2017. The only ones, among western democracies, who held freer and fairer elections than the United States were everyone else.

Where the US is out front is in coronavirus deaths, where they y overtook China and Italy and currently lead the world with more than 106,000 fatalities.

That is to say, the US is slipping badly in vitally important areas, and these dismal results are not due to coincidence nor bad luck. They’re deliberately built into the American Way of Life and determine the condition of the majority of its citizens. That has not improved since the 1970s and cannot be expected to do so in the next generation or two. The American working class cannot recover because the deck is stacked against them by design. Before they are even born they are victims, via their parents, of a “constitutional democracy” that is little more than a mirage underpinned by a de facto oligarchy that pays pliable politicians, right up through the United States Congress, to unleash and protect predatory capitalism with all of its cruelest attributes. This includes the removal of economic and environmental regulations, gifts of massive tax cuts to corporations, as well as cynical multi-billion-dollar bailouts that include no corresponding equity for the citizens. At the same time they undermine workers rights at every step of the way. The coronavirus pandemic has only aggravated matters. A working family will be lucky to survive, let alone prosper. The voracious American oligarchy is exporting this slash-and-burn model of economic relations around the world.

Don’t Forget the Bright Side

The prospect of leaving the United States for good is not only about escaping an increasingly insufferable situation there. It’s also about the pleasant surprises that await you in your new country of choice. Yes, you can choose your country. What a revelation. We won’t dwell on that aspect here, but dozens of details of daily life will make you feel as if you’re living in a better, more civilized world–because you are.

Leaving your home country is a long-term project that entails formidable challenges. It’s not something that many people would do under normal circumstances. But these are not normal circumstances. And if you get it right the risks and efforts are more than worth the trouble. Take my word for it. I’ve been there.

###

Thanks for following, commenting and sharing.

Closing note. I have not touched upon the nuts and bolts of self exile in this post. A few years ago I published a three-part article on my old blog which goes into those subjects. It’s a bit out of date but you will get the drift. You can find it here.

 

 

Featured

For Crissake, General, Think of Your Grandmother

The Forgotten Human Factor in American Geopolitical Thinking

What do we have to do to remind American political and military leaders that all of their favorite bellicose initiatives–mainly wars but also “sanctions,” boycotts, blockades, regime-change ops, etc.–ultimately all fall on the backs of people, not abstractions. Those afflicted are schoolteachers and postal workers, mechanics and nurses, mothers and grandmothers, children and grandchildren. So when the McNamaras and Westmorelands, the Rumsfelds, the Wolfowitzes, the Cheneys, the Albrights, the Boltons and Abramses loose their indiscriminate–and curiously personalized–wrath on one country or another, be it Iraq or Venezuela, those who suffer aren’t politicians nor generals nor the institutions that make up “the country.”  Those who suffer are the grandmothers.

Don’t American politicians, strategists, bankers, industrialists and research scientists have grandmothers, or grandchildren? Or did all of these illustrious Americans just pop out of cyborg vending machines? If not, how can they justify the grief they engender with their perpetual quest for geopolitical advantage, for oil and gas, for arable land and fishable seas, in short, anything that can be “exploited.” When they’re calculating their troop depletion estimates do they also dial in the murdered and the maimed ballet dancers and flower vendors? Do they count the hungry children and the homeless refugees? What prompted Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, to make that spine-chilling comment in 1996 when she said on national TV that 500,000 Iraqi children dead from sanctions were “worth it.”

Merely a Monster?

Had she been smoking allspice or is she just a monster?  A few months later she was confirmed by the US Senate as Secretary of State and nobody even questioned her about this statement. Transporting 500,000 first graders would take 6,667 school buses, making a line more than 50 miles long. Albright’s father, the Czech politician and academic, Josef Korbel, was also the mentor of another hardliner, Condoleeza Rice. (Source: Democracy Now.com)

What’s wrong with these people? What have they got against humanity? What genetic deformation or failure in their upbringing makes them incapable of even considering the human factor? They are, after all, the coddled children of the richest, most advanced country in the world. They have always taken obscene privilege for granted. Can’t they remember their seventh-grade English teachers? Doesn’t it occur to them that the equivalent 50-year-old woman, also a teacher of English, who was carbonized from the air while riding in a collective taxi in Syria, was also a mother and grandmother? They can’t plead ignorance. They have some of the finest “intelligence” services in the world. Or do they consider it “just the cost of doing business?”

Is the wanton killing of innocent civilians really necessary? It may or may not be but it’s counterproductive. For every grandmother, son or daughter you kill, you create a tight-knit group of highly-motivated enemies whose mission–which will extend to coming generations–will be to kill Americans. So who benefits? Only the ghouls who profit from authorizing, creating and selling the Hellfire missiles used to atomize our grandmothers. In a sane country these “businessmen” would be put out to pasture to herd sheep and make cheese.

###

 

 

Featured

How America Might Survive

Human_Values3

Changing the Definition of What Is Valuable

A limo, a Jacuzzi, thousand-dollar shoes, private jets, rich friends, fame for being famous, cash in hand, political power, armed strength, economic growth…? What has value?

Umair Haque, my favorite observer of the American condition, says on Medium.com, March 31, 2020:

Amazon, Inc. is worth a trillion dollars, give or take. But the ongoing survival of the human race is literally worth nothing to capitalism. Nothing but profit has any worth whatsoever to it. That’s all that’s capitalized on stock markets or denominated in bonds. But capitalism is the system of the world… America fought a hidden world war to globalize it — attacking nations from Chile to Iran to Iraq to Vietnam. It was successful. Today, we’re all paying the price of that success. Capitalism has literally eaten through the planet, nature, and life on it. Now it’s beginning to eat away at the human race itself — its health, happiness, longevity. That is what Coronavirus really is.

American Capitalism’s Stately Pleasure Dome

It has taken US corporate capitalism less than a century to erect a seemingly-unassailable edifice of exclusively market values, an American Xanadu. According to these norms everything can be bought and sold. It must be so in order to achieve capitalism’s summum bonum: economic growth. That, of course, is a lie just as egregious as “manifest destiny” or “the war on terror.” Because long-term growth is absolutely limited by the world’s resources, and they are shrinking fast while the appetites of capitalism are insatiable to the point of driving the world’s sixth mass extinction of species. What annual economic growth does assure is vast wealth for the usual suspects: fossil fuel giants, “defense” industries, big pharma and tobacco, flukish online multi-billionaires, and banks and vulture funds of every stripe.

But the long-term effects of unending growth on the country, on other countries, and the planet itself, are fatal. The world is already half dead and if US predatory capitalism is permitted to continue “leading the way,” the extermination is imminent. And there’s no cogent reason to believe that will not be the outcome. Fast-money capitalists now control “the greatest country in the world,” along with massive swaths of the rest of it. Do you see anybody committed and powerful enough to stand in their way? Not the militarists. They have the growth industry of the moment. Not the population at large. They’re anesthetized by irrealities and bling. Not the churches. The protestants are hooked on the “prosperity gospel” and private jets, and the Catholics have their own special problems. Who does that leave? The Icelanders might be a good choice for putting the world right, but there aren’t enough of them to go around.

Enter Coronavirus, There Will Be Some Changes Made

After almost four months of the coronavirus experience in America there are some things we have learned:

  • The virus has impacted lives in all sectors of society, not only in the US, but around the world. Though it’s only fair to point out that, like everything else, the incidence of the virus is much more devastating among poor and minority populations.
  • Given the universality of the pandemic it is not enough to cleanse one city, one state or even one country. The world will not be free of coronavirus until all countries are made healthy again. This will require worldwide solidarity, financing and close collaboration.
  • The countries that took immediate remedial action–masks, distancing, tests and sourcing–greatly limited the number of cases and deaths. And those that didn’t suffered immeasurably more. The United States, for example.
  • The responses of the heads of government of different countries shed light on the priorities of world leaders. Compare, for example, the messages of Donald Trump, President of the Unites States, who oversaw more than 98,000 deaths in his country, with those of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand where the coronavirus impact has been limited to 21 deaths as of 22 May, 2020.
  • It’s not clear how long we’ll be under the dictatorship of the virus, but it’s safe to say that it’s going to be a long haul. That will give governments and populations around the world time to reflect on the necessity of changes of  ideologies and policies. We are already seeing that concerted collective efforts are required to deal with the crisis effectively. It will not respond to military solutions, nor nationalist approaches. It will require sincere concern for others, generosity, and worldwide solidarity.

There are countries around the world where these necessary new collective measures and attitudes sound subversive, unnatural, and outrageous. Principal among these is the United States, the one that currently leads the world in coronavirus cases and deaths. This is not a coincidence. The US is an every-man-for-himself country, and its President is a man who thrives on chaos. But the United States must become a major player in this scenario. Would its leaders be up to it? For them to save themselves, and contribute to saving the rest of the world, they will need to change their national philosophy from top to bottom. Can that happen? If it’s ever going to occur it has to happen soon, while there’s still country and world left to save.

What we’re talking about is an active awareness that we’re all in it together (a sentiment often expressed by former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders). This demands a sincere change of heart, concern for others, a willingness to work towards and help pay for not only local but global solutions. Empathy of this magnitude seems impossible under a Trump presidency. Given Donald Trump’s utter lack feeling for anyone but himself, it’s no suprise that he has turned his country into a giant triage tent with today’s score standing at 98,200 dead. Will the next president be radically different? Will he or she have the courage and conviction to reorient the country’s military budget in favor of the battle against coronavirus? That’s what it would take. We are looking at the highest-stakes game the world has ever seen. Thoughts and prayers will not get the job done.

Really_Smart

###

Thanks for following, commenting and sharing.

 

Featured

American Hypocrisy Reigns Supreme

American hypocrisy
The ‘Evangelicals for Trump’ campaign event held at the King Jesus International Ministry on January 03, 2020 in Miami, Florida. President Donald Trump appointed televangelist, Paula White (center), as White House faith advisor. In this photo it’s not clear whether the President is praying or calculating  votes.

A Country Solidly Grounded in Hypocrisy

How does a country of 330 million people hold its head high while living in the most abject state of intellectual and moral squalor imaginable? Inequality, injustice, social disorder, racism, ignorance, poverty, militarism, brutality… There’s only one way they feel they can defend such a squalid record: by injecting industrial quantities of hypocrisy into the mix. It’s a cheap trick–just go on razing your country and the world, then make up specious lies to cover up your actions.  Until recently this strategy has worked surprisingly well, at least internally. A majority of American citizens still regard their country as “a city on a hill, a beacon of hope for the world.” How many of them are aware that the city-on-a-hill metaphor was the vision of religious fanatic, John Winthrop, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay colony, a man who sowed the seeds of a religious extremism that still blights American society today?

Lately, however, the hypocrisy machine is getting a bit rusty, and the truth is becoming visible through the cracks. To most impartial observers around the world, American ideals have slipped to sordid levels. They now detain immigrant families, incarcerating parents in one place, children in cages in another and call that justice. Those children–some of the babies–may never see their parents again. The Americans permit armed thugs–Nazis and white supremacists–to invade a state capitol building, proffering intimidating threats and insults, and call that free speech. Then the President himself appears with praise: “These are people expressing their views. They seem to be very responsible people to me.” These are the words of a fascist.

This self-aggrandizing oaf of a President, breaks all records for lies and insults in his press conferences and then strides arrogantly off the stage.  On the subject of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, Health and Human Services Secretary,  Alex Azar, tells members of Congress, “We would want to ensure that we work to make it affordable, but we can’t control that price because we need the private sector to invest,”  Two days later he reverses that declaration. (Business Insider.com, February 27, 2020). Most recently the President, having calculated the damage done to his re-election campaign, pulls this out of his sleeve:  “The vaccine will be available free to all Americans.” There seem to be no rational criteria driving the administration, just the whims, hunches and inspirations of a semi-literate President.  Given the fickle changes in his humor, we still don’t know whether the Trump administration is prepared to let people die because they can’t afford the vaccine.

International Opinion Counts

Most Americans may be unaware that the whole world is watching, and it’s not sedated by the platitudes of American mythology. Citizens of the world are acutely aware that the emperor is devoid of clothes. The success of any foreign-relations agenda relies heavily on credibility, trust, and respect, all of which are flagging badly in today’s Washington. At the same time, the countries they consider their enemies are growing as potential candidates for world leadership. Will today’s American politicians pay the price for this gross mismanagement? No, as usual it’s the American people who will pay.

What Abuses Are We Talking About?

  • Wrap-around racism. Now that South Africa has faced up to its institutionally racist past, the United States steps into the spotlight as the current racist capitol of the world. Nowhere else are so many aspects of society tinged by racial hate: law enforcement, judicial and penal politics, education, voting, housing and employment, to name just a few. When is America going to come to grips with this situation once and for all. Or are most Americans happy with the status quo?
  • Election irregularities and interventions. When was the last time the US had a free and fair election? How then do they permit themselves to criticize other countries? As for interfering in elections of other countries, the US is the all-time number one. And if NSA and CIA clandestine fiddle-faddle doesn’t tip the election scales, they simply organize a military coup, as they did in Chile in 1973.
  • Assuming religious airs for electoral purposes. This is a two-way  street of particularly-repugnant hypocrisy: Trump appears to lap up fundamentalist religion and the born-again folks pretend that he’s a decent person, while each advance the sick agenda of the other. Included in the Evangelical agenda, of course, is school prayer. If Jesus Christ were alive in the US today he would be crucified as a Communist immigrant.
  • Unsavory bedfellows. Backing the Saudi war on hapless Yemen. Facilitating the Israeli Likud party’s annexation of Palestinian lands. Pandering dangerously to Fundamentalist Christians and their truculent “Rapture” agenda. If this obscene Apocalyptic policy comes to term it could drag the US into a war in the Middle East.
  • Regime change and internal meddling in other peoples’ governments. There’s a long list: Most of Central America, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos… The United States accusing other coutries of militarism and human rights abuses is the richest and most ironic example of and hypocrisy in modern political history.
  • Levels of aggressive militarism not seen since Attila the Hun. What the US did to Indochina and Iraq, to name just a couple of their victims, is grounds for international war crimes trials.
  • Cloaking their baseless, clandestine political and military interventions as humanitarian aid, or support for democracy while casting countries like Venezuela as “dictatorships,” i.e. any country which resists an American-sponsored takeover. Venezuela has a long-standing elected left-wing government (thus certified by the Carter Center election monitoring team after visiting Venezuelan elections in 1998 and 2000). But having a true democracy is no guarantee against American regime-change operations. Any country with important reserves of natural resources is a target for American greed and aggression. Venezuela has massive–perhaps the world’s largest–petroleum and natural gas reserves, as well as mountains of gold and other precious metals. For that reason alone their government needs toppling and their economy “liberalizing” by American experts.
  • Communications too fuzzy or too clear. The result is that US citizens are kept in the dark, knowing only that they are subject to the President’s follies. Required to defend postures and policies that are clearly indefensible, his communicators are trapped. If they tell the truth they’re sunk. If they try to work around it they’re comically unintelligible. Meanwhile, the very fate of the world depends upon the shifting moods of a textbook sociopath.

The Justification for All This Villany

Attempts by the American amoral political elite to justify their foreign and domestic abuses are grounded in the democracy scam. “Scam” because nobody in Washington gives two hoots about democracy. What they worry about is getting elected, then re-elected, ad infinitum. In addition to their tricked-up election laws and perverted campaign financing, what’s the best way to achieve that? By constantly regurgitating the words “democracy” and “freedom.” Teetering atop the unstable “democracy” pretense they must balance all the rest of the mythological American playbook: the über-patriotism, the exceptionalism, the flag, God’s chosen people, the heroic militarism… They defeated Grenada and Panama, though they were less fortunate against the Asian superpowers, Vietnam and Afghanistan. All along they’re incapable of seeing themselves as bullies.

These cherished American myths are more than enough justification for home consumption, but not for the rest of the world.

###

Thanks for following, commenting and sharing.
Featured

Trump’s Environmental Destruction Agency Is Diligently at Work

Climate_change1

(The source for this post is this May 6, 2020, NY Times article: The Trump Administration Is Reversing Nearly 100 Environmental Rules. Here’s the link to the full story.)

Petulance and Pandering as Government Policy

Faithful to his campaign promises President Donald J. Trump’s team of trolls at the Environmental Protection Agency has made significant advances in their mission of  dismounting, diluting and destroying previous administrations’ measures for preserving the environment. The NY Times article makes this evident in a clearly-presented barrage of data their team of investigative reporters collected from the Harvard and Columbia law schools and other sources.

A summary reading of the 4,000-word article indicates that the driving criteria behind Trump’s monumental environmental wrecking job respond to two factors:

  1. A childish revenge motive to dismount and discredit programs initiated during the Barak Obama presidency.
    President Trump cowers under a dark cloud of his own suspicion that President Obama is the better man. So Trump’s response is to bury the Obama legacy at any cost. And the cost, in terms of the degradation of the American environment and the lives of the American people, is dear.
  2. A determination to benefit big business interests regardless of the price to the interests of American citizens.
    The obvious big winners here are the fossile fuels companies, ironically at a time when the price of a barrel of oil is below zero–they have to pay to stockpile it–and renewable energies are looking like increasingly viable alternatives to coal and oil. One wonders what possible justification there can be for this expensive insistence on fattening a moribund horse.

Who is writing the script for this grotesque clown show, anyway? It’s certainly not President Trump. He has proven to us that he is incapable of reading a script, let alone writing one. And this is not just any old script. It forms part of the master plan to alter the DNA of the erstwhile “greatest country in the world.” Who’s calling the shots? We don’t know, and we won’t know until it’s too late. The best we can do now is to make our best educated guesses and get to work on a provisional opposition strategy. The NY Times, taking advantage of research done by the law schools of Harvard and Columbia  and others, has just advanced a significant first step. They have itemized, quantified and analyzed the measures the Trump administration has taken to dismount and destroy key US government environmental rules.

They are doing this to the detriment of American taxpayers, citizens of other countries around the world and the planet, itself. They’re murdering mother nature: her bees, birds, big cats, elephants, rhinos, orangutans, amphibians, lynx, hawks and eagles, dolphins and whales, coral, the Amazon, Alaska… Soon everything will be extinct–including humankind–except the rats and scorpions. They’re survivors, more adaptable, intelligent and opportunistic than a hedge fund manager, though he has also been able to survive in the sewers of Wall Street.

Iberian lynx kittens
Lynx kittens. The Iberian lynx is the most endangered big cat species in the world.

The Times Article Breaks the Trump Environmental Wrecking Plan Down into Seven Categories

All of them reflect grave danger and the Trumpian know-nothing determination to make matters worse on all fronts. The Trumpeteers’  actions respond more to an affirmation of arbitrary authority than to environmental issues. The message is that they’re doing it because they can and in order to create incremental precedents for ever-more-egregious future abuses. This is just one face of a monster designed to convert the United States into the definitive dystopia for everyone except the rich, Washington’s very own Godzilla.

Here They Are, by the Numbers

1/ Air Pollution and Emissions

According to the Times reporters it’s the Environmental Protection Agency which has spearheaded the repeal of Obama-era emissions rules for power plants and vehicles; weakened protections for the nation’s wetlands; and withdrawn rules for restricting mercury emissions from power plants. Meanwhile, the Interior Department has opened up more land for oil and gas leasing by cutting back protected areas and limiting wildlife protections.

Then the spokesclown for the E.P.A permits herself the luxury of declaring:

“Over the past three years, we have fulfilled President Trump’s promises to provide certainty for states, tribes, and local governments,” adding that the agency was “delivering on President Trump’s commitment to return the agency to its core mission: providing cleaner air, water and land to the American people.”

The NY Times concludes their section on Air Pollution and Emissions:

“All told, the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks could significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions and lead to thousands of extra deaths from poor air quality each year, according to energy and legal analysts.”

2/ Drilling and extraction

The tenor of Trumpish initiatives to permit mining companies to bespoil more and bigger swaths of land runs to shrinking the land around national monuments, lifting the ban on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, rescinding water pollution regulations for fracking on federal and Indian lands, approving construction of the Dakota Access pipeline less than a mile from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, and a lot of other similarly outlandish environmental abuses in benefit of miners and drillers.

3/ Infrastructure and planning

The Trumpeteers have revoked Obama-era flood standards for federal infrastructure projects, along with all other environmental protections dubbed “Obama era,” as well as loosing rejuvenated oil and gas monsters across the country, along with eight more similar cases.

4/ Animals

Trump’s environmental team has watered down the Endangered Species Act, restored the right to use lead ammunition and fishing tackle on federal lands, overturned a ban on the hunting of predators in Alaskan wildlife refuges, proposed revising limits on the number of endangered marine mammals that can be unintentionally killed or injured with sword-fishing nets on the West Coast. Debilitated rules have de-protected everything from tuna fish and sea turtles to migratory birds and grizzley bears.

5/ Toxic substances and safety

Virtually all “Obama-era” rules regarding toxic substances have gone out the window, leaving citizens at the mercy of toxic chemicals in everything from pesticides and cosmetics to dry-cleaning solvents. Safety rules for the use of hazardous chemicals in workplaces have been relaxed, including a program to reduce risks of workers developing the lung disease silicosis.

6/ Water pollution

The Trump environmental team’s efforts to better manage America’s water resources for big business include the usual nullifying of Obama-era initiatives such as pollution protections for tributaries and wetlands, revoking a rule that prevented coal companies from dumping mining debris into local streams, and withdrawing a proposed rule requiring groundwater protections for uranium mines, as well as proposing the opening of 1,500 acres outside the Grand Canyon to nuclear production. Not carried out yet but next on the agenda are a series of measures to facilitate more dumping of waste from power plants into rivers and streams.

7/ Other

Out the Obama-era window go measures to increase the number of energy-efficient light bulbs; to prohibit the use of sand from protected ecosystems for coastal replenishment projects; and to reverse restrictions on the sale of plastic water bottles in national parks, a measure desgined to cut down on litter. And there’s a lot more to come.

Who Wins, Who Pays?

Who is responsible for deciding which environmental protection measures should be thrown out? Industry advisors, perhaps? Who suffers the consequences and pays the bills? The usual suspects.

###

Thanks for following, commenting and sharing.

 

Featured

Trumpless Fridays, Anyone?

I Propose an International Boycott of Donald Trump

If you are sick to death of seeing President Donald Trump’s scrambled-eggs face and listening to his ever-present voice on whatever device you turn on, raise your hand. You are not alone. The rest of us feel just as frustrated as you do. The bitterest pill is that there seems to be nothing we can do about it. What would you give to enjoy a break from Donald Trump, a rest from his face, his tiresome, lowbrow discourse, his lies, blunders and hollow sales pitches?

Maybe there is something we can do. Though we can’t shut him up nor oblige the media to limit their coverage, permit me to suggest that there is something we’re empowered to enact. We can boycott him. We can dedicate at least one day a week to turning our backs on him, not watching, not listening, not discussing, not mentioning, not even protesting President Donald J. Trump. Admittedly it would be only one day a week and just a testimonial gesture but it would give us–and the world–the feeling that we are aware of his toxic presence and prepared to resist it.

Just Pass on Trump

One day a week without Trump. It would be absolutely therapeutic. We can already breathe a little easier. How to go about it? It needn’t be complicated, nor expensive. We have the Internet and social media on our side. So, there’s no need to form an association, pay dues, nor fill out any forms. We don’t even have to surrender our email addresses nor remember any passwords. We just turn our backs on him collectively. This is not to imply that we can’t print up some T-shirts or leave some comments on social media, but you don’t even have to do that if you don’t want to. And the whole world can play. Just pass on Trump.

To that end I hereby proclaim this Friday, May 8, 2020, and every Friday thereafter as days without Trump–Trumpless Fridays. (Who am I? I’m nobody, just like you.) Care to join me? Just pass on Trump.

Thanks for following, commenting and sharing.

 

Featured

Citizens United Opened the Door to the Abyss

(Turning on the music enhances the reading.)

Democracy Had Been Ailing for a Long Time

The Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission (FEC) Supreme Court case was the final blow. It did not come out of nowhere. It was the culmination of a long leadup of right-wing election fiddling: lobbyist-led financing, the brainwashing and dumbing down of a series of vulnerable demographics (non-high-school graduates, ethnic minorities, hollow billionaires…), vote blocking strategies like gerrymandering and voter qualification limits, and strange bedfellows under blankets in Washington, DC. At bottom was the conviction of the members of the United States Congress–House and Senate, mainlyt Republicans but Democrats, too–that they had a God-given right to be re-elected, never to release the reins of power. And if they were obliged to use and abuse the civil rights of American citizens, their economic opportunities, the lives of their sons and daughters and the United States Constitution itself as bargaining chips in their sacred re-election endeavor, all of those contrivances were justified. They are capable of doing anything to retain their grip on power, even if it requires turning the government over to powerful criminal societies.

Nor am I prepared to affirm that this situation is attributable to capitalism. There are countries where capitalism marries nicely with humanity to create cordial, prosperous and liveable societies in places like Europe, Australia, Japan or South Korea, the new First World. The problem with American capitalism, it seems, is that it’s American.

The Worst of All Possible Worlds

The Citizens United verdict, which came down during Obama’s first term, opened the door to unlimited federal campaign contributions from corporations and consolidated extreme laissez-faire capitalism as the law of the land. That 5-4 decision issued from a US Supreme Court that had hovered between conservative and ultra-conservative thanks to appointments by presidents Nixon,  Reagan, and the two Bushes. The first two of these chief executives, both gravely deficient, the first one morally, the second intellectually, are arch representatives of what went wrong with American democracy in the 1970s and 80s. Nixon went so far as to prolong the Vietnam war, with the loss of lives and treasure that implied, in order to take credit for the  peace agreement. (Source: The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House, by Seymour M. Hersh, 1983).

Reagan was a tall, handsome second-rate Hollywood actor, outspoken anti-communist, FBI informer, and popular television spokesperson for American industry. His main achievements as president were in the field of public relations. According to History.com “Reagan made frequent and highly visible retreats to his California ranch, where he rode horses, fixed fences and cut firewood for the TV cameras.” Following his two terms of office and particularly after his death in 2004 reactionary America converted President Reagan into the essential talisman/myth of 20th-century American political conservatism. That should surprise no one. They also resuscitated Nixon.

The father-and-son Bush presidencies were characterized by devotion to fossile-fuel interests and dubious military interventions abroad. George H.W. Bush was a one-term president who occupied the White House after a landslide victory over Democrat Michael Dukakis in the 1988 election. Bush the Father, considered by politologists to have been a mediocre president, engineered the first Iraq War, forcing Iraq to abandon Kuwait. He later ordered a senseless and bloody U.S. military invasion of Panama with the declared purpose of arresting Manuel Noriega, a drug-dealing dictator. It took US forces more than a month to conquer the tiny isthmus country in an operation disingenuously codenamed “Operation Just Cause.” According to Wikipedia, about 6,500 US troops remain in Panama today, ostensibly “monitoring Latin American airspace for unauthorized planes and training troops in jungle combat.” Bush I appointed two Supreme Court justices, David Souter, who abandoned the conservative cause by becoming a member of the Court’s liberal bloc, and Clarence Thomas, who became one of the most conservative judges of his era.

Emerging American Values: Tax Cuts for the Rich and Endless War on Something or Other

George W. Bush, the presumptive heir, was a populist president patently lacking the character and intelligence to occupy the office. The video footage of his reaction to the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, sitting in a class of pre-schoolers in Florida, revealed more a confused bad actor than the leader of the free world. He was responsible over eight years for a $1.3 trillion tax cut for the usual suspects, the global war on terrorism, the invasion of Afghanistan, the civil-and-human-rights-destroying Patriot Act, and  the lies-based second Iraq War that set that killed, maimed and exiled hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and set the country back two or three generations. Not much of his rich agenda worked out as he planned. Bush the Son appointed two justices, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, in 2005 and 2006.

This brings us to the current US president, Donald J. Trump, the third American president to be impeached by the House though not convicted, by the Senate. The Trump presidency leverages an unprecedeneted lack of intelligence and tact, innate stagecraft, bald-faced self interest, lies and innuendo, while pandering to the lowest common denominator–white supremacists, neo-Nazis, magical religious cults and remnants of defunct right-wing movements, all of whom he refers to as “very fine people.” This grotesque baggage garnered him a previously  unseen level of voter loyalty.

President Trump has nominated two judges to the US Supreme Court, Neil McGill Gorsuch, who has a face like a choirboy who has never broken a glass, confirmed in 2017; and Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. Kavanaugh is an ultra-conservative whose confirmation hearings were stalled for three years over charges of partisanship.  According to Wikipedia, he is a practising Catholic who serves as a regular lector at his Washington, D.C., church, the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament; and has helped serve meals to the homeless. He has also tutored at the Washington Jesuit Academy. Before his eventual confirmation by the US Senate he was credibly accused of sexually assaulting at least two women.

Sixteen Appointments

The 16 Republican Supreme Court appointments since 1969 gave rise to the conservative courts that have dominated the American judiciary since the 1970s and culminated in the big-bucks-benefitting Citizens United verdict, which legitimized for all to see the notion that everything and everyone in America can be bought and sold, right down to the sacrosanct American democracy, personified in the United States Congress.

Thus, a minority of US citizens that desired and deserved a country whose pervading values were more complete, more human and more idealistic than those of the pork bellies market, was left out in the cold. Today they find themselves relegated to a sordid zero-sum world in which my gains are your losses, a world where generosity and solidarity have been supplanted by bare-fisted greed and the rule of the filthy rich. This brutal system of national values has exchanged once-normal human customs for cut-throat market standards. “Tell me how much you own and I’ll tell you what you’re worth.” It wasn’t always that way in the US, and Americans don’t have to look very far today to find a better model. There’s Canada right next door with universal health care and a $2,000 guaranteed monthly income for all their citizens. To belabor the point, I suggest you compare any declarations on any subject by Donald Trump on television news with those of Jacinda Ardern, the 39-year-old prime minister of New Zealand. It’s like peering into two different dimensions, Utopia and Dystopia. See which one you can relate to.

The controversial Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court decision was contested by Associate Justice John Paul Stevens who argued that the Court’s ruling represented “a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government.” A 2012 article on Demos.org lists 10 Ways Citizens United Endangers Democracy:

(These headings are links. You can click on them to learn more.)

  1. “Independent” Spending Farce Leads To SuperPACs
  2. Legal Money Laundering Increases Secret Spending
  3. Corporate Money Distorts Democracy
  4. Court is Blind to Reality of Corruption
  5. Citizen Voices are Drowned Out
  6. Money Is Still Not Speech
  7. Open Season on Remaining Money in Politics Protections
  8. Increases Corporate Power
  9. Unlimited Corporate Spending is Bad for Business and Shareholders
  10. Risks Reducing Respect for the Supreme Court

Now, ask yourself: Does the Citizens United decision merit revising by a future, less-ideologically-driven Supreme Court? Or can we climb out of the Abyss?

###

Thanks for following, commenting and  sharing.
Featured

President Trump May Go Down in History as the Savior of America–2/2

The Lowest Low Point

1. Implementing child separation — and lying about it

From April to June 2018, the Trump administration implemented a “zero tolerance” policy at the southern border that deliberately separated children and babies — some as young as 4 months old — from their parents. In the span of six weeks, 1,995 kids were torn away from their parents. Some will likely never be reunited. On June 16, 2018, Trump lied about the policy, saying it was “forced” by Democrats. Once his lie was exposed, on Oct. 13, 2018, Trump explicitly advocated his barbaric policy as a deterrent. Those low points sparked international outrage.

These incidents enumerated by Klaas include exclusively those that occurred during the Trump presidency, not the run-up. So they omit such egregious cases as the Colin Kaeperninck disrespect-for-the-flag tweet,  the “Access Hollywood” tape, mocking a disabled reporter, attacking a Gold Star family, calling to ban all Muslims from entering the country or labeling Mexican immigrants as rapists.

How to Scuttle the Ship of State

In order for President Trump to sink the United States government–and the country–irretrievably he only has to continue along his same path. As we have seen in his daily tweets and even mainstream news coverage, he’s done an admirable job of sabotaging the government during his fist term in office, from defunding and dismantling vital agencies to deregulating business and finance, but he still has a way to go. A Democratic-Party-controlled House of Representatives is a hurdle he would have to surmount but there’s a possiblity he could turn the House around in the upcoming elections.  He has won against the odds before–producing apoplexia in the Democratic machine–and the American electorate has been known to deliver other remarkable surprises.

The Immediate Result of a Possible Trump Defeat

But what if he were to lose? How would President Trump’s partisans take the loss? Would they just step aside for the new President elect? Can anyone really foresee President Trump leaving office without kicking and screaming? What is more likely is some sort of coordinated civil unrest, the maximum expression of which is civil war. Is that eventuality being prepared in the White House basement as we speak? Should it come to armed civil disobedience, which side would the nation’s police and armed forces come down on? Is anybody thinking about that? Or are they all just betting the farm on that comforting old saw: “It can’t happen here”

Suppose it were to happen, along with all the other horrific contingencies that President Trump’s administration has made possible. A full-blown American Civil War II would be a giant step towards ground zero.  And we haven’t even considered the role of the Chinese and the Russians. Would they stand idly by? Or would they consider picking up a bargain out of the wreckage? Isn’t the Chinese’s own pictograph for “crisis” composed of two characters, one meaning “danger,” and the other “opportunity.”

Back to the Premise

How could a person like Donald J. Trump become the savior of the United States? It’s time to look at the historical precedents in other countries. In our time, since World War II, there have been two nations that have risen from the ignominy of defeat and total destruction, humiliation and starvation poverty, and worldwide condemnation. And they have achieved it in less than three generations. They have both rebuilt their countries and their economies, but more importantly they have recuperated their moral decency. Both have recognized, abandoned, repented, and apologized repeatedly for their agressive acts of warfare and crimes against humanity, their racism and historic rapaciousness. And their populations have assimilated a whole new set of humanitarian values based on democratic principles, respect and decency at home and abroad,

Those two countries are Germany and Japan. Located on opposite sides of the globe and with widely disparate cultural and social traditions, what did they have in common that permitted them to renew themselves in every conceivable respect? Their cities were systematically razed, their ideologies discredited. Their allies evaporated, along with their credit internationally. The only resources they could count on were humility, intelligence and determination. Granted, the $15 billion Marshall Plan was an important factor in European recovery but it wasn’t enacted until 1948. The first three years of Germany’s lone battle back from the gates of hell started from zero. Today Germany and Japan are two of the most advanced–and more importantly–most civilized countries in the world.

The Road to Rock Bottom

Is it possible that these are the very conditions that the United States requires in order to become great again? Could the current COVID-19 pandemic and President Trump’s characteristically inept handling of it be the detonator? From “We’ve got it under control…” to 55,000 deaths and counting is a long stretch, Mr. President. Will the coronavirus do for the Americans what the Second World War did for the Germans and the Japanese. Will it take them to rock bottom? If so, would the American public be able to muster the intelligence and determination–and most difficult of all–the humility to rebuild their entire world from zero?

It’s important to keep in mind, I think, that it couldn’t be achieved with traditional American values. No amount of self-reliance, dog-eat-dog competition and quick-buck capitalism would get the job done. It would require tremendous levels of selfless collaboration on the part of its citizens, something unknown in today’s highly-polarized United States. It’s not a given that Americans are capable of such a sea change in their hearts and minds. If they were, they might bring it off, just as the Germans and the Japanese did. That would make President Donald J. Trump, the principal agent for taking his country to rock bottom, in effect the savior of America, albeit by an ironically indirect route. If it should turn out that the Americans are not capable of working together intensely and disinterestedly, there are other nations with high levels of preparation waiting in the wings.

Back to Part 1/2
Thanks for commenting and sharing.
Featured

President Donald Trump May Go Down in History as the Savior of America–1/2

Nato_meeting_2018

Trump May Make America Great Again but not in the Way He Had in Mind

There are precedents for the return to prominence of formerly great countries and a thoughtful look at their cases could illuminate the future of Donald Trump’s United States. The country may be recoverable and he might be the man to lead the way. He might require re-election to achieve it, but everything is possible. Before we consider the historical precedents, let’s take a summary look at President Trump’s record since he launched his presidential campaign.

The best–and most amenable–source I have found for pre-campaign Trump is the prologue to Michael Lewis’s 2018 book, The Fifth Risk, which is riveting from the first page. Lewis had access to Chris Cristie, the former New Jersey governor and short-lived candidate in the 2016 presidential pre-campaign, who alerted Donald Trump to the fact that he was legally obliged to appoint a staff to search and select candidates for the 500 federal posts that would have to be filled by presidential appointment, in the case that he were to be elected. Christie, who was at the first orientation meeting with the Obama transition team, found Trump’s delegate “comically underqualified” and he immediately phoned the Trump campaign manager, Cory Lewandowski, and asked him why such a critical job had been left in the hands of an incompetent. Lewandowski replied, “Because whe don’t have anyone.” So Christie got the job himself.

When Trump won the Republican candidacy he received from the federal government a suite of fully equipped offices in downtown Washington, DC, for his transition selection team. This group, in turn, reported weekly to Trump’s “executive committee,” made up of his real-estate-operator son-in-law, Jared Kushner; his daughter, Ivanka, his sons Donald Trump, Jr. and Eric Trump; as well as Paul Manafort, Steve Mnuchin and Jeff Sessions. All candidate Trump had to do was to pay the employees, either from his own pocket or his campaign funds. This detail gave rise to a brouhaha when Christie informed Trump that he was legally obliged to pay the staff. According to Christie, Trump’s reply was characteristically brief and clear: “Fuck the law. I don’t give a fuck about the law. I want my fucking money. Shut it down. Shut down the transition.” In the end Christie’s transition team efforts were all in vain. He was fired the day after Trump won the election at the insistence of Jared Kushner, who had not forgiven Christie for prosecuting his father, Charles Kushner in a 2005 corruption case. Today Jared Kushner is a White House magnate and atypical diplomat.

Cross Purposes

The transition team’s problem is that they were working at cross purposes with the candidate. They were looking for clean, trustworthy, and above all qualified people to run the federal government. That was a gross mistake. Cleanliness, trustworthiness and competence were irrelevant as long as they could pass a  confirmation hearing in a Republican-controlled Senate.

The candidate, soon to be the new President, didn’t want his appointees to run the government. He wanted them to wreck it. That’s how he got that colorful Cabinet and White House staff and how all-important federal agencies came to be run by know-nothings. His choices were based not on logic nor even common sense, rather on pure ideology. If you’re hard-core anti government, you’re in.

The rest of Lewis’s book discusses the most glaring examples, from nuclear security and waste disposal to the massively important Department of Energy. The new President, with no knowledge of the critical role the federal government played in myriad questions in the country, set about gaily to destroy it.

A Brief Summary of the Worst of Donald Trump

President  Trump’s tenure has been characterized by an unprecedented mix of incompetence and arrogance. The less he knows on any given subject the more he thinks he knows (a classic case of the Dunning-Kruger effect) and the more he trumpets his supreme knowledge. The essence of the Trump presidency is this imaginary “supreme knowledge” of everything and his utter lack of concern for the country and its people. His first priority is always Donald Trump. Let’s take a look at some of the high points of his low points. Brian Klaas, a Washington Post contributor, listed his top five in a July 16, 2019 opinion article entitled The five lowest points of Trump’s presidency (so far):

5. “Go back” to where you came from

Trump told minority congresswomen to go back to where they came from. Where they came from, with one exception, was America: Cincinnati, the Bronx and Detroit. But Trump revived one of the most well-worn racist statements in American history. It was indefensible racism.

4. Trump “fell in love” with Kim Jong Un

Trump’s absurd, over-the-top praise for dictators lurched into self-parody when he claimed that he “fell in love” with North Korea’s totalitarian dictator, Kim Jong Un, in September 2018. Kim’s regime runs a vast network of concentration camps, conducts campaigns of mass rape and reportedly executes people with antiaircraft guns for sport. The juxtaposition with Trump’s consistent ally-bashing behavior left no room for misinterpretation about Trump’s values, and how at odds they are with America’s founding principles.

3. Implying that Puerto Ricans were lazy as an estimated 2,975 Americans died

In the week after Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico, leaving millions without electricity or tap water, Trump tweeted 95 times. Fifteen tweets attacked black National Football League players. Just one was about Puerto Rico, in which Trump chastised the island for its “massive debt.” Then, on Sept. 30, while Puerto Ricans were dying and pleading for additional federal help, Trump responded by implying that they were lazy and wanted “everything to be done for them.” A later study showed that a significant number of the deaths were avoidable and came not from the storm but from an inadequate government response.

2. The “very fine people” in Charlottesville

On Aug. 12, 2017, a man murdered Heather Heyer with his car. He was a neo-Nazi. She was protesting neo-Nazis. Three days later, Trump drew a false equivalence between the groups, insisting that there were “very fine people on both sides.” One of those sides was marching alongside Ku Klux Klan members, neo-Nazis and white supremacists. The other was protesting those hate groups. Trump tried to conflate the two, and in so doing, stained his presidency forever.

Go to Part 2/2
Thanks for commenting and sharing.
Featured

US Sponsored Terrorism in Western Europe 3/3

Hard_Evidence_Gladio

More Gladio Timeline

  • 1984—In Italy, right-wing terrorist Vincenzo Vinciguerra reveals in court Operation Gladio and the involvement of NATO’s stay-behind army in acts of terrorism in Italy designed to discredit the Communists. He is sentenced to life and imprisoned.
  • 1985—in Belgium, a secret army attacks and shoots shoppers in supermarkets randomly in the Brabant country killing 28 and leaving many wounded. Investigations link the terror to a conspiracy among the Belgian stay-behind SDRA8, the Belgian Gendarmerie SDRA6, the Belgian right-wing group WNP and the Pentagon secret service, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).
  • 1990—In Italy, Judge Felice Casson discoveres documents on Operation Gladio in the archives of the Italian military secret service in Rome and forces Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti to confirm to the parliament the existence of a secret army within the state. As Andreotti insists that Italy had not been the only country involved in the conspiracy, the secret anti-Communist stay-behind armies are discovered across Western Europe. The cat is definitively out of the bag.
  • 1990—In Belgium, on November 5, NATO categorically denies Prime Ministger Andreotti’s allegations concerning NATO’s involvement in Operation Gladio and secret unorthodox warfare in Western Europe. The next day NATO explains that the denial of the previous day had been false while refusing to answer any further questions.
  • 1990—In Belgium, the parliament of the European Union (EU) sharply condemns NATO and the United States in a resolution for having manipulated European politics with stay-behind armies.
  • 1995—In England, the London.based Imperial War Museum in the permanent exhibition “Secret Wars,” reveals next to a big box full of explosives that the MI6 and SAS had set up stay-behind armies across Western Europe.
  • 1995—In Italy, the Senate commission headed by Senator Giovanni Pellegrino researching Operation Gladio and the assassination of former Prime Minister, Aldo Moro, files a FOIA request with the CIA. The CIA rejects the request and replies: “The CIA can neither confirm nor deny the existence or non-existence of records responsive to your request.”
  • 2001—The author asks NATO for documents on the stay-behind secret armies and specifically transcripts of the Allied Clandestine Committee (ACC) and Clandestine Planning Committee (CPC) meetings. Lee McClenny, head of the NATO press and media service, denies that NATO had been involved with Operation Gladio and claims that neither ACC nor the CPC transcripts exist.
  • 2001—The author files a FOIA request with the CIA which is rejected with the comment: “The CIA can neither confirm nor deny the existence or non-existence of records responsive to your request.”

This damning timeline offers a lot of food for thought and leads for further research. The author of NATO’s Secret Armies, Daniele Ganser, is currently a Senior Researcher at the Center for Security Studies (CSS) at the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, Switzerland. We can be sure that he and his colleagues continue to think.

Ramifications, Conclusions

The stay-behind/Cladio program was a big success. Its deadly false-flag operations were routinely attributed to left-wing activists who were prosecuted, imprisoned and assassinated en masse for decades.

Perhaps the most shocking aspect of this years-long operation was the senseless taking of random innocent lives for the hollow cause of anti-communism.

The scale and extension of Operation Gladio was Europe wide and was responsible for massive twists and turns of policy in many European countries. Among the most dramatically affected were Italy, Greece, Belgium and Turkey. The tragic history of Greece since  World War II is largely attributable to British and American betrayal of the Greek resistance forces who had successfully driven the German army out of their country. That victory was reversed when the Alllies, fearing communist influence in the upcoming Greek government, retired their support. This counterfeit anti-communism in Greece led, in the sixties, to the brutal dictatorship of the Greek colonels.

Gladio helped to assure right-wing, anti-communist governments would rule Europe for decades, thus negating European countries the direction of their own democracies, their own sovereignty and the course of history.

Gladio was the test bench for subsequent CIA terrorist operations in the rest of the world. It showed what control was possible with a well-run anti-communist false-flag terrorist organization in place.

Gladio As Black Magic

Gladio permitted the Americans to pitch themselves as paladins of democracy around the world, when the truth was precisely the opposite. In this connection, recent American presidents have done the world a favor by pulling back the curtain of American government methods and motives, from criminal drone assassinations to regime-change operations. Perhaps the greatest irony today is President Trump insisting that NATO is there to “protect” Europe and demanding that they pay for that protection. It’s almost as if he had taken lessons from the Mafia.

Gladio reinforced the US self-image of altruism, exceptionalism and defense of “Western values.” Most Americans today still see their country as the beacon on the hill.

Gladio helped the US to cast the Russians as ruthless aggressors and war mongerers, a plague on the earth, while at the same time constructing an iron ring of military bases surrounding Russia. The Americans retain to this day between 800 and 1,000 bases worldwide while their gargantuan–and ever rising–“defense” budget relegates a large part of their own citizens to crushing, irreversible poverty.

What exactly are the Russians guilty of? Principally, they had the misfortune during the first third of the 20th century, to build a better mousetrap, a model for an egalitarian  society that posed a threat to American laissez-faire capitalism–until the ideals of the Russian revolution were sabotaged by Stalin in the 30s.

Now that the terrible Gladio story has been exposed time and again, we should be able to forget those lamentable times and move on. Well, not quite. Serious research and reliable witnesses have linked recent terrorist events to the offspring of Gladio. They affirm, for example, that Gladio units reappeared in Norway in 2011 with the Anders Breivik slaying of 77 peopleon the island of Utoya. They are also convinced that sons of Gladio have become active across Europe under anti-Islamic and ultra-nationalist banners.

One of the leading proponents of the existence of a Gladio B, is whistleblower, Sibel Edmonds, the ex-FBI contract interpreter/translator who was fired from the FBI for her inconvenient truth telling. In the process she won national whistleblower awards for revealing serious irregularities with wide-ranging implications in the bureau’s translation department. She went on to participate in founding a news agency (Newsbud) and to write an autobiography: Classified Woman – The Sibel Edmonds Story: A Memoir. Edmonds goes so far as to implicate Gladio B in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

What’s next?

When the CIA feels they’re onto a good thing–And why wouldn’t they feel that way about Gladio?–it’s not easy to convince them to change course. We may be plagued by CIA/NATO terrorism for years to come. The current COVID-19 crisis makes attempts at prediction absurd, of course, but time will tell. One thing is certain. It would take tectonic political changes in the United States to halt–or even slow–their strategy of world domination.

Back to Part 1
Back to Part 2
Thanks for conmmenting and sharing.
Featured

US Sponsored Terrorism in Western Europe 2/3

Gladio False Flag

American Genius Converts Churchill’s Stay-Behind Experiment into a Europe-Wide Terrorist Operation

Ganser’s book takes the reader across Europe country by country tracing the incredible development of Churchill’s serpent’s egg. The American cold warriors soon realized that, though the Russian invasion was not about to happen, the stay-behind infrastructure could be diverted to their own purposes. In fact, it was perfect. The Americans’ initial recruitment criteria demanded that the officials and soldiers of the stay-behind armies be convinced anti-communists. So they started by mining the richest vein, the remnants of German Nazi-ism. According to Ganser’s book it was the same American Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) that rounded up the defendants for the Nurenburg trials that, at the same time, “secretly recruited selected right-wing extremists for the anti-communist army.” Their first important find was Klaus Barbie, the “Butcher of Lyon,” whom they used to root out other hard-core Nazis.

Though one of the most important, General Reinhard Gehlen, fell from the tree like ripe fruit. Perpetrator of some of the worst atrocities of the war, including “the torture, interrogation and murder by starvation of some four million Soviet prisoners of war,” Gehlen turned himself in to the CIC and managed an introduction to US General Edwin Luther Siber (who would promote Gehlen’s career in the stay-behind organization). Not only did Gehlen lead the Americans to a cache of watertight steel drums with microfilmed documentation on the USSR that he had thoughtfully buried in the Austrian Alps, but went on to recruit several hundred other Nazi officers for the American project. This activity was in Germany but similar procedures covered the rest of the European NATO membership, including Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and Turkey, as well as the neutral European countries of Austria, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland.

The Sinister Stay-Behind/Operation Gladio Timeline

Author Daniele Ganser created a timeline for the most significant events in the history of Gladio. Here is an extract complete with places, dates, and names He calls it his “Chronology.” Its contents are all in the public record and they form the backbone of his narrative.

  • 1940—Churchill creates the secret stay-behind armies, Special Operations Executive (SOE).
  • 1944—London and Washington set up first stay behind in Greece.
  • 1947—Truman creates the NSC and the CIA, whose covert action branch sets up stay-behind armies in Western Europe.
  • 1948—Western Union Clandestine Committee (WUCC) created in France to coordinate secret anti-communist unorthodox warfare.
  • 1949—NATO founded with HQ in France. (In US Senator Eugene McCarthy denounces Communists in the US government. He produces no evidence, but the Cold War is tacitly declared.)
  • 1951—CIA agent (and later director) William Colby, based in Stockholm,  supports training of stay-behind armies in neutral Sweden and Finland and NATO member countries Norway and Denmark.
  • 1952—In Germany former SS officer Hans Otto reveals to Frankfurt police the existence of fascist German stay-behind army BDJ-TD. Arrested right-wing extremists found not guilty under mysterious circumstances.
  • 1953—In Sweden right winger Otto Hallberg is arrested and  uncovers the Swedish stay-behind army.  Hallberg is released and the charges against him mysteriously dropped.
  • 1957—In Norway, the director of the secret service NIS, Vilhelm Evang, protests against the domestic subversion of his country by US and NATO and temporarily withdraws Norway from the Clandestine Planning Committee (CPC) meetings.
  • 1958—In France, NATO founds the Alllied Clandestine Committee (ACC) to coordinate secret warfare and the stay-behind armies. When de Gaulle expels NATO from France in 1966, a new NATO headquarters is established in Brussels. The ACC, under the code name SDRA11 is hidden within the Belgian military secret service SGR, with its headquarters next door to NATO.
  • 1964—In Italy, the Gladio secret stay-behind army is involved in a silent coup d’etat when Genejral Giovanni de Lorenzo in Operation Solo forces a group of elected socialist ministers to leave the government.
  • 1966—In Portugal, the CIA sets up Aginter Press under the direction of Captain Yves Guerin Serac, a stay-behind army that trains its members in covert action techniques including hands-on bomb terrorism, silent assassination, subversion techniques, clandestine communication and infiltration and colonial warfare.
  • 1966—In France, President Charles de Gaulle forces NATO to leave French soil. In the move to Brussels secret NATO protocols are revealed that allegedly protect right-wingers in anti-Communist stay-behind armies.
  • 1967—In Greece, the stay-behind army Hellenic Raiding Force takes control of the Greek Defense Ministry and starts a military coup d’etat installing a right-wing dictatorship.
  • 1968—In Sweden, a British MI6 agent closely involved with the stay-behind army betrays the secret network to the Soviet KGB secret service. From here until the outing of the NATO secret armies by the Italian judiciary and press in 1990, the “secret stay-behind armies” are unknown to everybody except the Russians.
  • 1969—In Italy, the Piazza Fontana massacre in Milan kills 16, injures 80 and is blamed on the left.  Thirty years later, during a trial of right-wing extremists General Giandelio Maletti, former head of Italian counterintelligence, alleges that the massacre had been carried out by the Italian stay-behind army and right-wing terrorists on the orders of the CIA in order to discredit the Italian Communists.
  • 1972—In Italy, a bomb explodes in a car near the village of Peteano killing three Carabinieri. The terror, first blamed on the left, is later traced back to right-wing terrorist, Vincenzo Vinciguerra, and leads to the exposure of the Italian stay-behind, code named Gladio.
  • 1974—In Italy, a massacre during an anti-fascist demonstration in Brescia kills eight and injures and maims 102, while a bomb in the Rome-to-Munich train ‘Italicus Express’ kills 12 and injures and maims 48.
  • 1974—In Italy, General Vito Miceli, chief of the military secret service, is arrested on charges of subversive conspiracy against the state and reveals the NATO stay-behind secret army during the trial.
  • 1977—In Spain, the secret stay-behind army with the support of Italian right-wing terrorists carries out the Atocha massacre in Madrid and, in an attack on a lawyers’ office closely linked to the Spanish Communist Party, kills five lawyers.
  • 1978—In Norway, the police discover a stay-behind arms cache and arrests Hans Otto Meyer who reveals the Norwegian secret army.
  • 1978—In Italy, former Prime Minister and leader of the DCI, Aldo Moro, is taken hostage in Rome by a secret unit. His bullet-ridden body appears in the boot of a car 55 days later. Before his death he was about to form a coalition government that included the Italian Communist Party.
  • 1980—In Italy, a bomb expodes in the second-class waiting room of the Bologna railway station, killing 85 and seriously injuring and maiming a further 200. Investigators trace the crime back to right-wing terrorists.
  • 1981—In Germany, a large stay-behind arsenal is discovered near the German village of Uelzen in the Lúneburger Heide. Right-wing extremists are alleged to have used the arsenal in the previous year to carry out a massacre during the Munich Octoberfest killing 13 and wounding 213.
Back to Part 1
Go to Part 3
Thanks for commenting and sharing.
Featured

US Sponsored Terrorism in Western Europe 1/3

Book1

Author’s Note

I wrote a four-part article on Operation Gladio, NATO’s secret stay-behind/terrorists armies in Western Europe in April of 2018. So what’s the point of writing another one? I need to enlarge and improve it. To research the first story I used Daniele Ganser’s book merely as a reference work, picking data out of the index. By limiting myself in that way I missed what I now consider to be the main thrust of Ganser’s excellent work. The stay-behind/terrorist project that was “Operation Gladio” (the Italian code name for the organization which became the generic term for operations in the rest of Europe) was the origin of an ongoing American project of world domination that relied on classic terrorist false-flag strategies and virulent anti-communism to undermine the sovereignty and democracies of Western European countries.

The NATO/CIA playbook for these operations established the modus operandi for later secret wars in other parts of the world, notably Central and South America and the Middle East. A summary analysis of these operations is enough to convince an unbiased observer that the United States will stop at nothing to impose their unjust model of “free-market,” predatory capitalism around the world. The least-valued element in their game plan, as demonstrated in all these places, is the value of human life. I realize these are strong words and I will do my best to support them here with ample evidence.

In short, the supposed objective of Operation Gladio, designed, financed and implemented by NATO and the CIA, was to create an organization to combat communist terrorism in Western Europe. The truth is that Gladio was, itself, an American-run terrorist group set up to simulate supposed communist terrorism in order to discredit the European left wing’s credibility at the polls, where  they were having some success based on their effective opposition to the Nazis in World War II. The ideological motor of the whole operation was the Americans’ hysterically exaggerated fear of communism. As this strategy has worked itself out to this day not much has changed. American Cold War- vintage anti-communism has always been based more on self-interest, hypocrisy and opportunism than anything else. Let’s take a closer look at it.

If you’re interested in seeing my original article, here’s a link.

Swiss Graduate Student’s Book Reveals US Post-WWII Secret Agenda

In July of 1940, 10 months after World War II broke out in Europe and a year and a half before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the American entry into the war, British prime minister Winston Churchill had an idea. It occurred to him to establish secret armies all over Europe against the possibility of a Soviet invasion when the war was over. So he got MI6, Britain’s clandestine intelligence service, to work on it. Thus began the story of a sinister secret operation that got out of hand and lingers on till today.

With his 2005 book, NATO’s Secret Armies, Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe, Daniele Ganser, a Swiss doctoral candidate, wrote the inside story of this ill-fated initiative. Almost incidentally he also created the Rosetta Stone for the interpretation of 20th-century American foreign policy. This seemingly inconsequential by-product of a doctoral thesis turned out to be an essential guide of our time for tracing the beginnings in Europe of the United States’s misdirected muscle flexing after the Second World War.

In the early 2000s, when Ganser set out to write his thesis–later to become this book–his humble objective was to elucidate the origins of Europe’s post-World War II stay-behind armies. But his research took him much further, into the sinister Cold War labyrinth. Like Cerberus, the fearsome multi-headed dog of Greek mythology that guarded the gates of Hell to prevent the dead from escaping, Churchill’s stay-behind armies promised to defend Europe from Soviet aggression. It’s not clear what inspired Churchill to concoct an elaborate plan for betraying Britain’s principal ally against the NAZIs (the US didn’t enter the war for another year and a half, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor). Perhaps it had to do with a son of British aristocracy’s aversion to a Russian experiment in collectivism. In any case, this cranky, hard drinking, cigar smoking British prime minister became the grandfather of American Cold War anticommunism.

Churchill Leads the Way into the Dark Labyrinth

Churchill’s plan was to recruit, equip and train secret armies and conceal arms caches all over Western Europe. These clandestine forces would go into action in the event of a Soviet invasion. The theory wasn’t entirely outlandish, but as it  played out it became the nightmare that Daniele Ganser recounts–and lavishly documents–country by country in NATO’s Secret Armies. If you manage to find a copy of the book, published 15 years ago with little resonance, after reading it you will ask yourself, “How is it possible that I have never heard of this massive scandal nor this seminal book on the subject? Why has it been ignored by the American, British, European and world press? Shouldn’t it be the first reference work for anyone seriously interested in the Cold War in Europe?”

Yes, of course it should be, but it isn’t. At best it is a glaring example of how effectively American censorship can bury even the most important information if they consider it to be a threat to their voracious geopolitical agenda. The cold warriors of the American intelligence community were not stupid. They knew that, if Ganser’s information were disseminated in the way it deserved, it would open an iceberg-sized breach in the Americans’ ongoing campaign of world domination, camuflaged until then under the guise of workaday anti-communism.

The stay-behind program didn’t remain British for long, as the Brits had their hands full fighting the war, but the US Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), was happy to take over the nascent anti-communist project, which dovetailed neatly with their own purposes. It was the pioneering cold warrior, William J. (Wild Bill) Donovan, who suggested to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944 the creation of a secret service to carry out covert actions against the communists, socialists and their followers in Europe. Donovan became the director of the OSS which financed and ran the operation from 1942 until 1947 when the CIA–more specifically their covert action department, the Directorate of Operations (DO)–under the leadership of legendary dirty-war operators like William Colby, who went on to become  the CIA director; Frank Wisner, who was so revolted by his CIA missions that he finally shot himself in 1965; and Richard Helms who was to lie to Congress regarding the US role in the September, 1973, Chilean military coup.

In 1949, the recently-created North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) took over the stay-behind program definitively. NATO provided a friendly new face, cast as it was as an allied organization that was going to “protect” Europe. But the CIA and the British MI6, as well as the military secret  services of the countries that hosted stay-behind armies, each had a say in the running of the operation. The way Ganser’s book discredits in a scholarly manner the notion that NATO was a beneficent society, only serves to make it more credible. The content of his book suggests implicitly that the United States has been actively pursuing world domination since the Second World War and they will stop at nothing to achieve it.

Thanks for commenting and sharing.
Go to Part 2
Go to Part 3
Featured

We Can’t Afford It–A Post-Virus Utopian Fantasy

Utopia3

Yes You Can

The American dereliction of equality and wellbeing for all is based on a lie: “We can’t afford it.” Actually, they can afford it. Their refusal to fund vital services–health, housing, education, welfare, infrastructure–is not for lack of resources. We’re talking about the richest country in the world. That refusal is based on the misguided, ungenerous and belligerent priorities enforced by the American oligarchy. Instead of paid maternal and paternal leave when a baby is born or healthcare for all Americans, the remote-controlled executive, legislative, and judicial arms of the US government opt for waging permanent war and bulldozing tons of money into the coffers of war-mongering “defense” contractors. Instead of granting their students free or inexpensive subsidized education through university, like proper first-world countries–Germany, Norway, Finland, Scotland, Austria, Sweden, France and more–they fritter their wealth away on massive superfluous tax cuts for the rich and building bigger, more inhumane prisons.

Don’t Pretend It’s Complicated

This issue is not complicated. It’s as transparent as mountain water. The interests that run the United States have long since removed the veil and assumed the “leadership” in rigging the country’s institutions or what’s left of them.  Instead of lifting up their own citizens and giving the rest of the world a break, the American nomenklatura is busy lining their own pockets with no regard for the wellbeing of their countrymen nor those of other countries, including their “client” countries. It’s a revolting system run on greed, revolving doors, gross unfairness and both sophisticated (Robert Mercer & Co.) and unsophisticated (Donald Trump) methods of mind control. “Let’s make America great again by further impoverishing and denigrating the poor and lower-middle classes, in particular minorities, and by plundering the natural resources of our country and those we have subjugated,” is the never-declared but clear message.

When a random honest politician proposes something different–healthcare, remission of college debt, environmental action–they are insulted and shouted down as “socialists.” This is not only bad manners but ignorance. The United States is the only “advanced” country in the world where socialism is equated with evil, where the mere mention of “socialists” evokes Pavlovian knee-jerk negative reactions. The truth is all the contrary. The world’s leading countries–all of Europe, led by Scandinavia; great parts of Asia; as well as Australia, Canada, and Iceland–incorporate in their governing mix elements traditionally considered socialist. Most of those that don’t are under the feral capitalist influence of the United States.

Oops

Why Military Spending Is More Than You Think It Is

Kimberly Amadeo writing in The Balance.com, US Miltary Budget, Its Componente, Challenges, and Growth (Updated March 03, 2020)

Estimated U.S. military spending is nearly a trillion dollars ($934 billion). It covers the period October 1, 2020, through September 30, 2021.1 Military spending is the second-largest item in the federal budget after Social Security. This figure is more than the $705 billion outlined by the Department of Defense alone. The United States has many departments that support its defense. All these departments must be included to get an accurate picture of how much America spends on its military operations.

Amadeo goes on to itemize and analyze military spending in a medium-long article. If you don’t have a head for columns of numbers (neither do I), I’ll sum it up for you: The United States spends too damned much if its national treasure making war. On the other hand, if you would like to see the breakdown, here’s a link.

At the risk of appearing auto erotic here’s another link, this one to my piece on the greatest military procurement scam of all time.

Cutting Back Military Spending Makes Everything Possible

According to Kimberly Amadeo’s article, to reduce military costs, the DoD  needs to reduce its civilian workforce, pay and benefits of soldiers, and its military bases around the world. She forgets to include cutting back the number of military personnel. That considered, perhaps it wouldn’t be necessary to reduce pay and benefits for those who remain.

As well as trimming military spending, something that is now feasable due to radically-changed geopolitical realities, there is another powerful measure for financing domestic development. It’s the obvious one, sufficient taxation not only to siphon the excess off the top and apply it to deficiencies at the middle and bottom, but to finance badly-needed infrastructure improvements. It’s as simple as that, but until now the American ethos has forbidden such common-sense solutions. That’s “socialism” and Americans have been taught from infancy that socialism and any other collective solutions for society’s ills, is mortal sin. It’s contrary to all of America’s traditional egocenetric values: rugged individualism, the self-made man, “free” markets, American exceptionalism, trickle-down economics, social Darwinism, and the supremacy of bling. Yes, people sleeping on the street are an eyesore and inconvenience, but it’s a small price to pay for the confirmation of the superiority of the American Way of Life.

If that sounds sick to you it’s because you’re not a proper American patriot. After all, if the American government were to attend the homeless and the rest of the country’s freeloaders they wouldn’t have money left to train and equip your sons and daughters and ship them off to be killed or maimed in some far-off, hot, sweaty place. Be reasonable, would you? And if some commie journalist were to suggest that the US is the invader, not the invadee, send him off to one of those conspiracy-theory FEMA camps they have been preparing for years, alleging that they’re for Boy Scouts.

Simple_Pleasures

What Ever Happened to Simple Pleasures?

Can’t you live fulfilling lives without limosines, gold watches, computerized fridges (that transmit digital files of you bickering in the kitchen with your wife to the NSA), private jets, and expensive amusements like buying legislators? And, as much as I admire Elon Musk, do we really need to go to Mars? (Full disclosure: My own vice, which I camouflage as a “simple pleasure,” is a log fire that probably pollutes approximately as much as a small nuclear reactor.)

The good news is that a recent fortuitous circumstance has obliged us all rethink our lives and that of the planet. I’m refering, of course, to COVID-19. Before the pandemic we thought we had dozens or hundreds of priorities but luckily, almost overnight, we’ve realized that we only have three or four, and a new Beemer is not among them. At the top of the list is simple survival, a little detail that might not have occured to us before the shocking COVID-19 reminder. Then family. Then humanity (not “country,” humanity, we’re all in it together). Then civilization. (I’m loath to use the term “culture,” a dirty word in some countries.) Your priorities might be somewhat different. Others might be radically different. They might run to the communist threat, the Rapture, the price of pork bellies and the dilution of the country’s bodily fluids by mongrel races. This would be a small minority, of course, and you can be consoled by the fact that none of these “others” have any specific gravity in the government.

So, aside from fewer than half a dozen serious concerns, and seen through the coronavirus lens, everything else is essentially superfluous:

  • Your cellphone, which day before yesterday was life itself
  • Your mistress. You’ll have to choose between her and your wife, you won’t be able to afford both.
  • Your children’s boarding schools. Your kids will have to attend public schools with the unwashed, and you will have to get to know them (both the kids and the unwashed.)
  • Your weekends in Las Vegas. Buy the DVD of a film called Very Bad Things. That will put you off Vegas for the duration.

Let’s not extend this list of new realities. You can imagine the rest.

Countries Also Have Challenges

So much for personal needs and limitations. What about national priorities? They’re significantly pared down, too, essentially limited to the political and economic measures required to assure national survival. This will be simpler than before. Since all the countries in the world are suffering from the same public health and economic problems, they will all lack the time and resources to meddle in the affairs of other countries. That will obviate the need for gigantic standing armies and hundreds of overseas military bases. All of that treasure and effort can thus be redirected to constructive humanitarian projects both at home and abroad, a long overdue realinement of national priorities that will take into consideration the world’s new realities. It seems logical that the first step would be to redesign and implement improved national health systems to permit them to deal with existing and future crises. This is the most urgent mission, capable of bringing all countries together for the common good. Needless to say, if any country were inclined not to cooperate, they should  be boycotted and banished from the community of nations. The gravity of both present and future contingencies makes half measures unthinkable.

So, counting on the universal awareness that we’re all in this together, our children and grandchildren should be free to create a better world. Thanks in some measure to COVID-19 they will be able to dedicate the wonderful technological resources at hand to that end. By that time Elon Musk should be back from Mars and available to put his prodigious South African shoulder to the wheel.

Thanks for commenting and sharing.
Featured

America, The Slip Before the Quake

Strike_Slip_Fault2

Like Any Great Change It Started Little by Little

It’s undeniable that the United States is a right-wing country. It has long been the land of the robber baron. Then the issue was complicated by  their relentless tectonic slipping to the right. The geological analogy is apt because it occurred in an imperceptibly slow manner, like the slip fault before the earthquake. After a few brief eons the European continent drifted east, leaving North America stranded on the wrong side of the Atlantic. That’s where the US sits today, both geologically and ideologically, estranged from the civilized world.

After more than a century of ongoing slow creep American society finds itself at the end of its tether, remotely controlled by demented billionaires and reptilian politicians wielding frightening high-tech bludgeons. There is no justice, no equality, no decency, no hope. Giant American companies have more than enough money to go around, and it’s dished out liberally to pliant politicians via lobbyists and septic think tanks. The situation became evident in the seventies with the sinister Nixon/Kissinger regime. (See Seymour Hersh’s 1983 600-page book, Kissinger, the Price of Power which elegantly documents Kissinger’s years as Nixon’s National Security Advisor and Secretary of State. Not for the faint hearted.)  Events were turbocharged by 9/11 and from then on American governments have been busily curtailing citizens’ rights at home and devastating soverign countries abroad. This is especially the case in the Middle East. Though the Americans have yet to win a war there, they have wreaked biblical havoc on the people and set countries like Iraq and Afghanistan back a century. And the end is not in sight. What is in sight is Iran and Venezuela. 

The Benefits of Posturing

From the days of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC, 1997-2006) when the Republican right finally showed its jingoist face, this scorched-earth policy was in the hands of Republicans. Democrats pretended to be different but most of them weren’t very different at all. Today, in a country that reveres wealth, most of them are wealthy. (Here’s the Wikipedia list of United States members of Congress by wealth. It’s headed by Republican representative, Kelly Loeffler who, along with her husband,  chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, Jeffrey Sprecher, is currently under scrutiny for insider trading.) That makes perfect sense. The essence of American professional politics is to be in it for yourself but to pretend convincingly that you’re in it for others.

It’s not an easy assignment. The successful candidates must be bereft of scruples, morality, and simple decency–while projecting all the contrary. Like all liars they must be endowed with rich imaginations and prodigious memories. They must create their stories, live their lies and cover their tracks. Some manage it better than others. We can all recall the ones whose former slipups are coming back to haunt them: sexual harassment, racism, financial fraud, war mongering, gerrymandering, strange bedfellows. Some of the shrewder ones slather themselves in religion like predator species in the African savanna that roll in their would-be victims’ excrement to pass themselves off as friends. Anything goes.

What about the Honest Politicians?

Is this to suggest that there are no honest politicians. Of course not, to affirm that would be silly. There certainly remain some disinterested American politicians but they would all fit in a phone booth. Besides, they’re essentially boycotted by their right-wing colleagues of both parties. We must not forget that those who were once Democratic “moderates” by staying in the same place have been dragged inexorably to the right.

The rest can be bought. And the proof is there for anyone who has eyes to see. Look at the rock-solid support the state of Israel–the world’s smallest colonial country–enjoys in the US Congress. Is that based on solidarity or idealism? Don’t dream. Google it. It’s based on a complex honeycomb of backhanders and campaign donations engineered by the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and others of their ilk. What about the numbingly repetitive re-election of incumbent US Congress members. Sitting members of the House of Representatives, in the congressional elections between the years 1988 and 2018, were re-elected between 80 and 90% of the time. The figures for the Senate are substantially higher. (Source: OpenSecrets.org) Is that due to legislative excellence? Or does it have to do with a bag of electoral shell games and campaign financing generously provided by big-bucks interests?

It wasn’t quite so cut and dried before the Supreme Court’s 2010 finding in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case. That landmark decision concerning campaign finance freed corporations and labor unions to spend money on electioneering communications and to directly advocate for the election or defeat of candidates. The inclusion of labor unions in that decision was a public relations masterstroke. It suggests equanimity between owners and workers. But just try imagining the unions’ buying power compared to that of big industry. Now, 10 years later, the results are there for all to see. Big business has taken over the government and sucked it dry.

What little was left of American democracy has been gutted by powerful interests that want it all, without realizing that by impoverishing their base they’re shooting themselves in the foot. Capitalism without customers is doomed. Suddenly the rate of decline in everything starts multiplying by geometric progressions. American politics has been cannibalized. American manufacturing became rust. That left financial services, an inherently incestuous business, destined to reduce the United States to that little country where the citizens manage to eke out meager livings by taking in one another’s laundry.

Along Comes the Quake

The culmination of this fascinating process took almost everyone by surprise and that stupor is growing daily by graceful gazelle leaps. With half the country wondering how to get rid of Trump and trumpism, and the other half revelling in hillbilly heaven, along comes the quake, the coronavirus, “COVID-19.” This microscopic killer that found its happy home in New York, and the Trump administration’s pathetic response to it, may ultimately take trumpism to its end. Just when the country vitally needs a unified, coherent universal health system–anathema to the reigning Republican right–the American people wake up to find any kind of coherence conspicuously lacking.

It occurs to the most perceptive among them that a battle against a highly-contagious virus cannot be waged piecemeal. As long as pockets of the virus remain active among the substantial untreated, uninsured population of the country, no one is safe from contagion. It follows logically that the whole trumpian laissez-faire edifice will come tumbling down. Just as public health emergencies require coordinated public responses so do the rest of the critical issues faced by any American government: education, the environment, climate change, foreign policy, defense, the economy and all the rest. This is laid out in his usual informative and affable fashion by Michael Lewis in his 2018 book, The Fifth Risk. Lewis, after crossing the country interviewing affected high-level public servants from the previous administration, recounts their versions of how the Trump government systematically dismantled vital federal agencies and programs with untold damage to education, the environment, nuclear management, etc.

Does this mean that America is about to abjure President Donald J. Trump and his army of wreckers? After all is said and done it may well mean that. Even if it were to happen it would be a bitter victory for reality-based America. Because it would come at a cost of hundreds of thousands of American lives, according to President Trump’s own most-optimistic estimate. Definitely not one of his best deals.

Thanks for following and sharing.

 

 

 

Featured

A Drone-Wars, Targeted-Killing Primer– 2/2

Big_drone

A Drone Whistleblower’s Story

US Drone Whistleblower
Brandon Bryant, ex-US Air Force drone operator.

According to a report in The Independent on Feb. 8, 2020, Brandon Bryant signed up for a six-year enlistment as a Predator drone operator in the US Airforce. Since his discharge in 2011, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, he speaks out against the killer drone program and the atrocities he says he was forced to inflict during his time in the  American military which he says is “worse than the Nazis.”

This is the Independent‘s account of his testimony to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now.

Mr Bryant says he reached his breaking point with the US military after killing a child in Afghanistan that his superiors told him was “a dog.” Mr Bryant recalls the moment: After firing a Hellfire missile at a building containing his target, he saw a child exit the building just as the missile struck. When he alerted his superiors about the situation after reviewing the tape, he was told “it was a f***ing dog, drop it.”

Bryant describes another Afghan strike that he participated in from a bunker in Nevada:
The smoke clears, and there’s pieces of the two guys around the crater. And there’s this guy over here, and he’s missing his right leg above his knee. He’s holding it, and he’s rolling around, and the blood is squirting out of his leg … It took him a long time to die. I just watched him.
It’s all in a day’s work.

A Brief History of Military Drones

(Principal source: The Bureau of Investigative Journalism) Unmanned aerial attacks date from August 22, 1849, when Austria attacked the Italian city of Venice with unmanned balloons loaded with explosives. Development of remote-control flying machines began soon after the Wright brothers flew the first airplane a decade before the outbreak of the First World WarUnmanned flight technology advanced in the interwar period. The term “drone” was born when the UK developed the Queen Bee, a bi-plane controlled by radio. Like most military drones at that time, the Queen Bee was a remote controlled target for anti-aircraft gunners to use for target practice.

It was the pioneering work of Abraham Karem, an Iraqui-born Jewish aviation genius brought up in Israel from the age of 14, that began the serious development of the modern military drone. Karem graduated in aeronautical engineering from Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology, and built his first drone for the Israeli air force during the Yom Kippur war. He later immigrated to the US where he founded Leading Systems, Inc. in his garage. There he built the Albatross and then the more-sophisticated Amber drone, which was to evolve into today’s Predator. Karem has been described by The Economist as the man who “created the robotic plane that transformed the way modern warfare is waged and continues to pioneer other airborne innovations.” It is largely thanks to Karem that both Israel and the US are leading military drone producers and exporters.

In the late 1950s the US and others began to use unmanned, remotely-piloted aircraft as spy planes. Radio-controlled and fitted with film cameras, these primitive drones flew over China and North Vietnam gathering images without risking the lives of pilots. These early drones were unreliable and expensive, and their operators had to be within range of their analogue radio signals. Communications satellites changed all that. Drones can now be controlled from comfortable bunkers with ergonomic seats located halfway around the world.

The lightweight, long-slender-winged drones’ ability to “loiter” was invaluable in the 1990s, during the US campaign against the former Yugoslavia. There was a shortage of intelligence on Serbian tank and troop movements and US supersonic jets were struggling to spot the Serbian forces in the thick Balkan forests. But the drones could hover for 24 hours at a time, keeping Serbian units under constant surveillance. Combining this loitering with a second advance, the use of transmitters to send the intelligence straight back to battlefield officers and commanding generals, greatly increased battlefield efficiency and shortened that war.

The key to armed drone efficiency is in eliminating the pilots: the drones are subsequently lighter than manned aircraft and they don’t have to land when the operators get tired. A fresh crew just takes over in the comfortable bunker. In 2000 the US took the final leap forward when the Air Force and CIA became the first to successfully fit drones with missiles, as part of a failed CIA attempt to kill Osama bin Laden. These satellite-controlled hunter-killer drones allow pilots to fly their aircraft from half a world away and it allows generals, spies and politicians to watch the war they are waging on the other side of the world, live on TV.

Assassinations, Anyone?

America’s drones have been used as assassination weapons in at least seven countries throughout Washington’s 15-year war on terror. They have been vacuuming up information, feeding the military’s insatiable demand for battlefield intelligence, and finding and killing alleged terrorists and insurgents. Those operations inevitably killed more than their share of innocent civilians, as well.

The US drone war expanded dramatically under President Barack Obama. Responding to evolving militant threats and the greater availability of remote piloting technology, Over the course of his two terms in office Obama ordered ten times more counter-terror strikes than his predecessor, George W Bush. President Obama would sit down periodically with CIA dirty-tricks specialist, John Brennan, to select personally the candidates for drone assassination. According to Joanna Walters, the Guardian correspondent in New York, Barack Obama “has not had a second thought” about the drone strikes that are causing untold numbers of civilian casualties as the US tries to beat back terrorist insurgencies in the Middle East. Obama was so impressed by Brennan that he made him director of the CIA.

The low-footprint nature of drone strikes – which can be carried out without having personnel in the country being hit – made it politically easier for the US to mount operations in places in which it was not at war. Hundreds of CIA and Joint Special Operations Command strikes have been carried out in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia, killing hundreds–or thousands–of civilians, according to the NGO Airwars. Human rights organisations have criticizeded the targeted killing program for its “clear violations of international humanitarian law.” (Source: Redorbit.com)

Who Has Killer Drones Today?

Dronewars.net provides us with this table of countries (below) currently operating armed drones, either by developing their own models or acquiring them from other countries. They also include ‘non-state actors’ as operators of armed drones, as some groups have developed fairly sophisticated models.

States-Operating-Armed_drones-Jan2020

Lowering the Threshold for The Use of Killer Drones

The use of armed drones is touted as a ‘risk-free’ solution to security problems. By using remote-controlled aircraft to take out bad guys far away from our shores, we are told, we are keeping the public as well as our armed forces safe. The reality, however, is that drones are liable to increase insecurity, not reduce it.

Politicians know that the public does not like to see young men and women sent overseas to fight in wars with remote and unclear aims.  Potential TV footage of grieving families awaiting funeral corteges has been a restraint on political leaders weighing up military intervention. Take away that political cost by using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), and it makes it much easier for politicians to opt for a quick, short-term ‘fix’ of ‘taking out the bad guys’ rather than engaging in the difficult and long-term work of solving the root causes of conflicts through diplomatic and political means.

Transferring the Risk and Cost of War from Soldiers to Civilians

Keeping ‘our boys’ safe through using remotely-controlled drones to launch air strikes comes at a price. Without ‘boots on the ground’ air strikes are inherently more dangerous for civilians on the ground. Despite claims of the defence industry and advocates of drone warfare, it is simply not possible to know precisely what is happening on the ground from thousands of miles away.  While the UK claims, for example, that only one civilian was killed in the thousands of British air and drone strikes in Iraq and Syria, journalist and casualty recording organisations have reported thousands of deaths in Coalition airstrikes.

Expanding the Use of ‘Targeted Killing’

Legal scholars define targeted killing as the deliberate, premeditated killing of selected individuals of a state that is not in  custody. This is, perhaps, the most controversial aspect of the use of armed drones by the United States, Israel and the UK.    Where International Humanitarian Law applies, targeted killing of combatants may be legal. Outside of IHL situations, International Human Rights Law applies and lethal force may only be used when absolutely necessary to save human life that is in imminent danger.  This does not appear to be the case for many of the drone targeted killing that have been carried out, for example, by the US in Pakistan and Yemen.

While some argue that it is the policy of targeted killing that is wrong, not the weapon used to carry out it out, it is very difficult to imagine that the wholesale expansion of targeted killing would have occurred without armed-drone technology.

Seducing Us with the Myth of ‘Precision’

Drones permit, we are told, pin-point accurate air strikes that kill the target while leaving the innocent untouched. Drone advocates seduce us with the notion that we can achieve control over the chaos of war through technology.  The reality is that there is no such thing as a guaranteed accurate airstrike  While laser-guided weapons are without doubt much more accurate than they were even 20 or 30 years ago, the myth of guaranteed precision is just that, a myth.  Even under test conditions, only 50% of weapons are expected to hit within their ‘circular error of probability’. Once the blast radius of weapons is taken into account and indeed how such systems can be affected by things such as the weather, it is clear that ‘precision’ cannot by any means be assured.

Politicians and defence officials too have been seduced by the myth of precision war and are opening up areas that would previously been out of bounds –- due to the presence of civilians –- to air strikes.  Perhaps most telling is the fact that internal military data which counters the prevailing narrative that drones are better than traditional piloted aircraft is simply classified.

Promoting Permanent War

Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of the rise of remote, drone warfare is that it is ushering in a state of forever war.  With no (or very few) troops deployed on the ground and when air strikes can be carried out with impunity by drone operators who then commute home at the end of the day, there is little public or political pressure to bring drone strikes to an end.

Drones are enabling states to carry out attacks with seemingly little reference to international law norms. US law professor Rosa Brooks argued in a disturbing article in Foreign Policy that ‘there’s no such thing as peacetime’ anymore. “Since 9/11,” she writes “it has become virtually impossible to draw a clear distinction between war and not-war.” Rather than challenging the erosion of the boundaries between crucially distinct legal frameworks, Brooks argues that we must simply accept that “the Forever War is here to stay.” To do otherwise she maintains is “largely a waste of time and energy. “Wartime is the only time we have” she insists.

Advocates say the drone programme has saved American lives and reduced the need for messy ground operations like the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But it has also killed hundreds, if not thousands of civilians, according to data collected by the Bureau and the NGO Airwars — a reality which experts have warned could have a radicalising effect on the very societies from which US drones are trying to eliminate extremists. Human rights organisations have lambasted the targeted killing programme for its “clear violations of international humanitarian law.”

Trump Intensified the Drone War in Afghanistan in 2019

Almost 40 strikes hit Afghanistan every day in September of 2019, new Pentagon figures show, working out as more than 1,100 over the month, a significant rise. The number of US strikes not only increased in September, but that jump was dramatic. There were 1,113 strikes compared with 810 strikes in August, and 537 in July. It follows the collapse of US and Taliban peace negotiations in early September. The talks were suspended by President Donald Trump after the killing of a US soldier in Kabul.

Since then, President Trump repeatedly stated he was hitting the Taliban harder. Mark Esper, the current US defence secretary, told reporters that they had “picked up the pace [of operations in Afghanistan] considerably” since the breakdown of the negotiations. “We did step up our attacks on the Taliban since the talks broke down,” Esper told reporters. “The president did want us to pick up in response to the heinous attacks that the Taliban and others conducted throughout Afghanistan.” (Source: Bureau of Investigative Journalism)

For civilians on the ground, the deepening conflict comes at great cost. Recent UN figures show there were over 650 civilian casualties from US strikes in the first nine months of 2019, nearly double the number injured or killed in the same period the previous year. The UN has said civilian casualties in general – not just from air strikes – reached “unprecedented” levels in the 2019 as violence across the country increased. “The harm caused to civilians by the fighting in Afghanistan signals the importance of peace talks leading to a ceasefire and a permanent political settlement to the conflict; there is no other way forward,” Yadamichi Yamamoto, the head of the UN’s mission in Afghanistan, said.

The Irony/Hypocrisy of “Heinous Attacks”

So, while the United States and their coalition of usual suspects hone their killer-drone effectiveness on hundreds or thousands of innocent civilians in Afghanistan and other places across the Middle East, not having declared war on any of them, Mr. Mark Esper permits himself the luxury of denouncing the “heinous attacks” of the Taliban. He would say that, wouldn’t he.

###

Thanks for commenting and sharing.
Featured

Freedom from Religion

Rapture1

Predatory Preachers Lead the Way

True freedom of religion implies freedom from religion. If it doesn’t it’s not freedom. That’s why an authentic democracy cannot exist under the influence of any religious sect. A religion that preaches that born-again believers will be “raptured” up to heaven while the rest of us go straight to hell is more necrophile hate doctrine than religion, and it has no place anywhere near government circles. Yet, these Evangelicals and Pentecostals are President Trump’s people and he has created posts in the White House for them and facilitated their influence on the government of the United States.

This is the President’s recently-appointed “spiritual advisor,” Paula White, an extravagant preacher who was one of six televangelists investigated in 2007 by the Senate Finance Committee in connection with their fortunes (running to private jets and multiple luxury residences) accrued through “prosperity gospel” practices.

Why would the President take such unseemly measures? Has he converted to the born-again persuasion? Does he “speak in tongues” when he’s among friends? Given his trajectory, it seems unlikely. What is more probable is that his affinity for magical religion has to do with political expediency. According to a Pew Research poll the religious right comprises more than a third of Republican voters, enough to swing a presidential election. Draw your own conclusion. (Source: Pewresearch.org)

Pew Research stats

Presidential Pandering to the Religious Right

The serious part of the story is that, in order to lock in their loyalty, President Trump is pandering to them in ways that are dangerous for American citizens at large. The born-again belief system requires a war in the Holy Land in order to precipitate the Apocalypse–and the consequent “Rapture.” This may sound like nonsense to you and me but, according to Pew Research, about 36% of American voters believe it and they are essentially calling the shots. My question is: Do they even remotely realize the implications of another war in the Middle East? It’s the equivalent of opening the door to World War III. That’s not a certainty, mind you, but it’s a very real possibility. Do we really want to confront it? What’s in it for us? I only foresee one benefit and that’s the re-election of President Donald J. Trump. Come to think of it, I’m not sure that’s a benefit. Are you a hard-core optimist? You might console youself by considering that, when the Third World War does come, it won’t last long.

There’s even more horror. The person that President Trump has appointed to guide America’s  foreign policy, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, is one of the born-again Rapture brigade. Does this mean that his–and your–foreign-policy agenda is driven by his sincere Evangelical beliefs regarding biblical end times and how to jump start them? Yes, that’s exactly what it means. Can you live with that?

Consider the Collateral Damage

There’s considerable collateral damage, as well.  What is going on between President Trump and the Evangelicals is a classic symbiotic relationship. Both sides get something they fervently desire. The Rapture sect gets a ticket to heaven. The President gets re-elected. But in order to do so he has to embrace–directly from the highest office in the land–the Evangelical doomsday agenda, to put the United States government’s seal of approval on it. This legitimizing of religious juju as government policy is a terrible step for an American president to take.

Are prayer meetings legitimate responses to the current corona virus emergency? Or are they just fiddling while the country burns? What comes next, ticket sales to the Apocalypse?  The spinoff of the President’s Rapture collaboration is the effect it could have on stability–or more likely instability–in the Middle East. Israel’s extreme-right-wing Likud party and their perrenial President Netanyahu are, of course, milking this geopolitical windfall to advance their own opportunism in the region. Their truculence vis a vis the Palestinians and the Iranians is actually subsidized with donations by Evangelical organizations in the US.

These miracle-religion-tinged policies are especially grave considering the intellectual and ideological vulnerability of America’s young people. Is this the sort of intellectual baggage that American parents want funneling into their children’s heads? Parents in the US are entitled to take that route. It’s a free country and freedom of religion is a laudable principle up to the point where it puts a majority of American citizens in harm’s way. It makes no difference whether that harm comes from a nuclear holocaust radiating from the Holy Land or from a global virus pandemic. Then a sane, responsible lay government must intervene in order to save the very country. The failure to do so would have consequences and they could well be catastrophic.

Are we already beginning to see the onset of that process? It’s March 25, 2020. In just a matter of weeks we should be able to discern the results of President Trump’s recent determination that the country should soon be “open for business.”  How can the President pretend to know at this point what the extension and gravity of the virus will be, even in the short term. Public health professionals and other scientists are admitting that they can’t make predictions without seeing the results of massive testing programs. Clearly, the President can’t, either. And, given his obligation to promote good health and wellbeing for all Americans, to pretend that he can foresee the future is so wittlessly irresponsible that we might consign it to the category of religion. Then it would be up to a second impeachment panel to decide whether the President should be tried for criminal wittless irresponsibility.

Where Do They Go from Here?

If the United States had a sane and responsible governing team with a vision that went beyond their own enrichment and re-election, at this point in contemporary history they would still be in deep trouble. There are just too many life and death issues on the table at this time: COVID-19, their overt and covert wars around the world, their apocalyptic economic situation, their penchant for cultivating enemies around the world and the meteoric rise of some of their adversary countries. Asia is beginning to look quite first world lately while the US is clearly slipping.

But, since the US conspicuously lacks the necessary sanity and responsibility in government where they are destined to go from here is anyone’s guess. The best we can do is just to lie down and enjoy the spectacle. Our current situation can best be summed up by a millenary Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times.

###

Thanks for commenting and sharing.

 

Featured

What’s Wrong with America?

US Body Politicv
The US Body Politic

Only Everything

That “What’s wrong” question is popular lately and the answer, in a word, is Everything. The US body politic is today like the body of a person who is afflicted by a whole series of mortal illnesses. It’s got everything and it’s all terminal:

  • underlying egotism and narcisism
  • obscene predatory capitalism
  • debilitating individualism
  • pervasive lying and misrepresentation everywhere
  • corruption as the order of the day on all fronts
  • deadly inequality and unfairness
  • abiding greed and cynicism
  • ruthlessly exporting dystopia
  • creeping inhumanity
  • loss of credibility abroad
  • repugnant hypocrisy
  • money and bling worship
  • alarming anti-intellectualism
  • rampant militarism and permanent war
  • sick nationalism
  • deterioration of the rule of law
  • toxic religions, opportunistic preachers speaking in tongues
  • unlettered, infirm, immoral leadership

What to Do About It?

What is to be done to remedy this cumulus of mortal ills? If this question had been asked a few decades ago and drastic steps had been taken to cure or even improve somewhat these dysfunctions, something might have been done. But now it’s too late for patches.

The Americans have pointed the pistol at their own temple and pulled the trigger. The round is now proceeding down the barrel at the standard muzzle velocity. Who’s going to stop it now?

###

 

Thanks for commenting, following and sharing.
Featured

A Drone-Wars, Targeted-Killing Primer– 1/2

Drone_Wars-1

Note: Most of the content of this piece is sourced from the site of an admirable British NGO called Dronewars.net.

A Drone-Wars, Targeted-Killing Glossary

DronesOr Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in military parlance, are pilotless aircraft, flown by remote control, frequently from bunkers halfway around the world by operators recruited from among some of America’s finest computer gamers. There are both unarmed surveillance drones and armed killers. Lethal UAV attacks can be launched from anywhere with a sufficiently powerful communications connections but the principal launch spot for “daily overseas contingency operations” is at Creech Air Force Base in Clark County, Nevada.

WarsWars are armed conflicts undertaken by nations at least theoretically to redress grievances against other nations. In the western world they are under the democratic control of elected representatives. This controlling body in America is the United States Congress. Military actions outside of this context are rogue actions (such as every war the US has launched since World War II) which are illegal under international law.

TargetedThat word gives one a calming sense of security. Ahh, these strikes are “targeted,” precise, controlled, not willfully random nor irresponsible nor out of control. As for civilian casualties, they are kept to the absolute minimum. America’s armed drones are virtually humanitarian. Their strikes are “targeted.” Ho, ho, ho, during the Vietnam War they were telling us that low-flying B-52 tactical close-air-support strikes, with a payload of 70,000 pounds, were “targeted.” Here’s one now, with its full complement of tricks:

B-52_complete

Eight AGM-84 Harpoon missiles, four AGM-142 Raptor missiles, 51 500-pound bombs, 30 1,000-pound bombs, 20 AGM-86C conventional air-launched cruise missiles (CALCM), 12 joint stand-off weapons (JSOW), 12 joint direct-attack munitions (JDAM), and 16 wind-corrected munitions dispensers (WCMD), according to Airforce-technology.com.

KillingKilling has a lot of modes, from eliminating noxious insects or slaughtering livestock for food, to school shootings in peaceful neighborhoods or the bombing of entire cities in wartime. This “carpet bombing” was seen as too horrendous even to consider in the early days of the Second World War, but that delicacy soon passed, just as all the unthinkable becomes ultimately thinkable. So where does “drone killing” fit into this continuum. Before deciding this question we must clarify the terms. “Drone killing” is actually a euphemism, employed to disguise the fact that American drone killing, often portrayed with the innocence and beneficence of crop spraying–is murder, the unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another.

Netly outside the legitimizing context of declared war and unsanctioned by any democratic process, the American freelance killing of people from the air by remote control enjoys no legitimacy to distinguish it from murder, nor its perpetrators from murderers. One of its early practitioners was President Barack Obama, who would sit down periodically with his Deputy National Security Advisor, John Brennan, to personally select victims for “targeted killing.” Obama later elevated Brennan, longtime CIA dirty-tricks master, to director of the CIA.

In June of 2011, Brennan claimed that US counter-terrorism operations had not resulted in “a single collateral death” in the previous year because of the “precision of the capabilities that we’ve been able to develop,” even though the Bureau of Investigative Jounalism discovered 76 innocent drone deaths, including eight children and two women.  Later the NY Times revealed the convoluted “reasoning” that permitted Brennan to exonerate himself, his operations and his country from a year’s drone murders. It seems that Washington ‘counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.’

No drone-casualty figures are actually trustworthy due to the secretive world they operate in.  One reliable source assures us that the percentage of innocent civilians among those killed by American combat drones may vary betwee one and 35%.

The American Drones Will Not Be Reined In

Despite the best efforts of activists like the Dronewars people in Britain, there is little room for optimism in the matter of banning killer drones. Fair enough, they’re unthinkably inhuman, brutal, illegal and immoral. Won’t that get them banned? No, actually. In its day the trebuchet, the ingenious medieval catapult used against fortified positions and capable of hurling a heavy stone more than 300 yards, was thought to be unholy. The same went for the longbow, used against the enemies of the English till the end of the 16th century. Its use was considered beyond the ken due to its range, punch and rate of fire, The same process of horror-acceptance-routine has continued until our own times. The machine gun was considered too much, not to mention the atomic bomb. Why should we suppose that killer drones might be any different?

###

If you would like to know more about the US drone wars you can download this .pdf file of Dronewars’ 28-page “campaigners’ briefing.” The American drone think tank, the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College, takes another–characteristically American–approach. According to their website they’re more interested in exploiting drones: “By conducting original, in-depth, and inquiry-driven projects, we seek to furnish stakeholders, policy-makers, and the public with the resources to engage in a robust public debate and develop policies that best address those opportunities and challenges.”
You might also like to know what Israel is up to on the drone front. The document, also from Dronewars.net, is called: Precise Strikes: Fractured Bodies, Fractured Lives. The Israelis are modern-day drone pioneers and major exporters along with the US and China. Their long-hovering armed drones keep people from all over the Middle East living on tenterhooks.

Coming Soon: Part 2/2, Thinking Drones

Thanks for commenting, following and sharing.

 

 

 

Featured

You Made Your Bed, America…

Bed of Nails2

Who’s Responsible for the Mess the US Is In? It’s Possible That You Are.

Were you born into a single-parent family that hovered for long periods around the poverty line? Have you or members of your family had brushes with the law or even been to prison? Do you belong to a racial minority: black, Hispanic or Native American? Have you lived in more than one bad neighborhood? Did  you drop out of school so you could go to work and earn some money?  Do you belong to organizations advocating white supremacy or violent overthrow of the government? Do you read the newspaper? Do you read anything? Do you do drugs regularly? Do you sell them? Do you live in a tent or in a car? If many or most of these statements describe your life, you probably don’t carry much of the blame for the shape your country is in. You’re too busy just trying to get by to cause any serious problems at the national level. You couldn’t even if  you wanted to. You lack the technical knowledge, communications and organizational skills. You lack the contacts and the financing. So you can just keep on doing what you’re doing and you’ll probably never make a blip on your country’s big-issue radar. In all likelihood you remain just another victim of 21st century America.

Or are you from a solid middle-class family with a university education and a well-paying job? Did you go to a good school? Do you own your house? Can you boast never having been in prison? Do you travel abroad? Do you have the best health insurance money can buy? Are you a sharp dresser? Are you well read? Have you thus far avoided serious mental illness? Do you drive a prestige car, or more? Or do you travel by limousine? Do you have friends in high places? Are you horrified by the repugnant state of your nation and the people who are running it? Even so, do you shun “getting involved in politics?” Would you rather spend your spare time on your boat or playing golf, traveling abroad or just trying not to think about it? If you answered “yes” to enough of these questions it’s highly likely that you are to blame for America’s lamentable state of affairs, or at least your corresponding share of it.

President Donald Trump’s Responsibility

Not even Donald Trump is principally responsible for today’s America’s woes. He can only be blamed for aggravating them to a formerly-undreamed-of degree. Those woes have long roots. They were planted hundreds of years ago with the Pilgrims and their intolerant religion, genocidal racism and voracious territorial pretensions. And those “values” have been perversely extended, admired and cultivated ever since by their descendents. Donald Trump was just randomly cast ashore a few centuries down the line with other American floatsam like Billy Graham and the Unabomber. He won the presidency against all odds in a grotesque lottery propelled by circumstances seemingly tailored to his limited qualifications.

He was just lucky, though it’s still not clear whether his luck was good or bad, both for him and for you. What does seem to be clear is that he’s in way over his head. But none of this makes him unique. It makes him a normal American like so many others, just a product of a traditional American upbringing that, by the time he arrived, was fatally flawed. It was the classic me-first, get-rich-quick American way of life, already atypical on the world stage, already pathologically narcissistic (ultra-nationalism is just narcissism on a grand scale), tragically unequal, and homicidally competitive. President Donald J. Trump should be no surprise to anyone. He’s your bog-standard American boy: over sexed and under read, unintelligent and unlettered though shrewd, but certainly too incompetent to have mounted the social, political and economic brouhaha the Americans have on their hands today.

Trump Needed Some Help and He Got It

Donald Trump needed some help in becoming President of the United States. He got it from legally tilted campaign financing norms via Citizens United. He got it from an overreaching Republican Party. They were hoping against hope that they could control a totally new rogue phenomenon in American politics. He got it from manipulating America’s unusual and anti-democratic Electoral College election process. He got it from high-tech, big-data, big-bucks,  low-brow billionaires like Robert Mercer. Mercer, a big-data pioneer, founded Cambridge Analytics and sent teams of media meddlers and data analysts to tilt the Brexit referendum in Britain in favor of abandoning Europe. Last–and far from least–he got it from the American people on both sides, those who voted for him and those who abstained. It is entirely possible that one of those people was you and there were a lot of others like you.

Why Didn’t Some of You Do Something?

Ironically, there was a point where the Donald Trump initiative could have been stopped, peacefully and easily. Simply by voting. Why didn’t that happen? In the first place, the big half of America that should have blocked Trump’s ascension was blindsided. They weren’t expecting a lowbrow real-estate speculator/reality show host to have a ghost of a chance at becoming President of the United States. In the minds of sane Americans–and there are lots of them–a presidential candidate requires special qualities which are usually boiled down to “a presidential air.” He needs to be conspicuously intelligent and well-balanced, an excellent communicator, with some expertise and a certain gravitas. Barak Obama was a good example of this. You can’t have any old used-car salesman governing the greatest country in the world. (Conversely, a country with any old used-car salesman for president cannot be the greatest in the world.)

Those traditional high standards were smashed by George W. Bush in the 2000 elections. Bush, who was a lamentable candidate, went on to become a lamentable President, largely managed by his own personal Svengali, National Security Advisor and later Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. (See Seymour Hersh’s 1984 book: The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House.) It would seem that sane Americans should have seen Bush as a warning sign for the future, but not enough of them did.

Why not? This, I think, has to do with the continental divide between the two Americas, the ultra-nationalist, brainwashed, corporate duped, southernized half and the other half, which I refer to as “sane America.” The latter couldn’t perceive the former–or if they did they couldn’t believe it. Sane Americans couldn’t believe the numbers they were up against, nor the depth of ignorance, nor the vehemence. By the time they realized it fully it was too late.

Why Is This Geopolitical Juncture So Vital?

It’s vital because of the extraordinary instability of the moment, when the American vision of the future of the world, as defined baldly by the neoconservative think tank the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) in the late 1990s, in terms of “”American leadership is good both for America and for the world,” The 2001 attack on the World Trade Center gave wings to PNAC’s and the Pentagon’s “full-spectrum-dominance” solutions. But that was nearly 20 years ago and those “solutions” have proven to be less effective–and more expensive–than expected.

Today the United States finds itself reeling, a victim of its unfulfilled promises at home and abroad, a waning confidence of its own citizens and signs of distrust from its traditionally loyal allies and client states. That is, for example, all of Europe. Even Britain, a little country with seemingly all its eggs in America’s basket, has just expressed exasperation with President Trump’s threat to bomb 52 cultural sites in Iran. It’s not clear whether or not American foreign policy mavens have noticed, but Russia and China are gaining new friends and partners around the world. At least two of America’s traditional hard-core allies, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, are chatting with the Russians on the subject of their S-400 anti-aircraft missiles.

Of course, President Trump’s unilateral, apparently gratuitous murder of Iran’s iconic–to Iranians–Major General Qassem Soleimani has brought issues to a head. Coupled with Trump’s so-called “economic sanctions,” themselves another  act of war, that assassination has opened the door to a host of unforeseeable responses, ranging from merely testimonial to cataclysmic. It’s unclear whether the US deserves to be situated in this uncomfortable position, but there you are, sitting pretty. What comes next seems to depend upon President Trump’s next indigestion.

Where Do You Go From Here, America?

That is the geopolitical question of the moment–and perhaps the century. While the evolution of many of these momentous situations are foreseeable, at least to some degree, this one is shrouded in obscurity. Historically, critical geopolitical moments like this lend themselves to some sort of logical analysis based on historical antecedents, international agreements, studies of countries’ long-term policies, even game-theory analysis, but this case responds to none of these approaches. Thanks to one unpredictable factor that obeys none of the logical variables, we are left entirely in the dark. And that factor is as capricious as the flight of a butterfly on a windless day. President Donald J. Trump, the first American president to govern via Twitter, the narcissist in chief, and the first to explicitly discard all forms of truth and logic, is the most abnormal player in international relations since Hitler or Idi Amin.

Having dismissed or been abandoned by his best advisors (see Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig’s just-published book, A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America), Trump is on his own with very light baggage. It’s as if he were setting off on an Antarctic expediton with just his golf bag, which, by the way, happens to contain the nuclear button. Unfortunately, America–and the rest of the world–is setting off with him. Will he now opt for another extreme move against the Iranians? Or someone else? There’s only one given when it comes to President Trump’s modus operandi: it’s erratic. The authors of A Very Stable Genius describe him as a “chaotic, undisciplined, impulsive leader.” So we don’t know what he will do at this point in American–and world–history, and we won’t know until it’s too late.

###

Thanks for following and sharing.

 

 

 

 

 

Featured

American Anti-Communism: Fear and Opportunism

Captain_America
This 10-cent pitch to 10-year-olds exemplifies the crude campaign that conditioned more than a century of American foreign policy. And the end is not in sight.

Anti-Communism as Toxic American Apple Pie

Full disclosure: In the early fifties, when I was eight or ten years old I had a recurring fantasy that, if I could only meet and talk with a Russian boy, I could convince him that I didn’t hate him, and that might be the beginning of the end of the Cold War. My take on the subject today is essentially still the same.

As I was growing up in rural Michigan I never stopped wondering how the all-powerful American anti-communist obsession came about, what drove it and where was it taking us. One thing was clear to me: the whole issue was seriously instrumentalized by the American establishment, who converted the threat of communism into a blunt instrument for dominating the minds of the American people and physically bludgeoning the people of other lands utterly to death. It seemed then that everything evil or simply negative in the world could conveniently be explained away by blaming it on the “commies,” and not much has changed in that respect today. Even after the 1989 collapse of the Soviet Union “the Russians” are still perceived as enemies, threats to the “free world” and are still held responsible for everything from those subversive little nested dolls to influencing American elections. Having heard that cry of “Wolf!” so many times already, I think I’m entitled to be a bit skeptical.

When I arrived in Spain in 1968 one of the first friends I made was Pablo, a Spanish TV correspondent who was a communist, the first one I ever met. They called them “Eurocomunistas” in those days to distinguish them from Soviet communists.Their program was just about constructing a more decent society in their own country, something they helped to do in the intervening years. During that time they were the only organization on the Spanish political scene to take any real risks in opposing the murderous Franco military regime. Franco, who was a smart, ruthless dictator, ultimately died in bed in 1975. In the meantime my friendship with Pablo developed and he introduced me to his friends, all committed, altruistic young people working towards a Spanish democracy. Today the majority of our Spanish friends are ex-eurocommunists, Spain’s finest folk. The geopolitical wisdom of Captain America was long forgotten until I ran across him on the web the other day.

Allies to Enemies, an Assisted Metamorphosis

A US Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing was already at work in early 1919 presenting “Bolshevik horror stories” which were picked up by the sensationalist press–including the New York Times–adorned with lurid headlines like “Reds Seek War With America” and sold to the American public. This introductory education on Russian communism lasted throughout the 20s and set the tone of what was to come during the rest of the century.

Ironically, America’s mortal enemies since the Second World War were their most-important allies during the war, not Britain and certainly not France. It was the Russians who defeated the most Nazis and paid the highest price in destruction and lives of both soldiers and civilians–more than 20 million. President Roosevelt was convinced that he could work with the Russians after the war. But Roosevelt died and the American right–including President Harry Truman, the know-nothing Democrat, turned on the Soviets. He famously said on the day after the Germans invaded the Soviet Union: “If we see that Germany is winning, we ought to help Russia, and if Russia is winning, we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible…” He and his British allies then proceeded to sit on their hands for three years, leaving the Russians to take on the Germans by themselves.

After the war the expert American propaganda machine saw to it that those Russians were metamorphosed from allies into adversaries and from there into enemies. The advantage of enemies is that you don’t have to play fair against them and you can kill them if you need to.

For decades the question lurked in the back of my mind: How the hell did that happen? Then I ran across a book by William Blum entitled, The CIA, a forgotten history. Released in 1986 by Zed, an independent non-fiction publishing company based in London, UK, the book’s introduction presents a brief and cogent history of American anticommunism. It occupies a scant 14 pages but it immediately cleared away all the cobwebs in my head on the subject of American anticommunism. Most of the facts in this article come from that introduction to Blum’s book.

Here’s How America’s Geopolitical Blood Feud Began

Soviet communism resulted from the Bolshevik revolution, the derrogation of the Tsar of all the Russias, which coincided with the end of the First World War. Communism experienced its greatest growth during the 1930s. While Western economies were muddling their way through the Great Depression, Russian industry boomed and technology advanced. One of Stalin’s pet projects was the formation of engineers. Communism was admired by working people from around the world, but not so much by the owners of the means of production. Thanks mainly to Stalin’s purges and gulags, that utopian mirage didn’t last long but it was long enough to throw a powerful scare into the world’s capitalist oligarchs, one they never recovered from. It didn’t take them long to mobilize.

As early as 1918 the United States launched two military attacks on Russia from the north, one (the Polar Bear Expedition) at Arkhangelsk  and another (the American Expeditionary Force, Siberia) at Vladivostak, Russia’s important Pacific port near the Chinese border. These initiatives, which coincided with the Russian civil war, were ill conceived and executed and allegedly gave rise to a mutiny among the 5,000 troops at Arkhangelsk–two thirds of which were from Michigan. The principal results of these senseless military missions were to terrorize the population of north Russia and cast a lasting shadow over relations between the US and the Soviet Union.

The inspiration for this attempt “to strangle at its birth” the Bolshevik state came from the British Minister for Air and War, the young Winston Churchill, who remained throughout his life a bitter enemy of Russia and one of the principal animators of the Cold War.

Blum asks, “What was there about this Bolshevik Revolution that so alarmed the most powerful nations in the world?” He relates how the Russians had dared to make a separate peace with Germany, abandoning the First World War after three years of bloody fighting. Graver still, they overthrew a capitalist-feudal regime and proclaimed the world’s first socialist state. Says Blum, “This was the crime the Allies had to punish, the virus which had to be eradicated lest it spread to their own people.”

The Dreaded Enemy Becomes a Useful Pawn in the Game

For years, numerous Americans, in high positions and obscure, sullenly harbored the conviction that World War II was “the wrong war against the wrong enemies.” Communism, they knew, was the only genuine enemy on America’s historical agenda. Was that not why Hitler had been ignoired/tolerated/appeased? So that the Nazi war machine would turn East and wipe Bolshevism off the face of the earth once and for all? It was just unfortunate that Adolf turned out be be such a megalomaniac and turned West as well. (William Blum, The CIA: A Forgotten History)

The shrewd American foreign-policy team, headed by Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, figured out by the 50s how to turn Soviet Communism to their advantage by casting the Russians as the quintessential enemy, responsible for misdeeds all over the world. There was nothing so far off nor so tenuous that it couldn’t be attributed to “the Russkies.” According to Wisconsin Senator Eugene McCarthy they had even deeply infiltrated the US government . The Americans continued beating the same tired drum during President Ronald Reagan’s Crusade Against the Evil Empire in the 80s.

One hundred years of  overt and covert hammering on the American subconscious has had a devastating effect on their perception of the world outside their own borders. Today the average American’s reaction to any mention of communists or communism is wholly Pavolvian. They immediately start to salivate.

William Blum, sums it up:

The American people have been subjected to a relentless anti-communist indoctrination. It is imbibed with their mother’s milk, pictured in their comic books, spelled out in their school books; their daily paper offfers them headlines that tell them all they need to know; ministers find sermons in it; politicians are elected with it and Reader’s Digest becomes rich on it.

Blum then goes on to elucidate in elaborate detail the pecadilloes of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the United States’s principal agency in the fight against communism (which incidentally can include socialism, liberalism and, at times, simple nationalism or self determination.) As Blum makes clear over more than 400 pages, the cure has been vastly more serious than the illness.

Meanwhile, the reality of US-Soviet relations since World War II was much more nuanced than Captain America would have us believe. The most outstanding example was during and after the Cuban missile crisis, 13 days in October, 1962, which was the closest humankind has ever come to total extermination. Both President Kennedy and Chairman Krushchev were acutely aware of the extreme gravity of what almost happened in Cuba and both were convinced that it was up to them to take measures to obviate the possibility of a catastrophic, world-ending “misunderstanding.” Both leaders faced bitter opposition to peace initiatives in their respective military establishments but Krushchev was determined and Kennedy seemed to be inclined. He was encouraged by Norman Cousins, his private envoy to Krushchev, who informed him that the Soviet leader sincerely sought “a new relationship with the United States…” Cousins suggested that Kennedy deliver an address offering “a breathtaking new approach toward the Russian people, calling for an end to the cold war and a fresh start in American-Russian relations.”

This new departure was suggested in Kennedy’s June, 1963, American University address, prepared by the President and his staff without the intervention of the Joint Chiefs, the CIA or the State Department. Stone and Kuznick, authors of The Untold History of the United States, consider this talk “the most enlightened speech made by any president in the twentieth century.” This is the version published in that history book. The President said:

I have…chosen this time and this place to discuss a topic on which ignorance too often abounds and the truth is too rarely perceived–yet it is the most important topic on earth: world peace. What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war… I am talking about genuine peace–the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living–the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children–not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women–not merely peace in our time but peace for all time. I speak of peace because of the new face of war. Total war makes no sense in an age when great powers can maintain large and largely invulnerable nuclear forces and refuse to surrender without resort to those forces. It makes no sense in an age when a single nuclear weapon contains almost ten times the explosive force delivered by all of the allied air forces in the Second World War. It makes no sense in an age when the deadly poisons produced by a nuclear exchange would be carried by the wind and water and soil and seed to the far corners of the globe and to generations unborn… Second: Let us re-examine our attitude toward the Soviet Union…it is sad to…realize the extent of the gulf between us. But it is also…a warning to the American people not to…see only a distorted and desperate view of the other side, not to see conflict as inevitable, accommodations as impossible and communication as nothing more than an exchange of threats… Today, should total war ever break out again…all we have built, all we have worked for, would be destroyed in the first 24 hours… In short, both the United States and its allies, and the Soviet Union and its allies, have a mutually deep interest in a just and genuine peace and in halting the arms race… And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal. Third: Let us re-examine our attitude toward the Cold War…we shall also do our part to build a world of peace where the weak are safe and the strong are just. We are not helpless before that task or hopeless of its success. Confident and unafraid, we labor on–not toward a strategy of annihilation but toward a strategy of peace.

Five short months later, on November 22, 1963, President Kennedy was murdered. Premier Krushchev was deposed in October of the following year, and the world returned to the status quo ante.

###

Thanks for following and sharing.

 

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: