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.

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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.

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American Noir

<> on September 10, 2013 in New York City.

America’s Truth Is Scarier Than Hollywood’s Fiction

The other night we watched Pulp Fiction for maybe the fourth time. Halfway through the film I was jolted. It occurred to me suddenly that Americans today live inside a frightening, dystopian noir movie that makes Pulp Fiction pale by comparison. Director Quentin Tarentino tried to portray aspects of that condition in his film but, compared to the real-life, day-to-day realities that Americans face, his film looks like pretty tame stuff, more like a Rock Hudson/Doris Day comedy than a historically horrific cinematic experience. Just substitute John/Samuel for Rock/Doris. In Tarantino’s film there are half a dozen assassinations that made cinema history for their casual cruelty, but they’re like a walk in the park compared to normal American life over the past half century or so.

I suspect that you’re going to accuse me of exaggerating. Of course, I’m exaggerating. I need to get your attention. So just stick with me a bit more and I’ll prove to you that everyday life in America is far more horrific than Hollywood’s best/worst cine noir, better than Frankenstein, better than zombies, better than snuff. Have you ever seen a snuff film? Can you imagine a movie with 58,000 snuffees whose names were later etched on a monument 258 feet long in Washington DC? And those were just the American victims. There were many more–like millions–among the Vietnamese soldiers and civilians. Between American-inflicted “collateral damage;” the carpet bombing of great swaths of Vietnamese, Thai and Cambodian territory; and the assassination of thousands of suspected Viet Cong collaborators carried out by the CIA under Operation Phoenix; Messrs. Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Kissinger and McNamara, brewed up a movie that Messrs. Tarantino, Jackson and Travolta could never dream of.

And it’s not over yet. Vietnam veterans are still committing suicides attributible to their Vietnam experiences, but their statistics get swallowed up by those of more-recent war-related American military suicides, currently occurring at around 20 per day. According to  (June 29, 2018):

The 20-a-day rate has been relatively consistent since 2008. By that estimate, more than 58,000 veterans and troops have taken their own lives since 2008. Add roughly 20,000 more suicides for the three years prior to that, when the daily suicide rate was 19 a day (in 2007) and about 18 (in 2005 and 2006). Numbers for 2016, 2017 and 2018 are yet to be tallied. If they hold to 20 a day, by the end of this year the total number of suicides among veterans and troops will be more than 100,000 since 2005.

These lurid realities, I think you’ll agree, go far beyond the horrors of a couple of pretentious, Bible-quoting assassins shooting dope pushers in a Hollywood film.

Bringing It All Back Home

Not all of the American horror shows take place overseas, by any means. Most of them hit the American heartland. Would you be interested in a script that would make Tarantino’s blood run cold? Let’s talk about homelessness and poverty.

Last spring the Washington Post ran a story they called Homeless, Living in a Tent Blocks from the U.S. Capitol–and Working Full Time. In it they tell Monica Diaz’s story. Monica works full time in a fast-food outlet and sleeps, with her husband, Pete Etheridge, in a tent on the street. But even under those unthinkable conditions they are not secure from municipal harassment. This is their seventh tent; the other six have been swept away, along with their belongings, in raids by city police. The way to evade these evictions? Monica must stuff all of her belongings in black rubbish bags, take down her tent, put everything on a shopping cart and move it to another location until the police go away. Then she’s moves back in until the next rout. It seems to be the best the American capitol can do for its “more affluent” homeless, the ones with a job. This is the lesser homeless horror show. What is life like for people with no income, and with children? Let me guess. You try not to think about it.

Numbers of homeless peoplel in America in 2017:

553,000 total on a given night 2018 0.17% of population

According to http://www.opendoormission.com, the average age of a homeless person is nine years. But according to the New York Times, who interviewed the Department of Homeless Services, the average age across the whole system is 24 years. Estonia is the country with least homelessness with 0.06% of the population. The US has more than double that rate. According to joinpdx.org,  homelessness can essentially be broken down into four categories: chronic, episodic, transitional, and hidden. If we cut to the chase, the principal underlying cause of all of these modes is income inequality and we’re obliged to look at poverty.

Lurking Beneath Homelessness is Crushing Poverty

According to debt.org, more than 46 million Americans–15%–live in poverty today. Atd-fourthworld.org reports that the wealth of countries is usually rated by GDP per capita, and many statistics include the poor in that same basket. So when the rich get richer, they maintain, so do the poor. That’s not true. The rich can–and do–get immensely richer without the trend alleviating poverty in any way, whatsoever.

The Trump administration has made poverty in America much worse. Bernie Sanders and Rashida Tlaib note, in an opinion piece published in The Guardian on New Year’s Eve, that Trump has just finalized the first of three policies that will make this inequality even more obscene. Just two years after passing a $1.5tn (that’s “trillion” with a “t”) tax giveaway to the wealthiest Americans and large corporations, the Trump administration now plans to eliminate nutrition benefits for 3.7 million people.

The second measure it to limit benefits to families who cannot afford childcare and decent housing. Add to this a determination to turn up the pressure on families who must choose between food or heat. Meanwhile, the Republican tax-cut scam is working perefectly. Today, the richest 400 billionaires pay lower taxes than any group in America – including the poor. Nearly 100 of the top Fortune 500 companies now pay zero taxes.

Down the Poverty-to-Prison Chute

The United States leads the world in mass incarceration with 788 prisoners per 100,000 population. A reasonable case can be made for a country’s incarceration statistics as a  pretty good indicator of its overall health and wellbeing. By that measure there’s the United States, topping the list of the most dystopian nations in the world. Is that because Americans are innately more evil than people from Argentina or Norway? I doubt that. Or is it that the least fortunate Americans are faced, virtually from birth, with an uphill struggle against poverty, inadequate education, failing social services, and alienating societal values. Unlike the first world, they don’t even have health care. And these conditions have gone from bad to worse thanks to anti-social measures taken by a series of right-wing governments which have given rise to an unheard-of level of income inequality.

In a society that embraces the Americans’ wild-west human values, for the children born into underprivileged America, it’s a short hop to violence and crime. They perceive that as their only option for getting rich quick–the universal American aspiration. And they’re not mistaken. So they are rounded up and sent to prison. About 25% of the world’s prison population is in the US, which currently has more than 2.1 million total prisoners. The prison population in 1972 was 200,000, almost 2 million less than it is today. Here are the comparative statistics by country (prisoners per 100,000 population) of the world’s top 10 lockups:

  1. United States (737)
  2. Russia (615)
  3. Ukraine (350)
  4. South Africa (334)
  5. Poland (235)
  6. Mexico (196)
  7. Brazil (193)
  8. Spain (144)
  9. Kenya (130)
  10. Netherlands (128) (Source: worldpopulationreview.com)

Despite President Trump’s lack of concern for American prestige abroad, as anybody with an IQ over 50 can discern, this is not a proud list to be on. And the United States is not only on it. The United States leads it.

If You’re White You’re All Right

Mass incarceration in the United States is, of course, a civil rights issue, as many argue that incarceration dehumanizes poor people and minorities, does not increase public safety and damages already marginalized communities. The creation of massive amounts of prisoners with ever-longer mandatory sentences has led to several other issues, including overcrowded prisons, which increase health risks and decreased psychological well-being. And we still haven’t touched upon the disproportionate numbers of minorities imprisoned in the United States. Let’s just look at the briefest of statistics. According to 2017 figures from pewresearch org, hispanic and black people make up 28% of the American population but 56% of federal and state prisoners, while white people, with 64% of the total US population, make up only 30% of its inmates. Something is clearly amiss in American society and it goes far beyond their minorities’ inborn penchant for crime.

Additionally, the increasing number of prisoners is putting a major strain on state budgets. Prisons must control and administer all aspects of life for inmates, which include lengthy and costly list of necessities. Prison costs include adequate security, food, recreational and education opportunities, infrastructure maintenance, utility costs for the facilities, and providing healthcare for the prisoners. State prison spending varies greatly and can be as high as $69,355 per inmate per year (the average cost of an inmate in New York).

Black Holes, Anyone?

Independent journalist, Will Potter, visited one of the quasi-secret US detention facilities that exist inside two prisons out there in flyover America. Here’s his 15-minute report:

Can you think of a screen writer who can make this stuff up? I can’t.

How Does It End?

Is this noir enough for you? I don’t want to bore you, though I could go on about titles like Americans Who Die by the Gun, The Uninsured, Children in Cages by Themselves, Victims of Homicidal Racism, Politicians Who Sell Democracy for Self Gain…

How does it all end? We can only guess. You want my guess? It’s not a happy ending.

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Born-Again America and the White House

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Church and State in America, a Toxic Cocktail

Some American Evangelical Christians see through President Donald Trump’s pandering to the Christian right as an effort to win their votes. Others no. According to Wikipedia.com, the United States has the largest concentration of evangelicals in the world. The results of a recent PEW Research poll indicate that American evangelicals are a quarter of the nation’s population and its single largest religious group. The results of the 2016 presidential election, according to a PEW poll, saw Trump winning 81% of the evangelical vote while just 16% voted for Clinton. Trump’s margin of victory among voters in this group was 65-percentage-points.

These numbers also help to explain the importance of President Trump’s iron-clad pro-Israeli agenda, perceived by Evangelical Christians as coinciding with the their own vision of the Biblical end-of-days story. They need a war in the Holy Land to jump-start the Apocalypse, which will in turn precipitate the Rapture. According to supposedly inerrant biblical prophesy, the Rapture will propel the born-again believers directly into Heaven. The President knows, despite his notoriously dissolute lifestyle, that he can count on their votes as long as he maintains his policy of harassing and provoking Iran, and supporting Israel’s right-wing government’s belicose policies. The militarist Likud party, personified in Israeli President Benjamin (aka Bibi) Netanyahu, is perceived by the uber-Christians the one most likely to take the world to Armageddon. This narrative isn’t difficult for President Trump to accept, for two cogent reasons:

  1. He doesn’t believe in the Apocalypse any more than you and I do.
  2. There are many millions of votes in it for him.

Besides, Trump and Netanyahu are cut from the same cloth. Both are ruthless and unscrupulous in pursuit of their own ends, no matter how illegitimate, immoral or illegal they may be, or what macabre consequences they may bring. Both of them see the rule of law–both domestic and international–as something that can be hammered into any shape they desire.

The latest news on President Trump’s provocation of Iran, according to today’s Wall Street Journal, is his “considering” a significant expansion of the U.S. military footprint in the Middle East to counter Iran, including dozens more ships, other military hardware and as many as 14,000 additional troops, thus doubling the number of U.S. military personnel since the troop buildup began last May. One wonders, have any of the Pentagon geniuses considered the possible repercussions in Saudi Arabia itself of a growing presence of American troops on sacred Arabian ground. This was the issue that propelled Osama bin Laden to worldwide fame.

Where Will Presidential Pandering Take the US?

President Trump’s pandering to religious institutions dramatically lowers the level of political discourse in the United States. The constant rise of magical religious sects as one of the most powerful electoral blocs in the country. only enhances their appeal to cynical, opportunistic, dubiously-Christian candidates.  This fact is not lost on Donald Trump and he bends over backwards–and forwards–to cater to the most radical Christian fundamentalist elements in American society. He actually tailors his Middle East foreign policy to their perceived needs. Concidentally, these “needs” for moving the Israeli capital to Jerusalem, condoning the ongoing establishment of illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, and, ultimately, war in the region, have become President Trump’s standard Middle East policy. In all it amounts to an exceedingly complicated–and dangerous–kettle of fish.

If the Evangelical strategy were to work, while they are being wafted into heaven, everybody in the non-born-again world, including President Trump himself, all the Jews and, incidently, you and I, will go straight to hell. I sincerely think I’m rendering this story line correctly. Though it sounds like the script of a B-rated sci-fi movie, they believe it, and President Trump believes that their votes will get him re-elected in 2020. Seen with a cold eye, it’s a classic symbiotic relationship, like that of the shark and the remora, the little fish who cleans the parasites off the shark’s teeth. The Evangelicals are using Trump and he’s using them, despite the fact that they have nothing else in common. It’s just not quite clear which of the two is the shark.

Beside their curious end-times beliefs, most of these born-again Christians subscribe to the standard right-wing cant: racism, nationalism, predatory capitalism, deregulation, rapture culture, anti-science stances, along with retrograde views of women and attitudes towards LGBGT people. They’re essentially the classic American right with a theological twist.

Televangelism to the Front

A recent addition to President Trump’s White House juju team as the new head of his Faith and Opportunity Initiative is his “longtime prayer partner,” televangelist Paula White, also known as a successful practitioner of the Pentacostal “prosperity gospel.” This shrewd “ministry” has netted her a private jet and a $3.5 million crib in Trump Tower in New York, among other goodies. According to thegospelcoalition.org, White, who delivered the invocation at Trump’s presidential inauguration, claims to be the “convener and de facto head” of the president’s evangelical advisory board. The group of about 35 evangelical pastors includes the four men who endorsed her latest book: Jerry Falwell Jr., Franklin Graham, Jack Graham, and Robert Jeffress. This is how christianitytoday.com describes the prosperity scam.

It is an aberrant theology that teaches God rewards faith—and hefty tithing—with financial blessings, the prosperity gospel was closely associated with prominent 1980s televangelists Jimmy Swaggart and Jim and Tammy Bakker, and is part and parcel of many of today’s charismatic movements in the Global South. Orthodox Christians wary of prosperity doctrine found a friend in Senator Chuck Grassley, who in 2008 began a thorough vetting of the tax-exempt status of six prominent “health and wealth” leaders, including Kenneth Copeland, Bishop Eddie Long, and Paula White.

With her unabashedly sexy stage presence and mock-pious pitch, Paula comes across as an uniquely kinky con-woman. Her church -– which once boasted a membership of 20,000 people — declared bankruptcy in 2012. (Source: ministrywatch.com).

Perhaps You Would Like to Meet Her

The Constitution Speaks; Is Anyone Listening?

The first amendment to the US Constitution clearly states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” That should settle the question of separation of church and state but, as in everything else, particular interests can find a little wiggle room in any text.

That’s how religion crept into the government during the second Bush administration. It was he who established by executive order on January 29, 2001, the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (OFBCI) which, ostensibly sought to strengthen faith-based and community organizations and expand their capacity to provide federally funded social services. For fiscal year 2005, more than $2.2 billion in competitive social service grants were awarded to faith-based organizations. This pouring of federal funds into religious initiatives was promptly challenged by critics including Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the American Civil Liberties Union. When President Obama assumed the office he changed the name of the OFBCI to President’s Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, though he did not substantially change its functions. (Source: Wikipedia)

The phrase “separation of church and state” can be traced to a January 1, 1802, letter by Thomas Jefferson, addressed to the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut, and published in a Massachusetts newspaper. Jefferson wrote:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.

It was the second President Bush’s cozying up to the country’s right-wing Christians, that eventually led up to–or down to–the appointment of Paula White as President Trump’s spiritual advisor. Her otherwise routine presidential appointment had, according to thegospelcoalition.org, an immediate cruel and unusual sequel:

A day after the announcement was made, White’s ministry emailed supporters under her name asking them to donate $3,600 to achieve “opportunity and favor” from God. As Nicola A. Menzie reports, the email states: “During this season something so supernatural will take place and it will literally shift your life in a very positive way, IF you have ears to hear and connect to the prophetic moment. Friend, YOU MUST STAY CONNECTED TO ME DURING THIS PROPHETIC SEASON!” 

If this doesn’t smack of conflict of interest, the Pope ain’t a Catholic.

Pandering to the Religious Right Is Good Electoral Business 

There is a campaign being promoted by Evangelicals to support President Trump on issues such as religious liberty exemptions for wedding vendors, who object to offering services for same-sex wedding ceremonies. The CS Monitor cites Attorney General Jeff Sessions as saying “We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied, or silenced anymore.” This certainly sounds like a stalwart defense of government support for right-wing Christianity in America and adherence to their ideology. Coming from one of Trump’s most accomplished sycophants, it also smacks of vote-stroking electoral opportunism.

The incursion of right-wing religion in the heart of American politics, whether motivated by over-zealous Christians in the government or by sheer electoral opportunism, represents just another crack in the edifice of normal democratic government. Normal government in today’s world depends upon rational, reasonable criteria to permit it to function properly for all of its citizens, not magical thinking nor “biblical correctness.” A right-wing Christian/Trump coalition would certainly lead to a loss of credibility with American allies, most of whom are guided by humane, rational criteria, with some notable exceptions, including President Trump’s favorites: Russia, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

With the Trump administration headed up by bible-thumping, Rapture-smitten politicians, aided by televangelist “religious advisors” like Paula White, the threat to separation between church and state–and democratic government as we know it–is evident. Included in the basic tenets of the Evangelical religión are a belief that the Bible contains the literal truth about everything, and the necessity of being “born again.” The Pentacostal Evangelicals add to this the essential importance of the “gift of tongues.” The obvious question that arises is: What happens when these strict theological principles clash with the Constitution of the United States, a clash that is inevitable? Are the citizens of the United States facing a critical turning point at which they must choose between their traditional a-religious government and a Taliban-style theocracy? The clock is running.

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The American Agenda–3/3

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Dissecting the National Security State

In his book, Brave New World Order, (Orbis Books, 1992), Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer identified seven characteristics of a National Security State:

  • The first characteristic of a National Security State is that the military is the highest authority. In a National Security State the military not only guarantees the security of the state against all internal and external enemies, it has enough power to determine the overall direction of the society. In a National Security State the military exerts important influence over political, economic, as well as military affairs.
  • A second defining feature of a National Security State is that political democracy and democratic elections are viewed with suspicion, contempt, or in terms of political expediency. National Security States often maintain an appearance of democracy. However, ultimate power rests with the military or within a broader National Security Establishment.
  • A third characteristic of a National Security State is that the military and related sectors wield substantial political and economic power. They do so in the context of an ideology which stresses that ‘freedom” and “development” are possible only when capital is concentrated in the hands of elites.
  • A fourth feature of a National Security State is its obsession with enemies. There are enemies of the state everywhere. Defending against external and/or internal enemies becomes a leading preoccupation of the state, a distorting factor in the economy, and a major source of national identity and purpose.
  • A fifth ideological foundation of a National Security State is that the enemies of the state are cunning and ruthless. Therefore, any means used to destroy or control these enemies is justified.
  • A sixth characteristic of a National Security State is that it restricts public debate and limits popular participation through secrecy or intimidation. Authentic democracy depends on participation of the people. National Security States limit such participation in a number of ways: They sow fear and thereby narrow the range of public debate; they restrict and distort information; and they define policies in secret and implement those policies through covert channels and clandestine activities. The state justifies such actions through rhetorical pleas of “higher purpose” and vague appeals to “national security.”
  • Finally, the church is expected to mobilize its financial, ideological, and theological resources in service to the National Security State.

Here Comes The Project for the New American Century

In 1997 the American Agenda was consolidated as never before thanks to the brainstorming of a select group of neo-conservative activists headed by William Kristol and Robert Kazan. They called the initiative the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), and the team they put together to plan (and execute, as many of them held important posts in the George W. Bush administration) reads like a Who’s Who of neocon chicken hawks at the time. The first group of recruits might sound familiar to you. They included Elliott Abrams, William Bennet, Jeb Bush, Dick Cheney, Eliot Cohen, Midge Decter, Steve Forbes, Francis Fukuyama, Frank Gaffney, Fred Ikle, Donald Kagan, Zalmay Khalilzad, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Norman Podhoretz, Dan Quale, Henry Rowen, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz. To that illustrious cohort were later added Richard Perle, Kenneth Adelman, Richard Allen, Richard Armitage, John Bolton, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Charles Krauthammer, Daniel Pipes, and James Woolsey. A quick scan through Google shows that, of this entire group of patriots and warmongers, very few of them did any military service at all, let along serve their country in combat.

The PNAC, emboldened by right-wing successes in Washington as well as the collapse of the Soviet Union less than a decade previously, brazenly declared the objectives of their program to promote US global hegemony in a series of comuniqués which recommended, among other measures:

·  Increased defense spending

·  Complete US militarization and domination of space

·   An anti-missile system that came to be known sardonically as the “Star Wars” system

·    The ability to “fight and decisively win multiple simultaneous major-theater wars”

·    The policy of “critical regions,” especially the oil-rich Middle East

(Source: Stone and Kuznick, The Untold History of the United States, 2013)

At the top of PNAC’s immediate agenda was the toppling of the Sadam Hussein regime in Iraq. Sadam was their ally when his military served as an American proxy army against Iran in the 80s but by 2003 he was no longer useful. They had other plans for Sadam. Seen in retrospect, their strategy was to devastate Iraq, grab their oil (following much the same process as they are doing today in the Kurdish zone of Syria), then rebuild the country with the income from Iraq’s own petroleum. (Yes, it sounds just as absurd as making the Mexicans pay for the wall.) There was only one factor holding them back. Sadam had not committed any crime nor outrage grave enough to justify levelling his country in order to unseat him. Even the neocons could see that, and they alluded it in their contingency plans. They noted that, barring some catastrophic event such as the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, there was nothing to be done.

Enter 911, 2001, right on cue, and the Americans marched manfully into Iraq. Wait a minute. All but four of the 19 hijackers were Saudis, so why didn’t Bush’s National Security team decide to invade Saudi Arabia? Silly question. It would have been bad for business. What about Afghanistan? Osama bin Laden, the alleged perpetrator of 911 was allegedly hiding out somewhere in them there Afghan hills, wasn’t he? So, if they were going to invade anywhere, wouldn’t simple fourth-grade logic suggest it be Afghanistan before Iraq? The neocon strategists were having none of that. Rumsfeld made a remark, something about “better targets” in Iraq, General Colin Powell found some weapons of mass destruction under the bed and the world’s most formidable war machine booted up and marched. Handily enough, they already had the plans prepared.

I have treated this absurd series of events as a lark because, in the end, that is exactly what it turned out to be, a big, fat, lethal lark with a horrifying balance of dead and wounded Iraqi civilians, as well as millions being converted into homeless refugees. The number of Iraqi victims depends upon whom you listen to. The Iraq Body Count project (IBC) figure of documented civilian deaths from violence is 183,535 – 206,107 through April 2019. This includes reported civilian deaths “due to coalition and insurgent military action, sectarian violence and increased criminal violence.” The IBC site states: “many deaths will probably go unreported or unrecorded by officials and media.” According to the Associated Press‘s version more than 110,600 Iraqis had been killed since the start of the war to April 2009. (Source: Wikipedia)

It was President Barak Obama who was finally going to put the United States—and the world—in order and make things normal and decent again. So many American voters believed that message absolutely. Then, according to thebalance.com, he increased Bush’s “defense” budget to between $700 billion and $800 billion a year, and took the United States armed forces into Afghanistan. Coincidentally, Afghanistan sits on many billions (trillions?) of dollars worth of rare minerals. War, it seems, can look like good business, when regarded with a blind eye.

The Art of the Deal or Criminal Negligence?

Alleged heir to billions, real-estate developer, sexual harasser and reality TV star, Donald J. Trump achieved a surprising election victory in 2016 that produced a seismic awakening for a politically stale and morally drowsy United States. But the real shock took some time to sink in. Because, in obeyance to his wacky campaign promises, President Trump and his merry band of sociopaths have devoted the three years since he was elected to dismounting and demolishing the United States government as we know it. Lest you consider that categorical statement exaggerated, let’s take a look at the situation piece by piece. Investigative journalist and writer, Michael Lewis, makes that possible. In his thin (217-page) 2018 book, The Fifth Risk, he has given us enough reliable facts, laid out in an orderly and interesting manner, to get a reasonable grip on the situation.

The Fifth Risk is virtually a handbook of authoritative–and highly readable–information  that Lewis obtained while criss-crossing the country and interviewing high-level civil servants from the Obama administration. These were the people responsible for the day-to-day functioning of vital federal agencies.

The most fascinating–and terrifying–sections of the book describe the transfer of power from the people who ran US government agencies under Obama to the new Trump appointees. We’re talking about agencies that run from the Patent Office, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Education and the Department of Commerce, up to the Department of Energy, a thirty-billion-dollar-a-year organization with about a hundred and ten thousand employees. This process is understandably complicated and its procedures are actually established by law. Well before the election, presidential candidates are required to form a “transition team” to facilitate the transfer of specialized knowledge required to keep the all-important federal agencies running smoothly. The law actually provides fully-furnished and operational office space for each transition team.

Lewis describes the importance of the departments and their management teams:

How to stop a virus, how to take a census, how to determine if some foreign country is seeking to obtain a nuclear weapon or if Korean missiles can reach Kansas City: these are enduring technical problems. The people appointed by a newly-elected president to solve these problems have roughly seventy-five days to learn from their predecessors.  After the inauguration, a lot of deeply knowledgeable people will scatter to the four winds and be forbidden, by federal law, from initiating any contact with their replacements.

He makes it patently clear that Trump’s appointees form a demolition team, not a governing body, driven more by extreme-right-wing ideology than any expertise. Perhaps the most telling detail revealed by Lewis is that the day after the inauguration of President Trump, with all the Obama agency heads sitting in offices specially prepared for welcoming the incoming appointees with thick volumes of transition information and procedures, some of which took more than a year to prepare, no Trump representatives showed up. Days went by–in some cases weeks–and the Trump administration show no signs of life. When they finally appeared, instead of the expected teams of 20 or 30 experts, they were met with just a few incoming staff members, in one significant case a single elderly white man without a notebook nor a pencil.

Lewis quotes a comment by Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s White House Chief Strategist during the first seven months of his term, that sums up that insider’s view of the Obama-Trump transition:

I was fucking nervous as shit. I go, Holy fuck, this guy [Trump] doesn’t know anything. And he doesn’t give a shit.

The Trump policy was obviously not to do things, rather to undo them. And he and his cohorts are proceeding diligently down the same path today. Some of them seem to think that the nation’s problems can be solved by prayer.

Is the American Agenda Survivable?

From all outward signs, the objective of the Trump government is to continue to enrich the rich and subjugate the poor, thus placing in jeopardy the health and wellbeing—if not the very survival–of generations of Americans to come. Who can assure Americans that their children and grandchildren, and their children and grandchildren, will be capable of surviving the coming climate change, the wars, the famines, the water shortages, the industrial and electromagnetic pollution, the plummeting education standards and, above all, the false values that the American agenda is based upon. In order to survive as a nation, the Americans might benefit from teaching their children well. That is, to stop trying to convince them that they are superior to other people around the country and the world. They’re not smarter nor better than any of the other children around the world. If they are superior in anything, it’s as consumers of low-grade ultra-nationalism,  “pop culture” and reality TV, the maximum expression of which is their own President Donald Trump.

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The American Agenda 2/3

Thugs drag Assange out of embassy
Journalist Julian Assange is dragged from Ecuadorian embassy in London by authorized British thugs. In his hand is a copy of Gore Vidal’s book, History of the National Security State.

Then Came the National Security State

The American National Security State generally refers to the ideology and institutions (CIA, Dept. of Defense, etc.) established by the National Security Act of 1947, an enduring legacy of then President Harry S. Truman in support of his doctrine “to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.” (Source: Michael J. Hogan, A Cross of Iron: Harry S. Truman and the Origins of the National Security State, 1945-1954). Hogan’s book explains the transformative process under Truman that ended in the ultimate demise of the New Deal state with its emphasis on social spending, and ushered in the militarist National Security State, which promptly proceeded to dedicate itself to subjugation and outside pressures. (Source: Sourcewatch.org)

The National Security Act brought about a major restructuring of the United States government’s military and intelligence agencies following the war. It created many of the institutions that subsequent Presidents have found useful when formulating and implementing foreign policy, including the National Security Council (NSC). It also created the Department of the Air Force, converting the Army Air Force into a separate branch of the armed forces.

Then, in rapid succession, came the  Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1947, taking over from the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), (1942–45) headed by Major General William Joseph (Wild Bill) Donovan and dedicated to obtaining information about and sabotaging the military efforts of enemy nations during World War II. Donovan is regarded as the founding father of the CIA, and his statue stands in the lobby of the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, both as homage to Wild Bill and to his freewheeling  style in international relations, a lot of which remains today. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) followed in 1949, and the National Security Agency (NSA) in 1952. The NSA quickly grew into a massive high-tech and top-secret organization dedicated to signals intelligence and capable of of spying on everybody, everywhere.

With all these pieces in place, the United States was ready to undertake their world takeover. The first steps in that militarist departure are today referred to as the Cold War. Today, 67 years later, the Americans have roughly 1,000 (nobody outside the Pentagon knows the precise number) military installations around the world. Meanwhile, in 2018, it was reported that Russia operates “at least 21 significant military facilities overseas.” (Source: Wikipedia)

US Repertoire Includes Remote Death from Sky

The skies of the world are filled with American satellites and armed drones. Many unfortunate people live under permanent threat of sudden death descending from Heaven in the form of US “targeted assassinations.” This includes not only the leaders of terrorist organizations (always keeping in mind that our terrorists are their freedom fighters) but also their extended families, neighbors, friends, sympathizers, passers-by and the milkman. Since the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, the United States government has carried out drone strikes against ostensible Jihadist terrorist leaders primarily in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Libya. Though the number of accompanying civilian deaths is hard to compile some organizations have tried. According to Wikipedia.com, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism says the rate of civilian casualties for 2012, for example, was nine percent. The Bureau, based on extensive research in mid-2011, claims that at least 385 civilians were among the dead.

It has been reported that 160 children have died from UAV-launched attacks in Pakistan and that over 1,000 civilians have been injured. Additional reporting has found that known militant leaders have constituted only two percent of all drone-related fatalities. These sources run counter to the Obama administration’s claim that “nearly for the past year there hasn’t been a single collateral death” due to UAV-based attacks. The New America Foundation estimates that for the period 2004-2011, the non-militant fatality rate was approximately 20%. (Source: Wikipedia)

President Barak Obama was to take a personal interest in the drone assassination program, actually sitting down periodically with the CIA’s top dirty-tricks specialist, John Brennan, whom he later named director of the CIA, to select from a list of candidates for the week’s proposed killer-drone victims. This seems to be a first: a hands-on, Murder-Incorporated-style operation based in the White House, and directed by the President himself.

It was President Trump who, just this came year, came up with an expedient solution to the dance of statistics. On March 6, 2019, he signed an executive order revoking the requirement that U.S. intelligence officials publicly report the number of civilians killed in Counter-Terrorism missions in Areas Outside of Active Hostilities.

When in Doubt, Escalate

The drone war was just another step forward in the escalation of the ever-more-creative American agenda. After World War II, instead of demobilizing the army, President Truman expanded the war machine and ushered in the National Security State. When President Kennedy’s turn came around he raised military spending $17 billion above that of the Eisenhower years. This year, 2019, the United States “defense” budget for the four branches of the U.S. military: the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force, has progressed to approximately $693,058,000,000. That’s 693 billion dollars; some sources say it’s probably closer to a trillion. Either way, it’s more than the money spent on defense by the next seven countries combined, and certainly enough to finance a lot of hot lunches for schoolchildren.

Speaking in 1994, Gore Vidal, America’s favorite celebrity intellectual in the sixties and seventies—until he started cutting too close to the bone—says in a long interview with Paul Jay, the Canadian journalist who was later to found the Baltimore-based Real News.com:

But by forty-five—when the bombs were dropped— we lacked Franklin Roosevelt. He was the emperor. He knew exactly what he was doing. He made a number of agreements with Stalin at Yalta. All Stalin asked for was to be treated as a normal superpower, which is what they were. Roosevelt did not have any nonsense going on in his head about the sanctity of Christianity, the sanctity of capitalism versus communism. I don’t think he ever gave such topics a thought. All he knew is we had won the war, and he was going to decolonialize.

I realize how little understanding any of us had of what was actually going on at the [Cold War] time. We had been carefully conditioned to believe that the gallant, lonely USA was, on every side, beleaguered by the Soviet Union, a monolithic Omnipotency; we now know that they were weak and reactive while we were strong and provocative. Once Jack [Kennedy] had inherited the make-believe war against communism in general and the Soviet Union in particular, he preceded, unknown to all but a few, to change the rules of the game. He was about to turn Truman’s pseudo-war into a real war… 

Unfortunately for the United States and the world, President Roosevelt didn’t live to carry out his noble plans. His place was taken by a mediocre politician, the product of a mediocre Democratic Party machine from Missouri, who had only been vice president for 82 days when Roosevelt died and never enjoyed his confidence. Truman knew nothing when he was thrust into the presidency, for example, of the United States’s development of two nuclear devices. But, against the advice of all the bombs’ developers and all the relevant government departments, he dropped them both on Japan, unnecessarily, it turns out, and with disastrous consequences. This was the definitive indication that the United States was declaring its unilateral primacy in world affairs.

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The American Agenda–1/3

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What Is the United States Up To?

What motivates Americans these days? What are their priorities? Where did those convictions come from? Why are the axiomatic American truths so different from those of the rest of the world?  What do Americans read? Where are they coming from? Where are they headed? Are they out front, or lagging behind? What is their agenda?

As I see it, our generations’ part of the American story, one of the most truculent in their history, which I have deemed The American Agenda, takes shape at a meeting in Yalta (Crimea, Soviet Union) from February 4th to the 11th, 1945, just before the end of second great war of the 20th century. United there, at their second and last  wartime meeting, were the leaders of the three Allied countries that were to be instrumental in the defeat of German nazism, Italian fascism and Japanese imperialism: Premier Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Great Britain.

With the war in Europe practically won by these Allies, the grumpy, hard-drinking prime minister’s principal objective at the conference was to save the British Empire, which was retained, if not for long, and the British still have not closed the wound. Premier Stalin felt obliged to emerge from the war with enough control over Eastern Europe to assure that neither the Germans, nor anyone else, could march unhindered into his country. Roosevelt’s goals included consensus on thee creation of the United Nations and gaining Soviet agreement to enter the war against Japan once Hitler was defeated. None of them left Yalta completely satisfied. (Source: Wikipedia)

Roosevelt and Stalin trusted one another and foresaw possible common projects between their two countries after the war. Churchill, a British aristocrat, lifelong anti-communist hardliner, and the one who would betray the other two, felt left alone at the meeting with his big cigar. When the war in Europe ended he actually suggested to American President Harry Truman (Roosevelt having died a couple of months after the Yalta Conference) that, since they were already in Europe, a combined British-American force might invade Russia and nip communism in the bud.

The US Enters an Open Field

It is important to keep in mind at this point that, while Britain and the Soviet Union, along with many other countries in Europe and Asia, were devastated by war on their own ground with massive human and economic losses, the United States was never bombed and never saw an enemy soldier on their land. They fought in Europe and Asia, and didn’t enter the war until more than two years after Britain and six months after the Soviet Union. When the Americans finally did get into the fray it was not to form a western front in order to relieve the hard-pressed Russians who were left virtually alone to face the Germans’ lethal attack (Operation Barbarrosa) on the east beginnning in June of 1941.

Instead the Yanks followed Churchill’s lead, always prioritizing the protection of British colonies and access to Middle-East oil. So the Americans and the British dilly-dallied in North Africa and Italy for a disproportionate long time. The all-important British and American advance across the English Channel did not take place for three more years, during which the Soviet Union fought the Germans almost alone, until the Allied Normandy landing (Operation Overlord) in June of 1944. President Truman actually said, in the meantime, that the more Germans and Russians who killed one another, the better.

The Americans, having pulled themselves out of the tail end of the great depression and gotten rich from their industrial contributions to the war, were sitting on top of the world. It was around that time that a few smart, opportunistic American leaders began to think in terms of American world domination. and to act on their thoughts. What better time than the present, they must have thought, with virtually the entire world at their feet. So they began to lay the ideological groundwork and to create the institutions necessary to work their plans. From there on out, the United States essentially called the shots.

Showdown at Bretton Woods

The first step to enable the projection of American power around the globe, in July, 1944, a few months before the Yalta Conference, was an international meeting at the Mount Washington Hotel in the ski resort of Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. The meeting was called the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference, though the United Nations would not be created until more than a year later. There, under the undeniable leadership of the United States, 730 delegates from all 44 Allied nations sat down from July 1 to 22, 1944, to regulate the international monetary and financial order after World War II. Out of this meeting came the establishment of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as well as the International Trade Organization.

The United States and Britain had secretly been planning the economic future of the world since 1940. Their attitude towards the rest of the delegates was hinted at by the economist Lord Keynes, the head of the British delegation, in a recorded conversation:

Twenty-one countries have been invited which clearly have nothing to contribute and will merely encumber the ground… The most monstrous monkey-house assembled for years.

In the accelerated approval of the agreements at Bretton Woods the Soviet Union did not join the newly-created financial entities and Soviet influence on world trade was badly damaged as a consequence. The final agreement replaced the gold standard with the U.S. dollar as the global currency. By so doing, it established America as the dominant power in the world economy. After the agreement was signed, America was the only country with the ability to print dollars. (Source: Wikipedia)

One of the reasons Bretton Woods worked for the Americans was that the U.S. was clearly the most powerful country at the table, thus able to impose its will on the others, including an often-dismayed Britain. At the time, one senior official at the Bank of England described the deal reached at Bretton Woods as “the greatest blow to Britain next to the war”, largely because it underlined the way financial power had moved from the UK to the US. Having become the largest international creditor, the US held nearly two-thirds of the world’s gold reserves and commanded half of all global industrial production. (Sources: Wikipedia and AstuteNews.com)

Three quarters of a century later, Kristina V. Minkova, St. Petersburg State University, writes in the Russian Journal of Global Initiatives: Policy, Pedagogy, Perspective:

It is my belief that Stalin was not fully aware of all the complexity of the big economic and political game between the United States and Great Britain, which gained momentum in 1943. While the latter was struggling to save the remnants of its empire and was bargaining madly for credits vitally important for its survival, the former were clearly demanding the role of  world leader. 

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