America’s Testy Response to China

Is there any hope for a great country that has painted itself into a dark corner where the rich have been permitted to buy the democracy and tailor it to their own dubious purposes?

Did They Drop the Ball?

Meet Antony Blinken, the Secretary State that President Joe Biden appointed when he took office in January of this year. Blinken had a unique opportunity to shine on the world stage at the Anchorage (Alaska) meetings between China and the US.

CNN reported on the welcome accorded the Chinese: “In his opening remarks, Blinken initially said the US intends to defend the “rules-based order” without which there would be a “much more violent world” and said that Chinese activities in places like Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as its cyber attacks on the US and economic coercion of US allies, “threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability.”

In keeping with President Donald Trump’s benchmark diplomatic style, Antony Blinken opened the US-China meetings, with an aggresive litany of China’s supposed abuses in their region. Some observers at the event likened these remarks to China condemning US actions in Florida, Texas and Mississippi, insofar as all of the places mentioned by Blinken are, under international law and mutual agreement, subject to Chinese sovereignty. What about Taiwan? In a 1979 Joint Communique issued with the People’s Republic of China, the State Department of the United States “recognized the Government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal government of China, acknowledging the Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China.” (Source: US Department of State)

China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi did not hold back in his rebuttal to Blinken: “We believe that it is important for the United States to change its own image, and to stop advancing its own democracy in the rest of the world… Many people within the United States actually have little confidence in the democracy of the United States.”

As I see it, any normal person reading this account of the American welcome to a high-level foreign representation whom they invited to travel thousands of miles to a vitally important meeting, would conclude that the American greeting was awkward, illogical and ultimately counterproductive. It doesn’t seem to make sense on any level: intellectual, social, strategic, and, least of all, diplomatic. What were the American representatives thinking? Have they so little intelligence, such a lack of sensibility, and a deficient sense of decency, that they are incapable of offering a simple welcome for openers?

I doubt that Blinken is unintelligent nor that his mother didn’t inculcate in him notions of sensibility, decency and simple good manners. But those niceties are shelved when it comes time to sit down face to face with someone the ruling magnates in his country consider an enemy. Because militarized America doesn’t have adversaries, it has enemies. And its officials don’t respond to logic, decency or common sense when they sit down at a meeting, only to the script incorporated into their country’s belligerent agenda. And that agenda includes military solutions almost exclusively. The business of America is war, and Secretary Blinken is not about to change that fact.

(See full transcript of US-China opening remarks in Anchorage. (Source: Nikkei Asia)

China Making Astonishing Progress

The Americans and the British never had much regard for China. Granted it was a huge country with rich resources, but it was half a world away as well as impoverished, disperse and its people were vexed for being exploited by foreigners. When we first hear the term “opium wars” most of us conjure up visions of the Imperial British authorities waging war to prevent those degenerate Chinamen from downgrading the country through widespread drug use. Later we learn that the truth was all the contrary. The British fought the opium wars in order to guarantee themselves the “right” to peddle opium to the Chinese, who were fighting to protect their countrymen from the degenerate British drug businessmen. Nothing ever changes. Colonialism is still about business.

Then came the Japanese imperialists with their hideous rape of Nanking in 1937-38. Curiously, neither the British nor the Japanese seemed aware that, during the previous twenty centuries of human history, China had dominated eighteen. That is not an insignificant historical anecdote. It is a telling clue to the future. And the future is now.

Over the past half century the Chinese have made massive advances with a minimum of military interventions. China is again in motion and, despite having the world’s largest army, the Chinese follow a non-violent game plan, advancing without truculence or bombast. Their emphasis is on hard work, bargaining and sharing. Their Belt and Road initiative is about trade, not war, about mutual benefits, not destruction. Instead of mounting a vast network of military bases across the world, they invested in China and the Chinese, elevating a sector of 800 million people out of deep poverty.

They knew it was going to be a long march but they are accustomed to that. Mao Zedong’s year-long, 5,600-mile retreat in the face of Chaing Kai-Shek’s Kuomintang Army in 1934-35 set the benchmark for Long Marches. Of the 100-200,000 men who set off from Jaangxi Province with Mao, only 8,000 reached the destination in Yan’an in Shaanxi Province in northern China a year later. From there the Chinese communists came back after 22 years to send the Chinese nationalist army fleeing to the Chinese island of Formosa (today Taiwan) and take over the ruling of the country. This heroic feat both inspired China’s communists and elevated Mao to the party’s leadership. The great Chinese comeback was under way.

They still have a ways to go, but they’re working on it, propelled by a real annual GDP growth rate between six and 10 percent since the mid-70s. The following figures help to explain why China makes the Americans nervous. They’re the comparative yearly figures for economic growth China-US for 2013-2018 (Data from IMF WEO Database, April 2020):

Country201320142015201620172018[4]Avg
 China7.767.306.906.706.906.507.01
 US  1.682.572.861.492.272.802.28

These numbers sing a powerful song. At this rate China can be expected to overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy sometime between 2028 and 2032. China is America’s most important source of imports and the US is indebted to them (as of 2021) $1.1 trillion. (Source: US Treasury Report)

The United States is China’s most important trading partner and China is the US’s third most important, after Mexico and Canada. Seen by an impartial observer China and the United States can be conceived as virtual Siamese twins, linked at their spines and with shared interests in virtually all fields, though they can never see eye to eye. Both are living in the critical era of the Covid 19 pandemic, each in their own way, the US with the highest Covid statistics in the world and China the lowest. Aren’t there things the US can learn from China in this field and others? Shouldn’t they be cooperating? The American agenda seems to preclude that possibility.

The Pentagon and the big American weapons providers don’t see the benefits of cooperation with China. They see just another opportunity to provoke a war and reap the usual harvest of profit and disaster. Never mind that this might be the Big One. They prefer to insult and threaten the Chinese, not only verbally but by converting the South China Sea into a playpool for American gunboats, and whipping up contrived “defense” alliances like the recent AUKUS initiative. This frankenstinian spawn unites the United States; their loyal Sancho Panza, Great Britain; and Australia in a palpably anti-China conglomerate. What do the Australians think they have to gain by offending their principal trading partner. Here are recent figures for Australia’s exports.

China: US$90.6 billion (43% of total Australian exports)
Japan: $19 billion (9%)
United States: $13.1 billion (6.2%)

https://wits.worldbank.org › countrysnapshot › AUS

The AUKUS agreement also includes the purchase of up to six nuclear-powered submarines from the US, the better to provoke the Chinese dragon. The aims of this trilateral defense initiative seem to be muddled from the outset. Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, is quoted in The Guardian on September 16, 2021: “But let me be clear. Australia is not seeking to acquire nuclear weapons or establish a civil nuclear capability,” as if an atomic submarine were not a nuclear weapon. Will the AUKUS “defense” partnership, which at bottom is a massive American arms deal, lead to a cold-war-style arms race? It would be remarkable if it didn’t.

At this point in the game the same question always arises: how do the Americans manage to dupe their allies into leaping carelessly into the ugliest stewpots? The Aussies also took part in the disastrous Vietnam debacle in the 60s and 70s. And in 2014, in a highly dubious decision, they committed US$11.5 billion to the purchase of 58 American-made, problem plagued F-35A Lightning II fighters. Since 2001, Australian forces suffered 38 combat deaths in the Americans’ Afghanistan clownshow. Do the Aussies never learn? Observed from afar this American penchant for implicating their friends in their military adventures seems utterly gratuitous. “But Australia is obliged to collaborate with the United States under the terms of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization,” the Aussie collaborators will say. “North Atlantic?” Yes, of course.

The Forever War Scam

Not all of the treasure lavished on America’s perpetual war project is lost. Part of it returns to American coffers in the form of payment for their ever-more-sophisticated and deadly armaments. Unfortunately, the American people at large never see nor benefit from the wealth generated by the arms trade. In fact, the arms trafficking merry go round amounts to an elaborate procedure to funnel America’s wealth from the wallets of taxpayers who finance the research and pay for the country’s formidable stockpile of arms and their delivery systems, into the exclusive pockets of the armament magnates.

Who are they? According to a new report from the Center for Responsive Politics, five of the nation’s biggest defense contractors — Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon Technologies and General Dynamics — generated enough profit in 2020 to spend a combined $60 million to influence American foreign policy. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. OpenSecrets.org (Feb. 25, 2021), reveals that America’s armament industry skims a bit of the cream off the top of their earnings to keep the political pussycat lubricated. Over the last two decades they have given $285 million in campaign contributions and spent $2.5 billion on lobbying.

No Wonder Uncle Sam’s Alarmed

Part of the secret of China’s meteoric rise in the world is the money they didn’t have to spend on waging wars near and far, nor establishing hundreds of military bases around the world or sponsoring endless false-flag regime change operations. Add to the money not misspent the vast number of enemies not made by not invading anybody. Do the Americans think their regime-change penchant hasn’t created expensive enemies?

The Chinese won their civil war (1927-1949) and have spent their time since then building a prosperous peacetime. During the same period that the US was squandering tens of trillions (with a T) on bellicose follies, China was investing in its country and its people. Today they are extending their prosperity projects to the Middle East and Africa, as well as Latin America and the Caribbean. Their strategy is to share, not invade, and it’s working, much to the chagrin of the American oligarchs.

China’s biggest international trade project was announced in 2013 and pursued enthusiastically since then. It is their Belt and Road Initiative and it is already achieving significant advances. According to its website, BRI is a transcontinental long-term policy and investment program which aims at infrastructure development and acceleration of the economic integration of countries along the route of the historic Silk Road. That silk road now crosses the Atlantic to bring economic development to countries such as Chile and Cuba, among others. According to the Belt and Road site, 71 countries are currently taking part in the Initiative, together representing more than a third of the world`s GDP and two thirds of the world`s population.

For a revealing insider’s overview of the Belt and Road railway project, see this article on Frédéric de Kemmeter’s website.

Is There Any Hope?

Is there any hope for a great country that has painted itself into a dark corner where the rich have been permitted to buy the democracy and tailor it to their own dubious purposes, relegating the onetime government to a merely decorative role? What happens when a society weaned on competition foresees a future in which it can no longer compete? Can it still learn valuable lessons from gentler, more humane and egalitarian countries? Or will it resort to even more desperate measures? These are the operative questions. Will the Americans find the answers in time?

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Stupidity Is a Mortal Illness

Stupidity denotes the inability of a person to understand something due to insufficient intelligence, thus leading to the misinterpretation of a fact. (Thesaurus.com)

How Does The United States Manage to Remain World Leader in Covid 19 Mismanagement?

It’s a magical mix of of stupidity and greed in the most advanced country in the world that makes this seemingly impossible outcome inevitable. Every-man-for-himself, rugged-individualist Americans cannot win against a widespread, highly-contagious virus, regardless of their high tech and bags of money. Winning in this case requires an everyone-pulling-together effort for the common good. It sounds like socialism, doesn’t it. That’s because it is like socialism. Could that be why large segments of Americans are rejecting the collective effort–the masks, the social distancing and prophylactic measures? Whatever the case, stupidity rules.

Like everything else that’s mortally wrong with American society, the collosal losing response to the Covid 19 epidemic is a result of faulty philosophy. As much as Americans love a shooting war, there are no military solutions to a pandemic. Fighting a virus on the rampage requires the rigorous and uniform application of boring preventive measures that are disastrous for the economy in the short term. “Uniform” refers to all sections of the country, all creeds and political persuasions, rich and poor, black and white and all colors in between. America’s current approach to the problem–overlapping and conflicting authority at the federal, state and local levels, and tolerating organized resistence to vital public health measures–is a recipe for disaster. The current disaster has claimed 648,000 lives–and counting–thus far. More than 600,000 unnecessary deaths boggle the mind. This price is far too high. Even so, the country marches stupidly on.

Excremental Right-Wing Agendas Fertilize Stupidity

Is this stupidity catching? Yes, and it is highly contagious, thanks principally to the actions and omissions of low people in high places. The word and example of any state governor, legislator, or member of the United States Congress has a following, by default. They are, after all, elected by thousands or even millions of voters. What motivates these seemingly short-sighted politicians to lead their innocent followers into the hell of fatally-flawed public health policies?

Their justification conforms to mindless right-wing, laissez-faire agendas that extend to every aspect of American life, from hands-off-everything government policy to iron-clad opposition to regulating business. Political campaign planners rely on varied agendas to assure the fidelity of their candidates’ followers. These agendas may be ambitious like the megalomaniac Project for a New American Century or simple campaign slogans like “Make America Great Again.”

Everyone with two fingers of forehead understands these problems and their fatal outcomes, but too many adepts of ultra-conservative ideologies prefer to overrule common sense and sane public health policies with their noxious agendas. They not only harm themselves but do untold damage to people near and far (starting with their own elderly family members) by perpetuating the spread of the virus through deadly chain reactions. This is the stupidity of the thoughtless application of the Americans’ sacrosanct “individual freedom.” They are riding that tired old horse into their early graves.

The other collective that wields an unnatural–and unnaturally stupid– influence in American society is that of the merely rich. An American billionaire, no matter how crass, venal or damaging to others, enjoys massive admiration and support in that benighted country, though his or her only merit is posessing a lot of money, no matter how they came by it nor what foolish–or actually dangerous–initiatives they sponsor with it.

Stupidity Goes Hand in Hand with Other Undesirables

Supine stupidity does not come along by itself. It is usually accompanied by a group of undesirable friends and allies with equally noxious effects on American society. Hyper patriotism (and its first cousin, exceptionalism), and primitive religious cults are usually found in first rank of the mix. None of these phenomena are dangerous in and of themselves. As we used to say when we were kids, “It’s a free country.” However, taken together, they contribute to a mode of baseless, unfounded thinking that is not really thinking, rather the parroting of false premises that are useful to ruling elite. The most sinister friend of that group is militarism, fabulously profitable for a few, but mortally dangerous for millions in America and around the world. The patriotic and militarist lies, so easy to propagate in a naive society, have deep roots in America, and will take a long time, if ever, to uproot.

Who Suffers from the Pandemic?

Everybody suffers, some catastrophically, some less, but, directly or indirectly, everybody suffers. Nobody gets off scot-free… except the Chinese, who took universal, rational measures against the pandemic from day one, and never looked back.

Who Benefits?

The people and organizations who benefit from America’s current level of public-health stupidity are the usual suspects, the same elements who foment and reap benefits from an ignorant, arrogant and bigoted electorate on other playing fields. They’re the country’s smash-and-grab political demagogues first and foremost. Then, of course, there’s Big Pharma, already blessed with an iron-clad law (the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003), that prohibits the government from negotiating prices on medications sold to the Medicare system. Unless that legislation is amended, the economic results for drug companies from Covid vaccines and treatments can be expected to take their profits into another dimension.

What’s to Be Done?

The cure for countries that are occupied by stupidity is not hard to prescribe: it’s educating the country’s young people for life among one’s fellow human beings. The rest is secondary and falls into place once the matter of cordial coexistence is in hand. Though it’s not hard to recommend, this solution is one of life’s most difficult tasks to achieve. This is especially true in a country like the United States with a set of national values based on laser-beam self interest and darkest Darwinian competitiveness, with all of its powerful industrial and economic interests tearing through the society like an amoral buzz saw. Then there’s the question of size. Effecting any change in a land so extensive and varied is a monumental order. All of these elements coinciding make the most fundamental element in the mix–a willingness to convene among people of all types, conditions, and opinions–virtually unachievable. Until that first step is taken, however, nothing is possible. Will the Americans be able to make that move in time? Thereon hinges the future of their country–and the entire world–for better or for worse.

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Big Biz Rules America

High ranking military personnel pass through the revolving door into plum positions in corporate board rooms. They take with them their knowledge and, more importantly,
their contacts. This process is also a self-generating daisy chain, as today’s
officer/executives are ideally placed to recruit the next generation of insiders.

And They’re Not Doing a Very Good Job of It

There’s a line from a great John Lee Hooker song that pops up at our house from time to time and always gets a big laugh: “This is nineteen and fifty-two, baby, I’m gonna turn over a brand new leaf…”

If you’re over the age of 16, you may have discovered by now that it’s not always easy to turn that leaf over, especially if you live in the United States. Large parts of the rest of the world are substantially different. The differences have to do with sovereignty and priorities. In most European countries the citizens rule their own countries by means of highly-respected, honest, and closely monitored democratic governments. As for their criteria, most of them have to do with the wellbeing of the citizens.

In the United States sovereignty rests, through devious indirect control of all three branches of government, in the hands of big interests: Big Oil, Big Tech, Big Pharma, Big Banks, Big Tobacco, Big Defense Industries… Everthing that could conceivably be privatized has been privatized. Most Americans perceive this as normal. The all-powerful private sector is erroneously seen as a given, but it’s not. It’s a choice. Why would the citizens of an advanced society entrust the running of their country to a small minority of mega-wealthy money jugglers and industrialists with one priority: the absolute rule of the greatest country in the world, with policies that benefit only themselves? What could persuade a sovereign people living under a democratic Constitution to relinquish the rule of the their country to such a band of parasites?

The answer is both simple and complicated. The people have been tricked. It’s been a long time coming, but today big business’s dominance of the United States is pretty much absolute. Who’s going to turn over the new leaf now? And how? And when? One great uncertainty hovers over all the rest: Is it already too late?

All for Profit in the Past, Present and Future

All the trappings of a modern democratic government in the United States are just a shadown drama of shifting kimonos on a rickety, ill-lit stage. In all matters of fundamental importance, American business calls the shots. And we don’t have to guess at their priorities. They are all about securing their own rule and maximizing profit for their managers and stockholders with little or no regard for the hopes and aspirations–and at times the very survival–of everyday people, both at home and abroad. Who are the stockholders, anyway? Curiously it’s mainly the bankers, industrialists and their congressional facilitators, themselves.

Other kinds of issues are considered vital in more truly advanced countries, beginning with the character of their maximum leaders and the impression of sanity and seriousness they project at home and abroad. Every American president since George W. Bush has been perceived by discerning observers, in greater or lesser degree, as a sinister clown. Then there are the principal subjects of concern in any truly advanced country: education, public health, equality of opportunity, racial justice, the climate crisis, truth and decency in dealings with their world neighbors–issues that hardly enter into American government calculations, regardless of which of their political parties–Tweedle Dum or Tweedle Dee–is in office.

Do you doubt it? Ask any black or brown American. Ask any American family living in a car or on the street, or any head of a family who works two McJobs and still can’t afford to rent a decent home. Question any Iraqi, Afghan, Libyan, Iranian, Somali, Central or South American. Inquire of China, or even Japan, whom America ushered into the history books as the first country to endure not one but two surprise nuclear bombings. (Why two? Because America had two different bomb models, playfully dubbed “Fat Man” and “Little Boy,” and President Truman wanted to test them both in real-world situations.)

A History of Exploitation, Genocide, and Other Iniquities

American colonists from the very beginning felt that they had a God-given right to eliminate the heathen Native Americans. The few that survive today are just a result of a slipshod genocide. Slavery in America rested on the same God-given foundations. Despite a series of poorly-executed laws to end the horrors of slavery after the Civil War, it didn’t die. It mutated. Thanks to Jim Crow laws, passed in all southern states and given a wink and nod from Washington, black people in the south suffered decades more of brutal exploitation. Nor is that sordid heritage over yet. Today the American penal system–the largest in the world–has picked up where Jim Crow left off, disproportionally incarcerating and exploiting black citizens in similar or worse conditions than their slaveholder forbears.

America’s special brand of racism has broken the back of their democracy, a fact that has been highlighted by the recent spate of voter suppression initiatives around the country. The US is home to so many–and such virulent–racists that they can severely limit voting rights through democratic processes alone: racist-majority state legislatures, courts, juries, and police, not to mention the majority of race haters militating in the Republican Party.

Where America Excels

There is one field in which American technology is unsurpassed, and that is the business of communications, persuasion and salesmanship. They have never been bettered in the business of mind twisting, devious salesmanship and the diffusion of false “facts.” They have convinced the majority of American citizens that their country is a hilltop beacon of freedom and democracy with the sacred obligation to take that enviable model abroad to less fortunate countries.

That basic “truth” has given rise to myriad bastard offspring, including the subversion of legitimate governments and “regime change,” assassinations of legitimate political leaders included (Guatemala, Iran, the Republic of the Congo, Chile…). Nor were they averse to outright invasions (Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia); along with those that are currently/still brewing (Yemen, Libya, another Afghanistan, Syria, Taiwan, Cuba, Venezuela, another Iraq…)

The American salesmanship voodoo is wonderfully exemplified in the decades-long campaign to involve allied defense establishments in the Lockheed-Martin F-35 Lightning II project to develop an advanced fifth-generation stealth fighter aircraft. This endeavor began its life in 1992 as a congressional pork-barrel operation situating manufacturing operations in 48 of the 50 states. This is standard operating procedure both for winning widespread backing in Congress and creating a project that would be too big to fail. They were right on both counts, as the project is still stumbling forward 20 years later.

The product is a multi-faulty multi-service fighter plane with expensive and ungainly separate versions for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. It also resembles a textbook fraud, by casting all prospective clients as partners, thereby making them co-responsible for the aircraft’s myriad development glitches, holdups, and astronomical cost overruns. It is, in short, a big-B boondoggle, the most expensive weapons system in military history, to the tune of $1.7 trillion. Aviation and military procurement insiders refer to it as “the fighter plane that sank the Pentagon.” According to an article in Forbes (Feb. 23, 2021), the US Air Force has just declared the F-35 unfit for duty. “The 25-ton stealth warplane has become the very problem it was supposed to solve. And now America needs a new fighter to solve that F-35 problem.” One wonders about the experts from other countries who signed on to the program. What convinced them, the carrot or the stick? Do they have important stock portfolios? Do their kids go to elite schools in America?

A Grisly Endgame

Source: Statista

American business had its demise dialled into its DNA. As companies became more concentrated and monopolistic, with more advantages and fewer controls engineered by their legislative arm, more of their domestic competitors were driven to the wall. That led to layoffs and deteriorating conditions for workers. Little by little big business in America was killing the market it needed to stay afloat and now the job is almost finished. Ironically, this process, while stifling trade in America, opened up fabulous opportunities for the Chinese, who are creating millions of jobs and getting rich as America’s manufacturing arm.

China’s annual Gross Domestic Product growth rate has hovered just under 10% since 1978 when they began reforming their economy, never dropping below 7.9%, even during the pandemic. By way of comparison, the US GDP growth rate over that same period never reached 5%. These numbers go a long way towards explaining America’s perception of China today as an arch enemy. The Americans have always had trouble distinguishing between adversaries and enemies. The difference seems to be: you can bomb the latter. This last graph reflects the growth of Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) in the United States over the past two decades. They’re buying up their last viable competitor.

Source: Statista

Two of the sectors that still thrive in the US are the so-called “defense industries” and financial services. The needs of the former dictate America’s policy of forever war, making defense a distinctly risky business. The latter are essential to the management of the fortunes of America’s 20.27 million millionaires and 724 billionaires, none of whom sleep in their cars nor on the street.

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Is American Exceptionalism Limping?

This is where American Exceptionalism is planted, in the innocent minds of children.

Best to Define Our Terms First

Let’s start with “exceptional.” It’s not complicated. Something exceptional is out of the ordinary, usually on the positive side: an exceptional athlete, an exceptional writer or teacher or mechanic… From there to American Exceptionalism in the current sense is a long leap.

Stephen M. Walt is a professor of international relations at Harvard University. Writing on ForeignPolicy.com, October 11, 2011, Walt characterizes America’s unique exceptionalism with cool realism:

Most statements of “American exceptionalism” presume that America’s values, political system, and history are unique and worthy of universal admiration. They also imply that the United States is both destined and entitled to play a distinct and positive role on the world stage.

The only thing wrong with this self-congratulatory portrait of America’s global role is that it is mostly a myth. Although the United States possesses certain unique qualities — from high levels of religiosity to a political culture that privileges individual freedom — the conduct of U.S. foreign policy has been determined primarily by its relative power and by the inherently competitive nature of international politics. By focusing on their supposedly exceptional qualities, Americans blind themselves to the ways that they are a lot like everyone else.

Foreign Policy.com, The Myth of American Exceptionalism

Nevertheless, Americans are undoubtedly exceptional, if not always in good ways. As Walt points out, they’re uniquely unaware of the ways they are like everyone else. That fact alone negates most of the exceptional rights Americans–especially those in power–like to arrogate to themselves in their dealings with other countries. Manifest Destiny didn’t disappear with the Mexican War nor the snatching of Hawaii. It’s still alive and kicking, though a long series of American governments have pretended–and continue to pretend–not to notice. They prefer to emphasize the supposed democratizing effects of American intervention. That is a bald lie of course, but they’ve been peddling it more or less successfully for generations. Lately, however, it’s growing exceptionally thin.

What Changed?

Under the immense influence of the military/industrial complex and loose-cannon, high-tech American billionaires like Robert Mercer with his sinister election-meddling dwarves, American government–and ultimately American society–changed radically. With virtually absolute power over America’s priorities this new ruling clique permitted itself the luxury of taking off the gloves and baring its fists both at home and abroad. As a consequence people, both east and west, are living worse lives, if they’re living at all.

The American power elite consider their military supremacy a determining factor, the definitive justification for imposing their truculent rule everywhere. But they hadn’t counted on the remarkable resilience of poor people defending their homelands, nor the rise of China, nor the implications of a China-Russia coalition. And when the Taliban reared its turbanned head last week and booted the occupiers out of Afghanistan after 20 years, the geopolitical world experienced a sea change. America’s undisputed world suzerainty had ended.

It’s no mystery that the United States has always been a place where the playing field was tilted in favor of big enterprise. The American rich can now purchase politicians and, through them, impose their wills on the country and the world. This reality goes a long way towards explaining why many foreign countries look askance at American-style democracy, which suddenly doesn’t have any clothes on.

How Are They Exceptional? Let Me Count the Ways

  • The Americans are exceptional for still trying to sell the “Free World,” which Neil Young dismounted utterly in 1989 with his brilliantly cheeky “Rockin’ in the Free World.” To mention the Free World today in enlightened company elicits a snort-beer-through-the-nose hilarity.
  • They’re exceptional for losing wars one after another to theoretically much weaker countries. How do they manage that?
  • Their response to the Covid-19 pandemic was so exceptional–the worst in the world–that I won’t bother elaborating on it. The interesting sidebar on this story is how the pandemic revealed a major flaw in American-style democracy. Americans have so much “freedom” that the government couldn’t implement an effective universal plan to fight the virus, and they paid the consequences with more than half a million deaths. China, on the other hand, an unvarnished dictatorship, dictated a set of regulations that stopped the virus in its tracks and permitted social and economic life in their country to go on as usual and steal a march on the rest of the world in the process.
  • Their firearms policies, which are careening from the ridiculous to the sublimely insane, are unique in the world, truly exceptional. Though school shootings figure first in American press coverage, gun suicide numbers are much higher, especially among war veterans. All of them should have been prevented decades ago. The Second Amendment is just a smokescreen.
  • Their recent foreign-policy blunders, at the hands of Antony Blinken, a truly exceptional Secretary of State, are making observers around the world ask themselves about the qualifications of the man who appointed him.
  • Their exceptional education system precludes most young Americans, including black and brown youth, from getting college educations. And those who do manage to graduate are saddled with terminally debilitating college debt.
  • Their responce to hard-core American racism–in all of its manifestations, from police brutality on the streets, to mandatory sentencing in the courts and disproportionate presence of minority inmates in American prisons–is pathetically exceptional.

You Can Take the Boy Out of the Country…

Even the most liberal Americans are tarred by their country’s uber-patriotic, exceptionalist brush. It was inevitable. They were all born and raised under the American bell jar, obliged to breathe toxic air and drink tainted water, both literally and figuratively. Even the best efforts of left-wing professors are incapable of changing those perceptions. America is where young Americans got their first driver’s license, their best friend, their first kiss. In all fairness, America has undeniable attractions–the mountains and seashores, those amber waves of grain. It’s a land of opportunity, if only for a fast-diminishing few. It has brilliant, committed minds like those of Noam Chomsky, Chris Hedges and all the other clear-eyed thinkers and truth tellers. But it doesn’t have enough of them to offset the dream of the quick buck, glittering consumerism, the greatest brain-washing operation the world has ever seen, and the promise of eternity up in heaven, speaking in tongues.

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Afghanistan Changes Everything–Everywhere

The fallout from Biden’s decision to pull his troops out of Afghanistan has left a new balance of winners and losers in the 20-year-old Afghan game.

The new Afghan government

President Biden’s Abrupt Decision to Pull Out Has Repositioned the World

The Taliban have just taken Kabul without firing a shot. It’s not a joke, though it certainly plays out like one. Who facilitated this grave and unexpected sea change in the delicate Afghanistan situation? It was President Biden, actually, by telegraphing his intention to pull all American troops out of that beleaguered country by September 11, thereby leaving the gates of Kabul wide open to Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada, the Commander of the Taliban Faithful. Akhundzada’s troops are fortuitiously reinforced lately by all the great American war-making equipment they recovered from fleeing Afghan troops. Get used to the Taliban leader’s name. You’re going to be seeing and hearing it a lot in the future.

As things stand right now 11:30 a.m., Granada time, Tuesday, August 17, 2021, American and Taliban soldiers have managed to clear the airstrip at Bagram Airport where masses of people are waiting–hoping against hope–to be airlifted out. Planes are now landing and taking off at a brisk pace, essentially the time it takes them to load. The first flight out this morning was a C-17 transport plane carrying 120 Indian diplomats and embassy workers. It landed at the Indian Air Force base at Jamnagar, the largest city on the western side of India, at 11:15 a.m. local time.

President Joe Biden has lost none of his American chutzpah during these trying times. This morning he was reported as threatening the Taliban with immediate retaliation to any attempt on America or American interests. With American aircraft taking off and landing by the mercy of Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada (remember him?) and with his 6,000 troops surrounded by some 85,000 Taliban fighters, high on victory, Biden’s bravado sounds a bit foolhardy.

The fallout from Biden’s decision to pull his troops out of Afghanistan has left a new balance of winners and losers in the 20-year-old Afghan game. Let’s look at them in order of merit:

Winners

  • The Taliban have fought relentlessly for military and political dominance of their country for nearly 20 years. In the eyes of many of their countrymen they are the heroes who have finally managed to boot out the foreign invaders.
  • The Chinese, who have deployed and continue to deploy a sane, sensible foreign policy–no war, no bases, no threats, offering just mutually beneficial development and infrustructure assistance to Afghanistan and other appropriate countries around the world. (What is meant by “appropriate?” It means countries with valuable natural resources who need help to exploit them and otherwise develop their countries.)
  • Donald Trump and his sector of the Republican Party. With so much at stake and so much of that up in the air, the ex-president’s credibility, vis a vis that of the current president, has taken a massive leap forward, a step that significantly advances his cause in the 2022 mid-term elections and beyond.
  • All of America’s adversaries, whose objectives instantly shine a little bit brighter.
  • Ironically, we are obliged to add to this list of potential winners the American Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex. Despite their ongoing 20-year cockup in Afghanistan and their recent blindness to emerging Afghan geopolitical realities, American governments will always place their trust in military solutions. So the great arms developers, manufacturers and traffickers will no doubt continue their lugubrious triunfal march. Will they convince President Biden that, given his latest world-class fumble and its repercussions for American prestige around the world, he might recover some of his credibility by going back to war against the Taliban? Almost nobody has any confidence in his proposed “counterterrorism-from- over-the-horizon solution.”

    USNews.com paints a rock-and-a-hard-place metaphor:

This defining moment for Biden’s legacy has been met with growing speculation that the U.S. may have to return to its longest war zone as the Taliban continues to take ground, execute America’s local allies and, many fear, position itself to overrun the U.S.-backed government in Kabul. But the situation on the ground, along with the domestic appetite for furthering U.S. conflicts abroad, make that impossible. Political and logistical realities have shifted dramatically in and around the country, and other powers in the region, namely Russia and China, are actively working to prevent the U.S. from ever re-entering.

USNews.com

Losers

  • President Joe Biden. As if he didn’t have enough problems already, President Biden has committed a massive–and massively evident–mistake. He has left himself, his country, his allies and the Afghan people at the mercy of the Taliban, a dangerous, fanatical religious movement that now seems to hold all of Afghanistan in its grip.
  • The Democratic party, inextricably linked to Biden and his mega-faux pas.
  • For the American people, who are not feeling terrible buoyant right now, this turn of events can only increase their feelings of instability and uncertainty.
  • The US intelligence services. These may not be as intelligent as we thought.
  • The Afghan people. The magnitude of this loss will depend upon the severity of the Taliban regime.
  • Many of the world’s investors, right down to the IMF, who will find Afghanistan’s fabulous mineral riches not quite such a sure investment as they were three days ago. Afghanistan has over 1,400 mineral fields, containing barite, chromite, coal, copper, gold, iron ore, lead, natural gas, petroleum, precious and semi-precious stones, salt, sulfur, talc, and zinc, among many other minerals. Gemstones include high-quality emerald, lapis lazuli, red garnet and ruby. According to a joint study by The Pentagon and the United States Geological Survey, Afghanistan has an estimated US$1 trillion of untapped minerals. (Source: Wikipedia)

President Biden’s Image Chipped and Tarnished

For many of us, Joe Biden has been on thin ice from the outset of his presidency. It was clear that he was nobody’s first choice, with the possible exception of the Democratic National Committee. They would prefer a reliable old pol from the entrails of the machine. But he’s too old. He’s doddering a little bit. The backup he gets from his staff is lackluster at best. At this point in his trajectory he badly needs a resounding victory, not an abject defeat. The worst of this situation is that it’s not just a personal setback. It’s a humiliation for his country. And his country is the United States of America.

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America Devours Its Children

Not incidentally, this so-called democratization of small countries rich in natural resources took a terrible toll in lives of American young people, and even more horrifying among the youth of the countries being democratized.

Saturn Devouring His Son by Francisco Goya

And Everyone Else’s

Growing old is accompanied by well-known symptoms of decadence and decay, senility and death. But there’s a bright side. Old age is also a period–for many the first period–that permits us to neglect destroyer distractions and offers us the time, tranquility, and the perspective to try to make sense of what’s been going on around us during our entire lives. At least it permits us to turn our back on the terrible humdrum of post-modern civilization and “pop culture.” At best it helps us to insert ourselves into what remains of the human tradition, and concentrate less on reality television and other irrelevant dross, and more on important realities and aspirations. At times their similarity can be both shocking and revealing. Two facts are undisputable from former decades to our own times: To adapt a quote from The Leopard, “Everything had to change so everything could stay the same.” (Source: Il Gattopardo, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa)

To that I would add, “or get worse.” Just consider the nefarious novelties that George W. Bush and Donald Trump introduced into American government and the vital agencies Trump virtually eliminated. And that’s not the worst of it. They dragged along the least scrupulous elements–practically everybody–in the Republican Party, the party of Lincoln, along with them. Jesus weeps. One of those novelties was the massive, senseless expansion of America’s tradition of forever-war.

Hell Can Actually Be Quite Heavenly

The wonderful American propaganda industry–this is what they´re good at–tried to convince the world that they were spreading democracy, but they didn’t have much success, except with that critical sector made up of allies with their snouts in the American trough. Not incidentally, this so-called democratization of small countries rich in natural resources took a terrible toll in lives of American young people, and even more horrifying among the youth of the countries being democratized. America and their accomplices slashed a wide swath through generations of third-world citizens, both military and civilian, then swept the evidence under the rug or buried it under a dung heap of euphemisms: “enemy combatants” (soldiers stripped by American bureaucrats of their Geneva convention rights), “friendly fire,” “the Free World,” “collateral damage,” “enhanced interrogation tecnhiques,” “extraordinary rendition…” And anyone who defends their country is a “terrorist” and is droned as such.

The lists of countries participating in the American running-dog coalitions read like crude parodies of comic-book adventures. Do you remember the “Coalition of the Willing,” put together by Geoge W. Bush’s State Department (on Colin Powell’s watch) in March, 2003? That was the recruitment of allies to play mainly testimonial roles in the Iraq war. There were 48, 47 or 46 countries; they kept backing out. The ridiculous-to-the-sublime factor was provided by a bevy of South Pacific micro-island nations, actually US possessions. The three major countries that contributed troops to the invasion force were the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland. One wonders how the citizens of those countries look back on that episode today.

The Man Who Lived Through the Whole Mess and Wrote It Up

Daniel A. Sjursen is a retired U.S. Army officer, a West Point graduate, a historian, contributing editor at Antiwar.com, senior fellow at the Center for International Policy (CIP), and director of the Eisenhower Media Network (EMN). He served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and later taught history at West Point. His most recent work is A True History of the United States (2021), a critical look at his country from the beginning. His first book, and the one that brought him to the country’s attention–some would say notoriety–was a critical analysis of the Iraq War in the form of a memoir: Ghostriders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge (2016). Next came Patriotic Dissent, America in the Age of Endless War (2020), which Amazon.com describes as:

“… a personal cry from the heart by a once model U.S. Army officer and West Point graduate who became a military dissenter while still on active duty. Set against the backdrop of the terror wars of the last two decades, Sjursen asks whether there is a proper space for patriotism that renounces entitled exceptionalism and narcissistic jingoism.”

Amazon.com

Danny is angry, and he has the intelligence and integrity to express that anger in writing. It is a formidable gift to the American people, though many of them might not consider it that. His recent first-person account of his past 20 years in and out of the US military was published on the LA Progressive in an article entitled “Twenty Years on From West Point’s Gates and the War on Terror.” The thread that runs throughout the article is the human toll that America’s endless wars have taken on the nation’s soldiers. The bottom line of his account of the last 20 years of carnage is this:

“… at the macro level, the strategic ineptitude and imperial delusions of our generals, admirals, and senior civilian leaders got no less than 7,057 American sons and daughters killed and 53,750 wounded in post-9/11 forever wars.”

LA Progressive

Nor does this laudable soldier/protestor forget the numbers of victims in the countries being so generously democritized by American firepower:

In 2019 alone, US and allied airstrikes killed at least 700, and according to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), such aerial attacks killed some 4,390 Afghan civilians from 2006 to September 2020. Furthermore, the US conceded that 1,398 noncombatants were killed in coalition air and artillery strikes during the 2015-20 anti-ISIS campaigns in Iraq and Syria. Overall, estimates of the number of civilian killed in the direct, proxy, and communal-chaos induced violence of America’s post-9/11 adventures range from a conservative 335,000 to a couple of million dead men, women, and children.

LA Progressive

Sjursen cites other seldom-quoted statistics, such as the chilling number of US soldiers who committed suicide. By 2020, despite falling casualty rates in wars, largely thanks to the recruitment of proxy armies, US military suicides were rising alarmingly. In 2020 alone 301 US soldiers committed suicide – a 43 percent increase from 2007, and almost double the number that took their own lives in 2001. What changed so radically in these young people’s lives?

Other Concerns Over 20 Years

Sjursen is a well-rounded critic, as evidenced in other issues he addresses briefly in his LA Progressive article. He disapproves of both of the post- September-11 mideast troop surges in Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which he participated in on the ground. He was equally critical of the Pentagon’s switch to warlord proxy wars, and the thousands of American soldiers serving on bases abroad. We don’t even know how many military personnel are involved. That number is classified. Sjursen says, “One wonders if America’s statistical shift towards worldwide militarism is the biggest open secret in history.”

Nor is he happy with the cloaking and undercounting of civilians killed in US drone and piloted-aircraft strikess in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. He finds the torture of enemy prisoners untenable, saying, “…systemic prisoner abuse and downright torture at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Base, countless CIA “black sites,” and America’s still-open, in-house purgatory of Guantanamo Bay.” His opposition to America’s astronomical defense budgets and obscene cost overruns is absolute, declaring,”All told, Washington has spent a minimum of $6.4 trillion and counting in taxpayer dollars on a 20-year crusade as doomed as the original medieval march of European knights to the Holy Land.”

In all, Danny Sjursen will be an interesting person to follow in coming years. You can follow him on Antiwar.com, where he is known as Maj. Danny Sjursen, USA (ret.)

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Apropos of Shithole Countries 4/4

Let’s Take a Perspective Look at the Model

It has been 10 years since then-president Donald Trump made his despective remarks about “shithole countries” that raised such a brouhaha at home and abroad. According to the LA Times on the following day the offending words were:

“What do we want Haitians here for?” the president asked, according to the people briefed. “Why do we want all these people from Africa here? Why do we want all these people from shithole countries?” Then he added ludicrously, “We should have people from places like Norway.”

LA Times, Jan. 11, 2018

I think it’s time to deconstruct the declaration. ·What, exactly, is a shithole country? What are its salient characteristics? How do we identify it? What, if anything, can we learn from the former president’s declaration? What do the shithole countries tend to have in common. Shall we make a list?

Getting a Grip on the Elusive Shithole

  • They tend to be run by a coterie of dishonest and ruthless politicos who serve at the behest of shadowy monied interests.
  • They skim so much wealth off the top of their country’s economy that there is virtually nothing left for basic services and infrastructures for the society at large.
  • They are run along military/police lines. These two sectors have carte blanche.
  • What little wealth generated is siphoned off by non-resident, usually foreign owners.
  • Their communication with their citizens have nothing to do with truth or utility, rather political expediency.
  • The court of last resort in most of these countries has little to do with the judiciary. It’s often the clandestine services.
  • Education–the key to true democracy–in these countries is disconsidered and underfinanced. Schools for the children of the masses of the population are left to crumble and teachers are underrated, under-equipped and underpaid. Think of the importance good teachers had in your own life. Where would you be without them? The sons and daughters of the ruling elite have the option to attend exclusive schools, abroad.
  • Firearms policies in the worst of these countries are notoriously lax or unenforced. Legally-armed crazies roam the streets unsettling and destabilizing the citizens, who find themselves perpetually on the wrong foot. “Will I make it safely home from work today. Will I be gunned down in my workplace? Will my children be safe at school? Will they make it home safely? Shall I buy them bullet-proof book bags?” The absurdity of the non-regulation of firearms reinforces the absurdity all the other potential dangers the government fails to regulate: rents, living wages, killer capitalism, and everything else designed to clog the prosperity funnel that drains wealth from the poor to the rich. The trickle-down theory is shithole economics.
  • Exaggerated levels of nationalism and a perverted “patriotism” permeate the worst of these societies from cradle to grave, and degrade its values. A noxious by-product of these is the default justification of heinous human-rights abuses in other people’s countries. The ultimate expression of this thinking is overweening, forever-war militarism.

    Besides being a plague on their neighbors, these countries show utter disregard for the rights and welfare of their own citizens, as if these were a burden on national resources, not the exact opposite: the very essence and reason-for-being of an honest and truly democratic government. The most egregious examples of this phenomenon are racial minorities, who are the brunt of the worst injustices that flawed countries can dish out, whether at home, in the streets on in the prisons.

Wait, There’s More

The usual trope of shithole countries is some sort of castrated, conditional so-called democracy with its hands tied by self-seeking politicos engendering democracy-crippling legislation like the Patriot Acts or high court decisions like Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission.

A pervading climate of hate permeates all. The left hates the right, the right hates the left. The rich hate the poor and vice versa. The whites hate the blacks and everybody hates the Russians, who also happen to put their trousers on one leg at a time. In these militarized societies nobody seems to be able to distinguish between adversaries and enemies. To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Poverty is weaponized. A father or mother who is worrying about where their children’s next meal is coming from, or whether they’re going to be evicted at the end of the month, is in no condition to demand decent social services or a living wage. It is this impoverished lumpenproletariat (Source: Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto) that pays the price of justification of paupers’ conditions for the whole society. Without them the ruling thugs have no-one to point to as examples of just how sordid they can make your life.

Where to Apply These Damning Epithets

That’s up to you, dear reader. You are the jury and the judge.You must decide where to direct your hammer. But before you strike, permit me the luxury of citing a few words from the poet, Robert Burns. They’re archly familiar and seem to me to be particularly apt in this case:

O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us. To see oursels as ithers see us! 

Robert Burns

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Do You Really Want to Make America Great Again? 3/4

The flag is essentially irrelevant to American greatness. It's just a  rag to be bandied about when the usual "special interests" want to incense the rabble. Don't take it too seriously.

It’s Not Complicated

What Greatness Is Not

American greatness is not a soaring stock market, the world’s most powerful military, furibund nationalism, an imperialist foreign policy based on lies, rapine, opportunism and the classification of civilian dead and wounded as “collateral damage.” It is not advanced systems of surveillance and repression, nor sophisticated medical systems and procedures exclusively for those who can afford them. It’s not kowtowing to white supremacists and nazis, nor separating families and consigning them to wire cages where they can be–and are being–sexually abused by their keepers. It is not a regime dedicated to subjugating, subverting and exploiting resource-rich countries, usually by buying off, threatening, or elimnating their leaders.

What It Is

It is basic wellbeing for 100% of the population, including decent housing, living wages, free education from pre-school through university or advanced vocational training, universal health care, and of course, paid maternal and paternal leave for blessed events. Pleaase don’t pretend that this is economically impossible for the richest country in the world. It isn’t. Most of Europe has these rights guaranteed already. These lucky countries–let’s call them “commonwealths”–also offer egalitarian civil rights, non-politicized judiciaries, and humanitarian penal systems designed to rehabilitate, not castigate. Most of them have clear divisions between church and state. A truly democratic government has no need for “spiritual advisors.” They are just a cheap, reliable form of influence peddling aimed at under-educated electors.

Here’s the Hard Part

Let’s start out by acknowledging the reality. The citizens of the United States are victims of more than a century of brainwashing in favor of hardball nationalism, predatory capitalism, and ruthless imperialism in their dealings
with other countries. These bitter facts have been downplayed for Americans during many decades, cloaked in secrecy and hypocrisy: “Our mission in Iraq is to liberate the Iraquis from a cruel dictatorship and to neutralize their weapons of mass destruction…” And don’t forget the false-flag operations and other black ops.

It was not until the events of September 11, 2001, that President George W. Bush removed the gloves and unleashed the dogs of war on Afghanistan and Iraq in broad daylight. Ironically, neither of those countries was responsible for the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, nor were either of the ensuing wars won by the Americans. Iraq continues to fester. And even after being mauled by the Russian military for 10 years (March 1979-February 1989) the Afghan resistance managed to entertain the American forces for two decades more. Today the Biden team has picked up where the Trump administation left off, and American troops are on their way out of Afghanistan. The Taliban now controls 60% of the country and well-informed observers think they will be in control of the entire country within a year or less. So much for American military grandeur.

Education or Child Abuse?

There are all kinds of child abuse–physical, psychological, economic, sexual– and all of them leave lasting consequences. But there’s another one that seldom gets mentioned and it’s as damaging as all the others. It’s the moral and ideological abuse caused by teaching children false “truths” and baseless historical “facts.” Teaching children that they are superior and uniquely entitled, simply for being Americans, is profoundly damaging. Teaching them that Americans are endowed with unique “rights” to rule other people’s countries as if they were their own is dishonest and deforming. Raising them to believe that happiness can be bought is soul destroying. All of these familiar American commonplaces are sowing destructive mental illness in the DNA of a great nation. The country’s toleration of white supremacist and Nazi ideologies sets dismal examples for these same American young people. Nonetheless, all of this brainwashing is their daily bread.

Young Americans are schooled with pre-cooked ideas based on misinformation, exaggeration, magical thinking, opportunism, cynicism, and ultra-nationalism. They are thus conditioned to become Pavlovian responders who drool and snarl at the mention of words like “socialist,” “Russian” or “universal medical care,” all of which are considered totalitarian. (In fact, the only Americans who enjoy the cozy benefits of socialism are members of the military and the United States Congress, the only two American collectives entitled to universal health care–including dental.) These ready-to-digest anti-collectivist notions are instilled from earliest childhood along with Santa Claus, the Baby Jesus, and the Tooth Fairy, and are essentially indelible. Konrad Lorenz would say they are “imprinted” on American young people. No amount of plain-vanilla facts will ever erase their influence.

The Road to Authentic Greatness

In order to achieve authentic greatness the country requires flipping over like a pancake. Anything less would not make a significant difference. American values and attitudes have been twisted and perverted for so long and so
effectively that the possibility of rectifying them in the short or medium term looks remote. Americans would be obliged to unlearn/relearn most of their deepest-rooted underlying beliefs in an impossibly short time:

American exceptionalism–Americans are not endowed with special unique rights and privileges over other people and their countries, resources, beliefs and customs, nor to impose their supposedly “superior” predatory free-market capitalist values on anyone, neither foreign nor domestic. The same goes for their religions. They are not entitled to use their abundant resources to evangelize whole societies of innocent underdeveloped countries with American varieties of absurd magical religions. People, no matter how innocent, are entitled to have their traditional beliefs and customs respected.
If America is ever to be great it must rid itself of its superiority delusions and start to respect other people’s lives, ideas, values, and natural resources, however appetizing their oil, minerals and pineapple plantations may be.

American “Rugged Individualism”–Most Americans see themselves first and foremost as individuals, not as members of a collective. In fact, any form of collectivism sounds subversive to most of them. They are stubbornly proud to
be self sufficient, to make their own way in the world, not relying on the assistance or support of their neighbors or the government and actively despising those who do. They tend to forget how public schools, libraries, and fire departments have helped them along the way. Most of them would be hard pressed to define “solidarity.”

American Democracy–Despite record levels of corruption, voting limitations and financing procedures that would be illegal in an authentic democracy, Americans consider their democracy to be exemplary, worthy of being exported to less fortunate nations. They are so devoted to their brand of truncated democracy that they are prepared to invade any country with another form of government and execute “regime change.” That is to say, start killing its citizens and not stopping until they have accepted the American imposition of a form of government more to their (the Americans’) liking. This is doubly true for any country with “communist” or “socialist” in its name, governing philosophies that cannot be tolerated by American patriots under any circumstances.

American History–To most Americans the history of their country is a saga of freedom and heroism, a model for the elevation of other less-fortunate nations. Not only is this the impression the majority of Americans embrace, but it’s actually taught in 11th-grade American history classes across the country. The very textbooks are larded with lies, euphemisms and ommisions which support the myths of American beneficence and idealism, when nothing could be farther from the truth. Specious notions of America’s demented “manifest destiny” to grab, occupy and exploit other people’s countries would be comical if they were not so sordid and costly in terms of human lives and suffering. No, America, your destiny was never “manifest.” It has always been–and remains–counterfeit, illicit, and brutally implememented.

A First Step–A positive first step in achieving American greatness would be to start admitting immigrants fleeing from the hell holes the Americans have created for them in Central America and other places and providing them with homes, jobs and education for their children.

This could not be done all at once, of course, but gradually. In a generation or two they will have made a significant contribution to American society. These refugees, having trudged the length of the isthmus between North and South America, bearing their babies and all their earthly goods on their backs, will have also brought with them the thing that the United States needs most urgently: humanity. Humanity is not a collateral nor incidental element in the greatness of a country.


It’s the very heart and soul. It’s not high finance nor sophisticated military hardware that makes a country great. It’s the thoughtfulness, generosity and moral rectitude of its people. Without these vital factors a country is prone to fall victim to cynicism, greed, and brutality to the point where poverty is a crime and a great swath of citizens are obliged to live without the means of fulfilling the most basic needs for human life in a modern society.

The American news today is about macro realities: economics, war, crime and offical corruption. The mainstream news sources–all big businesses–seldom stoop to the human level and when they do it’s merely anecdotical. What’s to become of the poor, the weak, the infirm, the homeless, the under-educated and the hopeless? They’re Americans, too, and must be entered into the greatness spread sheet. For now they’re computed just as liabilities from the point of view of government bean counters. Nevertheless, one wonders how much potential is lost among these “losers?” How many Stephen Hawkings, or Jesse Owens, or Nina Simones or García Márquez’s?

So, who will embark on the re-humanization of America? We have seen that it’s not complicated. Which is not to say that it will be easy. Or even possible.

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An Open Letter to the American People 2/4

The word for this singular situation, I believe, is “evil.” How does a great society deal with such widespread, ingrown evil? There aren’t enough exorcists to go around.

Looking at America from Far Off

Dear America,

I should have written this long ago. It might have headed off some misunderstandings regarding what I’m up to with this blog I’ve been writing over the past three years. You may have noticed that all my articles are critical of your country. I owe you an explanation. I write out of concern for what a series of American politicians and big military, religious, and business leaders are doing to your country and the world, with the acquiescense of a majority of American citizens. Seen from here–I’m writing from Spain where I have lived for the past 50 years–the scene over there looks grave and getting graver.

That’s what set me off on this writing project. I can’t just stand by passively. But what can I possibly do from here? I’m nobody. I’m far away. I embrace unpopular left-wing political views. I’m not even a billionaire. But I feel I have to do something. The “what” is a foregone conclusion. I’ll do the only thing I know how to do: write it up. I’ve got books, an internet connection, time on my hands, and a desire to make a positive contribution. I may not make a big difference, but I might make a little one.

My basic premise is simple. There’s something gravely wrong with a country that glorifies its snipers and despises its peacemakers, whose answer to war is more war and whose response to racism is more racism. That country needs help. Therein lies our first great question: is that country–the USA–beyond help? Have many decades of twisted history, old-time religion, and pumping up with patriotic nonsense created a populace that is unresponsive to any thought but standard American ideology. You know, rugged individualism, iron-clad racism, forever war, privatization of everything and knee-jerk justification of American iniquity, however horrendous, however conspicuous.

Disclaimer: If you haven’t noticed already, my point of view is conditioned by the fact that I have lived in Europe for a long time.

The Implacable Bottom Line

One would like to think that there was a time when the USA rested on more humane pillars, starting with common sense and equally common decency, then honesty, fair play, even a sprinkling of generosity. But that was before the invention of the spread sheet, with its cold, incontrovertible accountant’s logic and implacable bottom line. There’s not much room left in America’s business as usual for humanity or honesty to prevail. Those values have been replaced by greed and ruthless self deception. Do you need evidence of the ruin? Take a look at any member of the United States Congress’s voting record and collate it with the entities that financed his or her latest campaign. Out the window with the environment, the climate crisis, health care for all, the peace initiatives, fair voting practices, and your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. By the way, who’s going to chisel that subversive little poem off the base of the Statue of Liberty?

I think it’s relevant to point out that there’s nothing secret about this evolution of American society. Twenty-five years ago the New York born astrophysicist and science paladin, Carl Sagan, published The Demon-Haunted World, Science as a Candle in the Dark. Among other brilliant observations in this book, he wrote this prediction of America’s future, which is to say, today:

I have a foreboding of America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time–when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all of the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness. The dumbing down of American is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30-second sound bites now down to 10 seconds or less, lowest-common-denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.

Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World

That was 25 years ago and I find nothing there I could take issue with today. Do you disagree? Turn on your television.

America as Snuff Film

The United States has problems that are unknown to countries that are not currently living in outright war. These problems, unique in the advanced world, are grave and entirely of the Americans’ own making, home spun dystopia. The first problem that comes to everyone’s mind when looking at the United States from abroad is the lack of gun control. In any civilized country, this problem is absurd to the point of silliness. Everybody, everywhere knows that firearms must be regulated. If not, grave problems will arise in any society. Everywhere, that is, except the United States, thanks to an interested interpretation of an arcane clause in the country’s Constitution, specific to the era of the war of independence against the British more than two and a half centuries ago. This clause, the second amendment, gives rise to a pretext, held by gun nuts and manufacturers, that all American adults are entitled by law to bear firearms. The only exceptions to that constitutionally-backed right are US military bases, where firearms are strictly controlled. Why has no one over there noticed that this state of affairs is silly–and also dangerous?

The other issue that strikes normal foreigners when they think about American life and society is racism. They don’t understand it, they deplore it, and they wonder what diabolical mechanisms keep it alive. And it’s not just Mississippi. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, legislation to make it complicated for racial minorities to vote has recently been enacted in 17 states around the country, and similar initiatives are afoot that bring the potential total of voter-blocking states up to 48. The Brennan Center’s Voting Laws Roundup updates the figures to June 21, 2021.

As of June 21, 17 states enacted 28 new laws that restrict access to the vote. With some state legislatures still in session, more laws will certainly follow, which we will track in the next roundup later this year. More restrictions on the vote are likely to become law, as roughly one-third of legislatures are still in session. Indeed, at least 61 bills with restrictive provisions are moving through 18 state legislatures. More specifically, 31 have passed at least one chamber, while another 30 have had some sort of committee action (e.g., a hearing, an amendment, or a committee vote). Overall, lawmakers have introduced at least 389 restrictive bills in 48 states in the 2021 legislative sessions.

brennancenter.org

What kind of a country is this, where elements in 48 of 50 states want to block minority voters? That, though it’s hard to believe, is the least of the problems minorities face in the US. What about the American police routinely shooting black and brown men and women, seemingly for sport, and getting off free or almost free? How does one explain these anomalies to people who have grown up in normal countries? One can’t. Why doesn’t the United States government enact federal legislation to eliminate these raging abuses? They can’t. The political backing in the electorate for such action is conspicuously lacking. In short, a majority of Americans prefer things the way they are.

If the politicians can’t or won’t do anything, there must be someone else strong and decent enough enough to take action. America is profoundly Christian. What about the churches? That won’t work, either. An article by Robert P. Jones, author of White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity, cited by NBC News on July 28, 2020, explains:

A close read of history reveals that we white Christians have not just been complacent or complicit; rather, as the nation’s dominant cultural power, we have constructed and sustained a project of perpetuating white supremacy that has framed the entire American story. The legacy of this unholy union still lives in the DNA of white Christianity today–and not just among white evangelical Protestants in the South, but also among white mainline Protestants in the Midwest and white Catholics in the Northeast.

nbcnews.com

The word for these singular situations, I believe, is “evil.” How does a great society deal with such widespread, ingrown evil? There aren’t enough exorcists to go around.

Sincerely yours,
Mike

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The End of America–1/4

A Preemptive American Post Mortem

Why does this subhead refer to “preemptive?” In the first place, it’s a term that Americans understand and put to frequent use, usually in the context of war. Preemptive war is understood as the anticipatory use of force. It can either be construed as defense against imminent aggression, or simply a sneak attack. Where a given case lies on the continuum between one and the other depends upon a country’s values, interests and point of view. Preemptive war was the kernel of the Bush Doctrine, a set of foreign policy principles that paved the way for the US’s gratuitous invasion of Iraq in 2003, among other egregious international boutades. Insofar as the American demise looks evident and imminent, “preemptive” is the operative adjective for its post mortem.

When we were kids in a treehouse we subscribed to the myth that if you killed a snake, even cut his head off, he wouldn’t die until the sun went down. These are America’s last hours before sunset.

Each generation comes around with a new set of standards and values. Some of them make sense, advance the cause of humanity, and feel like progress. There’s the Renaissance, the American Revolution, the New Deal… Others, are senseless, destructive, inhumane. The Twenties were senseless, but not in the way the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s were. These fatal decades saw the widespread flowering of a set unthinkable ideologies, and saw the Depression, the Holocaust, the Rape of Nanking, Italian Fascism, German Nazism, the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the specious desolation of Vietnam, all under the shadow of American exceptionalism and opportunism disguised as humanitarianism. That was the novelty that turned the 20th century into the American century. They co-opted it under false pretenses.

Revolutionary Weapons

Their weapons in this struggle were revolutionary. They were intangible–words. The Americans became the world’s consummate communicators. Never mind that a great part of what they communicated wasn’t true. That actually helped advance the American cause, which was a lie in itself. From the very inception of the United States at the end of the 18th century, they had an exaggerated exceptionalist conception of themselves. A prescient person in those times might have intuited the Americans’ vocation for conquest and dominance. Many of the observations that Alexis de Tocqueville made after his research trip around the US seeking novel solutions that might be applied in Europe, and published in his two-volume, Democracy in America, in 1835 and 1840, hold true to a surprising extent today, nearly two centuries later. Here, a few shining examples:

“I do not know if the people of the United States would vote for superior men if they ran for office, but there can be no doubt that such men do not run.”

“There is a natural prejudice which prompts men to despise whomsoever has been their inferior long after he is become their equal…”

“I am of the opinion, on the whole, that the manufacturing aristocracy which is growing up under our eyes is one of the harshest that ever existed in the world; but at the same time it is one of the most confined and least dangerous. Nevertheless, the friends of democracy should keep their eyes anxiously fixed in this direction; for if ever a permanent inequality of conditions and aristocracy again penetrates into the world, it may be predicted that this is the gate by which they will enter.”

“Now that I am drawing to the close of this work, in which I have spoken of so many important things done by the Americans, to what the singular prosperity and growing strength of that people ought mainly to be attributed, I should reply: To the superiority of their women.”

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Big Data Changes the Game

The 20th century laid the ground work for today’s big-data, digital-communications, social media, high-speed-networked hackers’ and election fixers paradise (See Christopher Wiley’s book, Mindf*cked). This phenomenon is just another example of American communications black ops, both at home and around the world. American disengenuous whingeing about Russian hackers is unceasing, though they know very well themselves that the world’s largest and most important cyber-criminal organization is their own National Security Agency (NSA). Any self-respecting western media organization is aware of that, too, but they either don’t remember–or dare–to publish it.

The twenty first century arrived with a bitter surprise for the United Statesians. They found themselves mired in the dystopia brought on by the rule of greed, racism, and inequality in their country and were about to discover that they weren’t the only ones with ideas, initiatives, resources and allies. They had overlooked a relevant fact brought out recently by Evert-Jan Ouweneel, a Dutch academic, lecturer and visionary: over the past twenty centuries, the Chinese and the Hindus had dominated eighteen. The recent two-century lapse was due to unforeseen rapid industrialization in the West, but the Chinese in particular have shown they have overcome that hurdle and are barrelling towards a new supercharged normal.

Ouweneel sums up the current situation in a brief paragraph:

But things are changing dramatically again. China and India are catching up, with China behaving like a petrol engine and India like a diesel engine (needing more time to warm up). The leverage of the West is diminishing, their head start disappearing. And this time, China and India can combine their industrial power with their immense population. Once both countries are ‘up to date’ and ‘up to scale’, their huge work force and internal market will allow them to go above and beyond. China may have reached this point already, India is on its way.

Evert-Jan Ouweneel, Urbanlogics.eu

The American responses to the Chinese phenomenon were foreseeable. First they launched the Chinese imperialism ploy, attributing Chinese claims to sovereignty over Hong Kong and Taiwan to an infirm lust for territorial expansion. None of that. Both Hong Kong and Taiwan (Formosa) have their historical roots deep in the Chinese mainland and both have pertained to China at least since the early part of the Qing Dynasty, which ruled China from 1644 to 1912, when it was finally brought down by a revolution led by Sun Zhongshan and his Revive China Society. China ruled Formosa (Taiwan) until Japan occupied the island during the First Sino-Japanese War in 1895, and held it till 1945.

Following the end of World War II, the nationalist government of the Republic of China (ROC), led by the Chiang Kai Chek’s Kuomintang (KMT), took refuge on Taiwan after losing control of mainland China to Mao Tse Tung and the Chinese communists. The KMT ruled Taiwan as a single-party state for forty years. China wants it back. The issue is complicated by the fact that the Taiwanese held their first presidential elections in 1996.

As for Hong Kong, Britain grabbed that Chinese city with classic British panache in 1841 during the first opium war–fought to secure the right of the British to continue to sell opium to the Chinese–and held onto it as long as they could, until 1997. Then they returned it–by treaty–to the Chinese fold. A case can be made for the fact that recent “democratic” breast beating in Hong Kong–very much in line with American-democracy-as-a-marketing-ploy–may be baseless.

Projecting American Military Superiority

The Unites States budget for 2021, part of $2.3 trillion spending package that includes pandemic relief and federal spending, includes $696 billion for the Pentagon. The full-year Pentagon spending bill represents a $2.6 billion increase over the 2020-enacted level but $2.1 billion less than President Donald Trump’s 2021 budget request. How many schools and hospitals does that sum represent? We’re not talking here about the full military budget, rather just the $2.6 billion increase over the previous year’s record sum.

There are many perfectly respectable countries in the world where this sort of spending on weapons of mass destruction would be considered mental illness. And, given the universal nature of nuclear warfare, all of these countries have skin in the game. But they have no say in the matter. They’re just standing by, awaiting some petulant US President’s next fit of pique. According to former Trump spokesperson Jason Miller, quoted in Forbes.com (July 9, 2021), there’s a 50-50 chance that Donald Trump will run for President again in 2024.

What would it take to precipitate such a war? Let’s look, for example, at American military provocations in the South China Sea, provocations which are currently under way. The name itself gives us a hint as to the gravity of the American swaggering. The “South China Sea” is not the South Louisiana Sea, nor the South Texas Sea… What are American warships doing careening about over there and inviting friends over for tea on the poop deck? What would the United States have to say to Chinese warships cavorting in the waters between Cuba and Florida?

Such is the Americans’ faith in their military superiority that, not only are they willing to risk nuclear winter, but they are spending their country’s life blood on it. The nuclear fetish goes something like this:

What would you rather have, America, schools at the levels of excellence of South Korea or Denmark, or more H-bombs?

More bombs!

But you already have more nuclear bombs than any other country in the world. Isn’t that enough?

No, we want more!

But even one nuke is enough to trigger a reaction that would end human life on earth forever.

Never mind, we want more!

Who are the only Americans with any possible interest, in promoting such an insane scenario? America’s all-powerful arms manufacturers, of course. Companies like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon, and dozens of others virtually own a controlling interest in the United States Congress, purchased with campaign contributions. Between their obscene wealth, their overriding greed, and the clout they wield in Washington, they are capable of precipitating the world’s next war. Which could be its last.

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