Regime-Change Specialists, One Way or Another

by Mike Booth

But this secrecy . . . has become a god in this country, and those people who have secrets travel in a kind of fraternity . . . and they will not speak to anyone else. Its friends are many in the areas of important public influence-the academic world and the communications media. The cult of intelligence is a secret fraternity of the American political aristocracy.

Senator J William Fulbright, Chairman. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, November, 1971

The Marketing of Deception, Death and Destruction

Everybody acknowledges that the Americans are the world’s greatest marketers. They can sell you anything. They made the McDonald’s hamburger the largest selling restaurant food in the world. Anyone who can do that is a force to be reckoned with. But what would happen if that that prodigious force were to go beyond hamburgers, cars and laundry detergents, if it were to pass into the realm of dark geopolitics? We don’t have to wonder, as the Americans have been there for decades.

Marketing has been a key ingredient in their ongoing crusade to take over the world. This may sound like science fiction to some people reading this, but it is rigorously true. Even the most recent of the world’s existential crises—the war in Ukraine—conforms in every respect to the American dark-marketing playbook, as conceived and executed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and their presumably more presentable offshoot, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). This new agency was spun off the CIA in 1983 and quickly became a big success. Even its name smacked of marketing genius: “the National Endowment for Democracy.”

Who can imagine an organization with a name like that dedicating itself to supporting armed groups fighting for regime change in strategically- positioned, non-aligned countries worldwide? Most of NED’s activities are carried out in the light of day in order to distinguish them from their rougher, clandestine big brother (who is never far behind if NED needs him). And their main job is handing out money. Who could object?

Say One Thing, Do the Opposite

When one starts to dig into the long list of operations of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) it becomes clear that the mission of this august-sounding organization is the creation, indoctrination and support of opposition groups in in foreign countries that are not yet on the American bandwagon. This includes countries which declare no specific preference for American-style liberal democracy as well as those which are self-confesssed adversaries–such as Cuba, Iran, and Venezuela, and many more.

That “liberal democracy” moniker that NED bandies about so freely when promoting American values abroad refers to the United States’s corrupt, free-market, militaristic, white-supremacist and non-igualitarian society . That sounds like a negative calling card, but the Americans are, after all, the world’s consummate salesmen. Nor is it clear just who and how many people in each objective country have to be convinced of the beneficence of this proposed atypical “democracy.” If it’s not a significant sector of the candidate country’s society at large, perhaps sufficient American running dogs in high places can be cajoled, bribed or threatened into the American fold. We may never know. It’s secret. NED is a two-headed benefactor; its other head belongs to the CIA.

NED took over the CIA’s apparently-less-sordid activities, such as providing financing and organization skills for opposition groups in countries requiring regime change. Who decides which countries needed their current governments booting out and new, America-friendly regimes installed? Why NED and the CIA, of course.

What if the objective country lacks a well-organized, armed right-wing opposition? Not to worry. NED will create one for them and help them to run it. Those operations must be expensive. Who will pay for them? Not a problem. There is no shortage of American money to undermine leftist governments around the world, and it’s NED’s primary mission to distribute it. Some of NED’s activities around the world could be characterized as the creation and maintenance of proxy armies, whether of demonstrators or soldiers. That takes a lot of the heat–and risk–off NED who, as you can understand, is just an innocent bystander.

Just as important as NED’s control of the streets is the CIA’s work on the world’s news media. How did they get so many reporters and news services on board, and so quickly? The answer is not a secret.

According to the New Zealand news service, Scoop,

Nowadays the CIA collaboration happens right out in the open, and people are too propagandized to even recognize this as scandalous. Immensely influential outlets like The New York Times uncritically pass on CIA disinfo which is then spun as fact by cable news pundits. The sole owner of The Washington Post is a CIA contractor, and WaPo has never once disclosed this conflict of interest when reporting on US intelligence agencies per standard journalistic protocol. Mass media outlets now openly employ intelligence agency veterans like John Brennan, James Clapper, Chuck Rosenberg, Michael Hayden, Frank Figliuzzi, Fran Townsend, Stephen Hall, Samantha Vinograd, Andrew McCabe, Josh Campbell, Asha Rangappa, Phil Mudd, James Gagliano, Jeremy Bash, Susan Hennessey, Ned Price and Rick Francona, as are known CIA assets like NBC’s Ken Dilanian, as are CIA applicants like Tucker Carlson.

Scoop

Manufacturing “Spontaneity”

This CIA-NED, one-two punch explains how the Ukrainians wound up with their “spontaneous” anti-elected-government, anti-Russian demonstrations in Kiev’s Maidan Square in 2013. The CIA-NED tandem had been preparing those mass demonstrations since at least the late 1980s. (“NED was there from the beginning, nurturing the active roots of civil society in the 1980’s.” Carl Gershman, NED’s founding director writing on the NED website, ned.org.) According to one solvent source, the CIA has spent more than a billion (with a B) dollars annually in recent years, buying, renting and tuning up reporters and whole media organizations. Money talks and big money talks big.

They were planting their anti-Russian seeds on fertile ground. While 4.4 million Ukrainians fought on the side of the Russians (along with the Allies) in World War II, a substantial number of their compatriots fought on the side of Hitler’s wehrmact, the nastiest among them in the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS. The recently-renamed Azov Special Operations Detachment (formerly just the “Asov Batallion”), fighting the Russians in Ukraine today is the direct descendent of those Nazis, though today’s Ukrainian government—which grabbed power after, Viktor Yanukovych, the previous elected president was deposed in 2014 and fled to Russia– prefer this Nazi spawn to be considered loyal anti-Russian patriots. That assures their NED financing, training and armament for the foreseeable future.

In keeping with the American government’s rabid anti-Soviet/Russian policy that dates from the outset of the Truman presidency–if Roosevelt had not died less than three months into his fourth term, on April 12, 1945, the second half of the 20th century would have been very different–the American clandestine services will seize any opportunity to discredit, impoverish and weaken the Russians, economically, politically and militarily. In Ukraine, after baiting the Russians beyond their limits, the American spooks achieved all three objectives. The first to fall was the giant Nordstream 2 gas pipeline project from Russian directly into Germany, in the heart of Europe. Don’t be surprised if, before long, we see the same strategy employed against China, whose response would be measured but perhaps somewhat more rigorous.

Who Has Something to Gain in This Dogfight?

Not the Russians who, due both to their own ineptitude and the rapid reaction of the surrounding NATO countries, also instrumented by the Americans, insofar as NATO is the American Frankenstein’s monster. Incidentally, the birth and rise of NATO was a massive marketing success in its own right. The military commander of NATO has always been, from day one in April of 1949, an American general. With the viral growth of NATO the Americans now pull the strings in roughly half the industrialized world, if a diminishing half, considering the rise of China.

The Ukrainians, with their country reduced to rubble and millions of their citizens being killed and exiled as we speak, are certainly not gaining anything. Who is winning something, then, and how? It’s clear that the Americans not only instigated this war with anti-Russian marketing, financing, training and materiel, but they’re winning it in terms of the prestige gained by great press on the world stage—something they haven’t seen in many decades—and sales of arms and all the rest of the paraphernalia of war, not only in the Ukraine, but around the world. Insecurity begets insecurity—and subsequent arms sales and other lucrative warmongering opportunities.

How Do They Sell That Junk?

Didn’t Australia just buy eight nuclear submarines, presumably for use against their number one trading partner: China. Someone should erect a monument to American marketing prowess in the center of Canberra. How do the Americans pull off those monumental military/commercial deals like those nuclear subs and the ludicrous American F35 Joint Strike Fighter plane. A study by the US government’s FY 2021 Annual Report reveals that half of the F35s in service could not get off the ground due to operating deficiencies. I don’t know precisely how those mega-sales of armament are closed, but my guess is that it has less to do with cost-benefit analysis than the number of American running dogs who can be bribed or threatened in a given government.

There exists in our nation today a powerful and dangerous secret cult-the cult of intelligence. Its holy men are the clandestine professionals of the Central Intelligence Agency. Its patrons and protectors are the highest officials of the federal government. Its membership extending far beyond government circles, reaches into the power centers of industry, commerce , finance , and labor.

Victor Marchetti,The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence, 1974

The Bottom Line on Ukraine

John Mearsheimer is one of my favorite American professors and strategic thinkers. I first ran across him in 2008 when he and co-writer Stephen Walt were casting about for a magazine to run a review of their just-published book, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. They had no luck in the U.S., but finally managed to get it published in the U.K., in the London Review of Books. From there it bounced back to the States and was quite a hit. Mearsheimer’s definitive comment on the Ukraine mess made three weeks ago on Crux, a Youtube news channel, was brief and to the point.

The Ukraine war has only one winner: China.

John Mearsheimer on Crux

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War Mongering in the Free World

I have just discovered a declaration by Noam Chomsky on the subject of Ukraine, in the context of many other urgent considerations around the world. I want to put it at the top of this article. Here’s the link: https://youtu.be/n2tTFqRtVkA

Not to Worry, It’s Just Business

It might clarify your thinking on the Ukraine war, just to consider it an American entrepreneurial operation, albeit cloaked in sensationalism and falsification. There is no denying, however, that it was brilliantly executed, beginning as far back as the 2014 right-wing coup d’etat in the country. That American-engineered, regime-change operation, directed by Victoria Nuland, President Barak Obama’s Assistant Secretary of State, and the American ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, underlies the current tragic situation in Ukraine. It permitted the Ukranian right to oust a democratically elected neutralist government under President Victor Yanukovych, and install an anti-Russian regime more to American liking.

The Ukraine disaster is a dream come true for the U.S. war-mongers. Now they can affirm, “We were right all along and the current Russian invasion of Ukraine is proof positive.” At least that is what is trumpeted over the orchestrated U.S. media, which stretches around the world. But the truth is not quite so simple. It seldom is. Tragically, though, it’s always innocent civilians–and soldiers–who pay the bill.

It doesn’t take much creativity to discern that American arms manufacturers have three lucrative income streams based on the Russia-Ukraine conflict:

  1. U.S. arms aid to Ukraine. Whoever pays for them, there is always a plump profit for the manufacturers.
  2. The ballooning U.S. defense budget, currently headed over the moon.
  3. And the growing defense budgets in NATO and other European countries.

And, should the U.S. war profiteers decide to try pulling off the same operation on Taiwan, with a little bit of luck they could have another historic armament-sales windfall in the Far East.

U.S. Arms Manufacturers’ Numbers Thus Far

The following graphs from The Motley Fool investment website trace the progress of four principal U.S. arms manufacturers. Click on their respective links to see the rise of their share prices since 2017. All of these arms manufacturers outpace the market. Yes, Virginia, war is good for business.

CompanyDefense Focus
Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT)Aviation, space, and missiles
Boeing (NYSE:BA)Aircraft, space, and helicopters
General Dynamics (NYSE:GD)Shipbuilding, defense IT, tanks
Raytheon Technologies (NYSE:RTX)Electronics and missiles

Between Distraction and Indifference

What’s the response of the American on the street? It ranges from distraction to indifference. Americans in general are more interested in movie-star news (The Oscars slap was an earth-shaking event.), pop culture and the wacky right’s latest power play. Also at work there are generations of anti-communist brainwashing. That campaign originated in the early 1930s–some would say 1918, at the end of World War I. The U.S. was floundering in the middle of the greatest economic depression in its history. But Russian industry was booming to the point where they were offering jobs to desperate U.S. workers. (There are still black people living in Russia today who are descendants of those families.) But it looked to American businessmen as if they were about to be overtaken by the industrious Slavic hordes, and that scare fixed American fear and loathing of Russia for all time. Even today any Russian setback triggers a knee-jerk, salivating, Pavlovian response among American plutocrats.

Ironically, it was precisely the engineers trained, and the industrial base laid down–out in the middle of their vast country, out of range of German bombers–during the thirties that permitted the Russians to determine the outcome the Second World War while Russia’s supposed allies dilly-dallied in North Africa. American and British operations in the desert were incidental to the winning of the war, but vital for the preservation of British colonies. That was Churchill’s first priority, along with continued control of the Middle East oil fields. Churchill’s judgment carried almost as much weight as Roosevelt’s in 1943. The British prime minister’s success was short lived, however. The decolonization of the British Empire began in 1947 with India and culminated with Hong Kong in 1997.

While Churchill watched the Empire disolve like a sugar cube in hot coffee, the Americans grabbed a major piece of the Mideast oil pie. Churchill displayed curious loyalty to Russia, an ally that lost as many as 27 million citizens killed in the process of winning the war on the Eastern Front. When the war was over he suggested to Truman that, before they disbanded their armies, they should turn them against the Soviets and rid themselves of the communist menace once and for all.

The U.S. Encircles the World

Flash forward three quarters of a century, during which Americans dedicated their efforts to taking over the world country by country, and encircling the Russians and other perceived adversaries with a lethal ring of somewhere between 800 and 1,000 military bases, many of them sites for launching missiles with multiple nuclear warheads. Did this make the Russians uneasy? Yes, funnily enough, it did.

All of that warmaking paraphernalia carries the NATO brand, but most of it is Made in U.S.A., along with the authority to deploy it. Make no mistake, the Americans are in charge in NATO. Its commanding officer, since its foundation in 1949, has always been an American general, and the triggers for action are essentially always the same:

  1. Oil
  2. Anti communism
  3. A business opportunity
  4. All of the above

Where Does the American Public Stand?

As for the American public, their psychological preset obliges them to follow the flag, no matter how hare-brained an idea the government warhawks and their armament sponsors come up with. Say, for example, invading Iraq or taking over Afghanistan after the Russians had proven it was impossible. In every case, every American except Noam Chomsky leaps on the bandwagon, starting with the pre-cooked media. Instead of trying to defuse tense situations around the world, the Americans immediately leap into the fray–or, more likely, send in their proxies. It’s almost as if the military-industrial complex were in charge.

The Americans are seldom willing to give peace a chance. There is no place in their business plan for that. Like dedicated warmongers they stick to their profitable priorities and work their ticket to the bloody end of the line. No matter how seemingly insignificant the “enemy”–Panama in 1989-90, or the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada in 1983. Grenada’s left-wing government was not prepared for the American invasion–who is?–so the principal defenders were a Cuban construction crew working on the new airport there. It took 7.600 American troops a week to win the battle. The Cuban defenders died to the last man. President Reagan later claimed a great victory, calling it “the first rollback of communist influence since the beginning of the Cold War,” just another example of American heroism.

If the Gringos detect an opportunity, no matter how slim, to change an elected government for a regime managed by one of their running dogs–Shah Reza Pahlaví in Iran, for example, who scourged that oil-rich country for a generation with his SAVAK secret police. That brutal collective was created for him by the CIA and Mossad, after their 1953 ousting of the freely elected president Mohammed Mossadegh, whose “mistake” was to nationalize British oil interests in Iran.

Meanwhile, Back in Ukraine

Russia’s Ukraine incursion didn’t come along suddenly out of a blue sky. The rumblings of the Ukranian right in Maidan Square, (with a little help from their friends, the CIA) began in 2012. Their anti-democratic protests stiffened when they were joined by two hard-right groups, Svoboda (“Freedom”) and “Right Sector” which soon took control of the demonstrations in Kiev. Some members of Svoboda, identified as a fascist organization by Stern in 2012, were pluriemployed both in the Ukraine government and as members of the Svoboda leadership. So, yes, there were fascists involved in the 2014 expulsion of the elected government and takeover of the country.

What is still not clear is, how many? The worst of them is identified as the Asov Batallion, with its longtime close relations with fascism and use of neo-Nazi symbolism. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR, 2016) declared the Azov Battalion guilty of war crimes on multiple accounts. This condemnation was quickly voided, however, when the Azov Batallion became a regular military unit in the Ukrainian armed forces. Is the Asov’s ultimate goal the fascist conquest of Ukraine? The American media do not remember the Nazi takeover of Ukraine (1941-44), but the Russians do. (Source: Sokol, 2016)

All Hell Breaks Loose

The Ukranian killing fields are offering U.S.military-industrial complex not only a tsunami of sales, but a priceless real-war proving ground for their latest products. Now they can sell them as “combat tested.” To these serious American businessmen, Ukraine represents their proxy army and test bed. It’s a convenient solution for them. That way their own army doesn’t have to get its boots soiled.

Add to all of this the Russian claims of years of Ukranian armed harassment of the Russian-speaking population of the Donbass. Vladimir Putin decides to invade Ukraine and put things back in their places, and all hell breaks loose both on the ground and in the world media, portraying Putin as the virtual anti Christ. This brings us full circle. The U.S. responds by upping the intensity of the media campaign and inundating Ukraine with American and British arms. And the profiteering is still far from over.

Murky Casualty Figures Fit the Script

So the Americans got their proxy war and the world continues to turn on its twisted axis. On 2 April 2022, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) recorded 3,455 civilian Ukranian casualties in the country: 1,417 killed and 2,038 injured. NATO estimates that Russia has lost between 7,000 and 15,000 soldiers. Wounded who cannot rapidly return to duty generally number about twice the number of dead, according to the NATO estimation. Curiously, no Western source that I could find offers numbers for Ukranian military casualties. If you google “Ukranian military casualties,” you will be led directly to, “Ukranian civilian casualties,” which the Western press is selling exclusively. According to Global Times, Feb. 16, 2022, neither Russia nor Ukraine had any eagerness for going to war, but Washington, with its litany of warnings and dire predictions, and what one commentator has called “performance art,” has still been trying to make the world believe that World War III is imminent. It may or may not be but, if it is, it is primarily due to the relentless efforts of the United States.

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Another Uniquely American Apocalypse

The most illuminated Democrats have also given free rein to their knee-jerk, anti-Russian sentiments and are coming up with apocalyptic solutions to the Ukraine crisis, such as no-fly zones (an act of war) and outright invasions, as if a nuclear World War III were a secondary consideration.

With a Little Bit of (Bad) Luck Here It Comes

I don’t want to seem alarmist but, as I see it, the United States is just one congressional election away from becoming a country run by a lynchmob klan, and that election might well take place in November, 2022. All the Republican Party has to do is to gain a single seat in the Senate and the American pancake is flipped. The implications of that turnover would be blood chilling. As the recent Republican “interviews” with President Biden’s Supreme Court nominee, Jackson, have shown beyond all doubt, today’s Republicans have reverted to the mentality of the Antebellum South, and they are sizing up ideological hanging trees across the country. And this is even before the Donald Trump contingent enters the playing field. The prospect of a tsunami-grade political sea change, and not a little one, hovers over the country like a big, bad bird. Then come the 2024 presidential elections, which could profoundly affect contemporary American history.

What makes this scenario even scarier is the fact that the Loony Tune Republicans are not alone. The most illuminated of the Democrats (e.g. Democratic strategist, Adam Parkhomenko) have also given free rein to their knee-jerk, anti-Russian sentiments and are coming up with apocalyptic solutions to the Ukraine crisis, such as no-fly zones (an act of war) and outright invasions, as if a nuclear World War III were a secondary consideration. In reality, it would be as unthinkable as going on a hike and stepping into the dark cave of a mother grizzly with a litter of adorable little cubs.

Let’s Think about the Whys

Funnily enough, the illuminated Democrats never mention the two probably most important factors in the Ukraine melee from the American Democrats’ point of view:

  1. A historically profitable armament-sale opportunity, not only in Ukraine, but in the entire world, thanks to the CIA-engineered and executed media frenzy that goes far beyond the usual red-white-and-blue wash over the world’s mass media. It now includes draconian censorship measures. Pulitzer-Prize-winning ex-NY Times, Middle East bureau chief, Chris Hedges, one of the few American journalists who speaks Arabic and has an exemplary conscience, has just had the last six years of his On Contact interview program on the RT news service wiped off Youtube. Who’s next? Because, in times like this, there’s always a next. (See Matt Taibbi’s lucid report on the Chris Hedges case here.) (Update: Progressive journalist and documentalist, Abby Martin has just had 600 programs wiped off Youtube. She was next. See Abby’s interview on The Real News discussing post 9/11 and current Ukranian media blood lust. Here’s the link.)
  2. The imperative necessity for the reelection of a Democratic president. Such is the weight of this factor that one wonders if this isn’t the sine qua non of American strategy in Ukraine, even though President Joe Biden, with his doddering demeanor and his murky history in Ukraine, might not be the ideal candidate to execute it. If you doubt it, just wait to see, when the time comes, the Trumpeteer operatives circling Biden like piranhas in the baby’s bath.

Snuff Films, Anyone?

If you’re not a fan of snuff films I suggest that you try not to think about the implications of a takeover by ultimate-generation Republicans. They are not like President Eisenhower. They’re a new strain, perhaps engendered in one or more of the biological-warfare laboratories that the Americans planted all over Ukraine and are now blaming on the Russians. Do they really expect us to believe that the right-wing Ukranian government, installed by the Americans, themselves, would stand idly by while the Russians established those diabolical death workshops all over the Ukranian geography and staffed them with mortiferous dwarves? Either they’re insulting our intelligence or betraying their own lack of it.

Consider the dystopia that Trump & Co. created in the United States with a minimum electoral mandate. What will he and his semi-literate legions be capable of next time on the strength of an increasingly-possible landslide victory. There goes education, the environment, racial equality, economic justice, Charles Darwin and Row v. Wade and a hell of a lot more. Shall we mount a football-pools-type business on the subject. Winner takes all. Losers, mercifully, get a lobotomy. What could be more American?

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American Super Patriotism Is a Distorting Mirror

If it weren’t for pond-slime reality TV, Donald Trump would be just another lowbrow real-estate speculator, not an aspiring candidate for a second term as President of the United States of America.

Destructive Patriotism Arises from the Same Irrational Spring as Racism and Is Equally Toxic

It can twist and color everything in your life–and other people’s–and it’s so insidious that you may not even notice. Harmful patriotism–patriotism as a blunt instrument–is so commonplace in the U.S., so internalized, that most people aren’t even aware of it. It’s just another of the givens of that great country.

The surreal by-products of American super patriotism are many and various. Is the deliberate killing with a perfectly legal assault rifle of two innocent citizens, and the wounding of another, on the street in Kenosha, Wisconsin, surreal enough for you? What about the failure of a jury of his peers to convict the perpetrator, who was later publicly received and celebrated by an ex-president of the United States? To normal people from other countries the incident, its legal derivations and social acceptance smacks of grave mental illness, not just the killer’s but of the entire country.

Double Down and You’ve Got Mega Hypocrisy

To this level of mindless brutality on the part of the killer, the judge, the jury and a large part of the American public, we have to add the mega-hypocrisy of the Americans selling themselves as paladins of world democracy. All of this in the face of the massive destruction and mayhem either carried out or sponsored by the U.S. around the world.

It’s possible in part due to the level of K-12 education in the United States, which is not only substandard by international standards, but ideologically slanted in favor of the Americans’ cruel and unusual societal norms. These sick values, and the laws that arise from them, are not embraced by any other modern democracy in the world, with the possible exception of Britain, which has been a virtual American dependency since World War II.

No Matter How Smart, Well Intentioned or Well Informed You Are, You Cannot Escape Your Givens

Many Americans consider themselves to be motivated by clear thinking and good will. That may be true, but there are subliminal factors that underlie all of their givens, their life’s default settings that are burned into their subconscious from infancy. Racism is one of them, but there are lots more. There’s patriotism, temperament, exceptionalism, generosity, altruism, tolerance, love of animals, solidarity and its opposite, greed.

Most people aren’t even aware of their givens; they just respond to them automatically as the occasion arises, like Pavlov’s dog. Watch your own dog’s hackles rise when you meet an old friend on the street and he slaps you on the back. The dog doesn’t have to think on those occasions. His givens come into play instant and automatically, and one of them is “protect your master.” We, ourselves, are not much different from our dogs in this respect. Whenever U.S. plutocrats organize or join in with their dubious allies–Saudi Arabia, for example–in one of their undeclared wars anywhere in the world–in the impoverished, hungry country of Yemen, for example–the American media monster drags out the bandwagon for everyone to get on board. “What, you’re not going to support our troops? What are you, some sort of anti-patriot?” All of the big media outlets are, first and foremost, businesses. They don’t just represent American company interests, they are big businesses themselves, participating in the benefits of U.S. aggressions worldwide. It’s their duty. They have to do their part in exporting American free-market democracy and contributing to the growth of the mythical Free World.

Where Do You Get Your Givens?

Your givens are delivered with your mother’s milk, your father’s distrust of foreigners, your grandfather’s love of guns, your allergy to cat fur, the friends from your neighborhood, the Pledge of Allegiance, Sunday school, war games, team sports, reality TV, admiration of winners and accumulators even if they’re cheaters, imitation of dubious role models, all-pervading greed and commercialism. This being the case, in an ideal world it would be imperative to convey to children a set of sane givens and healthy attitudes. If it weren’t for pond-slime reality TV, Donald Trump would be just another lowbrow real-estate speculator, not an aspiring candidate for a second term as President of the United States of America.

This being the case, any country that aspires to its citizens’ decency and wellbeing must convey to its children a solid set of healthy examples, at home, in school and in their world at large. Though this pursuit of generous values is the basis for the most advanced school systems and consequent societies in the world, from Scandinavia on down, they are conspiculously absent–even directly contradicted–in the United States, the land of ruthless individualism. This truth is reflected in conflict, insults and aggression, from the lowest schoolyard disagreement to any declaration by U.S. Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken. He thinks he’s being tough. He’s being ridiculous.

Bill Blum Explains the Naiveness of the American People

William Blum, author of America’s Deadliest Export, was headed for the U.S. Foreign Service as a young man, before the horror of the Vietnam War turned him around. He spent the rest of his life peeling back, layer by layer, America’s rotten foreign policy onion. In this, his last book (2013), he explains in unvarnished terms the American blind spots:

The American people are very much like the children of a
Mafia boss who do not know what their father does for a living, and don’t want to know, but then wonder why someone just threw a firebomb through the living room window.

America’s Deadliest Export, William Blum

To anyone who has read Konrad Lorenz, it’s clear what is happening to those Mafia boss children. They have been imprinted on bogus American values just like Lorenz’s newly-hatched ducklings who would follow the first person or thing they saw moving after they exited their eggs.

These ducklings “imprinted” on Lorenz himself and followed him for the rest of their lives.

It is Bill Blum’s contention that, regardless of the insistence of American politicians–from presidents on down–in filling their mouths with “democracy,” since World War II the U.S. has intervened in the internal affairs of more than 50 foreign governments and interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 more. It was President John F. Kennedy who thwarted the CIA attempt to unseat Fidel Castro in Cuba by negating air cover for the ill-conceived and ill-fated Bay of Pigs operation in April of 1961. Just two and a half years later Kennedy was cut down on a Dallas street. Was that because someone in a high place decided that he lacked the quintessential quality of all American presidents: ultra patriotism?

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America’s Other Pandemic–Stupidity

I now know now that the Pledge of Allegiance was about the insidious brainwashing of innocent children, and most of those brains cannot be restored.

Are Idiots Born or Created?

Seen from abroad over the past half century, one gets the impression that the United States has embraced a vibrant new tradition. Along with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness they are pursuing stupidity. And they are doing a sensational job of it. A few decades ago this would have sounded like a gratuitous insult, but today it is widely acknowledged as a simple fact of life. Are you reluctant to believe it? Try googling “American stupidity” and you will find think piece after think piece, authored by Americans themselves, dissecting the many facets of widespread US mental deficiencies. They have titles like, “Have We Reached Peak Stupidity,” “Are Americans Just Stupid” and “Americans Just Want to Be Free to be Stupid.”

Isn’t Stupidity Universal?

Is this to suggest that stupidity doesn’t exist in other places? No, of course not, but not to the degree that it thrives in the United States where, due to a unique combination of factors, stupidity rules almost every manifestation of American society: what they value, what they admire, what they aspire to, what they demand, what they vote for, even what they eat. And certainly what they watch, listen to and follow. Nowhere else does the stupidity factor hold such sway. What is the great American stupidity enabler?

Like everything else, it’s the profit motive, and we’ll discuss that later. For now, suffice it to say that in a country whose cherished traditional values include rugged individualism, false exceptionalism, fast money, relentless militarism and distrust of collective solutions. Americans think these solutions smell of socialism and consider them wholly incompatible with their fictional “free world.” I thought Neil Young had razed that place back in 1989, with his song, Rockin’ in the Free World. (“People sleepin’ in their shoes… Keep on rockin’ in the free world.”)

The American Gold Rush Mentality

When grave mental deficiencies are detected in great swaths of the population, the American tendency is not to regard them as people to be helped, rather as opportunities to be exploited. It’s the American gold-rush mentality: “Thar’s gold in them thar hills!” How do they mine those unfortunate souls? Let me count the ways. They put them in private, for-profit prisons where they are obliged to work for an average of 63 cents and hour–and in some states for free. Only 8% of state and federal prisoners are held in private prisons. But 73% of immigration detainees are incarcerated for profit. By cost cutting on everything–installations, staff, staff training, education programs–the private operations manage to undercut the manifestly better state and federal facilities in order to make a profit. (Source: Statista.com)

They lure them into life/death lottery which is the armed forces Even when they’re not in the army or behind bars, members of the American working class are under represented by unions, underpaid and over exploited. A significant part of them does not earn enough money to live a decent life and raise their children in conditions of health and wellbeing. And we’re talking about the richest country in the world. Could someone explain to me how that is possible?

One thing is certain: the United States is the outland in outlandish. And they will, sooner or later, pay the price, not just for inequality and racism but for all the exceptional rest, the mass gun killings and the solitary suicides, the tolerated far-right militias, the discouraged teachers and parents, the holy men who travel in private airliners, the congress people on the payrolls of banks, arms manufacturers and big pharma, the honest business people with accumulation psychosis, the black and brown kids who don’t have a chance…

Societal Failure or Business Opportunity

The authorities don’t consider possibilities for more, better, free schooling for people who have been left behind, or equality programs to raise levels across the whole society, but private prisons and reality TV. It’s not by accident that America’s worst-ever president was a reality TV star. Mediocrity seeks its own level. For every Lincoln or Roosevelt that Americans have enjoyed as their president, they were obliged to suffer dozens of Harry Trumans (who was the only US president not to graduate from college), Ronald Reagans and George W. Bushes.

There is a gleam of hope, however. The most thoughtful commentators on the subject agree that Americans are not born stupider that the rest of humanity. They’re essentially normal as their intelligence quotients compare positively with those of other countries and conform to the familiar bell curve. But wait just a few years and you’ll find that outlandish, senseless, anti-social and counterproductive notions have crept into their heads, such as the Pledge of Allegience to the Flag. I was nurtured on that nonsense through most of grade school and I clearly recall not having any idea what it was about.

I now know now that it was about the insidious brainwashing of innocent children, and most of those brains cannot be restored. It turns out to be the first brick in the wall of American hypernationalism, a baseless concept like the Holy Trinity, that has become God’s absolute truth in America. Once that superstructure was erected, they could hang anything on it, starting with American exceptionalism, the notion that, just by being born Americans they were unique among the citizens of the world, endowed with unique privileges, all of which is, of course, the rankest hogwash. Americans are in no way unique, superior or more entitled that any other race on earth. That notion springs from the same putrid source as white supremacy. It is just a false justification (though many–most?– Americans seem to believe it) for their rampant imperialism around the world.

Mental Damage to Children

Concomitant with these outrages is the irreparable mental damage done to the minds of American young people, which have been precooked by the lies of school and church, Captain America and the American flags flapping outside their front doors. Their exceptionalist beliefs lead them to support the insane and unending litany of bullying, rapine, regime change and exploitation that their country practices for profit around the world.

To mislead and confuse its youth with uber-patriotic nonsense is to condemn a country to a dark future, the one that we are seeing playing out today in the U.S. It was not only other people’s territory and natural resources that interested America’s early international entrepreneurs and still does. It was access to markets in places like Japan and China, access achieved by “gunboat diplomacy.” Today is an interesting time to recall those snippets of history, with China gutting the American industrial base and devouring their markets without having to deploy any gunboats.

There are endless theories to explain the dumbing of America. Ron Jud, writing in the Seattle Times blames it on television, especially in its cheapest, nastiest–and most profitable–form, reality shows. He affirms:

American television has made the country what it is today–fat, lazy, uninterested, selfish, intellectually comatose and uninspired. It was around the mid-’90s… when the sinking feeling began… reality TV, shows that required little cast, sets or the inkling of creative spark God gave a common garden snail. Manna, in other words for the geniucrats running the U.S. entertainment industry.

Seattle Times, 28 August 2021

Another theory traces American stupidity back to the frontier spirit. It’s not actually stupidity. Steven Nadler calls it “a kind of intellectual stubbornness.” Here’s his take on the phenomenon in Time:

The problem is not that the people who don’t believe in climate change or who choose not to vaccinate their children, or who deny evolution by natural selection are necessarily uninformed (although many of them are, and a good deal of what passes for “information” these days comes from highly suspect sources). Rather, it is that in the face of relevant information they have refused to adjust or abandon their beliefs accordingly. We are witnessing a struggle between the dark and light tendencies of the American national psyche. The mask is its symbol.

Time

So it’s not stupidity. But it will do till the real thing comes along.

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Atypical America Leaves the World Perplexed

In view of their unjust imposition of seven decades of crippling economic sanctions on Cuba, has anybody ever imposed sanctions on the United States? If not, why not?

Just a Few Surreal By-Products of American Exceptionalism

The killing with a perfectly legal assault rifle of two innocent peaceful demonstrators, and the wounding of another, on the street in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Then the failure of a jury of his American peers to convict the perpetrator. Then an ex-president of the United States publically congratulating the killer for getting away with murder. This whole chain of events looks highly irregular–grotesquely so–to non Americans all over the world. To normal people from other countries the incident, its legal derivations and the social acceptance of it smacks of grave nationalistic illness of the sort that affected the German people during Hitler’s Nazi regime.

To this level of mindless brutality–on the part of the killer, the judge and jury and a large part of the American people–we must add the massive hypocrisy of Americans selling themselves as paladins of world democracy and the good life, the mythical shining city on a hill. If they believe that absurd and dangerous commonplace, why shouldn’t we?

The Americans Burden Themselves


Americans are encumbered with a set of anti-social, individualistic values, considered aberrant in most advanced countries, and a low level of education, which also suffers from a cruel ideological slant. Their primary and secondary schools teach children that their country is uniquely blessed by God and thus divinely empowered to impose their way of life on the rest of the world. But the truth is that they are not exceptional. They form a branch of the great apes of the species homo sapiens, just like the rest of the people in the world. Nor is their form of government, in its current state, superior. It is gravely and demonstrably flawed. And their fervent efforts to impose it around the world, while violently suppressing other people’s lifestyle choices, have given rise to at least a century of universal worldwide unease.

Commerce Against Humanity

The pursuit of commercial militarism underlies the system. In order to be even marginally legitimate, wars must be fought in defense of sane principles such as humane values or self defense. Today most wars are fought for the profit of the few: big bankers, big arms makers, big pharma and big everything else. Does anyone know the details of the commercial arrangements underlying all the war materiel that the U.S. and U.K. so liberally bestowed upon Ukraine? Are the Ukranians paying for all that big-ticket armament in comfortable monthly installments or are American and British taxpayers generously making them a gift of all those expensive war toys? If it’s the former, when does military solidarity cross the line into arms profiteering? If it’s the latter, and they are passing the cost of the arsenal to their countries’ citizens, have they bothered to inform them as to where their tax money is going?

The never-ending encroachment of revealed religion in the American government. For the wise American founders “freedom of religion” included freedom from religion. The Constitution of the United States accorded no role for organized religion in the new American republic. That lowbrow religion should have slithered into the American government’s highest offices, in the guise of “spiritual advisors” speaking in tongues, is seen by outsiders as a sad commentary on the state of the nation.

This Is Going to Hurt

The American disregard for human pain, suffering and life itself abounds. This hardly requires comentary. It’s enough just to mention the all-too-familiar names: Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Cuba, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chile, Argentina, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Irak, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan… Sometimes the American executioners don’t even need a war to reap tons of pain and discord. These are just some of their alleged victims: John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Malcom (X) Little, Martin Luther King and Black Panther co-founder, Dr. Huey Newton. His Black Panther colleagues, Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, were gunned down by 14 police officers as they lay sleeping–or having been drugged; it’s not clear which.

The (In) Human Factor

The killers and facilitators. While we’re at it we should name some of the Americans’ most illustrious killers and facilitators in this atypical history. The most egregious is seldom pointed out. He is the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Heinz Alfred (Henry) Kissinger, President Nixon’s right-hand man during Nixon’s fruitless and unscrupulous last-ditch attempt to win the Vietnam war and the re-election to the U.S. presidency. The Nobel Prize was never the same again. Kissinger’s rapsheet includes cozying up to Latin American military dictators and retarding the Paris Vietnam peace negotiations in benefit of Nixon’s reelection, a delay which cost thousands of American–and many more Vietnamese–lives. For a compelling and detailed account of Kissinger’s time in the White House, see Seymour Hersh’s Kissinger, The Price of Power.

Then there’s Augusto Pinochet, the CIA-annointed dictator of Chile; and Jorge Rafael Videla, the military-junta-appointed president of Argentina between 1976 and 1981, the bloodiest years of fascist repression in that benighted country and further afield. Their outrages included the Operation Condor campaign of assassinations of some 60,000-80,000 suspected leftists all over South America between 1968 and 1989, a project designed by the CIA and carried out by a host of Latin American dictators. Nor must we forget to include in this rogues’ gallery Israel’s on-and-off-again president, Bibi Netanyahu, the architect of the ruthless apartheid regime against the Palestinians.

McNamara and Westmoreland in Vietnam

Robert McNamara’s middle name is “Strange,”as in “Strangelove.” The U.S. Secretary of Defense between 1961 and 1968, he ramped up the Vietnam war unconscionably, and having failed to defeat the Vietnamese communists, moved inexplicably on to a series of prestige appointments beginning with the presidency of the World Bank. McNamara’s mediocrity was superseded only by that of William Westmoreland, the commander of Military Assistance Command-Vietnam (MACV) in 1964. U.S. troop strength on Westmoreland’s watch went from 16,000 when he arrived to its peak of 535,000 in 1968 when he was kicked upstairs to Army chief of staff.

After losing the war to the Vietnamese under, General Vo Nguyen Giap, the American commander permitted himself the luxury of criticizing the incompetence of his enemy. It is summed up in this summary from a 1998 interview for George magazine:

In the 1974 film Hearts and Minds, Westmoreland said that ‘The Oriental doesn’t put the same high price on life as does a Westerner. Life is plentiful, life is cheap in the Orient.’ “Westmoreland’s view has been heavily criticized by Nick Turse, the author of the book Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam. According to Turse, many of the Vietnamese killed were actually innocent civilians, and the Vietnamese casualties were not just caused by military cross-fire but were a direct result of the U.S. policy and tactics, for example the policy ‘kill everything that moves’. He concluded that, after having “spoken to survivors of massacres by United States forces at Phi Phu, Trieu Ai, My Luoc and so many other hamlets, I can say with certainty that Westmoreland’s assessment was false”.

U.S. Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger warmly greets Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet, in 1976, during the heyday of the CIA-engineered Operation Condor program of mass assassination by South American dictators of suspected leftists all over Latin America.

Wait, There’s More


Elliott Abrams was the scourge of Guatemala as Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs (a title which deserves a Nobel irony prize) under the Reagan administration. He collaborated with the dictator, General Efraín Rios Montt, in the genocide of the country’s Mayan people between 1982 and 1983. He was also involved in the Iran-Contra operation and twice convicted–later pardoned by George W. Bush–of withholding information from Congress. Abrams was still at it until at least 2021, appointed by President Donald Trump’s atypical Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, as U.S. Special Representive for Venezuela and Iran. They considered that both of those countries required urgent re-directioning. Iran is a thriving Shiite Muslim society in the Middle East, with massive oil deposits. And Venezuela is clearly guilty of being the home of untold natural resources including a sea of petroleum and a mountain of gold, just waiting for someone with the capital and knowhow to exploit them.

There’s one more remorseless bully who’s necessary on this list, George W. Bush, the wholesale butcher of Baghdad, in company with his stellar running dogs, British prime minister, Tony Blair, and José María Aznar, the pathetic extreme-right-wing Spanish president who was desperate to come out in the photo with those he considered los caudillos.

The Americans haven’t fought on their own ground since the civil war which ended in 1865, but to how many countries have they exported disastrous wars in the past century and a half? How many civilian victims? How many dead and maimed soldiers resulted–including many thousands of their own? That’s indifferent to them; they’ve got an unlimited supply of gold stars for the grieving mothers. Robert McNamara decided to limit the number of college-educated white boys sent to Vietnam, lest they join the anti-war students when they got home. Since the the U.S. armed forces are made up increasingly of black and brown minorities that American plutocrats consider expendable.

In the end, even Colin Powell was sacrificed before the United Nations Security Council in 2003 in the Americans’ ultimately fruitless pursuit of Irak’s fabulous petroleum riches. I have one last question before we leave the subject of the Americans’ tragic story of murder and mayhem around the world. In view of their unjust imposition of seven decades of crippling sanctions on Cuba, has anybody ever imposed economic sanctions on the United States? If not, why not?

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Dear World, Who’s Encircling Whom?

Their old bugbear

Uncle Sam Sells Rancid Fictions

Everything is hunky punky in the Ukraine. Everybody got what they wanted. Putin got to deal with his noisome cousins on the west, and along the way he got to reaffirm Russia as a force not to be taken lightly. He was preternaturally aware for some time that the Americans had been punching above their weight and finally got the opportunity to reply in kind. The Americans were delighted to get the definitive proof that their old bugbear was once more on the march, this time for real. The Russians were clearly threatening world peace–and what’s worse–American hegemony. Now the Yanks can resume peddling their bi-polar version of the world–us and them, cowboys and Indians. You’re one or the other.

The surprising thing to the impartial observer is that almost everybody, but for the few cranks who have been following the story for years, seems to buy into the American narrative. That virtually-world-wide consensus is driven by the mass media. But before swallowing their version whole, let’s not lose sight of the fact that the international media are big businesses, whose aim is to perpetuate the status quo, which is to say, big business. So it’s not surprising that the world’s press, TV and online media should have unanimously grabbed the worn, anti-Russkie ball and run with it. For them it’s a slam-dunk.

Has Anyone Looked at a Map?

Nor is it complicated for them to denounce Russian armed aggression against a neighbor–actually family–and illustrate it with images of bloodied civilians and reports of kindergartens being bombarded (albeit in the middle of the night). It’s clear to them that Russia’s strategy is to encircle Europe and devour it bite by bite. (One sclerotic commentator dared suggest in this morning’s paper that Russia had its eye on Germany.) That cannibalistic assertion is an absurdity that can be dispelled by looking at a map, though there are lots of people who want to believe it.

Who’s circling whom, and why?

Biden and Co. are championing NATO as the valid mediator in this fight but NATO is the worst possible solution. It is, among other things, the Americans’ proxy armed forces in Europe and elsewhere, a fraternity of American running dogs. In line with the rationale for its creation at its inception–to protect Europe from Soviet encroachment–it should have been disbanded with the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, something many of us expected. But it remains determinedly dedicated to meddling farther and farther afield and doing more harm than good. (See some of my previous pieces on NATO, here, here and here.)

A Telling Historical View

In the slightly longer view, this whole brouhaha is Franklin D. Roosevelt’s fault, for dying at exactly the wrong time and leaving the world in the hands of Winston Churchill–too colonial– Harry Truman–entirely too limited–and Joseph Stalin, beleaguered and outnumbered. Neither the British prime minister nor the American president, were prepared to acknowledge Russia’s World-War-II-winning sacrifices on the eastern front to the tune of some 20-million dead. This posture alone was enough to discolor postwar international relations until our own time.

The Russia voice has seldom been heard over the static of American and British media dominance. Churchill’s overweening first priority, during and after the war, was to preserve the British Empire, which turned out to be a fool’s errand, at an astronomical cost in every respect. Nevertheless, it took the United States-British alliance no time at all to convert their loyal Russian ally (which Roosevelt acknowledged explicitly at the Yalta Conference just before his death) into the bitter enemy of the entire world, a step which was not only grossly unfair, but counterproductive, as we are seeing today.

Russia, until recently, faced all alone with the American military behemoth and all of its nominal allies, has been for generations an outnumbered, outgunned adversary. But in the company of the looming figure of China, the old bear has had his teeth and claws sharpened. This is confirmed by President Biden’s overwhelming response to Putin’s inhuman bombardment and troop movements on Ukranian soil. He canceled Putin’s credit cards.

Dirty Hands

So what was all that sabre rattling about? China already has Russia’s back economically, which is the key to the castle. Now, even at this early stage in the game, the Russians seem to be able to deal with Ukraine. What is meant by “deal with?” First, it’s about eliminating their ex-province’s capacity to make war, and ending the deadly harassment of the Russian-speaking minority in Ukraine. This includes disposing of the weaponry the Americans and British gentlemen have so generously contributed to the mess when they detected the opportunity to harm Russia without getting their hands dirty.

That move in itself afforded sufficient incentive for Putin to put boots on the ground and missiles in the air. Putin, who wasn’t born yesterday, is acutely aware that the Americans/NATO will push him just as far as he will let them. Now they know where that point is. Unfortunately, there will inevitably be civilian casualties. But who can affirm that the Russians are not doing their best to obviate them, unless they should decide to go whole hog and match the American record in Iraq?

Putin is constantly going on about “Ukranian fascists,” and that allegation is not entirely erroneous. Though not all Ukranians are dangerous right wingers, there is a significant number of them nursed on the legacy of the Ukranian divisions that fought on the side of the Nazis in the Second World War. How to deal with them is Putin’s problem now.

As for problems, are the Americans positively sure they haven’t opened another can of worms on the other side of the world? How did Blinken et al, their ace international diplomacy experts, manage not to notice that China is deadly serious on the subject of Taiwan and might take this golden opportunity to harvest it?

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P.S. An article by Robyn Dixon and Paul Sonne in today’s Washington Post has this to say:

The attack also carries a direct challenge to the post-Cold War global order. Putin’s sweeping ambition involves hammering out a new international balance, setting the scene for a club of powerful nuclear powers to dominate smaller states and carve out spheres of influence — by force if they see fit.

The Washington Post

Isn’t that precisely what the United States has been doing for decades?

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Remember American Democracy?

Did those supposed statesmen pave the way for the rats? No, they were the rats and, over the years, they have dismounted and demolished one of the world’s noblest attempts to create a perfect republic.

When Was the Last Time You Saw It?

As I remember from my 10th-grade civics class (or was it 11th?), the American government was an ideal republic conceived by a group of disinterested “founding fathers” who were not only politically wise but pillars of ethical behavior. They designed and executed a political system that cleverly incorporated “checks and balances” which made it impossible for one of the three branches of government (executive, legislative or judicial) to usurp enough power to derail what was to become the nation that set the standards for democratic normalcy the world over, the shining city on the hill. The founders, more conservative than we see them today, conceived their ideal government as a republic, but over time, and thanks to the exigencies of modern marketing, it became a democracy.

Their republic was so perfectly delineated and constructed that it obviated the possibility of the executive branch ruling by fiat, or even declaring war without the authorization of Congress. Nor could Congress pass any law that countermanded the guidelines laid down in the United States Constitution. That document was sacred. Overseeing the whole operation of the American government was an august Supreme Court of “nine old men,” burdened with the awesome responsibility of constant vigilance over the whole project. It was, in theory, the most perfect system of government ever conceived by the mind of man. In theory…

Time Brought Decline

But just as a small group of highly-principled founders can set a country on the road to liberty and decency, over a couple of hundred years it can be worn down into something quite different. In the two-and-a-half centuries since the Declaration of Independence, industrious rats have had time and no little monetary encouragement to chew through the sinews of the founders’ near-perfect system, leaving it debilitated and vulnerable to larger, industrial-sized predators. It seems those wise democratic theorists had overlooked a critical factor that permitted the decadence and ultimate failure of the country’s much-lauded representative government: the innate venality of American politicians.

Did those supposed statesmen pave the way for the rats? No, they were the rats and, over the years, they have dismounted and demolished one of the world’s noblest attempts to create a perfect republic. Their justification for this demolition job was the objective of getting themselves perpetually reelected. As it turned out, the American founders’ efforts were far from perfect. Their vision of the race question, for example, was singularly insensitive, specifically leaving slavery intact in the Constitution and laying down the underpinnings for two centuries of killer racial descrimination in their country. Slavery was eventually abolished in the US, except as punishment for crime (and that was a tragic loophole), by the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution on January 31, 1865. That freed all remaining slaves, about 40,000, in the border slave states that did not secede. Thirty out of thirty-six states voted to ratify it; New Jersey, Delaware, Kentucky, and Mississippi vote against. Mississippi distinguished itself by not officially ratifying the Thirteenth Amendment until 2013, and one suspects they’re still not convinced.

Divide and Conquer

The founders’ genial notion of dividing the power to make laws between the federal and state governments, thus minimizing the evils of an undue accumulation of power, has also given rise to problems. The most recent manifestation of this is the United States’ inability to fashion a coherent, nation-wide response to the Covid pandemic. Their piecemeal attempts to curtail Covid were–and remain–the absolute worst in the world, at a cost of the unnecessary deaths of nearly a million Americans. That’s nine giant stadiums full. China took the opposite approach and the difference in the two results is there for all to see, a poignant reminder that American democracy does not have all the answers.

Opposing centers of power–the federal and state governments–have also contributed to the recent outbreaks of legislation in conservative states to impede access to the polls to selected sectors of their populations, notably people of color and other minorities that tend to vote for Democrats. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, in 2021, an unprecedented year for voting legislation, 19 states enacted 33 laws that made it harder for Americans to vote. (Source: brennancenter.org) At the same time, lawmakers in other states responded to Americans’ eagerness to vote by making it easier for eligible voters to cast their ballots. The perpetuation of the concept of “states’ rights” has also permitted conservative states–and there are not a few of those–to equate patriotism, the quintessential conservative American value, not with social justice, but with agressive war.

Congress Admits Too Much Procedural Blockage

Important proposed legislation frequently does not even get a chance to be voted on in the U.S. Congress. One of the most lurid examples of this is the “hold” procedure in the Senate. Under the Standing Rules of the United States Senate a motion can be prevented from reaching a vote on the Senate floor by just one or more senators. This is what has permitted Mitch McConnell to kill some 400 motions previously passed by the House of Representatives, during his term as Minority Leader of the Senate. The practice was successfully banned in 1997, but only temporarily; it was soon re-instated.

I am reluctant to bore you with minutiae but I don’t want to leave without mentioning a particularly lucid article written by Yascha Mounk and published in The Atlantic on March 15, 2018, in which he describes “a creeping democratic deficit in the land of liberty.” Its title demands your attention: America Is Not a Democracy. My favorite paragraph of this long, brilliant article comments on the Supreme Court’s January 21, 2020, Citizens United v. fec decision that recinded century-old campaign finance restric­tions and enabled corpor­a­tions and other outside groups to spend unlim­ited funds on elec­tions. This is an issue that has troubled me as one of the great historic threats to American democracy. Mounk says:

Take Citizens United. By overturning legislation that restricted campaign spending by corporations and other private groups, the Supreme Court issued a decision that was unpopular at the time and has remained unpopular since. (In a 2015 poll by Bloomberg, 78 percent of respondents disapproved of the ruling.) It also massively amplified the voice of moneyed interest groups, making it easier for the economic elite to override the preferences of the population for years to come.

The Atlantic

Interesting Times?

It’s not quite clear how American democracy arrived at its present state of disarray. Some observers would say that it precipitated suddenly during the Trump presidency. Others would place the origins in the Nixon/Kissinger incumbency or even before that. However it happened, all agree that it’s in crisis now and something serious must be done, not least because there is an alarming new element in the mix: the rise of China. Nobody knows what will work with China, but I think it’s clear that the Americans’ usual Sturm und Drang is not getting the job done. Quite the opposite. Recent American diplomatic efforts over Ukraine have driven Russia into the arms of China, virtually creating a new, more formidable adversary: Chinussia.

Even so, it may not be too late. China as a world power is still immature, like a precocious baby gorilla around the house, but he’s growing fast. My guess is that a healthy first step would be to be friendly to him. Are the Americans prepared to do that? Probably not. In that case we will all be faced with a powerful, if apocryphal, Chinese curse. “May you live in interesting times.”

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An Elephant on Thin Ice

At bottom, American sanctions are a bluff, effective only so far as their military might is capable of intimidating smaller, weaker nations.

And It’s a Rogue

I pick up The Washington Post the other day. It’s a good paper, or used to be. Now it seems to be astride the American war elephant. Where there were formerly sober headlines we now have insults, innuendo, threats and hyperbole. At first glance it seems to be due to an supposed imminent Russian threat to the Ukraine. But I smell a back story.

From the Washington Post, Feb. 4, 2022

In December 2021, Russia presented draft treaties to the US and NATO, demanding a complete overhaul of Europe’s security architecture. Russia stressed the principle of indivisible and equal security for all countries, as agreed by all 56 members of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) at Istanbul (1999) and reaffirmed at Astana (Kazakhstan, 2010). Members expressly agreed not to strengthen their security at the expense of other members’ security. The US is a signatory.

President Putin warned that if the West continued its aggressive policies (NATO’s expansion and missile deployment in eastern Europe), Russia would take ‘military-technical’ reciprocal measures. He said, “they have pushed us to a line that we can’t cross.”

The Washington Post Is Not Content

But here The Post shows signs of discontent, beginning with the headline: Xi meets Putin in show of solidarity as U.S. warns against helping Russia evade Ukraine-linked sanctions. So, President Xi of China meets Presiden Putin of Russia, two sovereign nations essentially on opposite ends of the world. The occasion is the inauguration of the Beijing Winter Olympic Games. It’s a meet and greet. Why is the U.S. “warning” them. Is it a warning or a threat? It sounds more like the latter.

The rub on the part of the Americans apparently has to do with Russia parking eight divisions of troops on their own territory some 175 kilometers distant from the Ukraine border. The Post seems to find that intolerable. Both Ft. Bliss and Laughlin Air Force Base in the State of Texas sit virtually on the Mexican Border. Does The Post find that intolerable? Of course not. As for “Ukraine-linked sanctions,” what’s the U.S. have to do with Ukraine and Russia’s family feuds, and what gives them the authority to “sanction” the Russians for assembling troops in their own territory or for “showing solidarity” between the Russian and the Chinese maximum leaders. To an impartial observer all of this looks absurd. From here it looks as if the U.S. is primarily interested in tarring Russia with the same old brush, blocking the new Nordstream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany and, voilá, selling American shale gas to Europe.

President Biden Stands Alone

President Biden was not present at the Olympic Inauguration party. He preferred to stand off, ordering a mini boycott of the games ostensibly as a protest against Chinese “human rights abuses.” Meanwhile, from here the Chinese government’s treatment of their Uyghur minority looks less gruesome than that which the American homeless and prison populations suffer at the hands of their own government. Even so, the American-led worldwide media initiative likes to refer to “the “Uyhgur genocide.” They need to document themselves on “genocide.” Ask any Jew.

President Putin took advantage of the absence of the leader of the Free World to offer the Chinese President Xi Jinping a new gas pipeline direct to China. It looks like a perfect capitalistic solution between a country that has too much natural gas and another that has too little.

The Chinese-Russian joint statement at the end of the meeting was quite clear:

Russia and China stand against attempts by external forces to undermine security and stability in their common adjacent regions,” the statement said, and “intend to counter interference by outside forces in the internal affairs of sovereign countries under any pretext.

The Washington Post

Have the Americans forgotten they were the ones who engineered the fall of Ukraine’s democratically elected government in 2014 and the ensuing ascent of the right-wing, free-market goverment that was in the American script? What, then, has subsequent U.S. diplomacy achieved by organizing the current Ukraine brouhaha? Either not much–Ukraine’s comedian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, himself, is trying to ease his country out of the fray–or a great deal–they have managed to drive their two most significant adversaries into a public statement of mutual military solidarity. That’s quite an achievement. Unfortunately for the Americans, it’s on the wrong side of the ledger.

The Ongoing U.S. Sanctions Issue

For many years we’ve watched the Americans place debilitating–or mortal–sanctions on countries that displease them, the most egregious being the cases of Cuba–which has plagued the lives of the Cuban people for 60 years and continues implacably–and Iraq, where the morbidity toll began with 500,000 children. A recent headline proclaims: “U.S. warns China against helping Russia dodge Ukraine-related sanctions.” On Feb. 3, State Department spokesman Ned Price warned Chinese firms that they would face “consequences” if they sought to help Russia evade potential sanctions. (Reuters) What “consequences are these? China is a first-rate economic power that happens to have the largest army and navy in the world, the fastest and trickiest hypersonic missiles and the coolest commanding heads. And they have recently been driven into the arms of the Russians. Is President Biden sure he wants to threaten them both? An overt threat is, after all, a covert challenge.

With American sanctions ripping around the world like the thunderbolts of Zeus, maybe we should look into their legitimacy. Not surprisingly the only authorizations to be found are those issued by American authorities themselves:

It turns out there are two brands of sanctions, those authorized by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), which are the only ones that are granted international legality, and those issued unilaterally by individual nations. The American sanctions belong to the latter group and, therefore, enjoy no legal validity whatsoever on the world stage. They’re just posturing. Ironically, the United States, who looks upon the United Nations with disdain and has failed to join a multitude of UN initiatives, occasionally supports UN resolutions against nations it considers enemies.

Among the treaties unsigned or unratified by the United States, a few have been singled out by organizations such as Human Rights Watch (2009), as extremely important, and the United States’ reluctance to ratify them problematic. Among them are the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED), the Ottawa Treaty (Mine Ban Treaty), the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT). The United States is also one of the few countries not to have ratified the Kyoto Protocol. And there are at least 45 more unsigned or unratified UN treaties on the list compiled by Wikipedia.

An American Offer You Can’t Refuse

At bottom, American sanctions are a bluff, effective only so far as their military might is capable of intimidating smaller, weaker nations. The U.S. rogue elephant is effectively making the citizens of the entire world an offer they can’t refuse. How long will this familiar mafia strategy continue to function? Presumably it will last until another nation–or combination of nations–dares to challenge them, both economically and militarily. Coincidentally, I have just finished a fascinating book that deals with this very subject. Written by British academic, Martin Jacques, it is called When China Rules the World. One wonders, is the elephant edging onto thin ice already?

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The Conspiracy to Conceal Conspiracies

“If you can only remember two things, rememember this: ‘Governments lie’. If you can remember three, remember, ‘All governments lie.'” I.F. Stone

Truth and Untruth Both Lurk in Plain Sight

“Oh, him, he’s an anti-vaxxer, a dangerous crazy. Don’t pay any attention to what he says. The 9/11 Truth Movement? Them too. They’re all conspiracy theorists.” Well, not exactly. These are the two contrasting examples cited by Jaron Harambam, the Netherlands sociologist whose specialty is studying the subject of conspiracy theories and who argues in his recent book, Contemporary Conspiracy Culture: Truth and Knowledge in an Era of Epistemic Instability, that “we need to focus on the meaning, diversity and context of different conspiracy theories, as well as the people who suscribe to them.”

That seems to make sense, but how do we distinguish one from the other? That is the problem often posed by controversial affirmations on vital subjects. But is it enough to dismiss questionable truths by merely pasting a “conspiracy theory” label on them without taking a serious look at them? That seems to be the default reaction in the United States. If something is true, but is uncomfortable for important people or institutions, the most expedient way to deal with it is by heaping it with ridicule and denial until it fades out of sight. This procedure requires no research, no independent investigations, nor public debate, and it’s free. Who could ask for a more perfect method for curtailing debate and cloaking the truth?

Which is emphatically not to say that all “conspiracy theories” are baseless. Far from it, but when they all get lumped together in the same trick bag, it’s hard to tell them apart. How do you manage that? You do your homework. You read, compare versions of events, evaluate the sources, and weigh the probabilities. Then you make a considered decision based on all the facts you can muster. Yes, it can be work, but it is the most reliable way of getting to the truth. Admittedly, many conspiracy theories may not stand up to the truth. But, to the dismay of some important people, organizations and institutions, some will.

Harambam charcacterizes the 9/11 Truth Movement as “rather different, people who challenge the mainstream narrative of 9/11 with completely factual and scientific evidence.” He adds, “These activists profess knowledge of physics, construction and explosives, and ground their legitimacy in expertise. Harambam concludes, “Conspiracy theories are not uniform, nor should our engagements with them be.”

Kennedy Deserves Better

Another historic case that belongs alongside the 9/11 Truth Movement for plausibility, after about a half century of rich and varied independent investigation, is that of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. I’m not sure if anyone is prepared to make a firm accusation in the matter, but it should at least be freely aired. That has not happened, and doesn’t look about to. The case carries an additional factor that serves to intensify the smell of conspiracy: government collusion in efforts to occlude evidence relevant to the case. What possible explanation can there be for that, aside from blatant malfeasance?

Yes, there was a hurried and slipshod official investigation, headed by Justice Earl Warren, a pillar of American judicial honesty. But it was neither thorough nor convincing. That brings up another question: can government authorities be trusted to excavate the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, or are there some questions of security, diplomacy, or loyalty to be protected at the same time? That would preclude justice. I.F. Stone, the great American independent journalist, is quoted as saying, “If you can only remember two things, rememember this: ‘Governments lie’. If you can remember three, remember, ‘All governments lie.'”

What is truly remarkable in these cases in the United States is the extent to which a massive majority of citizens prefer just not to bother looking into so many vital issues, preferring to consign them to “conspiracy-theory” limbo. A quick Google search on the term will show you just how the playing field is tilted in favor of discrediting virtually everyone who proposes a seemingly unlikely or controversial theory. Almost all the Google articles are derogatory and refer more to “conspiracy theory subcultures” than to the questions at hand, as if anyone who subscribes to any conspiracy theory were an idiot. It’s not clear whether this inability to distinguish between fact and fiction is due to laziness or devious intentions. Coincidentally, almost none of the writers offer much evidence to sustain their affirmations. They don’t have to. Just labeling the issue a “conspiracy theory,” will satisfy the mostly bovine critical sense out there. One thing is certain. The Kennedy case will not be closed until all those papers are released.

Personal Favorites

While we’re on the subject of government intervention, maybe it’s time to drop one of my favorite conspiracy theories. Isn’t it at least possible that it was one of America’s all-powerful “intelligence” agencies that got the conspiracy-theory ball rolling? If they didn’t, they should have, judging by the wholesale confusion caused by the onslaught of “conspiracy theories” throughout the American population. That forms part of a couple of the spooks’ core skills: propaganda and thought control. What a wonderful, spacious, dark bin in which to tip the government’s dirty laundry, the larger part of which belongs to the intelligence community, itself. All the black ops, all the false flags, the regime change, the surveillance at home and abroad… It might have something to do with them being secret. Never mind. They were most likely just following orders. They’re clean cut American boys. They wouldn’t be involved in anything unchristian. Would they?

At bottom, though the Americans think they’re doing themselves a favor with the conspiracy-theories gambit, in reality they’re just adding liabilities to their assets. Too many people worldwide have done their homework on “theories” like Kennedy and 9/11, just to mention the most egregious cases, and are no longer hoodwinked by slick propaganda maneuvers. At the very minimum it’s clear by now that the Americans cannot be trusted. Just look at Russia’s situation today, hemmed in along their entire western border by NATO military bases and missiles, with the Americans baying for more in Ukraine. This, after American Secretary of State, James Baker, on February 9, 1990, famously assured Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, that NATO wouldn’t move “one inch closer” to Russia. The occasion of that promise, which was repeated several times during the proceedings, was the negotiations over the re-unification of Germany.

The next news we had on that, admittedly verbal, agreement–something that in Russian culture is to be honored–was when the Americans welched on it, alleging that it wasn’t in writing and it was made with the Soviet Union, not Russia. It’s almost as if an American Secretary of State’s word were not his bond. (See the full story here.) One wonders how many world leaders will find such a maneuver despicable. And how many of them will forget it? I don’t think that sort of forgetfulness abounds at the top of world governments, at least those that matter.

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