How Does the US Control the World? It’s a Secret.

Manufacturing Allies, Grooming Running Dogs

It’s easy to see the results of American recruitment of allies. There is never a shortage of countries, large and small, to join with the United States in their most varied international adventures, however grotesque these may be. This summer is seeing a bellicose campaign against Russia and China, featuring schoolyard-bully diplomatic initiatives, virulent media campaigns and too-close-for-comfort military maneuvers. In former times, the same deficient rationale gave us the American “sanctions” scams, the gratuitous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and, before that, Vietnam. The daunting Cold War laid the groundwork for the ongoing campaign to recruit “allies” in the noble cause of American world hegemony.

But we are never shown the process of winning over those strange bedfellows. What are the mechanisms that permit the Americans to persuade the leaders of otherwise sane countries–places like Canada, Australia and even Norway, by all the usual yardsticks the most egalitarian, most humane country in the world, to join them in the Americans’ own version of the 1,000-year Reich?

This extravagant prophesy is not only a Hitlerian reference. The United States, a profoundly Christian if somewhat heterodox country, found its millenial vocation in the same place as Joseph Goebbels,  Hitler’s propaganda minister: in the Bible. It was revealed to both in the book of Revelations 20:6: “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.”

Religion Rears Its Pious Head

Elaine Pagels, professor of religion at Yale, and one of the world’s most qualified biblical scholars, author of Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation, commented in a 2012 interview:

… the book of Revelation opens with a series of visions in which Jesus appears to a prophet and tells him what’s going to happen soon, and then the prophet says he goes up into heaven and sees the throne of God and is told by angels the course of future history, which includes four horsemen of the apocalypse coming, each one representing disaster on Earth.

One brings war that kills a third of the inhabitants of the Earth. Another one brings famine and plague and catastrophe all over the world. These visions talk about cosmic war, in which the forces of evil seem to have taken over the world, and claim that God’s power is now going to come and challenge those forces, and there will be cataclysmic battles of monsters until finally Jesus returns with armies of angels and destroys all the forces of evil and creates an entirely new world.

NPR.org

You may be inclined to accept or reject this apocalyptic view of the world’s imminent end, but there is no doubt that many of the United States’ past, present, and future leaders believe in it literally and are prepared to bet the farm on it. It’s ironic that Americans should put so much stock in this scenario, as it is not clear what their role in it might be. Are they the faithful who are awaiting liberation by armies of angels, or are they the bringers of war that “kill a third of the inhabitants of the earth,” and sow “famine and plague and catastrophe all over the world?” From here it looks as if they might be the latter. Today the all-powerful American military is the global Goliath busily seeking his David. According to Mark Twain, the quintessential American truth teller, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”

The Americans seem to be able to assemble a bank of allies almost at will for any of their lugubrious initiatives, even if some of them are laughable miniature Pacific islands. What are the steps in the American recruitment of allies? How do they go about luring normal countries into their strange games of propaganda, deception and war? Who has to be won over in each country to win collaboration in the Americans’ grimy geopolitical adventures? How many people, in what institutions, and at what level, do the Americans have to bring on board in order to create an “ally?”

Do they have to convince a majority of a country’s legislative and/or executive branches to get the job done, or just a few key flexible figures? (Here I can’t help but recall the famous photograph of American President, George W. Bush, British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and the Spanish President, José María Aznar, meeting in the Azores to sign Iraq’s unwarranted death warrant. Were these three sociopathic chief executives solely responsible for launching an invasion of Iraq which, four years later, had left a balance of 650,000 Iraqi dead, all of them innocent?

How Do They Do It?

How do the Americans achieve these macabre arrangements? It’s not always easy but they are experts with long experience in the business. Their techniques date at least from the passing of the National Security Act, signed into law by President Harry S. Truman in July 1947, which reorganized the structure of the U.S. armed forces following World War II.

It created the office of Secretary of Defense to oversee the nation’s military establishment. It also established the National Security Council (NSC) and separate departments for each branch of the armed forces, as well as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The National Security Agency (NSA) was founded five years later, on November 4, 1952. Despite the CIA’s reputation for worldwide skullduggery, the NSA is the pre-eminent American intelligence agency, the largest both in terms of budget and personnel. (Source: Britannica.com)

Both agencies’ remit was limited by Congress to overseas espionage and counter-intelligence operations, the CIA with old-fashioned spies, the NSA with high-tech communications interceptions and code breaking. As time passed both organizations grew like baby gorillas into formidable personae that sometimes collaborated and sometimes competed, sometimes informing their supervisors in the government and sometimes not. The recent citizen surveillance revelations in the US have brought to light the role of the NSA in surveilling domestic communications and the massive gathering of data on US citizens. Was the CIA also involved? Are the American clandestine services running other shady, illegal operations at home? We don’t know and, barring a security leak or a whistleblower, we will never know. They’re secret.

Some of their shenanigans are so secret that not even the President is informed. One of these cases was uncovered during the Bush II presidency. Slate reporter, Fred Caplan, writes, “Of all the shocks and revelations in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA torture, one seems very strange and unlikely: that the agency misinformed the White House and didn’t even brief President George W. Bush about its controversial program until April 2006.” The Bush team’s cover story was that it was a measure to assure the president’s “credible deniability” should the operations inadvertently come to light. (Source: Slate , Dec. 10, 2014)

The Russkies Provide Cover for the Whole Show

Always under the banner of anti-communism and the Russian threat, the nascent American security state promoted a military association of North American and European countries by convincing them they needed to be protected by American troops, armour and aviation and, above all, harbored beneath their nuclear umbrella. They called this collective “the North Atlantic Treaty Organization” (NATO), and it was tremendously successful for the Americans on several levels.

Twelve countries took part in the founding of NATO: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In 1952, Greece and Turkey became members of the Alliance, joined later by West Germany (1955) and Spain (1982). In exchange for the promise of American military protection, NATO provided the rationale for what turned out to be a sinister information and influence superhighway into the heart of Europe.

The Americans soon discovered the convenience of grouping their allies together, thus dealing with a single collective contact, the NATO Secretary General. It is a much faster and effective way to maintain control, hinged only on the extent to which the incumbent Secretary General can be controlled. That’s usually not a problem. The current office holder, since 2014, is the Norwegian politician and two-time prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg.

The Scandinavian Playing Field

Ironically, it is Scandinavia, that fairy-tale cluster of ideal little countries, where two of the greatest mysteries of the last four decades lie. Though we don’t have space to look too deeply into them here, they are the seemingly gratuitous assassination of Swedish prime minister, Olof Palme in 1986, and the mass murders by means of a car bomb in the government quarter of Oslo and the gun killing of socialist youth on the Norwegian island of Utøya in 2011, leaving a total of 77 people dead and hundreds wounded.

Are these mysteries actually unsolved? Or are they just more of Donald Rumsfeld’s “unknown unknowns?” The latter case has curious parallels with a series of senseless murders that occurred in the 1970s and 80s in Italy and were blamed on left-wing extremist militants. In 1990 the Italian judge, Felice Casson, discovered documents on “Operation Gladio” in the archives of the Italian secret service in Rome and forced Prime Minister, Giulio Andreotti, to confirm to the Italian parliament the existence of a clandestine army. This casual series of events let a massive cat out of the bag. Gladio was a decades-long, Europe-wide NATO-run terrorist operation with the objective of discrediting the rising European left. One wonders what NATO geostrategic genius thought that one up and what he’s got in mind for a second course. (Source: Daniele Ganser, NATO’s Secret Armies, Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe)

The first thing the Americans gained with the creation of NATO was a series of invaluable footholds on Russia’s doorstep. Now that NATO membership has grown from 12 to 30 countries, the situation is gravely aggravated, with many of the new American allies tucked cozily up against Russia’s borders. At the same time the Americans added thousands of military personnel and untold tons of weaponry to their Europe-based war potential. Not to mention the sum of the intelligence collected over the years by the new members. NATO was a splendid windfall for the United States and its military-industrial-congressional complex.

Secrecy Trumps Democracy

The creation, seven decades ago, of two powerful and highly-secret American security agencies with virtually unlimited budgets and a worldwide field of operations, ostensibly for the purpose of safeguarding American democracy and propagating that ideology around the world, has had precisely the opposite results. The CIA has a decades-long reputation for direct and proxy bullying and subverting of countries that are unwilling to submit to the American ideological and military yoke.

The full list is too long to cite here but it includes Iran, today’s special American enemy. Their story of humiliation and exploitation at the hands of the ruthless American proxy, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, explains that country’s clear views today on the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. Next came Guatemala and Chile and most of the rest of Latin America. Then, Panama and Grenada, left-wing mini states, both invaded by much superior US forces; a killing-sparrows-with-elephant-guns strategy that became an American favorite. They even coined a cute name for it: “shock and awe.”

Perhaps the best example of this penchant for overkill are the fleets of gigantic eight-engined Boeing B-52 Stratofortress strategic bombers (called “BUFFs” by the in-crowd, Big Ugly Fat Fuckers) operating over Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, day after day for years, killing every living thing in their path. The Stratofortresses entered service in the US Air Force in 1955, and 76 of them remain in service today. After being upgraded between 2013 and 2015, the last of them are expected to serve into the 2050s. An article in Wired magazine reminds us that mid-twenty-first-century B-52s would be the equivalent of First World War Sopwith Camels flying today, a century later.

The B-52’s bombing campaigns in Southeast Asia began in 1964 with Operation Rolling Thunder. Its objective was North Vietnam and it lasted almost four years. Rolling Thunder was later acknowledged as a strategic failure. Operation Arc Light, which ultimately included missions over Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, lasted from 1965-73. There were many more “operations.” Of the 10-12,000 American aircraft brought down in Vietnam, 31 of them were B-52 Stratofortresses. The wreckage of one of them is on display today at Hanoi’s B-52 Victory Museum.

(Source: Herman L. Glister, The Air War in Southeast Asia, Case Studies of Selected Campaigns, 1993)

The Expert on the Subject

There’s an expert on the subject of the Americans international lying, bribing and arm twisting for patriotic, economic and recruiting ends, a whistleblower who participated in those activities in his youth. In his first book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man (2004), that became a NY Times best seller translated into 30 languages, John Perkins relates his personal experience in the world of economic hit men (EHM), jackals, and well-dressed representatives of the CIA, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. Perkins clearly knows what he’s talking about, though his proposed solutions for a brighter future sound like sophomoric wishful thinking. In his personal narration he tells us what he did in the offices of heads of state and corporate magnates and what happened then, even mentioning names of persons and companies in many instances. But he does not delve into the bucket of nuts and bolts that reveal just how the results were achieved. The closest he comes to revealing all is a reference to what happens when neither the economic hit men nor the jackals achieve the desired results. They were the not pretty stories that played out in Guatemala (Arbenz) Chile (Allende), Panama (Torrijos and Noriega), Ecuador (Roldos) …

The American establishment’s heavy-handed approach abroad is an open secret. Perkins cites an article from the Los Angeles Times on early meddling in Venezuela:

Bush administration officials acknowledged Tuesday that they had discussed the removal of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez for months with military and civilian leaders from Venezuela.

Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times, April 17, 2002

In a later book , an older, wiser John Perkins reflects:

When you conquered with EHMs, you could do it secretly. This raised a question I was beginning to ask myself frequently about the toll such a concealment took on a democracy that presupposes an informed electorate. If voters were ignorant of their leaders’ most important tools, could a nation claim to be a democracy?

John Perkins, The Secret History of the American Empire

A Case in Point

What has been the result of this prodigious partnering around the world since the end of the Second World War? Funnily enough, the Book of Revelation predicted the result. Like a true horseman of the Apocalypse the United States brings “famine and plague and catastrophe all over the world.” Let’s look at a single case, that of Panama, whose importance derives from the canal and not much else. Two Panamian leaders ran afoul of the American elite, and both paid with their lives.

Omar Torrijos demanded that the Pentagon remove from Panamanian soil the School of the Americas, their academy of torture, murder and subversion where Latin America’s most ruthless right-wing military men were formed. The school was then transferred to Ft. Benning, Georgia, and renamed The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), in 2001. Its motto is nicely ironic: “Libertad, Paz y Fraternidad” (“Freedom, Peace, and Fraternity”). Its alumni list reads like a Who’s Who of Latin American dictators. Torrijos also renegotiated the Panama Canal Treaties with the United States, achieving, by means of some brilliant maneuvering in the United Nations Security Council, the return of the canal to Panamanian control at noon on December 31, 1999.

But people who outsmart the US government do not get off easy. Torrijos’ plane crashed inexplicably in a mountainous zone of the country and all six passengers were killed on July 31, 1981. Manuel Noriega, Torrijos’ Chief of Military Intelligence, maneuvered his way into power in 1983. According to Perkins, Noriega’s fatal misstep was to film some of young George W. Bush’s excesses on the licentious Panamanian island of Contadora and store the material in a vault in Panama City. When President George H.W. Bush found out he sent an invasion force to Panama to destroy the evidence, and to extradite Noriega to the United States. He was to die in a Panama City prison in 2017 of blood poisoning at the age of 83. It was later revealed that Noriega was a longtime CIA asset formed at the School of the Americas, and that he had been involved in Torrijos’ fatal plane crash.

In the End, We Can Only Guess

So, what are the mechanisms at work and who, ultimately, decants a foreign country for a potentially dangerous liason with the United States? What are the issues–or the interests–that determine the decision? It’s not easy to know with any certainty, as these questions are cloaked in secrecy by professional–though imperfect–secret keepers. We get occasional glimpses under the tent, but seldom enough to crack the barrier of “plausible deniability” that protects critical information and powerful players. Does even the United States Congress know what is going on at all times? Or the President? We have seen that they do not. In the end, it seems we’re living in a world where the American clandestine power elite calls the shots, with little regard for legality or decency. Their priority seems to be almost exclusively military, but is military mastery enough? Are their moves motivated by authentic national interests or shadowy profit-driven influencers? How long can this unusual situation sustain itself? To find the answer these questions you’ll have to talk to the principal protagonists of international change for the future. Do you speak Mandarin?

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We’re in the Golden Age of Surveillance

It’s the world’s intelligence agencies against the rest of us. Who’s going to bell that cat?

And Denmark Is Just the Tip of the Iceberg

Denmark was a benchmark. What happened? Until a little more than a week ago Denmark was considered by the entire world to be one of the four pillars of Scandinavia’s renowned decency and equal opportunity. Suddenly we find them secretly aiding and abetting the National Security Agency (NSA), the US cyber-spy/surveillance behemoth, to eavesdrop on leaders of Denmark’s European family of nations. As if that weren’t sordid enough, if we tug on the Danish thread we discover some frightening little-known surveillance/cyber-spying facts that are even more alarming.

Scandinavia has long been a model for the rest of the developed world, something other countries could aspire to. Even their politicians were honest, if you can imagine that. Denmark was at the forefront, notably in education and democratic government. It ranked eighth in 2019 in the Statistics Times.com Democracy Index, after Norway, Iceland, Sweden, New Zealand, Finland, Ireland, and Canada. That was three slots down from its 2018 ranking, at number five. On this same list the United States ranked 25th and fell into the category of “flawed democracies.” (Source: statisticstimes.com)

The Danes Let the Cat Out of the Bag

The excrement hit the ventilator on Sunday, May 30, when the Danish international broadcaster in English, DR, perhaps in a damage-control effort, reported that during the period 2012-2014 the Danish cyber-intelligence agency had passed files of German chancellor, Angela Merkel’s private telephone conversations to the NSA. This information was worldwide news in 2013, but the implications of the item were drastically obscured or underplayed at the time.

Let’s look at the pedigree of the other party to the matter, the National Security Agency (NSA). It was officially created by President Harry Truman, who upgraded a unit that deciphered coded communications in World War II, awarded it a new name and greatly expanded its budget and its remit. It’s now responsible for global monitoring, collection and processing of information and data for foreign and domestic intelligence and counterintelligence purposes. It is a branch of the US Department of Defense, under the authority of the director of National Intelligence. Today it is the largest of the U.S. intelligence organizations in terms of personnel and budget. We’re not sure what else it does, as it’s also the most secret of American defense agencies.

Edward Snowden and Julian Assange Jerk the Blanket

According to dw.com, Germany’s international broadcast service, the Danish government knew of the involvement of their country’s secret service in the NSA scandal at least since 2015. It was Edward Snowden, an NSA asset under contract to Booz Allen Hamilton before he became a whistleblower on an extended vacation in Russia, who alerted the Danes to their own intelligence service’s cooperation with the NSA. Snowden’s information, shared through Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks site, indicated that the Danish Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste (FE) military intelligence branch was also passing illicit information to the NSA on high-level politicians from Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands and France, as well as Germany.

The unduly generous Danish intelligence service also helped the US agency to spy on the Danish foreign and finance ministries as well as a Danish weapons manufacturer. They also cooperated with the NSA on spying operations against the US government itself. This operation forms part of a larger scheme of things. Upon discovering exactly how far the cooperation between the two countries’ intelligence services went, the Danish government promptly fired the entire leadership of the FE in 2020–just five years after they allegedly discovered the abuses. (Source: dw.com)

The Press Steps In

France 24, the French international news service, was among the first off the line with this:

“The Danish Foreign Intelligence Service has worked closely with American spies for decades,” adding, “American cyber-spies want to wiretap the whole world, including their allies…”

France 24

Barton Gellman, the Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter for The Washington Post, who had covered Snowden’s revelations, commented on the seriousness of the leaks, alleging:

Taken together, the revelations have brought to light a global surveillance system that cast off many of its historical restraints after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Secret legal authorities empowered the NSA to sweep in the telephone, Internet and location records of whole populations. 

The Washington Post

According to Gellman, the Snowden/Wikileaks documents unveiled details of the NSA’s distribution of data gathered in their domestic spying operations, not only to the FBI and the CIA, but also to the intelligence services of foreign countries including Britain, France, and Germany. The Wikileaks documents also reveal arrangements for foreign governments to share intercepted data of each other’s citizens. The revelations were made public over the course of several months since June 2013, by the press in several nations.

Worse Than We Were Led to Believe

According to an article in The Guardian, published on 8 July 2015, the Wikileaks documents reveal that the NSA recorded German chancellor, Angela Merkel’s telephone conversations (as well as text messages and even her fax communications), and those of her closest advisors for years, as well as those of her predecessors. The Wikileak documents indicate that this spying had been longer and more extensive than anyone knew, insofar as the NSA had the phone numbers of 125 highly-placed German officials earmarked for long-term surveillance.

Midst all this information promiscuity before the Wikileaks release, none of these abuses were made public. Courthouse News.com reports that the pilfered information was based on an internal Danish government investigation that the Danes had allegedly sat on for years. The reports shed more light on secret NSA surveillance programs that American whistleblower Edward Snowden first exposed in 2013.

U.S. President Joe Biden was the vice president when Snowden went public. At a moment when Biden is trying to reenergize the transatlantic relationship, the new revelations about Denmark’s willingness to let the American spy agency eavesdrop on its neighbors — reportedly, Germany, Sweden, Norway and France — damages the unity of the EU and erodes trust.

Courthouse News.com

A Fascinating Historical Precedent from Iran

This article in Iran’s Tehran Times, June 1, 2021, connects with similar events over the past half century. It tells the story of Crypto AG, an apparently Swiss company but in reality CIA and West German Intelligence owned operation. Crypto AG manufactured encryption machines. The worksmanship on the machines was characteristically excellent, but they included a hidden extra. Copies of all the supposedly secret messages they “encrypted” were sent directly to the CIA. The machines were sold to more than 120 countries–mostly non-western governments– well into the 21st century.

Be Especially Careful with Your Friends

Due to the United States’s intimate relations with Israel, their intelligence sharing brings with it unique problems. Shortly after the Danish revelations of 2013, Glenn GreenwaldLaura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill collaborated on an article for The Guardian. The story, based on Edward Snowden’s Wikileaks, affirms that “NSA shares raw intelligence including Americans’ data with Israel,” and elaborates on the dangers that entails, as well as evaluating the comparative benefits for each country. The short answer: Israel wins hands down. In another top-secret document seen by the Guardian, dated 2008, a senior NSA official points out that Israel aggressively spies on the US.

“On the one hand, the Israelis are extraordinarily good Sigint (signals intelligence) partners for us, but on the other, they target us to learn our positions on Middle East problems,” the official says. “A NIE [National Intelligence Estimate] ranked them as the third most aggressive intelligence service against the US.”

The Guardian

It’s Time to Talk about Treason

“Treason” is a concept usually employed or implied in connection with whistleblowers and spies. According to a commentary written for Constitution Center.org by Paul T. Crane, U.S. Department of Justice; and Deborah Pearlstein, Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Floersheimer Center for Constitutional Democracy at New York’s Yeshiva University ; Article 3 of Section III of the US Constitution defines treason in the United States:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court. The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason…

All of that is quite clear, but it leaves us with an important doubt. Is the law reciprocal? Is the US government to be held responsible for the betrayal of their own citizens, a sort of inverted treason? “Yes, but it’s not ‘levying war,'” they will say. That is a specious excuse. Like all the rest of the American wars of late, it’s not declared, but it’s waged by the US Department of Defense, America’s largest government agency, through the richly-endowed, highly-confidential National Security Agency. If it walks like a duck…

In today’s state of affairs it is impossible to qualify or quantify the amount of damage done by the NSA’s fingering of American citizens to foreign military organizations, but it’s safe to surmise that it’s not inconsiderable. What recourse is available to Americans who consider themselves gravely wronged by their own government for no apparent reason? Clearly, this is a question for the federal courts to determine, those courts that were so richly larded with extreme-right-wing judges under the Trump administration. Whatever the circumstances and impediments, this is a matter that bears serious study and maybe legal action.

The Old Days

In the old days, perhaps two weeks ago, citizens of virtually all countries lived in fear of other countries. And that fear was fomented by most of them in order to provide psychological cover for their international intelligence dalliances. Now it emerges quite clearly that it’s not “other countries” they have to fear. It’s the frightful combination of their own all-powerful security agencies. The “information agencies” are no longer just about information–they never were–and we have just had a privileged peep into their joint operations.

Today they are suspects of the first order. And they’re all in the conspiracy together. They’re fabulously well financed. They count on their own and proxy armies, already in place around the world. They are equipped with the latest in high-tech weaponry and increasingly-important big-data technology. They are experts in sowing disharmony, distrust, and instability in fragile societies, and they’re being kicked out of some of their current spheres of operation. They have a reliable track record of takeovers and regime changes. The only thing they lack is scruples. Do you doubt that at this very moment one of them is sitting with his feet up on his desk, musing, “Why don’t we just take over the world?” Though, we don’t need to worry about that preliminary stage. They are already under way.

Before pronouncing this a “conspiracy theory,” let me suggest that we consider it merely a hypothesis.

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America’s “Peace with Honor” Problem 6/6

Neither peace nor honor are merely announced. They have to be earned and acknowledged by the rest of the world.

by Mike Booth

President Richard Nixon, set the benchmark for American honor.

by Mike Booth

Part six of a six-part series, It’s Getting Late, America

It Requires Peace and Honor and the US Lacks Both

Every American president since Lyndon Johnson (1963-69) has had one problem in common: “peace with honor.” They just can’t seem to get it right, though it is essential to do so. The all-important reputation of the greatest country in the world depends on it. Achieving peace with honor on the international stage means the difference between being perceived as a thuggish, unprincipled military power and a country of exemplary decency and democratic values. America still isn’t clear that it’s not possible to pursue the former policy while pretending to represent the latter.

Surprisingly, one of the first English-speaking authors to deal with “peace with honor” was A.A. Milne (yes, the father of Winnie-the-Pooh) in his 1935 book, Peace with Honor. In it Milne proposes a utopian plan for attaining peace through universal acceptance by world leaders of a true and honest pursuit of arbitration in good faith, not merely self preservation and nationalist prestige. It was not going to happen.

The next American President to be seen grappling with “peace with honor” was Richard Nixon. As was to be expected of Nixon, anything to do with honor was out of the question. As in everything else he lied, bluffed, procrastinated and always sought his personal self aggrandizement first. He thought peace with honor was achieved by proclaiming it. Neither peace nor honor are merely announced. They have to be earned and acknowledged by the rest of the world. Nonetheless, after gravely discrediting himself, both at home and abroad, the expert American communications morticians managed to resuscitate Nixon as a respected elder statesman. His Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, betrayed everybody and for that he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. (Source: Kissinger, The Price of Power, Seymour M. Hersh, 1983)

It Would Have Helped to Win Something

American-style permawar brings with it permanent problems. They thought they might obviate most of these problems by winning, but they aren’t very good at that, either. Vietnam was the first and most flagrant case of losing to a theoretically inferior enemy, but there were more. Where they did supposedly win, with their invasions of Panama (December 20, 1989 – January 31, 1990, Operations “Nifty Package” and “Just Cause”) and the verdant little isle of Grenada in the Caribbean (Operation “Urgent Fury,” Oct 25, 1983 – Dec 15, 1983), the victories were hollow, due both to the massive David-vs.-Goliath factor and the manifest innocence of the miniscule countries invaded.

Nonetheless, President Ronald Reagan tried to take advantage of the dubious opportunity to compensate the loss of the Vietnam War (which the Vietnamese call the “American War.”) After the deeply-flawed invasion of Grenada was concluded, Reagan, the consummate statesman, announced on 13 December 1983,”…our days of weakness are over. Our military forces are back on their feet and standing tall.” (Source: The New York Times, 13 December, 1983) And you thought Bush II was the first absolute moron president.

Lacking significant victories in their chosen wars, the American military behemoth, with the weight of its worldwide lack of credibility hanging around it’s neck, is obliged to negotiate the end games (some of which are going on as we speak, in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria), tasks which are never easy, especially considering that first constraint on the American negotiators is the familiar hairy old bugbear: peace with honor.

Quitter? Coward? Loser?

America cannot permit itself to be perceived as a quitter, a coward or a loser. It has to maintain its street cred, something that is hard to do when you haven’t won a significant victory in the last three quarters of a century. It’s not even clear to what extent they won World War II. A convincing case can be made that the second great war was won in the skies over the County of Kent (The Battle of Britain, July-October, 1940) and at the gates of Leningrad (The Siege of Leningrad, 8 September, 1941 – 27 January, 1944), without an American hero in sight.

For decades the American war machine has managed to cover its ass with the usual smoke and mirrors, but the smoke has been clearing for years and now no longer obscures much of anything. It’s diaphanously obvious that the Americans didn’t send somewhere between 235,ooo and 750,000 troops to Iraq to free the Iraqi people from a bloodthirsty dictator–who not long before had been the Americans’ own bloodthirsty dictator. It was the oil, stupid, along with “lots of good targets” highlighted by President George W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense at the time, Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld dated back to the Nixon administration, when he accepted an appointment by Richard Nixon to head the Office of Economic Opportunity in 1969. It seems that some of the Nixon legacy still clung to his boots after all those years.

Will Afghanistan Be Different?

As for Afghanistan, according to a United States Geological Survey report published in 2007, Afghanistan is sitting atop enough priceless minerals to make Ft. Knox look like a lemonade stand. We’re talking about perhaps some three trillion dollars worth altogether, a third of that being gold and lithium. Ask the Taliban, who are financing their formidable war machine with the products of their mines, their poppy fields and their blackmail businesses.

From the beginning the American adventure in Afghanistan looked to the Pentagon like a slam dunk. Not only was it against a primitive enemy, but it included a succulent bonus, an opportunity to outfox the Russians by arming the simple-minded Afghan shepherds and cultivators of opium poppies with Stinger anti-helicopter missiles, thereby humiliating the Americans’ favorite enemy without even dirtying their hands. All that was left to do then was to send in some crack troops equipped with the latest high-tech war toys and mop up the aforementioned simple-minded Afghans and grab all the mineral marbles. Come to think of it, what made the thinkers from those toxic American think tanks think that those simple-minded shepherds and farmers could beat the Russians, but not put up stiff opposition to the Americans themselves?

Now the Gringos find themselves, after fighting America’s longest and most fruitless war, looking for a way out, and not just any way out. Given the American imperative to save face at all costs, it has to be via the sacrosanct, if elusive, “peace-with-honor” route. Unfortunately for them, that’s not going to happen. Too many cats are out of the bag. Too many countries have taken the American bait only to find that there was a hook in it. Even the British were victims, when they were sucked into the Iraq war on promises of all the money to be made “rebuilding Iraq.” The Brits actually started forming partnerships to move in and get to work scooping up all that money. And let’s not forget the aforementioned Taliban, who are sitting pretty.

Time and again the world has seen how Americans have slipped out of unendable wars they have created by pretending that the liberation and democratization they promised had been achieved. Their last-ditch tactic is simply to walk away. At the peace talks before Ho Chi Minh and General Vo Nguyen Giap–the real heroes of the Vietnam War–ended it by winning, American negotiators, coached by Henry Kissinger, promised the Vietnamese reparations and help rebuilding their shattered and poisoned country. That never happened. Nixon and Kissinger simply walked away.

Has President Biden won a peace with honor in Afghanistan? He hasn’t won anything yet. He has simply announced his country’s intention to pull all US military personnel out of Afghanistan by September 11. Does that include the mercenary “contractors,” the Special ops teams, the armed drones, paid-off politicians, and smart bombs? In any case, it’s just talk. What about Iraq? Does America’s president have something honorable in mind? Can he implement it in the face of a feral Republican Senate?

The Bitter Bottom Line

As with all other sticky issues in geopolitics, the achievement of peace with honor rests on sound philosophy and human decency. But if those factors fail the policy is foredamned. So, how is it possible that generations of American leaders haven’t noticed that you cannot build an edifice of honor on a foundation of villainy. Peace without honor is not peace. A defeat by any other name is still a defeat. Nor can you conceal that reality for long. The world eventually sees the truth, despite the most fervent efforts of the greatest country on earth to conceal it.

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American Democracy Went Wrong, What Happens Next? 5/6

America wasn’t created by gunslingers. It was made by pioneer women and crooked magnates.

by Mike Booth

This is Part five of a six-part series, It’s Getting Late, America

American patriots demonstrating on the steps of the Michigan State House.

What America Needs in Order to Float

The tragic flaws in America’s recent history are not just attributable to low men in high places. There’s another element, perhaps as important: the inherent faults in American democracy. Just as a boat requires water to float, an effective democracy requires an informed populace, good will, and a willingness to compromise in order to make progress. America today has none of those elements.

The electoral process in a democracy doesn’t begin at voting age. It begins in early childhood–as young as three–in which family and the surrounding society cooperate in immersing their children in a humane, collaborative, egalitarian world, not one ruled by bellicose individualism, racism and militarism. Scandinavia didn’t become great until the Vikings laid down their axes.

President Donald Trump was elected in a free and fair election after having enunciated his absurd program based on simplistic, laissez-faire-for-some- tough-luck-for-the-rest ideology with no relation to reality beyond the mindless gutting of vital government competencies and agencies, and the denigration of President Barak Obama’s legacy.

The looming 2016 electoral debacle should have been evident to anyone with eyes to see. But a majority of American voters were blind to these realities. It didn’t take a massive majority to install Trump in the White House. A quick look at the Russian revolution will convince you of how effective a small-but-committed party can be.

The Founders Secured the Young Republic

America’s founders thought long and hard about measures to protect their fledgling republic from evil, with carefully stipulated election procedures, constitutional checks and balances, scrupulous separation of powers, and a Supreme Court with lifelong justices. The only loophole they left for themselves and the rest of the gentle folk in the case of a mob takeover of the election process was the Electoral College. That cumbersome, anti-democratic invention was supposed to function as a firewall in the case of populist undesirables winning a presidential election. It was an anachronism then and remains one today.

Ironically, the result of the 2016 presidential election was a perfect example of what the founders wanted to prevent with the electoral college–the co-opting of an election by an unscrupulous, racist, retrograde mob–the Republican Party. This is not to say that all of the Republican legislators were sociopaths, but they were all aware that their voting base was cognitively deficient and driven by hate, racism, and apocalyptic religion. Almost all of them pandered to that base. The few who didn’t paid a high career price.

The intellectually-handicapped nature of a significant sector of American society turned out to be an advantage for the GOP. That electorate was easy to manipulate with the rudimentary means at hand: good ole-time racism, rancid knee-jerk anti-communism, insults and name calling, lies and half truths, and quotes from holy scripture. That and plenty of right-wing money and big-data technology was enough to get the job done.

Gore Vidal, one of America’s privileged minds and unrelenting truth-tellers, said: “You can’t expect democracy from a place like this.”

Trump’s Unique Talent

Once in office President Trump began to play his confused, misled public like a virtuoso. This was his unique talent. For that he was a regular idiot savant. Though he couldn’t tell you on what day of the week the battle of Hastings was fought, he could bring a crowd to climax by declaiming “facts” and sleaze that he pulled out of his sleeve on the run. His perfect resonance with his congregation was–and remains–remarkable. That said, those marks had been groomed over many years by P.T. Barnum, Billy Graham and Madison Avenue, each in their own deadly effective way.

The dumbing down of America wasn’t limited just to the three R’s. It included the most forgotten yet most important subject of all–philosophy. Not rocket science philosophy, just day-to-day good manners and kindness, civic sense, generosity, and concern for the good of all people in a commonwealth. American young people learned all the opposite: rugged individualism. America’s worst enemy in the 20th century wasn’t Soviet Russia. It was John Wayne.

Trump’s great luck was that the mediocrity of his own mind and values meshed nicely with those of enough of his countrymen to get him elected President of the United States. His critics should never lose sight of the fact that Trump didn’t create America. America created Trump. Getting rid of him won’t solve the ingrained problems.

Teach Your Children Well

Here lies the ultimate justification for free and equal education dedicated to truth and excellence, with quality facilities and competent, well-paid and appreciated, professional teachers. Unfortunately, too many of the American political elite don’t object to the dumbing down of the populace, both intellectually and morally. They prefer it, as the result is a bovine electorate that will chew contentedly on any cheap ideological cud. One of their most effective distractions is religion.

The free-thinking founders of the United States would be distressed to discover that modern America has reverted to medieval standards in matters of religion. It was the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower (1952-60) that saw the institutionalized collusion between a president and a fundamentalist evangelist. Eisenhower and Billy Graham formed a formidable team dedicated to christianizing American from top to bottom, including the government. From then on that brand of pandering to magical religious influencers became the norm. A large part of American political candidates still rely on them for votes and financing.

Again it was President Trump who took the concept to its logical absurdity when he named a bimbo “prosperity gospel” televangelist (“If you can’t send that $100,000 check, send one for $20.”) as his “presidential spiritual advisor.” She looks incongruous in the White House, as if she might be more appropriate in an old-time sideshow between the sword swallower and the bearded lady.

We know that the United States has some of the finest thinkers in the world, but are there enough of them to counterbalance the influence of the swarm of venal televangelists, the megachurches, and the semi-literate uber patriots and true believers? What about state supported religious schools under the guise of “charter schools?” Was Trump’s naming of Betsy d’Vos as Secretary of Education a master stroke of modern surrealism? Does this American religious tsunami help to account for the current Chinese technological sovereignty? Ninety percent of Chinese citizens are non-religious persons.

They Want to Be Happy

Americans in democracy want to be happy, but thanks to their misdirected upbringing they don’t know what happiness is. They strive for ever more stuff and think that bling will make them happy. It will, up to a point, but that point is limited and more stuff won’t make them happier. What would make them profoundly happy, though most of them haven’t considered it, is a project to achieve a better world–or a better corner of the world–with equality, racial harmony, mutual respect, diplomacy instead of war, cooperation instead of killer competition. What is considered simple normality in other parts of the world would be a great step forward for Americans.

But it doesn’t seem to be in the cards. The US Congress, itself, is a microcosm of all the dystopia and unhappiness in America. It’s a hive of internecine hate and conflict, of “special” interests. What makes the interests of the rich so special, anyway? Most of Washington’s legislators are ignorant of the fact that scruples are not just for mouthing in televised debates. They’re there to make life better for everyone. America wasn’t created by gunslingers. It was made by pioneer women and crooked magnates. Happiness is about making things, whether it be a model airplane or a family, and the best things cannot be created by one person alone. They result from team efforts. “Team” in America connotates competition, conflict or combat. That’s their default setting. In other parts of the world it suggests cooperation.

It seems that everything wrong with America is rooted in the false values that Americans fed to their children along with their Cheerios. So there you have them, the peddlers of eternity, the political social climbers, the lost lumpenproletariat, the sadistic cops, the disappeared girls, the pederast priests, the prostitutes and pimps in public life, and all the other extravagant types from central casting. Do any of them know where those high-gloss lacquered horses of the American merry-go-round are taking them?

Coming next week, The last part of a six-part series,
It’s Getting Late, America

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The De-Humanization of Free and Fair American Elections

The tragic by-product of all this race-based hate and unfairness is a fact that glows in the American darkness like a diabolical beacon: racism has always been and remains the most palpable negation of American greatness.

Republican State Legislators Are Twisting Them

The American Bell Jar

America has a critical illness that has nothing to do with Covid 19. The symptoms are the attempts by states in significant sectors of the country to rewrite election laws in detriment to black and brown voters. Leading the pack is the Georgia state legislature.

What makes this organized effort particularly ironic is the renewed threat it poses to America’s already tarnished democratic image. Reactionary lawmakers in state capitals such as Atlanta, Des Moines, Phoenix, and many others seem to think that nobody is looking. But the entire world is following this latest assault on the Americans’ vaunted democracy.

The issue is aggravated by their unique ability to peddle their inhumanity it as a curious brand of democracy. Its crowning achievement, after centuries of culturation under a sinister bell jar filled with hate, lies, economic interests, and religious voodoo, is the Georgia Republican Party. But Georgia is just the poster girl. The campaign extends farther afield.

The Brennan Center for Justice’s “Voting Laws Roundup: February 2021” states:

In a backlash to historic voter turnout in the 2020 general election, and grounded in a rash of baseless and racist allegations of voter fraud and election irregularities, legislators have introduced well over four times the number of bills to restrict voting access as compared to roughly this time last year. Thirty-three states have introduced, prefiled, or carried over 165 restrictive bills this year (as compared to 35 such bills in fifteen states on February 3, 2020).

brennancenter.org

Ninety Eight Pages of Restrictive Voting Regulations

According to Business Insider, President Biden and a majority of Democrats have come down firmly against the Georgia Republicans’ Election Integrity Act 2021, the new 98-page collection of voting laws, thinly disguised but essentially designed to tilt Georgia’s electoral regulations in favor of white voters. Provisions of the new laws range from the ridiculous to the sublime:

  • the requirement of a photo ID
  • limitations on absentee voting by mail
  • new powers to intervene in county election offices and remove and replace election officials
  • wierdest of all, the prohibition of providing food or drink to anyone standing in the voting line. You cannot take a drink of water to your grandmother who has been waiting in line for hours. Fulton County, which includes most of Atlanta, had the longest voting lines in the country in 2020.

Vox.com elaborates on other provisions of the bill.

  • It permits Georgia citizens to file any number of challenges to the eligibility of particular voters, thereby weaponizing the state’s most reactionary citizens.
  • It imposes new limitations on ballot drop boxes that effectively ban their widespread deployment outside of a governor-declared emergency. It is precisely the governor who sponsors the bill.
  • It applies voter ID laws to mail-in ballots by requiring voters to submit their driver’s license or state ID number as part of their vote-by-mail application. This subjects voters without those documents to an additional ID process.
  • It creates a “fraud hotline” that allows people to file anonymous complaints regarding alleged fraudulent voting, again pandering to and recruiting the reactionary base. The anonymity provision is particularly perverted.

Less anecdotical but just as critical are aspects of the new law that regulate how voting rules are implemented, handing power to the Republicans who control the state legislature. Those powers permit them to replace personnel considered to be “performing poorly.”

Life Under the Toxic Bell Jar

Democrats affirm that these new regulations and their implantation by Georgia Republicans are prejudicial to African Americans in the state. President Joe Biden is reported by ABC.go.com as saying, “This is Jim Crow in the 21st Century… It must end. We have a moral and Constitutional obligation to act.” He told reporters the Georgia law is an “atrocity” and the Justice Department is looking into it. Republicans say that the contrary is true, that the new law guarantees more honest elections.

The southern racists’ war against the voting rights of people of color has been constant since immediately after the American Civil War. The Black Codes enacted then all over the south were restrictive laws designed to limit the freedom of African Americans and ensure their availability as a cheap labor force after slavery was abolished by President Linoln. His emancipation proclamation had liberated some four million slaves in the American south, but left the the question of the freed blacks’ status in southern society somewhat ambiguous.

Though the Black Codes were all repealed in 1866 when Reconstruction began, in a short time the black people of the south were re-enslaved under a set of different laws and pretexts which came to be known as Jim Crow laws. Southern recalcitrance assured success of the repression and the onset of 144 years (and counting) of dogged southern resistance to racial equality. This psychotic clinging to racism distinguished the United States in the world community. Today it falls well behind South Africa.

The Nomenclature of Slavery

After the failure of Reconstruction in 1877, and the removal of black men from political office, the Southern states doubled down on a series of laws intended to circumscribe the lives of African Americans.  Harsh contract laws penalized anyone attempting to leave a job before an advance had been worked off. So-called “Pig Laws” unduly penalized poor African Americans for crimes such as stealing a chicken, and vagrancy statutes made it a crime to be unemployed.  Misdemeanors were treated as felonies, with harsh sentences and fines. Once the offenders were jailed they could not escape even when their prison term was up because they couldn’t pay their fines. So they remained victims of different forms of indentured servitude. These so-called Pig Laws stayed on the books for decades, and were expanded with even more discriminatory provisions during the Jim Crow era. This lasted until the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The story of this period is told eloquently in the moving hour-and-a-half PBS documentary, Slavery by Another Name, available free on YouTube.

Despite not having achieved their goal of establishing themselves as the superior race in the American south, the white southern racists broke new ground in man’s inhumanity to man. In doing so they highlighted the most nightmarish aspects of the American Dream. In only one place were they publicly admired. In the 1930s, when Hitler and his Nazi ghouls were seeking models to emulate in creating their state racism policies, they turned to the United States and found inspiration, not only in the treatment of African Americans in the south, but other non-white people all over the country. The Asians who were brought to the western US in the 1850s to work in mining and railroad construction were considered little more than subhuman coolies, eminently expendable. Today’s violence against them is not a novelty. Washington Post staff writer, Gillian Brockell, writes in her recent article, “The long, ugly history of anti-Asian racism and violence in the U.S.:”

And in 1854, the California Supreme Court reinforced racism against Asian immigrants in People v. Hall, ruling that people of Asian descent could not testify against a White person in court, virtually guaranteeing that Whites could escape punishment for anti-Asian violence. In this case, it was murder: George Hall shot and killed Chinese immigrant Ling Sing, and the testimony of witnesses was rejected because they were also Asian.

The Washington Post, March 18, 2021

The High Price of American Racism

The tragic by-product of all this race-based hate and unfairness is a fact that glows in the American darkness like a diabolical beacon: racism has always been and remains the most palpable negation of American greatness. There it is, for anyone who has eyes to see. The recently-enacted voter suppression laws in Georgia and other states only serve to reaffirm the ongoing horror. What’s the best counter that Republicans, both south and north, can come up with after 400 years of race-based homicidal injustice? “Let’s talk about the Chinese Uighur Muslims.” What they choose not to talk about are the hundreds of thousands of Muslims erradicated by American bombs since the launch of the Gulf War in 1990.

What Humanity Is This?

The new racist voting laws, coupled with the existing penal system which permits prisons to exploit inmates economically, only serve to revive America’s least noble tradition. What claims to humanity can apply to a group of persons that works fervently to segregate, marginalize and imprison people of other races, annulling their very lives and wellbeing? That is the quintessential American question that civilized citizens of countries around the world have been asking themselves for centuries. This latest outbreak of insidious American voter suppression legislation arrived unexpectedly, which is not to say that it took anyone by surprise.

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US Secret Undercover Army 4/6

We can only guess what the offspring of that sinister cephalopod might have spawned since 2018 and what terrifying political future we can look forward to.

by Mike Booth

Logo of Christopher Wiley’s Book

This is Part 4 of a six-part series, It’s Getting Late, America

Pulling the Threads Together

I am just finishing reading an unsettling book called Mindf*cked by Christopher Wylie, a young Canadian who, more or less unwittingly, was instrumental in the gestation of the project that came to be known as Cambridge Analytics (CA). Brainchild of an alt-right partnership between demonic American political operative, Steve Bannon, and billionaire, Robert Mercer, its objective was to produce a foolproof machine for tampering with–and winning–elections. Wylie, employee-turned-whistleblower, writing in 2018-19 after leaving the company, maintains that this data mining/social networking octopus surpassed its creators’ highest expectations and was capable then of taking over the world. It debuted with decisive interventions in both the British Brexit referendum and the election of President Donald Trump. Along the way it flirted with the Russians, harbored Paul Manafort and was eventually shut down after being discredited by the British justice system, whose star witness was a young Canadian called Wylie.

Near the end of his book Wylie sums up the scene at Cambridge Analytica during his time there:

Inside CA I saw the true face of greed, power, racism and colonialism. I saw how multimillionaires behaved when they wanted to shape the world in their own image. I saw the most extravagant and dark corners of our society. As an accuser I saw what they were capable of in order to protect their profits.

Christopher Wylie, Mindf*cked

We can only guess what the offspring of that sinister cephalopod might have spawned since 2018 and what terrifying political future we can look forward to. And it’s not only applicable to politics. The combined use of massive data bases and internet communications in commerce, in war and about anything else, can be applied by the cyber-entrepreneurs in any field they want to turn their hands to. Some of these hands are grimy, as Wylie points out repeatedly in his riveting book.

The underhanded manipulation of an American presidential election and a historic British referendum to sever it’s close ties with Europe is bad enough, but the now-defunct CA opened the floodgates to a galaxy of spinoff companies willing to put the technology to work on less-than-honorable projects, just for the money. Wylie’s book was written in 2018. Since then the CA algorithms have been refined, giving those who control them the power to make free and fair elections impossible wherever and whenever they choose. Beyond that, they are capable of engendering an online alt-right hate group and, when it’s ripe, convoking real-life violence. Wylie, who was brought on board early on as a decent Canadian data-and-network-hip computer kid, was ostensibly hired to write software for legitimate commercial and humanitarian use. Then he discovered he was laying the groundwork for for illicit use of the technology by an unscrupulous far-right sect. So he exited Cambridge Analytica and, with his book, became a whistleblower.

According to Wylie, Cambridge Analytica was an almost-instant success:

The list of CA clients started to grow and soon became a Who’s Who of the American right. The Trump and Cruz campaigns earned us $5 million each. The Senate campaigns of Roy Blunt of Missouri and Tom Cotton of Arkansas were also lucrative. And, of course, there was the campaign for the Oregon Republican, Art Robinson, who collected urine samples and church organs, ran for Congress, and lost.

Op. cit.

Newsweek Reports US Secret Army Operates Without the Knowledge or Consent of Congress

Before I can finish Wylie’s book I’m bowled over by Newsweek‘s latest scoop–two years in the making by William M. Arkin, one of the country’s most knowledgeable and respected military observers. It’s about a giant new secret American fighting force, the biggest and most technologically advanced the world has ever seen.

In keeping with its clandestine nature, the core mission of this new army of spooks seems to be staying secret. This fetish is embodied in what they call “signature reduction,” which boils down to an elaborate set of measures to create and maintain false identities for its operatives, both online and off. This is more complicated than it seems at first glance, due to the easily accessible omniscience of the internet, principally Facebook, the mother of all databases and, of course, Google, along with every other data collection available for sale. Without these coverup measures every character in the Signature Reduction organization could be positively identified via their bank accounts, medical records, family (a most sensitive concern here…), employment history, friends, etc. Everything is cloaked and clandestine: people, vehicles, aircraft, internet use… There are even tricked-up systems to fool fingerprinting and facial recognition.

Arkin lays out the playing field in his introduction:

The force, more than ten times the size of the clandestine elements of the CIA, carries out domestic and foreign assignments, both in military uniforms and under civilian cover, in real life and online, sometimes hiding in private businesses and consultancies, some of them household name companies. The explosion of Pentagon cyber warfare, moreover, has led to thousands of spies who carry out their day-to-day work in various made-up personas, the very type of nefarious operations the United States decries when Russian and Chinese spies do the same.

William Arkin in Newsweek, Mon, May 17, 2021)

There Might Be Some Reservations

This new, surreptitious army includes some of the US military’s most lethal special-ops troops and their most cutting edge cyber-warfare units. It’s not clear yet whether these troops work alongside existing special combat and intelligence-gathering units or at their margin. It’s active on the home front and maintains its operations in strict secrecy. That’s interesting, as it sounds like the Schutzstaffel, a project launched by the German chancellor in 1933. That was Hitler’s SS and he found it very useful, as its loyalty was not to government nor military institutions, but to Hitler personally. The rise of something similar directed against American citizens in their home country today might raise some questions. Let’s look at a few of them:

  • Secret from whom? The President? The Congress, or part of it? The intelligence services? The rest of the military command? The Russians? Facebook? Amazon? Microsoft? Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, et al? Big oil, big pharma, big tobacco, big everything? The citizens, always the last to discover the truth?
  • When and how did it originate and with what pretensions? Who’s the father, the mother, the children and the cousins?
  • How is the organization financed? It’s always fascinating to follow the money.
  • Does it operate primarily at home or abroad?
  • Who’s in charge? Who’s to be held accountable? Or is responsability/ accountability irrelevant in this brave new world? Who does the one in charge report to?
  • Has it had any successes? Any failures?
  • Does it identify with either of the existing American political parties? Or is the Pentagon creating a new Schutzstaffel party?
  • How did it manage to stay secret until now? How did it come to light?
  • If it comes to High Noon between the Signature Reduction honcho and President Joe Biden, who wins?
  • Is it safe to assume that China is lagging behind the US in these matters?

More of the Same?

According to Arkin’s article, special operations forces make up more than half of the Signature Reduction force. That’s 30,000 mercenaries loosed on an unsuspecting country–and world. Military intelligence types are the second-most populous element in the SR mix, which includes 130 private companies, dozens of government agencies and a budget of some $900 million. Spycraft isn’t cheap.

P.S. Would anyone venture to guess how many of those “130 private companies” are the offspring of Cambridge Analytica?

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Eisenhower’s Epiphany 3/6

Though Americans haven’t noticed yet, their recent massive arms sales to Taiwan are the equivalent of the Chinese doing the same thing in Puerto Rico. And the four-allies naval maneuvers in the East China Sea is the equivalent of the Chinese navy careening around the Caribbean.

Part 3 of the 6-part series, It’s Getting Late, America

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Don’t Pretend You Weren’t Warned

Outgoing President Dwight Eisenhower, in his last public address from the White House warned the country at large of the looming threat of America’s increasingly powerful military-industrial complex. In his televised farewell speech to the nation on January 17, 1961, Eisenhower chose to bypass Congress and take his clearly-stated, emphatic message directly to the American people. (See video of the relevant parts of the speech.)

Just as he prophesied, the military industrial complex has become an insoluble problem, controlling both ends of the military supply chain with major influence in American foreign policy, especially after signing on a critical third partner, the United States Congress. They achieved that master stroke the way everything else is accomplished in Washington: cash on the barrel head. They weren’t short of cash and they already had a small army of lobbyists in place. It occurred to one of them that the members of congress might appreciate some help with campaign financing. That was a dam-busting realization.

The lobbyists soon discovered that they could win over politicians as unconditional allies simply by replenishing their re-election war chests, until then a perennial problem for legislators. All the very patriotic creators of America’s weapons of destruction and domination had to do was to toss the odd six-figure bone to the greedy lawmakers. The legality of this clear conflict-of-interest procedure had already been ironed out by the 2010 landmark Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United v FE case that liberalized campaign financing by corporations.

The bottom line is that big business then had the tools, money, and the necessary cynicism to control Congress and the foreign policy cabal at will. The process of selling ever-more-exotic and expensive arms systems became automatic. Big-bucks customers, driven by little-boy fascination for wind-up toys and the desire to humiliate their friends and neighbors, kept coming back for more. The existential danger this conveyor-belt process supposes for the entire world became a secondary issue. The scenario can get surreal. Though Americans haven’t noticed yet, their recent massive arms sales to Taiwan are the equivalent of the Chinese doing the same thing in Puerto Rico. And the four-allies naval maneuvers in the East China Sea is the equivalent of the Chinese navy careening around the Caribbean. Why isn’t President Joe Biden aware of these unsettling realities? Aware? President Biden is a six-times-reelected, 36-year veteran of the United States Senate. He must be aware. The question is: does he realize how dangerous such gratuitous provocation can be?

The Long Tail of Responsibilities

Are we talking about war here? No, though the Americans have killed millions of people, both soldiers and civilians, around the world since the Second World War, the United States has not been in a legal war since 1945. As a consequence they have not respected the rules of war for three quarters of a century, a fact with a long tail of responsibilities under international law. What they have engaged in incessantly are counter-insurgency operations; regime-change interventions, anti-communist crusades; colonial-support ops; insertions of like-minded dictators; resource grabs; military takeovers; false-flag operations; proxy campaigns; POW captures and imprisonment sine die; and countless other lethal follies denominated by euphemisms.

President George W. Bush, his administration, and his allies (Tony Blair, José María Aznar), for example, should have been prosecuted by an international court for war crimes and crimes against humanity in carrying out their October 7, 2001, “Operation Enduring Freedom,” in Iraq. A nice irony that name. It must have prompted a lot of snickers around the table. Or perhaps not. That sort of cynicism is daily bread in Washington.

Every Rule and Regulation Has a Workaround

President Joe Biden’s recently appointed Secretary of Defense received a lot of attention when he was the candidate. Lloyd Austin, was black and a four-star Army general, retired just four years previously. He required a waiver to assume the position; the rules require a six-year separation from the military. That was the news and controversy. You have to read down to paragraph eight of the usnews.com article to find that he was an ex-member of the board of directors of Raytheon, the country’s fifth-most-important defense contractor, billing some $27.5 billion in 2020, 94% of that amount from the US government. (Source: defensenews.com) It seems that this is precisely what Eisenhower was alerting Americans about all those years ago.

Among the 11,524 registered active lobbyists in the United States (2020 figures), 448 of them are former members of Congress. OpenSecrets.org has prepared the following list of names of these revolving-door politicians for us:

Former Senators

Former Representatives

Shhh… Can you hear President Eisenhower weeping?

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See you next week with Part 4 of It’s Getting Late, America

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Irresponsiblity in Everything 2/6

You don’t have to be a legal eminence to conclude that Trump’s mismanagement of the pandemic–and yes, Obama did leave him a written contingency plan for just such an eventuality–constitutes the greatest instance of criminal negligence in American history.

Part 2 of the 6-part series, It’s Getting Late, America

Could He Have Done It Any Wronger?

Like everything else that Donald Trump did and undid during his administration, his inadequate response to the coronavirus emergency was determined by a lethal combination of his familiar ignorance and arrogance. What makes this case more serious than the others was the magnitude of the damage that was done.

This affirmation is not idle. Trump’s lack of leadership in the Covid crisis cries out to be compared to the responses of the leaders of more responsible countries such as South Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, New Zealand, and even China, all of which have managed to outsmart and outmaneuver the virus and put their countries back on the road to normal life and prosperity. At the same time, the United States, supposedly the world’s leading country in science, innovation, and everything else, was not only worse than those countries in containing the virus, but it was–and is–the absolute worst in the world. “The world” includes China, with a population four times that of the United States, but with far fewer Covid victims.

We’re looking at more than 581,516 (https://ourworldindata.org/, May 8, 2021) US deaths, and counting, thus far. President Joe Biden frequently compares the Covid loss of life in the US to statistics from American military combat deaths from World War I through Vietnam. The figure he cites is 395,370 dead. That is after we subtract the 2,977 victims of 9/11, which he included, perhaps, for political/patriotic reasons. If we adjust the numbers of the military deaths by adding the non-combatants the balance is 580,135, still slightly under the cumulative number of gratuitous Covid deaths.

It’s a Prima Facie Case

You don’t have to be a legal eminence to conclude that Trump’s mismanagement of the pandemic–and yes, Obama did leave him a written contingency plan for just such an eventuality–constitutes the greatest instance of criminal negligence in American history. It’s a prima facie case against the ex-president that any rookie prosecutor could win in a court of law in any proper country. So what happened in the United States? Is this the maximum expression of American exceptionalism? The voters elevate a grotesquely damaging figure to the head of the government and, when his willful malfeasance converts their country into a human abbatoir, from world leader into world laughing stock, he is not held responsible for the untimely deaths of more than half a million Americans.

Yet he continues to wave his demented flag and to accrue followers around the country, as if he had not just perpetrated the greatest crime in his country’s history. What’s going on here? How does he manage to continue to blunder glibly forward, even after being removed from office by a majority of American voters? What ever happened to justice? Why isn’t ex-president Trump in custody, awaiting trial? Could it have to do with the 234 judges he appointed and saw confirmed by a Republican-controlled Senate during his single term of office? Or is there a shortage of prosecutors?

(For a cordial rundown on the cutbacks to essential US government agencies and their hair-raising consequences, pick up Michael Lewis’s, The Fifth Risk, in which he explains with clarity and humanity how the United States government was “under attack by its own leaders.” This is what he had to say about Trump’s disdain for science:

Trump’s budget, like the social forces behind it, is powered by a perverse desire–to remain ignorant. Donald Trump didn’t invent this desire. He was just its ultimate expression.

Michael Lewis, The Fifth Risk

Smart Social Science vs. Right-Wing Thuggery

It is refreshing to see that the Capital assailants are going before judges. And now there’s an interesting twist in the case. They aren’t who we thought they were. New studies directed by Professor Robert Pape at the University of Chicago, reveal that 45% of the 420 (and counting) rioters who were prosecuted for the assault on the US Capital were not primarily wild kids, radicals nor down-and-outers. They were middle-aged solid citizens, company executives, business owners, doctors and lawyers between the ages of 34 and 46. Ironically, neither are they from from depressed areas, but from thriving, mainly Democratic, counties around the country. Pape also has well-founded notions regarding the principal motive that drives them. It’s one that few of us have heard of: replacement fear. That is, the fear that underprivileged minorities are being favored to the point that they will “replace” the traditional–white–holders of jobs and social standing. It sounds to me like just another of the 57 varieties of American racism. And it’s a distressing indicator of just how deeply right-wing thinking has penetrated in America. Here’s a link to the interview with Professor Pape.

What Else Could Possible Go Wrong?

Not much, really, with the possible exception of:

  • the country’s creaky infrastructure
  • the war provocations against Russia and China
  • the public schools, the non-profit charter schools, the for-profit charter schools
  • the privatization of everything
  • the infantiloid America-first foreign policy (We know you want to prioritize American interests, Antony. That’s a given. But a proper diplomat doesn’t just say it flat out to their faces on the nine-o-clock news.)
  • the off-the-rails clandestine so-called intelligence services (Military intelligence is to intelligence what military music is to music.)
  • the deranged illuminati billionaires
  • the United States Congress (with few exceptions and Liz Cheney isn’t one of them)
  • hypocrisy by the boat load (The world’s premier cyber criminal is the NSA.)
  • the traditional media, which Matt Taibbi says is about to disappear and they deserve it
  • Los Angeles, which gets everything wrong
  • New York, which thinks it’s the center of the world, and used to be
  • fracking, coal mining and Monsanto-Bayer (I thought Bayer was Aspirin.)
  • super carriers (which cost around $13 billion dollars each and have a foreseeable combat life span of about 17 minutes)
  • land mines (which are great for amputating Third World kids’ legs, but not much else)
  • the Republican Party
  • the Democratic National Committee, which is the brains behind Hillary and Joe
  • the culling of wolves (There are plenty of other predators who need culling first.)
  • the insane sanctions on Cuba, where they have shown the world how to turn poverty into dignity
  • Big Pharma lobbying and Covid vaccination speculating
  • mandatory sentences (What the hell do they have judges for?)
  • the ruthless persecution of some of the world’s finest people: the whistleblowers.
  • golf courses (Maybe the golfers will then wilt away.)
  • Mitch McConnell and Whatsherface, his Senate parliamentarian (How the hell did those two ghouls get a stranglehold on the country?)
  • Elliott Abrams (He’s decrepit and Latin America has suffered enough.)
  • There’s a lot more but it’s getting late, America…

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It’s Getting Late, America 1/6

That’s why this story is essentially about American predatory strategies, misdeeds, cynicism and opportunism, all topped off by a frosting of steely hypocrisy, expert lies and artful deception. With these ingredients you can imagine the cake.

by Mike Booth

Time to Think About the End

Today nobody knows how much time we have left. According to my best estimate, the game is over. We’re just waiting for the clock to run out. In that brief meantime I must tell the story of America’s–and by extension the world’s– demise in the clearest, sparest, most urgent way possible. I have to go on record on the off chance that my account might turn up in the time capsule that the next occupants of earth find when they arrive.

The most recent developments in these end times have been worldwide, but were mainly perpetrated or inspired by the American government, both overtly and covertly. They began on a mass scale at the end of the Second World War when the United States found itself holding all the cards necessary to take over the world. So they did. That’s why this story is essentially about American predatory strategies, misdeeds, cynicism and opportunism, all topped off by a frosting of steely hypocrisy, expert lies and artful deception. With these ingredients you can imagine the cake.

This introduction sounds like a pitch from the televangelists of the Apocalypse. We have too many of those already. But my cause, though it sounds similar, is the opposite. My apocalypse is not based on scripture nor other mythical and magical premises. It`s not making any promises nor profits. The objective is not to offer you a back door to heaven; it’s just to try to explain what happened when a band of greed-and-power-driven amoral rich people and institutions got a death grip on the United States–and the world–strangling them mercilessly over seven or eight decades. I think I can explain how it occurred. I don’t want you to pass through the gates of hell, still wondering what happened.

The Beginning of the End

The underpinnings of the American empire were laid down in international agreements forged at the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944 with the predictable end of the Second World War in sight. There, in the bucolic setting of a New Hampshire ski resort, 730 delegates of all 44 countries allied in the fight against the Nazis, gathered allegedly to hammer out agreements, but in reality to rubber stamp the proposals put forth by the American committee led by Harry Dexter White, a brilliant economist with the US Treasury Department. Ironically, White, the maximum exponent of American neo-colonial capitalism, was later accused, though not convicted, of being a Russian spy.

Key agreements signed at Bretton Woods regulated post-war policy on  international monetary and financial order, as well as the regulation of trade after the conclusion of World War II. Those agreements created the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, later part of the World Bank group) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), two powerful entities that established the US dollar as the international reserve currency. Bretton Woods policies, with later refinements and the burgeoning national security state, provided a solid footing for American domination world wide. Or almost world wide. There were a couple of notable exceptions, both of them, curiously, communists.

In 1976, Marcus Raskin, American social critic, activist, philosopher, and co-founder of the progressive think tank, the Institute of Policy Studies, summed up the situation in an article entitled : Democracy vs. the National Security State, published in the Duke University Law Journal, Law and Contemporary Problems:

“It is not possible to understand the national security state and reasons which give rise to the need for dismantling it without mentioning the profound and wrenching events of the last fifty years. The national security state emerges from war, from fear of revolution and change, from the economic instability of capitalism, and from nuclear weapons and military technology. It has been the actualizing mechanism of ruling elites to implement their imperial schemes and misplaced ideals.”

https://scholarship.law.duke.edu/lcp/vol40/iss3/7/

Applied Democracy: Takeover for Everyone

There followed in orderly succession the creation in of the National Security Act of 1947, which established both the National Security Council and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which had been working clandestinely in Europe as the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) since 1942. Its first commander was the colorful Colonel William (Wild Bill) Donovan, whose statue stands today in the lobby of the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Then came NATO in 1952, a brilliant piece of strategy that permitted the Americans to surveil and supervise their sorely debilitated European allies as a group, while portraying the operation as a mutual defense pact against possible Russian military incursions. These theoretical incursions were highly unlikely, due to the battered condition of Russia after bearing the brunt of the allied victory in World War II. With all of these measures in place the United States definitively had the world frying pan by the handle.

The only igualitarian element in this ruthless series of takeovers was the fact that its exploitation tactics were applied similarly at home and abroad. It wasn’t only the families of Southeast Asia and the Middle East that were submitted to the treatment. It was also applied to the working families of Flint and Pittsburg, by means of tax breaks for the rich, anti-union legislation, the off-shoring of everything, and the derogation of regulations on toxic big business, though admittedly without the cluster bombs and white phosphorous.

Mike Lofgren Will Make You Laugh and Cry

The most readable, and amusing, account of the process of American degeneration at the hands of the Republican Party was written by a Washington, lifetime insider, Mike Lofgren, who worked as a Republican Party operative for 28 years, until he could no longer stand it. Then he became Washington’s most knowledgeable whistle blower and told all in the brilliant 2012 book, The Party is Over, How Republicans Went CRAZY, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted. This sounds like the title of a skit from Saturday Night Live, but it’s a well-documented account of Republican Party malefeasance in the years that included the presidencies of Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, and Obama. “I wrote the book,” Lofgren said in one of his presentations in 2012, “because I am a concerned citizen.” His second book, The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government, was published in 2016.

If you don’t already know Lucian Truscott, you might enjoy meeting him via his Newsletter. He put his finger in America’s mortal racism wound the other day:

If you wait long enough, they finally get around to telling you who they really are and what they really want.  Today, the Tennessee House of Representatives passed a bill that will ban the teaching of critical race theory in Tennessee schools.  The bill is similar to those Republicans are attempting to pass in many states where they control the governorship and legislature.  Before it left office, the Trump administration promoted the banning of teaching so-called “divisive concepts” such as the 1619 Project and critical race theory to public school students.  Among those concepts are the idea that the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist, and that slavery had a role in the founding of the country.

Lucian Truscott Newsletter

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This is the first installment of a six-part essay that will be posted weekly.

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Overprivilege is Bankrupting America 2/2

Uncle Sam is looking a bit down at heel these days.

Good Clean Fun Becomes a Crime

In order to commence mass incarceration, first you have to criminalize some behavior patterns. Harry J. Anslinger, longtime director of America’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics, took a giant step in that respect with his pioneering criminalization and persecution of marihuana in the early 1930s. A contemporary version of a similar phenomenon is the Patriot Act, which set civil liberties back centuries. Never have America’s proud citizens been so perfectly surveilled and bereft of essential civil liberties. What a serendipitous set of circumstances were conjoined on September 11, 2001, just when George W. Bush urgently needed an overseas war and a domestic crackdown on dissent, what a fortuitous coincidence.

What About the Better Class of People?

So much for the underprivileged; what about the overprivileged? Their maintenance incurs costs, too. Let’s look first at the most overprivileged sector of the entire US uber-capitalist zoo, the military-industrial-government complex. It starts with the incestuous relationships between government officials and the lobbyists for all the business behemoths: energy, big pharma, insurance, banking and financial services, the tech whiz kids and, of course, the arms business. The tools of the trade in these sectors are revolving doors, cost-plus contracts, scare propaganda, astronomically overpriced goods and services, a captive mass media and, perhaps the most egregious element, the utter impunity under which they operate.

The government writes its own laws, interprets them and enforces them. If Al Capone had worked under those conditions he would today dominate the bathtub gin market in the entire Milky Way Galaxy. Then there’s military spending. According to Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections, if the plans described in the 2020 Future Years Defense Program (FYDP) were implemented, defense costs would increase from the $718 billion for 2020 to $776 billion (in 2020 dollars) by 2034, not that anyone–including the authors themselves–actually believes those modest figures.

The other sectors of big business aren’t too bad off, either. Their top executives are entitled to benefits unheard of in human history, approaching the Sultan of Brunei with his collection of 5,000 cars, including 600 Rolls-Royces. These benefits are the product of decades of rule under Republican ideology. (Yes, the Republicans continued to rule during the Obama years.) That impoverished ideology is straight out of the standard American right-wing (which would be the far right wing in any other place in the world) playbook: lower taxes, so-called “free-market” capitalism, severe immigration policies, virtually-unlimited military spending, insane gun rights, abortion restriction, deregulated business and strictly-regulated unions.

At this rate and with these rules of the game the United States will never again be able to lift its head as a world leader, nor will its citizens live decent lives. Its leadership is already being contested by honest competitors on all sides. It’s clear that the principal cause of American decline is the price Americans pay to maintain their advantaged classes. What to do with the rich? To do to them what they have done to the underprivileged might be considered too extreme. That is, to persecute them, to criminalize their country clubs and private jets, to surveil their extravagant habits and vices, to imprison them and, in extreme cases, shoot them down in the street with total impunity. The solution is much less dramatic that all that, and it’s perfectly obvious and do-able: tax them.

A Few Relevant Facts

Just a few scraps from a recent piece in TheBalance.com should suffice to illustrate how ex-President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) is affecting Americans:

  • The top individual tax rate dropped from 39.6% to 37%, and numerous itemized deductions were eliminated. (For comparison purposes, the top federal income tax rate in 1952 and 1953, was 92 percent.)
  • The TCJA also cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% effective in 2018. The corporate cuts are permanent. The individual changes expire at the end of 2025.
  • The Tax Foundation has indicated that those who earn more than 95% of the population will receive a 2.2% increase in after-tax income. Those in the 20% to 80% range would receive a 1.7% increase.
  • Rejoice if you have an important property portfolio. The TCJA doubled the estate tax exemption from $5.6 million in 2017 to $11.2 million in 2018.
  • The TCJA act will add $1 trillion to the debt over the 10 years it’s in effect.

That last item on the list poses an obligatory question: What would that $1,000,000.000000 have contributed to the wellbeing of Americans? How many schools and hospitals would it have built, how many bridges and highways? How much medical care would it have meant, and how many college educations? How much public housing, how many social programs? By extension, how many lives would have been uplifted? All of these lost benefits and much more are the cost of coddling the rich.

The cost of overprivilege to America is not only economic. It’s also costly in terms of credibility on the world stage. Comparisons are inevitable and the United States doesn’t fare well. No sane person in the real world can understand the justification of massive tax cuts for the rich in these times, nor in the prosecution of unending wars under false pretenses. The Iraqis and Afghans cry out to heaven for justice.

And this is not to mention the “defense” budgets cooked up in hell. Their principal purposes are two:

  • To enrich the American arms industry, its investors and running dogs.
  • To create myriad dangerous enemies for the US and divide the world into enemies and allies, thus assuring a thriving arms market.

The elimination of merely half of this obscene military spending and the application of that wealth to America’s real problems would relax tensions worldwide and further increment the Americans’ quality of life. Everybody wins at home and abroad except America’s army of war mongers. And they have won too much already.

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