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Welcome to Ayn Rand’s America

Sun, 2019-08-18 18:25

Thom HARTMANN

There’s a direct link between a sociopathic killer in 1927 and the GOP’s willingness to embrace a sociopathic president like Trump. That link runs through the work of Ayn Rand.

When Donald Trump was running for the GOP nomination, he told USA Today’s Kirsten Powers that Ayn Rand’s raped-girl-decides-she-likes-it novel, “The Fountainhead,” was his favorite book.

“It relates to business, beauty, life and inner emotions,” he told Powers. “That book relates to … everything.”

Trump probably knew that anything by Rand would be the right answer for Republicans; the party has embraced her for decades, to the point that Paul Ryan required interns to read her books as a condition of employment.

Powers added, “He [Trump] identified with Howard Roark, the novel’s idealistic protagonist who designs skyscrapers and rages against the establishment.” Roark raged so much in the novel that he blew up a public housing project with dynamite just to get his way.

Rand was quite clear about the characteristics she wrote into her heroes, and in particular Howard Roark. In her Journals, she writes of the theme of the book, “One puts oneself above all and crushes everything in one’s way to get the best for oneself. Fine!”

On Howard Roark, she writes that he “has learned long ago, with his first consciousness, two things which dominate his entire attitude toward life: his own superiority and the utter worthlessness of the world. He knows what he wants and what he thinks. He needs no other reasons, standards or considerations. His complete selfishness is as natural to him as breathing.”

Roark seems like the kind of man who would brag about grabbing women by the genitals because, “When you’re a star, they let you do it.” But this was long before Donald Trump was on the scene.

Instead, the man who so inspired Ayn Rand’s fictional heroes was a real sociopath named William Edward Hickman, who lived in Los Angeles.

Ten days before Christmas, in 1927, Hickman, a teenager with slicked dark hair and tiny, muted eyes, drove up to Mount Vernon Junior High School in Los Angeles, California, and kidnapped Marion Parker—the daughter of a wealthy banker in town.

Hickman held the girl ransom, demanding $1,500 from her father—back then about a year’s salary. Supremely confident that he would elude capture, Hickman signed his name on the ransom notes, “The Fox.”

After two days, Marion’s father agreed to hand over the ransom in exchange for the safety of his daughter. What Perry Parker didn’t know is that Hickman never intended to live up to his end of the bargain.

The Pittsburgh Press detailed what Hickman, in his own words, did next.

“It was while I was fixing the blindfold that the urge to murder came upon me,” he said. “I just couldn’t help myself. I got a towel and stepped up behind Marion. Then, before she could move, I put it around her neck and twisted it tightly.”

Hickman didn’t hold back on any of these details: he was proud of his cold-bloodedness.

“I held on and she made no outcry except to gurgle. I held on for about two minutes, I guess, and then I let go. When I cut loose the fastenings, she fell to the floor. I knew she was dead.”

But Hickman wasn’t finished. “After she was dead I carried her body into the bathroom and undressed her, all but the underwear, and cut a hole in her throat with a pocket knife to let the blood out.”

Hickman then dismembered the child piece-by-piece, putting her limbs in a cabinet in his apartment, and then wrapped up the carved-up torso, powdered the lifeless face of Marion Parker, set what was left of her stump torso with the head sitting atop it in the passenger seat of his car, and drove to meet her father to collect the ransom money.

He even sewed open her eyelids to make it look like she was alive.

On the way, Hickman dumped body parts out of his car window, before rendezvousing with Marion Parker’s father.

Armed with a shotgun so her father wouldn’t come close enough to Hickman’s car to see that Marion was dead, Hickman collected his $1,500, then kicked open the door and tossed the rest of Marion Parker onto the road. As he sped off, her father fell to his knees, screaming.

Days later, the police caught up with a defiant and unrepentant Hickman in Oregon. His lawyers pleaded insanity, but the jury gave him the gallows.

To nearly everyone, Hickman was a monster. The year of the murder, the Los Angeles Times called it “the most horrible crime of the 1920s.” Hickman was America’s most despicable villain at the time.

But to a young Russian idealist just arriving in America, Hickman was a hero.

And while Hickman the man has, today, been largely forgotten, Hickman the archetype has lived on and influenced our nation in a profound fashion, paving the way for Donald Trump, a man with no empathy or consideration of social norms, to one day occupy the White House.

The kind of man who would pose with a tiny baby, the youngest survivor of a slaughter that he, himself encouraged with his hateful rhetoric, and mug for the camera with a thumbs-up sign.

Two years before William Edward Hickman was sentenced to death, a 21-year-old Russian political science student named Alissa Zinovievna Rosenbaum arrived in New York Harbor on a French ocean liner. The year was 1926, and she was on the last leg of her dream trip to the Land of Opportunity, scurrying across the Soviet Union, Germany, and France before procuring a first-class cabin aboard the S.S. De Grasse, bound for the United States.

Alissa was a squat five-foot-two with a flapper hairdo and wide sunken dark eyes that gave her a haunting stare. And etched into those brooding eyes was burned the memory of a childhood backlit by the Russian Revolution.

She had just departed Leninist Russia where, almost a decade earlier, there was a harsh backlash against the Russian property owners—the people who were rich with Russian money like Donald Trump—by the Bolsheviks. Alissa’s own family was targeted, and at the age of 12 she witnessed Bolshevik soldiers burst into her father’s pharmacy business, loot the store, and plaster on the doors the red emblem of the state indicating that his private business now belonged to “the people.”

That incident left such a deep and burning wound in young Alissa’s mind, that she went to college to study political science and vowed one day she’d become a famous writer to warn the world of the dangers of Bolshevism.

Starting afresh in Hollywood, she anglicized her name to Ayn Rand, and moved from prop-girl to screenwriter/novelist, basing the heroes of several of her stories on a man she was reading about in the newspapers at the time. A man she wrote effusively about in her diaries. A man she hero-worshipped.

He was the most notorious man in American in 1928, having achieved a level of national fame she craved—William Edward Hickman.

What young Ayn Rand saw in Hickman that would encourage her to base a novel, then her philosophy, then her life’s work, on him was quite straightforward: unfeeling, unpitying selfishness.

He was the kind of man who would revel in the pain parents would feel when their children were ripped from their arms and held in freezing cages for over a year.

In Hickman, Ayn Rand wrote that she had finally found the new model of the Superman (her phrase, likely borrowed from Friedrich Nietzsche). Only a worldview held by a man like Hickman, she believed, could ever prevent an all-powerful state from traumatizing another generation of small businesspeople and their children as the Bolsheviks had her family.

Hickman’s words as recounted by Rand in her Journals, “I am like the state: what is good for me is right,” resonated deeply with her. It was the perfect articulation of her belief that if people pursued their own interests above all else—even above friends, family, or nation—the result would be utopian.

She wrote in her diary that those words of Hickman’s were, “the best and strongest expression of a real man’s psychology I ever heard.”

Hickman—the monster who boasted of how he had hacked up a 12-year-old girl—had Rand’s ear, as well as her heart. She saw a strongman archetype in him, the way that people wearing red MAGA hats see a strongman savior in Donald Trump.

As Hickman’s murder trial unfolded, Rand grew increasingly enraged at how the mediocre American masses had rushed to condemn her Superman, much like today people Trump calls mediocre condemn him and the killings that may have emerged from his rhetoric, from Charleston to Charlottesville to El Paso.

“The first thing that impresses me about the case,” Rand wrote in reference to the Hickman trial in early notes for a book she was working on titled The Little Street, “is the ferocious rage of the whole society against one man.”

Astounded that Americans didn’t recognize the heroism Hickman showed when he proudly rose above simply conforming to society’s rules, Rand wrote, “It is not the crime alone that has raised the fury of public hatred. It is the case of a daring challenge to society. … It is the amazing picture of a man with no regard whatever for all that society holds sacred, with a consciousness all his own.”

In other words, a man who lives exclusively for himself. A narcissistic psychopath. A man who could sell out his own country to foreign powers, tearing apart his nation’s people, just for his own enjoyment.

Rand explained that when the masses are confronted with such a bold actor, they neither understood nor empathized with him. Thus, “a brilliant, unusual, exceptional boy [was] turned [by the media] into a purposeless monster.”

The protagonist of the book that Rand was writing around that time was a boy named Danny Renahan. In her notes for the book, she wrote, “The model for the boy [Renahan] is Hickman.” He would be her ideal man, and the archetype for a philosophical movement that could transform a nation.

“He is born with the spirit of Argon and the nature of a medieval feudal lord,” Rand wrote in her notes describing Renahan. “Imperious. Impatient. Uncompromising. Untamable. Intolerant. Unadaptable. Passionate. Intensely proud. Superior to the mob… an extreme ‘extremist.’ … No respect for anything or anyone.”

The kind of man who would tell over 12,000 lies in two and a half years, who would daily lie to the press and his nation, just because he could—and would revel in it.

Rand wanted capitalism in its most raw form, uncheck by any government that could control the rules of the market or promote the benefits of society. Such good intentions had, after all, caused the hell she’d experienced in the Bolshevik Revolution, just like they’d caused Fred Trump to be arrested and fined for refusing to maintain apartments that black people had moved into.

Ayn Rand, like Hickman, found in the extremes her economic, political, and moral philosophy. Forget about democratic institutions, forget about regulating markets, and forget about pursuing any policies that benefit the majority at the expense of the very rich—the rule-makers and rule-enforcers could never, ever do anything well or good. Only billionaires should rule the world, as Trump has suggested.

Trump personifies this, putting an advocate of destroying public schools in charge of public schools, a coal lobbyist in charge of the EPA, an oil lobbyist in charge of our public lands, and a billionaire described by Forbes as a “grifter” in charge of the Commerce Department. His chief of staff said that putting children in cages (where seven so far have died) would actually be a public good. Don’t just ignore the rules; destroy them.

Welfare and other social safety net programs were, as Rand saw it, “the glorification of mediocrity” in society. Providing a social safety net for the poor, disabled, or unemployed, she believed, were part of a way of thinking that promoted, “satisfaction instead of joy, contentment instead of happiness… a glow-worm instead of a fire.”

She, like Trump, lived a largely joyless life. She mercilessly manipulated people, particularly her husband, and, like Trump, surrounded herself with cult-like followers who were only on the inside so long as they gave her total, unhesitating loyalty.

Like Trump and his billionaire backers, she believed that a government promoting working-class “looters” instead of solely looking out for capitalist “producers” was throwing its “best people” under the bus.

In Rand’s universe, the producers had no obligations to the looters. Providing welfare or sacrificing one nickel of your own money to help a “looter” on welfare, unemployment, or Social Security—particularly if it was “taken at the barrel of a gun” (taxes)—was morally reprehensible.

Like Trump saying, “My whole life I’ve been greedy,” for Rand looking out for numero uno was the singular name of the game—selfishness is next to godliness.

Later in Rand’s life, in 1959, as she gained more notoriety for the moral philosophy of selfishness that she named “Objectivism” and that is today at the core of libertarianism and the GOP, she sat down for an interview with CBS reporter Mike Wallace.

Suggesting that selfishness undermines most American values, Wallace bluntly challenged Rand.

“You are out to destroy almost every edifice in the contemporary American way of life,” Wallace said to Rand. “Our Judeo-Christian religion, our modified government-regulated capitalism, our rule by the majority will… you scorn churches, and the concept of God… are these accurate criticisms?”

As Wallace was reciting the public criticisms of Rand, the CBS television cameras zoomed in closely on her face, as her eyes darted back and forth between the ground and Wallace’s fingers. But the question, with its implied condemnation, didn’t faze her at all. Rand said with confidence in a matter-of-fact tone, “Yes.”

“We’re taught to feel concerned for our fellow man,” Wallace challenged, “to feel responsible for his welfare, to feel that we are, as religious people might put it, children under God and responsible one for the other—now why do you rebel?”

“That is what in fact makes man a sacrificial animal,” Rand answered. She added, “[man’s] highest moral purpose is the achievement of his own happiness.”

Rand’s philosophy, though growing in popularity on college campuses, never did—in her lifetime—achieve the sort of mass appeal she had hoped. It was confined to college coffee shops, intellectual conferences, and true-believer journals, but never hit the halls of Congress, the mainstream television airwaves, or water-cooler political debates. There were the handful of “true believers,” but that was it… until today.

Now, Ayn Rand’s philosophy is a central tenet of today’s Republican Party and the moral code proudly cited and followed by high-profile billionaires and the president of the United States.

Ironically, when she was finally beginning to be taken seriously, Ayn Rand became ill with lung cancer, and went on Social Security and Medicare to make it through her last days. She died a “looter” in 1982, unaware that her sociopathic worldview would one day validate an entire political party’s embrace of a sociopathic narcissist president.

Independent Media Institute via truthdig.com

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

Two Formerly Independent Nations Struggle for Re-emergence

Sun, 2019-08-18 17:55

Two re-emergent states on opposite shores of the Gulf of Aden are attempting to rise above the ashes of genocidal civil wars to establish themselves among the ranks of nations. On the northern coast of the Gulf of Aden are forces that have been fighting for the restoral of the independence of South Yemen. These secessionists recently succeeded in taking over key government posts in the city of Aden from forces loyal to the Saudi puppet government of Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, who ostensibly rules over Yemen from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. However, Hadi is a puppet leader without territory. If it were not for Saudi control over Hadi and his exiled regime, the so-called president and government of Yemen would not enjoy its current international recognition by the United Nations and major countries.

Even the most seasoned Middle East expert could be forgiven if the situation in Yemen seems confusing and bewildering. There are almost a dozen competing parties all jockeying for all or part of a post-civil way Yemen.

Houthi rebels currently rule over much of North Yemen, which unified with South Yemen in 1990 in what most South Yemenis later viewed as an uneven shotgun marriage that gave greater powers to the North. A civil war between the North and South broke out in 1994, which resulted in a rather quick victory for the North. The Saudis do not recognize the Houthi-led government that rules from Sana’a, the capital of North Yemen, because they see it as aligned with Iran. It is true that the Houthis’ Zaidi sect of Islam has much in common with the dominant Shi’a sect of Iran. However, a series of Zaidi Imams ruled the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen from 1911 until 1968, when pro-Egyptian army officers seized power and declared the Yemen Arab Republic. The attempt by certain quarters to describe the Houthi government as an inextricable Iranian proxy belies ignorance about the history of North Yemen.

In 1967, Britain granted full independence to neighboring South Arabia, a collection of British-protected princely states, emirates, and sultanates, which became South Yemen. In 1978, Ali Abdullah Saleh became the president of the Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen). Relations between North and South Yemen were never close. In fact, fighting broke out between the two countries in 1979. In 1990, the two countries were “re-unified,” but that was an incorrect term because the two countries had never been unified in the first place. President Saleh instituted a policy of cronyism that benefited the north’s Sunni Muslim population at the expense of the minority Zaidis, who still resented the fall of their Imam as the leader of North Yemen, and South Yemenis, who tended to be more secular-minded as a result of independent South Yemen’s Marxist-Leninist policies instituted by the ruling Yemen Socialist Party. Providing the financial largesse for Saleh to pay off, with bribes, tribal chiefs and other actors supporting the regime in Sana’a was Saudi Arabia.

After the failure of South Yemen to reassert its independence in 1994, all political power in Yemen, north and south, was in the hands of Saleh and his rubber stamp political party, the General People’s Congress. In 2004, Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, the leader of the Zaidis, who had grown tired of Saleh’s heavy-handed and corrupt rule, launched a rebellion against the Sana’s government.

In 2009, Yemen was faced with a coordinated terrorist campaign by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). However, the Saleh government, aided by the Saudis, put greater effort into attacking the Houthis than in suppressing AQAP. In fact, the Houthis accused Saleh and the Saudis of backing the Al Qaeda forces as a way to prevent the Zaidis from taking control of North Yemen and South Yemeni secessionists from gaining ground in Aden and other regions of South Yemen. Also, in 2009, the United States began a military campaign against Al Qaeda forces in South Yemen using Special Forces, cruise missiles, and armed drones. There is a belief by some South Yemenis that Washington, in striking alleged Al Qaeda forces, was actually attacking southern separatist tribal groups.

In 2011, Saleh was forced from power and he was succeeded by his vice president, Hadi, who was a native South Yemeni. In 2014, Houthi forces took control in Sana’a and forced Hadi to declare a “unity” government that included the Houthis. Infighting between Hadi and Houthi leader Mohammed Ali al-Houthi resulted in Hadi’s ouster from power and the Houthis declaring a Revolutionary Committee in charge of Yemen. The United Nations, the United States, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE refused to recognize the Houthi government but continued to recognize Hadi, who fled to Aden and declared the city to be Yemen’s temporary seat of government.

In 2015, the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant (ISIL) opened a Yemeni franchise. However, continued military attacks by Saudi and United Arab Emirates forces on the Houthis suggested that the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was solely interested in attacking the Houthis. South Yemen’s secessionist Southern Transitional Council (STC), while supportive of Hadi and the GCC’s “Operation Decisive Storm” against the Houthis, became wary of future Saudi intentions regarding the cause of South Yemeni independence restoration. The STC found an ally in the UAE, which broke with the Saudi policy of seeking to restore Hadi to the presidency of a unified North and South Yemen.

After seizing control of Aden, the forces of the UAE-backed Security Belt Forces (SBF) cleaned out remaining resistance from Hadi loyalists in the strategic port city, the international airport, and its outskirts. The SBF also captured the presidential palace, a symbolic victory aimed at Hadi, who had previously resided in the palace as the ruler of all of Yemen. Hadi government officials fled to Riyadh. The SBF is seen as the military muscle behind the STC. The Saudis, not wishing to break completely with its erstwhile close UAE ally, appeared resigned to accept South Yemeni control of Aden. The flag of the former independent South Yemen was seen flying from government buildings seized by the SBF.

South Yemen’s secessionist forces are hoping to be extended diplomatic recognition by some of the country’s former allies, including China, Cuba, Pakistan, Syria, and Vietnam.

If the UAE moves to declare itself the de facto ruler of Aden and the South Yemeni island of Socotra, it may face a rebellion from its STC and SBF allies. The UAE has all but taken control of Socotra, with UAE flags flying from government buildings in the island’s capital of Hadibu. A sizable UAE force, in addition to a smaller contingent of Saudis, are reportedly on Socotra to secure the airport and seaport. The presence of Yemeni forces loyal to Hadi, as well as Saudi and UAE forces on Socotra, does not sit well with the presumptive sultan of the former Mahra Sultanate of Qishn and Socotra, abolished in 1967 when South Yemen’s socialist government took over from the departing British. The former sultan and the Mahra General Council, over which he has influence, want a restoral of independence for the Mahra Sultanate. In this, the sultan is relying on old royal bonds to the Sultanate of Oman and the seven emirates that make up the UAE. Other former sultanates also harbor a desire for restoration to their past glory. One is the inland Kathiri State of Seiyun in Hadhramaut. A tribal force loyal to the STC and SBF, the Hadrami Elite Forces, has a number of Kathiri loyalists. Another tribal force, the Shabwa Elite Forces, has sympathies for the former Qu’aiti Sultanate of Shihr and Mukalla. Members of the Qu’aiti royal family have close connections to the governments of Britain and Saudi Arabia.

On the southern coast of the Gulf of Aden, the self-proclaimed Republic of Somaliland, which was briefly independent from June 26 to July 1, 1960, before uniting with the Somali Republic, is faring much better than South Yemen’s push for independence restoration. In 1991, following years of persecution by the Somali Republic’s government in Mogadishu, Somaliland declared independence. Although the United Nations and African Union refused to recognize Somaliland, its perseverance and determination has resulted in de facto relations with Ethiopia and Djibouti. Somaliland has had official diplomatic contacts with the UAE, Philippines, Seychelles, and Timor-Leste. Ethiopia maintains an ambassadorial level consulate in Hargeisa, the capital. In addition, Denmark has a diplomatic office in Hargeisa. In July of this year, Guinea gave a red-carpet welcome to Somaliland’s president. Somaliland may also see an independent South Yemen send one of its first ambassadors to Hargeisa, a show of solidarity between two re-emergent nations shunned by myopic international structures like the UN, African Union, and Arab League.

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

Hong Kong: Don’t Provoke the Dragon

Sun, 2019-08-18 17:45

Time was when flying to Hong Kong was a really big thrill – or maybe scare would be a better term. Its old airport, Kai Tak, was right in the middle of bustling downtown Hong Kong. Flying into Kai Tak used up 11 of one’s 12 lives.

The wide-bodied jumbo aircraft would drop down into a long fjord that was usually shrouded in fog or mist. The nervous passenger would see nothing but cloud. Suddenly, the aircraft would break out of the thick cloud cover right over the airport.

To the left and right were apartment buildings festooned with drying laundry at the same height as one’s plane. The big 747 airliner landed with a huge thud and screaming tires right in front of another bunch of apartment buildings.

Even for veteran air travelers like myself, this was a heart-stopping experience. Amazingly, I recall only one crash at Kai Tak, which we used to call ‘Suicide Airport.’ Still, it was like landing a jumbo-jet on New York’s Park Avenue. Not for the faint of heart.

In 1998, Kai Tak was closed and replaced by the modern, spacious Chek Lap Kok, better known as Hong Kong International. It quickly became one of Asia’s principal aviation hubs.

This week, Hong Kong airport was besieged and shut down by thousands of young local demonstrators protesting China’s attempt to impose a new extradition law on Hong Kong that would allow Beijing to arrest Hong Kong residents for ‘anti-state’ activities. The deal that Hong Kong’s former colonial Britain signed with China calls for ‘two-states, one nation,’ with considerable independence for the former island colony.

But anyone who thinks China’s iron-fisted rulers will allow a scrap of paper to limit their influence over Hong Kong is dead wrong. For them, Hong Kong is as much a part of China as Shanghai. So, too, is Taiwan.

The massive rioting in Hong Kong earlier this week set off alarm bells in Beijing, which runs an Orwellian police state on the mainland. China’s hardline leaders rightly fear that the fracas in Hong Kong could incite other uprisings across China. Everyone remembers the long, bloody Cultural Revolution of the 1970’s with its rampaging Red Guards.

Perhaps more important, Chinese leaders study their nation’s history and draw lessons from it, unlike America’s history-free politicians. For the Americans, history is what was on Fox TV the week before.

What Beijing really fears is another Taiping Rebellion. A nobody named Hong Xiuqan proclaimed himself the brother of Jesus and raised a vast peasant army to overthrow the ruling Manchu dynasty in Beijing. Brutal civil war raged from 1850-1864 in which up to 100 million are believed to have been killed or died of famine.

If this sounds completely crazy, think of all the Republican sycophants that call President Trump the reincarnation of the ancient Hebrew Queen Esther or a ‘Christian warrior.’ Bizarre behavior and beliefs are universal.

China has warned the rioting Hong Kong students to cease their protests or face intervention by Beijing’s tough paramilitary police, which backs up the regular People’s Army. Chinese armed police and soldiers are massing just across the border in Shenzhen, a mere taxi ride from downtown Hong Kong.

If the Hong Kong students are not wise, they risk winding up in China’s penal camps, the ‘laogai.’ Large numbers of Muslim Uighurs from Xinjiang have been locked away in China’s western laogai.

The airport riots now appear over but continue in Hong Kong’s streets. If the People’s Police or Liberation Army do intervene in Hong Kong to impose China’s iron hand, they could spark another Tiananmen Square bloodbath. But once Beijing’s forces impose martial law on Hong Kong its days of autonomy will be over.

The type of repression China imposed on Tibet and Muslim regions could be repeated in Hong Kong. There is absolutely nothing any of the world’s powers can do about it. China will then turn its attention to ‘renegade province’ Taiwan. Western politicians can huff and puff all they like but they are powerless to change the tide of events in Hong Kong.

ericmargolis.com

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

Salvini Thwarted Is Not Salvini Denied

Sun, 2019-08-18 17:12

Italian Interior Minister and leader of The League Matteo Salvini was thwarted in his push to get control of Italy’s fractious political landscape recently. Salvini pushed for new elections after declaring the coalition government with Five Star Movement unworkable.

His motion to bring a vote of no-confidence against Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte failed in the Italian senate after his former coalition partners entertained a proposal from the formerly-powerful Democrats.

In the end it shouldn’t have been a shock to see Five Star make strange bedfellows with the party and the political apparatus it was built to fight. Because had they backed Salvini they would have had to accept outsider status since polls have moved so far against them over the fourteen months of their working together.

It turns out that no matter how revolutionary one is supposed to be, in politics, retaining access to power becomes the over-riding concern. In general, the first goal of any organization is survival and Five Star made the Hobson’s Choice of siding with Matteo Renzi’s Democrats to stay in power rather than stand on their principles and abide by the will of the Italian people, who are clearly now behind Salvini and his League.

As I pointed out in my last article, The League is polling at levels Five Star has never reached, 38-40%, while Five Star’s support has collapsed to the high teens after taking more than 28% in March 2018’s election.

So, Salvini’s ‘betrayal’ of Five Star, who foot-dragged implementing any of Salvini’s part of their stated agenda, led directly to Five Star’s betrayal of Salvini.

But looking at the polls it’s clear that Salvini’s brand of right-of-center populism is popular. And Five Star Leader Luigi Di Maio’s decision to go against that grain will not bode well for his party going forward.

It’s clear Salvini has the population’s ear on reforms, tax cuts, infrastructure spending and ending German-led, EU-imposed austerity.

In the near term it looks like Di Maio has gotten the better of his former ruling partner. The president, Sergei Mattarella, will happily countenance a Democrat/Five Star coalition to ensure that nothing radical happens over the crucial next two years as the European Union faces the biggest challenges to its future ever.

This is especially true with it looking increasingly likely that the United Kingdom will leave the EU on Halloween without a withdrawal agreement.

But Di Maio is now in the same position that another reformer turned toady was in after he betrayed his country in 2015, Greece’s Alexis Tsipras.

To remind everyone, Tsipras is now out of a job and one of the most hated people in Greece. So complete was his sell out of the Greek people, he ushered back into power a center-right government in July.

Five Star was born out of the disgust Italians had for its leadership in Rome and the technocratic overthrow of Silvio Berlusconi’s government back in 2011.

It was a pure protest party, especially when Beppe Grillo was its figurehead. Now, it’s making deals to stay in power with those same technocrats.

Di Maio has to think very carefully about where things go from here. Remember, it was the Democrats who refused to ally with Five Star last year leading to the nominally Euroskeptic alliance between it and The League that has tried to govern since last June.

It’s true that Five Star has suffered since it teamed up with The League but that’s a self-inflicted wound as Salvini ran rings around them for not supporting him as his popularity grew.

What’s coming here is that if Five Star does a deal with Renzi and the Democrats it will be a betrayal of the same order as what Syriza under Tsipras pulled with Greece. And Salvini, cast in the role of opposition, will have a field day sniping the government at every turn as Conte, Mattarella and their pet Finance Minister Giovanni Tria sell Italy out back to Brussels.

And it will be Salvini that has the last laugh as Five Star gets nothing in return for selling out, Italy gets crushed further and the migrant caravan of George Soros re-opens. Di Maio and Five Star had their opportunity to stick it to the EU as it struggles with a sovereign debt crisis and the German financial and political system is stressed to the gills.

And it failed.

Politics at this level is all about ego. Di Maio wasn’t able to quell the leftist malcontents within his own party and because of that couldn’t deliver on promises made when the coalition formed.

He’s now set his party on the path to destruction while Salvini gets to walk away having lost nothing of note. His policies weren’t going to be implemented in a coalition with Five Star and Conte as Prime Minister.

Now he’s exposed all of them, inadvertently or otherwise, including his former partners, as the useless social climbers they are rather than the patriots and rebels they advertised themselves to be to the Italian people.

Salvini’s best move here is to continue with his plans to call for another vote. Force Five Star on record and undercut their position with the electorate further. And after that, bide his time, and work The League’s position in the European Parliament.

Because while you can manipulate events in the short-term you can’t change the overall trend. This is something both the EU and the Italian deep state have yet to learn.

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

What Can We Learn From the History of Struggle Against White Supremacy?

Sun, 2019-08-18 17:05

White supremacy has a very long history in North America. The Real News discuss its origins and the history of struggle against it with Prof. Gerald Horne.

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

Uncle Sam Was Born Lethal

Sat, 2019-08-17 18:12

Paul STREET

For revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.

– Frederick Douglass, July 4, 1852

One of the occupational and intellectual hazards of being a historian is that current events often seem far less new to oneself than they do to others. Recently a leftish liberal friend told me that the United States under the Donald Trump had “become a lethal society.” My friend cited the neofascist Trump’s: horrible family separations and concentration camps on the border; openly white-nationalist assaults on four progressive nonwhite and female Congresswomen; real and threatened roundups of undocumented immigrants; fascist-style and hate-filled “Make America Great Again” rallies; encouragement of white supremacist terrorism; alliance with right-wing evangelical Christian fascists.

Another friend received news of the recent mass-shooting of mostly Latinx Wal-Mart shoppers by racist and nativist white male Trump fan in El Paso, Texas by denouncing Trump’s “fascism” and linking to an essay he’d published about the white-nationalist president’s racist and authoritarian behavior.

I agree with my friends about the lethality of the contemporary United States. I largely share their description of Trump and much of his base as fascist or at least fascistic. “Durable fascist tendencies,” the prolific left political scientist Carl Boggs warns in his important book Fascism Old New: American Politics at the Crossroads, “run deep throughout present-day American society…In the absence of powerful counterforces and a thriving democracy, …those tendencies could morph over into something more expansive and menacing – and Donald Trump could serve, wittingly or unwittingly, as a great historical accelerator.”

It’s nothing to sneeze at. The institutional forms and technologies of militarized surveillance and policing and thought control that are available to fascism-prone elites in the United States are daunting indeed. The United States enjoys historically unprecedented global power on a scale the fascist Third Reich’s leaders dreamed of achieving but never remotely approached.

Still, I sometimes worry about reaching beyond American history to label horrors of its own making. Longstanding foundational aristo-republican U.S. white-settler nationalism and its state-military-capitalist, imperialist, and corporatist evolution has long been disastrous and dystopian enough without “charismatic” dictators, Baretta-toting squadristis, single party states, the suspension of elections, the end of bourgeois law, jackbooted brown-shirts, death squads, state propaganda, political executions, shuttered media, and the rest of the full-on fascist nightmare.

Savagely and Mercilessly Exterminating “the Common Enemy of the Country”

How new is racist lethality and white nationalism to the U.S.-American experience, after all? The white European “settlers” of North America wiped out millions of the continent’s original inhabitants. They populated their southern colonies and states with Black slaves they mercilessly tortured, raped, maimed, and murdered in forced labor camps that provided the critical raw material for the rise of American capitalism long before Mussolini, Franco, and Hitler rose to power.

Trump’s favorite president prior to himself, Andrew Jackson, first rose to prominence in the early 19th century as the head of the Tennessee militia who exterminated the Creek Nation by, in the words of the Yale historian Greg Grandin, “burning houses, killing warriors, mutilating their bodies (he ordered his men to cut off the noses of the Indian corpses, so as to more easily tally the dead), and enslaving their women and children…[thereby] previewing the misery he would later, as president, nationalize” (with the 1830 Indian Removal Act). Jackson later ordered the “Trail of Tears,” a giant and sadistic death march that finalized the ethnic cleansing of the Cherokee Nation from the nation’s Southeastern seaboard.

Consider the conclusion of the one-sided “Black Hawk War” – just one of many examples of a ferocious white history of North American extermination. The Sauk and Fox Indians lost 600 people, including hundreds of woman and children. Just 70 soldiers and settlers were killed. The conflict culminated in the so-called Battle of Bad Axe, on the eastern shore of the Mississippi River, near the present-day community of Victory in southwest Wisconsin. Better described as a massacre than a battle, this American military triumph involved U.S. General Henry Atkinson killing every Indian who tried to run for cover or flee across the Mississippi River. On August 1, 1832, Black Hawk’s band reached the Mississippi at its confluence with the Bad Axe River. What followed was an atrocity, committed despite the Indians’ repeated attempts at surrender:

“While the Sauk refugees were preparing rafts and canoes,” writes historian Kerry Trask, “the armed [U.S.] steamboat Warrior arrived, whereupon Black Hawk tried to negotiate with its troops under a flag of truce. The Americans opened fire, killing twenty-three warriors.”

“As we neared them,” one US officer who “served” in the U.S. assault recalled, “they raised a white flag and endeavored to decoy us, but we were a little too old for them.”

Hundreds of Sauk and Fox men, women and children were shot, clubbed, and bayoneted to death. US soldiers scalped most of the dead. They cut long strips of flesh from dead and wounded Indians for use as razor strops. The slaughter was supported by cannon and rifle fire from the aptly named US military ship Warrior, which picked off tribal members swimming for their lives. The United States suffered 5 dead and 19 wounded in the “Battle of Bad Axe.”

In a popular account of the “battle” published two years later, US Major John Allen Wakefield offered some interesting reflections. “It was a horrid sight,” Wakefield wrote:

to witness little children, wounded and suffering the most excruciating pain, although they were of the savage enemy, and the common enemy of the country…It was enough to make the heart of the most hardened being on earth to ache. [But, Wakefield wrote]…I must confess, that it filled my heart with gratitude and joy, to think that I had been instrumental, with many others, in delivering my country of those merciless savages, and restoring those [invading white] people again to their peaceful homes and firesides”.

“Our Great Father,” a government agent told the Sauk Indians, “will forbear no longer. He has tried to reclaim [Native Americans] and they grow worse. He is resolved to sweep them from the face of the earth. … If they cannot be made good they must be killed.”

By Wakefield’s account, the US troops at Bad Axe “shrank not from their duty. They all joined in the work of death for death it was. We were by this time fast getting rid of those demons in human shape… the Ruler of the Universe, He who takes vengeance on the guilty, did not design those guilty wretches to escape His vengeance…”

Such sentiments were common among American army and militia members, who reveled in the mass murder of indigenous people.

This was just one of many such genocidal moments in the rapacious white settlement of North America – the abject annihilation and ethnic cleansing of native people. This terrible history is pock-marked with such horrid and genocidal atrocities as the razing of 20 Cherokee towns in 1776, the forced removal of the Cherokee, Choctaw, and Seminole nations to Oklahoma (1828-1840), the savage clearance of the Sauk nation from their ancestral home in northern Illinois (1832-1833), the massacre of at least 75 Pomo Indians trapped on an island in the Russian River area of California (1850), the mass hanging of 38 Lakotas in 1862, the brutal murder of as many as 200 Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians at Sand Creek, Colorado (1864)), the slaughter of more than 100 Cheyenne, including women and children,  by Lieutenant George Armstrong Custer’s Seventh U.S. Cavalry at Washita (in Oklahoma in 1868), the openly extermination-ist clearance of Lakota Sioux from the Black Hills (1876-1877), and the Seventh Cavalry’s  massacre of 350 unarmed Lakota at Wounded Knee (1890). The nation’s first president, George Washington, was known to the Iroquois as “Town Destroyer.”

“Teutonic Conquest”

This genocidal history received hearty approval in future US President and Spanish-American War instigator Theodore Roosevelt’s four-volume 1899 study The Winning of the West.  Penned by a heralded symbol of “the American soul,” The Winning of the West was a white-supremacist paean to Anglo-America’s near- eradication of North America’s original civilizations.  “During the past three centuries,” Roosevelt opined, “the spread of English-speaking people over the world’s waste spaces” (meaning spaces not occupied by “progressive” capitalist-developmental Caucasians) was a great and welcome “feat of power,” for which the “English-speaking race” could justly feel proud. No “feat” of “race power” was more laudable for the “Bull Moose” than “the vast movement by which this continent [North America] was conquered and peopled” – the “crowning and greatest achievement of a series of mighty movements.”  The Anglo-American pioneers conducted what Roosevelt called the noble civilizing “work” of “overcoming the original inhabitants.” The North American settlers performed the most heroic “work” of all, for they “confronted the most formidable savage foes ever encountered by colonists of European stock.”

No 20th century fascist had anything on Roosevelt’s Winning of the West when it came to the heralding of white supremacist violence. ”The settler and pioneer,” the future war president wrote, “have at bottom had justice on their side; this great continent could not have been kept as nothing but a game preserve for squalid savages….The most ultimately righteous of all wars is a war with savages, though it is apt to be also the most terrible and inhuman.”

Roosevelt considered the destruction of the continent’s original civilizations to be part of Teutonic Saxons’ long and noble crusade to master inferior races. “Let the sentimentalist say what they will,” Roosevelt wrote, “the man who puts the soil to use must of right dispossess the man who does not,” with “put the soil to use” understood to mean enclosing the earthly commons, fencing it off as private property and exploiting natural resources and human labor power.

“American and Indian, Boer and Zulu, Cossack and Tartar, New Zealander and Maori, – in each case the victor,” The Winning of the West instructed, “horrible though many of his deeds are, has laid deep the foundations for the future greatness of a mighty people.”

“It is of incalculable importance,” Roosevelt opined, “that America, Australia, and Siberia should pass out of the hands of their red, black, and yellow aboriginal owners, and become the heritage of the dominant world races…The world would have halted had it not been for the Teutonic conquests in alien lands; but the victories of Moslem over Christian have always proved a curse in the end. Nothing but sheer evil has come from the victories of Turk and Tartar.”

Destroying the Indian “savages,” Roosevelt claimed, was white North America’s third greatest work to date, exceeded only by “the preservation of the Union itself and the emancipation of the blacks” – this as African-Americans suffered under terrorist Jim Crow regime in the former slave states and faced countless indignities throughout the U.S. (more on that below).

Raping and Screaming Like Fiends

The “wining of the West” also included savage racist and sexist war crimes against Mexico, which lost the land that makes up current day Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Wyoming and Utah to the United States in one sided 1846-48 Mexican American War. Ulysses S. Grant would later call it “one of the most unjust [wars] ever won by a stronger against a weaker nation.” He would have known a thing or two about that since he was an officer in the U.S- white-Protestant assault on brown-skinned and Catholic Mexico, which had committed the unpardonable sin of abolishing slavery years before. Here is Grandin’s account of just two of many atrocities that U.S.-American soldiers committed during that conflict, long before the No Gun RisOperation Tiger ForcesMy Lais, Bola Boluks, and Abu Ghraibs of future centuries:

“On February 9, 1847, for one example, a member of the Arkansas volunteer regiment raped a Mexican woman near the regiment’s camp at Agua Nueva, in the state of Coahuila, and Mexicans retaliated by killing a U.S. soldier. Afterwards, over one hundred Arkansans cornered a group of war refugees in a cave. According to one eyewitness, the volunteers screamed ‘like fiends’ as they raped and slaughtered their victims, with women and children ‘shrieking for mercy.’ By the time the killing had ended, scores of Mexicans lay dead or dying on the cave floor, which was covered with clotted blood. Many of the dead had been scalped (more than a few volunteers in the U.S. Army had, before the war, made their living on the borderlands scalping Apaches for bounty money, or ‘barbering,’ as one infamous Texas scalp-hunter called his trade.)”

The march of “Saxon civilization” in its glorious campaign against “savagery” was something to behold.

Because God: “The Sword of the Lord”

Evangelical Christian barbarism wedded to lethal American white nationalism? American evangelicals have been terrorizing their fellow Americans and others around the world for as long as the United States has existed – and indeed before that. The historically astute left political scientist Carl Boggs reminds us that contemporary American right-wing Christianity is “an extension of traditional, homespun, God-fearing Protestantism that historically intersected with racist, colonial, and exceptionalist currents of Manifest Destiny.” Further:

“We know that slavery, along with every step toward extermination of Native Americans, was justified and even celebrated as part of God’s will. Did not President William McKinley, as the U.S. was preparing for a war in the Philippines that would slaughter hundreds of thousands of civilians, inform Americans that this was a Christian duty?…Replete with images of great violence, hatred, and repression, [the Christians’ ancient holy text] the Bible in fact justifies all forms of mass murder, torture, warfare, and slavery. We have a text, as Michael Parenti notes, that takes enormous gratification in the mass slaughter of humans and animals, with few limits. In the Bible we find executions for taking God’s name in vain, death to practitioners of ‘idolatry,’ and horrific punishment for adulterers not to mention genocidal military attacks on heathen nations and culture. Such fundamentalist views, resonant of the Dark Ages, Parenti correctly likens to a modern fascist outlook.”

Seventeen years ago, the evangelical Christian George W. Bush, neo-fascistically turbo-charged by the Reichstag Fire-like gift of the Islamist 9/11 attacks, concluded that God had told him to invade Mesopotamia. The invasion led to more than a million Iraqi deaths accompanied by countless explicitly racist and often evangelically infused acts of torture and murder committed by feral U.S. military forces.

The use of messianic Christianity to justify murdering and maiming people of color en-masse goes back to the original British invasion of what would be called New England. The U.S. Declaration of Independence’s description of North America’s original inhabitants as “merciless Indian savages” anticipated Orwell by projecting onto Native Americans the genocidal practices that white “settlers” exhibited from day one. Consider the celebrated left historian Eric Foner’s textbook description of the grisly and religiously infused Mystic River Massacre of 1637:

“A force of Connecticut and Massachusetts soldiers, augmented by Narraganset allies, surrounded the main Pequot fortified village at Mystic and set it ablaze, killing those who tried to escape.  Over 500 men, women, and children lost their lives in the massacre.  By the end of the war [of New England settlers on the once powerful Pequot tribe], most of the Pequots had been exterminated or sold into Caribbean slavery. The treat that restored peace decreed that their name should be wiped from the historical record.”

“…The colonists’ ferocity shocked their Indian allies, who considered European military practices barbaric.  A few Puritans agreed. ‘It was a fearful sight to see them frying in the fire,’ the Pilgrim leaders William Bradford wrote of the raid on Mystic.  But to most Puritans, including Bradford, the defeat of a ‘barbarous nation’ by ‘the sword of the Lord’ offered further proof that they were on a sacred mission and that Indians were unworthy of sharing New England with the visible saints of the church.”

The Puritans wept with joy and thanked “God” for helping them flame-broil Indian women and children who stood on ground they would turn into a heavenly “City on the Hill.”

After a cruel campaign of ethnic cleansing (at the conclusion of “King Phillips’ War”) in which the white (un-) settlers pushed most of the last Indians they had not killed out of New England in the mid-1670s, “the image of Indians as bloodthirsty savages,” Foner writes, “became firmly entrenched in the New England mind.”

“America” (the U.S.) was born lethal, merciless, and savage.

“Crimes Which Would Disgrace a Nation of Savages”

Even worse than killing Native-Americans en-masse was the torture and exploitation of millions upon of millions of African-Americans as slaves – the highly profitable and hidden secret to America’s rise to prominence in the world of nations by the mid-19th century. Racialized chattel slavery found regular Christian “justification” on the part of the white “settlers.” From the nearly 800,000 words that make up the Bible, American Christian slaveholders, particularly loved two texts. They adored this from Genesis IX of the period’s King James Bible, the one they cited to show how Jehovah had made Blacks lifelong servants in the image of “Ham”;

“And the sons of Noah that went forth from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan. These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole world overspread. And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: and he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness. And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. And Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years.”

It was a ridiculous passage for pro-slavery polemicists to cite. How was it a transgression to see Noah drunk and naked? Why did Noah curse Canaan rather than Ham? Why would Ham have been of a different color than his brothers? But so what? In its popularized southern version, labelled “The Curse of Ham,” Canaan was deleted, Ham was turned Black, and Ham’s descendants were turned into Africans. Slaver Simon said so!

The Christian slaveowners’ second favorite text came from Apostle Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, VI, 5-7:

“Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.”

Translation: Black slaves served God and Christ, not white people, by being slaves “with fear and trembling” to white “masters.” These masters tortured slaves to extract the last ounce of profit from them in cotton fields built on blood-soaked land stolen from Native Americans. They stood atop a vicious chattel system whose polemicists justified the regular rape of Black females as a “safety valve” that protected the virtue of white “southern womanhood.”

“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?” the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass asked in 1852. “A day,” Douglass answered, “that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.” Further:

“To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour…Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the old world, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.”

Red Hot Iron Brands and Kerosene

Do Americans really need to look overseas or to European-born fascism to learn historical lessons about the horrors of racist barbarism? Consider another among countless horrendous U.S. racist atrocities that occurred on U.S. soil long before Mussolini invented fascism and the demonic Hitler rose to power in the Old World. In 1893, a Black man falsely accused of molesting a white child was burned at the stake before 10,000 cheering white people in Paris, Texas. A New York reporter described the Hellish sight:

“The negro was placed upon a carnival float in mockery of a king upon his throne, and, followed by an immense crowd, was escorted through the city so that all might see the…inhuman monster…Smith was placed upon a scaffold, six feet square and ten feet high, securely bound, within the view of all beholders. Here the victim was tortured for fifty minutes by red-hot iron brands thrust against his quivering body. Commencing at the feet the brands were placed against him inch by inch until they were thrust against the face. Then, being apparently dead, kerosene was poured upon him, cottonseed hulls placed beneath him and set on fire. In less time than it takes to relate it, the tortured man was wafted beyond the grave to another fire, hotter and more terrible than the one just experienced.”

After this grisly spectacle, many crowd members took away pieces of “Smith’s” body as souvenirs.

Many such grisly occurrences took place across the U.S. South during the late and early 20th centuries – a time when images of Blacks who were lynched and burned to death before large and smiling white crowds were popular on American postcards. Between 1889 and 1918, 3,224 Americans were lynched within the United States, mostly in the South. Seventy-eight percent of these atrocity victims were black. In most cases the victims were hung or burned to death by mobs of soulful white “vigilantes,” commonly in front of thousands of gleeful spectators. Lynching continued in the South through 1968, the year in which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was executed in Memphis, Tennessee.

In November 1898, Grandin reports, “thousands of white men” in Wilmington, North Carolina, celebrated news of Lisbon’s surrender to Washington in the Spanish-American War by “stag[ing] a coup against the elected, multi-racial coalition governing [Wilmington]. The white mob, many of them veterans of the Cuban campaign {the U.S. seizure of Cuba from Spain] just returned from the war, killed between sixty and three hundred African Americans, ransacked African American businesses, and set fire to African American homes.”

“Fascism Has Happened Before in America”

Another example of lethal racist (and classist) Americanism took place in the rural Arkansas town of Elaine in September of 1919 when hundreds of Blacks were massacred after Black sharecroppers had tried to organize a union. As Smithsonian.com reported last year:

“The sharecroppers who gathered at a small church in Elaine, Arkansas, in the late hours of September 30, 1919, knew the risk they were taking. Upset about unfair low wages, they enlisted the help of a prominent white attorney from Little Rock, Ulysses Bratton, to come to Elaine to press for a fairer share in the profits of their labor. Each season, landowners came around demanding obscene percentages of the profits, without ever presenting the sharecroppers detailed accounting and trapping them with supposed debts…Aware of the dangers – the atmosphere was tense after racially motivated violence in the area – some of the farmers were armed with rifles… At around 11 p.m. that night, a group of local white men, some of whom may have been affiliated with local law enforcement, fired shots into the church. The shots were returned, and in the chaos, one white man was killed. Word spread rapidly about the death. Rumors arose that the sharecroppers, who had formally joined a union known as the Progressive Farmers and Household Union of America (PFHUA) were leading an organized ‘insurrection’ against the white residents of Phillips County…Governor Charles Brough called for 500 soldiers from nearby Camp Pike to, as the Arkansas Democrat reported on Oct 2, ‘round up’ the ‘heavily armed negroes.’ The troops were ‘under order to shoot to kill any negro who refused to surrender immediately.’ They went well beyond that, banding together with local vigilantes and killing at least 200 African-Americans (estimates run much higher but there was never a full accounting). And the killing was indiscriminatemen, women and children unfortunate enough to be in the vicinity were slaughtered.”

These extra-legal and ritualistic executions enforced an American version of something very much like fascism. As Ezekiel Kweku and Jane Coastan noted two months after Trump was inaugurated:

“If full-throated fascism should rise in the United States, it will be an American fascism, animated by American concerns and with antecedents in American history. Fascism has happened before in America…For generations of black Americans, the United States between the end of Reconstruction, around 1876, and the triumphs of the civil rights movement in the early 1960s was a fascist state. Local and federal governments enforced an authoritarian regime that curtailed the movements and advancement of black Americans, and black Americans only. America has been governed by the heavy hand of white nationalism before. The lessons learned by black Americans living under a restrictive and domineering regime a century ago are ones we can take now, too. If we want to know what it looks like when the worst happens, we don’t have to look to the old world; we have a rich history of horror in the new.”

It wasn’t just about the former Confederacy. Mass-murderous white mob violence against Black Americans arose in ChicagoOmahaEast St. Louis, and numerous other northern locations during and after World War One. Racial terrorism, discrimination and apartheid was imposed on ghettoized urban black northerners and the thousands of all-white northern “Sundown Towns” were formed with the threat and reality of violence between 1890 and 1968.

Kweku and Coaston might have added that the United States’ Indian Removal and reservation policies and Jim Crow terror regimes were inspirations and role models for Adolph Hitler and other European fascists, who also admired American mass production methods and the potent means of thought- and feeling-control developed by American advertisers and Hollywood. European fascism was Americanism to no small degree.

Crushing “Anti-American Subversives”

American lethality hasn’t just been about race, of course. Fascism was above all an organized assault on working class resistance and the Left. European fascists could find much to draw models and inspiration in that regard from America, home to the bloodiest industrial relations in the capitalist world in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries – and to a long history of violently repressing working-class activists and radicals. The grisly highlights included the execution of ten Irish-American “Molly Maguire” union militants at the behest of the Pennsylvania employer class on June 21, 1877 (the activists were hanged in two separate prisons surrounded by state militia with fixed bayonets) and the grotesquely inhumane short-rope hanging of four leftist Eight Hour Day activists (the “Haymarket Martyrs”) at the behest of the Chicago bourgeoisie (after a rigged trial followed the legendary merchandiser Marshal Field ordering the Governor of Illinois not to commute the death sentence) on November 11, 1887.

Just a month after the ten Molly Maguires were murdered by the state as punishment for organizing coal miners and railroad workers, the one-sided “Battle of the Viaduct” took place on Halsted Street on the Near Southwest Side of Chicago. Federal troops called in from fighting (slaughtering) Sioux Indians (“red savages”) in the Dakota Territory joined local police and state militia in repressing striking workers (“white savages”). After two days, 30 workers lay dead; the gendarmes experienced no fatalities.

In April of 1914, you can learn from Wikipedia, “The Colorado National Guard and Colorado Fuel and Iron (CFI) Company guards attacked a tent colony of 1,200 striking coal miners and their families at Ludlow, Colorado, on April 20, 1914, with the National Guard using machine guns to fire into the colony. Approximately twenty-one people, including miners’ wives and children, were killed.”

The ruthless massacre was ordered by the legendary American capitalist John D. Rockefeller, Jr., the chief owner of the CFI mine.

Three years later came the great “Bisbee Deportation.” Here again one need look no further than good old Wikipedia for a useful introduction:

“The Bisbee Deportation was the illegal kidnapping and deportation of about 1,300 striking mine workers, their supporters, and citizen bystanders by 2,000 members of a deputized posse, who arrested these people beginning on July 12, 1917. The action was orchestrated by Phelps Dodge, the major mining company in the area, which provided lists of workers and others who were to be arrested in Bisbee, Arizona, to the Cochise County sheriff, Harry C. Wheeler. These workers were arrested and held at a local baseball park before being loaded onto cattle cars and deported 200 miles (320 km) to Tres Hermanas in New Mexico. The 16-hour journey was through desert without food and with little water. Once unloaded, the deportees, most without money or transportation, were warned against returning to Bisbee…As Phelps Dodge, in collusion with the sheriff, had closed down access to outside communications, it was some time before the story was reported….no individual, company, or agency was ever convicted in connection with the deportations.”

The end of the “Great War” (during which the eloquent U.S. Socialist presidential candidate Eugene Debs was held in federal prison for the sin of opposing mass-murderous inter-imperialist slaughter) was followed by the nation’s “First Red Scare.” A massive government and employer class crackdown on the Left including the capture and deportation of hundreds of suspected anarchists and communists. While it called its foreign enemies racist names (see below), lethal American white-nationalism in the opening decades of the last century called its “domestic enemies – labor, farmer, and civil rights organizers, both people of color and their white allies – subversives and anti-American.” (Grandin).

Slaughtering “Niggers,” “Apaches,” and “Gooks” Abroad

As the nineteenth century ended, America’s racist-classist-sexist soul-force was increasingly directed at victims beyond the North American continent.  New predominantly non-white victims were searched out and destroyed overseas, always in the name of the United States’ higher morality and commitment to the benevolent ideals of democracy and rule of law.  Between 1898 and 1905, for example, the U.S. Army, frequently led by “old Indian fighters,” seized the Philippines from its prior colonial master (Spain) and crushed a Filipino independence movement.  The new American Empire’s first overseas counter-insurgency campaign killed perhaps as many as one million in the newly US-acquired Philippine islands.  Few prisoners were taken and the Red Cross reported an extremely high ratio of dead to wounded, indicating a U.S. “determination to kill every native in sight.”

“You never hear of any disturbances in Northern Luzon,” an anonymous U.S. Congressman reported, “because there isn’t anybody there to rebel….The good Lord in heaven only knows the number of Filipinos that were put under ground. Our soldiers took no prisoners, they kept no records; they simply swept the country and wherever and whenever they could get hold of a Filipino they killed him.

Throughout the “pacification” of the Philippines, the United States’ armed forces soulfully referred to the Filipinos as “niggers,” “barbarians,” and “savages.” America’s racist and Social-Darwinist President (1901-08) Theodore Roosevelt vilified Filipino resisters as “Apaches.”  The phrase “gook” made its first appearance as a U.S. military term to describe angry and frightened Asians who inhabit lands invaded by “freedom-loving” Americans when George Custer’s legendary Seventh Cavalry arrived in the Philippines to help suppress “gook Apaches” in 1905.

The hideous term “gook” would figure prominently in the United States’ crucifixion of Southeast Asia, which mercilessly and savagely exterminated as many as 5 million Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians between 1962 and 1975. The criminal and unnecessary atom-bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were great acts of racially tinged exterminism as well as the first atomic shots in the Cold War.

We can be certain that “the N-word” was used freely by U.S. soldiers when racist U.S. president Woodrow Wilson sent U.S. troops to Black Haiti in 1915. “Wilson‘s troops,” Noam Chomsky has noted, “murdered, destroyed, reinstituted virtual slavery and demolished the constitutional system in Haiti.”  These actions followed in accord with Wilson’s Secretary of State Robert Lansing’s belief that “the African races are devoid of any capacity for political organization” and possessed “an inherent tendency to revert to savagery and to cast aside the shackles of civilization which are irksome to their physical nature.” That was a testament that Hitler certainly would have appreciated. The U.S. military’s murderous, and extremely racially infused “body count in the Caribbean and Pacific was high” during the first four decades of the last century, by Grandin’s account:

“U.S. troops killed about fifteen thousand Haitians…between 1915 and 1935; tens of thousands of Dominicans between 1916 and 1924 fifty thousand Nicaraguans between 1912 and 1933; and thousands upon thousands of Filipinos between 1898 and 1946. Many more hundreds of thousands from these countries died from disease, famine, and exposure….Letters from [U.S.] soldiers, first in the 1898 campaign and then later, in Nicaragua, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic, are notably similar, lightheartedly narrating to family and friends how they would shoot ‘niggers,’ lynch ‘niggers,’ release ‘niggers’ into the swamp to die, and use ‘niggers for target practice.’”

How lethally fascistic was that?

The racist American Empire’s racist lethality got worse after it belatedly helped the Soviet Union (the main target of Hitler’s Third Reich) prevail in the great global war against, well, fascism – and then graduated to the status of global hegemon. It is difficult, sometimes, to wrap one’s mind around the extent of the merciless savagery that Superpower Uncle Sam unleashed on the world to advance and maintain its global supremacy. In the early 1950s, the “liberal” Democratic Harry Truman administration responded to an early challenge to U.S. power in Northern Korea with a practically genocidal three-year bombing campaign that was described in soul-numbing terms by the Washington Post years ago:

“The bombing was long, leisurely and merciless, even by the assessment of America’s own leaders. ‘Over a period of three years or so, we killed off—what—20 percent of the population,’ Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, head of the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War, told the Office of Air Force History in 1984. Dean Rusk, a supporter of the war and later Secretary of State, said the United States bombed ‘everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another.’ After running low on urban targets, U.S. bombers destroyed hydroelectric and irrigation dams in the later stages of the war, flooding farmland and destroying crops … [T]he U.S. dropped 635,000 tons of explosives on North Korea, including 32,557 tons of napalm, an incendiary liquid that can clear forested areas and cause devastating burns to human skin.”

This ferocious bombardment, which killed 2 million or more civilians, began five years after Truman arch-criminally and unnecessarily ordered the atom bombing of hundreds of thousands pf civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki to warn the Soviet Union to stay out of Japan and Western Europe.

Indirect Massacre

The merciless savagery of U.S. foreign policy in “America Era” did not always require direct U.S. military intervention. Take Indonesia and Chile, for two examples from the “Golden Age” height of the “American Century.” In Indonesia, the U.S.-backed dictator Suharto killed millions of his subjects, targeting communist sympathizers, ethnic Chinese and alleged leftists. A senior CIA operations officer in the 1960s later described Suharto’s 1965-66 U.S.-assisted coup as s “the model operation” for the U.S.-backed coup that eliminated the democratically elected president of Chile, Salvador Allende, seven years later. “The CIA forged a document purporting to reveal a leftist plot to murder Chilean military leaders,” the officer wrote, “[just like] what happened in Indonesia in 1965.”

As John Pilger noted 10 years ago, “the U.S. embassy in Jakarta supplied Suharto with a ‘zap list’ of Indonesian Communist party members and crossed off the names when they were killed or captured. … The deal was that Indonesia under Suharto would offer up what Richard Nixon had called ‘the richest hoard of natural resources, the greatest prize in south-east Asia.’ ”

“No single American action in the period after 1945,” wrote the historian Gabriel Kolko, “was as bloodthirsty as its role in Indonesia.”

Two years and three months after the Chilean coup, Suharto received a green light from Kissinger and the Gerald Ford White House to invade the small island nation of East Timor. With Washington’s approval and backing, Indonesia carried out genocidal massacres and mass rapes and killed at least 100,000 of the island’s residents.

“Spiritual Death”: From “Great Society” and Vietnam to Mass Incarceration and the Destruction of Iraq and Libya

By that time, Uncle Sam had just finished killing as many as 5 million Southeast Asians over the previous thirteen years in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. The slaughter was drastically escalated at the precise moment when the domestic civil rights movement had compelled the liberal “Great Society” Lyndon Johnson administration to expand the welfare state like never before. The enormous taxpayer expense of the “crucifixion of Southeast Asia” (as Noam Chomsky aptly described the so-called Vietnam War at the time) meant that Johnson’s much-ballyhooed “war on poverty” at home was stillborn. Beyond murdering millions in Southeast Asia, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. noted in New York City’s Riverside Church on April 4, 1967 (one year to the day before his assassination or execution in Memphis, Tennessee), the deadly imperial expenditures crushed “hope for the [U.S.] poor – both black and white.” The anti-poverty program was “broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle plaything of a society gone mad” on a militarism that drew “men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube…A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift,” King added, “is approaching spiritual death.”

America has become lethal under Trump? More openly and soul-numbingly racist, nativist, stupid, eco-cidal and sexist in the time of the textbook malignant narcissist and neofascist Trump-Pence-Bannon-Miller-McConnell regime, surely, but not lethal for the first time. Study North American and U.S. history with clear eyes: it’s a record loaded with vicious white-nationalist exterminist and lethal Americanism. Ask older Black Americans about the Jim Crow and “Sundown Town” eras.

Born into a virulently racist society at the tail end of the fading McCarthy era (which absurdly cost my New Dealer grandfather – a future “Vietnam War” enthusiast – a teaching position in the 1950s), I am old enough to harbor early childhood through young-adult memories of Civil Rights activists being murdered in the South, the executions of Malcolm X and King, Chicago’s Mayor Richard J. Daley telling police to “shoot to kill” Black rioters protesting King’s murder, the openly white-supremacist 1968 presidential campaign of George Wallace, the racist 1968 “law and order” presidential campaign of Richard Nixon, the racist Chicago police-state execution of the young Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, the imperial state murders of student protesters at Kent State and Jackson State universities in May of 1970, the beginnings of the racist mass-incarcerationist “War on Drugs” under Nixon, the election of the malevolent racist Ronald Reagan in 1980, and much more terrible to contemplate. I’ve experienced the United States as lethal both domestically and globally lethal from my earliest moments of political consciousness.

Speaking of merciless racist savagery in a time still within the living memory of tens of millions of Americans, consider Grandin’s account of how the mass-murderer and war criminal William Calley became a political folk-hero to Confederate flag-waving southerners while being embraced by Nixon during Tricky Dick’s noxious re-election campaign. As Grandin writes in his recent book The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America (2019):

“The Confederate flag stopped flying as the pennant of reconciliation, the joining of the southern military tradition to northern establishment might to spread Americanism abroad [by the early 1970s]. It now was the banner of those who felt that the establishment had sacrificed that tradition, ‘stabbed it in the back.’ The battle flag became the banner not of of a specific Lost Cause but of all of white supremacy’s lost causes.”

“The working-class Floridian lieutenant William Calley, for instance, the only solider convicted for taking part in the March 1968 My Lai Massacre [one of dozens if not hundreds of village massacres carried out by U.S. imperial troops in Vietnam – P.S.] became the representational bearer of this aggrieved standard. He was popular throughout the country,especially in the South; his supporters rallied under the Confederate Flag and Richard Nixon embraced Calley in his reelection campaign. As a result, the massacre of over five hundred Vietnamese civilians was transformed from a war crime into a cultural wedge issue, used to nationalize southern grievance and weaponize the wartime coarsening of sentiment for electoral advantage. ‘Most people,’ said Nixon of Calley’s actions at My Lai, ‘don’t give a shit whether he killed them or not.’ ‘The villagers got what they deserved,’ agreed Louisiana senator Allen Ellender” (emphasis added).

How fascistic and lethal was that?

Worried about racism in the White House? Consider the following, recently released 1971 telephone exchange between then President Nixon and future president Ronald Reagan insulting African United Nations delegates who defied Washington by voting to recognize the People’s Republic of China:

Reagan: “Last night, I tell you, to watch that thing on television as I did.”

Nixon: “Yeah.”

Reagan: “To see those, those monkeys from those African countries — damn them, they’re still uncomfortable wearing shoes!”

Nixon: laughter.

It is clear from recently released tapes that “Nixon believed in a ‘hierarchy of races’ with white people at the top and people of African and Latin American descent towards the bottom.”

After a brief interlude of Democratic rule (the one-term presidency of the transitional neoliberal Jimmy Carter) produced by Watergate, Reagan doubled down on Nixon’s liberal- and red-baiting and racist “southern strategy” and mass-incarcerationist “war on drugs” and promised (in classic palingenetic fascist-style) national regeneration (a “new morning in America”) to serve two terms of a presidency that justifiably won the title of “friendly fascism” from the political journalist Bertram Gross. Reagan was the standard bearer of a lethal white nationalist and evangelical Americanism as old as the nation’s bloody “settlement.”

The arch-neoliberal de facto Republican presidency of racist mass incarcerator Bill “Three Strikes” Clinton, the vicious war presidencies of the two Bushes and the noxious neoliberal imperialism of Wall Street Barry Obomber (the nations silver-tongued “deporter-in-chief” and wrecker of Libya and Honduras) all followed in the same institutionally and ideologically lethal grooves, just with different styles tailored to different partisan/regional constituencies and funding bases. The sick and neofascistic Trump, whose rallies are reminiscent of Mussolini and Hitler, whose hateful rhetoric triggers lone-wolf white-nationalist jihadists to conduct NRA-outfitted assault-weapon pogroms against people of color, is, like Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, and the two Bushes. the product of a longstanding racial barbarism that is (like guns and violence) as American as cherry pie.

Terrible as he is, Trump has yet to order anything on the scale of Bush41’s Operation Desert Storm (1991), Bush 43’s invasion and occupation of Iraq, or Obama’s destruction of Libya (2011). Concerned about racist barbarism? Among the countless episodes of mass-murderous U.S. savagery in the oil-rich Middle East over the last generation, few can match for the barbarous ferocity of the “Highway of Death,” where the “global policeman’s” forces massacred tens of thousands of surrendered Iraqi troops retreating from Kuwait on Feb. 26 and 27, 1991. Journalist Joyce Chediac testified that:

U.S. planes trapped the long convoys by disabling vehicles in the front, and at the rear, and then pounded the resulting traffic jams for hours. ‘It was like shooting fish in a barrel,’ said one U.S. pilot. On the sixty miles of coastal highway, Iraqi military units sit in gruesome repose, scorched skeletons of vehicles and men alike, black and awful under the sun … for 60 miles every vehicle was strafed or bombed, every windshield is shattered, every tank is burned, every truck is riddled with shell fragments. No survivors are known or likely. … ‘Even in Vietnam I didn’t see anything like this. It’s pathetic,’ said Major Bob Nugent, an Army intelligence officer. … U.S. pilots took whatever bombs happened to be close to the flight deck, from cluster bombs to 500-pound bombs. … U.S. forces continued to drop bombs on the convoys until all humans were killed. So many jets swarmed over the inland road that it created an aerial traffic jam, and combat air controllers feared midair collisions. … The victims were not offering resistance. … [I]t was simply a one-sided massacre of tens of thousands of people who had no ability to fight back or defend.

Talk about merciless savagery! The victims’ crime was having been conscripted into an army controlled by a dictator perceived as a threat to U.S. control of Middle Eastern oil. President George H.W. Bush welcomed the so-called Persian Gulf War as an opportunity to demonstrate America’s unrivaled power and new freedom of action in the post-Cold War world, where the Soviet Union could no longer deter Washington. Bush also heralded the “war” (really a one-sided imperial assault) as marking the end of the “Vietnam Syndrome,” the reigning political culture’s curious term for U.S. citizens’ reluctance to commit U.S. troops to murderous imperial mayhem.

As Noam Chomsky observed in 1992, reflecting on U.S. efforts to maximize suffering in Vietnam by blocking economic and humanitarian assistance to the nation it had devastated: “No degree of cruelty is too great for Washington sadists.”

Bush Junior’s invasion killed at least a million Iraqis. In a poignant 2015 memoir from “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” the former U.S. Marine and brilliant antiwar activist Vince Emanuel recalled “the hundreds of prisoners we took captive and tortured in makeshift detention facilities staffed by teenagers from Tennessee, New York and Oregon.” By Emanuel’s account:

“I never had the misfortune of working in the detention facility, but I remember the stories. I vividly remember the marines telling me about punching, slapping, kicking, elbowing, kneeing and head-butting Iraqis. I remember the tales of sexual torture: forcing Iraqi men to perform sexual acts on each other while marines held knives against their testicles, sometimes sodomizing them with batons.”

“However, before those abominations could take place, those of us in infantry units had the pleasure of rounding up Iraqis during night raids, zip-tying their hands, black-bagging their heads and throwing them in the back of HUMVEEs and trucks while their wives and kids collapsed to their knees and wailed. Sometimes, we would pick them up during the day. Most of the time they wouldn’t resist. Some of them would hold hands while marines would butt-stroke the prisoners in the face. Once they arrived at the detention facility, they would be held for days, weeks, and even months at a time. Their families were never notified. And when they were released, we would drive them from the FOB (Forward Operating Base) to the middle of the desert and release them several miles from their homes.”

“After we cut their zip-ties and took the black bags off their heads, several of our more deranged marines would fire rounds from their AR-15s into their air or ground, scaring the recently released captives. Always for laughs. Most Iraqis would run, still crying from their long ordeal at the detention facility, hoping some level of freedom awaited them on the outside. Who knows how long they survived. After all, no one cared…”

“Amazingly, the ability to dehumanize the Iraqi people reached a crescendo after the bullets and explosions concluded, as many marines spent their spare time taking pictures of the dead, often mutilating their corpses for fun or poking their bloated bodies with sticks for some cheap laughs. Because iPhones weren’t available at the time, several marines came to Iraq with digital cameras. Those cameras contain an untold history of the war in Iraq, a history the West hopes the world forgets. That history and those cameras also contain footage of wanton massacres and numerous other war crimes, realities the Iraqis don’t have the pleasure of forgetting.”

“Unfortunately…Innocent people were not only routinely rounded-up, tortured and imprisoned, they were also incinerated by the hundreds of thousands, some studies suggest by the millions.”

How lethal and fascist was that?

Is Trumpism fascism? It is interesting that the word does not appear once in Grandin’s superb End of the Myth, one of the most important books ever written by a left (or any other kind) of American historian. “The 2016 election of Donald Trump as president of the United States – and all the vitriol his campaign and presidency have unleased – has,” writes Grandin, “been presented by commentators as one of two opposing possibilities. Trumpism either represents a rupture, a wholly un-American movement that has captured the institutions of government; or he is the realization of a deep-rooted American form of extremism. Does Trump’s crass and cruel appeal to nativism represent a break from tradition, from a fitful but persistent commitment to tolerance and equality…? Or is it but the ‘dark side,’ to use Dick Cheney’s resonant phrase, of U.S. history coming into the light?”

Grandin sees the “dark side” coming back to the fore with a vengeance under Obama and Trump because new limits on American capitalist and imperial expansion have brought an end to the nation’s ability to displace its internal class and racial disparities on to the “frontier,” broadly understood:

“When fascism comes to America,” someone (possibly Huey Long, but not Sinclair Lewis) is supposed to have said or written in the 1930s, “it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” That is certainly true – every variant of national fascism will bear the imprint of the specific nation in which it arises – but it would have been better to say that “When American develops its own breed of fascism, it will be wrapped in the Star-Spangled Banner and carrying a cross.”

Fascism won’t come to America. It will emerge out of American history. Yes, “it could happen here,” to paraphrase Sinclair Lewis 84 years ago, with “it” meaning an fascism. But let us not turn away from how terrible and dangerous what had already happened here and what is happening now, richly consistent with a savagely racist, patriarchal, eco-cidal, authoritarian, and classist Americanism that is as old as this criminal, savagely merciless and “exceptional” nation itself.

Postscript: This essay was completed in the South Loop of Chicago, beneath the intermittent roar of deadly U.S. fighter jets doing practice flights over and around the Midwestern Metropolis’s downtown lakefront. The pilots are practicing for this weekend’s annual Chicago Air and Water Show, when a disproportionately white crowd of one million metropolitan area residents gather along the Chicago shoreline to ooh and ahh over some of the global American Empire’s most awe-inspiring weapons of air-borne mass destruction. The swoosh of the military planes can he heard in 95% Black ghetto South and West Side neighborhoods where a third and more of children are living at less than half the federal government’s hopelessly inadequate poverty level. The cost of just a single U.S. F-35 B Fighter Jet is $250 million (in 2014 dollars) a sum that could be used to vastly improve Chicago’s poorly funded and hyper-segregated inner-city public schools. Many parts of the U.S. military’s airborne arsenal bear Native-American names: the Blackhawk, Apache, and Chinook helicopters are three examples. The city’s National Hockey League team is named after the Sauk warrior who led the battle against white invaders in 1832, only to see his nation devastated and removed from the fertile planes of northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. Many Chicagoland residents wear “chief” Black Hawk’s profile on t-shirts and jerseys. When you ask them who Black Hawk was and what happened to his people, their responses range from embarrassed ignorance to bemused indifference, mild irritation, and overt hostility. One of the very top U.S. military aviation manufacturers, Boeing, is headquartered in downtown Chicago. Its overseas body count over the decades is incalculable but surely ranks in the millions.

counterpunch.org

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

Former MSNBC Reporter Spills Details on Pro-Establishment Bias in Media

Sat, 2019-08-17 17:57

Caitlin JOHNSTONE

The ridiculous corporate media freakout over Senator Bernie Sanders’ entirely legitimate accusations of pro-establishment bias continues today, with shrill, absurd new headlines like “Sanders campaign continues attacks on journalists” and “Bernie Sanders isn’t sorry” featuring hysterical MSM drama queens rending their garments over the suggestion that plutocrat-owned media outlets could be favorable to the plutocrat-owned establishment.

In response to this cartoonish display of billionaire-sponsored performance art, The Hill’s Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjati aired a segment on their online show Rising which is as damning an exposé on the dynamics of mass media empire propaganda as we are ever likely to witness. With startling frankness and honesty, the pair disclose their experience with the way anyone who is critical of the establishment consensus is excluded from mainstream media platforms, as well as the way access journalism, financial incentives, prestige incentives and peer pressure are used to herd mainstream reporters into toeing the establishment line once they’re in.

I strongly urge you to watch the eight-minute segment for yourself, but I’ll be transcribing parts of it as well for those who prefer reading, as well as for posterity, because it really is that historically significant. I will surely be referring back to this segment in my arguments about plutocratic media bias for years to come, because it confirms and validates everything that analysts like Noam Chomsky have been saying about mass media propaganda like nothing else I’ve ever seen. Status quo propaganda is the underlying root of all our problems, and Ball and Enjati have gifted us with an invaluable tool for understanding and attacking it.

After laying out the evidence from some recent examples of bias against Sanders in the mainstream media, former MSNBC reporter Krystal Ball (yes, her real name) asked rhetorically, “Now the question is why?”

“Look, obviously I’ve worked in this industry for a minute at this point and journalists aren’t bad people, in fact, they’re some of my closest friends and favorite people,” Ball said. “But they are people, they’re human beings who respond to their own self-interest, incentives and group think. So it’s not like there’s typically some edict coming down from the top saying ‘Be mean to Bernie’, but there are tremendous blind spots. I would argue the most egregious have to do with class. And there are certain pressures too — to stay in good with the establishment [and] to maintain the access that is the life blood of political journalism. So what do I mean? Let me give an example from my own career since everything I’m saying here really frankly applies to me too.”

“Look, obviously I’ve worked in this industry for a minute at this point and journalists aren’t bad people, in fact, they’re some of my closest friends and favorite people,” Ball said. “But they are people, they’re human beings who respond to their own self-interest, incentives and group think. So it’s not like there’s typically some edict coming down from the top saying ‘Be mean to Bernie’, but there are tremendous blind spots. I would argue the most egregious have to do with class. And there are certain pressures too — to stay in good with the establishment [and] to maintain the access that is the life blood of political journalism. So what do I mean? Let me give an example from my own career since everything I’m saying here really frankly applies to me too.”

“Back in early 2015 at MSNBC I did a monologue that some of you may have seen pretty much begging Hillary Clinton not to run,” Ball continued. “I said her elite ties were out of step with the party and the country, that if she ran she would likely be the nominee and would then go on to lose. No one censored me, I was allowed to say it, but afterwards the Clinton people called and complained to the MSNBC top brass and threatened not to provide any access during the upcoming campaign. I was told that I could still say what I wanted, but I would have to get any Clinton-related commentary cleared with the president of the network. Now being a human interested in maintaining my job, I’m certain I did less critical Clinton commentary after that than I maybe otherwise would have.”

Many journalists – either for self-serving reasons or due to genuine befuddlement – are completely misinterpreting Bernie’s media critique. The person who explained it most clearly was Noam Chomsky in this 90-second answer to an equally confused BBC host. This will clear it up: pic.twitter.com/AgznEp3LB1

— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) August 13, 2019

“Back in the run up to 2016 I wanted to cover the negotiations on TPP more,” Ball disclosed a bit later. “I was told though, in no uncertain terms that no one cared about trade and it didn’t rate. To be clear, this was not based on data but on gut feeling and gut feeling that had to influenced by one’s personal experience mixing and mingling with upscale denizens of Manhattan. I didn’t really push it; maybe they were right. Of course TPP and trade turned out to be one of the most central issues in the entire 2016 election. It turns out that people did, in fact, care. Now this class bias translates into bad coverage of candidates with working class appeal, and it translates to under-coverage of issues that are vitally important to the working class.”

Ball’s co-host Saagar Enjati went on to describe his own similar experiences as a White House correspondent.

“This is something that a lot of people don’t understand,” Enjati said. “It’s not necessarily that somebody tells you how to do your coverage, it’s that if you were to do your coverage that way, you would not be hired at that institution. So it’s like if you do not already fit within this framework, then the system is designed to not give you a voice. And if you necessarily did do that, all of the incentive structures around your pay, around your promotion, around your colleagues that are slapping you on the back, that would all disappear. So it’s a system of reinforcement, which makes it so that you wouldn’t go down that path in the first place.”

“I’ve definitely noticed this in the White House press corps, which is a massive bias to ask questions that make everybody else in the room happy, AKA Mueller questions,” Enjati continued. “Guess what the American people don’t care about? Mueller. So when you ask a question — I’ve had this happen to me all the time. I would ask a question about North Korea, like, you know, war and nuclear weapons that affect billions. Or I would ask about the Supreme Court, the number one issue why Trump voters voted for President Trump, and I would get accused of toadying to the administration or not asking what Jim Acosta or whomever wanted me to ask. It’s like, you know, everybody plays to their peers, they don’t actually play to the people they’re supposed to cover, and that’s part of the problem.”

“Right, and again, it’s not necessarily intentional,” Ball added. “It’s that those are the people that you’re surrounded with, so there becomes a group-think. And look, you are aware of what you’re going to be rewarded for and what you’re going to be punished for, or not rewarded for, like that definitely plays in the mind, whether you want it to or not, that’s a reality.”

“Every time I took that message to ask Trump a question, I knew that my Twitter messages were going to blow up from MSNBC or Ken Dilanian or whomever for ‘toadying’ up to the administration, and it takes a lot to be able to withstand that,” Enjeti concluded.

As we just discussed the other day, Ken Dilanian is literally a known CIA asset. This is not a conspiracy theory, it’s a well-documented and historically undeniable fact, as shown in this Intercept article titled “The CIA’s Mop-Up Man”. The testimony that Dilanian’s establishment sycophancy affects not just his own reporting but those of other reporters as well via strategically placed peer pressure is highly significant.

For obvious reasons these insider confessions are as rare as hen’s teeth, so we must absorb them, circulate them, and never forget them. I’m still floored and fall-to-my-knees grateful to Ball and Enjati for putting this information out there for the sake of the common good. Our task is now to use the information they provided to help wake people up from the narrative control matrix.

medium.com

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

The Anglo-American Origins of Color Revolutions & NED

Sat, 2019-08-17 17:44

A few years ago, very few people understood the concept behind color revolutions.

Had Russia and China’s leadership not decided to unite in solidarity in 2012 when they began vetoing the overthrow of Bashar al Assad in Syria- followed by their alliance around the Belt and Road Initiative, then it is doubtful that the color revolution concept would be as well-known as it has become today.

At that time, Russia and China realized that they had no choice but to go on the counter offensive, since the regime change operations and colour revolutions orchestrated by such organizations as the CIA-affiliated National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and Soros Open Society Foundations were ultimately designed to target them as those rose, orange, green or yellow revolution efforts in Georgia, Ukraine, Iran or Hong Kong were always recognized as weak points on the periphery of the threatened formation of a great power alliance of sovereign Eurasian nations that would have the collective power to challenge the power of the Anglo-American elite based in London and Wall Street.

Russia’s 2015 expulsion of 12 major conduits of color revolution included Soros’ Open Society Foundation as well as the NED was a powerful calling out of the enemy with the Foreign Ministry calling them “a threat to the foundations of Russia’s Constitutional order and national security”. This resulted in such fanatical calls by George Soros for a $50 billion fund to counteract Russia’s interference in defense of Ukraine’s democracy. Apparently the $5 billion spent by the NED in Ukraine was not nearly enough (1).

In spite of the light falling upon these cockroaches, NED and Open Society operations continued in full force focusing on the weakest links the Grand Chessboard unleashing what has become known as a “strategy of tension”. Venezuela, Kashmir, Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjian (dubbed East Turkistan by NED) have all been targeted in recent years with millions of NED dollars pouring into separatist groups, labour unions, student movements and fake news “opinion shapers” under the guise of “democracy building”. $1.7 million in grants was spent by NED in Hong Kong since 2017 which was a significant increase from their $400 000 spent to coordinate the failed “Occupy HK” protest in 2014.

The Case of China

In response to over two months of controlled chaos, the Chinese government has kept a remarkably restrained posture, allowing the Hong Kong authorities to manage the situation with their police deprived of use of lethal weapons and even giving into the protestors’ demand that the changes to the extradition treaty that nominally sparked this mess be annulled. In spite of this patient tone, the rioters who have run havoc on airports and public buildings have created lists of demands that are all but impossible for mainland China to meet including 1) an “independent committee to investigate the abuses of Chinese authorities”, 2) for china to stop referring to rioters as “rioters”, 3) for all charges against rioters to be dropped, and 4) universal suffrage- including candidates promoting independence or rejoining the British Empire.

As violence continues to grow, and as it has become an increasing reality that some form of intervention from the mainland may occur to restore order, the British Foreign Office has taken an aggressive tone threatening China with “severe consequences” unless “a fully independent investigation” into police Brutality were permitted. The former Colonial Governor of China Christopher Patten attacked China by saying “Since president Xi has been in office, there’s been a crackdown on dissent and dissidents everywhere, the party has been in control of everything”.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry responded saying “the UK has no sovereign jurisdiction or right of supervision over Hong Kong… it is simply wrong for the British Government to exert pressure. The Chinese side seriously urges the UK to stop its interference in China’s internal affairs and stop making random and inflammatory accusations on Hong Kong.”

The British have not been able to conduct their manipulation of Hong Kong without the vital role of America’s NGO dirty ops, and in true imperial fashion, the political class from both sides of the aisle have attacked China with Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi making the loudest noise driving the American House Foreign Affairs Committee to threaten “universal condemnation and swift consequences” if Beijing intervenes. This has only made the photographs of Julie Eadeh, the head of Political Office at the American Consulate in Hong Kong meeting with leaders of the Hong Kong demonstrations that much more disgusting to any onlooker.

While both Britain and America have been caught red handed organizing this colour revolution, it is important to keep in mind who is controlling who.

The Foreign Origins of the NED

Contrary to popular opinion, the British Empire did not go away after WWII, nor did it hand over the “keys to the kingdom” to America. It didn’t even become America’s Junior Partner in a new Anglo-American special relationship. Contrary to popular belief, it stayed in the drivers’ seat.

The post WWII order was largely shaped by a British coup which didn’t take over America without a fight. Nests of Oxford-trained Rhodes Scholars, Fabians and other ideologues embedded within the American establishment had a lot of work ahead of them as they struggled to purge all nationalist impulses from the American intelligence community. While the most aggressive purging of patriotic Americans from the intelligence community occurred during the dissolution of the OSS and creation of MI6 in 1947 and the Communist witch hunt that followed, there were other purges that were less well known.

As an organization which was beginning to take form which was to become known as the Trilateral Commission organized by Britain’s “hand in America” called the Council on Foreign Relations and international Bilderberg Group, another purge occurred in 1970 under the direction of James Schlesinger during his six month stint as CIA director. At that time 1000 top CIA officials deemed “unfit” were fired. This was followed nine years later as another 800 were fired under a list drafted by CIA “spymaster” Ted Shackley. Both Schlesinger and Shackley were high level Trilateral Commission members who took part in the group’s 1973 formation and fully took power of America during Jimmy Carter’s 1977-1981 presidency which unleashed a dystopian reorganization of American foreign and internal policy outlined in my previous report.

Project Democracy Takes Over

By the 1970s, the CIA’s dirty hand funding anarchist operations both within America and abroad had become too well known as media coverage of their dirty operations at home and abroad spoiled the patriotic image which the intelligence community then desired. While the internal resistance to fascist behaviour from within the intelligence Community itself was dealt with through purges, the reality was that a new agency had to be created to take over those functions of covert destabilization of foreign governments.

What became Project Democracy herein originated with a Trilateral Commission meeting in May 31, 1975 in Kyoto Japan as a protégé of Trilateral Commission director Zbigniew Brzezinski named Samuel (Clash of Civilizations) Huntington delivered the results of his Task Force on the Governability of Democracies. This project was supervised by Schlesinger and Brzezinski and presented the notion that democracies could not function adequately in the crisis conditions which the Trilateral Commission was preparing to impose onto America and the world through a process dubbed “the Controlled Disintegration of Society”.

The Huntington report featured at the Trilateral meeting stated: “One might consider… means of securing support and resources from foundations, business corporations, labor unions, political parties, civic associations, and, where possible and appropriate, governmental agencies for the creation of an institute for the strengthening of democratic institutions.”

It took 4 years for this blueprint to become reality. In 1979 three Trilateral Commission members named William Brock (RNC Chairman), Charles Manatt (DNC Chairman) and George Agree (head of Freedom House) established an organization called the American Political Foundation (APF) which attempted to fulfil the objective laid out by Huntington in 1975.

The APF was used to set up a program using federal funds called the Democracy Program which issued an interim report “The Commitment to Democracy” which said: “No theme requires more sustained attention in our time than the necessity for strengthening the future chances of democratic societies in a world that remains predominantly unfree or partially fettered by repressive governments. … There has never been a comprehensive structure for a non-governmental effort through which the resources of America’s pluralistic constituencies . .. could be mobilized effectively.”

In May 1981, Henry Kissinger who had replaced Brzezinski as head of the Trilateral Commission and had many operatives planted around President Reagan, gave a speech at Britain’s Chatham House (the controlling hand behind the Council on Foreign Relations) where he described his work as Secretary of State saying that the British “became a participant in internal American deliberations, to a degree probably never practiced between sovereign nations… In my White House incarnation then, I kept the British Foreign Office better informed and more closely engaged than I did the American State Department… It was symptomatic”. In his speech, Kissinger outlined the battle between Churchill vs FDR during WWII and made the point that he favored the Churchill worldview for the post war world (And ironically also that of Prince Metternich who ran the Congress of Vienna that snuffed out democratic movements across Europe in 1815).

In June 1982, Reagan’s Westminster Palace speech officially inaugurated the NED and by November 1983, the National Endowment for Democracy Act was passed bringing this new covert organization into reality with $31 million of funding under four subsidiary organizations (AFL-CIO Free Trade Union Institute, The US Chamber of Commerce’s Center for International Private Enterprise, the International Republican Institute and the International Democratic Institute) (2).

Throughout the 1980s, this organization went to work managing Iran-Contra, destabilizing Soviet states and unleashing the first “official” modern color revolution in the form of the Yellow revolution that ousted Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos. Speaking more candidly than usual, NED President David Ignatius said in 1991 “a lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA”.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the NED was instrumental in bringing former Warsaw Pact nations into NATO/WTO system and the New World Order was announced by Bush Sr. and Kissinger- both of whom were rewarded with knighthoods for their service to the Crown in 1992 and 1995 respectively.

Of course, the vast web of NGOs permeating the geopolitical terrain can only be effective as long as no one says the truth and “names the game”. The very act of calling out their nefarious motives renders them impotent and this simple fact has made the recently announced China-Russia arrangement to formulate a proper strategic response to color revolutions so important in the current fight.

___________________________

(1) Undoubtedly President Trump’s gutting of NED funding by two thirds in 2018 only re-enforced Soros’ accusations that Putin is the guiding hand in America while pouring millions into anti-Trump regime change operations in America. While neocons such as Boldon, Pompeo and Senate leader Mitch Mcconnell have taken a hardline stance against China in support of the color revolution, it should be noted that Trump has continuously taken an opposite line Tweeting on August 14 that “China is not our problem” and that “the problem is with the FED”.

(2) At the beginning of 1984, a similar re-organization had occurred in Canada under the guidance of Privy Council Clerk/Trilateral Commission member Michael Pitfield who created CSIS when the RCMP’s “dirty operations” during the FLQ crisis were made known in a series of newspaper reports.

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

Raising the Red Flag: Americans Fear a Gun Grab on the Horizon

Sat, 2019-08-17 17:26

With each new mass shooting to hit the Heartland, calls reverberate across sections of the political spectrum for major infringements to be placed on gun ownership – in contravention of the US Constitution.

Gun ownership has prevented untold deaths, assaults and robberies over the years, yet that positive news rarely features high in the media. By comparison, the public is bombarded with endless days of non-stop reporting with every Columbine, Sandy Hook, Las Vegas and El Paso tragedy to the point that it seems only a matter of time when the pendulum of public opinion swings in favor of major anti-gun laws. Such a day would most likely herald in an epic showdown between US liberals and conservatives the likes of which the country has never seen.

The situation has escalated to the point when political leaders, not least of all the POTUS, are hamstrung from speaking out about specific problems affecting the country lest they actually be accused of aiding and abetting would-be psychopaths. For example, Donald Trump, speaking about the dire situation at the US-Mexico border, called the influx of illegals into the country an “invasion.” Which is exactly what it is.

Yet when Patrick Crusius, 21, who shot and killed 22 people at an El Paso shopping center in early August, penned a manifesto using the “invasion” description, the American leader was accused of fanning the flames of hate, as if he was the only person to have acknowledged the crisis. If anything, the partisan standoff demonstrates the dangerous crossroads at where the Democrats and Republicans now find themselves on so many issues, with gun rights front and center.

Like clockwork, with every mass shooting the Democrats demand stricter gun control laws without ever considering other possible roots to the problem. Americans, after all, have owned guns since the days of the nation’s founding yet only within the last several decades has the incident of mass shootings become a regularly occurring event. What has changed? For starters, how about the number of Americans who are using antidepressants? On average, a whopping 13 percent of the population has taken some sort of antidepressants “in the past month” (2017), while the percentage of people using and abusing this medication, according to the latest statistics, surged 64 percent between 1999 and 2014.

“A common thread amongst the most horrific school shootings of the past 25 years is that the majority of the shooters were taking a psychiatric medication,” wrote Hyla Cass, M.D., following the Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

This glaringly neglected side of the argument has been exposed by numerous studies on the subject, yet politicians on the left, together with the left-leaning mainstream media, rarely inform the public about the link between gun violence and drug use. Instead, they go ‘nuclear,’ as it were, demanding that America’s millions of law-abiding gun owners submit to regulatory measures.

Here is just one Catch-22 scenario facing gun owners: as the prescription of antidepressant medication increases exponentially, together with the aggressive behavior linked to such drug use, it becomes increasingly easy for practically anyone to fall into the category of “medically dependent,” which may someday warrant a person losing their gun rights. The question is worth pondering considering the unprecedented amount of people now on antidepressants. Would some future universal gun ownership directory be matched up against medical records, depriving millions of their guns?

The Democrats have proposed expanding background checks for potential gun owners, as well as passing so-called red flag laws (otherwise known as Extreme Risk Protection Order Laws), which are intended to keep guns away from “high-risk” individuals. In reality, however, they are a cure worse than the disease, where we believe we can accost individuals to disrupt some future illegal activity. Such was the theme of the 2002 Tom Cruise film Minority Report where criminals are apprehended before a crime has been committed thanks to the psychic work of a special police unit. Such outlandish legislation is being touted not just by the perennial anti-gun Democrats, like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, but from influential Republicans, including Rep. Dan Crenshaw, who seems to have alienated thousands of erstwhile supporters with just a single tweet.

The solutions aren’t obvious, even if we pretend they are. But we must try. Let’s start with the TAPS Act. Maybe also implement state “red flag” laws, or gun violence restraining orders. Stop them before they can hurt someone.https://t.co/2G2pZSWaF1

— Rep. Dan Crenshaw (@RepDanCrenshaw) August 4, 2019

At the same time, Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio is working to pass legislation that has been described as “red laws on steroids.”

“Rubio’s TAPS Act would encourage law enforcement to give EVERYONE a personal threat assessment (adults and children) and single out those they deem as future threats,” writes David Leach in The Strident Conservative. “That information would then be used as a kind of Precog substitute to “stop dangerous individuals before they can commit an act of violence.”

Such slippery-slope legislation would empower anyone – from an acquaintance to a family member to a police officer – to file a complaint with regards to a particular individual they may deem “suspicious.” Perhaps the person is not even mentally ill, but rather just very outspoken on social media about a particular issue, like illegal migrants arriving through the crack in the US-Mexico border, for example. Let’s be honest. What liberal would not jump at the chance of filing a report on some NRA member they despise on Twitter, for example? And judging from what we already know about social justice warriors and their uncanny ability to get legislation passed in their favor, it’s not difficult to imagine the authorities appearing at the crack of dawn at some gun owner’s residence with a court order to seize all weapons.

That is the intrinsic problem with these ref-flag laws. Once authority is granted to seize guns from suspected ‘high-risk’ individuals – on the face of it, not a bad-sounding proposal –the door for interpreting who should be deemed suspicious, and on what grounds, and by whom will challenge the US justice system, not to mention the US Constitution, in a million different ways.

In the end, it may be the law-abiding gun owner who loses his or her constitutional rights to not only the Second Amendment, but the Fourth as well, under every conceivable “perceived threat” excuse imaginable. We cannot allow the government to believe they can play psychic mind readers when it comes to our inalienable rights.

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

Tulsi Gabbard Gets Some Vindication

Fri, 2019-08-16 18:25

Scott RITTER

In the aftermath of the second Democratic primary debate on July 31, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard emerged as the most Googled of all candidates, an indication that her performance (which included a stunning takedown of California Sen. Kamala Harris over her criminal justice record) attracted the attention of many viewers. This heightened level of attention produced blowback, both from Harris, who dismissed Gabbard as “an Assad apologist” (a reference to Syrian President Bashar Assad), and from the mainstream media, typified by CNN’s Chris Cuomo, who alleged that Gabbard—a major in the Hawaiian National Guard, with two tours of duty in the Middle East under her belt—is taking the side of Assad over the U.S. intelligence community and U.N. inspectors when it comes to assigning blame for chemical weapons attacks against Syrian civilians.

“What you are referring to are [sic] cynicism as skepticism that I have expressed, because I’ve served in a war that was caused by people who lied to us, who lied to the American people, who presented false evidence that members of Congress and U.S. senators believed and voted for a war that resulted in the loss of lives of over 4,000 of my brothers and sisters in uniform,” Gabbard replied to Cuomo. “It’s our responsibility as lawmakers and as leaders in this country to make sure that our U.S. military is not being activated and deployed to go to war unless we are certain a) that it serves the best interests of the American people; and b) that that action will actually have a positive impact. The questions I’m raising are based on this experience that I’ve had.”

As someone who challenged the position of the U.S. government regarding Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs before the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, I believe that Gabbard’s skepticism over allegations that the Assad government used chemical weapons to attack the towns of Khan Shaykhun in 2017 and Douma in 2018 is well placed.

Gabbard has detailed her concerns about allegations of chemical weapon use in Syria on her campaign website. Her position, and her reliance on the work of Theodore Postol, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor who has published critical assessments of both the Khan Shaykhun and Douma incidents, has drawn the ire of many in the mainstream media and elsewhere, including Eliot Higgins, founder of the website Bellingcat, who published a scathing rebuttal of both Postol’s work and Gabbard’s reliance on it.

My purpose here is not to check the veracity of Postol’s research, rebut Higgins’ claims or fact-check Gabbard’s web page. What I will do, as a veteran Marine Corps intelligence officer and experienced weapons inspector, is throw my weight behind Gabbard’s expression of skepticism.

The chemical incident at Douma on April 7, 2018, has been largely debunked—the initial claims regarding the use of the nerve agent sarin have been shown to be false, and evidence has emerged that indicates that a pair of chlorine tanks claimed to have been dropped by helicopters belonging to the Syrian military as weapons were, in fact, manually placed at the scene by opposition forces. There is no doubt that the initial assessment of the situation used by the U.S. government to justify a military strike in response to the allegations regarding Douma was fundamentally flawed, and that Gabbard—alone among all the Democratic presidential hopefuls—was correct to expressed her doubt over its veracity.

More complicated is the incident that occurred at Khan Shaykhun on April 4, 2017. Here, investigators from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) claim to have uncovered evidence that civilians from Khan Shaykhun were exposed to Sarin. The key question surrounding the Khan Shaykhun incident isn’t whether Sarin was used, but rather whoused it. The U.S. government and the OPCW have concluded that the Syrian government is responsible for the attack. Postol, Gabbard and I all have concerns over that conclusion.

No independent investigator has been to the site of the Khan Shaykhun incident, including the OPCW investigators who assert Syrian government responsibility. This is a crucial fact that fundamentally affects how data is evaluated. Khan Shaykhun was, at the time of the alleged attack, under the control of opposition forces loyal to the Nusra Front, an al-Qaida offshoot. Several nongovernmental organizations also were present, including the White Helmets, a civil defense/rescue organization, and the Syrian American Medical Society, or SAMS, which provides volunteer medical care in opposition-controlled Syria. Both the White Helmets and SAMS operated under the auspices of the Nusra Front while working in the Khan Shaykhun region. In conducting its investigation, the OPCW relied exclusively upon the White Helmets and SAMS for information regarding the alleged attack, access to alleged victims of the attack for interviews and medical testing, and physical samples alleged to have been removed from the scene of the attack.

This reality is fatal to the credibility of any finding issued by the OPCW. In my 10-plus years as a weapons inspector in both the former Soviet Union and Iraq, I helped write the book on on-site inspections, including developing initial procedures for establishing chain of custody for chemical samples gathered during an inspection. I can assert, without fear of being contradicted, that there can be no formal, legally binding attribution or conclusion made from evidence that lacks an absolute chain of custody from moment of collection to final analysis. This was the case with the United Nations Special Command (UNSCOM) in Iraq, and with the U.N. mission to investigate alleged chemical weapons incidents in Syria. That mission, which operated in Syria from Aug. 19 through Sept. 30, 2013, is on record as rejecting numerous evidentiary materials on the basis of being unable to “independently verify the information received” or “verify the chain of custody for … sampling.”

The OPCW, however, modified its procedures to allow the introduction of both the White Helmets and SAMS into the evidentiary chain of custody, embracing them as a means of information verification even though OPCW investigators were not part of the initiating processes involved in witness selection and screening. This failure to adhere to fundamentals has cast doubt on the credibility of the OPCW’s findings, if for no other reason than that it allowed an al-Qaida-affiliated entity—the Nusra Front—to fundamentally shape its investigation, thereby opening its conclusions to challenge.

Postol and Higgins expend significant effort on discussing the science of sarin; I take a more basic approach to the Khan Shaykhun incident: How did the sarin get there? The OPCW concludes that “a relatively large bomb” delivered “from a medium or high altitude, of between approximately 4,000 and 10,000 m[eters]” is the probable delivery means of the sarin used at Khan Shaykhun. This assessment is highly problematic, especially because it was impossible for the aircraft the OPCW asserts was used to deliver this bomb—a Syrian air force Su-22—to accomplish this task. If it was impossible for the Syrians to drop a chemical bomb on Khan Shaykhun from an aircraft, then the entire episode, as recounted by the OPCW—based upon evidence provided by the Nusra Front, the White Helmet and SAMS—must be viewed as a fabrication.

The OPCW cites radar maps provided by the United States and France that place an Su-22 aircraft over Khan Shaykhun on the morning of April 4, 2017. “The aircraft was depicted as flying in a circular loop pattern in the vicinity of Kafr Zayta and north-east of Khan Shaykhun,” the OPCW report noted. “The map indicated that the closest to Khan Shaykhun that the aircraft had flown had been approximately 5 [kilometers] away.”

This information conforms with Syrian air force logs provided to the OPCW by the Syrian government, as well as a statement provided by a Syrian pilot who flew the Su-22 aircraft on the morning of April 4; the pilot claimed the closest he had flown to Khan Shaykhun was seven to nine kilometers, while carrying out an attack using conventional munitions near the village of Kafr Zayta, situated approximately eight kilometers southwest of Khan Shaykhun.

The OPCW said it consulted with an unnamed “weapons expert” to determine “the confluence of distance and altitude from which it might be possible to hit Khan Shaykhun with an aerial bomb.” The “expert” concluded that “depending on a number of variables such as altitude, speed and the flight path taken, it would be possible for such an aerial bomb to be dropped on the town from the aforementioned distances.” The OPCW did not provide the variables used by the “expert” in making this determination, or an example by which these variables could produce the outcome claimed.

There is a simple reason why it did not—the “expert” is dead wrong.

briefing provided by a Russian air force officer directly contradicts the OPCW claims that an Su-22 aircraft dropped a bomb on Khan Shaykhun on the morning in question. For the Su-22 to carry out an attack, the Russian officer noted, it must visually acquire the target and, from an altitude of no more than 4,000 meters, fly directly at the target at a speed of 800 to 1,000 kilometers per hour. Based upon these parameters, the release point of a bomb would be between 1,000 and 5,800 meters distant from the target. Even then, the Su-22 would require an additional three to nine kilometers to make a turn away from the target after dropping the bomb. The radar track used by the OPCW shows an Su-22 aircraft flying west of Khan Shaykhun, on a path parallel to the town. The flight path is not consistent with that needed to deliver a bomb on Khan Shaykhun.

While Western “experts” have dismissed the Russian presentation as a charade, I find it credible. As a former aircrew member of a Marine Corps OA-4 Skyhawk light attack aircraft, which possesses performance characteristics similar to that of the Su-22, I have flown air-to-ground strike missions similar to that claimed for Khan Shaykhun. I could fly the flight profile indicated by the U.S. radar track 100 times, and never get a bomb anywhere near the area where the Khan Shaykhun crater in question is located. This point is furthered by the fact that a basic analysis of the crater puts the azimuth of strike nearly perpendicular to the line of flight of the Su-22 when passing west of the town; for a bomb to have been delivered, the aircraft would have had to significantly depart from its flight path, overflying the target, before turning and resuming its course. The radar shows no such deviation. (The “loops” flown by the aircraft north of Khan Shaykhun could likewise never have provided the direction of attack needed to deliver a bomb to the crater in question.) This is the crux of the problem facing the OPCW—it claims that an aerial bomb loaded with sarin was used to strike Khan Shaykhun, and yet the evidence it provides regarding the presence of the sole vector capable of delivering this weapon—the Syrian Su-22—disproves its case.

The tale of the Syrian Su-22 represents both the alpha and omega of the allegations of Syrian government complicity regarding the use of sarin at Khan Shaykhun. One can debate sarin persistency, alternative vectors for agent delivery and other tangential issues until they are blue in the face. But for the Nusra Front, White Helmet and SAMS narrative to be viable, there must have been an attack by a Syrian air force Su-22 that delivered an aerial bomb to the center of Khan Shaykhun. Yet the evidence provided demonstrates conclusively that this could not have occurred. Based upon this reality, everything that follows must be viewed as a “false flag” incident or, as Gabbard’s website notes, “evidence to suggest that the attacks may have been staged by opposition forces for the purpose of drawing the United States and the West deeper into the war.”

“I believe,” Gabbard states on her website, “that we should all carefully look at the evidence before coming to any conclusions as to whether or not al-Qaeda or the Syrian government were responsible for these particular attacks.” That she has done so with a critical eye is not only commendable, but what one would expect from a soldier who seeks to be the commander in chief of the U.S. military.

That the mainstream media continue to attack Gabbard for her stance on Syria and chemical weapons is indicative of the low bar that exists for American journalism today. That President Trump and all the Democratic presidential candidates have failed to display a modicum of intellectual curiosity about what really happened in Douma and Khan Shaykhun should alarm any American who professes to care about issues of war and peace.

truthdig.com

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

Kashmir: The Fight for the High Ground Has Started

Fri, 2019-08-16 18:10

India’s unilateral abrogation of the autonomous status of Kashmir, previously guaranteed by the Indian Constitution, is but a first step toward nations around the world taking steps to seize higher altitude land as global warming and sea-level rise increasingly cascade in intensity. Warming oceans, melting permafrost, glaciers, and ice sheets are rapidly affecting sea levels, especially during high tides.

Around the world, dormant and low intensity rival claims to contested territory in mountainous regions, from the Himalayan Range to the western Golan Heights in the Middle East and the territory of the Kurdistan Regional Government to southern Sakhalin Island, have been spurred on by current and projected rise in sea levels.

Governments are beginning to contemplate the movement of urban populations living at or slightly above sea level to more secure and sustainable higher altitude zones. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the region of Jammu and Kashmir, which sits at the western end of the Himalayan Mountains and for which there are territorial claims by India, Pakistan, China, and a Kashmiri independence movement. India views Kashmir as a future home for climate change refugees from coastal metropolitan areas like Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Ghaziabad, Surat, and Faridabad. Annual monsoon rains are resulting in more intensive flooding in these urban areas.

Other than the political dimensions stemming from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution, which granted special autonomous rights to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the action also scraps the provision that had banned land sales in the state to non-residents of Kashmir. The majority Muslim population of Kashmir now fears that there will be a rush to buy land by wealthy Hindus, especially from Indian cities threatened by increased flooding.

The blitzkrieg swiftness by which Modi altered Jammu and Kashmir’s status from an autonomous state to the bifurcated “union territories” of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh has observers on the subcontinent and beyond convinced that a major land grab is now imminent for the western Himalayan region. By executive fiat, Modi ordered additional Indian troops into the former state, supplementing the half-million Indian armed forces personnel already stationed in Kashmir. Indian forces imposed a draconian curfew in Kashmir and all telecommunications, including landlines, were severed with the outside world. Religious pilgrims and tourists were ordered to leave Kashmir immediately with Indian Air Force planes flying many stunned visitors out of the area. More than 500 Kashmiri political and religious leaders, including three former chief ministers of the now-abolished government in Kashmir, were arrested by Indian security forces.

Pakistan suspended the Friendship Express train service with India. In addition, Indian and Pakistani border troops exchanged fire along the volatile border, known as the “Line of Control,” in the Rajouri sector. Pakistan also announced the expulsion of the Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad and a suspension of trade with India.

There are current fears that Modi will next move to abrogate Article 371 of the Constitution and eliminate the special status of the mountainous states of Nagaland, Sikkim, Assam, Manipur, Sikkim, Mizoram, and Arunachal Pradesh in the eastern Himalayas, which would result in the lifting current restrictions on the sale of land to outsiders. The governments of the Himalayan nations of Nepal and Bhutan are increasingly suspicious about the wider territorial ambitions of Modi, a right-wing Hindu nationalist, on the future independence of their countries.

Modi’s actions are generally similar to China’s moves in Tibet and Sinkiang, where there is a policy of populating the regions with ethnic Han Chinese from the densely populated coastal areas of eastern China. The increasing acquisition of land for Han-populated residential areas comes at the expense of Buddhist ethnic Tibetans and Turkic-speaking Muslim Uighurs in Sinkiang.

There is evidence that given the closer ties between India and Israel that Modi’s move on Kashmir was encouraged by Israel. Kashmir has become a favorite destination for Israeli tourists and Israel Defense Force mountain warfare trainees. Moreover, Trump’s recent unilateral recognition of Syria’s Golan Heights and Jerusalem as Israeli sovereign territory sent a clear green light to Modi that, as far as Washington is concerned, he could officially absorb Kashmir into India without raising even an eyebrow in Washington.

What makes matters worse with the land grab for Kashmir is that India is officially laying claim to other parts of Kashmir currently occupied by Pakistan and China. Pakistan controls “Free Jammu and Kashmir, known as “Azad Kashmir,” along with Gilgit-Baltistan. China controls Aksai Chin, which is administered as part of Hotan County in the restive Xinjiang Autonomous Region. Presenting a recipe for disaster, three nuclear-armed nations brandish competing claims to prized high altitude territory that is suitable for the relocation of displaced climate refugees from coastal urban areas. The possibility for the first exchange of nuclear weapons between nuclear-armed states has risen exponentially with Modi’s move. India and Pakistan have fought several large and smaller wars over Kashmir since 1947 and the possibility that another conventional armed skirmish could go nuclear should not be underestimated.

The reaction of Pakistan and China to India’s move has been predictably inflammatory. The Chinese Foreign Ministry reiterated that India’s absorption of Ladakh involves “Chinese land.” Pakistan officially views India’s abrogation of Kashmir’s special status within the Indian Union as “illegal.” Pakistan also stated that it would “exercise all possible options” in reaction to India’s move.

The wars for fresh water supplies and higher altitude territory has commenced. Israel’s absorption of the Golan Heights and its proximity to the fresh water Sea of Galilee is an insurance policy for the eventual resettlement of climate refugees from inundated portions of Tel Aviv and Haifa.

Iraq is reinforcing its sovereignty claims to the mountainous territory currently government by the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq. Sea level increases are already affecting Basra, which sits along the marshy Shatt al-Arab river. The city is also ready experiencing seawater intrusion into the Shatt al-Arab, which has resulted in unsuitable water for drinking and crops. A shift in the population of the largely Shi’a population of the area northward to mountainous areas is not a question of if but when.

Japan has recently been flexing its muscles over its former territories in the Kurile Islands and South Sakhalin, which are currently part of the Russian Federation. As sea-level increases and parts of Tokyo, Osaka-Kobe, and other major coastal cities in Japan become uninhabitable, the mountainous areas of what Japan calls its “Northern Territories” will become increasingly coveted, setting the stage for a further increase in tensions in the already volatile northeastern Asia.

Argentina’s and Chile’s shared freshwater-abundant and highly arable Patagonia region is attracting wealthy land purchasers from around the world – including the United States, Israel, France, Italy, Denmark, the United Kingdom, and increasingly, climate change threatened Netherlands and Dubai. This land rush is taking place even as the Patagonian icefields are melting. The joke in Argentina is that the foreigners are buying up what has been described as the extremely remote “end of the world” for the actual “end of the world.” The same is true of an increasingly habitable Greenland, which has recently attracted prospective investors from China.

Wars were once fought over natural resources, ideology, and religion. Today, the old rule book as been superseded. It is now a fight for survival and the countries that conquer the higher altitude regions with livable climates and natural resources will remain after over-populated coastal areas succumb to oceanic deluges.

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

Why Liberal Internationalism Has Already Lost the Global Struggle for the Future

Fri, 2019-08-16 17:40

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s June 27 interview with the Financial Times newspaper in London stating that liberal internationalism is now toxic and dying unleashed a totally predictable wave of outrage across the West. But Putin knew what he was doing and saying and of course he was absolutely right.

The Russian president has been unique among 21st global leaders not just for taking a long view of events – most politicians in power for more than a few months imagine they are doing that. But Putin has always known very clearly where he is in the great continuum of Russian history.

Putin has continually sought peaceful cooperation, partnership and good relations with the West – and almost always been rebuffed except when the West desperately needed Russia’s help. But above all, he has sought to preserve and revive traditional Russian values and create a stable, prosperous and growing society.

After 20 years in power, Putin along with his deputy and longtime right hand man Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has made an astonishing amount of progress to roll back the horrific moral, demographic, environmental and psychological damage inflicted by three quarters of a century of communism. Yet the task remains monumental.

Above all, Putin, like so many other Russia’s remembers and embraces Dostoyevsky’s insight that the communist nightmare grew out of Western liberalism, unleashed and unrestrained. And he sees clearly that since the collapse of communism and the end of the Cold War in 1989-91, international liberalism with its unyielding demands of total free trade and total, open borders, pop and population movements has unleashed a new dark age of chaos on suffering humanity.

The pathologies of international human trafficking, trading of millions of young children in sex rings around the world and the chaos caused by currency manipulations and crashing economies have ne ow reached levels unimagined even at the end of the 20th century.

The “future,” Putin realizes, lies with strong, coherent nation states like Russia, China and others reclaiming power and control into their own hands and seeking to cooperate constructively with each other.

The Western delusions of unlimited Free Trade and Open Borders have come to only unleash chaos, poverty, needless wars and the destruction of advanced societies ‘ safety and stability by unlimited and unregulated migration flows. Only drug traffickers, human slavers and terrorists can truly flourish in such a world – and indeed they have.

There was a profound deep irony, Putin, with his deep sense of humor clearly relished, in saying such things to the Financial Times. Along with the Wall Street Journal in New York City, it is one of the two great media pillars of the liberal big business unregulated creed – embodied throughout the 19th century by the arch-hypocrite William Ewart Gladstone.

Gladstone, founder and leader of the famous British Liberal Party and revered as “the People’s William” was the heir to an enormous fortune [worth billions in 21st century terms] made by his father John Gladstone, one of the biggest slave traders in the Port city of Liverpool. And Gladstone himself in the 1860s sought to encourage the victory and survival of the slave holding Confederacy in the US Civil War.

Also, the United Kingdom, the home of modern secular enlightenment liberalism from whence it spread across the United States is now quite literally disintegrating in its conflict with the also deeply-troubled European Union. Putin therefore could not have chosen a more fitting and ironic media platform on which to pronounce secular liberalism’s doom: And he knew it.

Putiun also clearly sees that Dostoyevsky was right in his deepest, darkest reach of prophetic vision. For liberalism prospered and spread for hundreds opf years claiming to spread rtolerence, respect diversity and cherish truth. Yet today across the West its adherents reign supreme over colossal media conglomerates and Deep State enormous bureaucracies that routinely bury and squash all truths, skepticism, alternate views and arguments inconvenient and threatening to them.

The historical evidence, overwhelming in reality that nations flourish and grow rapidly in prosperity when their industries and agriculture are preserved from unfair and manipulated foreign competition is simply not taught across the West: It has been smothered into extinction.

The history of President Bill Clinton’s fateful 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is evident to all: Far from bringing prosperity to the United States and Mexico, it has unleashed a new dark age of crime, drugs, criminal exploitation, teen gang terrors and civil war on both those suffering nations.

Yet when rare individuals rise up like Putin or US President Donald Trump and state these obvious realities, they are immediately subjected to waves of hysterical hatred.

The Big Lie nightmares predicted so clearly by Yevgeny Zamyatin and George Orwell flourish more boldly than ever – but in London, Washington and New York, not in Moscow or Beijing.

Yet the Big Lie is dying on its feet: It has delivered suffering, misery, uncertainty and even terror to the subject populations on whom its devotees have imposed their creeds, regardless of the clearly expressed democratic will. Throughout the Western world and, for that matter in Japan and India, populist, national leaders have emerged who are seeking to defy the suicidal principles of open borders, unlimited trade and immigration flows that the supra-national institutions of the past 75 years are trying to impose upon them.

These leaders are not trying to through the world into some new dark age of chaos and war: They are on the contrary doing their utmost to prevent it.

Putin is not alone in the world: He speaks for this great and emerging new constructive consensus. But the forces of darkness and chaos, posing, as the New Testament warned us, as messengers of light remain determined to re-impose their lies.

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

In a Single Tweet, Donald Trump Unwittingly Showed the US How Red Flag Laws Will Be Abused

Fri, 2019-08-16 17:30

Matt AGORIST

In the days following the tragic shootings in Dayton and El Paso, politicians have been working over time to use these tragedies to take away your right to self-defense. Democrats and Republicans alike have joined forces to pass sweeping regulations that could serve as a death blow to the Second Amendment. Despite his rhetoric claiming he protects the gun rights of Americans, president Donald Trump has become a cheerleader for these rights-violating red flag laws. This week, he proved just how dangerous such laws would be—and, in typical Trump fashion, he did it with just one tweet.

During a speech in April, Trump claimed that the “left is coming for your guns,” and he’s correct. But so is the right, and so is Trump.

What Trump’s speech to the NRA in April proved is the incredibly short memory of his support base. Have they all forgotten that Trump made one of the most damning attacks on the Second Amendment of any president yet?

In case you are one of those folks, in February of 2018, after the tragic shooting in Parkland, FL, President Donald Trump took to national television to betray his oath to the Constitution and his supporters and famously said, “take the guns first, go through due process second.”

Showing that he has no problem sticking to his flip flopping nature on gun rights, not only has Trump ramped up federal gun control enforcement, but he has unilaterally implemented federal gun control in the form of a bump stock ban. And now he’s doing the same with red flag laws.

But it’s not just bump stocks and due process that Trump wants. Last year,the Washington Post published a piece alluding to the fact that Trump will likely go further than bump stocks.

“In private, he has indicated that he might do more, telling advisers and friends in recent days that he is determined to push for some sort of gun-control legislation, according to people familiar with the conversations,” the Post reported.

And now he is.

In just the first six months after the shooting in Parkland and the president’s statement on removing due process, the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence recorded a whopping 55 new gun control measures in 26 states. That number is now far greater as states pass “red flag” gun laws to literally do what Trump advocated for in Feb. 2018. They are taking the guns first and seeking due process second.

In fact, there are now 18 states who have implemented these laws and the federal government is pushing to do it on a national scale.

Here’s why that is a terrifying idea.

Before we get into the unconstitutional nature of such gun laws, let’s look at the incredible lack of logic applied by those who advocate disarming society.

“The same government that couldn’t protect the one inmate who was most at risk for being murdered or committing suicide—Jeffrey Epstein—wants you to believe that you don’t need guns because the state will protect you,” the Free Thought Project’s Johnny Liberty said. “Take a moment to think about that.”

Indeed, one does not need to go into the myriad of examples of citizens with guns saving countless lives to understand this premise. While these laws admittedly lack any logic, it’s also a terrible assault on your rights.

Citizens who are targeted by these laws will be deemed guilty first and only after their guns are taken, will they have a chance to defend themselves in court. This is de facto removal of due process.

As Reuters reports, under the legislation, a family member or law enforcement officer could petition a judge to seize firearms from a person they think is a threat to themselves or others. The judge could then hold a hearing without the targeted person being present and grant a temporary order for 14 days.

Under the fifth and fourteenth amendments, due process clauses are in place to act as a safeguard from arbitrary denial of life, liberty, or property by the government outside the sanction of law.

In spite of what officials and the media claim, when a person is stripped of their constitutional rights, albeit temporarily, without being given the chance to make their own case based on what can be entirely arbitrary accusations, this is the removal of due process. It doesn’t work, and it is rife for abuse as there is no way to stop an estranged spouse from calling police repeatedly and telling them their ex is threatening to cause harm to others.

Anyone, any time, now has the ability to claim someone else is a threat and have police take their guns. One does not need to delve into the multiple ‘what if’ scenarios to see what sort of ominous implications arise from such a practice. And because of Trump, we don’t need a “what if,” as he’s already done it.

On Tuesday, Trump took to Twitter to show just how rife for abuse these red flags laws are by calling for Chris Cuomo to be stripped of his Second Amendment rights using “Red Flag” laws.

“Would Chris Cuomo be given a Red Flag for his recent rant?” Trump wrote. “Filthy language and a total loss of control. He shouldn’t be allowed to have any weapon. He’s nuts!”

Would Chris Cuomo be given a Red Flag for his recent rant? Filthy language and a total loss of control. He shouldn’t be allowed to have any weapon. He’s nuts!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 13 августа 2019 г.

For filthy language and yelling, Trump thinks this man should have his guns taken. Though it is entirely unlikely that Cuomo even has guns of his own, and likely uses paid security, the idea of the president calling to disarm a political enemy should shock the conscience.

To be clear, no one here is condoning Cuomo’s actions or his horrid track record in the media. However, everything he did was legal and getting angry at someone for calling you a derogatory name is hardly a reason to take someone’s guns.

Therein lies the problem. Government officials cannot be trusted unwittingly with the tyrannical power to arbitrarily remove the due process of individuals on a whim. If not stopped in its tracks, this red flag movement will be the fatal crack in the dam that is the only thing holding back the government from disarming entirely peaceful and non-threatening individuals with whom they disagree.

thefreethoughtproject.com

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

Grave Danger Of China Collapse – With RPI’s Guest David Stockman

Fri, 2019-08-16 17:10

Trade war with US, Hong Kong protests showing no signs of slowing – is China on the verge of a collapse? If the collapse does come, what next? Are America’s fingerprints on the protests, as China claims?

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

Russia’s Sound Proposal for Gulf Peace

Fri, 2019-08-16 16:55

There is an eminently reasonable and feasible way to avoid conflict in the Persian Gulf, and to secure peace. The principles of multilateralism and international law must be adhered to. It seems almost astounding that one has to appeal for such obvious basic norms.

Fortunately, Russia has presented a roadmap for implementing a security concept in the vital waterway based on the above principles.

Russia’s deputy envoy to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyansky, outlined a possible international coalition to provide security for commercial shipping through the strategically important Persian Gulf. The narrow outlet accounts for up to 30 per cent of all globally shipped oil on a daily basis. Virtually every nation has a stake in the safe passage of tankers. Any disruption would have huge negative consequences for the world economy, impacting all nations.

The Russian proposal, which has been submitted to the UN Security Council, is currently being considered by various parties. Crucially, the security concept put forward by Moscow relies on the participation of the Gulf nations, including Iran. Rather than being led by an outside power, the Russian proposal envisages a region-led effort.

This multilateral arrangement for cooperation between nations is solidly within the principles of the UN Charter and international law. Potentially, it can build trust and positive relations, and thereby reduce the climate of tensions and uncertainty which have intensified over recent months, primarily between the United States and Iran.

Washington has blamed Iran for several sabotage incidents on commercial shipping since June. The Americans have not provided any proof for their claims. Iran, for its part, denies any malfeasance and instead has pointed to “malign conspiracy”aimed at stoking tensions, or worse, precipitate an all-out military confrontation between the US and Iran. Significantly, too, the problem of alleged sabotage and danger to shipping followed the increased deployment of US forces in the region during May, ostensibly to counter anticipated “Iranian aggression”.

One thing for sure is that the US proposal for a naval coalition led by Washington, purportedly to “protect shipping” in the Gulf, is a non-starter. Most nations have rebuffed the American plan. Germany, France and other European Union states have given it a resounding pass. Even Arab nations allied with the US, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have demurred on the idea. Significantly, too, the Gulf states have refrained from following Washington’s line of fingering Iran for the unknown sabotage incidents.

After weeks of lobbying for its US-led “navy coalition”, Washington appears to have recruited just two other partners: Britain and Israel.

The term “coalition” is therefore a misnomer in this context. It also has no credibility as a force serving to uphold international law and security. The position of the US-led axis is one of outright hostility towards Iran. It is premised on the flawed assumption that Iran is the “problem”.

Any such extra-regional military force is by definition a source of further insecurity and tensions in the Persian Gulf, as Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has noted. Arguably, any such US-led deployment is illegal because it is not mandated by the UN Security Council. The US plan relies on a unilateral imposition of American force along with a coterie of allies who have a long history of facilitating Washington’s militaristic adventures.

Indeed, moreover, one can easily perceive that the US claims about maritime security and safe passage are dubious. What Washington appears to be doing is cynically using “security concerns” as a cover for forming an aggressive front against Iran. The real purpose is to augment the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” policy towards Tehran in order to coerce that nation into ceding to American strategic demands. This US policy is, of course, illegitimate, arguably criminal. But it is being concealed, as the Americans usually do, with the pseudo-image of acting as the world’s “policeman”.

By contrast, it may be hoped that the UN and the nations of the Gulf region move forward to embrace Russia’s proposal for a genuinely cooperative, mutual effort to maintain peace. The only way forward is through multilateralism, mutual respect, dialogue and adherence to international law. Conflict is a lose-lose scenario. Peace is win-win.

Surely, if any party cannot support such a reasonable proposition, then the telling question is: why not? A negative response strongly suggests there is a disingenuousness about putative “security concerns”, and that an ulterior, sinister agenda is actually at play.

It should also be borne in mind that the present mounting tensions in the Persian Gulf have come about because the Trump administration took the reprehensible step of repudiating the international nuclear accord with Iran. That accord was signed by Iran, the US, Russia, China, Britain, France, Germany and the European Union back in July 2015. The international treaty was endorsed by the UN Security Council. When Trump walked away from the US legal obligation last year, all the tensions that we now see with Iran have transpired.

As Russian envoy Dmitry Polyanksy told the press conference at the UN recently it is incumbent on Washington to return to the nuclear accord. Until then, for Washington to pose as some kind of security arbiter in the Middle East is too ludicrous for words.

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

In Wars and Weapons We Trust

Thu, 2019-08-15 18:25

America’s Militarized Profession of Faith

William J. ASTORE

When I was a teenager in the 1970s, I looked to the heavens: to God and Christianity (as arbitrated by the Catholic Church) and to the soaring warbirds of the U.S. military, which I believed kept us safe. To my mind then, they were classic manifestations of American technological superiority over the godless Communists. 

With all its scandals, especially when it came to priestly sexual abuse, I lost my faith in the Catholic Church. Indeed, I would later learn that there had been a predatory priest in my own parish when I was young, a grim man who made me uneasy at the time, though back then I couldn’t have told you why. As for those warbirds, like so many Americans, I thrilled to their roar at air shows, but never gave any real thought to the bombs they were dropping in Vietnam and elsewhere, to the livesthey were ending, to the destruction they were causing. Nor, at that age, did I ever consider their enormous cost in dollars or just how much Americans collectively sacrificed to have “top cover,” whether of the warplane or godly kind.

There were good and devoted priests in my Catholic diocese. There were good and devoted public servants in the U.S. military. Admittedly, I never seriously considered the priesthood, but I did sign up for the Air Force, surprising myself by serving in it for 20 years. Still, both institutions were then, and remain, deeply flawed. Both seek, in a phrase the Air Force has long used, “global reach, global power.” Both remain hierarchies that regularly promote true believers to positions of authority. Both demand ultimate obedience. Both sweep their sins under the rug. Neither can pass an audit. Both are characterized by secrecy. Both seem remarkably immune to serious efforts at reform. And both, above all, know how to preserve their own power, even as they posture and proselytize about serving a higher one.

However, let me not focus here on the one “holy catholic and apostolic church,” words taken from the “profession of faith” I recited during Mass each week in my youth. I’d prefer to focus instead on that other American holy church, the U.S. military, with all its wars and weapons, its worshipers and wingmen, together with its vision of global dominance that just happens to include end-of-world scenarios as apocalyptic as those of any imaginable church of true believers. I’m referring, of course, to our country’s staggeringly large arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, just now being updated — the term seems to be “modernized” — to the tune of something like $1.7 trillion over the decades to come.

A Profession of Twenty-First-Century All-American Faith

“Show me your budget and I will tell you what you value” is a telling phrase linked to Joe Biden. And in those same terms, there’s no question what the American government values most: its military, to the tune of almost $1.5 trillion over the next two years (although the real number may well exceed $2 trillion). Republicans and Democrats agree on little these days, except support for spending on that military, its weaponry, its wars to come, and related national security state outlays.

In that context, I’ve been wondering what kind of “profession of faith” we might have to recite, if there were the equivalent of Mass for what has increasingly become our military church. What would it look like? Whom and what would we say we believed in? As a lapsed Catholic with a lot of practice in my youth professing my faith in the Church, as well as a retired military officer and historian, I have a few ideas about what such a “profession” might look like:

* We believe in wars. We may no longer believe in formal declarations of war (not since December 1941 has Congress made one in our name), but that sure hasn’t stopped us from waging them. From Korea to Vietnam, Afghanistan to Iraq, the Cold War to the War on Terror, and so many military interventions in between, including Grenada, Panama, and Somalia, Americans are always fighting somewhere as if we saw great utility in thumbing our noses at the Prince of Peace. (That’s Jesus Christ, if I remember my Catholic catechism correctly.)

* We believe in weaponry, the more expensive the better. The underperforming F-35 stealth fighter may cost $1.45 trillion over its lifetime. An updated nuclear triad (land-based missiles, nuclear submarines, and strategic bombers) may cost that already mentioned $1.7 trillion. New (and malfunctioning) aircraft carriers cost us more than $10 billion each. And all such weaponry requests get funded, with few questions asked, despite a history of their redundancy, ridiculously high price, regular cost overruns, and mediocre performance. Meanwhile, Americans squabble bitterly over a few hundred million dollars for the arts and humanities.

* We believe in weapons of mass destruction. We believe in them so strongly that we’re jealous of anyone nibbling at our near monopoly. As a result, we work overtime to ensure that infidels and atheists (that is, the Iranians and North Koreans, among others) don’t get them. In historical terms, no country has devoted more research or money to deadly nuclear, biological, and chemical weaponry than the United States. In that sense, we’ve truly put our money where our mouths are (and where a devastating future might be).

* We believe with missionary zeal in our military and seek to establish our “faith” everywhere. Hence, our global network of perhaps 800 overseas military bases. We don’t hesitate to deploy our elite missionaries, our equivalent to the Jesuits, the Special Operations forces to more than 130 countries annually. Similarly, the foundation for what we like to call foreign assistance is often military training and foreign military sales. Our present supreme leader, Pope Trump I, boasts of military sales across the globe, most notably to the infidel Saudis. Even when Congress makes what, until recently, was the rarest of attempts to rein in this deadly trade in arms, Pope Trump vetoes it. His rationale: weapons and profits should rule all.

* We believe in our college of cardinals, otherwise known as America’s generals and admirals. We sometimes appoint them (or anoint them?) to the highest positions in the land. While Trump’s generals — Michael Flynn, James Mattis, H.R. McMaster, and John Kelly — have fallen from grace at the White House, America’s generals and admirals continue to rule globally. They inhabit proconsul-like positions in sweeping geographical commands that (at least theoretically) cover the planet and similarly lead commands aimed at dominating the digital-computer realm and special operations. One of them will head a new force meant to dominate space through time eternal. A “strategic” command (the successor to the Strategic Air Command, or SAC, so memorably satirized in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove) continues to ensure that, at some future moment, the U.S. will be able to commit mass genocide by quite literally destroying the world with nuclear weapons. Indeed, Pope Trump recently boasted that he could end America’s Afghan War in a week, apparently through the mass nuclear genocide of (his figure) 10 million Afghans. Even as he then blandly dismissed the idea of wiping that country “off the face of the earth,” he openly reflected the more private megalomania of those military professionals funded by the rest of us to think about “the unthinkable.” In sum, everything is — theoretically at least — under the thumbs of our unelected college of cardinals. Their overblown term for it is “full-spectrum dominance,” which, in translation, means they grant themselves god-like powers over our lives and that of our planet (though the largely undefeated enemies in their various wars don’t seem to have acknowledged this reality).

* We believe that freedom comes through obedience. Those who break ranks from our militarized church and protest, like Chelsea Manning, are treated as heretics and literally tortured.

* We believe military spending brings wealth and jobs galore, even when it measurably doesn’t. Military production is both increasingly automated and increasingly outsourced, leading to far fewer good-paying American jobs compared to spending on education, infrastructure repairs of and improvements in roads, bridges, levees, and the like, or just about anything else for that matter.

* We believe, and our most senior leaders profess to believe, that our military represents the very best of us, that we have the “finest” one in human history.

* We believe in planning for a future marked by endless wars, whether against terrorism or “godless” states like China and Russia, which means our military church must be forever strengthened in the cause of winning ultimate victory.

* Finally, we believe our religion is the one true faith. (Just as I used to be taught that the Catholic Church was the one true church and that salvation outside it was unattainable.) More pacific “religions” are dismissed as weak, misguided, and exploitative. Consider, for example, the denunciation of NATO countries that refuse to spend more money on their militaries. Such a path to the future is heretical; therefore, they must be punished.

Blessed Are the Peacemakers

Keep in mind that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of God, or so I was taught as a boy anyway. One might say that the beginning of U.S. militarism is simply fear, whether of terrorists, immigrants, Muslims, Communists, or other enemies of the moment. If Americans continue to be wracked with such fears, they’ll undoubtedly continue to profess their faith in the military as our country’s noblest protectors, too.

Where does such a profession of faith in wars and weapons end? Is there even a terminus of any sort other than destruction?

Those of us who endured war games and hair-trigger nuclear alerts during the Cold War have long had apocalyptic fears of such endings in the back of our minds. Under Donald Trump, they’ve come back with a vengeance. Unlike many Christians, I don’t envision Christ returning to pick up the irradiated Elect after a nuclear version of Armageddon. But that, of course, is a true worst-case scenario. A more likely ending is a slow-motion collapse of America’s imperial empire and the church of the military that goes with it, the resulting chaos possibly leading to a Second Coming, not of Christ but of medieval levels of meanness and misery.

Or, maybe, just maybe, we might start anew by questioning our militarized profession of faith. We might begin to realize that our warrior-church isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. We might begin to seek meaning and salvation not through wars and weaponry, not through generals and their admirers, not through impossible dreams of total dominance, but through compassion and a desire for global justice.

I confess that I long ago turned my back on the Catholic Church of my youth, but I haven’t turned my back on Christianity and the wisdom it can offer. For what does it profit a country if it gains the whole world yet loses its soul? (In our case, of course, it might be more appropriate to say: For what does it profit a country if it gains nothing from its wars and military mindset yet loses its soul?) The more we Americans profess our faith in warriors, weapons, and wars, the more we endanger our nation’s collective soul. There’s a reason, after all, that Jesus placed the peacemakers, not the warriors, among the children of God.

tomdispatch.com

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

US Axis of Aggression in Gulf

Thu, 2019-08-15 18:05

When Washington announced a few weeks ago the formation of a maritime “international coalition” to “protect shipping” in the Persian Gulf, many observers were skeptical. Now skepticism has rightly turned to alarm, as the proposed US-led “coalition” transpires to comprise a grand total of just three nations: the US, Britain and Israel.

The term “coalition” has always been a weasel word used by Washington to give its military operations around the world a veneer of international consensus and moral authority. If the US goes ahead with deploying forces in the Persian Gulf the guise of “coalition” is threadbare. It will be seen for what it is: naked aggression.

Iran promptly warned that if the US, Britain and Israel move on their intention to deploy in the Persian Gulf, it will not hesitate to defend itself from a “clear threat”.

Britain has ordered this week another warship, HMS Kent, to the Gulf. The move, significantly, occurred as Trump’s hawkish national security advisor John Bolton was in London for two-day official meetings with PM Boris Johnson and other senior ministers. Bolton praised Britain’s decision to join the US-led Operation Sentinel mission, rather than an alternative proposed European naval mission. It’s not clear if HMS Kent is simply replacing another British warship in the Gulf, HMS Duncan, or if this is a further buildup in force. Either way, the line up of US, Britain and reportedly Israel is a foreboding potential offensive.

Israeli leaders have in the recent past repeatedly called for military attacks on Iran, claiming without evidence that the Islamic Republic is secretly building nuclear weapons, thus allegedly posing an existential threat to the Jewish state, despite the latter possessing an estimated 200-300 nuclear warheads.

Given the Trump administration’s manic hostility towards Tehran, which it labels a “terrorist regime”, and given the long history of US-British treachery against Iran, it is understandable the alarm being aroused if Washington, London and Tel Aviv proceed with their flotilla in the Gulf.

Major General Hossein Salami, commander-in-chief of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, slammed the proposed US-led trio of forces as a “coalition of demons”.

Iranian defense minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami warned that any such US deployment involving Israel in a waterway contiguous with Iran’s southern coast would have “disastrous consequences for the region”. Tehran would view it as an act of war.

Will Washington light the fuse? President Donald Trump and his psychotic war advisor John Bolton have certainly talked tough on several occasions over recent weeks about attacking Iran and “destroying” the Persian nation with overwhelming force. Combined with the depraved Israeli prime minster Benjamin Netanyahu and the lackey British premier Boris Johnson, the “axis of insanity” is perplexing.

However, Trump’s threats have often turned out to be empty. Washington has said before it would “defend” its interests when cargo ships were sabotaged in recent weeks. Iran was blamed by the US without evidence for the sabotage incidents, but Washington’s bellicose rhetoric didn’t materialize in military action. Even when Iran shot down a US $220-million spy drone over its territory on June 20, Trump balked at ordering “retaliatory” air strikes.

Another deterring factor is Iran’s formidable anti-ship missiles and air defenses which are augmented by the latest Russian technology, as documented by John Helmer.

There is thus a fair chance that the Trump administration will back off from its plans for a maritime incursion in the Persian Gulf. Even the intellectually challenged White House must know that any such move – especially involving a blatant axis of aggression of the US, Britain and Israel – will be tantamount to declaring war. The consequences for the war-torn region, the global economy and world peace would indeed be potentially calamitous. Surely, the unhinged American, British and Israeli leaders know this?

International consensus and world opinion may also be a vital check on the US-led folly of antagonizing Iran. The refusal by Germany, France and other European nations to participate in the US maritime force dealt a significant blow to Washington’s subterfuge of forming a coalition camouflage for its aggression against Iran.

The Americans were infuriated. US officials have reportedly lobbied the Berlin government to change its mind, to no avail. One American official was reported to have complained: “German officials keep telling us that they’re on our side, but they have to side with Iran on nuclear related issues because of the nuclear deal. Iran is attacking tankers which has nothing to do with the deal. So what’s Germany’s excuse for not siding with us this time?”

Richard Grenell, the pesky US ambassador in Berlin, displayed exasperation over Germany’s rebuff to the naval coalition plan, dubbed Operation Sentinel. Employing his best double-think, Grenell said: “German participation would help deescalate the situation. The Iranians would see a united West.”

This comes against a background of various rows between the Trump administration and Berlin, including on NATO spending, trade tariffs and the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project with Russia.

Washington is peeved by the Europeans and Germany in particular for not giving its purported naval coalition in the Gulf the desired appearance of international mandate.

As Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif remarked, the US is “isolated”, apart from having the British and Israelis riding shotgun on its now-evident adventure of aggression. From political, legal and moral viewpoints, it will be difficult for the Trump administration to proceed with its plan to “protect shipping” in the Persian Gulf because it is abundantly clear that the plan is a flagrant war footing.

If the US and its allies were genuine about forming a protection arrangement for commercial shipping routes through the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf – where 20-30 per cent of globally shipped oil passes each day – then they would do well to take on board the Russian proposal presented at the UN on August 8.

Dmitry Polyansky, Russia’s acting envoy to the UN, set forth a multilateral security concept. He emphasized that the partnership would be a genuine international coalition acting within the framework of the UN Security Council. The proposal, which China has backed, would include all stakeholders for the safety of shipping through the vital Persian Gulf, including Iran. This is surely the way to go towards de-escalating the dangerous tensions in the region. The key is that any such initiative must be formulated in keeping with UN principles and international law. It is not for one, two or three nations to assume the role of naval “policemen” in an area of international waterways. Even if we take Washington’s rhetoric about “protecting shipping” at face value, its deployment of force in the Gulf is an illegitimate assumption of power. It is outside UN principles and without Security Council mandate. In a word, illegal.

European and Asian nations would be advised to back the Russian initiative in order to maintain peace in the Gulf. By contrast, Washington’s plans are a reckless and reprehensible provocation for war.

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

Boris Johnson Recklessly Picks at the Scabs of Ireland’s Violent Past

Thu, 2019-08-15 17:11

Patrick COCKBURN

On 8 May 1987 a Provisional IRA unit of eight men attacked a police station in the village of Loughgall in county Armagh 15 miles from the Irish border. One man drove a digger with a bomb in its bucket towards the building, half of which was destroyed in the explosion. But British forces had been informed of the time and place of the assault and SAS soldiers waiting in ambush opened fire killing all eight Provisionals and a civilian.

A quarter of a century later in county Monaghan just inside the border with the Irish Republic but not far from Loughgall, there was an incident proving that the earlier killings were still a live issue. In the last few days somebody, evidently an opponent of the IRA, used a bulldozer to demolish a substantial memorial to two IRA men, Jim Lynagh and Padraig McKearney, who had died in the SAS ambush.

A statement from the Loughgall Truth and Justice Campaign described the bulldozing of the memorial as a “desecration” and declared that “to do this to any of the Loughgall families is to do this to us all… but our memories and thoughts cannot be erased”.

The episode is significant because it shows the human and divisive reality of the Irish border and why its reappearance at the top of the political agenda is such a threat to long-term peace. The backstop is often discussed in Britain as if it was an issue primarily to do with trade which has been given exaggerated significance by Ireland and the EU in order to sabotage Brexit. Boris Johnson denounces it as being unacceptably “anti-democratic”.

In all cases, there is blindness towards the true reason for the toxicity of the dispute over the 310-mile border which stems from it being the physical embodiment of relations between nationalists and unionists, Catholics and Protestants not just in the border region but in the north as a whole. That is why it has been one of the most fought-over and blood-soaked frontiers in Europe over the last 400 years. The map of the area is dotted with the names of battles ancient and modern. The destruction of the Loughgall monument shows that antagonisms have not moderated and, while some people feel strongly enough to build a memorial to two dead IRA men, others feel strongly enough to destroy it.

The visit of Boris Johnson to Belfast this week reveals once again the mixture of frivolity and ignorance with which the Brexiteers approach Northern Ireland. A new post-Brexit border is supposed to be monitored remotely by yet-to-be discovered technical means. But it should be self-evident that any CCTV or other gadget located on the border in a nationalist/Catholic area will be torn down in a few minutes.

The neutrality of the British government between nationalists and unionists was the foundation of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 that ended thirty years of war in Northern Ireland in which two per cent of the population was killed or injured according to historians of the conflict (the same proportion of casualties in Britain as a whole would have meant 100,000 dead).

Careless of this sanguinary record, Johnson’s approach is entirely opportunistic: he will maintain UK neutrality but he expresses an undying commitment to the union. He and the new minister for Northern Ireland had a convivial dinner with the DUP leader Arlene Foster, on whom the Conservatives depend for their majority, before meeting the leaders of other parties. DUP activists make clear in private that they would like a hard Brexit regardless of economic cost because they want to keep as far from the Irish Republic and as close to Britain as possible.

Supporters of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) comfort themselves by saying that the Conservatives kowtowing to the DUP will last only as long as they rely on DUP votes in parliament. This could prove over-optimistic: Johnson leads a hard-right government riding a resurgent wave of English nationalism in which anti-Irish sentiment has always had an integral part.

This does not mean that a shooting war is going to restart any time soon. The unreconciled fragments of the IRA are disorganised and lack popular support. But the building blocks of the GFA are being kicked away one-by-one. The power-sharing executive and Northern Ireland Assembly are suspended and are unlikely to be resurrected.

The DUP understandably prefers to share power with the Conservatives in Westminster than with Sinn Fein in Belfast. Sinn Fein, for its part, does not want to be the junior and largely impotent partner of the DUP in an executive which would be complicit in implementing a no-deal Brexitwhich it opposes.

Sinn Fein can also see a substantial silver lining for its brand of Irish nationalism in the present crisis. Northern Ireland voted 56 to 44 per cent to stay in the EU and, when the Conservatives ignore this and pretend that the DUP’s pro-Brexit stance represents majority opinion in the province, they de-legitimise the union with Britain. This will not necessarily impel pro-Remain unionists to vote for a united Ireland, but it does mean that the significant minority of Catholics/nationalists who previously preferred to stick with the union is fast diminishing.

This will matter because in the not-too-distant future Catholic voters will outnumber Protestants in Northern Ireland. The outcome of a border poll will become more incalculable. But even the prospect of one – strongly advocated by Sinn Fein – will be deeply polarising. Brexit has succeeded in putting Irish Partition back at the centre of the political agenda, something that Sinn Fein had failed to do despite decades of effort.

Does this mean that Irish unity is getting closer? This prospect is increasingly if naively raised in the British media. But demographic and diplomatic change will not be sufficient in themselves to transform the political balance of power: the unionists/Protestants could not ultimately maintain their rule in the north despite being the majority. Catholics and nationalists are unlikely to be any more successful against resistance to a united Ireland by a determined Protestant minority.

Possibly Johnson’s gamble on threatening the EU states with a no-deal Brexit will pay off. They have hitherto never believed that Britain would do anything so self-destructive and they might just look to some last-minute deal. But, even if Leo Varadkar did want such an agreement, he would find it difficult to sell to Irish voters, while the EU would be seriously weakened by caving-in to Johnson’s bombast after declaring for so long that it would do no such thing.

Ireland does not relish a confrontation with the UK, but it has little choice but to demand that the EU stick to its commitments and, on the other side of the Atlantic, energise the political influence of the Irish-American diaspora. The Clinton administration was an essential driving force for the GFA. The US speaker of the house Nancy Pelosi has repeatedly said that she will block any Anglo-American trade deal if it creates a hard border or the GFA is imperilled.

Winston Churchill famously lamented how quarrels over the Irish border, symbolised by “the dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone”, had outlasted the cataclysm of the First World War. Brexit has made sure it is still there.

counterpunch.org

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

Punishing the World With Sanctions

Thu, 2019-08-15 16:55

Sanctions are economic warfare, pure and simple. As an alternative to a direct military attack on a country that is deemed to be misbehaving they are certainly preferable, but no one should be under any illusions regarding what they actually represent. They are war by other means and they are also illegal unless authorized by a supra-national authority like the United Nations Security Council, which was set up after World War II to create a framework that inter alia would enable putting pressure on a rogue regime without going to war. At least that was the idea, but the sanctions regimes recently put in place unilaterally and without any international authority by the United States have had a remarkable tendency to escalate several conflicts rather than providing the type of pressure that would lead to some kind of agreement.

The most dangerous bit of theater involving sanctions initiated by the Trump administration continues to focus on Iran. Last week, the White House elevated its extreme pressure on the Iranians by engaging in a completely irrational sanctioning of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. The sanctions will have no effect whatsoever and they completely contradict Donald Trump’s repeated assertion that he is seeking diplomacy to resolving the conflict with Iran. One doesn’t accomplish that by sanctioning the opposition’s Foreign Minister. Also, the Iranians have received the message loud and clear that the threats coming from Washington have nothing to do with nuclear programs. The White House began its sanctions regime over a year ago when it withdrew from the JCPOA and they have been steadily increasing since that time even though Iran has continued to be fully compliant with the agreement. Recently, the US took the unprecedented step of sanctioning the entire Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is part of the nation’s military.

American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has made clear that the sanctions on Iran are intended to cause real pain, which, in fact, they have succeeded in doing. Pompeo and his accomplice in crime National Security Advisor John Bolton believe that enough pressure will motivate the starving people to rise up in the streets and overthrow the government, an unlikely prospect as the American hostility has in fact increased popular support for the regime.

To be sure, ordinary people in Iran have found that they cannot obtain medicine and some types of food are in short supply but they are not about to rebel. The sanctioning in May of Iranian oil exports has only been partially effective but it has made the economy shrink, with workers losing jobs. The sanctions have also led to tit-for-tat seizures of oil and gas tankers, starting with the British interception of a ship carrying Iranian oil to Syria in early July.

Another bizarre escalation in sanctions that has taken place lately relates to the Skripal case in Britain. On August 2nd, Donald Trump signed an executive order imposing a package of new sanctions against Moscow over the alleged poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England in March 2018. The order “prohibit[s] any United States bank from making any loan or providing any credit… except for loans or credits for the purpose of purchasing food or other agricultural commodities or products.” The ban also includes “the extension of any loan or financial or technical assistance… by international financial institutions,” meaning that international lenders will also be punished if they fail to follow Washington’s lead.

The sanctions were imposed under the authority provided by the US Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act adopted in 1991, which imposes penalties for use of chemical weapons. Novichok, which was reportedly used on the Skripals, is a chemical weapon developed in the labs of the Soviet Union, though a number of states are believed to currently have supplies of the agent in their arsenals. Russia can appeal the sanctions with 90 days by providing “reliable assurance” that it will not again use chemical weapons.

Russia has strenuously denied any role in the attack on the Skripals and the evidence that has so far been produced to substantiate the Kremlin’s involvement has been less than convincing. An initial package of US-imposed sanctions against Russia that includes the export of sensitive technologies and some financial services was implemented in August 2018.

Venezuela is also under the sanctions gun and is a perfect example how sanctions can escalate into something more punitive, leading incrementally to an actual state of war. Last week Washington expanded its sanctions regime, which is already causing starvation in parts of Venezuela, to include what amounts to a complete economic embargo directed against the Maduro regime that is being enforced by a naval blockade.

The Venezuelan government announced last Wednesday that the United States Navy had seized a cargo ship bound for Venezuela while it was transiting the Panama Canal. According to a government spokesman, the ship’s cargo was soy cakes intended for the production of food. As one of Washington’s raisons d’etre for imposing sanctions on Caracas was that government incompetence was starving the Venezuelan people, the move to aggravate that starvation would appear to be somewhat capricious and revealing of the fact that the White House could care less about what happens to the Venezuelan civilians who are caught up in the conflict.

Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez condemned the move as “serious aggression,” and accused the Trump Administration of trying to impede Venezuela’s basic right to import food to feed its people.

One of the most pernicious aspects of the sanctions regimes that the United States is imposing is that they are global. When Washington puts someone on its sanctions list, other countries that do not comply with the demands being made are also subject to punishment, referred to as secondary sanctions. The sanctions on Iran’s oil exports, for example, are being globally enforced with some few exceptions, and any country that buys Iranian oil will be punished by being denied access to the US financial and banking system. That is a serious penalty as most international trade and business transactions go through the dollar denominated SWIFT banking network.

Finally, nothing illustrates the absurdity of the sanctions mania as a recent report that President Trump had sent his official hostage negotiator Robert O’Brien to Stockholm to obtain freedom for an American rap musician ASAP Rocky who was in jail after having gotten into a fight with some local boys. The Trumpster did not actually know the lad, but he was vouched for by the likes of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, both of whom have had nice things to say about the president. The negotiator was instructed to tell Sweden that if they did not release Rocky there would be “negative consequences.” Who can doubt that the consequences would undoubtedly have included sanctions?

It has reached the point where the only country that likes the United States is Israel, which is locked into a similar cycle of incessant aggression. To be sure Donald Trump’s rhetoric is part of the problem, but the indiscriminate, illegal and immoral use of sanctions, which punish whole nations for the presumed sins of those nations’ leaders, is a major contributing factor. And the real irony is that even though sanctions cause pain, they are ineffective. Cuba has been under sanctions, technically and embargo, since 1960 and its ruling regime has not collapsed, and there is no chance that Venezuela, Iran or Russia’s government will go away at any time soon either. In fact, real change would be more likely if Washington were to sit down at a negotiating table with countries that it considers enemies and work to find solutions to common concerns. But that is not likely to happen with the current White House line-up, and equally distant with a Democratic Party obsessed with the “Russian threat” and other fables employed to explain its own failings.

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

It Took a Billionaire Pedophile to Die in Jail for Media to Finally Report on Elite Child Sex Trafficking

Wed, 2019-08-14 18:45

Matt AGORIST

Adult and child sex trafficking is an unfortunate and horrifying reality that plagues countries around the world—including the United States. As TFTP has reported, people have been arrested attempting to purchase children as young as three-months-old to abuse them, including police officers. Even former child sex slaves have come forward to tell their stories and provide insight into the elite sickos who have the money and resources to deal in the lives of children. This has been ongoing for decades, yet the media and Americans alike, have largely ignored it, until now.

The arrest of Jeffery Epstein and his subsequent demise in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York has catapulted the massive problem of elite child sex trafficking into the limelight. Naturally, politicians on both sides — including the president — are attempting to use Epstein’s death for political advantage which has skewed the discourse. However, for the first time, Americans are actually talking about the problem of child sexual abuse among the elite, and this is healthy.

While some Americans are hearing Epstein’s name for the first time, TFTP has been reporting on his special treatment and ties to the elite for years. The child trafficking scandal doesn’t stop at the White House either, it crosses the pond and implicates the royal family too. Last year, a photo of the Queen’s son, Prince Andrew, surfaced as evidence during legal proceedings, showing him with his arm around one of the underage victims.

Epstein is a convicted child molester and sexually abused no less than 40 underage girls. Despite this fact, Alexander Acosta protected him while serving as a U.S. Attorney in Florida. After letting an admitted pedophile off with a wrist slap, instead of being fired, Acosta was then appointed to Trump’s labor secretary in 2017 before resigning last month amid the Epstein controversy.

Instead of going to prison for life, as he should’ve considering the evidence against him, Epstein only got 13 months and was allowed to stay in the Palm Beach County Jail in his own private cell where he was allowed to leave the prison six days a week for “work release”. Epstein was forced to register as a sex offender for life, but with his money and his connections he wasn’t too bothered—until last month.

Despite the left and the right pitting Epstein against their political foes, this pedophile was tied to all sides of the political spectrum.

Just in case you thought sex abuse was a partisan thing, here’s a picture of @POTUS with convicted child rapist and @BillClinton Lolita Express chauffer, Jeffrey Epstein. #ItsABigFuckingClubAndYouAreNotInIt pic.twitter.com

— Matt Agorist (@MattAgorist) November 29, 2017

As a report in the Miami Herald noted:

The eccentric hedge fund manager, whose friends included former President Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Prince Andrew, was also suspected of trafficking minor girls, often from overseas, for sex parties at his other homes in Manhattan, New Mexico and the Caribbean, FBI and court records show.

However, he was never held accountable until last month — only after his victims and dedicated reporters pushed for justice for nearly a decade.

Now, as a tornado of conspiracy theories over Epstein’s death continues to travel across the internet like wildfire, the media can no longer ignore the problem, nor Epstein’s connections.

Maybe now, as the DOJ investigates, the media may start to actually report on this massive problem. This is not the first time high profile figures have been arrested for sick crimes against children and let off with a wrist slap, but it is the first time the media is giving it so much attention—because this sicko is now dead.

As TFTP reported, in April of 2016, Dennis Hastert, former Speaker of the House under Clinton and Bush — and admitted child rapist — was sentenced to 15 months in prison after he was caught paying his victims to keep quiet. However, he was released in 2017 — two months before finishing his already insultingly lenient sentence.

Hastert was sentenced, not for raping children, but for illegally structuring bank transactions in an effort to cover up his sexual abuse of young boys.

Just like Epstein, Hastert was an admitted serial child rapist, yet because he is a well-connected politician and former Speaker of the House, this vile man’s victims received no justice. In fact, Hastert attempted to sue his victims for speaking out after he paid them to stay silent about their abuse.

As TFTP has reported, Washington D.C. not only protects sex abusers but they use your tax dollars to silence their victims. Sadly, most people ignore at least half of all the abuse because blowhards in the media try to turn sex abuse into a partisan issue. Those on the left ignore the crimes of their party, just like those on the right claim sex abuse is a liberal issue. But as we’ve shown, there is no difference between a blue child rapist and a red one.

As the Free Thought Project has previously reported, the problem of child sex trafficking goes all the way to the top in the UK as well. Sir Edward Heath, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom was found by the police chief to be a pedophile. Just like what happens in the US, his vile crimes against children were allegedly ‘covered up by the establishment.’

Unfortunately, pedophilia and human trafficking is all too common among those in power. Sadly, however, those who attempt to draw attention to this problem are labeled as conspiracy nuts or perpetrators of fake news. Hopefully, as the truth comes out in regard to Jeffrey Epstein, the establishment will have a harder time protecting society’s worst.

thefreethoughtproject.com

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

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