Category Archives: Military

America Asleep

“The summer of 1919, called “The Red Summer” by James Weldon Johnson, ushered in the greatest period of interracial violence the nation had ever witnessed. During that summer there were twenty-six race riots in such cities as Chicago, Illinois; Washington, D.C.; Elaine, Arkansas; Charleston, South Carolina; Knoxville and Nashville, Tennessee; Longview, Texas; and Omaha, Nebraska. More than one hundred Blacks were killed in these riots, and thousands were wounded and left homeless. The seven most serious race riots were those which occurred in Wilmington, N. C. (1898), Atlanta, Ga. (1906), Springfield, Ill. (1908), East St. Louis) Ill. (1917), Chicago, Ill. (1919), Tulsa, Okla. (1921) and Detroit, Mich. (1943).”

— Robert Gibson

“A war of extermination will continue to be waged between the two races until the Indian race becomes extinct.”

— California Governor Peter H. Burnett, 1851

“At the time, Executive Order 9066 was justified as a “military necessity” to protect against domestic espionage and sabotage. However, it was later documented that “our government had in its possession proof that not one Japanese American, citizen or not, had engaged in espionage, not one had committed any act of sabotage.( ) These Japanese Americans, half of whom were children, were incarcerated for up to 4 years, without due process of law or any factual basis, in bleak, remote camps surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards.”

— Michi Weglyn.

The recent attack in Charlottsville hardly stands out as in any way unique in American history. But there are several very telling aspects to this display of organized white supremacist values. First, how is it the police allowed it to happen? Well, ok, we know the answer. That was rhetorical. The next question would be perhaps the media coverage of this. Third would be the President and his response.

In a sense, the media coverage actually encloses the other issues. For the narrative being manufactured by the NY Times and Washington Post and all the rest, CNN and MSNBC is pretty much the same, with only variations that are designed to target specific demographics. The story of U.S. racism and colonial plunder, of a settler mentality and the reality of Manifest Destiny and genocide is simply erased. In its place is the fairy tale of white American goodness that I and millions of others were taught in school. Charlottsville is thus not a result of Trump, of his personality, of his friends such as Steve Bannon. It is part of a deep current in the collective psyche of the U.S.

There has never been a time when America was good. There was goodness in America, certainly in culture, in art and even in certain movements for social justice. There was the Wobblies and early socialists and union organizers. But the overriding reality has been one of acute racism, both institutional and individual, and of conquest and since WW2 of a rabid all consuming anti communism and quest for global hegemony. The U.S. was founded on the twin pillars of slave labor and the genocide of six hundred indigenous tribes. It is a settler colonial project that has never wavered in support for the Capitalist system. It was founded by rich white men, and that also has never changed.

“Blacks can’t run it. Nowhere, and they won’t be able to for a hundred years, and maybe not for a thousand. … Do you know, maybe one black country that’s well run?”

— Richard Nixon (Whitehouse tapes)

“I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of 10 are, and I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the 10th.”

— Theodore Roosevelt

I mean one could just go on and on. Woodrow Wilson worked to keep blacks out of Princeton when he was that Universities president. Calvin Coolidge, Andrew Johnson, James Polk — who deserves a special place as the most pro slavery president, perhaps, in U.S. history. In fact, its pretty hard to find a president who wasn’t overtly racist.

“While it may be tempting to dismiss 500 knuckle-dragging racists marching through Charlottesville waving Confederate flags as unrepresentative of a nation that takes pride in values of tolerance and racial equality, it would be wrong. Those who took part in those ugly scenes are the reality rather than the myth of America. They know that the American exceptionalism which Obama, while president, declared he believed in with every fiber of his being, is in truth white exceptionalism – ‘white’ in this context being not only a racial construct but also an ideological construct.”

— John Wight

But what has struck me is the outcry from the educated white class. Those gatekeepers to media and what passes for culture these days. The outrage is extreme and this has served to amp up the anti Trump sentiments even further than they already were. But none of these people uttered a peep about Obama and his CIA support for radical head chopping takfiri killers in Syria, and not a word when Hillary Clinton and Victoria Nuland (and John McCain) orchestrated the coup in Ukraine that installed a full on Nazi Party, complete with swastikas. But then U.S. foreign policy has a long history of support for fascism. In Africa, the U.S. supported war lords and mass killers…as Keith Harmon Snow wrote…

“The violence wreaked on Congo-Zaire by Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame was exported by perpetrators who first waged genocidal campaigns and coups-d’état that violated the most fundamental international covenants on state sovereignty first in Uganda, then Rwanda, then Zaire (Congo). On 6 April 1994, they assassinated heads of state from Rwanda and Burundi, again the most fundamental and egregious violations of international law. The U.S., U.K., Canada and Israel could not have been happier.

These first campaigns of Tutsi-Hima guerrilla warfare set the stage for unprecedented violence as the terror regimes of Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame tortured, slaughtered, raped, disappeared, assassinated, and terrorized millions of innocent non-combatant civilians from Uganda to Rwanda to Burundi to Congo (and in South Sudan). They had the backing of western intelligence and covert operations at the start.”

Or take Haiti. The U.S. ushered out President Aristide at gunpoint and replaced him with former Ton Ton Macoute fascists. The U.S. removed Zelaya in Honduras (on order from Hillary Clinton) and replaced him with a far right wing fascist. The U.S. supports fascist Leopoldo Lopez and his friends in Venezuela at this very moment. But rarely if ever do I hear a word from those people *outraged* at the tiki torch Blood and Soil pro confederate neo Klansmen in Virginia this week. The U.S. openly supported the fascist loving Croatian secessionists under Franjo Tudjman, an ardent admirer of the fascist state of Croatia in the 1930s under Ante Pavelic, as they dismantled socialist Yugoslavia. The racist murderers in Charlottsville are ideologically the same as countless parties and leaders the U.S. has supported for sixty years. No, for two hundred years and supports today.

I read a meme on social media yesterday that described Trump as having disgraced the office of the President. This is from a liberal and a Democrat. Honestly I’m not sure what one would have to do to disgrace that office. Harry Truman ordered the destruction of two Japanese cities with Atomic bombs, the murder of hundreds of thousands of civilians, women, children, the elderly…everyone. Disgrace the office? The School of the Americas, now rebranded, taught torture and subjugation to several generations of right wing dictators, and helped train death squads throughout Latin America.

I suspect that if Barry Goldwater returned from the dead and ran as a Democrat today he would be hugely successful. There is a certain swooning adoration for rock ribbed conservatives in liberal America. It is the result of an endless inculcating of the idea of money equating with merit. Most Americans have an unconscious knee jerk respect for the wealthy. Listen to how the owners of major sports franchises are talked about…it is always MISTER Bennet, MISTER Dolan, MISTER Snyder, MISTER Kendrick. It is a kind of weird hologram of the plantation system brought to you on network TV.

“While demanding an Open Door in China, it had insisted (with the Monroe Doctrine and many military interventions) on a Closed Door in Latin America-that is, closed to everyone but the United States. It had engineered a revolution against Colombia and created the “independent” state of Panama in order to build and control the Canal. It sent five thousand marines to Nicaragua in 1926 to counter a revolution, and kept a force there for seven years. It intervened in the Dominican Republic for the fourth time in 1916 and kept troops there for eight years. It intervened for the second time in Haiti in 1915 and kept troops there for nineteen years. Between 1900 and 1933, the United States intervened in Cuba four times, in Nicaragua twice, in Panama six times, in Guatemala once, in Honduras seven times. By 1924 the finances of half of the twenty Latin American states were being directed to some extent by the United States. By 1935, over half of U.S. steel and cotton exports were being sold in Latin America.”

— Howard Zinn

The white liberal today operates from an ideological position of intellectual containment. One might think Hiroshima would be condemned without qualification. This is not the case. The intellectual containment is to partition aspects of history and simply ignore the disturbing parts — things like the reality of slavery for example. Hollywood goes a long ways in sanitizing the story of the slave trade, and more, of the enduring scars, emotional and psychic, that such barbarism produced. White supremacism is, as John Wight rightly notes, is an ideological construct.

So back to Charlottsville. The goofy Hitler haircuts and ridiculous tiki torches (Wal Mart sells them by the by) make for good TV and provide an easy target for hand wringing liberals, but the reality is, of course, that most people have no desire to upset the status-quo. How many white American football fans applaud Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the anthem? According to a Reuters poll 72% of Americans saw Kaepernick as unpatriotic. The overt racism and fascist symbols in Virgina are easy to denounce. They seem almost made for that. And the attendant cries of how empowered the Trump base is seem almost silly (for one thing Trump’s real base is upwardly mobile whites, suburban usually, and nominally educated). The cartoon crackers in Virginia are not a significant force. But they do have symbolic weight. And yes, a woman died. Killed by a former Marine. Quelle surprise says I. The police watched. The U.S. domestic police system was born of militia hunting runaway slaves. It has not traveled a very great ideological distance since.

“As an internal colony in what some refer to as a prison house of nations that characterizes the U.S. nation state, black communities are separated into enclaves of economic exploitation and social degradation by visible and often invisible social and economic processes. The police have played the role not of protectors of the unrealized human rights of black people but as occupation forces.”

— Ajamu Baraka

The U.S. society is one in distress. There is a desperation in the affluent classes that suggests a growing recognition that the system they believe in, that has protected their privilege, is starting to fray at the edges. And maybe worse than fray. A recent study on addiction to smart phones among teenagers links depression and feelings of isolation with smart phone usage. It also has resulted in a generation that goes out less, has less sex, and desires independence less. Teens live at home longer, and wait longer to get their driver’s license. One in four Americans take anti depressants.

Jonathan Crary’s excellent book 24/7 dissects the global present in which most Westerners today live. And disruptions of sleep play a prominent role in the infantilization of U.S. culture. Everyone today sleeps less. Six and half hours a night compared to eight hours only a generation ago. In a society that metaphorically sleepwalks when awake, the material reality is that people sleep less. They are more anxious, and more afraid.

“The anti war movement (of the 60s) had spawned an identification with pacifism and public empathy for the victims of war; but in the 1980s the conditions nurturing these currents had to be eliminated and replaced in all areas with a culture of aggressivity and violence. That millions of supposedly liberal or progressive Americans will not dutifully avow that they ‘support our troops’ while remaining silent about the thousands murdered in imperial wars attests to the success of these counter measures.”

— Jonathan Crary

This marked the conscious ridicule of the sixties counterculture in mass media. It also marked the start of an aggressive re-writing of history, even recent history. Today it is a criminal offense in many places to feed the poor. It is criminal in many places to grow a vegetable garden in your front yard. It is illegal to criticize the Israel, too. Poverty is shameful, and worse. Against this has come an onslaught of demonizing all communist leaders from Castro to Mao. Chavez is routinely called a dictator, a caudillo, a strongman. Never mind this is only more racism, it is also untrue, factually untrue. No matter. It is a society of mass propaganda on all levels. So Charlottsville will distract the educated white populace for a week or so, and Trump will be made fun of and denounced. One wonders who watched his TV show, though. I mean it can’t have been just those guys in Hitler haircuts, right? Now Trump is a vile and dangerous man. Clearly close to illiterate, weak, resentful and insecure. But Trump is only a signifier for a wider problem. And that problem is that the United States has never altered its basic course. It began as a settler colony, one with genocidal tendencies and a thirst for violence. And so it is today. Eight hundred military bases across the planet. And allies like Saudi Arabia, where women are beheaded for being witches. Where confessions are the result of torture. Torture that isn’t even denied. The UN appointed Saudi Arabia as head of their human rights council. You see the problem…its much bigger than Charlottsville. If a society has stopped reading, and cannot sleep, and is the most obese in history, and where fertility rates are in steep decline; well, one suspects this is the dawn of the Empire’s collapse.

Ajamu Baraka summerized it best I think.

“Looking at white supremacy from this wider-angle lens, it is clear that support for the Israeli state, war on North Korea, mass black and brown incarceration, a grotesque military budget, urban gentrification, the subversion of Venezuela, the state war on black and brown people of all genders, and the war on reproductive rights are among the many manifestations of an entrenched right-wing ideology that cannot be conveniently and opportunistically reduced to Trump and the Republicans.”

George Jackson wrote…“The Capitalist class reached its maturity with the close of the 1860-64 civil war. Since that time there have been no serious threats to their power; their excesses have taken on a certain legitimacy through long usage. Prestige bars any serious attack on power. Do people attack a thing they consider with awe, with a sense of its legitimacy?” The U.S. military lays waste to parts of every continent on earth, or threatens to. There are U.S. troops killing people in Yemen, in Syria, in Afghanistan. The U.S. threatens small nations without real power. And the leadership today, and not just Trump, is infantile and narcissistic and ill-educated. It is as if the very worst and most stupid people in the country are now running it. But this has been trending this direction for thirty years now. It is not new. It has only gotten much worse, I think. There were mass pro Nazi rallies in Madison Square Garden in the 1930s. Americans adore royalty, too. The same Euro royals who have supported and protected fascists for hundreds of years. There is an unmediated worship of power and authority. Nearly anyone in uniform is fawned over. The American bourgeoisie always side with authority. With the status quo. With institutional power. Charlottsville is indeed a symptom, but it is not in any way an aberration.

By John Steppling/CounterPunch

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Mattis rips Pentagon officials for $28M wasted on Afghanistan camouflage

Defense Secretary James Mattis ripped Pentagon officials for their “cavalier” spending following a recent report that the Defense Department spent $28 million on camouflage uniforms for Afghan soldiers that don’t match up with the country’s terrain.

In a July 21 memo released to reporters on Monday, Mattis addressed a June Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) report. The document found that DOD began buying the forest-patterned uniforms in 2007, after a former Afghan defense minister saw them online and liked them.

The uniforms were purchased without testing to be used in a country that’s just 2 percent woodland.

“Buying uniforms for our Afghan partners, and doing so in a way that may have wasted tens of millions of taxpayer dollars over a 10-year period, must not be seen as inconsequential in the grand scheme of the Department’s responsibilities and budget,” Mattis wrote in the memo that was addressed to the undersecretaries for policy, comptroller and acquisition, technology and logistics.

“Cavalier or casually acquiescent decisions to spend taxpayer dollars in an ineffective and wasteful manner are not to recur,” Mattis continued in the memo.

More from The Hill

Posted by Libergirl

The Trillion-Dollar ‘National Security’ Budget

You wouldn’t know it, based on the endless cries for more money coming from the military, politicians, and the president, but these are the best of times for the Pentagon.  Spending on the Department of Defense alone is already well in excess of half a trillion dollars a year and counting.  Adjusted for inflation, that means it’s higher than at the height of President Ronald Reagan’s massive buildup of the 1980s and is now nearing the post-World War II funding peak.  And yet that’s barely half the story.  There are hundreds of billions of dollars in “defense” spending that aren’t even counted in the Pentagon budget.

Under the circumstances, laying all this out in grisly detail—and believe me, when you dive into the figures, they couldn’t be grislier—is the only way to offer a better sense of the true costs of our wars past, present, and future, and of the funding that is the lifeblood of the national security state.  When you do that, you end up with no less than 10 categories of national security spending (only one of which is the Pentagon budget).  So steel yourself for a tour of our nation’s trillion-dollar-plus “national security” budget. Given the Pentagon’s penchant for wasting money and our government’s record of engaging in dangerously misguided wars without end, it’s clear that a large portion of this massive investment of taxpayer dollars isn’t making anyone any safer.

1) The Pentagon Budget: The Pentagon’s “base” or regular budget contains the costs of the peacetime training, arming, and operation of the U.S. military and of the massive civilian workforce that supports it—and if waste is your Eden, then you’re in paradise.

The department’s budget is awash in waste, as you might expect from the only major federal agency that has never passed an audit.  For example, last year a report by the Defense Business Board, a Pentagon advisory panel, found that the Department of Defense could save $125 billion over five years just by trimming excess bureaucracy.  And a new study by the Pentagon’s Inspector General indicates that the department has ignored hundreds of recommendations that could have saved it more than $33.6 billion.

The Pentagon can’t even get an accurate count of the number of private contractors it employs, but the figure is certainly in the range of 600,000 or higher, and many of them carry out tasks that might far better be handled by government employees.  Cutting that enormous contractor work force by just 15%, only a start when it comes to eliminating the unnecessary duplication involved in hiring government employees and private contractors to do the same work, would save an easy $20 billion annually.

And the items mentioned so far are only the most obvious examples of misguided expenditures at the Department of Defense.  Even larger savings could be realized by scaling back the Pentagon’s global ambitions, which have caused nothing but trouble in the last decade and a half as the U.S. military has waged devastating and counterproductive wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and elsewhere across the Greater Middle East and Africa.  An analysis by Ben Friedman of the conservative Cato Institute estimates that the Pentagon could reduce its projected spending by one trillion dollars over the next decade if Washington reined in its interventionary instincts and focused only on America’s core interests.

Donald Trump, of course, ran for president as a businessman who would clean house and institute unprecedented efficiencies in government.  Instead, on entering the Oval Office, he’s done a superb job of ignoring chronic problems at the Pentagon, proposing instead to give that department a hefty raise: $575 billion next year.  And yet his expansive military funding plans look relatively mild compared to the desires of the gung-ho members of the armed services committees in the House and Senate.  Democrats and Republicans alike want to hike the Pentagon budget to at least $600 billion or more.  The legislative fight over a final number will play out over the rest of this year.  For now, let’s just use Trump’s number as a placeholder.

Pentagon Budget: $575 billion

2) The War Budget: The wars of this century, from Iraq to Afghanistan and beyond, have largely been paid for through a special account that lies outside the regular Pentagon budget.  This war budget—known in the antiseptic language of the Pentagon as the “Overseas Contingency Operations” account, or OCO—peaked at more than $180 billion at the height of the Bush administration’s intervention in Iraq.

As troop numbers in that country and Afghanistan have plumetted from hundreds of thousands to about 15,000, the war budget, miraculously enough, hasn’t fallen at anywhere near the same pace.  That’s because it’s not even subject to the modest caps on the Pentagon’s regular budget imposed by Congress back in 2011, as part of a deal to keep the government open.

In reality, over the past five years, the war budget has become a slush fund that pays for tens of billions of dollars in Pentagon expenses that have nothing to do with fighting wars.  The Trump administration wants $64.6 billion for that boondoggle budget in fiscal year 2018.  Some in Congress would like to hike it another $10 billion.  For consistency, we’ll again use the Trump number as a baseline.

War Budget: $64.6 Billion

Running Total: $639.6 Billion

3) Nuclear Warheads (and more): You might think that the most powerful weapons in the U.S. arsenal—nuclear warheads—would be paid for out of the Pentagon budget.   And you would, of course, be wrong.  The cost of researching, developing, maintaining, and “modernizing” the American arsenal of 6,800 nuclear warheads falls to an obscure agency located inside the Department of Energy, the National Nuclear Security Administration, or NNSA. It also works on naval nuclear reactors, pays for the environmental cleanup of nuclear weapons facilities, and funds the nation’s three nuclear weapons laboratories, at a total annual cost of more than $20 billion per year.

Department of Energy (nuclear): $20 Billion

Running total: $659.6 billion

4) “Other Defense”: This catchall category encompasses a number of flows of defense-related funding that go to agencies other than the Pentagon.  It totals about $8 billion per year. In recent years, about two-thirds of this money has gone to pay for the homeland security activities of the FBI, accounting for more than half of that agency’s annual budget.

“Other Defense”: $8 Billion

Running Total: $677.6 billion

The four categories above make up what the White House budget office considers total spending on “national defense.”  But I’m sure you won’t be shocked to learn that their cumulative $677.6 billion represents far from the full story.  So let’s keep right on going.

5) Homeland Security: After the 9/11 attacks, Congress created a mega-agency, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  It absorbed 22 then-existing entities, all involved in internal security and border protection, creating the sprawling cabinet department that now has 240,000 employees.  For those of you keeping score at home, the agencies and other entities currently under the umbrella of DHS include the Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency, the Transportation Security Agency, the U.S. Secret Service, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE), and the Office of Intelligence Analysis (the only one of America’s 17 intelligence agencies to fit under the department’s rubric).

How many of these agencies actually make us safer?  That would be a debatable topic, if anyone were actually interested in such a debate.  ICE—America’s deportation force—has, for instance, done far more to cause suffering than to protect us from criminals or terrorists.  On the other hand, it’s reassuring to know that there is an office charged with determining whether there is a nuclear weapon or radioactive “dirty bomb” in our midst.

While it’s hard to outdo the Pentagon, DHS has its own record of dubious expenditures on items large and small.  They range from $1,000 fees for employees to attend conferences at spas to the purchase of bagpipes for border protection personnel to the payment of scores of remarkably fat salaries to agency bureaucrats.  On the occasion of its 10th anniversary in 2013, Congressman Jeff Duncan (R-SC) excoriated the department as “rife with waste,” among other things, pointing to a report by the DHS inspector general that it had misspent over $1 billion.

DHS was supposed to provide a better focus for efforts to protect the United States from internal threats.  Its biggest problem, though, may be that it has become a magnet for increased funding for haphazard, misplaced, and often simply dangerous initiatives.  These would, for instance, include its program to supply grants to local law enforcement agencies to help them buy military-grade equipment to be deployed not against terrorists, but against citizens protesting the injustices perpetrated by the very same agencies being armed by DHS.

The Trump administration has proposed spending $50 billion on DHS in FY 2018.

Homeland Security: $50 Billion

Running Total: $717.6 Billion

6) Military Aid: U.S. government-run military aid programs have proliferated rapidly in this century.  The United States now has scores of arms and training programs serving more than 140 countries.  They cost more than $18 billion per year, with about 40% of that total located in the State Department’s budget.  While the Pentagon’s share has already been accounted for, the $7 billion at State—which can ill afford to pay for such programs with the Trump administration seeking to gut the rest of its budget—has not.

Military Aid at the State Department: $7 Billion

Running Total: $724.6 Billion

7) Intelligence: The United States government has 16 separate intelligence agencies: the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA); the National Security Agency (NSA); the Defense Intelligence Agency; the FBI; the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research; the Department of Homeland Security Office of Intelligence Analysis; the Drug Enforcement Administration Office of National Security Intelligence; the Treasury Department Office of Intelligence and Analysis; the Department of Energy Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence; the National Reconnaissance Office; the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency; Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance; Army Military Intelligence; the Office of Naval Intelligence; Marine Corps Intelligence; and Coast Guard Intelligence. Add to these the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), which is supposed to coordinate this far-flung intelligence network, and you have a grand total of 17 agencies.

The U.S. will spend more than $70 billion on intelligence this year, spread across all these agencies.  The bulk of this funding is contained in the Pentagon budget—including the budgets of the CIA and the NSA (believed to be hidden under obscure line items there).  At most, a few billion dollars in additional expenditures on intelligence fall outside the Pentagon budget and since, given the secrecy involved, that figure can’t be determined, let’s not add anything further to our running tally.

Intelligence: $70 Billion (mostly contained inside the Pentagon budget)

Running Total: $724.6 Billion

8) Supporting Veterans: A steady uptick of veterans generated by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has dramatically increased the costs of supporting such vets once they come home, including the war wounded, some of whom will need medical care for life.  For 2018, the Veterans Administration has requested over $186 billion for its budget, more than three times what it was before the 2001 intervention in Afghanistan.

Veterans: $186 billion

Running Total: $910.6 Billion

9) Military Retirement: The trust fund set up to cover pensions for military retirees and their survivors doesn’t have enough money to pay out all the benefits promised to these individuals.  As a result, it is supplemented annually by an appropriation from the general revenues of the government.  That supplement has by now reached roughly $80 billion per year.

Military Retirement: $80 Billion

Running Total: $990.6 Billion 

10) Defense Share of Interest on the Debt: It’s no secret that the U.S. government regularly runs at a deficit and that the total national debt is growing. It may be more surprising to learn that the interest on that debt runs at roughly $500 billion per year.  The Project on Government Oversight calculates the share of the interest on that debt generated by defense-related programs at more than $100 billion annually.

Defense Share of the Interest on the Debt: $100 billion

Grand Total: $1.09 Trillion

That final annual tally of nearly $1.1 trillion to pay for past wars, fund current wars, and prepare for possible future conflicts is roughly double the already staggering $575 billion the Trump administration has proposed as the Pentagon’s regular budget for 2018.  Most taxpayers have no idea that more than a trillion dollars a year is going to what’s still called “defense,” but these days might equally be called national insecurity.

So the next time you hear the president, the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or a hawkish lawmaker claim that the U.S. military is practically collapsing from a lack of funding, don’t believe it for a second.  Donald Trump may finally have put plutocracy in the Oval Office, but a militarized version of it has long been ensconced in the Pentagon and the rest of the national security state.  In government terms, make no mistake about it, the Pentagon & Co. are the 1%.

 

By William D. Hartung / TomDispatch

Posted by The NON-Conformist

 

Red State, Blue State; Green State, Deep State

Given all the commotion over the past week or so, some of it right here on CounterPunch, you’d think that “rogue” journalist Caitlin Johnstone was the reincarnation of Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens made his fateful pact with the neocons of the Bush administration. Johnstone is now offering a tentative hand of solidarity to white nationalists. Johnstone has her clique of admirers, but she’s not yet in Hitchens’ class, either as a writer or a professional heretic.

I suppose many of you are too young to remember the Iraq War, but let’s recall that back in those hazy days of yore the neocons packed cruise missiles in their pockets, while the white nationalists (those who weren’t moonlighting as members of your local police department) were goose-stepping around with flaming torches, when they could afford the matches. Hitchens, who retains a curious band of Lefty loyalists to this day, was invited to the Bush White House several times to help plot bombing targets in Iraq; Caitlin hasn’t helped burn down a single black church, as far as I’m aware.

On Thursday, we ran a long, hyper-ventilating piece by Patrick Walker that proved to be less a defense of Johnstone than a rather fusillade of inchoate invective about CounterPunch. Fine. We publish these types of rants by Walker and his tiny cohort of Bernie or Busters every few months just to air out the inbox and eradicate the black mold. He’s known in the office here as HR Huff-n-Puff. Amid the fumes of Walker’s torpid verbiage, he didn’t even have the courage to address the topic at hand: Johnstone’s call for the Left to find common ground with the Alt-Right-Delete. I can’t help thinking that Johnstone deserved a little better from her champion.

Let me start by confessing that I’m not a huge fan of Johnstone’s writing. In surveying her greatest hits over the last few months, I came away with the sense that Johnstone is basically riding a one-trope pony, with that trope being the malign nature of the Deep State. Who knew the CIA was so evil? (Of course, many big time columnists, David Brooks and Thomas Friedman, come to mind, have yet to master even a single trope worth reading, so Johnstone’s already far outpacing those tired geldings.) For the conspiratorial Left, the Deep Staters seem to have eclipsed the 9/11 Truthers as the heralds of a new political Theory-0f-Everything. This is a welcome shift of emphasis as far as I’m concerned.  Who really needs to read yet another belabored story on the demolition of WTC 7?

For many decades now, the American Left, what there is of it, has been in search of a comforting explanation for its rapidly eroding fortunes. It seems inexplicable to many that the Left could have become so politically impotent in an era of permanent wars and raging inequality. Rather than engage in rigorous self-inspection of its leaders, strategies and tactics, the Left has tended to point to malevolent outside forces as the agents of its demise, from the CIA’s domestic black ops to the FBI’s COINTELPRO program. Of course, there are many blood trails left by both of these agencies across the American political landscape, from the infiltration of the anti-war movement and SDS to the assassinations of black radicals and the decimation of the American Indian Movement. The Feds didn’t even try very hard to wipe up the trace evidence of their complicity in these crimes of the state.

I first encountered the phrase “Deep State” in the writings of the Canadian Peter Dale Scott (a fellow Eng. Lit major), though the predicate of the theory far predates Scott’s relatively docile explorations of the dark forces manipulating the secret management of the Empire.  The origin myth of leftwing Deep State theory is, of course, the assassination of JFK, an act of internal regime change by a CIA hit-team orchestrated by Allen Dulles in retaliation for the president’s alleged plan to break-up the agency and yank US troops out of Vietnam. From that moment on, according Deep State theorizers, the secret government was firmly in control and no political transgressions against its agenda would be tolerated. As an omnipotent force, the existence of a Deep State satisfies the Left’s desire to rationalize its own sense of perennial powerlessness.

Of course, I remain an unrepentant Magic Bullet man, fully persuaded that Lee Harvey Oswald, as an ardent devotee of the Cuban Revolution, had a more personal motive to kill the anti-communist Kennedy (the first neoliberal) than did fussy old Allen Dulles. With a couple miraculous shots from his Carcano Rifle, Oswald demonstrated that regime change could be a two-way street.

The far right has cultivated it’s own Deep State theory, which dates back at least to the paranoid fever-dreams of the John Birchers, who are now enjoying something of a resurgence. For reactionary nationalists, the Deep State is a globalist contagion that has infiltrated institutions as varied as the Commie-penetrated State Department, the “liberal” CIA, the Federal Reserve, the United Nations and, of course, the National Park Service. For the right, the control room of the Deep State is occupied by bankers (Rothschilds), internationalists (Soros), multi-culturalists (Cornel West) and tree huggers (Jane Goodall) intent on eradicating the white Protestant values that made the Republic what it was during it’s glorious apogee in the Andy Jackson administration.

It took the election of Trump to achieve the potential “intersectionality” of these two disparate branches of Deep  State Theory. Here at last was a JFK-like figure of the nationalist right, a man who was ready to smash NATO to pieces, revoke global trade pacts, retreat from interventionist wars, make nice with the Russians and chase all the little Hitlers out of the CIA. Then it all began unravel under the weight of RussiaGate©, a faux-scandal concocted by the Deep State to serve as a slo-motion coup d’etat. The tragedy of Trump makes for compelling reading, including dozens of articles probing similar veins that have appeared here on CounterPunch.

This is a fertile time for political polemicists and Johnstone’s popularity on the left side of the spectrum confirms my long-held view that many web-based readers like to wake up in the morning by having their core beliefs reconfirmed with a single click of the mouse. They crave the same basic menu of stories each day, written by the same writers at increasingly higher decibel levels. We can see the evidence by looking at the Google analytics for stories on CounterPunch. The louder the volume, the higher the hits.

As a writer of polemics, you seek to provoke, irritate and push right to the edge (and sometimes off-the-cliff) of permissible discourse. I’ve never called for a politician to die before, as Johnstone did recently in her column on John McCain, but I’ve come close.  Alex and I even predicted McCain’s imminent death from cancer in a column…9 years ago. (Almost all of our political predications proved wrong, including Alex’s initial assessment of Rick Perry in 2011 as being a man of “presidential material.”)

Still you have to write without fear or apologies. Not too long before Cockburn died, I asked him if he regretted anything he’d written (secretly hoping that he would retract his climate change denialism). “Regret? Jeffrey!! Never regret!!” He paused. “Well, I suppose if I hadn’t been over my deadline I might have rephrased that sentence about Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion. But once it’s out there you have to stand by it, man.” That sentence about Afghanistan was this one, “I yield to none in my sympathy to those prostrate beneath the Russian jackboot, but if ever a country deserved rape it’s Afghanistan.” The man had a way with words.

I even have a trace of sympathy for Johnstone’s call to engage with the far right on issues where there might exist a sliver of common ground on which we could stand and fight the same enemy. I’ve walked in those shoes and have been roundly condemned for such heresies. As Johnstone was coming under fire, I flashed back to a June morning in 1995.

The phone rang at 5 am. It was Cockburn, of course, an hour ahead of his normal call.

“Wake up, Jeffrey. You’ve been libeled!”

“I’ve been what?”

“It’s spelled: L-I-B-E-L-E-D…Libeled by some little punk at the New Yorker.”

“Which little punk? Not that Elizabeth Drew, I hope, she’s too boring to commit libel.”

“Perish the thought. A sniveling twit named Kelly. Michael Kelly.”

“What did he write?”

“Something about you consorting with terrorists, I think.”

“Have you read it?” Knowing Alex would rather get a root canal (his greatest phobia) than subscribe to the New Yorker.

“Are you kidding? Brother Andrew told me.” Andrew Cockburn would know. He reads everything. “He’ll fax to me. I’ll fax to you. Stand by your machine.”

That’s the way things worked in the days before Alex was enticed to abandon his Underwood for a Tangerine-Colored-Streamlined-Baby-i-Mac.

As I waited for Cockburn’s fax to rattle through the machine, I felt a little swell of excitement at making the hollowed pages of The New Yorker, like Steve Martin’s character in “The Jerk,” when he gets his hands on the new phonebook and finds his name in it.

My initial giddiness dissipated as the fax machine began to spit out Kelly’s eleven-page long hit piece titled “The Road to Paranoia,” which was itself a paranoid screed warning neoliberal America of the coming alliance between the radical left and the radical right. Buried in the avalanche of Kelly’s turgid prose, my cameo proved almost as fleeting as the appearance of poor Osric in “Hamlet.” I was accused of colluding with the enemy by giving a speech (later reproduced in the Earth First! Journal) at a gathering of the rightwing Wise Use Movement in Reno, where I viciously attacked the mainstream environmental movement for its political timidity. My crime, according to Kelly, was in promoting a seditious brand of “fusion politics.” If only it had taken root.

Over the ensuing years, similar slurs would come hurtling our way from other guardians of liberal respectability. During Clinton’s war on Serbia, Cockburn and I spoke at several rallies sponsored by the feisty libertarians at AntiWar.com, who were among the few courageous souls to oppose that ignoble enterprise. Even the freshly-elected socialist Bernie Sanders backed the bombing of the socialist city of Belgrade, a failure of nerve which prompted a few of his more honorable staffers to resign in protest. For this treachery, we were both denounced as genocide-denying tools of the isolationist menace.

When CounterPunch went online in 1999, we compounded our thought crimes by publishing some of the verboten voices of the anti-imperialist movement, from Ron Paul to “Werther,” Paul Craig Roberts to the civil libertarian James Bovard, whose appearances on our homepage elicited howls of outrage from the likes of Eric Alterman and Katha Pollitt. Naturally, we basked in the glow of their opprobrium.

Perhaps it’s just the writer in me, but from where I sit the real villain of this imbroglio isn’t the verbal provocateur Caitlin Johnstone, but David Cobb, the Debbie Wasserman-Schultz of the Green Party, who has been one of the most zealous promoters of Johnstone’s incendiary writings. What’s rich fodder for a political columnist can prove lethal for a political movement, especially a movement as bruised, battered and pale as the Greens. Can the Greens really afford to get any whiter than they already are?

Since his mysterious emergence as a leader of the Greens in 2004, Cobb has steadily squandered the political base that Ralph Nader helped build. Whether this was through incompetence or intent is unclear, but Cobb’s decision to make the Green Party a safe space for Democrats was a fatal miscalculation from which the party has never really recovered.  The hapless John Kerry, running as a war-monger, lost to Bush in any event, so the compromises of 2004 proved fruitless, except, perhaps, to the progressive donor class, who could now feel as if they could ease their consciences by occasionally throwing some money at the Greens without risking any political blowback.

In 2016, however, the prospects for the Green Party suddenly seemed brighter than at anytime since 2000, largely because of the inspired choice of Ajamu Baraka as Jill Stein’s running mate. Despite the involvement of many veterans from Jesse Jackson’s “Rainbow Coalition” campaigns of the 1980s, the Green Party had never really gained traction with blacks and Hispanics. Baraka’s presence on the ticket offered a real promise of expanding the Green Party’s base for the first time since Nader’s run. This wasn’t so much because Baraka is black, but because he was able to articulate a theory of political engagement that spoke directly to the experience of black and brown Americans.

Then David Cobb was brought on as campaign manager and almost immediately the wheels began to fall off. By election day, the Green ticket, which only a few weeks earlier held such promise, now seemed like a stealth campaign. In an election featuring two of the most unpopular candidates in history, the Greens could only manage a microscopic 1.1 percent of the popular vote, 3 million fewer votes than the dysfunctional Libertarian duo of Gary Johnson and Bill Weld. Cobb’s response to this humiliation at the polls wasn’t to resign, but to almost immediately pursue, along with Jill Stein, recounts in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, recounts which could only serve to benefit Hillary Clinton. Millions of dollars poured in from frantic Democrats in a desperate, and doomed, attempt to overturn the results of the election. The motives behind this curious affair have never been clearly ascertained, but once again Cobb demonstrated to the progressive funding machine that the Green Party presented no real threat to the political hegemony of the Democrats.

Now, Cobb seems intent on promoting a green-brown alliance, along the lines sketched by Caitlin Johnstone, as a means of reanimating a political movement that he, more than any other single figure, has helped to emasculate from the inside-out. This is a quest for fools gold at best, something more sinister at worst.

Environmentalists have been down this road before and it didn’t end well. In the 1990s, the Sierra Club was infiltrated by a vicious band of Malthusians, who scapegoated immigrants as a primary cause of environmental degradation. This shameful episode debased the Sierra Club and elevated the profile of the xenophobes, giving them a legitimate national platform for the first time and a political foothold that eventually metastasized into the virulent forces fueling the Trump campaign.

At an operational level, white nationalists already dominate the political agenda of the Republican, Democratic and Libertarian parties. The Greens invite them under the frayed flaps of their tent at their own peril.

by JEFFREY ST. CLAIR/CounterPunch

Posted by The NON-Conformist

“Ain’t No Such Thing as A Just War”: Ben Salmon, WWI Resister

Several days a week, Laurie Hasbrook arrives at the Voices office here in Chicago. She often takes off her bicycle helmet, unpins her pant leg, settles into an office chair and then leans back to give us an update on family and neighborhood news. Laurie’s two youngest sons are teenagers, and because they are black teenagers in Chicago they are at risk of being assaulted and killed simply for being young black men. Laurie has deep empathy for families trapped in war zones. She also firmly believes in silencing all guns.

Lately, we’ve been learning about the extraordinary determination shown by Ben Salmon, a conscientious objector during World War I who went to prison rather than enlist in the U.S. military. Salmon is buried in an unmarked grave in Mount Carmel Cemetery, on the outskirts of Chicago.

In June, 2017, a small group organized by “Friends of Franz and Ben” gathered at Salmon’s gravesite to commemorate his life.

Mark Scibilla Carver and Jack Gilroy had driven to Chicago from Upstate NY, carrying with them a life size icon bearing an image of Salmon, standing alone in what appeared to be desert sands, wearing a prison-issue uniform that bore his official prison number. Next to the icon was a tall, bare, wooden cross. Rev. Bernie Survil, who organized the vigil at Salmon’s grave, implanted a vigil candle in the ground next to the icon. Salmon’s grand-niece had come from Moab, Utah, to represent the Salmon family. Facing our group, she said that her family deeply admired Salmon’s refusal to cooperate with war. She acknowledged that he had been imprisoned, threatened with execution, sent for a psychiatric evaluation, sentenced to 25 years in prison, a sentence which was eventually commuted, and unable to return to his home in Denver for fear of being killed by antagonists. Charlotte Mates expressed her own determination to try and follow in his footsteps, believing we all have a personal responsibility not to cooperate with wars.

Bernie Survil invited anyone in the circle to step forward with a reflection. Mike Bremer, a carpenter who has spent three months in prison for conscientious objection to nuclear weapons, pulled a folded piece of paper out of his pocket and stepped forward to read from an article by Rev. John Dear, written several years ago, in which Dear notes that Ben Salmon made his brave stance before the world had ever heard of Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, or Mohandas Gandhi. There was no Catholic Worker, no Pax Christi, and no War Resisters League to support him. He acted alone, and yet he remains connected to a vast network of people who recognize his courage and will continue telling his story to future generations.

Had his wisdom and that of numerous war resisters in the U.S. prevailed, the U.S. would not have entered WW I. The author of War Against War, Michael Kazin, conjectures about how WW I would have ended if the U.S. had not intervened. “The carnage might have continued for another year or two,” Kazin writes, “until citizens in the warring nations, who were already protesting the endless sacrifices required, forced their leaders to reach a settlement. If the Allies, led by France and Britain, had not won a total victory, there would have been no punitive peace treaty like that completed at Versailles, no stab-in-the back allegations by resentful Germans, and thus no rise, much less triumph, of Hitler and the Nazis. The next world war, with its 50 million deaths, would probably not have occurred.”

But the U.S. did enter WWI, and since that time each U.S. war has caused a rise in taxpayer contributions to maintain the MIC, the Military-Industrial complex, with its vise-like grip on educating the U.S. public and marketing U.S. wars. Spending for militarism trumps social spending. Here in Chicago, where the number of people killed by gun violence is the highest in the nation, the U.S. military runs ROTC classes enrolling 9,000 youngsters in Chicago public schools. Imagine if equivalent energies were devoted to promoting means and methods of nonviolence, along with ways to end the war against the environment and creation of “green” jobs among Chicago’s youngest generations.

If we could share Laurie’s revulsion in the face of weapons and inequality, imagine the possible results. We would never tolerate U.S. shipment of weapons to opulent Saudi royals who use their newly purchased laser guided munitions and Patriot missiles to devastate the infrastructure and civilians of Yemen. On the brink of famine and afflicted by an alarming spread of cholera, Yemenis also endure Saudi airstrikes that have wrecked roadways, hospitals and crucial sewage and sanitation infrastructure. 20 million people (in regions long plagued by U.S. gamesmanship), would not be expected to die this year from conflict-driven famine, in near-total media silence. Just four countries, Somaliland, Southern Sudan, Nigeria and Yemen are set to lose fully one third as many people as died in the entirety of the Second World War. None of that would be a normal occurrence in our world. Instead, perhaps religious leaders would vigorously remind us about Ben Salmon’s sacrifice; rather than attend the annual Air and Water show, (a theatrical display of U.S. military might which turns out a million “fans”), Chicagoans would make pilgrimages to the cemetery where Ben is buried.

At this point, Mount Carmel cemetery is known for being the burial place of Al Capone.

The small group at the grave site included a woman from Code Pink, a newly ordained Jesuit priest, several Catholic Workers, several couples who were formerly Catholic religious and have never stopped ministering to others and advocating for social justice, five people who’ve served many months in prison for their conscientious objection to war, and three Chicago area business professionals. We look forward to gatherings, in Chicago and elsewhere, of people who will take up the organizing call of those who celebrated, on July 7th, when representatives of 122 countries negotiated and passed a U.N. ban on nuclear weapons. This event happened while warlords wielding hideous weapons dominated the G20 gathering in Hamburg, Germany.

Laurie envisions building creative, peaceful connections between Chicago youngsters and their counterparts in Afghanistan, Yemen, Gaza, Iraq, and other lands. Ben Salmon guides our endeavors. We hope to again visit Salmon’s grave site on Armistice Day, November 11, when our friends plan to set up a small marker bearing this inscription:

“There is no such thing as a just war.”
— Ben J. Salmon
Oct. 15, 1888 – Feb. 15, 1932

Thou Shalt Not Kill

Ben Salmon, Patron of Conscientious Objectors, Courtesy of Father William Hart

By Kathy Kelly

Posted by The NON-Conformist

On American Revolution

My fellow U.S.-Americans, we’ve never had a revolution.

It’s true that slaveowner Thomas Jefferson’s July 4, 1776 Declaration of Independence (DOI) articulated the revolutionary notion that the people have the right to dissolve a government that no longer serves their interests.  But the “American Revolution” was a national independence movement led by wealthy landowners, slaveowners, and merchants who feared uprisings from below.  They wanted more breathing space to develop further systems of racial oppression, territorial conquest, and class rule.  For them national independence was required among other things to prevent social revolution.  The last thing the nation’s wealth aristo-republican Founders wanted was a world turned upside down.

One of the grievances the signers of the DOI raised against the British king was that “he has excited domestic insurrections amongst us.”  Another purported sin of King George was that he “endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”  This vicious charge against the Native Americans was a total inversion of reality. It was the Euro-American invaders and settlers, not the Indigenous inhabitants, who practiced genocide.

The U.S. Constitution that the Founders enshrined thirteen years after breaking off from their capitalist parent and mentor England was a shining monument to the privileging of property rights – the rights of the propertied Few – over human rights and democracy. In the Constitutional Convention debates that produced this most un- and anti-democratic charter, the leading Framer and slaveowner James Madison backed an upper U.S. legislative assembly (the Senate) of elite property holders to check a coming “increase of population” certain to “increase the proportion of those who will labour under all the hardships of life, and secretly sigh for a more equal distribution of its blessings.”

Who were “the people” in the early U.S. republic? White male owners of substantive property holdings. This left out: Blacks, most of whom were branded and exploited as chattel slaves; Native Americans, reviled as “savages;” women of all races; much of the white population, which was considered too poor to be trusted with citizenship (though they were welcome to give their lives to fight the British).

American Independence was a calamity for the nation’s Indigenous people.  The British had antagonized the North American settlers by setting some limits on the colonists’ territorial expansion.  With Independence, the violent white North American predators were released to push First Nations’ people considerably further out from the eastern seaboard than before.  It’s not for nothing that the Iroquois gave America’s revered “revolutionary war” genera; and first president the title “Town Destroyer.”

Independence was an atrocity for the Black population as well.  Lands stolen from the Native Americans were open for cultivation with slaves. The chances for West Indies-style insurrection faded as new land opened for dispersal of the slave population and for the dilution of the Black-white population ratio with the immigration from Europe. With the rise of cotton and the industrial revolution, the racist torture regime that was U.S. slavery would become the key to the United States’ emergence as a major economic power in the world.

Seventy-six years after the DOI, the great Black abolitionist Frederick Douglass delivered perhaps the greatest oration in U.S. history, titled “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July.”  By the reckoning of Douglass, himself an escaped slave, the great national holiday was “a day that reveals to [the slave], 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.”

There was of course, the Civil War, which the Progressive Era historian Charles Beard famously called “America’s Second Revolution.”  It led to the formal end of Black chattel slavery in the U.S. South during and after a great sectional conflict that forced the North to enlist Black soldiers to defeat the Slave Power, the southern Confederacy.  But emancipation emerged less out of principle than from military necessity. De facto slavery and Black bondage was reinstated in various forms in the war’s aftermath.  Meaningful and radical “reconstruction” and concerns for racial equality were abandoned as the nation entered a new age of capitalist industrialization in which Blacks were still subjected to backbreaking cotton toil. Millions of new European immigrants crowded into giant tyrannical mines, mills, factories, and slaughterhouses owned by Robber Baron capitalists who joined with leading financiers in buying up national politics, resources, and media, and turning government into their own private for-profit fiefdom.

As the nineteenth century came to an end, the racist United States armed forces were already exhibiting in the Philippines and Cuba what would be one of its key roles in the coming century: suppressing national independence and social revolution in other and poorer nations around the world.  The American Empire would serve as the enemy of revolution and national self-determination again and again, from Mexico to Russia, the Caribbean, South America, Korea, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and even Western Europe.

Reflecting on the plutocratic essence of the corporate-managerial capitalism that arose in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the leading American philosopher John Dewey noted in 1932 that U.S. politics was “the shadow cast on society by big business.” Things would stay that way, Dewey prophesied, as long as power resided in “business for private profit through private control of banking, land, industry, reinforced by commend of the press, press agents, and other means of publicity and propaganda.”

It might seem that Dewey spoke too soon. Between the 1930s and the 1970s, a significant reduction in overall economic inequality (though not racial inequality) and an increase in the standard of living of millions of working class Americans occurred in the United States. This “Great Compression” occurred thanks to the rise and expansion of the industrial workers’ movement (sparked to no small extent by Communists and other radical left militants), the spread of collective bargaining, the rise of a relatively pro-union New Deal welfare state, and the democratic domestic pressures of World War II and subsequent powerful social movements.

By the early 1950s, the claim was even seriously advanced in Readers’ Digest that post-WWII America had replaced capitalism and its old class distinctions with “mutualism,” “industrial democracy,” “distributism,” “productivism,” and/or “economic democracy.” This was quite naïve.

No revolution occurred.  Not even close. Dewey’s point held. Core capitalist prerogatives and assets – Dewey’s “private control” and “business for profit” – were never dislodged.  This was consistent with New Deal champion Franklin Roosevelt’s boast that he had “saved the profits system” from radical change. The gains enjoyed by ordinary working Americans were made possible to no small extent by the uniquely favored and powerful position of the United States economy (and empire) in the post-WWII world. When that position was significantly challenged by resurgent Western European and Japanese economic competition in the 1970s and 1980s, the comparatively egalitarian trends of postwar America were reversed by the capitalist elites who had never lost their critical command of the nation’s core economic and political institutions. Working class Americans have paid the price ever since. For the last four decades, wealth, income, and power have been sharply concentrated upward, marking a New or Second Gilded Age of abject oligarchy.  Along the way, and intimately related to the neoliberal regression, US and global capitalism have pushed the environment to the edge of a grave, possibly irreversible catastrophe.

We need a revolution now, a first American Revolution. The United States is a corporate-oligarchic nation where: the top tenth of the upper 1 Percent owns as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent; ordinary people have essentially no political representation while the wealthy corporate and financial few get pretty much whatever they want from government; 15 million children – 21% of all U.S. children – live at less than the federal government’s notoriously inadequate poverty level (more than 1 in 10 U.S. children ages 0-9 is living at less than half that level); half the population is poor or near-poor and without assets; millions drink from poisoned water systems; an imperial military devours more than half of all discretionary federal spending and accounts for nearly half the world’s military spending; more people are incarcerated (in extremely racially disproportionate ways) than in any nation in history (a curious achievement for the self-described homeland and headquarters of “liberty”); a deeply entrenched and carbon-addicted corporate and financial sector is leading the world over the environmental cliff through the championing of endless growth and attendant “anthropogenic” (really capitalogenic) climate destruction.

The last problem mentioned is arguably the greatest and most urgent. The U.S.-headquartered, growth-addicted global profits system is speeding humanity to a lethal, Antarctic-dissolving 500 carbon parts per million by 2050 if not sooner. That’s “game over” for livable ecology. If environmental catastrophe, rooted in Dewey’s system of “business of private profit through private control,” is not avoided in the very near future, then none of the things decent people care about beyond livable ecology are going to matter all that much.

The new royal brute, the Twitter-addicted orange-haired beast and malignant narcissist called Donald Trump, appointed a militant climate change denier who is dedicated to tearing down the Environmental Protection Agency (the EPA) to head… the EPA. EPA chief Scott Pruitt wants to “empower” the 3% of Earth scientists who question the existence of “anthropogenic climate change.”

That is a call for the capitalogenic extermination of the human species – a transgression that will make the worst crimes of homo sapiens so far pale by comparison.  It is also a call for revolution.  “The uncomfortable truth,” Istvan Meszaros rightly argued 15 years ago, “is that if there is no future for a radical mass movement in our time, there can be no future for humanity itself.” It’s “socialism or barbarism if we’re lucky” at the current stage of capitalist-led ecocide.

Nowhere is the need for such a movement urgent than what is still the world’s leading and most powerful capitalist state, the U.S.

There is one piece of good news here: young adults. A recent Harvard University survey finds that 51 percent than half of U.S. Millennials (18-to-29-year-olds) “do not support capitalism.”

Good. Let’s work with that and build our forces for a first American Revolution.

By Paul Street/CounterPunch

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Saudi Arabia Is ‘Playing’ Donald Trump With Potentially Disastrous Consequences

  President Trump and first lady Melania Trump are welcomed by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in May. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

At this point, it’s no great surprise when Donald Trump walks away from past statements in service to some impulse of the moment. Nowhere, however, has such a shift been more extreme or its potential consequences more dangerous than in his sudden love affair with the Saudi royal family. It could in the end destabilize the Middle East in ways not seen in our lifetimes (which, given the growing chaos in the region, is no small thing to say).

Trump’s newfound ardor for the Saudi regime is a far cry from his past positions, including his campaign season assertion that the Saudis were behind the 9/11 attacks and complaints, as recently as this April, that the United States was losing a “tremendous amount of money” defending the kingdom.  That was yet another example of the sort of bad deal that President Trump was going to set right as part of his “America First” foreign policy.

Given this background, it came as a surprise to pundits, politicians, and foreign policy experts alike when the president chose Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, as the very first stop on his very first overseas trip. This was clearly meant to underscore the importance his administration was suddenly placing on the need to bolster the long-standing U.S.-Saudi alliance.

Mindful of Trump’s vanity, the Saudi government rolled out the red carpet for our narcissist-in-chief, lining the streets for miles with alternating U.S. and Saudi flags, huge images of which were projected onto the Ritz Carlton hotel where Trump was staying. (Before his arrival, in a sign of the psychological astuteness of his Saudi hosts, the hotel projected a five-story-high image of Trump himself onto its façade, pairing it with a similarly huge and flattering photo of the country’s ruler, King Salman.)  His hosts also put up billboards with pictures of Trump and Salman over the slogan “together we prevail.”  What exactly the two countries were to prevail against was left open to interpretation.  It is, however, unlikely that the Saudis were thinking about Trump’s much-denounced enemy, ISIS—given that Saudi planes, deep into a war in neighboring Yemen, have rarely joined Washington’s air war against that outfit.  More likely, what they had in mind was their country’s bitter regional rival Iran.

The agenda planned for Trump’s stay included an anti-terrorism summit attended by 50 leaders from Arab and Muslim nations, a concert by country singer Toby Keith, and an exhibition game by the Harlem Globetrotters. Then there were the strange touches like President Trump, King Salman, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi laying hands on a futuristically glowing orb—images of which then circled the planet—in a ceremony inaugurating a new Global Center for Combatting Extremist Ideology, and Trump’s awkward participation in an all-male sword dance.

Unsurprisingly enough, the president was pleased with the spectacle staged in his honor, saying of the anti-terrorism summit in one of his many signature flights of hyperbole, “There has never been anything like it before, and perhaps there never will be again.”

Here, however, is a statement that shouldn’t qualify as hyperbole: never have such preparations for a presidential visit paid such quick dividends.  On arriving home, Trump jumped at the chance to embrace a fierce Saudi attempt to blockade and isolate its tiny neighbor Qatar, the policies of whose emir have long irritated them.  The Saudis claimed to be focused on that country’s alleged role in financing terrorist groups in the region (a category they themselves fit into remarkably well).  More likely, however, the royal family wanted to bring Qatar to heel after it failed to jump enthusiastically onto the Saudi-led anti-Iranian bandwagon.

Trump, who clearly knew nothing about the subject, accepted the Saudi move with alacrity and at face value. In his normal fashion, he even tried to take credit for it, tweeting, “During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology.  Leaders pointed to Qatar—look!”  And according to Trump, the historic impact of his travels hardly stopped there.  As he also tweeted: “So good to see Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries paying off… Perhaps it will be the beginning of the end of the horror of terrorism.”

Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institution hit the nail on the head when he commented that “the Saudis played Donald Trump like a fiddle.  He unwittingly encouraged their worst instincts toward their neighbors.” The New York Times captured one likely impact of the Saudi move against Qatar when it reported, “Analysts said Mr. Trump’s public support for Saudi Arabia… sent a chill through other Gulf States, including Oman and Kuwait, for fear that any country that defies the Saudis or the United Arab Emirates could face ostracism as Qatar has.”

And Then Came Trump…

And what precisely are the Saudis’ instincts toward their neighbors?  The leaders in Riyadh, led by King Salman’s 31-year-old son, Saudi Defense Minister and deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, are taking the gloves off in an increasingly aggressive bid for regional dominance aimed at isolating Iran.  The defense minister and potential future leader of the kingdom, whose policies have been described as reckless and impulsive, underscored the new, harsher line on Iran in an interview with Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV in which he said, “We will not wait until the battle is in Saudi Arabia, but we will work so the battle is there in Iran.”

The opening salvo in Saudi Arabia’s anti-Iran campaign came in March 2015, when a Saudi-led coalition, including smaller Gulf petro-states (Qatar among them) and Egypt, intervened militarily in a chaotic situation in Yemen in an effort to reinstall Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi as the president of that country.  They clearly expected a quick victory over their ill-armed enemies and yet, more than two years later, in a war that has grown ever harsher, they have in fact achieved little.  Hadi, a pro-Saudi leader, had served as that country’s interim president under an agreement that, in the wake of the Arab Spring in 2012, ousted longstanding Yemeni autocrat Ali Abdullah Saleh.  In January 2015, Hadi himself was deposed by an alliance of Houthi rebels and remnants of forces loyal to former president Saleh.

The Saudis—now joined by Trump and his foreign policy team—have characterized the conflict as a war to blunt Iranian influence and the Houthi rebels have been cast as the vassals of Tehran.  In reality, they have longstanding political and economic grievances that predate the current conflict and they would undoubtedly be fighting at this moment with or without support from Iran.  As Middle Eastern expert Thomas Juneau recently noted in the Washington Post, “Tehran’s support for the Houthis is limited, and its influence in Yemen is marginal. It is simply inaccurate to claim that the Houthis are Iranian proxies.”

The Saudi-Emirati intervention in Yemen has had disastrous results.  Thousands of civilians have been killed in an indiscriminate bombing campaign that has targeted hospitals, marketplaces, civilian neighborhoods, and even a funeral, in actions that Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA) has said “look like war crimes.”  The Saudi bombing campaign has, in addition, been enabled by Washington, which has supplied the kingdom with bombs, including cluster munitions, and aircraft, while providing aerial refueling services to Saudi planes to ensure longer missions and the ability to hit more targets.  It has also shared intelligence on targeting in Yemen.

The destruction of that country’s port facilities and the imposition of a naval blockade have had an even more devastating effect, radically reducing the ability of aid groups to get food, medicine, and other essential supplies into a country now suffering from a major outbreak of cholera and on the brink of a massive famine. This situation will only be made worse if the coalition tries to retake the port of Hodeidah, the entry point for most of the humanitarian aid still getting into Yemen. Not only has the U.S.-backed Saudi war sparked a humanitarian crisis, but it has inadvertently strengthened al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which has increased its influence in Yemen while the Saudi- and Houthi-led coalitions are busy fighting each other.

Trump’s all-in support for the Saudis in its war doesn’t, in fact, come out of the blue. Despite some internal divisions over the wisdom of doing so, the Obama administration also supported the Saudi war effort in a major way. This was part of an attempt to reassure the royals that the United States was still on their side and would not tilt towards Iran in the wake of an agreement to cap and reverse that country’s nuclear program.

It was only after concerted pressure from Congress and a coalition of peace, human rights, and humanitarian aid groups that the Obama administration finally took a concrete, if limited, step to express opposition to the Saudi targeting of civilians in Yemen.  In a December 2016 decision, it suspended a sale of laser-guided bombs and other precision-guided munitions to their military.  The move outraged the Saudis, but proved at best a halfway measure as the refueling of Saudi aircraft continued, and none of rest of the record $115 billion in U.S. weaponry offered to that country during the Obama years was affected.

And then came Trump.  His administration has doubled down on the Saudi war in Yemen by lifting the suspension of the bomb deal, despite the objections of a Senate coalition led by Chris Murphy (D-CT), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Al Franken (D-MN) that recently mustered an unprecedented 47 votes against Trump’s offer of precision-guided bombs to Riyadh.  Defense Secretary James Mattis has advocated yet more vigorous support for the Saudi-led intervention, including additional planning assistance and yet more intelligence sharing—but not, for the moment, the introduction of U.S. troops.  Although the Trump foreign policy team has refused to endorse a proposal by the United Arab Emirates, one of the Saudi coalition members, to attack the port at Hodeidah, it’s not clear if that will hold.

A Parade for an American President?

In addition to Trump’s kind words on Twitter, the clearest sign of his administration’s uncritical support for the Saudi regime has been the offer of an astounding $110 billion worth of arms to the kingdom, a sum almost equal to the record levels reached during all eight years of the Obama administration. (This may, of course, have been part of the point, showing that President Trump could make a bigger, better deal than that slacker Obama, while supporting what he described as “jobs, jobs, jobs” in the United States.)

Like all things Trumpian, however, that $110 billion figure proved to be an exaggeration.  Tens of billions of dollars’ worth of arms included in the package had already been promised under Obama, and tens of billions more represent promises that, experts suspect, are unlikely to be kept.  But that still leaves a huge package, one that, according to the Pentagon, will include more than 100,000 bombs of the sort that can be used in the Yemen war, should the Saudis choose to do so.  All that being said, the most important aspect of the deal may be political—Trump’s way of telling “my friend King Salman,” as he now calls him, that the United States is firmly in his camp.  And this is, in fact, the most troubling development of all.

It’s bad enough that the Obama administration allowed itself to be dragged into an ill-conceived, counterproductive, and regionally destabilizing war in Yemen. Trump’s uncritical support of Saudi foreign policy could have even more dangerous consequences. The Saudis are more intent than Trump’s own advisers (distinctly a crew of Iranophobes) on ratcheting up tensions with Iran.  It’s no small thing, for instance, that Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who has asserted that Iran is “the single most enduring threat to stability and peace in the Middle East,” and who advocated U.S. military attacks on that country during his tenure as head of the U.S. Central Command, looks sober-minded compared to the Saudi royals.

If there is even a glimmer of hope in the situation, it might lie in the efforts of both Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to walk back the president’s full-throated support for a Saudi confrontation with Qatar. Tillerson, for instance, has attempted to pursue an effort to mediate the Saudi-Qatari dispute and has called for a “calm and thoughtful dialogue.” Similarly, on the same day as Trump tweeted in support of the Saudis, the Pentagon issued a statement praising Qatar’s “enduring commitment to regional security.”  This is hardly surprising given the roughly 10,000 troops the U.S. has at al-Udeid air base in Doha, its capital, and the key role that base plays in Washington’s war on terror in the region.  It is the largest American base in the Middle East and the forward headquarters of U.S. Central Command, as well as a primary staging area for the U.S. war on ISIS. The administration’s confusion regarding how to deal with Qatar was further underscored when Mattis and Qatari Defense Minister Khalid Al-Attiyah signed a $12 billion deal for up to 36 Boeing F-15 combat aircraft, barely a week after President Trump had implied that Qatar was the world capital of terrorist financing.

In a further possible counter to Trump’s aggressive stance, Secretary of Defense Mattis has suggested that perhaps it’s time to pursue a diplomatic settlement of the war in Yemen.  In April, he told reporters that, “in regards to the Saudi and Emirati campaign in Yemen, our goal, ladies and gentleman, is for that crisis down there, that ongoing fight, [to] be put in front of a U.N.-brokered negotiating team and try to resolve this politically as soon as possible.” Mattis went on to decry the number of civilians being killed, stating that the war there “has simply got to be brought to an end.”

It remains to be seen whether Tillerson’s and Mattis’s conciliatory words are hints of a possible foot on the brake in the Trump administration when it comes to building momentum for what could, in the end, be a U.S. military strike against Iran, egged on by Donald Trump’s good friends in Saudi Arabia.  As Ali Vaez of the International Crisis Group has noted, if the U.S. ends up going to war against Iran, it would “make the Afghan and Iraqi conflicts look like a walk in the park.”

In fact, in a period when the turmoil has only risen in much of the rest of the Greater Middle East, the Saudi Arabian peninsula remained relatively stable, at least until the Saudi-led coalition drastically escalated the civil war in Yemen.  The new, more aggressive course being pursued against the royal family in Qatar and in relation to Iran could, however, make matters much worse, and fast.  Given the situation in the region today, including the spread of terror movements and failing states, the thought that Saudi Arabia itself might be destabilized (and Iran with it) should be daunting indeed, though not perhaps for Donald Trump.

So far, through a combination of internal repression and generous social benefits to its citizens—a form of political bribery designed to buy loyalty—the Saudi royal family has managed to avoid the fate of other regional autocrats driven from power.  But with low oil prices and a costly war in Yemen, the regime is being forced to reduce the social spending that has helped cement its hold on power. It’s possible that further military adventures, coupled with a backlash against its repressive policies, could break what analysts Sarah Chayes and Alex de Waal have described as the current regime’s “brittle hold on power.” In other words, what a time for the Trump administration to offer its all-in support for the plans of an aggressive yet fragile regime whose reckless policies could even spark a regional war.

Maybe it’s time for opponents of a stepped-up U.S. military role in the Middle East to throw Donald Trump a big, glitzy parade aimed at boosting his ego and dampening his enthusiasm for the Saudi royal family.  It might not change his policies, but at least it would get his attention.

William D. Hartung, a TomDispatch regular, is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy and the author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex.

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By William D. Hartung/TomDispatch

Posted by The NON-Conformist