Bernie Sanders

Nausea Rising

gc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Originally Published on Patreon June 7, 2016

As you may know, http://Kunstler.com is currently under an aggressive Denial of Service (DoS) attack. His web and server technicians are working to get the website and blog back up and live soon (though it's going to cost a pretty penny). In the meantime, here is today's blog. Please share this with any of your CFN friends so they don't miss out.  Thank you for your continued support. — JHK


Considering that the 2016 election looks like a Dark Age puppet show — Pantalone and La Signora smacking each other with dildos — we forget this spectacle is serious. Rather large matters are at stake, such as the continuity of governance, the legitimacy of the two major political parties, the credibility of our financial arrangements, perhaps even the durability of the nation as a united polity.

Most of the deliberate comedy comes from Donald Trump, whose super-long dangling necktie looks like it was designed for laughs by the Commedia dell'Arte prop department, not to mention the hair, which I have maintained for many years is actually a wolverine living on top of Trump’s head. Trump certainly represents a large and valid strain of sentiment in the zeitgeist — the frustration of many ordinary citizens at government-sponsored racketeering that is shoving them into pauperdom. But his utterances against all that are so childish and disordered that he de-legitimates his own mission every time he opens his mouth.

Hillary delivers her laughs mostly deadpan, for instance her Sunday morning ABC interview with the old 1992 Clinton “War Room” hand George Stephanopoulos, who grilled the Flying Reptile rather mercilessly over the recent report from the State Department Inspector General that said she was “not allowed” to use the private email server no, ifs, ands, or buts. As she struggled to deflect the question, the “uh”s started to stipple her vapid evasions like holes punched in a life raft. It was fun watching her sink, uh, uh, uh, gurgle gurgle — though surely that was not the effect she was going for.

Bernie, of course, is not so funny. He’s as serious as a heart attack, which suggests that a pretty sizeable portion of the public is sick of being diverted with slapstick comedy. The old bastard is determined to give the Democratic Party poobahs some schooling in ethical procedure. I admire the heck out of that — also, his record as a demonstrably non-griftable public servant, and his stance against the racketeering-as-usual status quo — though I’m not persuaded he would be an effective president (if such a thing is even theoretically conceivable) given his nanny government disposition. But the bigshots of the DNC still have a lot of ‘splainin’ to do, and it looks like ole Bernie is going to beat it out of them at Philadelphia in July. What I wonder: is he strong enough to hold Debbie Wasserman-Schultz on his lap while he applies the rod.

The people of the United States have real grievances with the way this country is being run. Last Friday’s job’s report was a humdinger: only 38,000 new jobs created in a country of over 300 million, with a whole new crop of job-seeking college grads just churned out of the diploma mills. I guess the national shortage of waiters and bartenders has finally come to an end.

What’s required, of course, is a pretty stout restructuring of the US economy. And that should be understood to be a matter of national survival. We need to step way back on every kind of giantism currently afflicting us: giant agri-biz, giant commerce (Wal Mart etc.), giant banking, giant war-making, and giant government — this last item being so larded with incompetence on top of institutional entropy that it is literally a menace to American society.

The trend on future resources and capital availability is manifestly downward, and the obvious conclusion is the need to make this economy smaller and finer. The finer part of the deal means many more distributed tasks among the population, especially in farming and commerce operations that must be done at a local level. This means more Americans working on smaller farms and more Americans working in reconstructed Main Street business, both wholesale and retail. This would also necessarily lead to a shift out of the suburban clusterfuck and the rebuilding of ten thousand forsaken American towns and smaller cities.

For the moment, many demoralized Americans may feel more comfortable playing video games, eating on SNAP cards, and watching Trump fulminate on TV, but the horizon on that is limited too. Sooner or later they will have to become un-demoralized and do something else with their lives.

The main reason I am so against the Hillary and Trump, and so ambivalent on Bernie is their inability to comprehend the scope of action actually required to avoid sheer cultural collapse.

 


James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

Notes from the Locked Ward

rubiogc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation February 8, 2016

 


The remaining Americans sound-of-mind must view the primary election spectacle with mounting sensations of wonder, nausea, and panic. It’s one thing for the financial system to crack up, and another thing for social norms to disintegrate, and still another for the political system to become a locked ward of obvious psychopathology. Even the neurosurgeon on duty went narcoleptic the other night when his name was called to take the stage.

Last week’s candidate “debates” (or boasting contests) only underscored the human frailty on display. Marco Rubio was unmasked as an android with a broken flash drive. For a few moments I thought I was seeing an clip from the old movie Alien. In fact, the Republican melodrama more and more echoes the tone and plot of that story: a hapless, bumbling crew lost in space. One of these nights, something unspeakable is going to shoot out of Donald Trump’s mouth and there will be blood all over the podiums.

The Democratic boasting contest was not more reassuring. Bernie blew his biggest chance yet to harpoon the white whale known as Hillary when he cast some glancing aspersions on Mz It’s-My-Turn’s special side-job as errand girl of the Too-Big-To-Fail banks. Together, Bill and Hillary racked up $7.7 million on 39 speaking gigs to that gang, with Hillary clocking $1.8 million of the total for eight blabs. When Bernie alluded to this raft of grift, MzIMT retorted, “If you’ve got something to say, say it directly.”

There was a lot Bernie could have said, but didn’t. Such as: what did you tell them that was worth over $200,000 a pop? Whatever it was, it must have made them feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Did it occur to you that this might look bad sometime in the near future? Is there any way that this might not be construed as bribery? And how is some formerly middle-class out-of-work average voter supposed to feel about you getting paid more for 45 minutes of flapping your gums than he or she has earned in the past five years?

Bernie could have found a gentlemanly way to say that directly, but perhaps he experienced a sickening precognitive vision of his jibes being used against the party establishment’s candidate in the fall general election. Of course, if it looked like Hillary was going to get elected, the remaining sound-of-mind in this country might be falling over each other to apply for citizenship in Uruguay.

Beyond all the political histrionics, is there not some broad recognition that whoever occupies the White House in 2017 will preside over a financial debacle like unto nothing in scale that the world has ever seen before? With all the reverberating side effects imaginable among the traumatized nations? Something wicked has been creeping through the stock markets since the year began. The velocity and damage are amping up. Credit default swap spreads are yawning like fault lines in a ‘quake. Bankers are watching their share prices collapse. It’s a wonder that panic has not already broken out.

This is not just about Wall Street and its counterparts in London, Shanghai, Tokyo, and Frankfurt. This is the financial world (and underworld) catching up with the Economy of Actual Stuff. In the USA, that economy has bled out like a hapless bystander with a sucking chest wound for the last eight years. Despite all the patriotic sanctimony on view at the Superbowl, the nation appears to be visibly cracking up, along with the fantasy of a permanent global economy.

None of the desperate work-arounds since 2008 have worked around the predicaments of our time. Politics will not abide a rational journey out of our fatal hyper-complexity to something simpler and more consistent with the realities at hand. Expect more and greater craziness as the year lurches on.

 


James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

The Anti-Empire Report #143

fallujahgc2sm From the Keyboard of William Blum
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fallujah

Published originally in The Anti-Empire Report February 5, 2016

“If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged.”

-Noam Chomsky


Is Bernie Sanders a socialist?

“Self-described socialist” … How many times have we all read that term in regard to Vermont senator Bernie Sanders? But is he really a socialist? Or is he a “social democrat”, which is what he’d be called in Europe? Or is he a “democratic socialist”, which is the American party he has been a member of (DSA – Democratic Socialists of America)? And does it really matter which one he is? They’re all socialists, are they not?

Why does a person raised in a capitalist society become a socialist? It could be because of a parent or parents who are committed socialists and raise their children that way. But it’s usually because the person has seen capitalism up close for many years, is turned off by it, and is thus receptive to an alternative. All of us know what the ugly side of capitalism looks like. Here are but a few of the countless examples taken from real life:

  • Following an earthquake or other natural disaster, businesses raise their prices for basic necessities such as batteries, generators, water pumps, tree-removal services, etc.

  • In the face of widespread medical needs, drug and health-care prices soar, while new surgical and medical procedures are patented.

  • The cost of rent increases inexorably regardless of tenants’ income.

  • Ten thousand types of deception to part the citizens from their hard-earned wages.

What do these examples have in common? It’s their driving force – the profit motive; the desire to maximize profit. Any improvement in the system has to begin with a strong commitment to radically restraining, if not completely eliminating, the profit motive. Otherwise nothing of any significance will change in society, and the capitalists who own the society – and their liberal apologists – can mouth one progressive-sounding platitude after another as their chauffeur drives them to the bank.

But social democrats and democratic socialists have no desire to get rid of the profit motive. Last November, Sanders gave a speech at Georgetown University in Washington about his positive view of democratic socialism, including its place in the policies of presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson. In defining what democratic socialism means to him, Sanders said: “I don’t believe government should take over the grocery store down the street or own the means of production.” 

I personally could live with the neighborhood grocery store remaining in private hands, but larger institutions are always a threat; the larger and richer they are the more tempting and easier it is for them to put profit ahead of the public’s welfare, and to purchase politicians. The question of socialism is inseparable from the question of public ownership of the means of production.

The question thus facing “socialists” like Sanders is this: When all your idealistic visions for a more humane, more just, more equitable, and more rational society run head-first into the stone wall of the profit motive … which of the two gives way?

The most commonly proposed alternative to both government or private control is worker-owned cooperatives or publicly owned enterprises managed by workers and consumer representatives. Sanders has expressed his support for such systems and there is indeed much to be said about them. But the problem I find is that they will still operate within a capitalist society, which means competition, survival of the fittest; which means that if you can’t sell more than your competitors, if you can’t make a sufficient net profit on your sales, you will likely be forced to go out of business; and to prevent such a fate, at some point you may very well be forced to do illegal or immoral things against the public; which means back to the present.

Eliminating the profit motive in American society would run into a lot less opposition than one might expect. Consciously or unconsciously it’s already looked down upon to a great extent by numerous individuals and institutions of influence. For example, judges frequently impose lighter sentences upon lawbreakers if they haven’t actually profited monetarily from their acts. And they forbid others from making a profit from their crimes by selling book or film rights, or interviews. The California Senate enshrined this into law in 1994, one which directs that any such income of criminals convicted of serious crimes be placed into a trust fund for the benefit of the victims of their crimes. It must further be kept in mind that the great majority of Americans, like people everywhere, do not labor for profit, but for a salary.

The citizenry may have drifted even further away from the system than all this indicates, for American society seems to have more trust and respect for “non-profit” organizations than for the profit-seeking kind. Would the public be so generous with disaster relief if the Red Cross were a regular profit-making business? Would the Internal Revenue Service allow it to be tax-exempt? Why does the Post Office give cheaper rates to non-profits and lower rates for books and magazines which don’t contain advertising? For an AIDS test, do people feel more confident going to the Public Health Service or to a commercial laboratory? Why does “educational” or “public” television not have regular commercials? What would Americans think of peace-corps volunteers, elementary and high-school teachers, clergy, nurses, and social workers who demanded well in excess of $100 thousand per year? Would the public like to see churches competing with each other, complete with ad campaigns selling a New and Improved God?

Pervading all these attitudes, and frequently voiced, is a strong disapproval of greed and selfishness, in glaring contradiction to the reality that greed and selfishness form the official and ideological basis of our system. It’s almost as if no one remembers how the system is supposed to work any more, or they prefer not to dwell on it.

It would appear that, at least on a gut level, Americans have had it up to here with free enterprise. The great irony of it all is that the mass of the American people are not aware that their sundry attitudes constitute an anti-free-enterprise philosophy, and thus tend to go on believing the conventional wisdom that government is the problem, that big government is the biggest problem, and that their salvation cometh from the private sector, thereby feeding directly into pro-free-enterprise ideology.

Thus it is that those activists for social change who believe that American society is faced with problems so daunting that no corporation or entrepreneur is ever going to solve them at a profit carry the burden of convincing the American people that they don’t really believe what they think they believe; and that the public’s complementary mindset – that the government is no match for the private sector in efficiently getting large and important things done – is equally fallacious, for the government has built up an incredible military machine (ignoring for the moment what it’s used for), landed men on the moon, created great dams, marvelous national parks, an interstate highway system, the peace corps, social security, insurance for bank deposits, protection of pension funds against corporate misuse, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institutes of Health, the Smithsonian, the G.I. Bill, and much, much more. In short, the government has been quite good at doing what it wanted to do, or what labor and other movements have made it do, like establishing worker health and safety standards and requiring food manufacturers to list detailed information about ingredients.

Activists have to remind the American people of what they’ve already learned but seem to have forgotten: that they don’t want more government, or less government; they don’t want biggovernment, or small government; they want government on their side. Period.

Sanders has to clarify his views. What exactly does he mean by “socialism”? What exactly is the role the profit motive will play in his future society”?

Mark Brzezinski, son of Zbigniew, was a post-Cold War Fulbright Scholar in Warsaw: “I asked my students to define democracy. Expecting a discussion on individual liberties and authentically elected institutions, I was surprised to hear my students respond that to them, democracy means a government obligation to maintain a certain standard of living and to provide health care, education and housing for all. In other words, socialism.” 

We should never forget

The modern, educated, advanced nation of Iraq was reduced to a virtual failed state … the United States, beginning in 1991, bombed for much of the following 12 years, with one dubious excuse after another; then, in 2003, invaded, then occupied, overthrew the government, tortured without inhibition, killed wantonly … the people of that unhappy land lost everything – their homes, their schools, their electricity, their clean water, their environment, their neighborhoods, their mosques, their archaeology, their jobs, their careers, their professionals, their state-run enterprises, their physical health, their mental health, their health care, their welfare state, their women’s rights, their religious tolerance, their safety, their security, their children, their parents, their past, their present, their future, their lives … More than half the population either dead, wounded, traumatized, in prison, internally displaced, or in foreign exile … The air, soil, water, blood, and genes drenched with depleted uranium … the most awful birth defects … unexploded cluster bombs lying in wait for children to pick them up … a river of blood running alongside the Euphrates and Tigris … through a country that may never be put back together again … “It is a common refrain among war-weary Iraqis,” reported the Washington Post in 2007, that things were better before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.” 

The United States has not paid any compensation to Iraq.

The United States has not made any apology to Iraq.

Foreign policy is even more sensitive a subject in the United States than slavery of the black people and genocide of the Native Americans. The US has apologized for these many times, but virtually never for the crimes of American foreign policy. 

In 2014, George W. Bush, the man most responsible for this holocaust, was living a quiet life in Texas, with a focus on his paintings. “I’m trying to leave something behind”, he said. 

Yes, he has certainly done that – mountains of rubble for one thing; rubble that once was cities and towns. His legacy also includes the charming Islamic State. Ah, but Georgie Boy is an artiste.

We need a trial to judge all those who bear significant responsibility for the past century – the most murderous and ecologically destructive in human history. We could call it the war, air and fiscal crimes tribunal and we could put politicians and CEOs and major media owners in the dock with earphones like Eichmann and make them listen to the evidence of how they killed millions of people and almost murdered the planet and made most of us far more miserable than we needed to be. Of course, we wouldn’t have time to go after them one by one. We’d have to lump Wall Street investment bankers in one trial, the Council on Foreign Relations in another, and any remaining Harvard Business School or Yale Law graduates in a third. We don’t need this for retribution, only for edification. So there would be no capital punishment, but rather banishment to an overseas Nike factory with a vow of perpetual silence. – Sam Smith 

On March 2, 2014 US Secretary of State John Kerry condemned Russia’s “incredible act of aggression” in Ukraine. “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext.”

Iraq 2003 was in the 21st century. The pretext was completely trumped up. Senator John Kerry voted for it. Nice moral authority you have there, John.

On the same occasion, concerning Ukraine, President Obama spoke of “the principle that no country has the right to send in troops to another country unprovoked”.  Do our leaders have no memory or do they think we’ve all lost ours?

Does Obama avoid prosecuting the Bush-Cheney gang because he wants to have the same rights to commit war crimes? The excuse he gives for his inaction is so lame that if George W. had used it people would not hesitate to laugh. On about five occasions, in reply to questions about why his administration has not prosecuted the like of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, et al. for mass murder, torture and other war crimes, former law professor Obama has stated: “I prefer to look forward rather than backwards.” Picture a defendant before a judge asking to be found innocent on such grounds. It simply makes laws, law enforcement, crime, justice, and facts irrelevant. Picture Chelsea Manning and other whistleblowers using this argument. Picture the reaction to this by Barack Obama, who has become the leading persecutor of whistleblowers in American history.

Noam Chomsky has observed: “If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged.”

It appears that the German and Japanese people only relinquished their imperial culture and mindset when they were bombed back to the stone age during World War II. Something similar may be the only cure for the same pathology that is embedded into the very social fabric of the United States. The US is now a full-blown pathological society. There is no other wonder drug to deal with American-exceptionalism-itis.

Notes

  1. Senator Bernie Sanders on Democratic Socialism in the United States, November 19, 2015
  2. Los Angeles Times, September 2, 1994
  3. Washington Post, May 5, 2007
  4. William Blum, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, chapter 25
  5. New York Times, September 16, 2014
  6. Sam Smith of Maine, formerly of Washington, DC
  7. Reuters, March 3, 2014

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.


William Blum is an author, historian, and renowned critic of U.S. foreign policy. He is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, among others.

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

 

Potemkin Party

From the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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5-Reasons-why-Bernie-Sanders-will-beat-Hillary-Clinton
 
Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation July 27, 2015
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How many of you brooding on the dreadful prospect of Hillary have chanced to survey what remains of Democratic Party (cough cough) leadership in the background of Her Royal Inevitableness? Nothing is the answer. Zip. Nobody. A vacuum. There is no Democratic Party anymore. There are no figures of gravitas anywhere to be found, no ideas really suited to the American prospect, nothing with the will to oppose the lumbering parasitic corporatocracy that is doing little more than cluttering up this moment in history while it sucks the last dregs of value from our society.

I say this as a lifelong registered Democrat but a completely disaffected one — who regards the Republican opposition as the mere errand boy of the above-named lumbering parasitic corporatocracy. Readers are surely chafing to insert that the Democrats have been no less errand boys (and girls) for the same disgusting zeitgeist, and they are surely correct in the case of Hillary, and indeed of the current President.

Readers are surely also chafing to insert that there is Bernie Sanders, climbing in the opinion polls, disdaining Wall Street money, denouncing the current disposition of things with the old union hall surliness we’ve grown to know and love. I’m grateful that Bernie is in the race, that he’s framing an argument against Ms. It’s My Turn. I just don’t happen to think that Bernie gets what the country — indeed what all of techno-industrial society — is really up against, namely a long emergency of economic contraction and collapse.

These circumstances require a very different agenda than just an I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill redistributionist scheme. Lively as Bernie is, I don’t think he offers much beyond that, as if cadging a little more tax money out of WalMart, General Mills, and Exxon-Mobil will fix what is ailing this sad-ass polity. The heart of the matter is that our way of life has shot its wad and now we have to live very differently. Almost nobody wants to even try to think about this.

I hugely resent the fact that the Democratic Party puts its time and energy into the stupid sexual politics of the day when it should be working on issues such as re-localizing commercial economies (rebuilding Main Streets), reforming agriculture to avoid the total collapse of corporate-industrial farming, and fixing the passenger rail system so people will have some way to get around the country when happy Motoring dies (along with commercial aviation).

The “to do” list for rearranging the basic systems of daily life in America is long and loaded with opportunity. Every system that is retooled contains jobs and social roles for people who have been shut out of the economy for two generations. If we do everything we can to promote smaller-scaled local farming, there will be plenty of work for lesser-skilled people to do and get paid for. Saying goodbye to the tyranny of Big Box commerce would open up vast vocational opportunities in reconstructed local and regional networks of commerce, especially for young people interested in running their own business. We need to prepare for localized clinic-style medicine (in opposition to the continuing amalgamation and gigantization of hospitals, with its handmaidens of Big Pharma and the insurance rackets). The train system has got to be reborn as a true public utility. Just about every other civilized country is already demonstrating how that is done — it’s not that difficult and it would employ a lot of people at every level. That is what the agenda of a truly progressive political party should be at this moment in history.

That Democrats even tolerate the existence of evil entities like WalMart is an argument for ideological bankruptcy of the party. Democratic Presidents from Carter to Clinton to Obama could have used the Department of Justice and the existing anti-trust statutes to at least discourage the pernicious monopolization of commerce that Big Boxes represented. By the same token, President Obama could have used existing federal law to break up the banking oligarchy starting in 2009, not to mention backing legislation to more crisply define alleged corporate “personhood” in the wake of the ruinous “Citizens United” Supreme Court decision of 2010. They don’t even talk about it because Wall Street owns them.

So, you fellow disaffected Democrats — those of you who can’t go over to the other side, but feel you have no place in your country’s politics — look around and tell me who you see casting a shadow on the Democratic landscape. Nobody. Just tired, corrupt, devious old Hillary and her nemesis Bernie the Union Hall Champion out of a Pete Seeger marching song.

I’ve been saying for a while that this period of history resembles the 1850s in America in two big ways: 1) our society faces a crisis, and 2) the existing political parties are not up to the task of comprehending what society faces. In the 1850s it was the Whigs that dried up and blew away (virtually overnight), while the old Democratic party just entered a 75-year wilderness of irrelevancy. God help us if Trump-o-mania turns out to be the only alternative.

Oh, by the way, notice that the lead editorial in Monday’s New York Times is a plea for transgender bathrooms in schools. What could be more important? For Transgender Americans, Legal Battles Over Restrooms.

 

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

The Anti-Empire Report #139

From the Keyboard of William Blum
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female jihadi

Published originally in The Anti-Empire Report May 23, 2015

 


Their precious young minds and our precious young minds

She was a redheaded rebel, the singer in the family, a trash-talking, tattooed 21-year-old wrapped up in a hip-hop dream of becoming Holland’s Eminem. Then Betsy found Allah. After her sudden conversion to Islam last summer, Betsy began dressing in full Muslim robes. By January, the once-agnostic Dutch woman, raised in a home where the only sign of religion was a dusty Bible on a shelf, began defending homegrown terrorists. … Denis Cuspert, a German hip-hop artist known as Deso Dogg who converted in 2010 and later joined The Islamic State [ISIS], delivers a rap-like chant portraying the path to jihad as a chance for empowerment, spiritual fulfillment, vengeance and adventure. … ‘The door to jihad is standing there waiting for you,’ says a Swedish convert to Islam in a video. ‘It is the fastest way to paradise.’ 

Tales told many times in recent years, all over Europe, at times in the United States. Parents and authorities are deeply distressed and perplexed. How can young people raised in the West – the freedom-obsessed, democratic, peace-loving, humanitarian, fun-filled West – join the Islamic State and support the public cutting off of the heads of breathing, living human beings? Each of us in our own way are lost souls searching for answers to the awful mysteries of life. But THIS? What life-quest does The Islamic State satisfy that our beloved West can’t satisfy? ISIS is unique in the world in making US foreign policy look good. The Defense Department and the State Department have special task forces studying the new enemy; the latter regularly puts out videos to counteract the many Islamic State videos.

I hope those researching the question look inwardly as well as at ISIS. How do young people raised in the West – the same West we know and love – coldly machine-gun to death more than a dozen Iraqis, men, women, children, reporters, absolutely in cold blood, in the video made famous by Chelsea Manning; but this of course is nothing compared to Fallujah with its two-headed babies, even three-headed, an eye in the middle of the forehead. The Islamic State has done nothing compared to what the United States did to the people of Fallujah. Can anyone name a horror in all of history more gruesome? Yes, there are some, but not many; and much of Fallujah was personally executed by nice, clean-cut, freedom-obsessed, democratic, peace-loving, humanitarian, fun-filled made-in America young men.

Here’s US Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, in his memoir, April 6, 2004, the time of Fallujah, in video teleconference with President Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. “We’ve got to smash somebody’s ass quickly,” said Powell. “There has to be a total victory somewhere. We must have a brute demonstration of power.” Then Bush spoke: “At the end of this campaign al-Sadr must be gone. At a minimum, he will be arrested. It is essential he be wiped out. Kick ass! If somebody tries to stop the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them! We must be tougher than hell! This Vietnam stuff, this is not even close. It is a mind-set. We can’t send that message. It’s an excuse to prepare us for withdrawal. … There is a series of moments and this is one of them. Our will is being tested, but we are resolute. We have a better way. Stay strong! Stay the course! Kill them! Be confident! Prevail! We are going to wipe them out! We are not blinking!” 

“Years from now when America looks out on a democratic Middle East, growing in freedom and prosperity, Americans will speak of the battles like Fallujah with the same awe and reverence that we now give to Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima” in World War II. – George W. Bush, 2006 

Well, George, it’s either that or Fallujah was one of the key reasons for the rise of ISIS.

My point here is not that United States foreign policy is as barbaric and depraved as The Islamic State. It’s not. Most of the time. I simply hope to make it a bit easier to understand the enemy by seeing ourselves without the stars in our eyes. And I haven’t even mentioned what the United States has led the world in for over a century – torture.

The ever-fascinating and ever-revealing subject of ideology

Jeb Bush has gotten himself into trouble because, like all politicians running for office, he is unable to give simple honest answers to simple straightforward questions, for fear of offending one or another segment of the population. How refreshing it would be to have a politician say only what s/he actually believes, even if it’s as stupid as usual.

The brother of the previous president has been asked repeatedly: “Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion of Iraq?” At first his answer was “yes”, then at times “I don’t know”, even “no” at least once, or he’s refused to answer at all. Clearly he’s been guessing about which reply would win him points with the most people, or which would lose him the least.

This caused a minor uproar, even among conservatives. Right-wing radio host Laura Ingraham was moved to make a rare rational remark: “You can’t still think that going into Iraq, now, as a sane human being, was the right thing to. If you do, there has to be something wrong with you.”

Such discussions always leave out a critical point. Why did millions of Americans, and even more millions abroad, march against the war in the fall of 2002 and early 2003, before it began? What did they know that the Bush brothers and countless other politicians didn’t know? It was clear to the protesters that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were habitual liars, that they couldn’t care less about the people of Iraq, that the defenseless people of that ancient civilization were going to be bombed to hell; most of the protesters knew something about the bombings of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Panama, Yugoslavia, or Afghanistan; and they knew about napalm, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, etc. Those who marched knew that the impending war was something a moral person could not support; and that it was totally illegal, a textbook case of a “war of aggression”; one didn’t have to be an expert in international law to know this.

Didn’t the Brothers Bush, Hillary Clinton (who voted for the war in the Senate), et al know about any of these things? Of course they did. They just didn’t care enough; supporting the empire’s domination and expansion was a given, and remains so; no US politician gets very far – certainly not to the White House – questioning the right of American Exceptionalism to impose itself upon humanity (for humanity’s sake of course).

Consider the darlings du jour of the American Left, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. They very seldom speak out critically about US foreign policy or even the military budget. The anti-war/anti-imperialist segment of the American left need to put proper pressure on the two senators.

Mr. Sanders should also be asked why he routinely refers to himself as a “democratic socialist”. Why not just “socialist”? It’s likely a legacy of the Cold War. I think that he and other political figures who use the term are, consciously or unconsciously, trying to disassociate themselves from communism, the Soviet Union, Marxism, etc., all those things that are not good for you. (The word “socialist” once connoted furtive men with European accents, sinister facial hair, and bombs.)

It would be delightful to hear Sanders openly declare that he is simply a “socialist”. Socialism can be democratic; indeed, a lot more so than capitalism, particularly concerning the distribution of wealth and all the ramifications of that. Presented here are some relevant thoughts on these issues, from myself and others:

It’s only the socialists who maintain as a bedrock principle: People before Profit, which can serve as a very concise definition of socialism, an ideology anathema to the Right and libertarians, who fervently believe, against all evidence, in the rationality of a free market. I personally favor the idea of a centralized, planned economy. (Oh my God, a damn Commie!) Modern society is much too complex and technical to leave its operation in the hands of libertarians, communitarians, or anarchists seeking to return to a “community” or “village” level.

“Washington has always regarded democratic socialism as a greater challenge than totalitarian Communism, which was easy to vilify and made for a handy enemy. In the 1960s and ’70s, the favored tactic for dealing with the inconvenient popularity of economic nationalism and democratic socialism was to try to equate them with Stalinism, deliberately blurring the clear differences between the world views.” – Naomi Klein

“If it is true, as often said, that most socialist regimes turn out to be dictatorships, that is largely because a dictatorship is much harder to overthrow or subvert than a democracy.” – Jean Bricmont, Belgian author of “Humanitarian Imperialism” (2006)

Without a proclaimed socialist vision, radical change becomes too many different things for too many different individuals and groups.

“Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all of God’s children.” – Martin Luther King

The United States is so fearful of the word “socialism” that it changed the “social sciences” to the “behavioral sciences”.

If for no other reason than to save the environment, the world needs to abandon the capitalist system. Every day, in every spot on earth, in a multitude of ways, corporations are faced with a choice: to optimize profits or to do what’s best for the planet.

The great majority of people in any society work for a salary. They don’t need to be motivated by the profit motive. It’s not in anyone’s genes. Virtually everybody, if given the choice, would prefer to work at jobs where the main motivations are to help others, improve the quality of life of society, and provide themselves with meaningful and satisfying work. It’s not natural to be primarily motivated by trying to win or steal “customers” from other people, no holds barred, survival of the fittest or the least honest.

And what about this thing called “democracy”, or “majority rule”? Many millions marched against the invasion of Iraq before it began. I don’t know of a single soul who marched in favor of it, although I’m sure there must have been someone somewhere. That lucky soul was the one they listened to.

Finally, the question being asked of Jeb Bush and others is not the best one. They’re asked: “Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion of Iraq?” A more important question would be: “Knowing what we knew then, would you have authorized the invasion of Iraq?” And the answer should be “no”, because we knew that Saddam Hussein had destroyed his weapons of mass destruction. This is very well documented, from diverse sources, international and Iraqi, including Saddam himself and his chief lieutenants. 

The American Mainstream Media – A Classic Tale Of Propaganda

“When an American warplane accidentally struck the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in 1999 during the Kosovo campaign …”

These words appeared in the Washington Post on April 24, 2015 as part of a story about US drone warfare and how an American drone attack in Pakistan in January had accidentally killed two Western aid workers. The Post felt no need to document the Belgrade incident, or explain it any further. Almost anyone who follows international news halfway seriously knows about this famous “accident” of May 7, 1999. The only problem is that the story is pure propaganda.

Three people inside the Chinese embassy were killed and Washington apologized profusely to Beijing, blaming outdated maps among other problems. However, two well-documented and very convincing reports in The Observer of London in October and November of that year, based on NATO and US military and intelligence sources, revealed that the embassy had been purposely targeted after NATO discovered that it was being used to transmit Yugoslav army communications. The Chinese were doing this after NATO planes had successfully silenced the Yugoslav government’s own transmitters.  The story of how the US mainstream media covered up the real story behind the embassy bombing is absolutely embarrassing. 

Over and above the military need, there may have been a political purpose served. China, then as now, was clearly the principal barrier to US hegemony in Asia, if not elsewhere. The bombing of the embassy was perhaps Washington’s charming way of telling Beijing that this is only a small sample of what can happen to you if you have any ideas of resisting or competing with the American juggernaut. Since an American bombing campaign over Belgrade was already being carried out, Washington was able to have a much better than usual “plausible denial” for the embassy bombing. The opportunity may have been irresistible to American leaders. The chance might never come again.

All of US/NATO’s other bombing “mistakes” in Yugoslavia were typically followed by their spokesman telling the world: “We regret the loss of life.” These same words were used by the IRA in Northern Ireland on a number of occasions over the years following one of their bombings which appeared to have struck the wrong target. But their actions were invariably called “terrorist”.

Undoubtedly, the US media will be writing of the “accidental” American bombing of the Chinese embassy as long as the empire exists and China does not become a member of NATO.


Personal stuff

I’m part of a panel at the annual Left Forum in New York, Saturday, May 30, noon to 1:50, Room 1.89: US Wars of Aggression & Islamic Jihad: What is the Bigger Danger and How Should the Antiwar Movement Respond?

Other panel members are David Swanson and Alan Goodman.

John Jay College of Criminal Justice
524 W. 59th St (Between 10th and 11th)

On May 20 the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a list of 39 English-language books recovered during the raid that reportedly killed Osama bin Laden. Noam Chomsky and I are the only two authors on the list with two books.

As some of you may remember, in January, 2006 bin Laden, in an audiotape, recommended that Americans read my book Rogue State. This resulted in the US media discovering my existence for a week. You can read the full story in my book America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy (pp. 281-84). 

 


Notes

 

  1. Washington Post, May 7, 2015
  2. Ricardo Sanchez, Wiser in Battle: A Soldier’s Story (2008), pages 349-350
  3. Associated Press, November 11, 2006
  4. William Blum, America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy, pp. 61-2
  5. The Observer (London), October 17, 1999 (“Nato bombed Chinese deliberately”), and November 28, 1999 (“Truth behind America’s raid on Belgrade”)
  6. Extra! Update (magazine of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting [FAIR], New York), December 1999; appeared first as solitary article October 22, 1999 (“U.S. Media Overlook Expose on Chinese Embassy Bombing”)

William Blum is an author, historian, and renowned critic of U.S. foreign policy. He is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, among others.

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

 

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