Yemen: The Damning Silence of Liberals Leaves a Legacy of Shame

Written by Chris Floyd 31 July 2018 2056 Hits

 

Hudaydah ‘one airstrike away from unstoppable epidemic’: UN humanitarian chief in Yemen. (UN News)

In the US and UK, the war in Yemen is only ever mentioned (and that rarely) as a "humanitarian crisis": "Oh, those poor people starving and suffering and dying from epidemics. Hey, what did Trump tweet? What's Mueller up to?" There is no acknowledgement that the US & UK are directly involved in the prolonged mass slaughter of civilians in Yemen and the destruction of the nation's infrastructure, which has led to famine and epidemic on a horrendous scale. No mention that the US & UK are supplying weapons, logistics, military intelligence and supplies (along with occasional bombings and ground raids) to one of the most tyrannical regimes on earth, Saudi Arabia, led by extremist sectarian tyrants. No mention that this horrific and obscene atrocity, this unholy alliance for mass murder, began under Barack Obama and has worsened under Donald Trump. The "Resistance" says nothing -- nothing -- at all about it, ever.

You wouldn't expect them to acknowledge Obama's deep, crimson-stained complicity in this -- because in "progressive" politics (just as on the Right), principles end where partisanship begins. But you'd think they'd at least use it to bash Trump: "Trump is a war criminal! Trump is helping Islamic extremists kill innocent people!" Yet you hear nothing of this.

This silence is one of the most amazing and shameful things in American politics and media today. And it is damning a whole generation of "liberal" partisans and pundits with a complicity every bit as deep and sinister as that of all those who championed the war crime of the Bush-Blair invasion of Iraq. I say this to all progressives: Is this where you want to stand? Is the company you want to keep? Is this the legacy you want to leave behind?

When your children ask, "How could you not even say a word when innocent people were being murdered and starved and sickened in your name, by a president you supported and even a president you didn't support? How could you have just stood by and said nothing, nothing at all? What kind of person are you?" What will you say in answer to them?

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Echoes Past and Future: Helsinki Goon Show Masks the Real Rot That Bedevils Us

Written by Chris Floyd 17 July 2018 3124 Hits

“There’s the cue: an echo from the future…”
Boris Pasternak, “Hamlet,” from Doctor Zhivago

I.
It’s true Trump behaved like a chump and a lackey with Putin during their press conference on Monday. But if Don really has done a deal with Vlad — as opposed to, say, simply acting out his deeply disturbed need to be stroked by tough-guy daddy figures who have killed people — then Trump has also treated the Russian leader the same way he’s treated everyone he’s ever made a deal with: he’s cheated him. Putin has gotten very little of real substance from Trump’s presidency so far, and as Jeffrey St. Clair has pointed out, the political fallout from the bizarro goon show in Helsinki will probably make it even less likely that Moscow will wring any concessions out of Washington in the near future.

For even after the fawning cringefest today, this is still the situation: No sanctions against Russia have been lifted. Trump is forcefully insisting that NATO spend even more money on troops, weapons and vast war games along the Russian border. The annexation of Crimea has not been recognized. Ukraine is now receiving deadly weaponry from the United States — a move Obama had blocked — and this strengthens Ukraine’s hand and gives it hope of militarily defeating the Russian-backed forces in the breakaway regions, which would be a major humiliation for Putin. It certainly makes any negotiated settlement in which Putin’s favorites might wring a partial victory more unlikely.

So despite the swagger of the little face-lifted man as he deftly held court with the lumbering, spray-tanned goober at his side, Putin still faces more heat on his western border, more heat on his southern border, continuing sanctions hobbling his economy and no approval of his Crimea annexation. 

II.
That’s not to say that Putin has got nothing at all from Trump’s presidency. It’s just that most of the benefits have not come from Trump, but from his opponents. The obsessive focus on Russian meddling in the 2016 election has led the “Resistance” to paint Putin as an all-powerful, superhuman force, able to control world events with a crook of his finger and the tweak of a tweet: an image that does wonders for his domestic political standing. 

Not only is Vlad able to control the minds of 63 million American voters, he has also been able to transform lifelong liberal stalwarts into full-blown reactionaries. Instead of focusing on, say, the relentless, murderous brutality being dealt out to the African-American community by America’s hyper-militarized police forces, the "Resistance" launches scarifying screeds about evil Russkies “seeking to divide us” by running reports about Black Lives Matter on RT or Twitter. They send reporters to the parents of murdered children and demand they be scandalized because some putatively Russian-connected account has retweeted stories about their horrific loss. The actual police murders are marginalized — if not obliterated — by the heinous fact that the “wrong” people are talking about them.

We see this process also in the truly astonishing embrace of America’s “security apparat” by liberals and progressives. Institutions like the FBI and CIA  — which have engaged in demonstrably criminal, deliberately deceptive and deeply immoral activities for decades on end — are praised to the skies and defended as noble truth-tellers and defenders of democracy. Despite the fact that our apparatchiks have played key roles in launching unjust wars of aggression, in stoking fear with self-created “terrorist” plots, in torturing and caging innocent people, in destroying wedding parties and family gatherings with drones, in operating death squads around the world, in infiltrating peaceful groups in order to subvert and control American political life, in imposing surveillance regimes on the population that outstrip the dreams of the Stasi and the KGB in their reach and depth over almost every aspect of our lives … despite the fact that our liberals and progressives have seen all these things happen — just within this century alone — they now give instant, unquestioning credibility to whatever assertion these deeply stained agencies make. 

What’s more, they condemn anyone who expresses even a scintilla of reluctance to treat the security apparatchiks as dispensers of Holy Writ. Someone who says, “Wow, I hope all these charges against Trump and his gang are true — I’d love to see them all go down in flames — but I think it’s always prudent to be somewhat cautious about simply taking the (usually anonymous) word of these agencies, who have lied to us so brazenly so many times, at face value” will be immediately attacked as a Trump-loving, Putin-loving neofascist in the pay of the Kremlin. This accusation is also beginning to be applied to almost anyone who criticizes any disturbing feature of American life or foreign policy. “Why are you helping the Russians spread discontent and dissension among our people by talking about police murders and pipeline protests or FBI entrapment, or dissing our now-sacred CIA for its own incessant meddling in the sovereignty and political processes of countries all over the world?”

III.
This is a very old strain in American political life: the Russkies are always undermining us from within. Russia can’t even pave all of its own roads, but it has somehow always possessed the magical power to control the minds and behaviour of countless Americans, through various forms of mass deception: The loose morals of Hollywood movies and the degenerate jungle sounds of jazz. (Henry Ford spent a fortune pushing square dancing as a wholesome, white alternative to the demonic temptations of Negro jazz.) The primitive rhythms and rebellious attitudes of rock and roll music, destroying the moral fiber of our youth. The Civil Rights movement stirring up our good, obedient colored folk and causing race riots. Feminazis and queers attacking the very foundation of civilization: the heterosexual patriarchal family. The draft-dodgers and hippies protesting our crusade to bring democracy to Southeast Asia. The anti-nuke protestors trying to disarm us in the face of first-strike Commie aggression.

In all of this — and much more besides — we have seen the Russians blamed for either directly creating or constantly stoking “disunity and dissension” among what would otherwise be a happy, satisfied, unified American populace. Of course, down through the decades our liberals and progressives have rightly denounced and ridiculed such notions. Whatever “special measures” the Kremlin did or didn’t take in any reform movement or societal change (and or course, it had nothing to do with most of them in any way), this did not vitiate the native authenticity and legitimacy of the cause itself. (Just as the CIA’s extensive involvement in disseminating Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago did not strip that novel of its inherent moral and literary integrity.)

But now, in the second decade of the 21st century, we have seen a vast sea change. The very people who had long rejected such a primitive idea of social and political upheaval (“Yeah, right, Goldwater, the universal human yearning for civil rights comes straight from the Kremlin basement!”) have now embraced it with a vengeance. Trump — and Trumpism — and the hardcore 30-40% of Americans who support the brutal, thieving, racist bastard — have been brought to power solely by the machinations of a handful of Russians under the direction of Vladimir Putin, the evil master-fixer of the age. 

This is what liberals and progressives now tell us. It’s not because of deep, foundational flaws in the American system. (Such as, for example, the Electoral College, devised by 18th century slaveowners to keep ordinary Americans from electing their leader; or the overwhelming, corrosive power of Big Money over both main parties; or the insanely immoral war-profiteering machine that has utterly devoured the American state and its foreign policy, etc.) No; it’s just the Russians. If we can just magically undo what they did in 2016 with their tweets and YouTube videos, everything will be back to “normal.” And anyone who questions, in any way, the actions of the security apparat in protecting us from these Russian machinations is either a dupe or a traitor. I’ve been following American politics since Goldwater’s run in 1964, and I’ve never seen such a huge, disheartening reversal in all those years as what we’re witnessing now among so many liberals and progressives.

IV.
I’ve said from day one of Trump’s vile presidency that there are dozens (if not more) straightforward criminal actions and connections that could and should lead to his impeachment and removal. Whole books have been written about his mob ties and extensive corruption in his business deals. However, I’ve also said, and still say, that if even the most tenuous collusion with Putin can be found (much less a substantial one), I’ll be overjoyed to see him go down. (Just as people were happy to see Al Capone finally locked up on tax evasion charges, instead the manifold murders and crimes he was guilty of.) 

So if what it takes to get rid of him (and his whole crime family) is a dubious “pee tape” or an email saying, “Thanks, Vlad, I owe ya one, buddy” — instead of one of the many ways Trump embodies the deep rot at the core of our system — well, that’s fine with me. But when he’s gone, the rot will remain. The same rot that led Barack Obama to partner with Saudi Arabia in one of the most ghastly atrocities of this ghastly century — the murderous slaughter in Yemen. (Still ongoing under Trump today.) The same rot that saw Obama signing off on death lists in his office every Tuesday of “suspects” (including American citizens) to be murdered without charges, trial or warning. The same rot that saw Hillary Clinton exulting with laughter at the rape and murder of a foreign leader after his country had fallen to radical extremists and slave-dealers. The same rot that led Obama to go to the CIA (yes, the now-holy agency) in the first days of his presidency and tell them that none of them would ever be prosecuted for brutally torturing people under Bush. The same rot that saw our progressive politicians bail out the frauds who had destroyed the global economy while letting millions of people go under. The same rot that saw the progressive president wildly accelerate the militarization of city police forces begun under his war criminal predecessor, George Bush. The same rot that has seen our bipartisan neoliberal elite working hand in hand to destroy the middle class, the working class and the poor in favor of the super-rich. The same rot that sees the US spending ever-increasing amounts of public money on out-of-control, world-spanning military adventurism while the lives, opportunities and the infrastructure of ordinary American citizens literally fall to pieces. 

Get rid of Trump — hell, get rid of the loathsome Putin — and all of that rot will still be here. And if we don’t deal with that — as well as dealing with Trump — then nothing will really change. And something even worse than the spray-tanned abomination will almost certainly be coming down the line.

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Even the hapless saps of Weimar put up a better fight than this

Written by Chris Floyd 27 June 2018 3873 Hits

 

Imagine living in this universe -- much less being an actual politician working in DC today -- and thinking that Donald Trump would ever, under any circumstances, make a "centrist" choice for the Supreme Court. Just imagine being that naive, that jejune, that blind, that clueless, that completely and utterly, wilfully ignorant of reality. A newborn kitten has more political insight and savvy than this "heavyweight" of the Democratic "opposition." Even the hapless saps of Weimar put up a better fight than this.

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The Gates of Hell are Closing Behind us: US-Saudi Horror Show Heats up in Yemen

Written by Chris Floyd 15 June 2018 5276 Hits

So here we are. The Saudis — their brutal aggression armed, funded and guided with “target intelligence” by the United States and Great Britain — have finally begun their assault on the Yemeni port of Hodeidah. This is where almost all humanitarian aid — and indeed, 70 percent of the nation’s food, medicine and other supplies — enter Yemen. The assault on the port — which has suffered from partial blockades supported by the US and UK — will plunge millions into famine and likely lead to at least 250,000 deaths in the short run, according to the UN. This in addition to the many thousands who have already died of famine, epidemic, bombing and lack of medical care throughout the three-year storm of carnage.

The Saudi attack has been a monstrous war crime since its beginning. It was approved and assisted at every step for two years by President Barack Obama; it simply could not have happened without him. Obama’s policies of arming, funding, guiding and — on occasion — directly participating in the Saudi invasion have been carried on, and extended, by Donald Trump, who has launched more direct military incursions and bombings in Yemen. 

Trump’s involvement has bestirred a bit of criticism from Democrats, who with very few exceptions did not raise the slightest objection to Obama joining extremist religious tyrants in invading a foreign country and driving its people into starvation and ruin. And you will search high and low in what is laughingly called the “liberal media” — MSNBC, CNN, the NYT, the WP and the gaggle of comedy TV hosts whose smarmy, shallow “hot takes” have somehow become the vanguard of “Resistance” — without finding any critique (or even acknowledgement) of the direct, personal complicity of Obama and the Democratic “foreign policy establishment” in this wanton act of mass murder. 

The Saudis invaded Yemen to restore a puppet leader who had been “elected” in a vote in which only one candidate was allowed to run — the candidate backed by the Saudis and the Obama administration. The Saudi-US-UK attack also saved Al Qaeda in Yemen. The terrorist group was nearing defeat at the hands of the Houthi rebels; the Saudi invasion battered and diverted the rebel effort, allowing Al Qaeda to thrive in the region once more. It also allowed ISIS to gain a foothold in Yemen for the first time.

The origins and context of the war — much less the absolutely critical role played by the US and UK — are almost never mentioned in the Anglo-American media. In fact, the war itself is rarely mentioned, despite it being what the UN calls “the largest humanitarian disaster in the world.” There is the occasional story about the “Saudi-led coalition” in action and, even more rarely, a piece about the horrendous human suffering in Yemen. For example, the NYT ran a long, admirably detailed piece on the catastrophic plight of ordinary Yemeni people caught in the crossfire of war. But as I noted at the time

It also leaves out the bombing raids and ground raids being carried out directly by US forces in Yemen, ostensibly against ISIS and al Qaeda. Here another fact is politely set aside: the fact that the US-Saudi war has vastly increased the power and reach of ISIS and al Qaeda in Yemen. The Yemen forces now under attack by the Saudis were sworn enemies of the extremists, and had pounded al Qaeda to a small remnant -- until the US/UK and the Saudis stepped in and drove them back. ISIS had almost no presence in Yemen before the war. Now, both groups are flourishing mightily in the chaos, with their enemies being devastated by the US/Saudi assault.

Two other details were lacking as well. You can read the whole long story and not see a single mention of Donald Trump or Barack Obama. The latter put the full weight of the US behind this war of aggression to install a puppet leader, while the former has expanded US involvement with more ground troops and many more air attacks, most of them blunderbuss bombings which have killed many civilians. So yes, the story does provide some moving detail about the human suffering being caused by the war; but the eminently savvy and well-informed readers of the New York Times could walk away from the story without the slightest clue of their own government's direct and deep complicity in this humanitarian crisis.

This remarkable myopia continues today. On Wednesday, the Guardian ran a story (linked aobon the new assault on Hodeidah. It is not a bad story, as such things go, for it does include extensive quotes from figures opposed to the attack, including this withering blast of truth from a former Conservative minister:

The former Conservative international development secretary Andrew Mitchell accused the British government of being complicit in the attack, and said the UK was using its position on the UN security council to protect its ally Saudi Arabia. “A decision has been made by Britain in relation to Saudi Arabia that security and commercial grounds trumps everything else. We are getting into a very difficult territory. We are part of a coalition that is besieging this country and creating famine. What happens when they have taken Hodeidah? There will be 1 million people that will need to be fed and watered and get medicine. They will not have a prayer of doing that. Britain will be complicit in that”.

But the story perpetuates the idea that the US and Britain have little to do with the war — in direct contradiction to the fact that the war would end tomorrow if the US and UK cut off the weapons and military assistance they are providing to the “Saudi-led coalition.” The Guardian story speaks of frantic diplomatic efforts, “backed by Britain and the US,” pleading with the Saudis to delay or call off the attack. Yet on the very same day, you could see this in the Wall Street Journal:

The U.S. military is providing its Gulf allies with intelligence to fine-tune their list of airstrike targets in Yemen’s most important port, one sign of the Trump administration’s deepening role in a looming assault that the United Nations says could trigger a massive humanitarian crisis.

The Journal story details the “qualified support” Trump officials are giving to the assault on Hodeidah; i.e., go ahead and attack, but make sure you do some copious PR about “preserving the flow of humanitarian aid” and “commercial imports” while you’re slaughtering people and cutting off the nation’s lifeline.

Oddly enough, in a passage clearly intended to present US involvement in the most rosy light, the Journal tells us:

The U.S. shares limited intelligence with the Saudi-led coalition, including information used to pinpoint hospitals, mosques, U.N. offices and other locations meant to be off-limits for airstrikes. 

Yet we have seen story after story of the Saudis bombing hospitals, mosques, schools and other civilian targets with deadly, efficient accuracy. And this goes back to the halcyon days when the scandal-free Obama was in office. From Amnesty international in 2015:

Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces have carried out a series of air strikes targeting schools that were still in use, in violation of international humanitarian law, and hampering access to education for thousands of Yemen’s children, said Amnesty International in a new briefing published today. The coalition forces are armed by states including the USA and UK …

“The Saudi Arabia-led coalition launched a series of unlawful air strikes on schools being used for educational – not for military – purposes, a flagrant violation of the laws of war,” said Lama Fakih, Senior Crisis Advisor at Amnesty International who recently returned from Yemen.

This was in the first few weeks of the war. Such attacks have been constant throughout the conflict. For example, in January 2017, two schools were bombed, including a school for blind children. Hospitals are routinely bombed as well. Weddings and funerals have also been frequent targets, with horrific slaughter of defenseless civilians. (Such as this one in April 2018.) As the Guardian notes, of 16,847 airstrikes against Yemen (as of April; there have been hundreds more since), at least one-third of them “have hit non-military targets.”

The attack on Hodeidah did bring more media attention to the Yemen slaughter and even a few whispers about the US participation in this war crime. The initial NYT story on the port assault seemed a bit less like transcription and almost like real reporting. It quotes some of the Democrats who have finally begun speaking against the Yemen war now that it can be tied to the loathed Republican president. We also get this very telling juxtaposition:

The Pentagon insists that all of its military aid is noncombat assistance, like advising the Saudi Air Force on adopting bombing practices that kill fewer civilians. But at the same time, the defense contractor Raytheon is courting lawmakers and the State Department to allow it to sell 60,000 precision-guided munitions to the Saudis and Emiratis, in deals worth billions of dollars.

With stock prices of our death metal merchants temporary flagging in the wake of the Trump-Kim summit, the masters of war are not about to let the fountain of blood money they’re getting from Yemen dry up. And we can be certain that the political courtesans who have served the death-feasters so faithfully over the years will not let them down.

But the wan, flickering hope of more rigorous coverages was already fading by week’s end. Two days after the bombs began pounding the people of Hodeidah, the NYT was already relegating the story to a bit of wire copy rips in the inside pages. The morally aroused Democrats, meanwhile, had turned their ferociously powerful instincts for piece toward a new bill they’re introducing to … prevent the president from withdrawing troops from South Korea — unless the move is officially approved by the Pentagon. Yes, the liberal progressive Resisters want to strip control over troop movements from the elected civilian government and give it to the military. (And this new stricture would not only apply to the dolt in office right now, of course, but to any future president.)

Again, here we are. The worst humanitarian crisis in the world is about to descend into an ever deeper level of hell, with the indispensable support of the United States; and the political opposition is spending their time trying to give even more political power to the Pentagon.

Dystopia? You’re soaking in it.

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Pulling Strings But Losing the Thread: All Day Permanent Red

Written by Chris Floyd 23 April 2018 7749 Hits

The title of one of poet Christopher Logue's series of translations/transformations from the Illiad struck me long ago as the best description of our age of endless anxiety and emergency: All Day Permanent Red. Its salience and relevance grows more hideously apt with each passing day, as deliberately stoked strife and fear blend with seething changes and murky forces that not even the stokers themselves can foresee or comprehend. In a world that cannot sustain its current state but seems spellbound and paralyzed by its spiralling trajectory toward ruin, the shattering disequilibrium pervades not only the howling circus of the outer world but the delicate balances of our inner world as well. 

Naturally, one's reaction to all this is to write a jaunty tune with grungy guitar and perky organ, so here it is: All Day Permanent Red.

 

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Alchemical Reactions: Transmuting Death-Dealing Dung Into PR Gold

Written by Chris Floyd 14 April 2018 9250 Hits

One simple point: if the US/UK/France really believed the building they targeted (and hit) in a heavily populated civilian area of Damascus was actually making chemical weapons, what do they think would have happened if all that toxic material had been dispersed by explosions throughout the surrounding neighborhoods? Hundreds if not thousands of civilians would have died. So either the "Western powers" knowingly risked killing thousands of innocent people -- or else they knew the building was not actually a chemical weapons facility.

Thus we are left with two possible conclusions: either they are "gas-killing animals" happy to murder untold numbers of innocent people in a military action (the very crime of which they accuse Asad); or they are deeply cynical liars using entirely bogus "humanitarian" concerns to advance a geopolitical agenda of domination in the Middle East that has already killed more than a million innocent human beings, displaced millions more, destroyed several countries and destabilized the entire world. There really are no other options.

Again: either they genuinely believed it was a chemical weapons factory and they blew it to smithereens without the slightest regard for what would happen to those in the area; or they knew it wasn't a WMD site at all. Either option makes an utter mockery of their sickening false piety about their concern for "innocent Syrian victims."

And by the way, what DID happen after the strike? Nothing. There was no dispersal of deadly chemicals, not even in the ruins of the building itself, as AFP and the Times of India report. Foreign reporters toured the site, without protective gear, in perfect safety. Obviously, there had been no chemical weapons there. Of course, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has repeatedly verified that Syria has dismantled all its chemical weapons facilities and that its stocks of chemical weapons were destroyed years ago, under international supervision. That doesn't necessarily mean there might possibly be some secret government chemical weapon facilities somewhere in Syria, although there has not yet been any evidence of this. But it does mean that the "chemical weapons factory" that the Trump-May-Macron axis claims to have hit in Damascus was almost certainly nothing of the kind.

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Stumbling Blocks: Tim Kaine and the Bipartisan Abettors of Atrocity

Written by Chris Floyd 21 March 2018 10132 Hits

I've written a lot about Yemen over the past few years. And I knew the US Senate would never vote to end our direct participation in the Saudi war crime there that has led to the worst humanitarian crisis since WWII. I knew they – like 60 Minutes and the rest of the US -- would kowtow to the extremist religious autocrats who rule over the most repressive regime on the face of the earth (with the possible exception of North Korea). I knew our leaders were bought and sold by Saudi money, which has also helped finance and arm violent extremists all over the world, for years. I knew they wouldn't vote against America's bipartisan participation in this genocide – and they didn't.

But sickening as this was, it was the statement by one of the senators who did vote to end US involvement in Yemen that caused my gall to overflow: the sanctimonious prig Tim Kaine – the man who would've been vice president. After casting a vote that he knew wouldn't matter (many Democratic "leaders," like Chuck Schumer, didn't even vote until the 51-vote approval threshold was passed), Kaine put out a smarmy, pious statement lamenting the millions of Yemenis who may starve and the tens of thousands already killed in a war that, he says, the US "stumbled into."

It was this arrogant, arrant, brazen, soulless lie that outraged me to the top of my bent. Kaine knows — as does anyone who has simply read the news in the past few years — that it is an indisputable, established fact that the US did not “stumble” into the Yemen war. He knows the indisputable fact that the former leader of his party, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, very openly and deliberately and knowingly not only greenlighted the Saudi invasion but actively, openly and directly aided the slaughter in almost every way — with weapons, with bombs, with US forces helping aim and target the bombs, with US warships helping enforce a naval blockade against the desert country that has plunged millions of innocent people into famine … all to “restore” a “president” who was the hand-picked toady of the US and the Saudis in an “election” in which NO OTHER CANDIDATE WAS ALLOWED TO RUN.

Again, all of this was done openly, directly, unashamedly: you could read about it in the most respectable newspapers in the country. The Obama administration didn’t try to hide it. Indeed, in the last months of his presidency, Obama gave the Saudis a $115 million arms deal — the biggest in the 70 years of US-Saudi alliance — while Yemen was not only sinking into famine and ruin but also enduring one of the worst cholera epidemics in all of recorded human history.

So no, Senator Kaine, the United States did not “stumble” into the Yemen war. It plunged whole-heartedly into the putrid slaughter, under the direction of the progressive, scandal-free Democratic president, Barack Obama, with the full support of the bipartisan foreign policy establishment and the mainstream media. Building on Obama’s foundation, Trump has expanded the US involvement in Yemen, with more blunderbuss bombing and troops on the ground. But he is only carrying forward the policy that Tim Kaine knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, was willingly launched by his predecessor. Without, we should add, the slightest word of opposition from moral paragons like Sen. Tim Kaine — or Hillary Clinton, or, at the time, from Bernie Sanders, who said during his campaign that the Saudis should be more militarily involved in the region.

This is the tragic, sickening, indisputable fact: under the last two presidencies, Democratic and Republican, the United States has been directly, actively, openly complicit in a ghastly, ongoing atrocity in Yemen, an act of mass murder and deliberate savagery that has sent thousands and thousands of innocent human beings — including thousands of children — to their graves, and plunged millions more into suffering and chaos that almost none of us in the West could even remotely imagine.

Yes, I hate Trump and all he stands for, and yes, I think it is an unbearable abomination that this two-bit, pig-ignorant criminal is now the president. But these indisputable facts about Yemen are one of the many reasons that I cannot join some of my friends and loved ones in nostalgic yearnings and fond reminisces of his predecessor, or pretend that my government was not also involved in horrific crimes and unspeakable moral depravity under his rule as well.

And it’s also why I cannot sit back and let abettors and accomplices of war crime like Tim Kaine now step forth and preen like moral paragons after watching — with approval — the innocent people of Yemen being starved and slaughtered in my name.  When will we say enough is enough? When will we stop turning a blind eye to evil if it is committed by someone on “our” side, someone wearing the partisan livery of “our” team?

And when — in God’s holy name — will we quit pretending that “we are great because we are good,” that when we take a three-year-old child and rip her small, frail body into shreds of bloody goo with our missiles, we are noble, we are righteous, we are a light in the darkness? I’m sick of it. I’m sick of the sanctimony, sick of the self-righteousness, I’m sick of the pious bullshit from mouths that are dripping with blood. I’m sick of the whole ungodly freak show of murderers, and apologists and cheerleaders for murder, prancing around in their pomp and their power while they grind innocent people — children just as precious and valuable as your children and grandchildren, old folks just as loved and honored as your parents, men and women just as beloved as your spouses and partners and lovers and friends — into piles of rancid viscera, into skeletal, fly-ridden living cadavers, starving in shelterless ruins.

If you want to go on pretending that this is normal — or that it was all normal before, but has only become bad now that a garish mob goon is in the White House — then go ahead. I would love to live with such a comforting delusion myself. But it won’t change the facts, it won’t change the truth, it won’t bring back the innocent dead — or prevent the endless, continuing proliferation of death at the hands of the preening, lying, bipartisan murderers we keep supporting in the hellish kabuki of our politics.

This article also appears at CounterPunch.

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Unbrinkmanship: Even Dubious Chance of Peace Rattles Militarist Elites

Written by Chris Floyd 10 March 2018 10492 Hits

Compiling a few tweets (with an additional paragraph) on Trump’s announcement of his intention to meet Kim Jong-un:

It’s funny  to watch the Establishment freak-out about Trump's meeting with Kim (which might never actually take place, of course). For months, they've been saying we're on the edge of apocalypse; but when something happens that might move us back a few inches, they go nuts. 

I’m also enjoying the earnest, savvy analyses of Trump's decision, as if it were part of some considered strategy (either wise or foolish) which will result in some kind of predictable consequences (either good or bad), instead of a momentary impulse with no plan behind it.

Equally amusing is the the universal assumption that Trump will actually go through with the meeting, instead of finding some equally dramatic way of calling it off on one pretext or another. Especially after the bipartisan militarist heavyweights are through working on him.

Because it's all just a reality TV show to him. He doesn't care what actually happens one way or another — peace? war? — as long as he's the star of the show. If he feels he needs to goose his ratings to "win" the news on any given day, he'll cancel the meeting, get big headlines.

But in any case, isn’t it better to be talking, or at least talking about talking, instead of mongering and provoking war at every turn? The worst that can happen is that the talks won’t change anything and we’ll go back to the status quo. But shouldn’t we employ the incrementalism so beloved by our savvy centrists in this case, and say, “Even the smallest step — even by the most unworthy vessels, for even the briefest duration —  away from mass destruction is a welcome development”? 

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Tell Ol’ Bill: Conservative Goons Gunning for Student Survivors

Written by Chris Floyd 21 February 2018 11528 Hits

Noted sex pest Bill O’Reilly has now joined the chorus of conservative tongue-waggers denouncing the high school students who are seeking some mild gun control measures that might reduce in some small measure the likelihood of their being shot to death while going to class. Some conservatives, like Trump’s friend and adviser Alex Jones, are even claiming that the young people speaking out aren’t really survivors at all, but “crisis actors” hired by nefarious secret forces whose sole aim is to make soft and paunchy white guys like Alex Jones feel all wiggly and emasculated because they might not be able to wrap their fingers around every single piece of the big hard steely weaponry they need to fondle to make them feel like a man. (Of course, if they didn’t hate women so much, they might not need these machine-tooled allurements to get them juiced enough to feel all musky and masculine.)

But — so far — O’Reilly is taking the more “respectable” line of conservative attack against the students; i.e., that they’re just “kids,” hormone-addled whippersnappers who  jejunely believe that their elected officials should do something — anything, even the slightest action – to stem the blood-red tide of of senseless slaughter surging through their school halls. They’re simply too young to be “politicizing” the issue with their protests and petitions and marches and what all. They lack the calm and well-steeped wisdom of age, the time-leathered sagacity that knows that life is tragic, full of wrong and sorrows that cannot be wished away — and certainly not legislated against. Of course, some matters are more amenable to regulation — such as, say, a woman’s reproductive process or a a transgender person’s toilet needs or the use of a herb that grows in the ground. But the idea that a democratic government could actually follow the wishes of the majority of its citizens (66%) and ban the sale of — or at least restrict access to — rapid-fire weapons which serve no other purpose than the instant death of many human beings …. why, that is just a folly of youth. 

No, the wise person knows that evil is with us always, even unto the end of the world; you can’t stop it with a law. Now, it’s true that robbery is with us always, too, but that doesn’t stop any government from passing laws against it. Human beings are always going to commit murder — but conservatives don’t seek to repeal the murder laws. (Indeed, they want to make them even harsher.) There are always going to be reckless drivers, but we still have traffic laws. In fact, the ineradicable presence of evil in our tragic world is the very reason we have laws in the first place: to try to reduce it, mitigate it, lessen its impact as best we can.

But for some strange reason beyond the ken of mortal kind, none of this applies to guns. Here the stance is this: Since you cannot eliminate entirely the possibility that someone might use a gun for evil purposes, then you shouldn’t put restrictions their sale or use or availability. We can regulate cars, we can regulate truck tonnage, we can regulate drugs (banning some, restricting others), we can regulate which age group can see which kind of movie; we can regulate and pass laws on virtually every activity, object and substance under the sun, even if none of these laws can completely stop these elements from sometimes being misused for sinister purposes. But again, this universally applied principle seems to have only one exception in minds of our modern conservatives: guns.

And so the Parkland High students — almost all of whom are only months or weeks or days away from being old enough to go fight and die in one of the endless, winless wars and “interventions” their wise elders keep perpetrating — are being derided, mocked, undermined and insulted for trying to bring any change at all to our gun laws. They’re too young to be making these kinds of political choices, conservatives say. (And again, this applies only to guns. If these same students were agitating for greater restrictions against, say, drug abuse, or if they were holding rallies to back a war against North Korea or to support President Trump in his fight with federal investigators, conservatives would be lauding their precocious wisdom and praising their participation in political life.)

But back to the sex pest. As noted, O'Reilly is, for now, on the milder side of the student-bashing spectrum, the head-shaking, tut-tutting, more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger gang. (Although we should note that both the berserkers like Jones and the “Establishment” figures like O’Reilly have the same goal: throttling any move for more regulation of gun sales.) So today, Bill put down his loofah for a minute and gave us a tweet on the subject of the Parkland students’ activism:

“The big question is: should the media be promoting opinions by teenagers who are in an emotional state and facing extreme peer pressure in some cases?”

This is pretty rich coming from a man who built a multimillion-dollar career out being “in an emotional state” on a permanent basis, including years of red-faced rants about an imaginary “War on Christmas” being waged relentlessly by nefarious secret forces who were largely, as Bill always implied, adherents of a certain religion other than Christianity. In fact, given his uncontrollable emotionality and his crude sexual obsessions, there is almost no one in public life more like an adolescent than O’Reilly. (And no, the president doesn’t count; he’s more like an infant whose brain has been accidentally placed in a lumbering husk of a body: “Wrong one, Igor!!”)

Anyway, as is well known, the use of Twitter encourages calm and reasoned debate, an elevated level of political and philosophical discourse not seen on this benighted globe since the zenith of Ancient Greece or the high and palmy days of Rome. And so, striving mightily to maintain this noble tone, I answered O’Reilly’s question thusly:

“No, Bill, they should have more flabby grabby old guys flapping their jowls and dribbling bile in a cascade of bullshit that will ALWAYS end in a grubby ejaculation of NRA boilerplate aimed at continuing the slaughter of our children. That IS the answer you're looking for, right?”

OK, so it ain’t Cicero, but come on. You don’t use fine linen to wipe up muck; any handy rag will do.

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Return of the Repressed: The Roots of a Resurgent Racist Notion

Written by Chris Floyd 20 February 2018 11760 Hits

I.
In recent years, we have seen a resurgence — and great expansion — of a sinister trope that has always simmered near or just below the surface of many a Southerner’s thoughts: to wit, that slavery was not really all that bad for the slaves, that most enjoyed a decent enough life, supplied with food, shelter and security. Indeed, for the most part, black Americans lived better under slavery than they did after they were freed. To be sure, slavery had not been a good thing in itself, but its horrors had been exaggerated and its benefits neglected by most historians. 

Such was the general idea. Growing up in the rural South in the 1960s, I heard variations of this line of thought from many people. There were also books put out by Southern publishers that made this case, usually by reciting the testimonies of slaves themselves, talking of the good life they’d enjoyed under kindly masters and loving mistresses. Again, this was all done with a soft sell. There was no strident defense of slavery, there was always the acknowledgement that “of course, slavery was wrong” — but there was always a “but” to follow: “but it wasn’t as bad as they say, not for most people.” The ultimate aim of this trope was neither to defend or denounce slavery, but to make white Southerners feel better about themselves — not only about their past history, but about the injustices of the present. 

In this regard, I think it is almost impossible to overestimate the effect of the movie “Gone With the Wind.” With its romantic depiction of noble Southern aristocrats and their ever-loyal, well-beloved black servants, struggling to save a lost, enchanted way of life, the movie — epic in scope, rich in story, brilliantly acted, blazing in still-rare full color — imposed a powerful template for interpreting the Civil War. The “Lost Cause” idea had long been a feature of Southern culture, of course, but the movie gave it a new, overwhelming force — and a much wider national impact. Especially for a generation that was about to face the rise of the post-WWII civil rights movement, which would bring white Southerners — and Northerners — face to face with the living legacy of the national shame of slavery. 

In some ways, the brilliance of the movie — the hazy glow it cast over American slavery — helped make it possible for many white liberals to support the civil rights movement. One could look back and acknowledge the “great wrong” of slavery without ever truly reckoning with the full truth of its horrific reality. Yes, it was bad that such good folks as stalwart Big Sam (who rescued his former owner from being attacked by a pack of white trash after the war), earth mother Mammy and even silly little Prissy had not been free; but freedom did come, bestowed by white Americans (another self-congratulatory trope with a much-misunderstood history). The essential goodness of America — and white Americans — was still intact. Slavery was bad, but it wasn’t that bad; sure, there were a few bad apples who were cruel, but in the end, it was just an unfortunate phase that we had to go through and get beyond. In the immortal words of a later president, there were “good people on both sides.”

Preserving the idea of the quintessential — and unique — goodness of America is both an urgent and eternal task for Americans. It permeates every aspect of the culture and shapes the consciousness — and self-consciousness — of countless individuals. America must be unique, it must be uniquely good, more exceptional than all other nations. The existence of this inherent goodness cannot be questioned; there can only be fallings off from it (on occasion), or  rank betrayals of this ideal by people on the other side of the political fence, or by nefarious foreigners working to corrupt the nation’s Edenic essence. This anxiety to preserve the conception of inherent goodness cuts across ideological boundaries.

But if you look too closely at reality, the idea of this essential, inherent, unique American goodness becomes impossible to retain. That’s why American evils are quickly glossed over, downplayed, or placed in “context,” with many mitigating nuances and human complexities that are never applied to other nations and peoples. Or if the evils are too glaring, they are simply ignored. The psychic cost of seeing the reality is too high, especially since almost every American —every white American, that is— has had this exceptionalism mixed in with the very foundation of their own personal identity. Any American evil has to be identified with some “Other” — partisan extremists on the other side, who “hate what America really stands for” (equality, meritocracy, free enterprise, economic justice, family values, individual freedom, tradition, law and order, civil disobedience, etc.), or foreign devils meddling in God’s domain. Or else it must be relegated to the category of a badly executed but well-meaning “mistake,” as with Ken Burns’ framing of the Vietnam War.

And this is where the influence of  “Gone With the Wind” played such an important role in “framing” the evil of slavery. Frequently re-released, it remained for decades the most popular American movie of all time. But today its implicit message is now more and more explicit in conservative circles. You can hear mitigations of slavery’s evil on Fox News. You can see major party senatorial candidates like Roy Moore openly hearkening back to the “greater” America of antebellum days. You can read any number of articles or tweets or quotes by people who have the ear of the president — media figures, businessmen, politicians —talking of how “the blacks” had it better under slavery than they do now. Indeed, you don’t have to wade very deep into the fever swamps of the far-right (which also has the ear of the president) to find outright defenses of slavery and calls for its return.

There are many factors behind this new upsurge of filth from the national id, but one of the most crucial is surely the nation’s unassuageable anxiety about confronting the reality of slavery: a failure of nerve driven by the need (political and psychological) of both liberals and conservatives to preserve the idea of America’s essential and exceptional goodness. It’s far easier for the notion of slavery’s “benign” character to take hold in a society that has been conditioned, for generation after generation, to accept a gauzy, romanticized version of this fundamental, foundational evil.

II.
These thoughts were prompted by a book on the remarkable Gutenberg Project website. The site has digitized countless numbers of books — on almost every possible subject under the sun — going back to the early 1800s and continuing past the middle of the 20th century. (Newly digitized works are being added all the time.) Looking through the site for something else recently, I found an 1856 book by Austin Steward: Twenty-Two Years a Slave, and Forty Years a Freeman. It is in many ways a typical “slave narrative,” by a man whose owne was considered a “not very hard master, but generally kind and pleasant.” Yet the very “averageness” of the situation deepens its horror. This was not slavery at its very worst, some outlier of special depravity, but the typical experience of slave life under a typical owner, Virginia plantation owner Capt. William Helm. Below are just a few excerpts:

It was usual for men and women to work side by side on our plantation; and in many kinds of work, the women were compelled to do as much as the men. Capt. H. employed an overseer, whose business it was to look after each slave in the field, and see that he performed his task. The overseer always went around with a whip, about nine feet long, made of the toughest kind of cowhide, the but-end of which was loaded with lead, and was about four or five inches in circumference, running to a point at the opposite extremity. This made a dreadful instrument of torture, and, when in the hands of a cruel overseer, it was truly fearful. With it, the skin of an ox or a horse could be cut through. Hence, it was no uncommon thing to see the poor slaves with their backs mangled in a most horrible manner. Our overseer, thus armed with his cowhide, and with a large bull-dog behind him, followed the slaves all day; and, if one of them fell in the rear from any cause, this cruel weapon was plied with terrible force. He would strike the dog one blow and the slave another, in order to keep the former from tearing the delinquent slave in pieces,—such was the ferocity of his canine attendant.

It was the rule for the slaves to rise and be ready for their task by sun-rise, on the blowing of a horn or conch-shell; and woe be to the unfortunate, who was not in the field at the time appointed, which was in thirty minutes from the first sounding of the horn. I have heard the poor creatures beg as for their lives, of the inhuman overseer, to desist from his cruel punishment. Hence, they were usually found in the field "betimes in the morning," (to use an old Virginia phrase), where they worked until nine o'clock. They were then allowed thirty minutes to eat their morning meal, which consisted of a little bread. At a given signal, all hands were compelled to return to their work. They toiled until noon, when they were permitted to take their breakfast, which corresponds to our dinner.


The usual mode of punishing the poor slaves was, to make them take off their clothes to the bare back, and then tie their hands before them with a rope, pass the end of the rope over a beam, and draw them up till they stood on the tips of their toes. Sometimes they tied their legs together and placed a rail between. Thus prepared, the overseer proceeded to punish the poor, helpless victim. Thirty-nine was the number of lashes ordinarily inflicted for the most trifling offence.

Who can imagine a position more painful? Oh, who, with feelings of common humanity, could look quietly on such torture? Who could remain unmoved, to see a fellow-creature thus tied, unable to move or to raise a hand in his own defence; scourged on his bare back, with a cowhide, until the blood flows in streams from his quivering flesh? And for what? Often for the most trifling fault; and, as sometimes occurs, because a mere whim or caprice of his brutal overseer demands it. Pale with passion, his eyes flashing and his stalwart frame trembling with rage, like some volcano, just ready to belch forth its fiery contents, and, in all its might and fury, spread death and destruction all around, he continues to wield the bloody lash on the broken flesh of the poor, pleading slave, until his arm grows weary, or he sinks down, utterly exhausted, on the very spot where already stand the pools of blood which his cruelty has drawn from thee mangled body of his helpless victim, and within the hearing of those agonized groans and feeble cries of "Oh do, Massa! Oh do, Massa! Do, Lord, have mercy! Oh, Lord, have mercy!" &c.

Nor is this cruel punishment inflicted on the bare backs of the male portion of slaves only. Oh no! The slave husband must submit without a murmur, to see the form of his cherished, but wretched wife, not only exposed to the rude gaze of a beastly tyrant, but he must unresistingly see the heavy cowhide descend upon her shrinking flesh, and her manacled limbs writhe in inexpressible torture, while her piteous cries for help ring through his ears unanswered. The wild throbbing of his heart must be suppressed, and his righteous indignation find no voice, in the presence of the human monster who holds dominion over him.

After the infuriated and heartless overseer had satiated his thirst for vengeance, on the disobedient or delinquent slave, he was untied, and left to crawl away as best he could; sometimes on his hands and knees, to his lonely and dilapidated cabin, where, stretched upon the cold earth, he lay weak and bleeding and often faint from the loss of blood, without a friend who dare administer to his necessities, and groaning in the agony of his crushed spirit. In his cabin, which was not as good as many of our stables at the North, he might lie for weeks before recovering sufficient strength to resume the labor imposed upon him, and all this time without a bed or bed clothing, or any of the necessaries considered so essential to the sick.

Capt. Helm was not a very hard master; but generally was kind and pleasant. Indulgent when in good humor, but like many of the southerners, terrible when in a passion. He was a great sportsman, and very fond of company. He generally kept one or two race horses, and a pack of hounds for fox-hunting, which at that time, was a very common and fashionable diversion in that section of country. He was not only a sportsman, but a gamester, and was in the habit of playing cards, and sometimes betting very high and losing accordingly.

I well remember an instance of the kind: it was when he played cards with a Mr. W. Graham, who won from him in one sweep, two thousand and seven hundred dollars in all, in the form of a valuable horse, prized at sixteen hundred dollars, another saddle-horse of less value, one slave, and his wife's gold watch. The company decided that all this was fairly won, but Capt. Holm demurred, and refused to give up the property until an application was made to Gen. George Washington, ("the father of his country,") who decided that Capt. Helm had lost the game, and that Mr. Graham had fairly won the property, of which Mr. G. took immediate possession, and conveyed to his own plantation.

Mrs. Helm was a very industrious woman, and generally busy in her household affairs—sewing, knitting, and looking after the servants; but she was a great scold,—continually finding fault with some of the servants, and frequently punishing the young slaves herself, by striking them over the head with a heavy iron key, until the blood ran; or else whipping them with a cowhide, which she always kept by her side when sitting in her room. The older servants she would cause to be punished by having them severely whipped by a man, which she never failed to do for every trifling fault. I have felt the weight of some of her heaviest keys on my own head, and for the slightest offences. No slave could possibly escape being punished—I care not how attentive they might be, nor how industrious—punished they must be, and punished they certainly were. Mrs. Helm appeared to be uneasy unless some of the servants were under the lash. She came into the kitchen one morning and my mother, who was cook, had just put on the dinner. Mrs. Helm took out her white cambric handkerchief, and rubbed it on the inside of the pot, and it crocked it! That was enough to invoke the wrath of my master, who came forth immediately with his horse-whip, with which he whipped my poor mother most unmercifully—far more severely than I ever knew him to whip a horse.

I once had the misfortune to break the lock of master's shot gun, and when it came to his knowledge, he came to me in a towering passion, and charged me with what he considered the crime of carelessness. I denied it, and told him I knew nothing about it; but I was so terribly frightened that he saw I was guilty, and told me so, foaming with rage; and then I confessed the truth. But oh, there was no escaping the lash. Its recollection is still bitter, and ever will be. I was commanded to take off my clothes, which I did, and then master put me on the back of another slave, my arms hanging down before him and my hands clasped in his, where he was obliged to hold me with a vise-like grasp. Then master gave me the most severe flogging that I ever received, and I pray God that I may never again experience such torture. And yet Capt. Helm was not the worst of masters.

These cruelties are daily occurrences, and so degrading is the whole practice of Slavery, that it not only crushes and brutalizes the wretched slave, but it hardens the heart, benumbs all the fine feelings of humanity, and deteriorates from the character of the slaveholders themselves,—whether man or woman. Otherwise, how could a gentle, and in other respects, amiable woman, look on such scenes of cruelty, without a shudder of utter abhorrence? But slaveholding ladies, can not only look on quietly, but with approbation; and what is worse, though very common, they can and do use the lash and cowhide themselves, on the backs of their slaves, and that too on those of their own sex! Far rather would I spend my life in a State's Prison, than be the slave of the best slaveholder on the earth!

When I was not employed as an errand-boy, it was my duty to stand behind my master's chair, which was sometimes the whole day, never being allowed to sit in his presence. Indeed, no slave is ever allowed to sit down in the presence of their master or mistress. If a slave is addressed when sitting, he is required to spring to his feet, and instantly remove his hat, if he has one, and answer in the most humble manner, or lay the foundation for a flogging, which will not be long delayed.

I slept in the same room with my master and mistress. This room was elegantly furnished with damask curtains, mahogany bedstead of the most expensive kind, and every thing else about it was of the most costly kind. And while Mr. and Mrs. Helm reposed on their bed of down, with a cloud of lace floating over them, like some Eastern Prince, with their slaves to fan them while they slept, and to tremble when they awoke, I always slept upon the floor, without a pillow or even a blanket, but, like a dog, lay down anywhere I could find a place.

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