Generation of Vipers: The Original Sin and Continuous Crimes of America’s Involvement in Afghanistan

Written by Chris Floyd 17 August 2021 7064 Hits

O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? Matthew 12:34

I.
People need to understand something about Afghanistan, and the debacle we’re witnessing there. America’s involvement in Afghanistan didn’t begin in 2001, after the 9/11 attacks. It began in the last years of the Carter Administration, when he and his advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski set out to “give the Soviets their own Vietnam.” They did this by funding and arming an international cohort of violent fundamentalist extremists and training them in terror tactics. (Osama bin Laden was one of those who joined this jihad army supported by the US, Saudia Arabia and Pakistan.)

At that time, there was a modern, secular regime in Afghanistan. It wasn’t a paradise. It was ridden by internal factionalism, sometimes violent. It was supported by the Soviet Union. It was beset by fundamentalist extremists. It had repressive features. But it was a secular regime. Women were emancipated; many held high positions. Children, including girls, were educated. Science was honored and promoted. Religion was tolerated, albeit uneasily.

Carter and Brzezinski decided to empower the extremist militias attacking the regime, hoping to induce so much chaos that the Soviets would intervene militarily to help their client state. Again, as Brzezinski himself put it, they wanted to give the USSR “its own Vietnam.”

Think about this for a moment. What Carter and Brzezinski wanted was to subject the Afghan people to the years of suffering and death that the Vietnamese had experienced. They WANTED Afghanistan to suffer this fate, and they ACTED to make sure it happened. And it did. If you like, it was one of the great successes of US foreign policy in the post-war period. They deliberately plunged Afghanistan into blood-soaked chaos; and the Soviets – after fierce debate in the Politburo – did send in troops to try to stabilize the country. What followed was year after year after year of horror and death. Again, please note: this was the stated INTENTION of US policy: mass death, terrorism and suffering.

When Carter lost in 1980, Reagan took up his policy in Afghanistan and magnified it. More arms and money to religious extremists. More terrorist training, with CIA manuals. The US even produced textbooks for Afghan children lauding fundamentalist extremism and jihad terror. (All of this was reported in the Washington Post and other mainstream outlets.) Reagan invited the precursors of the Taliban to the White House, where he called them the “moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers” and “freedom fighters.” These men were dedicated to undoing the emancipation of women, destroying all vestiges of secular society and imposing the most harsh and hidebound fundamentalist strictures imaginable.

These were the people who were armed, trained, funded, lauded and supported by the United States government for years on end. The Taliban would not exist if not for these long-running, bipartisan policies of the United States.

II.
At last, the Soviets were bled dry, as Carter and Reagan intended, and pulled out of Afghanistan, leaving ruin and chaos behind. There followed years of civil war between atrocious warlords who tortured and looted the Afghan people. The Taliban arose from the midst of the extremists backed by the United States. They managed to take over the country in the early 1990s. They were then supported by the United States once again. Taliban members came to Texas seeking business deals under then-Governor George W. Bush. They sent representatives to Washington, meeting mostly with Republican leaders. When Bush was president, he hooked up with the Taliban in drug eradication efforts.

As noted, Osama bin Laden had been part of the US-backed extremist jihad against the secular regime. However, when the US stationed troops in his homeland of Saudi Arabia during the first Iraq War, he and other fundamentalists regarded this as a profanation of the holy land and vowed to drive American troops from Saudi Arabia. This was the main purpose behind al-Qaeda’s terror attacks, which culminated on 9/11: an attack carried out almost entirely by Saudi nationals, with no involvement of the Taliban or any Afghan citizens.

Bin Laden, a hero of the extremists’ triumph over the USSR, was by now back in Afghanistan. After the 9/11 attacks – which the US itself has said occurred without any foreknowledge by the Taliban – the Taliban offered several times to turn Bin Laden over to international justice in some accredited forum. Bush adamantly refused to even entertain the offer, and launched a full-scale military invasion and occupation of Afghanistan.

As is well known, just after the attack, the Bush Administration launched a frantic, extraordinary effort to spirit many top Saudi figures out of the United States. It could be noted here that the Bush family had long-standing business ties with the Saudis, including the Bin Laden family. (Indeed, Osama bin Laden’s father died in a plane crash in Texas while doing business there.)

In any case, the war was on. Although bin Laden and his forces were seemingly trapped in their mountain fortress early on, somehow they managed to escape to Pakistan, where bin Laden lived untroubled for many years.

By 2002, the Taliban regime had fallen. But the “nation-building” efforts of the United States very soon took a backseat to the goal that Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld (and Jeb Bush, among others) had publicly announced before Dubya’s election: war on Iraq. A Cheney-Rumsfeld group called “Project for the New American Century” laid out its plans before the 2000 election, calling for massive new military expenditures, extensive new military operations overseas and war on Iraq. The PNAC document clearly stated that they realized it would be very difficult to achieve this wholesale militarization of US society and policy, unless – their words, in 2000 – the American people were “catalyzed” by a “new Pearl Harbor.”

In 2003, massive military resources and political attention were shifted from Afghanistan to the real war that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld wanted: Iraq. It would be tedious to recite all the deceptions they practiced to perpetrate their deliberate, knowing lie about “Iraqi WMDs” or the collusion of Democrats like Biden in furthering the war fever. The war came and we all know what happened. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people died, the whole region became destablized, thousands became radicalized by the death and torture visited upon their lands, and vast, almost incomprehensible levels of corruption attended every aspect of the long, bloody American occupation.

Meanwhile, the “backwater” of Afghanistan became little more than a long exercise in war profiteering. The “government” installed by the Americans looted the country on an almost incomprehensible scale. American and Afghan officials colluded with the Taliban to ship drugs and money out of the country. At one point, US and NATO officials were actually paying the Taliban to allow shipments of supplies through their checkpoints. Bombings went on, drone strikes went on, civilians were slaughtered by both the occupiers and the Taliban: a long, pointless hell that so radicalized the populace that in the end, as we saw this week, there was no longer any resistance to the Taliban and the order they promised – however harsh and brutal it will be.

The “Afghanistan Papers” of official US documents leaked a few years ago showed that the top US military and political officials had no idea what they were doing in Afghanistan. There was no real mission, no focus, no goal; it was essentially just a perpetual motion machine of death, suffering, procurement, profiteering and corruption. The Taliban had long since regained control of most of the country. The Afghans, which down through the centuries had defeated Alexander the Great, the British Empire and the Soviet Union has now defeated the United States as well.

III.
But again we must go back to the beginning of the current situation. It started when the United States and its allies created an army of Islamic extremists in order to impose years of Vietnam-style hell on the Afghan people – as part of the “Great Game” of geopolitics, which uses innocent lives, and whole nations, as dispensable pieces on a chessboard. Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan WANTED to create vast, hellish civil war in Afghanistan to ensnare the Soviets; that was their stated goal, and they spent vast amounts of US taxpayer to money to make it happen. They WANTED thousands of people to die in horrific conditions – Afghan civilians, Soviet conscripts, anyone, they didn’t care – as long as the Soviets “got their own Vietnam.” To me, this is a monstrous crime of near-demonic proportions: to deliberately work to create such an outcome. But they did work at it. And they succeeded.

Later, George W. Bush decided to throw the lives of US soldiers into the mix by invading a country that nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks, as he well knew. Obama, with the eternal anxiety of Democrats not to look “weak” in the eyes of the morally depraved “foreign policy establishment,” then launched a pointless “surge” in Afghanistan that killed many more thousands of people (including US and allied soldiers). Again, as the “Afghanistan Papers” showed, all this was done with no real plan or aim, and with rampant corruption at every turn.

After this, the US largely stepped back from direct actions on the ground, and let the Afghan army do the dying, while the US concentrated on bombing and droning. Yet still the war went on, year after year, as tens of thousands were radicalized by their suffering and joined or supported the Taliban, which controlled most of the country outside the major cities. Finally Trump decided to cut a hasty and ill-thought out deal with the Taliban that ensured they would take over the country the moment the Americans pulled out – which immediately leeched away any remaining support for the corrupt and inept American-installed government. (Of course, if that government had promised to build a big Trump hotel in Baghdad, he probably would’ve sent in 30 divisions to keep it in power until he got his loot.)

This was the deal Biden inherited. But instead of treating it as what it really was – the inevitable handover of Afghanistan to the only local force capable of forming a government – Biden pretended that the Potemkin state installed by the Americans could somehow survive after the American withdrawal ... at least long enough to save some face. Instead of spending six months in a negotiated, orderly transfer of power, the US simply kept up the 20-year farce for a time then bugged out, literally in the dead of night, in most cases without even telling the Afghan forces what was happening.

The Afghan forces knew the jig was up last year when Trump freed the co-founder of the Taliban, who then duly appeared with Mike Pompeo for a cozy photo-op. The Afghan soldiers knew it was only a matter of time before the Taliban was in power again. So when the Americans bugged out, the Afghan army began negotiating with the Taliban to avoid needless destruction and bloodshed. Thus city after city was surrendered without a pointless fight: a grim but humane course taken by Afghan soldiers in these dire circumstances.

But Joe Biden, seeking to avoid blame for his vastly inept mishandling of the inevitable takeover by the Taliban, is now blaming the Afghan people themselves, and the Afghan military forces in particular, for not wanting to “fight for their country.” This is a moral obscenity. Although he, like Trump, was absolutely correct in saying that the woebegone US occupation of Afghanistan had to end, he would not acknowledge the truth of how we got to this point, or why the Taliban even exists in the first place: because of deliberate US policy choices going back more than 40 years, all the way to the “original sin” by Carter and Brzezinski of empowering a global network of religious extremists that has given rise to the Taliban, al Qaeda, ISIS and others.

In none of these policies – from Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, Obama, Trump and Biden – has concern for the lives and welfare of the Afghan people played the slightest part. The good Southern Baptist Jimmy Carter WANTED to create hell on earth like Vietnam in Afghanistan. He WANTED thousands upon thousands of innocent people to die, so that the Soviet Union could be “bled dry” in a geopolitical game. I know it’s hard to get one’s head around this, that this gentle, soft-spoken old man, who lives frugally, built houses for the poor and fought for free elections in other countrie ,etc., made the deliberate choice to inflict unimaginable grief, pain and suffering on multitudes of innocent people. But he did. This is what actually happened in our history.

Ronald Reagan extended this policy (which he also practiced in Central America, aiding the mass slaughter of tens of thousands of innocent people by the repressive regimes he supported and armed.) George W. Bush then plunged American forces directly into the fray, stupidly, callously and corruptly replicating “Russia’s own Vietnam” of endless warfare against an extremist insurgency, while tens of thousands innocent civilians died at the hands of all the forces involved.

Now this 40-year chapter of American involvement has come to an end. But unless we actually know how we got here – and the absolutely fundamental role the US has played in these decades of death, destruction and radicalization – we will simply be waiting for the next monstrous, long-running atrocity to arise, with the same horseshit rationalizations (“Liberty! Freedom! Emancipation!”) that our leaders – all of them, every one – have used to cover up their deliberate policies of mass murder, war profiteering and corruption.

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Reich and Reality: Culture Wars of the Conquerors

Written by Chris Floyd 10 August 2021 6240 Hits

BERLIN, May 12, 2153 – Within the ivy-covered walls of Farben University, a great battle is now raging. But although the Reich's ancient capital has seen its share of warfare down through the centuries, today's combatants have no swords, no guns, no bio-disrupters – just words and pictures, marshalled on either side of a fierce debate that has split the staid academic world in two, and is beginning to spill over into national politics as well. It all revolves around a simple question: Was the German Empire a good thing or a bad thing?

At one time, the answer would have seemed clear. In the three decades since the last "Reich Protectorate" gained its independence (Ukraine, 2122), the liberal consensus among German historians has been that the Empire founded more than 200 years ago by Adolf Hitler was largely a malign development: "a system born in aggression and atrocity, which inflicted terrible suffering on the conquered lands for generations, and warped German society itself with its arrogance, brutality and corruption," as Germany's leading historian, Yuri Vinogradov, put it in his landmark 2128 work, Reich and Reality. That book set the tone for a flood of hard-hitting probes into Reich history that left almost no nationalist myth intact.

But in recent years, a group of conservative historians – dubbed the "Revisionists" – have sternly challenged this view. Led by the young Danzig firebrand, Gregor Metzger, the Revisionists argue that the achievements of the Empire – and the "Leader-State system" that was replaced by parliamentary democracy in 2120 – have been denigrated by, in Metzger's words, "liberal apologists picking at old scabs." 

"Everyone knows there were blots on the Empire's record," Metzger says. "No one today would countenance, say, the early Reich's treatment of the Jews or the excesses in putting down the Muslim Rebellions in the Caucasus, etc. But neither should we look back and impose our modern values on the people of those times. Rather, we should try to understand them in their own context – and appreciate their many accomplishments."

These accomplishments, say the Revisionists, include: the eradication of Communism in Europe; the establishment of a continent-wide free market for goods, labor and capital; the creation of a common legal system and government institutions now used by most of the old colonies; and the planting of large settler communities throughout Eastern Europe and Central Asia that have evolved into thriving cities and "carried the values of Western Civilization deep into benighted and lawless lands," as Metzger writes in his best-selling new book, The End of Shame: German Power in Perspective.

The Revisionists' work has been taken up by conservative politicians seeking to roll back many of the democratic reforms and cultural freedoms instituted by what they scornfully call "the new Weimar Republic." Citing Metzger and others, they are advancing a "national greatness agenda" to foster pride in the Homeland, restore "traditional moral values" to society, and reassert German dominance in world affairs. The centrist government, put on the defensive by these attacks, has increasingly adopted more nationalist rhetoric, and last month cancelled a long-planned exhibition at the National Museum on "Hitler's Tainted Legacy," calling it "too biased."

Much of the academic debate turns on interpretations of the Speer Era (1947-81). After Hitler's death from cancer in 1947, Armaments Minister Albert Speer took power with the backing of intelligence chief Wilhelm Canaris in a brief but bloody coup against the Nazi old guard. He then negotiated an armistice, and the battle lines of the deadlocked armies became the boundaries of the new world order, leaving Germany in control of Europe from the Pyrenees to the Urals.

To the Revisionists, Speer and Canaris are heroes – pragmatic moderates who curbed the Regime's ugliest aspects while preserving its vast territorial gains and consolidating its power. "Although Leader Hitler's dream of a civilizing German empire in the East was somewhat skewed by his unfortunate adherence to the American pseudo-science of eugenics, it was still a noble vision," Metzger says. "Leader Speer purged this vision of its dross and made it the foundation of our modern world."

For the liberals, that is precisely the problem. "After the coup, Speer could have restored democracy," says Vinogradov. "He could have withdrawn from the conquered lands. He could have made reparations to Hitler's victims and confronted the nation's guilt. Instead he chose to assume Hitler's mantle, the semi-divine aura of the 'Leader,' exalting power above the law. Centuries of crime and tyranny flowed from that fatal choice. Yes, he closed the death-camps – but prosecuted no one for these atrocities. He accelerated the land-theft of the settlements, and drafted millions into forced labor to make up for the loss of native Germans to the colonies. Why pretend this was somehow noble or glorious? We should simply tell the truth about it."

Vinogradov is himself a product of the forced labor policy. When the Soviet state collapsed after Stalin's retreat to the Urals, European Russia was savagely reduced, and its territory parceled out to other Reich protectorates. Moscow was razed to the ground in 1944 and never rebuilt; its carefully preserved ruins are still a popular attraction for German tourists. Vinogradov's ancestors, native Muscovites, were shipped to Germany to work in the fields.

The Revisionists say the "scab-picking" over the past is irrelevant in the modern world. "What's done is done," says Metzger. "The Romans have already conquered Carthage. Britain has already built its imperial wealth on slavery and colonial rule. The Americans have already slaughtered the Indians and chained the slaves. We can't unring the bell. Nor should we want to. What matters are the long-term benefits to civilization we have accrued from those who came before us, whatever their mistakes or misdeeds might have been. Which of these benefits would you give up to rectify some ancient historical wrong?"

Metzger, tipped by many as the likely replacement for Vinogradov when he retires as head of the Farben history faculty next year, can't resist a slight personal dig at his venerable rival.

"One wonders if Herr Professor Vinogradov would enjoy the same kind of prosperity – and freedom to criticize – he possesses today if the Communist evil had not been destroyed, at great sacrifice, by German power," Metzger says. "While one sincerely regrets the injuries to the professor's forbears, I think, on balance, we can say that the liberation of the East from Stalinist tyranny was a boon for all humanity."

Vinogradov shrugs off these "shallow" arguments. "The point of historical research is not to dispossess the present, but to disillusion it: to strip away self-serving myth and fatal ignorance, in order to see more clearly how we got here, and what it really cost, and how these costs shape – and distort – our responses to reality. Otherwise, we are blind – easy prey for the abusers of power and their murderous deceptions."

The original version of this article appeared in the Feb. 22 2006 edition of The Moscow Times.

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On the 18th Anniversary of the Invasion of Iraq

Written by Chris Floyd 20 March 2021 15372 Hits

For months before the Iraq War began, I and many others wrote, in print and on-line, about the outrageous lies that were being told by the US government and its media sycophants to bring about this mass-murdering act of aggression. How did we know they were lies? Not from any secret knowledge or insider info, but simply by reading the mainstream media stories of previous years, especially the ones from the mid-1990s that detailed how Saddam's regime had destroyed its WMD program, and how the US and UK governments always had the evidence for this, and knew there were no Iraqi WMDs throughout the propaganda build-up to the war.

We also read the current news of that time, which detailed how Iraq had completely opened itself to the UN inspectors that the US/UK demanded in early 2003, how these inspections were going forward and finding nothing (or rather, confirming what had been reported and what US/UK leaders had known since the mid-1990s.) And we read how the UN inspectors were ordered by the US and UK to leave Iraq in March 2003 -- before they had completed their UN-mandated inspection -- because Bush/Cheney and the Pentagon had already decided the attack must begin in mid-March.

None of this was secret. All you had to do was read the mainstream stories all the way through. (And ignore cable and network TV news, which essentially did nothing but regurgitate a few seconds of Pentagon and White House talking points each night about the "imminent danger" of the non-existent WMDs.)

But the war came. Thousands upon thousands of innocent people -- whose lives were worth just as much as those of anyone reading these words right now -- were murdered, slaughtered, destroyed. Millions of lives were ruined. Many, many thousands were tortured. Whole nations were destabilized. The American occupiers recruited, armed and paid local militias of extremists to help them brutally repress the victims of the invasion. Many others were radicalized by their torture in US and UK prisons. The US invasion directly gave rise to ISIS and a whole decade of unimaginable horror and conflict across the region.

Again, all of this was based on demonstrable lies, which many of us called out at the time as lies, using freely available, perfectly "respectable" press reports as the foundation of our opposition to this war crime. Every single person in power who supported the war in Iraq at that time knew everything we ordinary citizens knew at that time. Every US senator blustering for war knew of the long-standing evidence that Iraq had destroyed its WMD program in the early 1990s and had never re-started it. (They also knew that Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush had been instrumental in Iraq's earlier WMD program, and had assisted Saddam in conducting WMD attacks in his war against Iran and the Kurds.) If any person in power at that time tells you they didn't know all this -- that they didn't know what ordinary citizens could read in the papers -- then they are lying through their teeth.

So what happened to the perpetrators of this monstrous, murderous atrocity? Nothing. What happened to those in power, both in politics and media, who supported this mass murder? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. What would you do if the most beloved person in your life was viciously, brutally murdered – and nothing was done, if the murderer went free, went on to live in wealth and comfort and privilege and power? How would you feel? Imagine that for a moment – then extrapolate it by tens of thousands. THAT is what those in positions of power in 2003 did with their instigation or support of a war based on lies which they KNEW at the time were lies, just as all of us who read ordinary press reports knew they were lies. They helped murder someone just like the most beloved person in your life.

Look, I recognize the realities of life. I know we live in a fallen world. I know that we are often faced with choosing what we hope will be the lesser of the evils that confront us. I don’t demand perfect moral purity in the reeking, blood-choked cesspool of our power systems. But I cannot and I will not forget what these people have done, what they have countenanced, what they have championed. I will not ever in my heart absolve them of their evil. And even if I am forced by the corrupted currents of this world to choose any of them over some even greater evil, I will never stop seeing the blood dripping from their hands. I will never stop despising them with every fiber of my being.

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On the Acquittal of the Murderous Thug Donald Trump

Written by Chris Floyd 14 February 2021 18739 Hits

A friend of mine wrote on Facebook after the acquittal tonight: "America is truly lost." And his words prompted this response from me:

"Yes, you are sadly right. America is lost. But it was lost when it killed 3 million people in Southeast Asia when I was a boy. It was lost when Nixon obliterated Cambodia with an illegal bombing campaign and paved the way for the Khmer Rouge to kill millions more. It was lost when Ronald Reagan cracked jokes about “queers” and did nothing while tens of thousands died of AIDS, and when he armed genocidal dictators in Central America who killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

It was lost when Bill Clinton imposed sanctions on Iraq for its non-existent WMD program (the US and UK knew the WMD program had been dismantled in 1993), sanctions which the UN determined (and his own secretary of state admitted) killed 500,000 children. It was lost when George W. Bush invaded Iraq with lies about that non-existent program and killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people and gave rise to ISIS and the destabilization of the whole world.

It was lost when Barack Obama expanded Bush’s “death squads” and drone bombings, when he greenlighted a fascist coup in Honduras that resulted in thousands of deaths and social collapse, when he partnered with Prince Bone-Saw of Arabia to kill thousands upon thousands of children and other innocents in an aggressive war in Yemen. It was lost when the slave-owner’s wheeze of the Electoral College made a slobbering, two-bit gangster like Trump the president. And yes, it’s lost now, when that same gangster sends fascist goons to sack the nation’s Capitol then walks free to keep spreading his fascist, racist poison with the help of the Republican Party and that toxic monstrosity of our age, Rupert Murdoch.

America has been lost for my entire life, and I no longer have the slightest hope that it will ever be found again. It only exists in our dreams, in old movies and books and the music it created out of slavery and oppression. Good things have happened in and come from America, just as good things arise in every single godawful system and culture human beings find themselves in. But the idea so many of us had of America was lost long ago; or rather, it was never real. It was sham, and a hope, and a cheat, and a desire, and a dream of what could be but what never was. Perhaps this acquittal will be one more disillusionment that will help us to see where we really are – and how far we have to go, and how hard we have to fight, to be where we want to be."

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Impeachment Cave-in: Dems Plumb New Depths of Perfidy

Written by Chris Floyd 13 February 2021 16719 Hits

I really don't want to hear anyone saying that the staggering cave-in by the Democrats on Saturday – their monumental act of political and moral cowardice – was because they wanted to "move on and get down to the business of passing Covid relief and confirming cabinet posts, etc." If that's your defense of these weak reeds, please bear this mind: Congress is going into RECESS next week. They aren't going to doing ANYTHING about Covid relief next week. (Just as they've not done anything about it for the 42 days of full Democratic control of Congress -- oh, except whittle down the amount of their relief plan to the point where they are going to give help to FEWER people than Trump did last spring, and also weasel-word their way out of their clear, unequivocal pledge to send "$2,000 checks" to struggling Americans). They've not going to confirm anybody next week. They're not going to do ANYTHING, because they're taking a week off.

So even a full week of testimony – forcing stark, eyewitness evidence of Trump's murderous perfidy (and that of his enablers) into the public eye, day after day, laying out clearly the new evidence that has been uncovered this week – would NOT have 'distracted' them from any other business next week ... because they weren't going to DO any other business next week. (Also, during this past week of the impeachment trial, we have seen the Senate do plenty of other business -- including confirmation hearings.)

Let’s also dispense with the excuse that “the Republicans were going to acquit Trump anyway." Yes, that's very likely. But as a matter of principle, the Democrats owe it to the American people to lay out the full case, to tell the American people the full story, and to use every single power at their command to defend the constitutional republic, uphold the ideal of lawful democracy and at least attempt to serve a modicum of justice on a wanton criminal. Even if you lose this fight, is that not a fight worth making? And as a matter of political principle, you want to show every bit of the ugly filth of the insurrection and Trump's role in it, you want to get it out in front of the American people and MAKE the Republicans go on record as supporting this thoroughly documented evil through their vote of acquittal.

The day began with a remarkable Democratic victory: they managed to get a handful of Republicans to join them in calling witnesses and thus holding a genuine trial. But in a matter of hours, they simply threw this victory in the gutter. They surrendered from a position of strength to the vile, deceitful political thug, Mitch McConnell, and saved the Republicans from themselves. It is an utter, inexcusable disgrace, an act of rank betrayal. And they got nothing for it. Nothing.

And now they're going to shut up shop for a week. Take a break. Kick back. Do some sucking up to their donors. Oh, and all that "urgent" work on the "President's agenda" from which impeachment was a distraction? Meh. It's not so urgent after all, it seems.

I didn't think the Democratic leadership could be any more sickeningly supine than they were throughout Trump's corrupt and criminal reign. But I must give them credit. Even now, long after they lowered my expectations of them to the level of the depths of the Marianas Trench, they still retain the capacity to astonish – and sicken.

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In Memoriam Richard Kastelein (1967-2021)

Written by Chris Floyd 07 February 2021 17305 Hits

It is with great sadness that I must announce the death of the publisher and co-founder of Empire Burlesque, Richard Kastelein.

Rich passed away last Friday at the age of 53. I saw the news this morning in a brief on-line notice from his family. If there is any information forthcoming about memorials and remembrances, I will pass it on.

Rich was one of few people who could with real justice be described as a force of nature: a man of immense talent, ranging over many fields, with a passion for life at every level that inspired and invigorated all who knew him. He played a very important role in my life, and I feel the loss of my friend most keenly.

I might write more of Rich's remarkable life at some point in the future; I don't have the heart to do it at the moment. 

Goodbye, my friend. Sail far, sail free.

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The Surrenderists: Dem Leaders Stand Down; No Consequences for Coup

Written by Chris Floyd 07 January 2021 19829 Hits

The Democratic leadership has announced that the House will not be called into session again until after the inauguration. So that's it: no impeachment, no censure, no investigations, nothing. They are going to do absolutely nothing about an armed invasion of Congress aimed at overthrowing a presidential election. They are going to do nothing about it, not even make a *gesture* of doing something about it. What does that say to the many fascists seething not only in the populace but also in the halls of power? It says: Do your worst; there are no consequences. This is a monstrous abdication of their duty to the country and to the Constitution. It is a dangerous act of weakness that will only embolden the enemies of democracy (again, many of whom are in Congress right now), who see that the Democratic leadership will do nothing, absolutely nothing, even in response to a violent attack on their own institution, on their own persons.

I wish I could say I'm surprised, but I'm not. Even with all the media buzz about measures to remove Trump last night, I knew in my heart that the Democratic leadership would do nothing. Trump will stay in the White House, in command of the military, in charge of the nuclear codes, raging and lying and stoking more and more hatred and division. Then he will exit without facing the slightest consequences for his actions – not even for provoking an insurrection against the constitutional republic. Again, this is a deeply dangerous and monumentally, criminally foolish course of action by the House leadership. It is just as disheartening, just as much a measure of the rot in our democracy, as the Trump insurrection itself.

 

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Unwrung Withers: No Downsides for Trumpists From Their Coup Push

Written by Chris Floyd 11 November 2020 24337 Hits

The Trumpists will keep on pushing their (thus-far) cack-handed coup attempt because they know two things: 1) it might just succeed, in which case, yay! and 2) None of them will suffer any consequences for their blatant attempt to degrade and destroy the democratic process. If the coup fails, Mike Pompeo will be sitting on corporate boards in late January; Bill Barr will be raking in cash at  some bigtime law firm; the ROWS (Right-Wing Oligarch Welfare Spigot) will keep spewing moolah and concocting fake jobs for the likes of Snivelling Stevie Miller, Kayleigh McEnany, Mick Mulvaney, etc.; Mike Pence will be running for POTUS/24, getting respectable press coverage; Jared and Ivanka will swanning swankily around the Hamptons; and Donald Trump will be giving his first post-president interview to Maggie Haberman at the NYT, where they will josh cheekily about old times while he announces his new network (or takeover of OANN), his upcoming "Rallies for the Real President" and on and on. 

They all know they won't face prosecution or even investigation for any of their malefactions in office; as with the Bush Administration, their crimes will be buried, and the deep poison they injected into the political/governmental system will neither be addressed nor removed, in the name of "looking forward not back," just as Obama/Biden did in 2008. And as in 2008, the poison will keep festering, worsening, bearing even more horrible fruit down the line.

We probably – probably – won't see Trump getting hugs from Ellen or Michelle Obama like the ones enjoyed by that lovable old mass-murdering war criminal George Dubya these days; but beyond that, Trump's withers will remain unwrung. Because that's how our power structure rolls: it has its nasty internal spats, but closes ranks when it comes to accountability before the law – or common decency.

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House of Death: Trump's Endgame Plan to Kill Democracy

Written by Chris Floyd 10 November 2020 24204 Hits

If you are resting easy about the election result: don’t. If you don’t think Trump, McConnell and their party of rightwing extremists, who have already exerted every sinew in a bid to destroy the democratic process, won’t keep on doing this until the very last second, with every weapon at their disposal, no matter what damage it will cause — think again. This is the endgame: to use monstrous, baseless deceit, heavy political pressure, bribery, blackmail, chaos, cajolery and fear to force enough GOP-led states to shut down or delay the Electoral College process past its deadline. 

Then the election would go to the House of Representatives, where each state has a single vote, controlled by the majority party of its delegation. Although the Republicans are a minority in the House in sheer numbers, the party controls more state delegations. In this scenario, a state like Wyoming, which has only one US House seat (held by Liz Cheney, Dick's daughter), representing the state's total population of 578,000, would have EQUAL weight in deciding the presidency as California's delegation – with 52 members, representing 39.5 million people. 

In this scenario, it won’t matter how many popular votes Biden won. (Right now his lead is more than 4 million.) It won’t even matter how many Electoral College votes he clearly won. If the GOP extremists can, by hook or crook, throw the election to the House of Representatives, they stand a very good chance of giving the presidency back to Trump.

There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever of the kind of vast and unprecedented open fraud that would’ve had to have taken place in broad daylight – in Republican-controlled states – for the election results to be called into question this way. And today McConnell was offering the ludicrous-on-its-face assertion that the very same ballots that elected Republican senators were somehow questionable when it comes to the presidential vote. That is: every ballot that went against Trump is questionable and possibly illegal; but that same ballot will still be valid if it also registered a vote for a Republican congressperson or senator. Only its vote for Biden would be discarded.

At the beginning of his term, Trump launched a much-ballyhooed national commission to look into the vast voter fraud he said occurred in 2016. Stocked with his own hand-picked sycophants, it had to disband in a matter of weeks because there was absolutely no evidence of this fraud. It is the same case now, in an election that had GOP observers in ballot-counting offices across the country. It’s almost shameful to have to make these arguments, but such is deep and ignorant credulity of millions that you have lay out the details of why down is not up, dry is not wet and day is not night. 

The gambit might not work, but McConnell’s shameless intervention today shows that this their intention. For the moment, Rupert Murdoch, that monstrous arbiter of political fortunes throughout the Anglosphere (save New Zealand, which is spared his ghastly sleaze), has signalled that Biden (like Tony Blair) is a safe pair of hands and that Trump should accept defeat. But anyone who has lived in the degraded world that Murdoch has poisoned for generations knows this wretch can turn on a dime if he feels it’s to his benefit. Just as all the Murdoch “news” outlets suddenly shifted against Trump last week, they can shift back this week and turn their relentless propaganda machine to support the Trump-McConnell attempt to overthrow the election at the last moment.

I think they will purse the House route because I don’t think they will manage to get the election result decided by Trump’s appointees and allies on the Supreme Court. There would need to be at least the slimmest modicum of evidence even for partisan courts to move his preposterous claims to the SCOTUS. And since the election, the lower courts have been throwing out Trump’s empty cases at every turn – because, again, there is no evidence of any kind of vast, systematic fraud anywhere in the US that could overturn the results. 

(This leaves aside the fact that courts are not SUPPOSED to decide elections like this. The bland assertion of “let the courts sort it out” that we see offered everywhere these days is already a perversion of the ordinary political process. There is only one case of this in US history, and that was the sinister and absurd ruling in 2000 – by a majority with two judges who had family members (wife, son) working for the Bush campaign – that the recount in Florida had to stop because it might “injure the interests” of plaintiff George Bush; that is, literally, that his “interests” would be injured if the recount showed that he lost the state and the national election. But even this was a case of intervening to stop a recount; not ruling on charges of massive fraud for which there is no evidence.)

At the moment, I believe this plan will fail. Maybe it’s not evn a serious plan; maybe it’s just Trump trying to extort an agreement: “give me a sweet deal — blanket pardon, debt relief, etc. — and I’ll go; if not, I’ll take a flamethrower to the place.” Maybe. But there is absolutely no guarantee of that. We have seen how far the Trump and the GOP extremists have been willing to go. They tried to destroy the popular vote process in the most flagrant way possible, hoping to game the Electoral College to a victory that the American people would never give them. They failed with the popular vote; they even failed with the Electoral College. Now they are going to try to blow that up as well, and see if they can throw it into the House and have one last throw of the dice with Liz Cheney and the other willing executioners of democracy.

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Brief note on a bleary post-election morning

Written by Chris Floyd 04 November 2020 24845 Hits

You’d think that if you woke up after an election to find one candidate leading by two million votes, with the millions of votes yet to be counted almost certainly going heavily in his favor, that would be it: “Well, the result seems clear: you had a race and the voters chose one guy over another. That’s democracy in action!” But we are dealing with the United States and its Electoral College: the 18th-century contraption of slave-owning elites who had already restricted the right to a vote to limited categories of white men. Yet even with this truncated electorate, they were frantically worried that challenges to the domination of the rich elite (the only people worthy and wise enough to rule!) might arise, and so they rigged up the Electoral College to ensure that the popular vote of the filthy rabble would never be the sole determining factor in obtaining the presidency. Now here we are. Once again, the will of the people has been expressed, narrowly but decisively, at the ballot box; and once again, this means nothing. All that matters is how well one side or another has gamed the slave-owners’ democracy-suppressing system.

Yes, it should never have been this close, with an incumbency that has literally destroyed the economy and wilfully condemned tens of thousands of Americans to needless death. And yes, the Democrats ran a candidate who was as close to an empty suit of clothes hanging on a rack as he could possibly be, inspiring no one, offering nothing but vague bromides (“Nothing will change,” he told our present-day wealthy elites) while adamantly rejecting policies and programs that addressed the urgent needs of ordinary Americans. Yes, he was the worst possible opposition candidate at the worst possible time. But even with his manifold shortcomings, the American people have once again rejected Trump at the ballot box. And once again, the slave-owning oligarchs of yore have stretched out their dead hands and are threatening to strangle the will of the people. 

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"Lost Americans": A national ballad of history and tragedy

Written by Chris Floyd 22 October 2020 25197 Hits

We came across the ocean
fighting through the stormy waves
We carved out our dominion
And planted it with graves
We built a mighty nation
on the backs and blood of slaves
And sang our praise unto the Lord
for the blessings that He gave

In a covered wagon
rolling cross the endless plain
the earth was dark with carcasses
of the buffalo we’d slain
We sent our soldiers out
to make the Indians feel the pain
And swore our souls were white as snow
without a crimson stain

We’re the lost Americans
The lost Americans
We came into a land that knew us not
We made the world again
With God and law and sin
While others paid for everything we’ve got

Every now and then
A champion would arise
to speak of truth and justice
And tear the veil from people’s eyes
But every single time
they got a bullet in the head
And lots of pious praise
when they were safely dead

Now we take the names
of our conquered native foes
we give em to our weapons
as around the world we go
Blasting anybody 
who might get in the way
of the pure and holy goodness
of God’s own USA

We’re the lost Americans
The lost Americans
We came into a land that knew us not
We made the world again
With God and law and sin
While others paid for everything we’ve got
 

Words and music © 2020 by Chris Floyd

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Lords of Misrule: UK Elites and the Rise of Global Feudalism

Written by Chris Floyd 30 September 2020 27209 Hits

I darkly suspect that the UK is entering a long winter of discontent and widespread upheaval, which will likely end with the replacement of the hapless opportunist Boris Johnson by someone even worse: the hardcore, inhumane, hard-right true believer Michael Gove, with the equally inhumane, sinister crank Dom Cummings still running the show. (Cummings, remember, has long been Gove's man, not Johnson's.) Together they will use the chaos and suffering to keep pushing their brutal agenda of "disruption" and "reform" to destroy the ability of government to act for the greater common good. Instead they will continue turning over its functions to cronies in the private sector, who will drain the Treasury in corrupt deals while providing degraded services – or none at all – as we have seen in almost every case of "privatisation" over the past decades and especially during the pandemic.

Gove and Cummings are part of a broader rightwing movement across the world, which has for decades been funded with unimaginable amounts of money (almost always "dark money," hidden and laundered through cut-outs). These extremist ideologues believe that government has only one legitimate function: enhancing the power and privilege of an elite that rules by the "right" of its inherent superiority: either its "superior genes" (as Trump – and Cummings' lordly father-in-law – openly say) or a putative in-born "superior intellect" (as Dom postulates, ludicrously including himself among that number). Money is the main signifier of inherent worth in this barbaric belief system; and being unaccountable to the laws and regulations that restrict the grubby rabble is one of the chief privileges of the elect.

In essence, it's a form of high-tech feudalism, where baronal power centers (oligiarchs, corporations) hold sway over weak and nominal national governments. If you read what the right-wing think tanks (often American in origin) with which Gove and Cummings have long been associated are ACTUALLY saying in the dense, dull prose of their innumerable "policy papers," you'll see that this characterization of their ideology and their aims is no exaggeration. It's an ancient evil – brutal, rapacious rule by unaccountable elites – dressed up in modern form and cloaked in the cynical perversion of rhetoric about "rights" and "freedom" and "sovereignty" and "modernization” and “AI,” etc. They are heartless liars in pursuit of loot and power, and they literally, demonstrably, do not care who lives or dies, as long as they get what they want.

Until we recognize this, until we stop treating these radical, death-dealing, society-wrecking extremists as normal politicians working within the system, we cannot effectively confront them and stop their depredations. They will continue to use the system itself to hollow out government and society until there is nothing left but their little clique, sealed in sumptuous fortresses behind masses of armed guards, lording it over the ruins.

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