The American Mirror: Darkness Visible

Written by Chris Floyd 02 October 2018 2550 Hits

Quinlan: Come on, read my future for me.
Tana: You haven’t got any.
Quinlan: Hmm? What do you mean?
Tana: Your future’s all used up.

A grotesquely bloated, corrupt cop stumbling through a self-created mire of lies and death, sick of the world and his own ugly, irredeemable self. Glints and flecks of a better person, far in the past, appear, reflected not in his own time-assaulted visage but in a despised Other, a strong brown man with a beautiful wife, the kind of glamorous woman he used to have. A lowly Other, as he sees it, an inferior creature putting on airs … yet embodying the gritty nobility and thirst for justice that he, the bloated one, the one whose soul is already rotting in its putrescent flesh, once held in his own heart as his ideal. This comes out every time he speaks the Other’s name, in a slurred drawl that mixes loathing and yearning in equal measure: “Vargas.”

Orson Welles’ portrayal of Capt. Hank Quinlan in his 1958 film “Touch of Evil” is perhaps the most courageous self-immolation in cinema history — even Marlon Brando in “Apocalypse Now” makes sure there is a kind of ruined beauty and grandeur in his portrayal of Kurtz. But Welles —himself once a glamorous golden boy of American culture, at one time married to one of the most alluring women in the world, Rita Hayworth — cuts himself no such slack. There is no ruined grandeur in the jowly, sweating, loathsome wretch he pushes at the audience — often in large, intense close-ups. This is what we can come to, he says, using himself as a canvas of human degeneracy. Perhaps, he hints, this what we are — this is all we are — at the core.

To cover up his own long-term corruption, Quinlan tries to frame both the upright Mexican detective, Miguel Vargas, played by Charlton Heston (not a brown man at all, of course; but then again, the Other is always a fiction, generated by a fearful mind) — as well as Vargas’s new wife, played by Janet Leigh. (This “mixed marriage” is another rumbling undercurrent in the film.) In the end, Quinlan is shot by his disillusioned partner, and dies in a pool of industrial wastewater. 

Just before this, Quinlan visits a brothel-keeper, with whom he once had a relationship. He’s now so rotten and bloated that she can barely recognize him. She’s played by yet another person once considered one of the world’s most alluring women: Marlene Dietrich. He thinks she’s reading cards for fortune-telling —she says she’s just doing accounts — and he asks her to tell his future. That’s where the dialogue above comes in.

This exchange comes to my mind more and more as I read the staggering farrago of the daily news. In this light — or rather, in this darkness visible — Quinlan increasingly appears not just as an emblem of universal, institutional and individual corruption, but as a prophecy of America’s present reality… and its destiny.

As many have noted, Donald Trump’s presidency does not represent some kind of aberration in the nation’s politics, or in its character; it is much more of an apotheosis. Or perhaps a long-simmering impostume finally swollen to the bursting point, dousing us all with fountains of rancid pus, built up over many generations. Trump has held a mirror up to America’s nature — and shown us, in its reflection, a gigantic close-up of Quinlan. 

The chronicle of a nation’s death is oft foretold, of course, without the prophecy necessarily proving true. But it’s hard to escape the feeling that we are now in uncharted waters, with the ship of state fatally holed. Just as Trump is bringing the country’s racist, grifting, shallow, violent, psychosexually disturbed quintessence to the fore, we are also witnessing the collapse of almost every institutional force that once stood as a bulwark — or at least a light brake — against our worst instincts.

The political opposition is utterly enfeebled, clueless, corrupt and compromised. The media is, if anything, even worse: vapid, ignorant, juvenile, and largely in the hands of corporate behemoths and oligarchs; its main act of “resistance” has been the resurrection of a rebooted McCarthyism that paints America as the innocent victim of a Kremlin ogre, while letting Trump skate on the manifold and manifest ordinary crimes this cheap hood and his ilk have perpetrated over decades. Academia? Also on its knees to corporations and oligarchs. The justice system? Forget it. It’s now a killing machine running wild in the streets, combined with a shakedown operation looting the people with fines, fees, bail and confiscation. Hollywood? You mean the industry making movies with the military and the CIA, when it’s not bludgeoning us with vigilante superheroes and mind-numbing CGI spectacles, all of them featuring dehumanized, demonized Others who deserve destruction? (They also slashed up “Touch of Evil,” then relegated it to B-movie drive-in fare.)

No one can see what’s yet to come. But the image we see in the American mirror today – a corpulent, desolate wreck, sinking into poison water, grunting out his last breaths of humanity – makes one fear the nation’s future is indeed all used up.

(This was my column in the June issue of CounterPunch Magazine, which I somehow failed to post at the time.)

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Dial “N” for Mayhem: Wording Our Way to a New Level of Hell

Written by Chris Floyd 22 August 2018 4476 Hits

This piece appeared first on CounterPunch earlier this week.

It’s odd. A few months ago, I made a prediction that Donald Trump would bring the “n-word” back into public use by the end of this year, or next year at the latest. At the time, I thought it would play out like this: some right-wing figure would use the insult, and Trump would come to his defense, e.g. “Bad word choice by X, but it’s just a word. He’s no racist, he’s a great guy, loves all Americans. No need for this lynching by the PC brigade!”

And then we’d see “serious” discussions in the “serious” media about whether the use of the word should automatically banish someone from public discourse or get them fired, or if there is “perhaps some room for nuance and context on this issue.” No doubt there’d be a somber think piece in the NYT: “Is it Time to Speak the Unspeakable?” Maybe it would be Ross Douthat or David Brooks weighing in, or perhaps Bari Weiss would commission one of her “dark web intellectuals” to write it; Jordan Peterson, for example. I can see it now: “What if, as Trump says, the n-word really is ‘just a word?’ For as we know, any word or object or ritual that is placed under a taboo acquires immense power in a culture. Perhaps it’s time to strip this crude pejorative of the power we have given it, by ending the knee-jerk hysteria that ensues every time it’s used.”

That’s how I thought it would go, following the pattern we’ve seen over and over in recent years, with so many tropes of white nationalism entering mainstream politics and media as subjects of “debate” and “discussion,” often triggered by Trump dog-whistles – or his outright appropriations of racist rhetoric. For we are bound to get there at some point; indeed, the n-word seems to lie at the very heart of modern conservatism.

When people decry how “the PC police” are throttling free speech, I always want to ask them: “What is it you want to say that you feel you can’t say today? I mean, really, what is it? After all, you can take the most extreme political positions and be given a national platform by vastly powerful media empires, or by the political party that controls all three branches of government and most states as well. You can start a gutter news site, spewing lies and hatred about minorities, and be given millions of dollars by oligarchs like the Mercers. You can refuse to serve somebody in your store or even give them a prescription if they somehow offend your ‘religious sensibilities.’ And so on and so forth. So again, I ask: in what way – in what specific way – do you feel throttled or thwarted or oppressed in expressing yourself? Again: what is the specific thing you feel you can’t say?”

And I think it comes down to this: they want to say the n-word. They want to be able to call black people that word, in public, in print, on the web, wherever, and not face any consequences for it. That seems to me to be the very core of “anti-PC” ideology. (And of course, if they could use that word again, then all the other racist, sexist, ethnic slurs could come back as well.)

I’ve always felt this was a key element to the wide-eyed adulation we see at Trump’s rallies. He’s already licensed them to express so many other nasty, brutal, primitive feelings they used to bottle up in polite company, and they sense that one day he will finally give them permission to use the n-word. Then they can throw off the last restraints of empathy, reason and decorum, and let the beast that lives in each of us run free, rabid and ravaging, soothing all their anxieties, self-loathing and doubts with the false certainties of hatred, the false promises of “supremacy,” the false self-regard of “specialness” – and the powerful intoxicant of projection, putting everything that’s wrong in your life, and in the world, onto the back of a Judas goat to be mocked, rejected and sacrificed.

I still believe that’s going to happen, but it looks as though the mechanics – and timing – of the scenario might be a little different. It seems more likely now that some instance of Trump himself using the word will emerge; after all, even his most faithful Wormtongue, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said she couldn’t “guarantee” there was no tape of Trump saying it. But this will not derail the process described above; it will only accelerate it, skipping over the interim step of Trump defending someone else and go directly to him defending himself for using the word. This will also accelerate the acceptance, for Trump’s supporters will fall all over themselves to find ways to defuse the controversy by downplaying, “contextualizing,” dismissing – and finally doubling down on it: “Yes, he said it; so what? It’s just a word. In fact, his critics are the real racists, because they believe blacks are so weak and pitiful that they need special protection from a word.”

The usage of the n-word won’t become widespread in serious public discourse, of course; it will still retain a taint of vulgarity. After all, even when I was growing up in the rural, segregated South, it was considered unseemly to bandy the word about in public (or in our household, even in private). But it will come back. It will cease to be a career-killer. And it certainly won’t “destroy” Trump politically, any more than “pussy-grabbing” or the Charlottesville fascist-praising or any of this other verbal outrages have done.

Yet the further degradation of public speech will not be the worst of it. It will be, as noted, the license that it gives to the worst instincts and elements in our society. It will open the door to a whole new level of hell.

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Sword Play: Centrists and Right Unite to Support Saudi Extremists

Written by Chris Floyd 21 August 2018 4192 Hits

Female Activist in Saudi Arabia Faces Death Penalty

A nation led by violent extremists is moving to behead a woman for taking part in peaceful demonstrations for human rights. It's not Iran, not North Korea, not Syria, not Russia. It's Saudi Arabia, the firm and friendly ally of the US & UK. The same nation we are supplying with bombs, planes, targeting and intelligence to kill thousands upon thousands of innocent people in Yemen. Now our good friends are going to cut off a woman's head for talking about freedom. 

Where is the right-wing outrage machine over these Islamic extremists committing an atrocity? (Oh, that's right; for years, Fox News was partly owned by a Saudi prince.) Where are our angry centrists, so quick to rightly condemn human rights abuses in other countries? They're too busy feasting with and celebrating the ruthless Saudi crown prince who wants to cut off this woman's head, too busy praising him in the New York Times for his "reforms." (He's going to actually let women drive cars! Wow! Of course, if they talk about more freedoms, he'll cut off their heads, but still, what a guy!) 

How many time do we have to be shown this: our governments and media mandarins and political operatives DO NOT CARE about genuine human rights, genuine human freedom. Their outrage and condemnation is always -- ALWAYS -- selective. As long as a nation is considered useful or necessary to the aggrandizement of our elites, then it will not be denounced or rejected or shunned or sanctioned, no matter how many atrocities it commits against its own people and others. 

If Iran decided to give its oil to Exxon and open Wal-Marts and support US military interventions here and there and everywhere (while buying billions from US war profiteers, like the Saudis do), then Teheran would be our friend, and any repression or abuses it perpetrated would be ignored. Any nation that gets with the program will be rewarded, protected or left alone; any nation that doesn't is automatically an enemy or "adversary" to be attacked and condemned. All that matters is how they suit our agenda; what they actually DO -- good, bad, indifferent -- does not matter in the slightest. It's best to keep this in mind when sorting through the maddening 24/7 cacophony of news and "analysis" that assails us from all sides. This grim fact will help you thread the howling labyrinth and make more sense of the chaos and confusion.

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

Written by Chris Floyd 31 July 2018 6277 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 7225 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 7917 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 9600 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 11711 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 13323 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 14117 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 14395 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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