The UK election is over. Now many Britons will have to learn what so many of us Americans learned long ago: you don’t live in the country you thought you lived in. The country you live in is a much colder, meaner, nastier, more bitter, unfeeling and hard-hearted place than you ever imagined. You will also have to learn what many Americans have learned, over many decades: to follow the example of the Soviet dissidents of yore, and become an “internal exile,” fighting to hold on to and, as best you can, to transmit the richer, deeper, more humane values of our common humanity, even as you live in alienation from the unfeeling power structures that surround you. It is a sad lesson to learn, a sad way to live — but in the corrupted currents of this world, it is the only honourable and decent way to conduct your life and preserve your sanity. It’s a hard road, yes, but let us bear the journey together, in solidarity, revelling in every drop of joy and meaning we can find, while we continue to fight the good fight and, in the words of the American bard, “strengthen the things that remain.”Add a comment
In response to the mass slaughters this week, the "writer" and "political thinker" David French tweets:
“Few things concentrate the mind more than the terrifying knowledge that a person might want to kill someone you love. It makes you aware of your acute vulnerability. [Here’s] why a criminal who comes to our house will face the business end of an AR-15….
French then links to an article he wrote for National Review -- complete with a picture of AR-15s “on sale while supplies last" -- which speaks of death threats he's received. (You will forgive me if I don’t link to the story. It’s not my job to feed the gibbering, moaning shade of William Buckley with the clicks he craves to ease his suffering in the shivering precincts of Hades.)
Upon reading French's chest-pounding discharge, I then gave what I believe is a reasoned, dispassionate, yea philosophical reply (edited here to eliminate the tweet-breaks):
And what if they come IN blasting with the "business end" of an AR-15? The Dayton guy killed 9 people in 30 seconds, with cops there who had the "business end" of their guns primed to go. God, the sickening faux-toughness of you cringing, rightwing cowards.
And by the way, I grew up in the so-called "real" America -- the white rural South -- that all you wingers have wet dreams about. And we slept with our goddamned doors unlocked. Why? Because back then there weren't a million fake tough-guys running around substituting AR-15s for their manhood.
And I'll tell you something else for nothing. I've had death threats ever since I started criticizing YOUR dipshit leader Bush Jr. in print years ago. I get them now from your fellow rightwing fake tough guys. And I wouldn't have one of your penis-substitutes in my house. Why?
Because I'm not a cringing little coward who would put my own children at risk with deadly weapons in the house just so I can do John Wayne cosplay oiling the "business end" of my AR-15. The "business end" of your oiled metal dildo won't keep you or your family safe from the gun culture you rightwing dipshits have been pushing for decades. YOU and all your fellow rightwing travellers have flooded the country with guns, even as your extremism -- yes, even the "Never-Trumpers" -- have pushed violence and hatred at every turn.
You want to protect your family? Then fight against the gun culture, fight against rightwing hatred, fight against the disempowerment and despair you rightwing extremists have advanced for decades, fight against the militarization and brutalization of our whole society which both you and your fellow travellers, the "centrist," interventionist neoliberal Democrats, have imposed on our collapsing, corroded, corrupted land.
"Business end of an AR-15." Jesus Christ, aren't you ashamed before your family to be so damned pathetic?Add a comment
Robert Mueller’s testimony on Wednesday was the very definition of anti-climax. After months of frantic build-up by the ‘Resistance’ (“At last, Mueller is going to nail Trump to the wall!”) Mueller merely noted — mildly, haltingly but correctly — that his report laid out evidence of obstruction of justice, and that is up to the House of Representatives to decide whether to use this evidence to impeach the president or not. This is precisely what we knew months ago. The report he released had already said all he had to say. His testimony was never going to add anything to this. Democratic leaders knew this, and they used the months of legal machinations that it took to secure his testimony as a craven way to avoid their responsibility for this decision a little longer. So we are now where we were before: does the House want to bring articles of impeachment for obstruction of justice in the ‘Russiagate’ case, or not? Mueller cannot and never could do this for them.
Of course, as I have noted here and elsewhere ad nauseam, I believe there are many other, more clear-cut grounds for impeachment that the House could bring right now, without any reference to Mueller’s investigation at all. This includes violations of emoluments clause, as Trump personally and directly enriches himself every day with money from foreign states and their bagmen at his resorts and hotels: a clear violation of the constitution. The Democrats decided instead to put all their eggs in Mueller’s basket. OK, fine. He made his investigation into what was ultimately a very small corner of Trump’s vast heap of high crimes and misdemeanors; and from this, he produced evidence to impeach on grounds of obstruction of justice, as Trump and his minions clearly tried to impede the investigation into a conspiracy with the Russians. (A conspiracy for which, he again noted, he found no evidence. But obstruction of an official investigation is still a serious crime in itself, whatever the veracity of the underlying cause for the investigation.)
So: will the House take the single egg of obstruction in Mueller’s basket (from which they once hoped to procure a cornucopia of conspiracy charges) — or not? I think we already have our answer. They could have used his report to initiate impeachment on these grounds long ago. His testimony added nothing to what they already had. (And they knew it wouldn’t.) The only real effect of the hearings was to prove what we already knew: that the Democrats are not as good at inquisitorial theater as the Republicans (“Benghazi!!!”).
Nancy Pelosi continues to insist that there can be no impeachment without charges so flagrant that even hardcore extremist Republicans will go along with them. And she knows — as we all do — that there will never be any charges, however flagrant or heinous, that will compel these extremists to support impeachment.** She has adopted a threshold for impeachment that she knows will not and cannot ever be reached. So there will be no impeachment of Trump by this House as long as Pelosi and her cohort are in charge. Not for obstruction; not for emoluments; not for anything.
Yet anything less than impeachment benefits Trump. Anything less than the formal, legal, relentless, daily, national hearings on his malfeasance that impeachment would produce benefits Trump. Yes, he knows, as we all know, that the Republican-led Senate will not vote to convict him. But it is undeniable that an impeachment process that would compel constant media attention to the careful, documented laying out of his crimes and misdemeanors would inflict heavy political damage and force the Trumpists to expend enormous amounts of time, energy, money and attention to fighting the charges. It would also be the right and dutiful thing to do, if that matters.
It doesn’t take any special insight to see this. It’s as plain as the scorching sun beating down on our burning world at midday. I can see it. You can see it. And it is certain that Nancy Pelosi and her cohorts can see it. So we come back to the same question that’s vexed our politics since the Democrats wrested back control of the House: why doesn’t Nancy Pelosi and her cohorts do anything about it?
And, tragically, we can only keep coming back to the same answer: because THEY DO NOT WANT TO. And so until our ‘Resistance’ recognizes this incontrovertible fact, we will continue on a course that seems more and more likely to end in Trump’s re-election — and the unimaginable horrors that will follow.
(**Just as there would never have been any Democratic support for impeaching Barack Obama for, say, colluding with Saudi Arabia to impose mass death, famine and other war crimes on Yemen.)Add a comment
This is one of my recent columns for the print version of CounterPunch. It was written several weeks ago. But the only thing that's really changed is that Nancy Pelosi's resistance to impeachment has grown even more adamant, even as the grounds for impeachment reach ever-more monstrous heights.
The impeachment conundrum is remarkably simple. As I’ve said before, every single day of his presidency, Donald Trump violates the emoluments clause in myriad ways, all of them eminently impeachable. We don't need to know how many angels can dance on the spine of the Mueller Report; we don't need to parse every utterance of that grim-jawed investigator as if it issued from the oracle at Delphi.
Again: Trump commits impeachable violations of the Constitution every day, and has done so since he was inaugurated. He could've easily avoided this by making different financial arrangements, but he chose not to. He chose to keep putting the profits of his businesses – with their innumerable foreign entanglements – directly into his own pocket. This is not lawful, not constitutional. And it happens in broad daylight, day in, day out. If you want to impeach Trump, you don't have to deal with Russian collusion or obstruction of justice or indeed any issue investigated by Robert Mueller.
I've said repeatedly that putting virtually the entire focus of opposition to Trump on a narrow probe into the murky world of espionage – where all is inference, indirection and plausible deniability – would end badly, and it has. The ‘Resistance’ struck the prince — but with a blunt, clumsy weapon. Trump is still standing, claiming victory and martyrdom, and he’s now using the power of the state to go after his political enemies.
As I’m writing this, Nancy Pelosi is still resisting impeachment with every bit of backroom guile and chop logic at her command. Of course, by the time this is published, she might well have succumbed to pressure and finally instigated the procedure in the House. (As always with our stalwart party of Demos, it will depend on what the donor class prefers.) But it’s certain that any impeachment process will be based on the Mueller investigation; it will stand or fall on that thin reed. Because the leaders of the ‘Resistance’ have decided that the only way to get to Trump is through Mueller.
The liberal lionization of Robert Mueller has always been a ring-tailed wonder to behold. Comedians fawn on him; columnists rhapsodize about him; why, his media avatar is no less than Robert DeNiro himself, who portrays him on Saturday Night Live. DeNiro even writes op-eds in the NY Times, urging Mueller to be more like his portrayal. (Of course when he’s not helping direct the affairs of the American Republic, DeNiro can currently be seen on British TV screens in a glitzy ad series for a bagel company.)
Many Resisters have expressed — more in sorrow than in anger — some disappointment in their champion for not producing a more forthright report, red-hot with smoking guns. But anyone whose knowledge of US political history began before November 8, 2016, might have suspected such an outcome. After all, Mueller, a longtime GOP apparatchik, played a key role in covering up government complicity in one of the biggest criminal conspiracies in history – the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, as I’ve noted in stories going back to 2006. In journalist Christopher Bryon’s apt description, BCCI “engaged in pandemic bribery of officials in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas. It laundered money on a global scale … engaged in extortion and blackmail. It supplied the financing for illegal arms trafficking and global terrorism. It financed and facilitated income tax evasion, smuggling and prostitution." And the Bush I boys, along with a goodly portion of the bipartisan political establishment, were neck-deep in BCCI sleaze.
When a scandal at a BCCI-connected bank in Atlanta forced the feds to act, GHW Bush moved quickly to suppress the probe. Lawyers for the companies involved were appointed to the investigation team, which was headed by a safe pair of hands: Bob Mueller. Again, as I've noted elsewhere, the investigation was mysteriously botched: evidence got lost, witnesses disappeared. There was some wrist-slapping of low-hanging fruit, but Team Bush escaped with its many ties to BCCI (including Bush’s surreptitious arming of Saddam Hussein) left hidden.
A few years later, the family factotum got his reward: Bush Junior made Mueller head of the FBI, where Bob used his safe hands to push the deceptions about Iraq's non-existent WMD that led to the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. A great progressive hero, you'll agree.
In any case, whatever Mueller did, said or meant in his Russiagate probe has no bearing at all on the other clear, undeniable, easily impeachable violations Trump perpetrates every day. There is no wiggle room for Trump on this score, no murk, no mystery: it's cut-and-dried, cash-in-hand, unconstitutional corruption.
If you really wanted to do something about Trump, to take concrete action to remove this dangerous, addled criminal from office, then why wouldn't you choose this easy, straightforward line of attack, from day one? And now that you have power in the House, why wouldn't you use it as the basis of an impeachment proceeding that needs no Delphic decipherment but can be laid out plainly and simply before the people? This to me is the great mystery of the 'Resistance.' When your enemy hands you a sword – every single day – why do you throw it aside?Add a comment
(This is my column from the latest print version of CounterPunch Magazine.)
Looking at America today, you swing back and forth between two poles, both of them magnetized by despair.
At one pole, you find yourself saying that things have never been as bad as this: we are in uncharted waters, in a foundering ship being swept toward the reefs. And when the crack-up comes, its horrors will outstrip our imaginations, making our cinematic dystopias look bucolic in comparison, as we devour each other in a dying world ruled by psychopaths, gangsters and warlords.
Yet at the other pole, you find yourself thinking that what we’re seeing today is just a continuation — and in some cases, even a diminution — of the horrors and hellishness you’ve seen all your life. Wars, liars, atrocities, hatred, coups, riots — whole cities burning! — injustice, terrorism, plunder and corruption: when have these not been the background of the six decades you’re spent on this earth? And if you have even a passing interest in history, much less a passion for it, then you can extend this malevolent roar all the way back to the beginning of recorded time.
Perhaps, you think, what we’re seeing today is not some violation of the norm in our national life (or human affairs in general); perhaps it’s just a particularly vivid expression of our essential nature — heightened and hyped and made more all-pervasive by technology, yes, but in no way a fundamental break from the past. Perhaps it’s true, as the Preacher saith: “There is nothing new under the sun.”
But then, you turn on your phone, tap into one of the hallucinatory networks of data-harvesting and ad-disgorging that you, like so many, have become addicted to (while telling yourself – disingenuously? – that a conscientious citizen must keep abreast of these for-profit platforms because that’s where our public life now occurs), and suddenly you see … a picture from a snuff film. It’s a man being raped with a bayonet until he dies. You can see his face — a bloodied mask of agony — and the exulting, murdering mob around him.
But you haven’t stumbled down some algorithmic path into the festering, belching pits of depravity that lurk mere inches below the glossy surface of the internet. No, you’re looking at a tweet sent out to the world by a member of one of the most respectable institutions in the land: the United States Senate. The senior senator from Florida, Marco Rubio, a man of intense public piety, who regularly adorns his Twitter feed with Bible verses, had posted — on a Sunday morning, the Lord’s day — a graphic of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. On one side was a smiling Gadaffi in his pomp; the other was the aforesaid shot from the snuff-film video of Gaddafi’s slaughter.
The tweet emerged in the midst of Rubio’s feverish push for regime change in Venezuela, and was an unmistakable message to that country’s president, Nicolas Maduro: This is what happens to leaders who don’t do what we say. A naked, brutal, open, terroristic threat, from the very top ranks of the American establishment.
The shock you feel is like a slap in the face. Even in the Age of Trump, this seems to overstep some boundary. Senators revelling in rape-murder, brandishing gangland-style threats? Surely this is a qualitative difference, taking us into those uncharted waters far from the shores of the past.
But suddenly you are pulled back to the other pole. For you remember another figure on the commanding heights of our society laughing, with deep, hearty glee, at this very same rape-murder. Sitting with a TV interviewer, eager to publicize her reaction, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton laughs and exclaims, “We came, we saw, he died!” Ha ha ha! It made your blood run cold.
Then you further recall the brutal threat she’d made years before, running for president, promising to “totally obliterate” 70 million human beings in Iran if that nation, which had and has no nuclear weapons, launched a nuclear attack on Israel, which had and has more than 200 nuclear weapons. The scenario was pure fantasy; but the imagination of this much-admired paragon of our society ran immediately to mass murder.
Your mind keeps reeling backward, remembering that the rape-murder that gave such sick, psychosexual titillation to Rubio and Clinton had been committed by extremists armed and backed by the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Barack Obama (along with many other worthies of Western civilization.) And that one of Clinton’s predecessors, the liberal Madeline Albright, had defended the death of half a million innocent children from the sanctions imposed by her boss, Bill Clinton.
From there you keep going back, through all the evils you’ve seen committed in your name, in just your lifetime, back to the one that first fully entered your childish awareness: My Lai. And you know that what we’re seeing today is not a break, but a continuation. Accelerated, yes; the rotten timbers of the foundering ship are now in an advanced state of decay. But the reefs coming up so swiftly are the same ones we’ve been hurtling toward for a long, long time.
But then you turn on your phone and …Add a comment
Evan McMullin is a former (presumably) CIA operative who once declared that his main job with the Agency was "to go out and convince al Qaeda operatives to instead work with us." In 2010 he left the CIA (presumably) to become an investment banker, then served as an adviser and policy director for the berserk right-wing extremists in the House of Representatives until 2016. In that year, he launched a brief campaign for president, offering himself as an "anti-Trump" Republican (and garnering just over half of one percent of the national vote). Since then, he has postured as an above-the-fray voice of reason, still opposing Trump, while continuing to support almost all of the extremist GOP agenda that Trump has empowered.
Lately, the possibility has arisen that the Democrats might nominate a presidential candidate who espouses some of the actual core beliefs of most party members and, what's more, might actually seek to implement at least some of them (unlike the Pelosi-Schumer old guard, who prefer lip service for the rubes and lube jobs for their corporate backers, greasing the wheels for their profit and power). Even the remote possibility of this happening seems to have given McMullin a fit of the vapors. A recent tweet is a case in point. On March 9, McMullin offered this broadside to a nation desperate to hear how CIA operatives want them to vote in the coming election:
"I’ll never vote for Trump and I’ll never vote for Sanders. Proto-fascists and socialists are two sides of the same illiberal, Russian-backed coin. We can do much better and I believe we will."
Now, on the one hand, this is such an asinine statement -- baseless, fact-free, jejune, dumb -- that it almost defies comment. It's like watching a cat hock up a hairball: well, there it is. What can you say? It's a hairball; that's it. But in an idle moment of a Sunday afternoon, I was moved to lob a few tweets back to McMullin, which I've gathered into a more coherent bundle below.
You have publicly stated that your job for the CIA was to talk to al Qaeda members and try to get them to cooperate with the US. But you would balk at making common cause with a longtime US senator if he is chosen by millions of Americans in a democratic process. I find that odd.
You are obviously not an idiot, so you know that the policies advocated by Sanders are diametrically opposed to Trump's -- just as, say, the Socialists of prewar Germany were not identical to the Nazis. So why are you pushing this brazenly false equation? In doing so, you are partaking in precisely the same distortion of reality that is Trump's chief weapon. Again: you'll negotiate with al Qaeda killers to get them to work with the US, but you reject out of hand US politicians going through the democratic process, and make false equations about them.
What is it about al Qaeda killers that you find more attractive than a democratic socialist whose policies are completely in line with mainstream FDR liberalism? Is it because your al Qaeda friends cooperated with the CIA, while there is a chance a Sanders' presidency MIGHT hinder, in some small way, the activities of our intelligence apparatchiks? Is that where your true loyalties are: with the institutional power of the CIA rather than the democratic processes of the country? You'd make common cause with al Qaeda, but not FDR liberalism?
I think your dissemination of these false equations between ordinary American liberalism and Trump's proto-fascism -- not to mention your McCarthyite smears of Sanders as a Kremlin tool -- speak volumes about what you really stand for and your true vision for the country.
Of course, McMullins' 2016 admission of the CIA's intricate intertwining with al Qaeda in order to use the terrorist organization for Agency purposes is worth a great deal more attention than it has ever received. But we'll save that for a later time.
Add a comment
There has been much throwing about of brains on the subject of anti-Semitism lately. But in the ceaseless and almost entirely cynical media-political imbroglio that has followed the “Benjamins” tweet of Rep. Ilhan Omar, I’ve seen nothing said about perhaps the most intense and thoroughgoing form of anti-Semitism in America today: an anti-Semitism that is not only prevalent but dominant in the halls of power at the moment.
This virulent anti-Semitism — which in at least one respect surpasses that of the Nazis themselves — is passionately embraced by millions of Americans. Its most prominent adherent right now — in terms of actual power — is the vice president of the United States, Mike Pence. (See note 1 below.) So we will examine Mike Pence’s beliefs as an exemplar of this growing brand of anti-Semitism.
Mike Pence believes, with all his heart, that every single Jewish person on the planet will — and should — burn in the ovens of Hell for all eternity … unless they stop being Jews and accept his own version of the Christian faith. There is no equivocating here. Pence is a passionate evangelical Christian. He believes that the Bible is the literal word of God, and that his sect’s interpretation of that word is true, correct and everlasting. I know his type of Christianity very well, for I was raised in it. There can be no question what Mike Pence, and millions of Americans, believe about Jews and their ultimate fate.
So let’s continue. Mike Pence not only believes that every Jew alive today will be tortured and tormented for eternity, but that every single Jew since the time of Jesus Christ is right now burning and writhing in undying flames — unless, again, they had cast off their cursed Jewishness at some point and become Christians.
Thus Mike Pence believes that every Jewish person killed in the Holocaust — with a few exceptions (see note 2 below) — is even now, right this minute, screaming madly with unbearable pain as they feel the fire searing into their flesh: fire that never stops lashing, flesh that never burns away. Mike Pence believes that almost all of the Jews killed in the Holocaust went directly from the torment of the gas chamber or the shooting pit into the fires of Hell, where they are even now undergoing tortures and abominations far worse than the Nazis could ever inflict.
It’s worse because there is no relief, not even for a moment. There is no chance even to lie down on a wooden plank for three hours in a bone-cold winter night after a back-breaking day of slave labor. There is not even the hope that your mind will break and you’ll lose conscious awareness of your situation, or that the torture will finally end at some point in the relief and oblivion of death.
There is none of that. No relief. No hope. No end. Only the unbearable pain of your entire body burning in flames, while you remain fully conscious, fully aware of every microsecond of agony. Forever. For millions of years, billions of years, trillions of years. This is what Mike Pence believes should happen to every single Jewish person who doesn’t renounce their literally God-damned Jewishness. He believes they deserve to suffer unending torment and pain … because they didn’t believe what he believes about God and Jesus and salvation.
The beliefs of Mike Pence about the eternal torment of Jews are the very embodiment of an extreme anti-Semitism. In its feverish vision of the ultimate fate of the Jewish people — an eternal Final Solution — it is even more brutal and cruel than Nazism itself.
Now, Mike Pence might argue that he and his fellow sectarians are not anti-Semites, because they don’t hate Jews just for being Jewish, as the Nazis did. In fact, Mike Pence and his religious compatriots will tell you they actually love Jews, deeply and fiercely, which is why they support the Israeli government far more blindly and fervently than, say, most Jewish Americans do. They love Jews so much they want to spend eternity with them — millions and billions and trillions of years! They love Jews so much that many of them pray nightly that every Jew in the world will be saved from the Jewishness they were unfortunately inflicted with at birth. They don’t want a single Jew to writhe and scream forever in the fires of Hell. Let us grant them that.
Nevertheless, Mike Pence and his fellow sectarians are cheerfully resigned to the fact that this writhing and screaming will be the fate of any stiff-necked Jew who fails to accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. They believe it is part of God’s perfect plan that such Jews will burn in unrelenting agony for billions and trillions of years. They believe the eternal torture of the Jews is not only justified; it is righteous, holy, even glorious. Because it is in accordance with the divinely ordained structure of the universe.
Here, Mike Pence might object again. The fate of eternal hellfire awaits all those who refuse to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord, he might say. We’re not just singling out the Jews for “special measures.” And that’s true. But it was also true of the Nazis. They didn’t just persecute and torture and murder Jews. There were many different kinds of people whom the Nazis felt violated their idea of the divinely ordered structure of the universe and deserved punishment, torment and elimination. But the fact that condemnation is spread around various groups doesn’t mitigate the suffering of any specific group being targeted.
And with both Mike Pence and the Nazis, it is the Jewishness of the Jews that condemn them. For the Nazis, a Jew could be an exemplary person with a record of long and faithful service to the German nation; it didn’t matter. They were Jewish and thus were condemned. For Mike Pence, a Jew could be an extraordinarily loving and giving individual, someone who has sacrificed for others, helped the poor and sick — indeed, lived a blameless, Christ-like life in every respect; it doesn’t matter. If that person does not renounce their Jewishness, then it is their very Jewishness — their adherence to their own faith rather than the faith of Mike Pence — that will condemn them to eternal damnation.
I suppose one might say that non-religious Jews will be lumped in with all the other non-believers on the transport trains to Mike Pence’s eternal Auschwitz, and therefore it’s not their Jewishness per se that condemns them. Whether that will be any comfort to them as they screech in agony alongside religious Jews is unlikely. But let us concede that on this point, Mike Pence and his fellow sectarians are not as anti-Semitic as the Nazis: they only condemn religious Jews for being Jewish; non-religious Jews will go to Hell for other reasons.
And in fact, I’m not here to equate evangelical Christianity with Nazism. Do Mike Pence and his fellow sectarians advocate the persecution of living Jews in any way, much less along Nazi lines? No, of course not. (Although it has to be said that Mike Pence — and Donald Trump — and millions of their followers seem happy to persecute Muslims in ways very similar to the Nazis’ early treatment of Jews. Whether their anti-Islamism will lead them into emulating the Nazis even further in their persecution of a demonized minority remains to be seen. But they are not there yet.)
My point is simply this: any belief-system that says Jews deserve to be tortured and tormented, forever, simply for being Jews, is anti-Semitic. Any belief-system that says this eternal punishment of Jews is an absolute requirement of a just and moral universe is anti-Semitic. Anyone who holds this belief is, ultimately and essentially, an anti-Semite, whatever else they might feel about Jewish individuals they know, or Jewish people in general, or the state of Israel.
Therefore, Mike Pence — and so many others who have been loudly and showily condemning Omar — are in fact anti-Semites of the highest order. They are the eternal anti-Semites, envisioning an unspeakable punishment for all Jews who remain Jews, for all time … yea, even beyond the end of all time.
1. Donald Trump is, of course, more powerful than Pence; but he can’t be used as a representative in this case, because it’s obvious Trump has no religious belief at all. He is certainly not an evangelical Christian in even the remotest sense, although the political hucksters of Pence’s sect like to claim him as an adherent. His only object of worship — his only “ultimate concern,” to use the Tillichian terminology — is his own bloated, blustering self.
2. As noted, Mike Pence doesn’t believe that every Jew who was murdered in the Holocaust is now in Hell. There are exceptions. First, of course, are the many Jewish converts to Christianity killed by the Nazis, who were less concerned with belief than biology. (Or rather, with their bogus view of biology and “race science,” which they took largely from American “thinkers” and lawmakers of the early 20th century.)
The second exception would be children who had not yet reached the “age of accountability.” This is the point (in the evangelical conception) at which a child comes to the conscious knowledge that he or she must accept Jesus as their Saviour and be baptized — or else burn eternally in Hell. This means that that little children who have not yet formed such an awareness are in a state of innocence, and would be taken up to heaven in the event of an untimely death. So while Mike Pence believes that Anne Frank, for example, went straight to the fiery pits of Hell as soon as she was murdered by the Nazis, many younger Jewish children would have been spared eternal damnation after their deaths.Add a comment
Do the American intelligence services knowingly plant false stories in mainstream newspapers? Do reporters for mainstream news agencies know of this practice? Do they approve of it? Yes, yes and yes.
A 2014 story by The Intercept (which I ran across recently) revealed the collusion and kowtowing of an LA Times reporter (now at AP) in his dealings with the CIA, the agency he was supposed to be covering as one of ever-fierce watchdogs of out freedom-loving Fourth Estate. Drawing on a trove of emails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the Intercept’s story lays out the embarrassing work of Ken Dilanian, as he sent whole stories off to his “guys” at the CIA seeking their pre-publication approval and often softening and shifting stories at their request. He constantly expresses his ardent desire to make the CIA look better and to downplay any bad press the agency might be getting from, say, drone-bombing carloads of civilians or destroying information about the agency’s torture programs.
But beyond the brown-nosing (which went far beyond the usual courting and cultivating of journalistic sources), I was most struck by a paragraph that was buried deep in the report. It seemed to me to confirm and exemplify one of the most shocking elements of the American system today: the casual, unquestioning acceptance that our intelligence services routinely manufacture news stories to advance their given agenda of the day. Not only is this accepted by our “fierce watchdogs” — they think it’s, like, really cool!
Read this paragraph, then explain why you would ever approach even a “liberal” mainstream newspaper or media report with relaxed confidence in its veracity and independence:
"On March 14, 2012, Dilanian sent an email to the press office with a link to a Guardian story that said Bashar Al-Assad’s wife had been buying a fondue set on Amazon while Syrian protesters were gunned down. 'If this is you guys, nice work,' he wrote. 'If it’s real, even better.'”
There it is, the whole rotted, corroded, corrupt system laid bare: “If this story is bullshit propaganda that ‘you guys’ planted in one of the world’s most highly regarded news organisations, that’s great! Well done! And if it’s actually true — although, in the end, who cares? — that’s even better, because it helps advance our common agenda of demonizing the government’s enemy du jour!”
For be sure: if the US power structure had wanted to support Assad during the beginning of the uprising, then we would have seen this:
“On March 4, 2012, Dilanian sent an email to the press office with a link to a Guardian story that said Bashar Al-Assad’s wife broke down in tears during a hospital visit to the families of law enforcement officers killed by extremists in recent rioting. ‘If this is you guys, nice work,’ he wrote. ‘If it’s real, even better.’”
I just can’t get that phrase out of my mind: “If this is you guys, nice work.” The puppy-dog, tail-wagging eagerness to praise the CIA “guys” for planting a false story in the mainstream press. The unconscious, unexamined assumption that this would be a good thing, that it’s what should be done: that our intelligence apparatchiks should manipulate the media and shape public opinion according to secret agendas never revealed to or debated by a democratic society. And this from a journalist, working at the highest levels of our most “respectable” media institutions — institutions whose work is considered automatically credible and objective by millions of people who would consider themselves educated, thoughtful, keen-eyed, liberal.
But this is the real system, and these are its real underlying assumptions and working methods. And the watchdogs supposedly keeping guard on our behalf are all too often lapdogs curling up with the thugs who have looted our house and murdered our neighbors.
CORRECTION: I ran across this Intercept piece on Twitter recently, but didn't notice that it was from 2014, so the original blog post here described it as a "recent story." The main point still stands -- even more so today perhaps -- but apologies for the inaccuracy on the timing.Add a comment
Making the social media rounds at the moment is a transcription of Rachel Maddow’s “utterly terrifying” and “deeply chilling” take on one tidbit from Trump’s surreal and probably drug-addled rambling in front of his Cabinet this week. At one point, Trump said the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in order to fight Islamic terrorism. But Maddow assures us, in great detail, that no one, anywhere — not even among Trump’s most rabid supporters, not even the bug-eyed goobers on Fox and Friends — has ever advanced the notion that the Soviet incursion had anything to do with terrorism. In fact, the only place in the history of the world in which this notion has ever been bruited is — of course — Putin’s Kremlin, which is planning an official “reassessment” of the Afghan invasion. (Which, rest assured, is not all like the “reassessment” being done by our stalwart Resisters today of the murderously criminal regime of George W. Bush.)
Maddow says plainly that this idea does not exist anywhere "in nature" except within the bowels of Putin’s United Russia party. (Though how Maddow herself found about the proposed resolution when no one else in nature could have ever even heard of it outside of Putin’s party circles is not explained.) This notion cannot be found anywhere “in American politics, in American media, in American academia, in American fantasy football chat rooms.” Not even “among weird, conservative fringe media figures that you might not know about, but the President might love.” No one has ever written, spoken or heard anything remotely like this until it was cooked up by Putin’s party hacks. And you should be absolutely, utterly, deeply terrified that Trump has somehow got hold of a mangled, drug-addled version of this idea, because he could have only gotten it from Putin’s own party members. Because, again the idea does not exist in nature anywhere else. And Maddow knows this, people, because she spent one whole day looking to find some trace of this non-existent in nature idea! And if you aren’t absolutely chilled to the bone, to the marrow, chilled all the way down to your quantum particles by this, then God help you. You must be a Kremlin dupe, like those Black Lives Matter rubes or those Dakota Pipeline saps. Or a paid Kremlin stooge.
Yet if I may paraphrase the great Ronald Reagan — whom that fightin’ progressive Nancy Pelosi favourably cited in her first speech as Speaker this week — facts are stubborn things. They exist, and persist, whether anyone notices them or not. And the fact that Afghanistan's jihadi extremists were sowing chaos with acts of violence (which in our day we call terrorism but back then were called "freedom fighting"), and that this chaos was exacerbating the turmoil in the faction-ridden Soviet-backed secular government and was a factor in the Kremlin’s tortured decision to intervene, was once considered rather standard fare back in the distant days before history was displaced by hysteria.
When the Soviets went in, their claim that the US was backing Islamic terrorists was widely dismissed as empty propaganda. But it was later confirmed, cheerfully, by the very architect of that policy, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who told Le Nouvel Observateur in 1998 that he persuaded Jimmy Carter to secretly arm and support the jihadis precisely in hopes of provoking a Soviet incursion. Here's what Brzezinski had to say:
Question: The former director of the CIA, Robert Gates, stated in his memoirs that the American intelligence services began to aid the Mujahiddin in Afghanistan six months before the Soviet intervention. Is this period, you were the national security advisor to President Carter. You therefore played a key role in this affair. Is this correct?
Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahiddin began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan on December 24, 1979. But the reality, closely guarded until now, is completely otherwise: Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.
Q: Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action. But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into the war and looked for a way to provoke it?
B: It wasn’t quite like that. We didn’t push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.
Q: When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against secret US involvement in Afghanistan, nobody believed them. However, there was an element of truth in this. You don’t regret any of this today?
B: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter, essentially: “We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war." Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war that was unsustainable for the regime, a conflict that bought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.
Q: And neither do you regret having supported Islamic fundamentalism, which has given arms and advice to future terrorists?
B: What is more important in world history? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some agitated Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?
This is not to say that the Soviets should have intervened in Afghanistan, as Trump was ignorantly asserting the other day. Indeed, the intervention was fiercely contested inside the Kremlin itself, by future leader Andropov among others, but the opponents were overruled by more hardline militarists. (The Politburo PNAC, you might say.) Nor would any knowledgeable person say that the sole reason the Soviets went in was to “fight terrorism" (which is what Putin's party is apparently getting ready to claim.) But the notion Maddow is pushing here -- that Putin’s Kremlin is the only place anyone has ever mentioned anything remotely resembling the idea that Islamic terrorism was a factor in the Soviet invasion is, to put it mildly, ignorant nonsense.
Of course, Trump is ignorant too, but I’m not concerned here with his obvious incapacities. No, what troubles me most about this episode is the increasing historical amnesia of the “Resistance,” which is reducing complex issues – with long, detailed, nuanced histories – to fearmongering simplicities. How is this going to help us move forward with any kind of informed, substantive wisdom and insight? How is this “progressive”? Why does every single evil in the world — and every single thing that’s wrong with American politics and society — have to be attributed to a conniving little mastermind cackling in the Kremlin? It’s a childish, cartoonish and dangerous way to look at the world — yet increasingly it is the only take that’s given any space in our “liberal” media.
I’ll say again what I’ve said many times: you don’t have to prove that Trump is a puppet dancing on Putin’s strings to get rid of him. Right down the street from the White House is a hotel. Trump owns the hotel and profits directly from it. Every single day of his presidency, he has been corruptly pocketing personal gains from foreign governments and companies who use his hotel. This alone is an impeachable offense. It’s cut and dried. The Democrats now in control of the House could immediately begin impeachment hearings on this basis alone -- if they wanted to.
I’m not saying Russian skullduggery should be ignored, but if even one-tenth of the media energy spent in the last two years trying to prove Trump is getting orders from Putin had been directed at exposing Trump's open, manifest, plainly impeachable corruption (the hotel is just one example), then we might have built a great public groundswell of outrage and disgust that, at the very least, would have taken us much further down the road to impeachment than we are today.
(And as a side issue: if another one-tenth of that energy had been spent building support for abolishing or reforming the Electoral College system, then we would be well on our way to avoiding yet another presidency by vicious right-wing vote-losers like George W. Bush and Trump.)
Anyway, pace Maddow, there were Islamic terrorist groups in Afghanistan (although they were called “freedom fighters” when they were later invited to Reagan’s White House.) They were engaged in wholesale violence that further destabilized an already unstable, badly governed state. The Soviets did point to this as a factor in their disastrous decision to intervene. The United States did covertly support this jihadi uprising before the Soviets moved in, and continued this support throughout the conflict (including, as the Washington Post reported, providing training manuals for terrorist tactics and even schoolbooks for children that promoted jihad against the secular infidels). All of these facts have been discussed and debated openly and freely in the US media and academia for years. Whole books about the complexities of the Soviet invasion, including these facts, have been written by reputable academics, diplomats and historians. Perhaps Maddow spent too long doing her serious journalistic research in “American fantasy football chat rooms” to avail herself of any of this information. I learned these things from reading readily available mainstream books and articles — some of them published even before Putin was elevated to the Russian presidency by America’s favourite dipsomaniac, Boris Yeltsin. I didn’t get them from Putin party insiders or encrypted Kremlin text messages or even from Facebook memes.
Trump shows us over and over, day after day, that historical facts don’t matter anymore. You say whatever you need to say on any given day to scare and outrage people into turning their brains off. But it’s sad to see the “Resistance” adopting this same attitude and, like Trump, continually reducing the world to a frenzied, fearful cartoon, one which distracts us from the complexities of reality and carries us further away from any kind of genuine change in our woeful situation.Add a comment
A cheap, greedy crook damaging the lives of ordinary people: that's what Trump always was, that's what he is today -- albeit on a monstrously larger scale. Of course, his MAGA mooks will just pull their red caps (made in China) down a little further over their eyes when confronted with this news. Then again, most of them will never hear it, because it won't be on FOX or its equally sinister propaganda partner, the vast web of Sinclair-own local TV stations.
Meanwhile, the happy, hypocritical few at the top of our brutal economic food chain will just keep counting the money they got from Trump and Paul Ryan's trillion-dollar Yacht Club tax cut (money which they are hoarding, by the way, instead of using it to "stimulate the economy" -- the eternal scam line behind every tax cut). They don't care if a crook's in charge, as long he doles out the rake-off in the right direction. And they certainly don't give the slightest damn about rubes who've been overpaying rent for decades because a spray-tanned Capone and his morally rotten family wanted to shove a few extra dollars into their pockets.
One would hope this kind of thing will be picked up the #Resistance and given the kind of scrutiny currently paid to the slightest crumb of a possible Russian connection. (Because, as is well known, it was Putin's $4,000 worth of Facebook ads that mesmerized a handful of former Obama voters [and, in the '08 primary, Hillary Clinton voters] in a few broken-down, ignored counties in three swing states to switch their allegiance to Agent Trumpovsky and cunningly provide the margin of victory. And if you think that even a marginally more focused, energetic -- and meaningful -- campaign, offering these and other voters even the slightest modicum of genuine change [instead of the very inspiring slogan: "We're Already Great, So Just Shut Up Already"] would have outweighed Putin's super-powered Facebook ads, then you are obviously a Kremlin stooge.
But history shows that such hijinxs as revealed in the new Times article are generally ignored by our liberal legislative heroes. Because if one starts delving into tax-dodging schemes and other business practices designed to screw over ordinary citizens while milking them dry, why, who knows what one might find amongst one's party brethren and sisteren? Best to keep the focus on the impenetrable murk of foreign espionage and, when possible, any saucy sexual angles you can find. I mean, come on: pay-offs to strippers? Get in!
(We saw this dynamic at play in the Kavanaugh hearings, where our Democratic champions simply skated over the judge's egregiously dubious finances and put the focus solely on the sexual assault charges. Which were heinous, and obviously should have been examined. But in the end, the Republicans were happy to have it all come down to a "he said-she said" situation from decades before, and make that the sole basis for voting yea or nay on the vicious little partisan hack. Because there was never going to be a smoking gun in such a case -- unlike, say, an actual, physical paper trail of dirty, dubious financial dealings by the snivelling bagman for far-right interests.)
Of course, sometimes even the sexy sexual sex stuff must be shied away from, if it involves, let us say, the same kind of Tip-n-Ronnie bipartisan comity that all good centrists long to see. Which is why -- as we have often, even tediously, noted in these pages -- the Clinton campaign could not use the nuclear bomb of sex scandals against Trump: his long-time, high-profile involvement with pedophile/pimp Jeffrey Epstein (who even recruited one of his victims from Trump's own plutocrat's playground down in Mar-a-Lago). But this button couldn't be pushed because good old Bill Clinton also had a long-time, high-profile involvement with the pedophile/pimp Jeffrey Epstein. And so it goes.
Anyway, maybe there will be some House committee not dominated by Democratic slumlords and tax dodgers in the next Congress, and we might see a little light on this facet of Trump's wide-ranging criminal and immoral activities. Stranger things have happened, I suppose. But I wouldn't bet next month's jacked-up rent on it.Add a comment
It doesn't matter if the planet burns and our children choke to death on dirty air. The only thing that matters is that the Koch Brothers and their cronies make a bit more money to add to their already-monstrous piles of wealth (much of it inherited) which they could never spend in a thousand lifetimes. The earth will fry, our children and grandchildren will suffer and die in an utterly degraded and destabilized world, because these bloated, well-wadded, manipulative "malefactors of great wealth" (to quote an old Republican president) are sick with greed and a perverted lust for domination and power. They own one whole political party and 90% of the other; through their extremist ALEC vehicle, they literally write laws to enrich themselves and give them to the legislators they own to pass into law.
If (as seems increasingly doubtful) anything remotely resembling independent, truthful history is still being written a hundred years from now, people will look back in abject horror and disgust at the system we have today -- and be especially sickened at the way we destroyed the future of our own offspring while telling ourselves how wonderful and righteous and good and great we are.Add a comment
As the newly dead George Herbert Walker Bush luxuriates in the accolades of America's bipartisan political/media establishment, I thought it meet to look again at the article below, which I wrote in 2006, detailing one of the great glories of his great and glorious reign: the thwarting of the investigation into BCCI, "one of the largest criminal organizations in history." Strangely enough, I saw a now-familiar name popping up as one of the key figures in this nefarious cover-up operation by the Bush crime family (who make the Trump Gang look like the two-bit pikers they are): one Robert Mueller, champion of the Resistance and incorruptible shield of the Republic.
Anyway, here’s the lowdown, from 12 years ago. You probably won't see these facts mentioned in any of the upchuckings of hagiography being churned out by our tough, savvy seekers of truth in the Fourth Estate.
This week, the Washington Post offered a grim overview of Iraq's epidemic of mental disorders, produced by years of war, upheaval and neglect ("Iraq's Crisis of Scarred Psyches," March 6). Of course, much of this psychological damage is the fault of Saddam Hussein and the brutal regime he installed: militarism, tyranny and the gross deceit required to maintain them wreak serious havoc on the human mind, as Americans are coming to know too well. But there is a deeper history behind the unfolding nightmare in Iraq – a method to the induced madness – that is inextricably linked to the political and personal fortunes of two sinister twerps named George Bush.
As historian Roger Morris has usefully reminded us, Saddam's regime was midwifed by not one but two coups supported by the CIA: the first brought the Baathist Party to power, the second, an internal coup, engineered the ascension of Saddam's family-centered faction to the top. It is unlikely that Saddam would have ever been a position to impose his perverted militarist vision on Iraqi society without the assistance of the elitist operatives whose headquarters now proudly bears the name of George Herbert Walker Bush.
Let us also remember that Saddam was sustained in his harsh rule with the eager support of Ronald Reagan and theaforementioned George H.W. Bush. Indeed, the latter's passionate embrace of Saddam seemed to know no bounds, so avidly did Bush ply the dictator with money, agricultural credits (which allowed Saddam to use his scarce hard currency for weapons) and advanced technology – includuing "dual-use" gear for weapons of mass destruction – despite the strong warnings of his own Cabinet against such reckless policies, and a 1989 report by the CIA that Iraq had greatly accelerated its nuclear program, and was now the world's largest maker of chemical weapons.
Bush also used the global criminal network of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) to secretly funnel cash and weaponry to Saddam – then intervened to quash federal investigations of the scam. What was BCCI? Only "one of the largest criminal enterprises in history," according to the United States Senate. What did BCCI do? "It engaged in pandemic bribery of officials in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas," says journalist Christopher Bryon, who first exposed the operation. "It laundered money on a global scale, intimidated witnesses and law officers, engaged in extortion and blackmail. It supplied the financing for illegal arms trafficking and global terrorism. It financed and facilitated income tax evasion, smuggling and prostitution." Sort of an early version of the Bush Regime, then.
The Italian bank BNL was one of BCCI's main tentacles. BNL's Atlanta branch was the primary funnel used to send millions of secret dollars to Saddam for arms purchases, including deadly chemicals and other WMD materials supplied by the Chilean arms dealer Cardoen and various politically-connected operators in the United States like, weapons merchant Matrix Churchill.
As soon as the BNL case broke, Bush moved to throttle the investigation. He appointed lawyers from both Cardoen and Matrix to top Justice Department posts – where they supervised the officials investigating their old companies. The overall probe was directed by Justice Department investigator Robert Mueller. Meanwhile, White House aides applied heavy pressure on other prosecutors to restrict the range of the probe – especially the fact that Bush cabinet officials Brent Scowcroft and Lawrence Eagleburger had served as consultants for BNL during their pre-White House days as spear-carriers for yet another secretive international front that profits from war, weapons, and the avid greasing of highly-placed palms: Kissinger Associates. The U.S. Senate later found that the probe had been unaccountably "botched" – witnesses went missing, CIA records got "lost," all sorts of bad luck. Most of the big BCCI players went unpunished or got off with wrist-slap fines and sanctions.
One of the White House aides who unlawfully intervened in the BNL prosecution was a certain factotum named Jay S. ByBee. In 2004, said factotum was appointed by George W. Bush to a place on the federal appeals court – a lifetime sinecure of perks and power. Mueller, meanwhile wound up as head of the FBI, appointed to the post in by George W. in July 2001. Well done, thou good and faithful servants!
Then came Bush's "Gulf War," when he turned on his protégé after Saddam made the foolish move of threatening the Kuwaiti royals – Bush's long-time business partners, going back to the early 1960s. Saddam's conflict with Kuwait centered on two main issues: first, his claim that the billions of dollars Kuwait had given Iraq during the war with Iran was simply straightforward aid to the nation that was defending the Sunni Arab world from the aggressive onslaught of the Shiite Persians. The Kuwaitis insisted the money had been a loan, and demanded that Saddam pay off. There was also Saddam's claim that Kuwait was "slant-drilling" into Iraqi oilfields, siphoning off underground reserves from across the border. These disputes raged for months; a deal to resolve them was brokered by the Arab League, but fell apart at the last minute when Kuwait suddenly rejected the agreement, saying, "We will call in the Americans."
How worried was Bush about the situation? Let's look at the historical record. In the two weeks before the invasion of Kuwait, Bush approved the sale of an additional $4.8 million in "dual-use" technology to factories identified by the CIA as linchpins of Hussein's illicit nuclear and biochemical programs, the Los Angeles Times reports. The day before Saddam sent his tanks across the border, Bush obligingly sold him more than $600 million worth of advanced communications technology. A week later, he was declaring that his long-time ally was "worse than Hitler."
Yes, the Kuwaitis had called in their marker. Like a warlord of old, Bush used the US military as a private army to help his business partners. After an extensive bombing campaign that openly – even gleefully – mocked international law in its targeting of civilian infrastructure (a tactic repeated in Serbia by Bill Clinton – now regarded as an "adopted son" by Bush), the brief 100-hour ground war slaughtered fleeing Iraqi conscripts by the thousands – while, curiously, allowing Saddam's crack troops, the aptly-named Republican Guard, to escape unharmed. Later, these troops were used to kill tens of thousands of Shiites who had risen in rebellion against Saddam – at the specific instigation of George Bush, who not only abandoned them to their fate, but specifically allowed Saddam to use his attack helicopters against the rebels, and also ordered US troops to block Shiites from gaining access to arms caches. It was one of the worst, most murderous betrayals in modern history – and has been almost entirely expunged from the American memory.
Then came the Carthaginian "peace" of the victors – Iraq sown with the salt of sanctions, which led to the unnecessary death of at least 500,000 children, according to UN's conservative estimates. The sanction regime actually strengthened Saddam's grip on Iraqi society, as the ravaged people were reduced to surviving on government handouts of food.
Now another George Bush has visited havoc on Iraq, launching a war that has led to the complete breakdown of Iraqi society, to year after year of deprivation, religious extremism, illegal occupation and unbridled violence. The psychological hell wrought by this sinister consortium – the CIA, the Bushes and Saddam – is unimaginable, a slowly-unfolding atrocity that will chew up victims for decades to come.
Saddam is now on trial for some of his crimes; when will his co-conspirators join him in the dock?
From "Scar Tissue: How the Bushes Brought Bedlam to Iraq," March 6, 2006, Empire Burlesque.Add a comment