Category Archives: Election

Tomgram: Alfred McCoy, Trumping the Empire

NOTE:  I’m posting this copy of a “Tomgram” article for 2 reasons.  

One, this particular article (I’ve read many others with a similar theme but none as clearly stated) “validates” what I said about Donald Trump as a potential POTUS when he first entered the race for president of the US of A.  What I said then, and have repeated so many times since that it feels this has been going on for years, is this:  Were I an American citizen entitled to vote I’d vote for Donald Trump.  For one reason only.  I see Trump as the perfect architect of the irrecoverable downfall of the American military-industrial corporate empire and attendant hegemonic powers.  I would vote for Trump as the instrument millions of America’s victims of US-based corporate exploitation and USA military oppression have been waiting and praying for since that empire’s military defeat in Vietnam.  My thoughts were never meant as any kind of anti-American people statement but as an anti-hegemon dream fulfillment. 

Two, for the “2020” scenario of US military debacle in the Middle East at the end of this article.  Not only is it quite entertaining, to some of us who “live” our current history in mind and heart, it is a prophecy.   (Sha’Tara) 
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Posted by Alfred McCoy at 4:23pm, July 16, 2017.
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[Note for TomDispatch Readers: In September, Dispatch Books will publish the next in our line-up of explorations of imperial America: Alfred McCoy’s remarkable In the Shadows of the American CenturyKirkus Reviews has praised it as “sobering reading for geopolitics mavens and Risk aficionados alike, offering no likely path beyond decline and fall.” Among the impressive range of comments we’ve gotten on it come two from Pulitzer Prize winners. Novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Sympathizer, writes that McCoy “persuasively argues for the inevitable decline of the American empire and the rise of China… Let’s hope that Americans will listen to his powerful arguments.” And historian John Dower states that the book “joins the essential short list of scrupulous historical and comparative studies of the United States as an awesome, conflicted, technologically innovative, routinely atrocious, and ultimately hubristic imperial power.” As with all his work since the CIA tried to stifle his classic first book, The Politics of Heroin, back in the early 1970s, McCoy’s is leading-edge stuff and a must-read, so reserve your copy early by clicking here. Tom]

I was 12. It was 1956. I lived in New York City and was a youthful history buff. (I should have kept my collection of American Heritage magazines!) Undoubtedly, I was also some kind of classic nerd. In any case, at some point during the Suez crisis of that year, I can remember going to the U.N. by myself and sitting in the gallery of the General Assembly, where I undoubtedly heard imperial Britain denounced for its attempt to retake the Suez Canal (in league with the French and Israelis). I must admit that it was a moment in my life I had totally forgotten about until historian Alfred McCoy, whose new Dispatch Book, In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power, is due out in September, brought it to mind again. And I certainly hadn’t imagined that Suez might have any applicability to this moment. But almost 16 years after this country’s disastrous “war on terror” was launched and with yet another major Middle Eastern city in rubble, we are undoubtedly witnessing a change in the balance (or imbalance) of power on this unruly planet of ours — and who better to make sense of it than historian McCoy?

Think of him as a modern Edward Gibbon, writing in the twenty-first century on the decline and fall of a great empire. However, unlike Gibbon, who wrote his classic book on Rome centuries after its empire had disappeared from the face of the earth, McCoy has no choice but to deal with American decline contemporaneously — in, that is, the very act of its happening.

I had a canny friend who assured me a couple of decades ago that when European countries finally started saying no to Washington, I’d have a signal that I was on another planet. So we must now be on Mars. I was struck, for instance, by a recent piece in the Guardian describing the G20 summit as “the ‘G1’ versus the ‘G19.’” In other words, it’s increasingly Donald Trump’s Washington against the world, which is the definition of how not to make an empire work. Since imperial decline may, in fact, have been a significant factor in bringing Donald Trump to power, think of him as both its harbinger and — as McCoy so vividly describes today — its architect. Tom

The Demolition of U.S. Global Power 
Donald Trump’s Road to Debacle in the Greater Middle East 
By Alfred W. McCoy

The superhighway to disaster is already being paved.

From Donald Trump’s first days in office, news of the damage to America’s international stature has come hard and fast. As if guided by some malign design, the new president seemed to identify the key pillars that have supported U.S. global power for the past 70 years and set out to topple each of them in turn. By degrading NATO, alienating Asian allies, canceling trade treaties, and slashing critical scientific research, the Trump White House is already in the process of demolishing the delicately balanced architecture that has sustained Washington’s world leadership since the end of World War II.  However unwittingly, Trump is ensuring the accelerated collapse of American global hegemony.

Stunned by his succession of foreign policy blunders, commentators — left and right, domestic and foreign — have raised their voices in a veritable chorus of criticism. A Los Angeles Times editorial typically called him “so unpredictable, so reckless, so petulant, so full of blind self-regard, so untethered to reality” that he threatened to “weaken this country’s moral standing in the world” and “imperil the planet” through his “appalling” policy choices. “He’s a sucker who’s shrinking U.S. influence in [Asia] and helping make China great again,” wrote New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman after surveying the damage to the country’s Asian alliances from the president’s “decision to tear up the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade deal in his first week in office.”

The international press has been no less harsh. Reeling from Trump’s denunciation of South Korea’s free-trade agreement as “horrible” and his bizarre claim that the country had once been “a part of China,” Seoul’s leading newspaper, Chosun Ilboexpressed the “shock, betrayal, and anger many South Koreans have felt.” Assessing his first 100 days in office, Britain’s venerable Observer commented: “Trump’s crudely intimidatory, violent, know-nothing approach to sensitive international issues has encircled the globe from Moscow to the Middle East to Beijing, plunging foes and allies alike into a dark vortex of expanding strategic instability.”

For an American president to virtually walk out of his grand inaugural celebrations into such a hailstorm of criticism is beyond extraordinary. Having more or less exhausted their lexicon of condemnatory rhetoric, the usual crew of commentators is now struggling to understand how an American president could be quite so willfully self-destructive.

Britain’s Suez Crisis

Blitzed by an incessant stream of bizarre tweets and White House conspiracy theories, observers worldwide seem to have concluded that Donald Trump is a president like no other, that the situation he’s creating is without parallel, and that his foreign policy is already a disaster without precedent. After rummaging around in history’s capacious closet for some old suit that might fit him, analysts have failed to find any antecedent or analogue to adequately explain him.

Yet just 60 years ago, a crisis in the ever-volatile Middle East overseen by a bumbling, mistake-prone British leader helped create a great power debacle that offers insight into the Trumpian moment, a glimpse into possible futures, and a sense of the kind of decline that could lie in the imperial future of the United States.

In the early 1950s, Britain’s international position had many parallels with America’s today. After a difficult postwar recovery from the devastation of World War II, that country was enjoying robust employment, lucrative international investments, and the prestige of the pound sterling’s stature as the world’s reserve currency. Thanks to a careful withdrawal from its far-flung, global empire and its close alliance with Washington, London still enjoyed a sense of international influence exceptional for a small island nation of just 50 million people. On balance, Britain seemed poised for many more years of world leadership with all the accompanying economic rewards and perks.

Then came the Suez crisis. After a decade of giving up one colony after another, the accumulated stress of imperial retreat pushed British conservatives into a disastrous military intervention to reclaim Egypt’s Suez Canal.  This, in turn, caused a “deep moral crisis in London” and what one British diplomat would term the “dying convulsion of British imperialism.” In a clear instance of what historians call “micro-militarism” — that is, a bold military strike designed to recover fading imperial influence — Britain joined France and Israel in a misbegotten military invasion of Egypt that transformed slow imperial retreat into a precipitous collapse.

Just as the Panama Canal had once been a shining example for Americans of their nation’s global prowess, so British conservatives treasured the Suez Canal as a vital lifeline that tied their small island to its sprawling empire in Asia and Africa. A few years after the canal’s grand opening in 1869, London did the deal of the century, scooping up Egypt’s shares in it for a bargain basement price of £4 million.  Then, in 1882, Britain consolidated its control over the canal through a military occupation of Egypt, reducing that ancient land to little more than an informal colony.

As late as 1950, in fact, Britain still maintained 80,000 soldiers and a string of military bases astride the canal. The bulk of its oil and gasoline, produced at the enormous Abadan refinery in the Persian Gulf, transited through Suez, fueling its navy, its domestic transportation system, and much of its industry.

After British troops completed a negotiated withdrawal from Suez in 1955, the charismatic nationalist leader Gamal Abdel Nasser asserted Egypt’s neutrality in the Cold War by purchasing Soviet bloc arms, raising eyebrows in Washington. In July 1956, after the administration of President Dwight Eisenhower had in response reneged on its promise to finance construction of the Aswan High Dam on the Upper Nile, Nasser sought alternative financing for this critical infrastructure by nationalizing the Suez Canal.  In doing so, he electrified the Arab world and elevated himself to the top rank of world leaders.

Although British ships still passed freely through the canal and Washington insisted on a diplomatic resolution of the conflict, Britain’s conservative leadership reacted with irrational outrage. Behind a smokescreen of sham diplomacy designed to deceive Washington, their closest ally, the British foreign secretary met secretly with the prime ministers of France and Israel near Paris to work out an elaborately deceptive two-stage invasion of Egypt by 250,000 allied troops, backed by 500 aircraft and 130 warships.  Its aim, of course, was to secure the canal.

On October 29, 1956, the Israeli army led by the dashing General Moshe Dayan swept across the Sinai Peninsula, destroying Egyptian tanks and bringing his troops to within 10 miles of the canal. Using this fighting as a pretext for an intervention to restore peace, Anglo-French amphibious and airborne forces quickly joined the attack, backed by a devastating bombardment from six aircraft carriers that destroyed the Egyptian air forceincluding over a hundred of its new MiG jet fighters. As Egypt’s military collapsed with some 3,000 of its troops killed and 30,000 captured, Nasser deployed a defense brilliant in its simplicity by scuttling dozens of rusting cargo ships filled with rocks and concrete at the entrance to the Suez Canal.  In this way, he closed Europe’s oil lifeline to the Persian Gulf.

Simultaneously, U.N. Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld, backed by Washington, imposed a cease-fire after just nine days of war, stopping the Anglo-French attack far short of capturing the entire canal. President Eisenhower’s blunt refusal to back his allies with either oil or money and the threat of condemnation before the U.N. soon forced Britain into a humiliating withdrawal. With its finances collapsing from the invasion’s soaring costs, the British government could not maintain the pound’s official exchange rate, degrading its stature as a global reserve currency.

The author of this extraordinary debacle was Sir Anthony Eden, a problematic prime minister whose career offers some striking parallels with Donald Trump’s. Born into privilege as the son of a landholder, Eden enjoyed a good education at a private school and an elite university. After inheriting a substantial fortune from his father, he entered politics as a conservative, using his political connections to dabble in finance. Chafing under Winston Churchill’s postwar leadership of the Conservative Party, Eden, who styled himself a rebel against hidebound institutions, used incessant infighting and his handsome head of hair to push the great man aside and become prime minister in 1955.

When Nasser nationalized the canal, Eden erupted with egotism, bluster, and outrage. “What’s all this nonsense about isolating Nasser,” Eden berated his foreign affairs minister. “I want him destroyed, can’t you understand? I want him murdered, and if you and the Foreign Office don’t agree, then you’d better come to the cabinet and explain why.” Convinced that Britain was still the globe’s great power, Eden rejected sound advice that he consult fully with Washington, the country’s closest ally. As his bold intervention plunged toward diplomatic disaster, the prime minister became focused on manipulating the British media, in the process confusing favorable domestic coverage with international support.

When Washington demanded a ceasefire as the price of a billion-dollar bailout for a British economy unable to sustain such a costly war, Eden’s bluster quickly crumbled and he denied his troops a certain victory, arousing a storm of protest in Parliament. Humiliated by the forced withdrawal, Eden compensated psychologically by ordering MI-6, Britain’s equivalent of the CIA, to launch its second ill-fated assassination attempt on Nasser. Since its chief local agent was actually a double-agent loyal to Nasser, Egyptian security had, however, already rounded up the British operatives and the weapons delivered for the contract killers proved duds.

Confronted with a barrage of angry questions in Parliament about his collusion with the Israelis, Eden lied repeatedly, swearing that there was no “foreknowledge that Israel would attack Egypt.” Protesters denounced him as “too stupid to be a prime minister,” opposition members of parliament laughed openly when he appeared before Parliament, and his own foreign affairs minister damned him as “an enraged elephant charging senselessly at… imaginary enemies.”

Just weeks after the last British soldier left Egypt, Eden, discredited and disgraced, was forced to resign after only 21 months in office. Led into this unimaginably misbegotten operation by his delusions of omnipotence, he left the once-mighty British lion a toothless circus animal that would henceforth roll over whenever Washington cracked the whip.

Trump’s Demolition Job

Despite the obvious differences in their economic circumstances, there remain some telling resonances between Britain’s postwar politics and America’s troubles today. Both of these fading global hegemons suffered a slow erosion of economic power in a fast-changing world, producing severe social tensions and stunted political leaders. Britain’s Conservative Party leadership had declined from the skilled diplomacy of Disraeli, Salisbury, and Churchill to Eden’s bluster and blunder.  Similarly, the Republican Party has descended from the likes of Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and George H.W. Bush to a field of 17 primary candidates in 2016 who promised to resolve an infinitely complex crisis in the Middle East through a set of incendiary policies that included making desert sands glow from carpet-bombing and forcing terrorists to capitulate through torture. Confronted with daunting international challenges, the voters of both countries supported appealing but unstable leaders whose delusions of omnipotence inclined them to military misadventures.

Like British citizens of the 1950s, most Americans today do not fully grasp the fragility of their status as “the leader of the free world.” Indeed, Washington has been standing astride the globe as a superpower for so long that most of its leaders have almost no understanding of the delicate design of their country’s global power built so carefully by two post-World War II presidents.

Under Democratic President Harry Truman, Congress created the key instruments for Washington’s emerging national security state and its future global dominion by passing the National Security Act of 1947 that established the Air Force, the CIA, and two new executive agencies, the Defense Department and the National Security Council. To rebuild a devastated, war-torn Europe, Washington launched the Marshall Plan and then turned such thinking into a worldwide aid program through the U.S. Agency for International Development meant to embed American power globally and support pro-American elites across the planet. Under Truman as well, U.S. diplomats forged the NATO alliance (which Washington would dominate until the Trump moment), advanced European unity, and signed a parallel string of mutual-defense treaties with key Asian allies along the Pacific littoral, making Washington the first power in two millennia to controlboth “axial ends” of the strategic Eurasian continent.

During the 1950s, Republican President Dwight Eisenhower deployed this national security apparatus to secure Washington’s global dominion with a nuclear triad (bombers, ballistic missiles, and submarines), a chain of military bases that ringed Eurasia, and a staggering number of highly militarized covert operations to assure the ascent of loyal allies worldwide. Above all, he oversaw the integration of the latest in scientific and technological research into the Pentagon’s weapons procurement system through the forging of the famed “military-industrial complex” (against which he would end up warning Americans as he left office in 1961).   All this, in turn, fostered an aura of American power so formidable that Washington could re-order significant parts of the world almost at will, enforcing peace, setting the international agenda, and toppling governments on four continents.

While it’s reasonable to argue that Washington had by then become history’s greatest global power, its hegemony, like that of all the world empires that preceded it, remained surprisingly fragile. Skilled leadership was required to maintain the system’s balance of diplomacy, military power, economic strength, and technological innovation.

By the time President Trump took his oath of office, negative, long-term trends had already started to limit the influence of any American leader on the world stage.  These included a declining share of the global economy, an erosion of U.S. technological primacy, an inability to apply its overwhelming military power in a way that achieved expected policy goals on an ever more recalcitrant planet, and a generation of increasingly independent national leaders, whether in Europe, Asia, or Latin America.

Apart from such adverse trends, Washington’s global power rested on such strategic fundamentals that its leaders might still have managed carefully enough to maintain a reasonable semblance of American hegemony: notably, the NATO alliance and Asian mutual-security treaties at the strategic antipodes of Eurasia, trade treaties that reinforced such alliances, scientific research to sustain its military’s technological edge, and leadership on international issues like climate change.

In just five short months, however, the Trump White House has done a remarkable job of demolishing these very pillars of U.S. global power. During his first overseas trip in May 2017, President Trump chastised stone-faced NATO leaders for failure to pay their “fair share” into the military part of the alliance and refused to affirm its core principle of collective defense. Ignoring the pleas of these close allies, he then forfeited America’s historic diplomatic leadership by announcing Washington’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord with all the drama of a reality television show. After watching his striking repudiation of Washington’s role as world leader, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told voters in her country that “we must fight for our future on our own, for our destiny as Europeans.”

Along the strategic Pacific littoral, Trump cancelled the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact on taking office and gratuitously alienated allies by cutting short a courtesy phone call to Australia’s prime minister and insulting South Korea to the point where its new president won office, in part, on a platform of “say no” to America. When President Moon Jae-in visited Washington in June, determined to heal the breach between the two countries, he was, as the New York Times reported, blindsided by “the harshness of Mr. Trump’s critique of South Korea on trade.”

Just days after Trump dismissed Moon’s suggestion that the two countries engage in actual diplomatic negotiations with Pyongyang, North Korea successfully test-fired a ballistic missile potentially capable of reaching Alaska or possibly Hawaii with a nuclear warhead (though experts believe Pyongyang may still be years away from effectively fitting such a warhead to the missile).  It was an act that made those same negotiations Washington’s only viable option — apart from a second Korean War, which would potentially devastate both the region and the U.S. position as the preeminent international leader.

In other words, after 70 years of global dominion, America’s geopolitical command of the axial ends of Eurasia — the central pillars of its world power seems to be crumbling in a matter of months.

Instead of the diplomacy of presidents past, Trump and his advisers, especially his military men, have reacted to his first modest foreign crises as well as the everyday power questions of empire with outbursts akin to Anthony Eden’s.  Since January, the White House has erupted in sudden displays of raw military power that included a drone blitz of unprecedented intensity in Yemen to destroy what the president called a “network of lawless savages,” the bombardment of a Syrian air base with 59 Tomahawk missiles, and the detonation of the world’s largest non-nuclear bomb on a terrorist refuge in eastern Afghanistan.

While reveling in the use of such weaponry, Trump, by slashing federal funding for critical scientific research, is already demolishing the foundations for the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower’s successors, Republican and Democratic alike, so sedulously maintained for the last half-century. While China is ramping up its scientific research across the board, Trump has proposed what the American Association for Advancement of Science called “deep cuts to numerous research agencies” that will mean the eventual loss of the country’s technological edge. In the emerging field of artificial intelligence that will soon drive space warfare and cyber-warfare, the White House wants to reduce the 2018 budget for this critical research at the National Science Foundation to a paltry $175 million, even as Beijing is launching “a new multi-billion-dollar initiative” linked to building “military robots.”

A Future Debacle in the Greater Middle East

With a president who shares Sir Anthony Eden’s penchant for bravura, self-delusion, and impulsiveness, the U.S. seems primed for a twenty-first-century Suez of its own, a debacle in the Greater Middle East (or possibly elsewhere). From the disastrous expedition that ancient Athens sent to Sicily in 413 BCE to Britain’s invasion of Suez in 1956, embattled empires throughout the ages have often suffered an arrogance that drives them to plunge ever deeper into military misadventures until defeat becomes debacle, a misuse of armed force known technically among historians as micro-militarism. With the hubris that has marked empires over the millennia, the Trump administration is, for instance, now committed to extending indefinitely Washington’s failing war of pacification in Afghanistan with a new mini-surge of U.S. troops (and air power) in that classic “graveyard of empires.

So irrational, so unpredictable is such micro-militarism that even the most fanciful of scenarios can be outpaced by actual events, as was true at Suez. With the U.S. military stretched thin from North Africa to South Korea, with no lasting successes in its post-9/11 wars, and with tensions rising from the Persian Gulf and Syria to the South China Sea and the Koreas, the possibilities for a disastrous military crisis abroad seem almost unending. So let me pick just one possible scenario for a future Trumpian military misadventure in the Greater Middle East.  (I’m sure you’ll think of other candidates immediately.)

It’s the late spring of 2020, the start of the traditional Afghan fighting season, and a U.S. garrison in the city of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan is unexpectedly overrun by an ad hoc alliance of Taliban and Islamic State guerrillas. While U.S. aircraft are grounded in a blinding sand storm, the militants summarily execute their American captives, filming the gruesome event for immediate upload on the Internet. Speaking to an international television audience, President Trump thunders against “disgusting Muslim murderers” and swears he will “make the desert sands run red with their blood.” In fulfillment of that promise, an angry American theater commander sends B-1 bombers and F-35 fighters to demolish whole neighborhoods of Kandahar believed to be under Taliban control. In an aerial coup de grâce, AC-130-U “Spooky” gunships then rake the rubble with devastating cannon fire. The civilian casualties are beyond counting.

Soon, mullahs are preaching jihad from mosques across Afghanistan and far beyond. Afghan Army units, long trained by American forces to turn the tide of the war, begin to desert en masse. In isolated posts across the country, clusters of Afghan soldiers open fire on their American advisers in what are termed “insider” or “green-on-blue” attacks. Meanwhile, Taliban fighters launch a series of assaults on scattered U.S. garrisons elsewhere in the country, suddenly sending American casualties soaring. In scenes reminiscent of Saigon in 1975, U.S. helicopters rescue American soldiers and civilians from rooftops not just in Kandahar, but in several other provincial capitals and even Kabul.

Meanwhile, angry over the massive civilian casualties in Afghanistan, the anti-Muslim diatribes tweeted almost daily from the Oval Office, and years of depressed energy prices, OPEC’s leaders impose a harsh new oil embargo aimed at the United States and its allies. With refineries running dry in Europe and Asia, the world economy trembling at the brink of recession, and gas prices soaring, Washington flails about for a solution. The first call is to NATO, but the alliance is near collapse after four years of President Trump’s erratic behavior. Even the British, alienated by his inattention to their concerns, rebuff his appeals for support.

Facing an uncertain reelection in November 2020, the Trump White House makes its move, sending Marines and Special Operations forces to seize oil ports in the Persian Gulf. Flying from the Fifth Fleet’s base in Bahrain, Navy Seals and Army Rangers occupy the Ras Tanura refinery in Saudi Arabia, the ninth largest in the world; Kuwait’s main oil port at Shuaiba; and Iraq’s at Um Qasr.

Simultaneously, the light carrier USS Iwo Jima steams south at the head of a task force that launches helicopters carrying 6,000 Special Operations forces tasked with seizing the al-Ruwais refinery in Abu Dhabi, the world’s fourth largest, and the megaport at Jebel Ali in Dubai, a 20-square-mile complex so massive that the Americans can only occupy its oil facilities. When Teheran vehemently protests the U.S. escalation in the Persian Gulf and hints at retaliation, Defense Secretary James Mattis, reviving a plan from his days as CENTCOM commander, orders preemptive Tomahawk missile strikes on Iran’s flagship oil refinery at Abadan.

From its first hours, the operation goes badly wrong. The troops seem lost inside the unmapped mazes of pipes that honeycomb the oil ports.  Meanwhile, refinery staff prove stubbornly uncooperative, sensing that the occupation will be short-lived and disastrous. On day three, Iranian Revolutionary Guard commandos, who have been training for this moment since the breakdown of the 2015 nuclear accord with the U.S., storm ashore at the Kuwaiti and Emirate refineries with remote-controlled charges. Unable to use their superior firepower in such a volatile environment, American troops are reduced to firing futile bursts at the departing speed boats as oil storage tanks and gas pipes explode spectacularly.

Three days later, as the USS Gerald Ford approaches an Iranian island, more than 100 speedboats suddenly appear, swarming the carrier in a practiced pattern of high-speed crisscrosses. Every time lethal bursts from the carrier’s MK-38 chain guns rip through the lead boats, others emerge from the flames coming closer and closer. Concealed by clouds of smoke, one finally reaches an undefended spot beneath the conning tower near enough for a Revolutionary guardsman to attach a magnetic charge to the hull with a fateful click. There is a deafening roar and a gaping hole erupts at the waterline of the first aircraft carrier to be crippled in battle since World War II.  As things go from bad to worse, the Pentagon is finally forced to accept that a debacle is underway and withdraws its capital ships from the Persian Gulf.

As black clouds billow skyward from the Gulf’s oil ports and diplomats rise at the U.N. to bitterly denounce American actions, commentators worldwide reach back to the 1956 debacle that marked the end of imperial Britain to brand this “America’s Suez.” The empire has been trumped.

Alfred W. McCoy, a TomDispatch regular, is the Harrington professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of the now-classic book The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, which probed the conjuncture of illicit narcotics and covert operations over 50 years, and the forthcoming In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power, out in September from Dispatch Books.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II, as well as John Feffer’s dystopian novel Splinterlands, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt’s Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2017 Alfred W. McCoy

FAKE NEWS: THE UNRAVELLING OF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE FROM WITHIN

***This is a re-blogged article*** (see credits below)

My introductory comments: Yes, this is a very long article, and yes, probably few will read it through, or to the end.  But I will say this in its defense, and why I am re-blogging this entire article on my own blog,   ~burning woman~   I may be a nobody, and what I think or say doesn’t amount to a hill of beans as they say, but as an observer of world events, particularly of that part of the world I live in, I found this article right on the money about the many situations we find ourselves embroiled in and helpless to do a thing about it.  Well worth the read.

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The original source of this article is Global Research
Copyright © Prof. John McMurtry, Global Research, 2017
http://www.globalresearch.ca/author/john-mcmurtry

Setting the Stage of the Press-President War

US ruling ideology and Washington power have become unstuck as never before. A war of opposing certitudes and denunciations is waged day to day between the long-ruling US corporate media and the White House. Both continuously proclaim ringing recriminations of the other’s ‘fake news’. Over months they both portray each other as malevolent liars.

US bully pulpits are now beyond show disagreements and successful media inquisitions of the past. Slanderous accusations long confined to vilifying the designated Enemy have crept into accusations of the President himself. ‘The Russians are coming’ is returning as the final recourse of smear to stop deviations from the global program of hugely profitable enemy hate and perpetual preparations for foreign war.

The ruling big lies of the US money party and corporate globalization have divided into opposing camps. The Press and the President denounce each other non-stop on the public stage, while US dark state agents take sides behind the scenes.

Fake news is the medium of battle.

Tracking the Real Fake News Built into Corporate Globalization

Beneath the civil war of official narratives, cognitive space opens for truth long suffocated by ‘the Washington Consensus’. Even the US-led G-20 has recently agreed not to automatically condemn ‘protectionism’ as an economic evil. The battle slogan of transnational corporate rule over 30 years has been quietly withdrawn on the global stage.

Is the big lie of ‘free trade’ finally coming to ground? It has long led the hollowing out of societies and life support systems across the world in a false mass promotion as “freedom and prosperity for all”.  In fact beneath the pervasive fake news, a closed-door transnational corporate command system forces all enterprises across borders into a carbon-multiplying trade regime with thousands of rules to protect the transnational corporate looting and ruin of home economies and environments as the only rights enforced.

Propagandist names and fake freedoms are proclaimed everywhere to conceal the reality. The corporate-investor regime has stripped out almost all evolved protections of workers, ecologies and social infrastructures. Non-stop liquidations and roboticizations of local jobs and enterprises are reversed in meaning to ‘jobs, jobs, jobs’ and ‘higher living standards’, the very opposite of the facts. Destabilization and bombing wars attack resource-rich and air-defenceless societies outside the circle of treaty subjugation.

False news allows every step. Even the happy-face Trudeau regime is taken aback by the tidal shift to national priorities. Its ministers scuttle around the US in near panic to find common cause for restoring the unaccountable regime. Multiplying carbon, disemployment and ecological plunder are ignored throughout in the longest standing fake news of all –‘economic growth”.

In fact, there is no real economic growth in universal life necessities or reduction of waste. The only growth is of volumes and velocities of transnational money exchanges, foreign commodities, and private profits to the top.

‘More prosperity for nations and the world’ means, decoded, more transnational corporate-state treaties to deprive nations of their rights to organization and production for citizens’ real needs as well as organically regulated protection of environments and ecosystems.

The consequences covered over by pervasively false cover stories are speeded-up ecocidal extractions, permanent disemployments, and wastes hemorrhaging into cumulatively more polluted oceans, air, atmosphere and life habitats. Corporate-state solutions of carbon markets for pollution rights have nowhere reduced any of these life-and-death crises, but only further and selectively enriched transnational corporations.

As for the Obama solution, “we need more Canadas”, fake news again conceals the reality. Beneath the global celebrity hype covering empty and broken promises, Canada’s Trudeau  regime is essentially a brand change of PM rhetoric to advance transnational corporate dictates as ‘free trade’ and to ensure oil pipelines out of the most polluting oil basin in the world, Alberta’s tar-sands, are built through water basins and indigenous lands across Canada and the US. One cannot help but observe this is Trump’s plan too, and overrides Trudeau’s promises to protect Canada’s first peoples.

I recently sent a letter to my local MP requesting evidence for what PM Trudeau promises over months of repetition that “more free trade” means “a better life for those in the middle class and those wanting to join the middle class”. As always, there is no evidence to support the non-stop false news from the PMO. Revealingly, the “middle class” turns out to be people making $180,000 a year slated to get significant tax cuts.

Trump’s rogue elephant charge on Washington-led lies, war, and dispossession of the working class is no solution to life-blind corporate globalization. Trump in office is a US nationalist oligarch commanding policies even more blindly rapacious in despoliation of the environment and transferring far more public wealth to the rich.

The common ground of all our lives, collective life capital, does not exist for any government in ‘the free world’ or any policy of ‘globalization’.  The lies that must be promulgated to advance the private corporate agenda are built into its transnational command system from the beginning.

Out of the Ruling Memory Hole with the Internet Commons

Joining the dots shows that every step of US money-party ‘globalization’ has, in fact, been driven by fake news.

No corporate media tolerance has been given in a quarter of a century to any voice demanding accountability to the common life-ground of citizens. A new game of numbers has proceeded instead. At most, a euphemistic ‘climate change’ has been endlessly debated while the totalizing destabilization of human and planetary life cycles remains without a name or collective response. Only more profitable market panaceas which do not reduce any pollution continue to divert from the deepest degenerate trends destroying the planetary life host.

On the upside, the big lies of ‘free trade’ and ‘humanitarian wars’ have been called into official question for the first time by the Trump presidential campaign, and he has been elected against the official line. Yet opposing camps are still at each other’s throats. So the perpetual fallback on accusing the long-designated foreign enemy is triggered by the fallen establishment. The fake news chorus of Russia’s aggressions now includes collusion of the Trump administration with its officials to win the US election. This mainspring diversion from reality is called back from the dead witch-hunts of the past. As then tool, facts do not count, only accusations do. The official media line is almost predictable: Russia is behind Trump’s election victory. As always, reverse projection is the mass-psyche operation to blame an official Enemy to divert attention from the life-and-death facts. The Enemy is once again accused of doing what the US has always done worse as the reason for attacking It. Russia is the usual placeholder in this reverse-blame operation. The 2016 US election of Trump is the latest variation.

Meanwhile throughout the election and its aftermath, the new transnational internet commons including Wiki-leaks over a decade has increasingly laid bare the greatest propaganda machine in history now in many-leveled crisis. The long normalized half-truths, one-sided slanting of the facts, and non-stop fallacies of inference are coming out into the open as never before.  The pretexts and lies for US imperial bullying and war are exposed beyond any corporate-media gate.

This time the accusation is “interference and attack on the US presidential election” with no evidence of wrongdoing or vote manipulation whatsoever. Yet as in the long past, the method is smear with no evidence for the accusations. Ever more media repetition and shadowy insinuation does the job. It has always worked before, why not again since all the other media buttons pushed on taking down the Trump peace initiatives with Russia and opposition to globalization of US jobs have failed.

Having wondered during the election campaign whether we could be “friends with Russia” and promoted diplomatic relations into his administration, Trump can be named as the enemy in hiding to be rooted out. The real problem the fake news never mentions is that he threatens the cornerstone of the US war state over 70 years.

So when Trump won the election with his heresy still intact, the ever-ready accusation of evil-Russia connection moves into high gear although the target is the opposite of communist and an epitome of capitalist riches and connections. We see here the historical mind-lock compulsion to blame the Enemy Russia and smear whoever dissents from it, even if it is a bully-capitalist president. There are very big stakes in keeping the game going.

Yet the no-profit and unpaid analyses from the internet commons have no such ulterior motive and interest in false accusations. With more objectively informed analysts than the commercial press and unimpeachable facts like WikiLeaks going to tens of millions of readers across the world, the genie is out of the bottle. The official grand narrative and its normalized big lies are coming apart at the seams.

So blame as usual is diverted onto the accepted Enemy, now conniving with Trump to attack the 2016 US presidential election. Beneath the fake news, the fact is that positive diplomatic relations with Russia not only threaten to stop the highly profitable permanent war against it, but spike the longest pretext for US war and military domination now moving through Ukraine.

The free internet commons cannot be gagged for telling the truth. Freedom of speech in the US cannot be openly stopped without fatal loss of legitimacy of rule.

So the rest follows. All the non-corporate and non-profit messages from the critical sites on the internet commons which are speaking against the US war state inside are now vilified as ‘fake news’. A third, unofficial protagonist has entered the battle with no private profit or career motive or corporate boss to serve and a wealth of proven professional knowledge and talent at work. It has to be denounced to sustain the big lies of the ruling money-war game which is in deepening crises and conflicts all the way to the unprecedented US President-Press civil war.

The Harvard Proclamation of a New Memory Hole

The innermost fount of US ideology and war, Harvard University, has now stepped in. It is officially naming and denouncing US-critical internet sites for ‘fake news’.

Not even the medieval Church went so far in its Index Librorum Prohibitorum of prohibited writings. It was at least innocent of scientific method and openly declared its dogmas. Not Harvard.

Underneath notice, all the sites it attacks are internet commons, and none are financed by private corporate donors and captive institutions while Harvard and the corporate media are. This is the real battle agenda underneath, the long war  to privatize the news for profit as everything else with anti-establishment internet criticism now the target.

In the background, Harvard University has long propagated an unexamined academic method. It normally cuts off any faculty or learned source of opposition to the private corporate rule of America and the wars of aggression to impose it on the world.  Accordingly, the underling grand narrative equations of the US is Good and the designated Enemy is Evil is not questioned. It is presupposed. Malevolent motives are always assumed of the designated Enemy, down to Harvard-produced geostrategic economic and war models. So when a host of internet commons sites challenge the grand narrative framework, Harvard and satellites denounce them to stop people reading them. A long list of critical sites is accused without criteria, proof or evidence as all spreaders of ‘fake news’.

What is not recognised here is that only on the internet commons can the process of truth be free from ruling pressures to control message for external sponsors.

Here there is no commercial-profit condition to speak and write, and no livelihood dependence on private profit. There is no inducement to avoid life-and-death issues in academic obfuscation or ad-vehicle style. Internet authors not on the payroll can be free of the game of all games behind the scenes – enriching the rich further with no life-coherent criterion of truth.

These underlying conditions of the internet commons and free speech itself cannot be recognised by the academy or the corporate press without undercutting their proclaimed status as the only legitimate founts of truth. The internet commons is a new world of competitive capacities to research, understand and disseminate not bound by private money patronage (as over centuries in Harvard University).

When challenged in this way, Harvard (and the official press) are set back on their heels. They cannot think the facts through because their instituted presumptions have long been what they must presuppose and not question to acquire their credentials and pay for public speech. They must attack what calls all this into question if it effectively speaks truth to power to expose or de-legitimate the ruling system narrative as false. Harvard and the US press thus follow the reigning method of reverse projection. They accuse the effective opposition of ‘fake news’.

The most revealing fact here is that Harvard authority as other academic administrations proceed in name-calling without any valid argument or demonstration – the very basis of reasonable conclusion. Yet this is such a long tradition of presumptive accusation allowed against anyone designated as the Enemy, and anyone else exposing the falsehood of the ruling US story of moral superiority over all others and God’s blessing to lead the world by force or money.

This is why only dissenting sites from the official storyline of US freedom and rightness in all things are accused as ‘fake news’. Accusation of opposing positions is so well-worn into conditioned brains that endless repetition locks it in as self-evident. This is why attributions of vile motive are automatic from Harvard or the New York Times for any outside leader opposing US interference in their countries including elections. US hypocrisy here is staggering, but unreported. In fact, Harvard’s life-blind elite of war criminal geo-strategists, economic modellers and so on are fawned upon within the wider corporate rule they serve.

None can engage critical facts and thought challenging the US moral superiority assumptions because they have never been required to consider them. So they denounce them as once the Church denounced apostasy. In the end, US system worship is a war-state religion. It eliminates all enemies to its right to rule. Its globalizing system institutes the market laws of God. War crimes are God-blessed justice.

Freedom of Speech, the Process of Truth, and the US Constitution

Led by senior academics, journalists and technical expertise, the internet commons provide for the first time impartial witness and free speech open to public examination and circulation across borders. They are free from corporate-rank dictate and private copy-right control.

In consequence, the internet commons are liberated from private corporate profit as controlling goal. Those who know what they are talking about can speak truth to dogma and power without words to appease editors, business boards and ad revenues. Truth itself is not defined, but its principle of process is a more inclusively consistent taking into account towards life-coherent conclusion

Despite Google black-holing of radical legal facts, CIA penetration of Wikipedia, and so on, the internet commons’ freedom of speech is far beyond anything guaranteed in the US constitution. In fact, the ‘sacred US Constitution’ that all presidents give oath to “preserve, protect and defend” guarantees in the end only freedom of public speech to private money demand.

Long before the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision reverse-titled as “Citizens United”, the US constitution was structured to one overriding end –  to remove prior limits to private-money right over all else,including to begin, the rule of British law and  the lands of the first nations West of the Appalachians.

This is why no common life interest exists in the US Constitution from the start. People’s universal human life necessities of water, food, protection and liveable environment are ruled out a-priori.  This is why civil rights themselves were first federally enforced by the ‘commerce clause’ protecting freedom of commercial bus passengers including blacks to cross borders.

It is also why the Fourteenth Amendment to protect the equal rights of freed slaves ended up being the legal basis for private-profit corporations and wealthy funds to acquire the constitutional rights of living persons (e.g., to freedom of speech for big money to buy elections and to avoid government access to financial records).

Even the iconic rights of “life, liberty and happiness” turn out to be in fact only private market rightswhich allow corporate ‘fictive persons’ to unlimited money wealth, protection against public redistribution, and the freedom of private wealth alone to  speak to America by buying corporate self promotions and election attack ads.

The US Constitution fix goes all the way back to 1787. As professor of constitutional law at Chicago’s iconic Kent College of Law, Matthew Stanton, explains in personal correspondence:

“[The fix] goes all the way back to the 1787 coup where the 39 signatories to the Constitution sequestered themselves in a Philadelphia meeting house, with locked doors and shuttered windows, to ostensibly make adjustments to the Articles of Confederation, but instead delivered an entirely new document that enabled creating a federal system centralizing control of the economy by  propertied wealth”.

Russia the Enemy: the Deus ex Machina of Fake News

We may recall that the corporate-press and Wall-Street-enriched candidate for the presidency, Hillary Clinton, started the accusation of ‘fake news’ to explain her defeat. As establishment mask of the politically correct masses with the money-war party as her paymaster, Clinton blamed her fall in the 2016 US election on the new enemy she saw arising against the official story and herself. When the ‘glass mirror’ story line did not take, she joined forces with the corporate media on another plane. ‘Fake news’ misled Americans. The New York Times, the Washington Post, the TV Networks, and other establishment tale tellers saw pay-dirt far beyond Clinton’s failed bid for president.

In fact, the corporate mass media were losing marketability by the escalating appeal of free social media. The once all-powerful press propaganda system has been increasingly deserted. The ‘fake news’ story provided a media base to condemn free internet news and commentary as immoral. The 2016 election became the leverage for a big market grab back.

Very soon it was not just ‘fake news’ to spike news cycles and subscriptions. War as peace and corporate globalization as freedom found its long place of rule – the enemy of Russia to blame. Now the news can be that Russia hacked and attacked the lost 2016 election. Russia may be a hollowed-out shell by global corporate and oligarch dispossession. But it can still continue as pretext for US-NATO war crimes and aggression reverse-blamed on it. As the European breadbasket and newly discovered fossil-fuel rich nation, Ukraine is a very big prize. Now in Ukraine’s US-led coup aftermath and ethnic civil war, evil Russia can be an ace card again to accuse for attacking the US election.

Since Russia led by Putin is drawing the line as in Crimea to support the Russia-speaking region against US-led war crimes under international law (documented in previous articles), all roads connect. “Russia’s uncontrolled aggression” is  reverse-projected onto the victim again in  a glorious new use. Reverse blame it  for interference in the US election of Trump and kill Russia-US peace initiatives at the same time. No fact is required to verify the accusation, and no law broken is needed to insinuate treason of whoever relates with Russia’s officials in peace initiative. It can work even against an elected US president.

At the same time, the US’s own record attacking other nations’ elections and societies is thereby erased as well – continually orchestrating mass-murder and dictatorship to sabotage the electoral process from Vietnam and Chile to Ukraine in 2010 and Latin America social democracies since.

If it were a story of reverse projection by a mass-murderous psychopath, it would be too much to believe. Yet it now runs the US news cycle as the big story unfolding with no evidence of US illegality, force, or non-compliance with international law. The accusations run by themselves in US media culture and across the empire. So as 2017 Spring breaks, endless media insinuations of treason seep into the populace from corporate media sites across borders with backrooms and Congress setting up for another presidential inquisition.

It is interesting to observe two precedents. Past inquisitions were unfolded soon after Bill Clinton said in India, “it’s time to level up rather than down in global trade” and Richard Nixon founded the Environmental Protections Agency, stopped corporations from outsourcing US jobs, and made peace with China as Trump sought with Russia.

The ludicrous hypocrisy, factual vacuum, and war-drums of blame-the-enemy go into high-volume operation again, led by an attack-dog media against the elected US president whose only action has been to have business-like relations with Russia. Few observe the immense stakes of the US media and war establishments in this process. Cui bono? – who benefits? – is the question never asked.

What’s new?  The perpetual red herring of ‘Russia aggression’ takes everyone’s eyes off the ball – including the continuing US-drone mass murder and ecological wars built into the Trump agenda. Canada’s oil and mining corps and big banks sneak behind the pervasive fake news with a smiling Trudeau front. NATO demands more money behind Trump now fulsomely praising what he earlier campaigned on as “obsolete”, as he has done with the CIA he also condemned. Those hoping for a new departure under Trump from the big lies and war crimes as normalized operations watch in a combination of horror and hilarity.

Who connects the dots? Beneath official notice, the ruling goal of US empire is blind to its consequences of human and planetary life ruin. It has to cover itself in false news to carry on. This is why fake news is not a temporary phenomenon of the Trump era. It is the necessary veil of illusion of an eco-genocidal system. The symptoms and trends are everywhere. But a US-led prism of false inversions of reality regulates consciousness, perception and reaction to ‘steer the course’.

This is true of both sides of the Trump divide, and also in corporate Canada as the US’s largest trading partner, branch-plant and resource cornucopia. What is new is that the ruling illusions are divided against themselves at the top of the US political and ideological system. The Trump phenomenon reflects the rupture. The US empire is in deep crisis from its cumulative destruction of social and natural life support systems. Its carcinomic multiplication of private money demand with no tie to the production of means of life is the reality beneath all the false news.

Nothing is life secure. The ‘global security system’ protects only money values and sequences through life hosts. Peoples everywhere compete to make it go faster to survive. The ruling concept of ‘economy ‘inverts the systematic depletion, degradation and despoliation of the life capital of organic, social and ecological life. Universal necessities of human and fellow life are stripped, polluted and wasted as ‘efficiencies’.

President Trump has gone into the political ring to fight it out with the political establishment on a nationalist capitalist level. He is losing money in the short term. But his program in office is completely eco-blind, and the opposing mass media follow suit. All they can focus on is demonizing normal relations with the official Enemy Russia. Meanwhile Trump has all but abolished the EPA and cut off all federal funding for restoration of the Great Lakes, the most important source of fresh water heritage on the planet.

These supreme crimes under international law are recognised by none on stage. In Canada, a Nazi progeny and neo-Nazi supporter of the violent coup and civil war in Ukraine is made Foreign Affairs Minister and hustles her connections throughout the US to keep the attack-Russia juggernaut going as in the past under  a continuous barrage of ethnic prejudices and fake news.

The pattern is clear but unspoken. The Enemy Russia is the auto-pilot of fake news to divert from US and client leadership failure on almost every level. Relations of mutual respect with Russia’s ambassador are ‘collusion’ and taboo.

The Reality Beneath the Questions not Asked

How does disclosure of Hillary’s Clinton’s apparatus theft of the Democratic nomination from Bernie Sanders get blamed on Russia? The question is not asked. The Washington mass media and visible Congress focus instead on accused “collusion with Russia” with very big stakes in the new inquisition show. Suspicions without substance run free in the mass media once the designated Enemy is smeared onto the target, even if elected president.

Who knows that the US joined the armed forces of Britain, colonial Canada and Japan to crush the 1917 Russian Revolution on behalf of the Czarist autocracy and Western capitalism? More deeply, who names the governing objective behind all the shows of force and accusation over a century since? To be managed successfully, attention must be diverted from the facts of US-led war crimes and public looting within and without US empire proclaimed as ‘world freedom’.

The new President and his Exxon Secretary of State seek business-like relations with Russia. Very big powers are coming into conflict over business and war within the US empire. Big oil in both leviathan countries are pitted against the US Enemy-and-smear establishment which has long run the show with big oil formerly leading it. Now transnational big oil in the US and Russia are leading out of the blind alley of war against each other which has so totally failed to bring benefits to either side in the long term, and has almost reversed civilization.

The dots again are not joined. The completely counter-productive war against Russia to keep the US money-war state going is deepened by Wall Street. The falling price of oil is driven beneath notice by Wall Street which has successfully short-future-traded oil down to establish its money-printing powers by debt as supreme over its rival substitute, while diverting everybody’s attention from the greatest fraud in history still going. Observe that Wall Street remains untouched even from its multi-trillion dollar heist from public and pension coffers from 2007 on.

Blame Russia is the normal chorus which Wall Street benefits from as the ultimate leader of the ruinously anti-productive money-war system. It pays off so well to the money party in more public dollars appropriated by its control and issue of money debt for everything that exists; the pervasive military-industrial complex which never gets reversed even in the peace after the planned destruction of the ‘Evil Empire’; and the corporate mass media in front turning the fake news system over continuously to promote, idealize and divert from the global empire’s war and occupation powers. The neo-con and neo-liberal war strategists alike are built into the dark state as managers uniquely dependent on Russia as the Enemy.

So it is in all their self-maximizing interests to sustain perpetual accusations of some enemy’s evil as the great cover-up story of US empire and it inherited war-crime system. Joined to despotic local oligarchies, this axis dismantles ever more societies for corporate, bank and military plunder and jackal payoffs everywhere (including the academy). There is no limit or borders to the established system invasion, and all is at the expense of public treasuries and of life support systems across domains.

President Trump does not break the fatal ruling cycle. He demands that vassal states should pay for their US military protection, a new global extortion supporting new NATO oligarchies against change which accompanies his stripping of environmental protections to pay for more war powers. Trump behind his populist bluster is a paradigm example of instituted US capitalist greed and aggression. Yet the fact that hate of the Enemy is smeared even onto him for not hating Russia too reveals the ultimate pretext of the US-NATO war machine. Behind the US-led perpetual arms build-up, border threats and bombings of mostly innocents across the globe while blaming the terrorists for the horrors now built into the global ‘growth’ system is fake news as continuous cover story. The war-criminal drone mass murders continue on unnoticed. The bank looting of public wealth is instituted more broadly. The universities, health systems and public infrastructures are privatized for profit with no life criteria of outcomes.

Trump is dispossessing the American common wealth for big US money in line with the Reagan public-looting machine before him. It drained  public revenues into a black hole of US debt, blamed acid rain on trees, and portrayed orchestrated mass murderers of socialists in Afghanistan and Nicaragua as ‘freedom fighters’. What has changed in the corporate media’s fake-news today?

Trump in office is the opposite of the anti-establishment candidate he promised to be. He wars on the US Environmental Protection Agency (its only collective life protective organization). He fractions corporate taxes in a giveway to the rich beyond Reagan’s $500-billion tax cut. He privatizes the public’s falling infrastructure for speculators and developers’ long-term private tolls, profits and control for private profit at taxpayers’ expense.

Who in the corporate media or Congress questions any of it?

The Trudeau  regime to the north imitates the new massive scheme of privatizing public infrastructure. But it disguises it in terms of public investment in public goods. The big banks and speculators on both sides of the border are the winners whatever the corporate media and state cover story. The common wealth is sold off under pervasive fake news masquerading as responsible and for the public good. But the drive-wheel policy mechanisms for ever more dismantling of the living earth and redistribution of more public wealth upwards to the rich march on beneath conscious comprehension.

Trump does not hide the privatization for profit of America’s public infrastructure and stripping of public health and environmental protection policies once he has rising stockholder support in office. The Trudeau Liberal party masqueraded as the social democrat NDP in promising whopping public investment to win the election, but when in office lets the giant privatization boondoggle trickle out in sunny  avoidance of the facts.

The monumental schemes of robbing the commonwealth at every level are led by slanted and selective reports through every step across ever more domains. But a constant across US empire is Russia the Enemy to justify it all. In the deepening life support crises of this ruling axis, Russia’s projected ‘attacks’ still lead the show.

The Life-Blind Moral DNA of US Rule

With no common ground but belief in God’s blessing over all nations and the greatest killing machine in history to enforce it, US ideology may seem to be a psychopathic rationalization writ large.

Yet the US national morality tale governs perception so that the a-priori life-blindness is not recognised even by philosophers. The US continues to be ruled at home and abroad without life-value ground or compass. So as the US-led global market system multiplies its demands on organic, social and ecological life systems, it moves inexorably towards a few multibillionaires with more wealth than 99% of the population, steering planetary depredation to ruin as freedom and growth.

How else would a global cancer system behave? Yet almost none recognise that this system overrides life requirements at every level. The reformer Trump selects for even more wealth and power to the home rich. He attacks evolved environmental research and regulations with no better alternative. He seeks to repeal Obamacare with no public option considered. His nationalist and cost-cutting program is essentially life-blind.

The baseline of crisis goes all down to the moral DNA of the US project and its evolved economic, political and ideological system. The innermost value driver is long presupposed without question by even US moral philosophers and social scientists as the first principle of their models. Atomic self-maximization towards more private money-value without limit is the meta-program.

In consequence, the ‘global free market’ the US leads and imposes has no feedback loops to protect human or planetary life against hollowing them out for transient commodities, private profit and wastes on every level. The ruling system is structured only to ensure more money demand and commodities to those who have money to pay. Any accountability to universal life necessities is ruled out a-priori from the US Constitution, ruling market doctrine, and received theories.

As I have commented in articles prior to his presidency, “Trump is America come to meet itself”. But the US cover story has not yet been decoded in its master functions of legitimation and idealization. What makes the eco-genocidal system acceptable to human consciousness is an ultimate story line and moral syntax that transforms it into heroic liberty, individualism and moral supremacy.

This moral syntax has been imprinted into US empire since its original revolution against Britain to invade the America West to the Pacific Ocean to appropriate and  destroy all the life and life support systems of the developed first peoples there as ‘freedom’, ‘development’ and ‘self-defense’. What is required for the grand narrative’s success is to hide the reality of continuous eco-genocide by continuous false representations as the virtue and truth others fail to understand.

This first principle the justifying morality tale entails the second – that an alien Enemy must always be blamed for the system’s destructive attacks on barriers and resistance to it. Conversion of all life and life support systems to limitless self-maximization of the US system and its richest citizens then proceeds under cover of fake news with wars of acquisition and control represented as courageous and beneficent for all.

For-profit private corporations are the ever more empowered legal vehicles of this transnational system which is set to select for systematic self-maximization of the rich by all market, state and war means that can be constructed to enable it, starting with the US Constitution (as explained above). This set-point is built into the legislative, judicial and executive branches so that today the system outcome is a constitutionally ordered money-party control of all three branches of government as well as the funding systems of social sciences and philosophy.

Fake news in the widest sense provides a continuous cover story to mask and justify the underlying program which is not seen – the money-war party’s limitless take from life within and without the US that depends on a designated Enemy as perennial pretext to strip the US and global commonwealth against effective opposition or change.

Prof. John McMurtry FRSC is the author of The Cancer Stage of Capitalism: From Crisis to Solution  and the three-volume study, Philosophy and World Problems,  UNESCO Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems (EOLSS), Paris-Oxford. 

The original source of this article is Global Research

Copyright © Prof. John McMurtry, Global Research, 2017

 

Have you ever noticed?

      [thoughts from   ~burning woman~  by Sha’Tara]

It seems I’ve taken a liking to thinking and writing about things that most people either can’t see for themselves or simply don’t want to think about or discuss with each other.  What I’m about to say is nothing new; in fact it’s as old as man’s time on earth, older than written history.

Have you ever noticed that every time “they” get rich, we get poorer?  Every time “they” begin a new enterprise we end up their slaves?  Every time “they” start wars, we, and those “they” call our enemies, are the ones who die?

Have you not noticed that as the quality of life on the planet deteriorates due to “their” endless manipulations in search of profit, it is we who get blamed; we who must scream, yell, holler, demonstrate, make fools or ourselves and set ourselves up as targets for their police forces and the para-military forces in order to squeeze a tiny bit of temporary survival from their greedy hands?

Have you not noticed that no matter how many times we actually manage to force some change; to elect someone who actually listens to our problems, it is but a matter of a few years, maybe a couple of decades and we’re plunged right back into the same mess our parents or grandparents died in; that often that mess is even worse than before?

The “great debate” raging today is about Donald Trump and Putin. But who are these men?  They are gods, gods people put over themselves because they fear that without these idols covering them, they would be naked.  Why do they need those gods, even when they mock them, lambaste them, hate them, fear them, excoriate them for their ignorance and violence?  Because in their foolishness taught them by their parents, their teachers, their bosses, their preachers, their entertainers and their politicians, they firmly believe they could never live without them.

Have you ever thought that that is our problem, the problem?

We can, of course, continue to support our sociopathic gods, loving and hating; believing and discrediting.  We can continue to play the game, but we should at least be honest enough with ourselves, and with our children whom they are going to exploit, oppress, jail and kill, that it isn’t our game.  They make the rules; it is their game.

What is Donald Trump?  It’s an idol we empowered by giving it slave labour and tax-free profits and which we are now empowering by recognizing it as being a political god.  Who is Putin?  Enter the above description.  Who are the rest of the CEO’s and politicians around the planet?  Enter the same description.  They are worthless idols; worthless in the sense that they have no power but what we give them.  Their “worth” is in the power they steal from real people, the people they exploit, oppress and kill, whose lives the take, whose blood they shed without an iota of concern.

Many people, at least in this neck of the woods, believe that taking a stand, either for or against a Trump, or any other strutting, stuttering mindless idol can make any difference.  Pure folly.  Trump and his handpicked yesmen is just another sock puppet in the hands of powers we will never face, let alone ever understand.  To argue over politicians is like looking up in the sky at a flock of geese and arguing over which one is the fastest.  If you watch a big “V” of geese on their migration you’ll see that the leading one only does so for a bit, then slides back as the next in line takes the lead, and so on.

Have you ever wondered why?  Why we fear the greatest power in the world: our own, and can’t wait to give it away to idols with the stench of putrefaction oozing out of their bodies?  Why do we do that, considering the price we have to pay?  Simple: we don’t know how to handle personal responsibility.  So, not knowing how, we can’t do it.  We pass it on to “the leaders” who though we hate them and envy them, we trust with our lives which they take and wring out, one after the other.

Nice, ignorant, stupid world that could be so much better if the real intelligence in it would just wake up. Is there a spare prince somewhere in the galaxy who can come over here and kiss the sleeping damsel awake?  I think her hundred years curse is up but her awakening window of opportunity is short.

 

Fake Democracy Today: give me Slavery, or give me Death!

                [thoughts from    ~burning woman~    by Sha’Tara]

I have heavily criticized and mocked, the modern concept of democracy.  I particularly despise the use of the word democracy as it is applied to those Western nations that but recently emerged from the oppression of their imperial rulers.  They are at best plutocracies.  A better description is, kleptocracies.  

Truth be told, there is nothing democratic about any self-styled democracy.  There may be vestiges of it in some European countries, though I seriously doubt that.  At least based on my interpretation of the concept of democracy.  Socialism as practised in Scandinavian countries doesn’t mean democracy; one is more likely to encounter meritocracies.

Why can’t I accept the term “democracy” as it is applied to Western republics or constitutional monarchies?  It’s very simple: a real democracy would exist freely without any undue influence from any economic, religious or pre-eminent political forces.  It would operate freely under the flow of freely cast majority of votes. Never would it be influenced by advertising or propaganda.  Note the emphasis on “free.”

Let’s get right to it.  During a political campaign, the campaigner would have his or her expenses defrayed by the democracy (the commons) because, you see, it would be the democracy, not her/his ego that got them on the campaign trail.  Do we need reminding that an elected representative in a democracy is a servant of the people, and not of one’s ego?  

Let’s see how our current “representatives” compare:

If a campaigner was caught uttering lies during a campaign, not only would s/he be instantly disqualified from being a representative of the democracy, but subject to severe censure and legal repercussions likely to result in a jail term.  If a campaigner was caught being subverted by a lobbyist, both candidate and lobbyist would be arrested and charged with violating the public trust, the equivalent of being a traitor to the country.  And let’s face it, it is a treasonous act.    

Critical point:  It is my contention that any elected representative in a real democracy could never earn more than the least paid member of said democracy.  To expect more pay than anyone else is to mock the concept of equal representation.  No democracy can function properly under the economic system called capitalism, much less under the current system justly called “predatory capitalism.” 

In a democracy, no election can be valid unless, and until, every member of said democracy has voted, no exceptions allowed except in situations where the individual is mentally or physically unable to complete her or his vote, in which case a person could be duly authorized to cast their vote through power of attorney.  As to voting age, I say the sooner a member is made aware of her/his responsibility, the better.  Voting age? 16.

Obviously in a democracy there can be no political parties, that being a contradiction.  The electoral process would be quite simple, really.  It begins at the most local level.  A community elects a representative to run for governor of a state or province.  That person then runs against all other elected representatives from other communities.  The one who is elected governor is then automatically qualified to run for president, or prime minister.  The one who wins the final round of votes becomes the president.  Too complicated? 

She or he, cannot represent any other group or be attached to any business enterprise, religious organization or other pressure group during the time in office.  A contract to that effect must be signed by the president elect and any violation of this contract would mean a life sentence without parole.  Are we clear on this?

If a people is going to insist they want to live in a democracy it’s high time they took responsibility for their claims.  It’s more than high time the people put an end to the current farcical events of “elections” bought by the highest bidder and candidates coming from the richest members of that society.  Any individual expected to vote under current conditions, if any intelligence was in play, would automatically say, “How stupid do you think I am?” 

I’m sure that with a bit of thinking about it I could come up with an even better description of a proper, working democracy, but for now, this is enough to create some food for thought.  Yes, and I know that these simplistic ideas of mine will be relegated to the garbage pile of non-history as non-applicable, pie-in-the-sky bullshit.  Why?  Because the brainwashing says they can never work.  Not common sense; not simple facts: brainwashing.  Slosh-slosh goes the big political brainwasher through the years until it goes into full spin during the election.  After which, when the insults and punches have been thrown, everybody gradually regains their balance from being spun dizzy, and it’s business as usual.  And you call that a democracy?  “How stupid do you think I am?”   

But just so you know, I happen to know these ideas I presented above are totally applicable, totally practical and absolutely necessary if a working political system is to be called democratic. 

They will not ever be applied, or even tried, however, because our elites will make sure we never get it; that we continue fawning to, and supporting sociopathic, narcissistic, political ponerologists; the war-mongers and billionaires with their locked-in institutions: public education, religious organizations, banks, spying, defence and policing agencies, political parties and all their “grassroots” affiliates, the main stream media, Big Pharma, the medical system and academia, in which we all must trust for no better reason than that they eat us and our world alive, killing our neighbors, enslaving and imprisoning our families, our descendants, leaving always tiny thread of hope for baseless dreams to keep us performing: working, voting, studying, arming, shopping and believing. 

With that much institutional brainwash knocking us about, they can be assured that we’ll never clue in as to what’s actually going on.  Oh sure, we’ll read about it, maybe even think about it, and we’ll certainly talk ourselves blue in the face about it but we’ll never – GET IT.

The “system” says we need to believe… in anything, anything at all, as long as we don’t GET IT.  As long as  we never learn to trust one-another or lean on one-another.  The “system” has us trusting in literal demonic forces.  Even if every one we met or encountered walked around lovingly caring for others, looking and acting like angels from heaven: yes, even so, when it comes to choosing a leader, we’ll go find and choose the demon.  Only the demon is qualified to rule and the ruler must be given sycophantic armed support and protection if deemed necessary, the adulation of fandom and handed the key to the national storehouse and if possible, to all planetary reserves. That’s the brainwash. 

That’s the age-old programming, obviously too much of a headache to try to hack into and neutralize.  The real slogan of any so-called democracy today is, “Give me slavery or give me death!” 

“We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the mental institution of the universe”.  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

 

 

 

 

Tomgram: Mattea Kramer, You Don’t Leave Home Without It

Post election blues, or exhaustion?  May I offer the following then.  No, it isn’t going to make you feel better, particularly if you happen to be American.  The good news in the following Tom Dispatch article by Mattea Kramer is that if you are an EDUCATED American (and an educated anyone else) the following will not be news at all.  You know all of this, but maybe not in this particular configuration, and yes, our news may all have the same source these days, but their interpretations, that staggers the imagination.  So, another independent journalist’s viewpoint about being an American in today’s world at this moment.  Should we, Canadians, feel smug?  Or Brits?  We’re in no way better, nor any less guilty because by and large, exception such as myself noted, we support US foreign policy or do nothing about it, which is probably even worse.  For once I would agree, “We’re all in this together” and it behooves us to find our way out: this is the crisis of our time.

(I would have simply “reblogged” but there’s no such convenience on their site and the times I queried them about that and other things, I got the silence of the lambs in return.)

Tomgram: Mattea Kramer, You Don’t Leave Home Without It

Posted by Mattea Kramer at 7:30am, November 17, 2016.
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch.

Not long before Election Day, but thousands of miles away in the Afghan village of Bouz Kandahari, 30 to 36 civilians died (including a significant number of children and infants).  Those deaths took place in a war Americans had largely filed in the library of forgotten events, though the conflict there is still fiercely underway. In a firefight with the Taliban near the northern provincial city of Kunduz, two U.S. Special Forces advisers died and American air power was called in, evidently killing those innocent Afghans. Within days, there were protests by angry villagers burying their dead.  As Mawlawi Haji Allahdad told a Reuters reporter, “My brother and three of his children were killed. My brother had no connection to any group.  He was a laborer. Did you see which of those infants and children who were killed by the Americans were terrorists?”

Behind this incident lies a 15-year-old pattern evident at least since the U.S. wiped out much of a wedding party, killing more than 100 villagers in Eastern Afghanistan in late December 2001.  It was certainly well documented in those 50 shock-and-awe “decapitation” strikes the Bush administration launched to take out Saddam Hussein and his Baathist Party leadership in March 2003 as the invasion of Iraq began.  Those strikes killed not a single targeted leader, but — according to Human Rights Watch — did kill “dozens of civilians.”  (In the following two months, almost 3,000 Iraqi civilians would die under American bombs and missiles.)

In these years, this American version of “precision bombing” has never ended in the Greater Middle East, which means that it was an ongoing reality of Election 2016, not that you would have known it.  For instance, since September 2014 when the Obama administration sent U.S. air power against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, just as the American primaries were first gearing up, Amnesty International reports that at least 300 Syrian civilians have died (including, of course, children).  Other groups monitoring the situation have put the toll significantly higher — at up to 1,000.  (The Pentagon has acknowledged only “a few dozens” of civilian deaths in both countries in this period.)

More recently, there were the 15 civilians killed in a late September drone strike aimed at ISIS supporters in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, but which evidently struck a celebration of a tribal elder’s return from his pilgrimage to Mecca.  Some weeks later, there were civilians killed or wounded (again including children) in an air attack on what was believed to be the home of a Taliban commander in the same province. There were also the 15 to 20 civilians killed when a funeral procession on the outskirts of the Iraqi city of Kirkuk was hit, evidently by planes from the U.S. coalition.

If none of this crossed your radar screen, don’t beat yourself up for it.  Such stories aren’t significant news in America.  The eight wedding parties reportedly wiped out by U.S. air power between 2001 and 2013 in Iraq, Yemen, and Afghanistan, to offer but one example, passed almost unnoticed here.  (Just imagine the 24/7 media attention that would be given to a terrorist attack on a single American wedding, no matter the casualties.)  Despite the impressive efforts of groups like the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, there is essentially no way of knowing how many civilians in and out of official war zones U.S. air operations have killed across the Greater Middle East and Africa in the last decade and a half.  Not that it matters, since it’s a reality about which Americans could care less — and yet, as with those angry villagers in Bouz Kandahari, the air war on terror has proven to be a powerful recruitment tool for extremist groups spreading across that disintegrating region.

It’s not that we never pay attention to such deaths.  The Russian air attacks in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria, for example, have gotten real attention here.  They were even part of the election discussion, as well they should have been.  The Russians entered the Syrian conflict in the American fashion by letting “precision” air power loose against schoolshospitals, and civilian targets of all sorts (with a significant number of children dying).  In the American media, these are often termed “war crimes,” but similar acts by Americans naturally fall into a different category, so no point in dwelling on them.  You can count on one thing, though: this isn’t going to end in the “new” Trump era soon to be upon us.  So it seems appropriate amid the post-election rancor and uproar to offer some space for TomDispatch regular Mattea Kramer to think about what it really means to be an American in such circumstances. Tom

On the Road With Our American Selves 
Or How to Feel Like a Jerk in Mombasa 
By Mattea Kramer

The fluorescent circus of Election 2016 — that spectacle of yellow comb-overs, and orange skin, and predatory pussy-grabbing, and last-minute FBI interventions, and blinking memes hewn by an underground army of self-important Internet trolls — has finally come to its unnatural end.  I had looked forward to this moment, only to find us all instantly embroiled in a new crisis.  And unfortunately, it’s easy to foretell what, or rather who, will move into the bright lights of our collective gaze now: we’re going to (continue to) focus on… well, ourselves.

We are obviously not, for instance, going to redeploy our energies toward examining the embarrassing war that we’re still waging in Afghanistan, now in its 16th year — something that went practically unmentioned during election season, even as fighting heated up there. (You can be sure that Afghans have a somewhat different perspective on the newsworthiness of that war.)  We are also not going to spend our time searching for the names of people like Momina Bibi, whom we’ve… oops… inadvertently annihilated while carrying out our nation’s drone kill program.

For his part, Donald Trump has pledged to “take out” the families of terrorists, a plan that sounds practically ordinary when compared to our actual drone assassination program, conceived by President George W. Bush and maintained and expanded by President Obama.  And while I don’t for a moment pretend that Trump’s electoral victory is anything less than an emergency for our republic — especially for the most vulnerable among us, and for every American who believes in justice, equity, or basic kindness — it’s also true that some things won’t change at all.  In fact, it’s prototypically American that an overlong and inward-looking election spectacle (which will, incidentally, have “big-league” international implications) will be supplanted by still more inward-looking phenomena.

And it jogs my memory in a not very pleasant way.  I can’t help but recall the moment, years ago and 8,000 miles away, when I was introduced to my own American-centered self.  The experience left an ugly mark on my picture of who I am — and who, perhaps, so many of us are, as Americans.

No, Not Us…

Eight years before I heard about a guy in Yemen whose cousins were obliterated by an American drone strike in a procession following his wedding celebration, I gleefully clicked through the travel site Kayak and pressed “confirm purchase” on one-way tickets to Kathmandu.  It was 2008, shortly before Barack Obama would be elected, and my boyfriend and I, a couple of twenty-somethings jonesing to see the world, were about to depart on what we expected to be the adventure of our lives.  Having worked temporary stints and squirreled away some cash, we packed our belongings into my mom’s damp basement and prepared ourselves for a journey meant to last half a year and cross South Asia and East Africa.  What we didn’t know, as we headed for New York’s Kennedy Airport, our passports zippered into our money belts, was that, whatever we had left behind at my mom’s, we were unwittingly carrying something far heftier with us: our American-ness.

Adventures commenced as soon as we stepped off the plane.  We glimpsed ice-capped peaks that rose majestically out of the clouds as we walked the lower Everest trail.  Then — consider this our introduction to the presumptions we hadn’t shed — we ran into a little snafu.  We hadn’t brought along enough cash for our multi-week mountain trek; apparently we’d expected Capital One ATMs to appear miraculously on a Himalayan footpath.  After we dealt with that issue through a service that worked by landline and carbon paper, we took a bumpy Jeep ride south to India and soon found ourselves walking the sloping fields of Darjeeling, the leaves of tea shrubs glinting in the afternoon light.  Then we rode trains west and south, while through the frame of a moving window I looked out at fields and rice paddies where women in red or orange or turquoise saris worked the land, even as the sun set and the sky turned pink and reflected off the water where the rice grew.

Things would, however, soon get significantly less picturesque, as in some strange, twisted way, the farther we traveled, the closer to home we seemed to get.

We arrived in Mombasa, Kenya, in January 2009, on a day when thousands of the city’s residents had flooded its streets to protest a recent, and particularly bloody, Israeli attack on Gaza. Hamas, firing rockets into southern Israel, had killed one Israeli and injured many others.  Israel retaliated in an overwhelming fashion, filling the Gazan sky with aircraft and killing hundreds of Palestinians, including five girls from a single family, ages four to 17, who were unlucky enough to live in a refugee camp adjacent to a mosque that an Israeli plane had leveled.

As I hopped off the matatu, or passenger van, into the scorching Kenyan heat, I was aware that 50,000 angry protesters had gathered not so far away, and certain facts became clear to me.  For one thing, the slaughter of hundreds of civilians, including several dozen children, in what was, to me, a faraway land, was a big effing deal here. That should probably go without saying just about anywhere — except I was suddenly aware that, were I home, the opposite would have been true.  Those deaths in distant Gaza (unlike nearby Israel) would barely have caused a blip in the American news.  What’s more, if I had been at home and the story had somehow caught my eye, I knew that I wouldn’t have paid it much mind. Another war in a foreign country is what I would’ve thought, and that would have been that.

At that moment, though, I didn’t dwell on the point, because — let’s be serious — I was scared poopless. There was a huge, angry protest nearby and we’d just gotten word that the crowd was burning an American flag.  Israel, it turned out, had used a new U.S.-made missile in its assault on Gaza. According to the Jerusalem Post, it was a weapon designed to minimize “collateral damage” (though tell that to the families of the dead). The enraged people who had taken to the streets in Mombasa were decrying my country’s role in the carnage — and I was a skinny American with a backpack who’d arrived in the wrong city on the wrong day.

We got the hell out of there as soon as we could. Early the next morning we climbed aboard a rusty old bus bound for Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. I felt a wave of relief once I’d settled into my seat. I was looking forward to a different country and a new vista.

That new vista, it turned out, materialized almost at once. Our bus was soon barreling along a rutted dirt road, the scenery whipping by the window in a distinctly less-than-picturesque fashion.  In fact, it passed in such a blur that I realized we were going way too fast.  We already knew that bus accidents were common here; we’d heard about a recent one in which all the passengers died.

When we hit what undoubtedly was a yawning pothole on that none-too-well kept road, the windows shook ominously and I thought: we could die. By then, my slick hands were gripping my shredded vinyl seat.  I could practically feel the heat of the crash-induced flames and had no trouble picturing our charred bodies in the wreckage of the bus.  And then that other thought came to me, the one I wouldn’t forget, the one, thousands of miles from home, that seemed to catch who I really was: No not us, we can’t diewas what I said to myself, pressing my eyes shut.  I meant, of course, my boyfriend and I; I meant, that is, we Americans.

It was then that I felt an electric zap, as the events of the previous day had just melded with the present dangers and forced me to see what I would have preferred to ignore: that there was an unsavory likeness between my outlook and the American credo that thousands had been protesting in Mombasa.  Wecan’t die, was my thought, as if we were somehow different — as if these Africans on the bus with us could die, but not us. Or, just as easily, those Palestinians could die — and thanks to U.S.-supplied arms, no less — and I wouldn’t even tune in for the story.  Clutching my torn bus seat, I was still afraid, but another sensation overwhelmed me. I felt like a colossal jerk.

Of course, as you know because you’re reading this, we made it safely to Dar es Salaam that night. But I was changed.

Apologizing to Ourselves

I’d like to say that my egocentricity about which lives matter most is uncommon among my countrymen and women.  But if you spool through the seven-plus years since I rode that bus, you’ll notice how that very same mindset has meant that Americans go wild with panic over lone wolf terror killings on our soil, but show scant concern when it comes to the White House-directed, CIA-run drone assassination campaigns across the world, and all the civilian casualties that are the bloody result.  The dead innocents include members of a Yemeni family who were riding in a wedding procession when four missiles bore down on them, and Momina Bibi, that Pakistani grandmother who was tending to an okra patch as her grandchildren played nearby when a missile blasted her to smithereens. And don’t forget the 42 staff members, patients, and relatives at a Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, killed in an attack by a U.S. AC-130 gunship.  Depending on which tally you use, since 2009 we’ve killed an estimated 474 civilians, or perhaps 745, outside of official war zones (and far more civilians, like those dead in that hospital, within those zones), although the horrifying truth is that the real numbers are likely much higher, but unknown and unknowable.

Meanwhile, duh, we would never fire a missile at a suspected terrorist if innocent U.S. civilians were identified in the vicinity. We value American life far too highly for such wantonness.  In 2015, when a drone struck an al-Qaeda compound in Pakistan, it was later discovered that two hostages, one of them an American, were inside. In response, President Obama delivered grave remarks: “I offer our deepest apologies to the families… I directed that this operation be declassified and disclosed… because the families deserve to know the truth.”

But why so sorry that time and not with the other 474 or more deaths?  Of course the difference was that innocent American blood was spilt.  We don’t even try to hide this dubious hierarchy; we celebrate it.  In that same speech, President Obama reflected on why we Americans are so darn special.  “One of the things that makes us exceptional,” he declared, “is our willingness to confront squarely our imperfections and to learn from our mistakes.”

If you hailed from any other country, it might have seemed like an odd, not to say tasteless, time to wax poetic about American exceptionalism.  The president was, after all, confessing that we’d accidentally fired missiles at two captive aid workers.  But I can appreciate the sentiment.  Inadequate though the apology was — “There are hundreds, potentially thousands of others who deserve the same apology,” said an investigator for Amnesty International — he was at least admitting that the United States had erred, and he was pointing out that such admissions are important.  Indeed, they are.  It’s just… what about the rest of the people on the planet?

The Trump administration will probably espouse a philosophy much like President Obama’s when it comes to valuing (or not) the lives of foreign innocents.  And yet there’s part of me that must be as unworldly as that twenty-something who flew into Kathmandu, because I find myself dreaming about a new brand of American exceptionalism in our future.  Not one that gives you that icky feeling when you’re riding a speeding bus in another hemisphere, nor one at whose heart lies the idea that we Americans are different and special and better — which, history tells us, is actually a totally unexceptional notion among powerful nations.  Instead, I imagine what would be truly exceptional: an America that values all human life in the same way.

Of course, I’m also a realist and I know that that’s not the world we live in, especially now — and that it won’t be for, at best, a very long time.

Mattea Kramer, a TomDispatch regular, is at work on a memoir called The Young Person’s Guide to Aging, which inspired this essay. Follow her onTwitter.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2016 Mattea Kramer

I Need to Define “Democracy” for Myself

[thoughts from   ~burning woman~  by Sha’Tara]

I don’t remember ever hearing the word “democracy” bandied about more than in the last couple of months. Ever notice that the more you hear a word, the less meaning it has?  So let’s start from basic: a dictionary definition, so we’re all on the same playing field.

Democracy | Definition of Democracy by Merriam-Webster  http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/democracy

democracies. 1 a : government by the people; especially : rule of the majority b : a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.

I would imagine that most people would accept that definition, and most people would promptly go back to watching TV after checking the fridge for a beer or a half bottle of wine (which I’m sorely tempted to do right now!).  And in the case of my southern neighbours, most of them would rather not be reminded that their particular belief in democracy made them vote in, and elect, probably the least presidential character imaginable.  I’m not saying it’s going to be all bad… well it probably will so let’s not fool ourselves, but what I’m saying is, something’s seriously awry with a system that allows such a thing to happen, especially when it didn’t just happen, it was “pending” for months.

Yes, for several months, the people of the democracy saw a humanoid caricature, essentially a cartoon character, strut upon a stage ostensibly reserved for real people (in fact so reserved it is that a couple of real people wanting to seriously represent the people weren’t even allowed on that stage) clowning about and saying things that are usually only seen in cheap, crass and gross low budget comedies and tawdry TV sitcoms.  I’m saying months of non-stop public appearances that should have convinced any Earthian with even two brain cells to rub together that here was something to avoid as you would a cave-in on the freeway.  I mean, hello?  You just don’t go there.  You laugh a few times with the cartoon, then you go watch the Simpsons (I don’t watch TV so assuming that’s still running?).

But that’s not what happened.  With a *three-foot long nose still growing and sprouting leaves, this Pinocchio got enough popular votes to get itself elected president of the nation.  And already, typical of such soul-less and heartless characters it’s already plunging itself deep into the political establishment and getting ready to feather its own nest.  I wonder if any will notice that this emperor has no clothes?  I wonder if anyone will remember you can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear?  I wonder if anyone will realize that putting a gold crown on the head of a pig and sticking a scepter between it’s front feet doesn’t make it a king?

Well, these are the obvious questions, but they do not answer my question which is, what exactly is a democracy?  According to president Lincoln, the US democracy was to be a government of the people, by the people, for the people… in perpetuity – Gettysburg address.  So there you have it, and I think I’m getting closer to what I’m looking for: the difference between a real democracy, and one in name only.  Lincoln gives us this difference: government OF the people, BY the people, FOR the people.  Don’t they teach that in American schools?  I’m not American and I’ve known this Gettysburg address line since grade school… and I didn’t even have to salute a flag or sing God Bless America, and still I remembered it.

I don’t vote.  I haven’t done so since 1980, deliberately and with purpose aforethought.  I’m a conscientious objector.  If they made me vote, I’d spoil the ballot.  Call it a form of satyagraha.  Non-violent non cooperation.  And now that I’ve defined the concept of living in a democracy, I can explain why I don’t vote; why I cannot vote.  Before someone jumps up with, “voting is your sacred duty” or some such brain dead claim, let me say that for voting to be a sacred duty, that duty must be to a sacred concept.  Otherwise it cannot be sacred, can it.  Is the concept I’d be voting in, sacred?  After following the presidential “race” can that question even be raised?  A “democratic” foreign policy explained in six words by Hillary Clinton: “We came, we saw, he died!” (followed by loud laughter) and endless racist and misogynist comments by Trump the pussy groper, sacred?

Two things then I can say that would make a democracy legitimate for me.  One has to do with who gets elected.  Let’s see, government BY the people.  OK, that’s clear enough.  You don’t need a campaign and millions of dollars wasted while children go hungry, on election day every legitimate citizen of the state goes to the polls and votes for only one person: herself or himself or theirself (if you’re a trans like myself!) and predictably, the result is that everyone becomes president.  Everyone is the government.  And also predictably, that government is going to be of the people and for the people.  Well maybe it wouldn’t be a democracy any longer, it would become a peopleocracy.  In such a “system” I would have no problem voting as I couldn’t pick a candidate who is smarter, richer, whiter or blacker, older or younger, sicker or healthier,  maler or femaler than myself.  If I voted for a slimeball, guess who that would be?  I’m not saying the Earthian human race is ready or able to operate such a simple system, but it’s the only way to have a democracy that is so in more than words and emotionally sentimental outbursts.

Second thing, bringing it much closer to home.  In a more real democracy, and in a situation such as the US is experiencing after electing to shoot itself squarely in its collective foot, in their two-party system, when one of the candidates win, the other automatically becomes vice-president.  There is no logic in the winner picking some ninny yes-man from his own side.  He didn’t get all the votes, did he?  In fact in this case he got less votes than the other candidate but through rigged elections (which of course he’s now not about to contest) he got spot number one.  OK, I don’t like Candidette #2 either, certainly no more than Candidate #1, but by virtue of received popular votes, she gets the vice presidency.  That way the votes aren’t wasted, everybody wins and all the representatives have to do is decide on how their proposed policies, agendas and changes get implemented, by popular referendum if necessary.  Of course I’m aware that at the level of willingness to cooperate that we’re dealing with here, they may go for the jugular and kill each other.  I don’t see that as any great loss, do you?

(*Reference is to the story of the wooden puppet, Pinocchio.  When he lied his nose grew so everyone would know he was lying.)