Category Archives: The Empire

Tomgram: Nomi Prins, A World That Is the Property of the 1%

[My introduction to this article: a major question of mine for long decades: what makes ordinary people admire, support and quasi-worship the rich and “financially successful” when it is common knowledge (or should be by now!) that these are vultures and vampires who feed off the blood, sweat and tears of the poor, marginalized, oppressed, disenfranchised, servants and slaves of the world?
Be honest, who would consider the woman who delivers the mail as a proper candidate for president? Can’t claim it’s because she has no experience, Trump didn’t have any.  Would you vote for your plumber if he decided to run? Baker? How about your babysitter? Kindergarten teacher?  The neighbour’s son who is a long-haul truck driver?
What are these people missing, apart from any opportunity? Well, they aren’t personally known, popular or notorious, but mostly, they are poor. We vote for the eagle, never for the rabbit.  That it means the eagle will feel entitled to kill more rabbits doesn’t seem to sink in, and neither the fact that we are the rabbits.    
  ~Sha’Tara~ ] 

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: I hate to even bring it up, but we’ve come to that moment again. You know, the one at year’s end when I ask all of you for money to keep this website afloat. This isn’t exactly how I like to spend my time either, but your contributions really do keep us going. So I’ve written a funding appeal to all TomDispatch subscribers that begins this way: “What a year!  I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted by You Know Who and the ‘Fake News Media’ coverage of him.  I know, I know… in the president’s inimitable style I should have at least six exclamation points after that last sentence.  Still, I don’t think it would be an unfair description to say that I’m one of the un-Trumps.  I don’t insult.  I don’t even tweet…” The appeal includes, of course, the expectable but necessary plea for donations. If you’re not a TD subscriber but visit this site regularly, you can click here to read my whole letter. Or, if the mood strikes you instantly, you can just go right to the TD donation page and contribute. In return for a $100 donation — $125 if you live outside the U.S. — you can also choose to receive a signed, personalized copy of various Dispatch Books or others as a token of our thanks. Believe me, you really do make all the difference. Tom]

This year, I simply couldn’t get one fact out of my head: according to a 2017 report from the Institute for Policy Studies, three billionaires — Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, and Bill Gates — have amassed as much wealth as the bottom half of American society. That’s 160 million people! (And unlike our president, I don’t use exclamation points lightly or often.) Or as Oxfam reported in January of this year, the wealth of eight men — and yes, they were men (including the three mentioned above) — was equal to that of half the people on this planet in 2017. Yikes! And just to give you a sense of where we’ve been heading at supersonic speed, an Oxfam report a year earlier had 62 billionaires owning half the planet’s wealth. Imagine that: 62 to eight in a single year.

Then consider what we know about the rise of the billionaire class. Again, according to Oxfam, a new billionaire appeared every two days in 2017, while 82% of the wealth being created on this planet already went to the top 1% and the bottom half of the global population saw no wealth gains at all. In 2017 (the last year for which we have such figures), the total wealth of the globe’s billionaire class ballooned by almost 20%. (And I want you to know that, unlike our president, I’m fighting hard to restrain the urge to put one or more exclamation points after every one of those sentences.)

Oxfam released its figures this January to coincide with the annual meeting of the world’s top dogs at Davos in Switzerland. Assumedly, it will do so again in January 2019 and I shudder to think what the next set of stats are likely to be. In the meantime, consider what TomDispatch regular Nomi Prins, author most recently of Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World, has to say about a planet on which the actual economic situation of most people bears remarkably little relationship to what’s generally advertised and why, if you think stability is already a thing of the past in a Trumpian world, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet. Tom

Wall Street, Banks, and Angry Citizens
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
By Nomi Prins

As we head into 2019, leaving the chaos of this year behind, a major question remains unanswered when it comes to the state of Main Street, not just here but across the planet. If the global economy really is booming, as many politicians claim, why are leaders and their parties around the world continuing to get booted out of office in such a sweeping fashion?

One obvious answer: the post-Great Recession economic “recovery” was largely reserved for the few who could participate in the rising financial markets of those years, not the majority who continued to work longer hours, sometimes at multiple jobs, to stay afloat. In other words, the good times have left out so many people, like those struggling to keep even a few hundred dollars in their bank accounts to cover an emergency or the 80% of American workers who live paycheck to paycheck.

In today’s global economy, financial security is increasingly the property of the 1%. No surprise, then, that, as a sense of economic instability continued to grow over the past decade, angst turned to anger, a transition that — from the U.S. to the Philippines, Hungary to Brazil, Poland to Mexico — has provoked a plethora of voter upheavals. In the process, a 1930s-style brew of rising nationalism and blaming the “other” — whether that other was an immigrant, a religious group, a country, or the rest of the world — emerged.

This phenomenon offered a series of Trumpian figures, including of course The Donald himself, an opening to ride a wave of “populism” to the heights of the political system. That the backgrounds and records of none of them — whether you’re talking about Donald Trump, Viktor Orbán, Rodrigo Duterte, or Jair Bolsonaro (among others) — reflected the daily concerns of the “common people,” as the classic definition of populism might have it, hardly mattered. Even a billionaire could, it turned out, exploit economic insecurity effectively and use it to rise to ultimate power.

Ironically, as that American master at evoking the fears of apprentices everywhere showed, to assume the highest office in the land was only to begin a process of creating yet more fear and insecurity. Trump’s trade wars, for instance, have typically infused the world with increased anxiety and distrust toward the U.S., even as they thwarted the ability of domestic business leaders and ordinary people to plan for the future. Meanwhile, just under the surface of the reputed good times, the damage to that future only intensified. In other words, the groundwork has already been laid for what could be a frightening transformation, both domestically and globally.

That Old Financial Crisis

To understand how we got here, let’s take a step back. Only a decade ago, the world experienced a genuine global financial crisis, a meltdown of the first order. Economic growth ended; shrinking economies threatened to collapse; countless jobs were cut; homes were foreclosed upon and lives wrecked. For regular people, access to credit suddenly disappeared. No wonder fears rose. No wonder for so many a brighter tomorrow ceased to exist.

The details of just why the Great Recession happened have since been glossed over by time and partisan spin. This September, when the 10th anniversary of the collapse of the global financial services firm Lehman Brothers came around, major business news channels considered whether the world might be at risk of another such crisis. However, coverage of such fears, like so many other topics, was quickly tossed aside in favor of paying yet more attention to Donald Trump’s latest tweets, complaints, insults, and lies. Why? Because such a crisis was so 2008 in a year in which, it was claimed, we were enjoying a first class economic high and edging toward the longest bull-market in Wall Street history. When it came to “boom versus gloom,” boom won hands down.

None of that changed one thing, though: most people still feel left behind both in the U.S. and globally. Thanks to the massive accumulation of wealth by a 1% skilled at gaming the system, the roots of a crisis that didn’t end with the end of the Great Recession have spread across the planet, while the dividing line between the “have-nots” and the “have-a-lots” only sharpened and widened.

Though the media hasn’t been paying much attention to the resulting inequality, the statistics (when you see them) on that ever-widening wealth gap are mind-boggling. According to Inequality.org, for instance, those with at least $30 million in wealth globally had the fastest growth rate of any group between 2016 and 2017. The size of that club rose by 25.5% during those years, to 174,800 members. Or if you really want to grasp what’s been happening, consider that, between 2009 and 2017, the number of billionaires whose combined wealth was greater than that of the world’s poorest 50% fell from 380 to just eight. And by the way, despite claims by the president that every other country is screwing America, the U.S. leads the pack when it comes to the growth of inequality. As Inequality.org notes, it has “much greater shares of national wealth and income going to the richest 1% than any other country.”

That, in part, is due to an institution many in the U.S. normally pay little attention to: the U.S. central bank, the Federal Reserve. It helped spark that increase in wealth disparity domestically and globally by adopting a post-crisis monetary policy in which electronically fabricated money (via a program called quantitative easing, or QE) was offered to banks and corporations at significantly cheaper rates than to ordinary Americans.

Pumped into financial markets, that money sent stock prices soaring, which naturally ballooned the wealth of the small percentage of the population that actually owned stocks. According to economist Stephen Roach, considering the Fed’s Survey of Consumer Finances, “It is hardly a stretch to conclude that QE exacerbated America’s already severe income disparities.”

Wall Street, Central Banks, and Everyday People

What has since taken place around the world seems right out of the 1930s. At that time, as the world was emerging from the Great Depression, a sense of broad economic security was slow to return. Instead, fascism and other forms of nationalism only gained steam as people turned on the usual cast of politicians, on other countries, and on each other. (If that sounds faintly Trumpian to you, it should.)

In our post-2008 era, people have witnessed trillions of dollars flowing into bank bailouts and other financial subsidies, not just from governments but from the world’s major central banks. Theoretically, private banks, as a result, would have more money and pay less interest to get it. They would then lend that money to Main Street. Businesses, big and small, would tap into those funds and, in turn, produce real economic growth through expansion, hiring sprees, and wage increases. People would then have more dollars in their pockets and, feeling more financially secure, would spend that money driving the economy to new heights — and all, of course, would then be well.

That fairy tale was pitched around the globe. In fact, cheap money also pushed debt to epic levels, while the share prices of banks rose, as did those of all sorts of other firms, to record-shattering heights.

Even in the U.S., however, where a magnificent recovery was supposed to have been in place for years, actual economic growth simply didn’t materialize at the levels promised. At 2% per year, the average growth of the American gross domestic product over the past decade, for instance, has been half the average of 4% before the 2008 crisis. Similar numbers were repeated throughout the developed world and most emerging markets. In the meantime, total global debt hit $247 trillion in the first quarter of 2018. As the Institute of International Finance found, countries were, on average, borrowing about three dollars for every dollar of goods or services created.

Global Consequences

What the Fed (along with central banks from Europe to Japan) ignited, in fact, was a disproportionate rise in the stock and bond markets with the money they created. That capital sought higher and faster returns than could be achieved in crucial infrastructure or social strengthening projects like building roads, high-speed railways, hospitals, or schools.

What followed was anything but fair. As former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen noted four years ago, “It is no secret that the past few decades of widening inequality can be summed up as significant income and wealth gains for those at the very top and stagnant living standards for the majority.” And, of course, continuing to pour money into the highest levels of the private banking system was anything but a formula for walking that back.

Instead, as more citizens fell behind, a sense of disenfranchisement and bitterness with existing governments only grew. In the U.S., that meant Donald Trump. In the United Kingdom, similar discontent was reflected in the June 2016 Brexit vote to leave the European Union (EU), which those who felt economically squeezed to death clearly meant as a slap at both the establishment domestically and EU leaders abroad.

Since then, multiple governments in the European Union, too, have shifted toward the populist right. In Germany, recent elections swung both right and left just six years after, in July 2012, European Central Bank (ECB) head Mario Draghi exuded optimism over the ability of such banks to protect the financial system, the Euro, and generally hold things together.

Like the Fed in the U.S., the ECB went on to manufacture money, adding another $3 trillion to its books that would be deployed to buy bonds from favored countries and companies. That artificial stimulus, too, only increased inequality within and between countries in Europe. Meanwhile, Brexit negotiations remain ruinously divisive, threatening to rip Great Britain apart.

Nor was such a story the captive of the North Atlantic. In Brazil, where left-wing president Dilma Rouseff was ousted from power in 2016, her successor Michel Temer oversaw plummeting economic growth and escalating unemployment. That, in turn, led to the election of that country’s own Donald Trump, nationalistic far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro who won a striking 55.2% of the vote against a backdrop of popular discontent. In true Trumpian style, he is disposed against both the very idea of climate change and multilateral trade agreements.

In Mexico, dissatisfied voters similarly rejected the political known, but by swinging left for the first time in 70 years. New president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, popularly known by his initials AMLO, promised to put the needs of ordinary Mexicans first. However, he has the U.S. — and the whims of Donald Trump and his “great wall” — to contend with, which could hamper those efforts.

As AMLO took office on December 1st, the G20 summit of world leaders was unfolding in Argentina. There, amid a glittering backdrop of power and influence, the trade war between the U.S. and the world’s rising superpower, China, came even more clearly into focus. While its president, Xi Jinping, having fully consolidated power amid a wave of Chinese nationalism, could become his country’s longest serving leader, he faces an international landscape that would have amazed and befuddled Mao Zedong.

Though Trump declared his meeting with Xi a success because the two sides agreed on a 90-day tariff truce, his prompt appointment of an anti-Chinese hardliner, Robert Lighthizer, to head negotiations, a tweet in which he referred to himself in superhero fashion as a “Tariff Man,” and news that the U.S. had requested that Canada arrest and extradite an executive of a key Chinese tech company, caused the Dow to take its fourth largest plunge in history and then fluctuate wildly as economic fears of a future “Great Something” rose. More uncertainty and distrust were the true product of that meeting.

In fact, we are now in a world whose key leaders, especially the president of the United States, remain willfully oblivious to its long-term problems, putting policies like deregulation, fake nationalist solutions, and profits for the already grotesquely wealthy ahead of the future lives of the mass of citizens. Consider the yellow-vest protests that have broken out in France, where protestors identifying with left and right political parties are calling for the resignation of neoliberal French President Emmanuel Macron. Many of them, from financially starved provincial towns, are angry that their purchasing power has dropped so low they can barely make ends meet

Ultimately, what transcends geography and geopolitics is an underlying level of economic discontent sparked by twenty-first-century economics and a resulting Grand Canyon-sized global inequality gap that is still widening. Whether the protests go left or right, what continues to lie at the heart of the matter is the way failed policies and stop-gap measures put in place around the world are no longer working, not when it comes to the non-1% anyway. People from Washington to Paris, London to Beijing, increasingly grasp that their economic circumstances are not getting better and are not likely to in any presently imaginable future, given those now in power.

A Dangerous Recipe

The financial crisis of 2008 initially fostered a policy of bailing out banks with cheap money that went not into Main Street economies but into markets enriching the few. As a result, large numbers of people increasingly felt that they were being left behind and so turned against their leaders and sometimes each other as well.

This situation was then exploited by a set of self-appointed politicians of the people, including a billionaire TV personality who capitalized on an increasingly widespread fear of a future at risk. Their promises of economic prosperity were wrapped in populist platitudes, normally (but not always) of a right-wing sort. Lost in this shift away from previously dominant political parties and the systems that went with them was a true form of populism, which would genuinely put the needs of the majority of people over the elite few, build real things including infrastructure, foster organic wealth distribution, and stabilize economies above financial markets.

In the meantime, what we have is, of course, a recipe for an increasingly unstable and vicious world.

Nomi Prins is a TomDispatch regular. Her latest book is Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World (Nation Books). Of her six other books, the most recent is All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances That Drive American Power. She is a former Wall Street executive. Special thanks go to researcher Craig Wilson for his superb work on this piece.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer’s new dystopian novel (the second in the Splinterlands series) Frostlands, Beverly Gologorsky’s novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt’s A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.

Copyright 2018 Nomi Prins

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Copied from https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/12/07/spare-me-the-american-tears-for-the-murder-of-jamal-khashoggi/

Oh, and here we go again… Yes, it seems I never get tired of contemplating and pondering the level of criminal shamelessness that accompanies American intervention throughout the world, and its bald-faced lies to shrug off any embarrassing questions.

All an open-minded observer is left with is abysmal contempt for “Amerikkka” and the sincere desire that that pile of putrefaction will collapse upon itself soon… very soon. The following is what I have been trying to express in my own posts recently but Fisk is a professional writer and journalist, hence does a much better job, written and researched, than I could ever do.

My intent in posting such articles isn’t to instill guilt in Americans, Lord knows they already have way more than anyone can bear of that, but to provide much needed information and backgrounders.  With such information one can no longer ignorantly play the official social media game called “Let’s Blame Russia.”

Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi

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Can I be the only one – apart from his own sycophants – to find the sight of America’s finest Republicans and Democrats condemning the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia for murdering Jamal Khashoggi a bit sickening? “Crazy”. “Dangerous”. A “wrecking ball”. A “smoking saw”. These guys are angry. CIA director Gina Haspel, who was happy to sign off on the torture of her Muslim captives in a secret American prison in Thailand, obviously knew what she was talking about when she testified about Mohammed bin Salman and the agony of Jamal Khashoggi.

US government leaks suggest that Haspel knew all about the shrieks of pain, the suffering of Arab men who believed they were drowning, the desperate pleading for life from America’s victims in these sanctuaries of torment in and after 2002. After all, the desperate screams of a man who believes he is drowning and the desperate screams of a man who believes he is suffocating can’t be very different. Except, of course, that the CIA’s victims lived to be tortured another day – indeed several more days – while Jamal Khashoggi’s asphyxiation was intended to end his life. Which it did.

A generation ago, the CIA’s “Operation Phoenix” torture and assassination programme in Vietnam went way beyond the imaginations of the Saudi intelligence service. In spook language, Khashoggi was merely “terminated with maximum prejudice”. If the CIA could sign off on mass murder in Vietnam, why shouldn’t an Arab dictator do the same on a far smaller scale? True, I can’t imagine the Americans went in for bone saws. Testimony suggests that mass rape followed by mass torture did for their enemies in Vietnam. Why play music through the earphones of the murderers?

But still it goes on. Here’s Democrat senator Bob Menendez this week. The US, he told us, must “send a clear and unequivocal message that such actions are not acceptable on the world’s stage”. The “action”, of course, is the murder of Khashoggi. And this from a man who constantly defended Israel after its slaughter of the innocents in Gaza.

So what on earth is going on here? Perhaps the “world’s stage” of which Menendez spoke was the White House – an appropriate phrase, when you come to think about it – where the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia has been no stranger. Yet when at least one recent US presidential incumbent of that high office can be considered guilty of war crimes – in Iraq – and the deaths of tens of thousands of Arabs, how come American senators are huffing and puffing about just one man, Mohammed bin Salman, who (for a moment, let us set aside the Yemen war) is only being accused of ordering the murder and dismemberment of one single Arab?

After all, world leaders – and US presidents themselves – have always had rather a soft spot for mass murderers and those who should face war crimes indictments. Trump has infamously met Kim Jong-un and invited him to the White House. We are all waiting for Rodrigo Duterte to take up his own invitation.

Obama lavished hospitality at the White House on a host of bloody autocrats – from Gambia, Burkina Faso and Cameroon – before we even recall Suharto, whose death squads killed up to half a million people; and Hosni Mubarak, whose secret police sometimes raped their prisoners and who sanctioned the hanging of hundreds of Islamists without proper trials, and his ultimate successor, Field Marshal-President al-Sisi, who has around 60,000 political prisoners locked up in Egypt and whose cops appear to have tortured a young Italian student to death. But Giulio Regeni wasn’t murdered in an Egyptian consulate. This list does not even include Ariel Sharon, who as Israeli defence minister was accused by an Israeli inquiry of personal responsibility for the massacre of 1,700 Palestinian civilians at the Sabra and Chatila camps in Beirut in 1982.

So what is this “clear and unequivocal message” that senator Menendez is rambling on about? The message has been clear and unequivocal for decades. The US “national interest” always trumps (in both senses) morality or international crime. Why else did the United States support Saddam Hussein in his attempt to destroy Iran and his use of chemical warfare against Iran? Why else did Donald Rumsfeld plead with Saddam in December 1993 to allow the reopening of the US embassy in Baghdad when the Iraqi dictator (a “strongman” at the time, of course) had already used mustard gas against his opponents? By the time Rumsfeld arrived for his meeting, more than 3,000 victims had fallen amid Iraqi gas clouds. The figure would reach at least 50,000 dead. Which is, in mathematical terms, Jamal Khashoggi times 50,000.

Yet we are supposed to recoil with shock and horror when Haspel – who might herself have a few admissions to make to senators on other matters – suggests that America’s latest favourite Middle Eastern tyrant knew about the forthcoming murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Does Menendez think that Saddam hadn’t signed the death sentences of thousands of Iraqi men and women – which, as we know from his later “trial”, he did – before meeting Rumsfeld? Or that Duterte, who has compared himself to Hitler, doesn’t sign off on the killing of his murdered drug “suspects”? Or that Suharto had absolutely nothing to do with half a million murders in Indonesia?

It’s instructive, indeed, that the thousands of innocents killed in the Yemen war, an offensive undertaken by Mohammed bin Salman himself with logistical support from the US and UK – and it doesn’t need Haspel to tell us this – hasn’t exactly left US senators shocked. Just another bunch of Arabs killing each other, I suppose. Starvation didn’t get mentioned by the senators emerging from Haspel’s closed hearing. Yet the senators know all about the mosque bombings, wedding party bombings, hospital bombings and school bombings in Yemen. Why no tears for these innocents? Or is that a bit difficult when the US military – on every occasion by accident, of course – has bombed mosques, wedding parties, hospitals and schools in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria?

No, the shock and horror and the need for full disclosure about the Saudis is primarily about Trump, and the need to tie him in to the cruel murder of a Washington Post journalist and US resident whose gruesome demise has been blamed by the American president upon a “vicious world”.

But there is something more than this, the appalling fact – albeit only a folk memory, perhaps, for many with scarcely any institutional memory at all – that 15 of those 9/11 hijackers were Saudis, that Osama bin Laden was a Saudi, that George W Bush secretly flew bin Laden family members out of the US after 9/11, that the Saudis themselves are heir to a blighted, rural, cruel version of Sunni Islam – based on the pernicious teachings of the 18th century Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab​ – which has inspired the Taliban, al-Qaeda, Isis and all the other killer cults whom we have proclaimed to be the West’s Enemy No 1.

Nailing Mohammed Bin Salman to a crucifix – a method of execution favoured by the Wahhabis – is an easy kill for US senators, of course. You hit the president and smash those unhappy historical details all in one fell swoop.

But don’t bank on it. Oil and arms are a potent mix. Old Abd al-Wahhab’s home is protected in a new tourist haunt in the suburbs of Riyadh. Come to think of it, the national mosque of Qatar – hostile to rapacious Saudi Arabia but another recipient of US weapons and a supporter of Islamist forces in Syria and Iraq – has a capacity for 30,000 souls, was built only seven years ago and is named after Abd al-Wahhab himself.

This is the dangerous world in which America and its allies now tread, disdainful of the thousands of Muslims who perish under our bombs and missiles and mortars – proxy-delivered by those we should distrust – ignorant of the religious currents which rumble on beneath our feet and beneath the House of Saud. Even the virtually useless information Haspel learned in the CIA’s “black centres” could have told senators this. If they had bothered to ask.

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Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared. 

The DNA Industry and the Disappearing Indian DNA, Race, and Native Rights By Aviva Chomsky

Tomgram: Aviva Chomsky, Making Native Americans Strangers in Their Own Land Posted by Aviva Chomsky at 8:12am, November 29, 2018.
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[This is a kinda-sorta reblog, though it really is simply a copy and paste from the Tomgram website. I’ve done this before as I find no way to re-post this otherwise except with the posting of a link which, in my opinion for what it’s worth, isn’t good enough. I think that if I’m hoping someone will read something I find worth reading, I should offer the article, not just the link. Still, the link is there if you prefer reading it on their website, and it is an amazing website at that!  This article is about how “America” – the Hegemon – treats the defeated original inhabitants of these lands (Canada where I reside does NO BETTER, let me make that perfectly clear.]

Begin Tomgram article:  In the 1950s, I grew up in the heart of New York City and had a remarkable amount of contact with Native Americans. As you might expect, I never actually met one in those years. What I had in mind was all the time I spent at the local RKO and other movie theaters watching Hollywood westerns. They were, of course, filled with Indians, and in those films, we — and I don’t mean the 12-year-old Tom Engelhardt, but the blue coats, the stage coach drivers and their passengers, the cowboys, and the pioneers I identified with — were regularly ambushed by those Indians. In the end, with rare exceptions, the natives predictably fell as they circled the wagon train or stagecoach or attacked those cavalrymen, whooping and shooting their arrows. They went down, naturally enough, before the implacable power of “our” weaponry, “our” marksmanship. And here’s the thing: they deserved it. After all, they were attacking us. We never ambushed them. They, that is, were “the invaders” and we, invariably, the aggressed upon.

All of this came to my mind when, in the midst of the 2018 midterm election campaign, Donald Trump labeled as “invaders” a caravan of desperate refugees, including women and small children fleeing their violent, impoverished lands (which the U.S. had a significant hand in making so) for asylum or refuge in this country. And then, of course, he sent almost 6,000 military personnel to the U.S.-Mexico border to protect us (and twiddle their thumbs).

I was reminded then of that celluloid past because Donald Trump, who is only a couple of years younger than me and undoubtedly grew up in the same movie world, felt — I suspect — so comfortable lambasting those refugees as invaders exactly because the term fit perfectly the “history” we had learned in our mutual childhoods. His claim was, in fact, a twenty-first-century version of the way, in our youth, the history of this country was regularly turned on its head, making the desperate and invaded into the nefarious and invasive. And, in truth, even without the helping hand of Donald Trump, that version of our history has never really ended, as TomDispatch regular Aviva Chomsky shows today. Native Americans are still being treated as if they were the invaders in what was once their own land and, like that caravan from Latin America, slapped down for it. Let her tell you how what she calls the DNA industry and various parts of our government, local and national, have been working overtime to recreate, after a fashion, the movie world of my childhood. Tom

The DNA Industry and the Disappearing Indian
DNA, Race, and Native Rights
By Aviva Chomsky

Amid the barrage of racist, anti-immigrant, and other attacks launched by President Trump and his administration in recent months, a series of little noted steps have threatened Native American land rights and sovereignty. Such attacks have focused on tribal sovereignty, the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), and the voting rights of Native Americans, and they have come from Washington, the courts, and a state legislature. What they share is a single conceptual framework: the idea that the long history that has shaped U.S.-Native American relations has no relevance to today’s realities.

Meanwhile, in an apparently unrelated event, Senator Elizabeth Warren, egged on by Donald Trump’s “Pocahontas” taunts and his mocking of her claims to native ancestry, triumphantly touted her DNA results to “prove” her Native American heritage. In turning to the burgeoning, for-profit DNA industry, however, she implicitly lent her progressive weight to claims about race and identity that go hand in hand with moves to undermine Native sovereignty.

The DNA industry has, in fact, found a way to profit from reviving and modernizing antiquated ideas about the biological origins of race and repackaging them in a cheerful, Disneyfied wrapping. While it’s true that the it’s-a-small-world-after-all multiculturalism of the new racial science rejects nineteenth-century scientific racism and Social Darwinism, it is offering a twenty-first-century version of pseudoscience that once again reduces race to a matter of genetics and origins. In the process, the corporate-promoted ancestry fad conveniently manages to erase the histories of conquest, colonization, and exploitation that created not just racial inequality but race itself as a crucial category in the modern world.

Today’s policy attacks on Native rights reproduce the same misunderstandings of race that the DNA industry is now so assiduously promoting. If Native Americans are reduced to little more than another genetic variation, there is no need for laws that acknowledge their land rights, treaty rights, and sovereignty. Nor must any thought be given to how to compensate for past harms, not to speak of the present ones that still structure their realities. A genetic understanding of race distorts such policies into unfair “privileges” offered to a racially defined group and so “discrimination” against non-Natives. This is precisely the logic behind recent rulings that have denied Mashpee tribal land rights in Massachusetts, dismantled the Indian Child Welfare Act (a law aimed at preventing the removal of Native American children from their families or communities), and attempted to suppress Native voting rights in North Dakota.

Profiting by Recreating Race

Let’s start by looking at how the ancestry industry contributes to, and profits from, a twenty-first-century reformulation of race. Companies like Ancestry.com and 23andMe lure customers into donating their DNA and a hefty sum of money in exchange for detailed reports claiming to reveal the exact geographical origins of their ancestors going back multiple generations. “Who do you think you are?” asks Ancestry.com, typically enough. The answer, the company promises, lies in your genes.

Such businesses eschew the actual term “race” in their literature. They claim instead that DNA reveals “ancestry composition” and “ethnicity.” In the process, however, they turn ethnicity, a term once explicitly meant to describe culture and identity, into something that can be measured in the genes. They conflate ethnicity with geography, and geography with genetic markers. Perhaps you won’t be surprised to learn that the “ethnicities” they identify bear an eerie resemblance to the “races” identified by European scientific racist thinking a century ago. They then produce scientific-looking “reports” that contain purportedly exact percentages linking consumers to places as specific as “Sardinia” or as broad as “East Asia.”

At their most benign, these reports have become the equivalent of a contemporary parlor game, especially for white Americans who make up the vast majority of the participants. But there is a sinister undertone to it all, reviving as it does a long-discredited pseudoscientific basis for racism: the notion that race, ethnicity, and ancestry are revealed in the genes and the blood, and passed down inexorably, even if invisibly, from generation to generation. Behind this lies the assumption that those genes (or variations) originate within clearly defined national or geographic borders and that they reveal something meaningful about who we are — something otherwise invisible. In this way, race and ethnicity are separated from and elevated above experience, culture, and history.

Is There Any Science Behind It?

Although all humans share 99.9% of our DNA, there are some markers that exhibit variations. It’s these markers that the testers study, relying on the fact that certain variations are more (or less) common in different geographical areas. As law and sociology professor Dorothy Roberts puts it, “No sooner had the Human Genome Project determined that human beings are 99.9% alike than many scientists shifted their focus from human genetic commonality to the 0.1% of human genetic difference. This difference is increasingly seen as encompassing race.”

Ancestry tests rely on a fundamental — and racialized — misunderstanding of how ancestry works. The popular assumption is that each of us contains discrete and measurable percentages of the “blood” and DNA of our two biological parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, sixteen great-great-grandparents, and so on, and that this ancestral line can be traced back hundreds of years in a meaningful way. It can’t. As science journalist Carl Zimmer explains, “DNA is not a liquid that can be broken down into microscopic drops… We inherit about a quarter of our DNA from each grandparent — but only on average… If you pick one of your ancestors from 10 generations back, the odds are around 50% that you carry any DNA from him or her. The odds get even worse beyond that.”

In reality, such testing does not tell us much about our ancestors. That’s partly because of the way DNA is passed down through the generations and partly because there exists no database of ancestral DNA. Instead, the companies compare your DNA to that of other contemporary humans who have paid them to take the test. Then they compare your particular variations to patterns of geographical and ethnic distribution of such variations in today’s world — and use secret algorithms to assign purportedly precise ancestral percentages to them.

So is there really a Sardinian or East Asian gene or genetic variation? Of course not. If there is one fact that we know about human history, it’s that ours is a history of migrations. We all originated in East Africa and populated the planet through ongoing migrations and interactions. None of this has ended (and, in fact, thanks to climate change, it will only increase). Cultures, ethnicities, and settlements can’t be frozen in time. The only thing that is constant is change. The peoples who reside in today’s Sardinia or East Asia are a snapshot that captures only a moment in a history of motion. The DNA industry’s claims about ancestry award that moment a false sense of permanence.

While whites of European ancestry seem enthralled with the implications of this new racial science, few Native Americans have chosen to donate to such databases. Centuries of abuse at the hands of colonial researchers who made their careers on Native ancestral remains, cultural artifacts, and languages have generated a widespread skepticism toward the notion of offering genetic material for the good of “science.” In fact, when it comes to one DNA testing outfit, 23andMe, all of the countries included in its lists of the geographical origins of those who have contributed to its “Native American” database are in Latin America and the Caribbean. “In North America,” the company blandly explains, “Native American ancestry tends to be five or more generations back, so that little DNA evidence of this heritage remains.” In other words, 23andMe claims DNA as conclusive proof of Native American identity, then uses it to write Native North Americans off the map altogether.

The Ancestry Industry and the Disappearing Indian

The ancestry industry, even while celebrating diverse origins and multiculturalism, has revived long-held ideas about purity and authenticity. For much of U.S. history, white colonizers argued that Native Americans would “vanish,” at least in part through biological dilution. New England’s native peoples were, for instance, systematically denied land rights and tribal status in the nineteenth century on the grounds that they were too racially mixed to be “authentic” Indians.

As historian Jean O’Brien has explained, “Insistence on ‘blood purity’ as a central criterion of ‘authentic’ Indianness reflected the scientific racism that prevailed in the nineteenth century. New England Indians had intermarried, including with African Americans, for many decades, and their failure to comply with non-Indian ideas about Indian phenotype strained the credence for their Indianness in New England minds.” The supposed “disappearance” of such Indians then justified the elimination of any rights that they might have had to land or sovereignty, the elimination of which, in a form of circular reasoning, only confirmed their nonexistence as a people.

However, it was never phenotype or distant ancestry but, as O’Brien points out, “complex regional kinship networks that remained at the core of Indian identity in New England, despite the nearly complete Indian dispossession that English colonists accomplished… Even as Indians continued to reckon membership in their communities through the time-honored system of kinship, New Englanders invoked the myth of blood purity as identity in denying Indian persistence.”

Such antiquated understandings of race as a biological or scientific category allowed whites to deny Indian existence — and now allow them to make biological claims about “Indian” identity. Until recently, such claims, as in Senator Warren’s case, rested on the murkiness of family tales. Today, the supposed ability of DNA companies to find genetic “proof” of such a background reinforces the idea that Indian identity is something measurable in the blood and sidesteps the historical basis for the legal recognition or protection of Indian rights.

The ancestry industry assumes that there is something meaningful about the supposed racial identity of one of hundreds or even thousands of an individual’s ancestors. It’s an idea that plays directly into the hands of right-wingers who are intent on attacking what they call “identity politics” — and the notion that “minorities” are becoming unduly privileged.

Indeed, white resentment flared at the suggestion that Senator Warren might have received some professional benefit from her claim to Native status. Despite an exhaustive investigation by the Boston Globe showing conclusively that she did not, the myth persists and has become an implicit part of Donald Trump’s mockery of her. In fact, any quick scan of statistics will confirm the ludicrousness of such a position. It should be obvious that being Native American (or Black, or Latino) in the United States confers far more risks than benefits. Native Americans suffer from higher rates of poverty, unemployment, infant mortality, and low birth weight, as well as lower educational levels and shorter life spans than do whites. These statistics are the result of hundreds of years of genocide, exclusion, and discrimination — not the presence or absence of specific genetic variations.

Reviving Race to Undermine Native Rights

Native rights, from sovereignty to acknowledgment of the conditions created by 500 years of colonial misrule, rest on an acceptance that race and identity are, in fact, the products of history. “Native Americans” came into being not through genes but through the historical processes of conquest and colonial rule, along with grudging and fragile acknowledgement of Native sovereignty. Native American nations are political and cultural entities, the products of history, not genes, and white people’sassertions about Native American ancestry and the DNA industry’s claim to be able to reveal such ancestry tend to run roughshod over this history.

Let’s look at three developments that have, over the past year, undermined the rights of Native Americans: the reversal of reservation status for Mashpee tribal lands in Massachusetts, the striking down of the Indian Child Welfare Act, and Republican attempts to suppress Native American votes in North Dakota. Each of these acts came from a different part of the government: the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the Department of the Interior, the courts, and North Dakota’s Republican-dominated state legislature. But all three rely on notions of identity that place race firmly in our genes rather than in our history. In the process, they deny the histories that turned the sovereign and autonomous peoples of North America before European colonists arrived in “the New World” into “Native Americans,” and imply that Native American historical rights are meaningless.

The Mashpee of Massachusetts finally achieved federal recognition and a grant of reservation land only in 2007, based on the fact that they “had existed as a distinct community since the 1620s.” In other words, federal recognition was based on a historical, not a racialized, understanding of ethnicity and identity. However, the tribe’s drive to build a casino on its newly acquired reservation in Taunton, Massachusetts, would promptly be challenged by local property-owners. Their lawsuit relied on a technicality: that, as they argued in court, reservation land could only be granted to tribes that had been federally recognized as of 1934. In fact, the Mashpee struggle for recognition had been repeatedly stymied by long-held notions that the Indians of Massachusetts were not “real” or “authentic” because of centuries of racial mixing. There was nothing new in this. The state’s nineteenth-century legislature prefigured just such a twenty-first-century backlash against recognition when it boasted that real Indians no longer existed in Massachusetts and that the state was poised to wipe out all such “distinctions of race and caste.”

In September 2018, the Department of the Interior (to which the court assigned the ultimate decision) ruled against the Mashpees. Recently appointed Assistant Director of Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney, the first Native American to hold that position, “paved the way for a reservation to be taken out of trust for the first time since the termination era,” a 20-year period from the 1940s to the 1960s when the federal government attempted to “terminate” Native sovereignty entirely by dismantling reservations and removing Indians to urban areas to “assimilate” them. The new ruling could affect far more than the Mashpees. Some fear that, in the Trump years, the decision portends “a new termination era,” or even a possible “extermination era,” for the country’s Native Americans.

Meanwhile, on October 4th, a U.S. District Court struck down the Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA. This is a potentially devastating development as Congress passed that Act in 1978 to end the then-still-common practice of breaking up Native families by removing Indian children for adoption into white families. Such acts of removal date back to the earliest days of white settlement and over the centuries included various kinds of servitude and the founding of residential boarding schools for Indian children that were aimed at eliminating Native languages, cultures, and identities, while promoting “assimilation.” Indian child removal continued into the late twentieth century through a federally sponsored “Indian Adoption Project,” as well as the sending of a remarkable number of such children into the foster care system.

According to the ICWA, “An alarmingly high percentage of Indian families are broken up by the removal, often unwarranted, of their children from them by nontribal public and private agencies and that an alarmingly high percentage of such children are placed in non-Indian foster and adoptive homes and institutions.” States, it added, “have often failed to recognize the essential tribal relations of Indian people and the cultural and social standards prevailing in Indian communities and families.” The Act gave tribes primary jurisdiction over all child custody issues including foster placements and the termination of parental rights, requiring for the first time that priority be placed on keeping Native children with their parents, kin, or at least within the tribe.

The ICWA said nothing about race or ancestry. Instead, it recognized “Indian” as a political status, while acknowledging semi-sovereign collective rights. It was based on the Constitution’s implicit acknowledgement of Indian sovereignty and land rights and the assignment to the Federal government of relations with Indian tribes. The District Court’s ICWA decision trampled on the collective political rights of Indian tribes by maintaining that the act discriminated against non-Native families in limiting their right to foster or adopt Native children. That rationale, like the rationale behindthe Mashpee decision, directly attacks the cultural and historical acknowledgement of Native sovereignty.

Superficially, the assault on Native voting rights may appear conceptually unrelated to the Mashpee and ICWA decisions. North Dakota is one of many primarily Republican-controlled states to take advantage of a 2013 Supreme Court ruling eliminating key protections of the Voting Rights Act to make registration and voting more difficult, especially for likely Democratic voters including the poor and people of color. After numerous challenges, a North Dakota law requiring prospective voters to provide a street address was finally upheld by a Supreme Court ruling in October 2018. The problem is this: thousands of rural Native Americans, on or off that state’s reservations, lack street addresses because their streets have no names, their homes no numbers. Native Americans are also disproportionately homeless.

In the North Dakota case, Native Americans are fighting for a right of American citizens — the right to vote — whereas the Mashpee and ICWA cases involve fights to defend Native sovereignty. The new voting law invoked equality and individual rights, even as it actually focused on restricting the rights of Native Americans. Underpinning such restrictions was a convenient denial by those Republicans that the country’s history had, in fact, created conditions that were decidedly unequal. (Thanks to a massive and expensive local effort to defend their right to vote, however, North Dakota’s Native Americans showed up in record numbers in the 2018 midterm election.)

These three political developments downplay Native American identity, sovereignty, and rights, while denying, implicitly or explicitly, that history created today’s realities of racial inequality. The use of DNA tests to claim “Native American” genes or blood trivializes this same history.

The recognition of tribal sovereignty at least acknowledges that the existence of the United States is predicated on its imposition of an unwanted, foreign political entity on Native lands. The concept of tribal sovereignty has given Native Americans a legal and collective basis for fighting for a different way of thinking about history, rights, and nationhood. Attempts to reduce Native American identity to a race that can be identified by a gene (or a genetic variation) do violence to our history and justify ongoing violations of Native rights.

Senator Elizabeth Warren had every right to set the record straight regarding false accusations about her employment history. She should, however, rethink the implications of letting either Donald Trump or the ancestry industry define what it means to be Native American.

Aviva Chomsky is professor of history and coordinator of Latin American studies at Salem State University in Massachusetts and a TomDispatch regular. Her most recent book is Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer’s new dystopian novel (the second in the Splinterlands series) Frostlands, Beverly Gologorsky’s novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt’s A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.

Copyright 2018 Aviva Chomsky


Denos

[a short story,   by Sha’Tara]

In the Imperium, all the way back to the “old planet” (Earth as some still call it) the Princedom, or Kingdom, or world, or planet, whichever happens to be the most convenient political handle of the times, of Denos is known for a single product: it’s agricultural output in terms of crops. Cereals grow on Denos as if the whole planet had been designed but for the purpose of growing them. Well, not too surprising as in many ways Denos resembles the Great Plains of the Americas of Earth, or the Steppes of the new Russian Empire. There are no mountains on Denos, just plains cut through by hungry rivers inhabiting deep canyons. The rivers feed large fresh water lakes which in turn feed massive cloud banks that endlessly circle the world and feed storms. There are no seas or salt deposits. Whatever salt is required for the health of Denos’ 1.5 million inhabitants has to be imported. All Denosians of necessity are vegans: there are no animals and no predators on the planet and what there is of insect life exists within the soils and takes care of its own balancing.

Why would people choose such a bleak world to establish a human civilization upon, one could well wonder. The obvious, of course, is that Delos did not pose any problem as there was no sentient life the first humans and their sensors could detect. The main point however was caused by the diaspora from the old planet. Overpopulation, despite Draconian laws to control births, led to other even more repressive forms of population control by the Hegemon, the global dictatorship under which all nations fell and to which all owed fealty. Gulags, prison camps, culling of undesirables and the encouragement of genocide had contributed to rebel forces of scientists, engineers, farmers, doctors and teachers to form underground associations and deep under the Ural mountains and some parts of the Rockies under what had been known as the state of Colorado, beyond the reach of the Hegemon police, laboratories and plants were built and from these came the first real manned space craft to shoot out beyond the solar system to discover new worlds where humanity could once again seek the freedom to express itself as it chose. As the Hegemon weakened and broke apart to become the Imperium, the diaspora was legitimized and hundreds of thousands of Earthians headed out into space. Thus one ship came upon Denos and the spacers discovered its potential. Permanent settlements were established.

It is winter now in the Western hemisphere. The plains, devoid of crops, stand out stark, grey and sere. Today a steady easterly wind blows through the stubble. In a field that stretches to beyond the horizon, sheltered by a massive combine being drained and serviced, to remain in the field until needed again for the next harvest, three men, or rather if one looks closer, a man, a woman and a youth who could be either male or female, are clustered by one of the giant back wheels of the machine. The man is smoking a kind of odd looking pipe; the woman and youth are sharing a meal packed in a bucket. Their break over, the three return to inspection, draining of fluids and cleaning of various parts of the combine. It seems obvious they are taking their task very seriously.

As they are intent upon their work a dark grey bank of clouds is rising from the north and spreading over the land. The sun disappears in the clouds and the youth calls out to the others, warning them, or asking them, about something. Both adults stretch themselves to stand looking upon the coming storm. The wind turns into a gale in a tween (the equivalent of 20 minutes on the old planet) and the three humans hunker down on the opposite side, using the big machine as temporary shelter. Their low-lying, mostly below ground shelter, or home, lies a good league away and they know there is no walking in this “norther”. It would pick them up and throw them about like ball weeds (imagine a tumbleweed, only three times the size) should they risk the open.

The howling of the wind over and around the combine becomes deafening. Dry lightning crackles, throwing lurid streaks of reddish glow over the flats, here and there igniting fires that flare, then die as fast as they are lit. Now one can understand why there are no trees either in Denos: the fierce winds would reduce any tree to kindling in minutes.

The woman yells over the noise, “What if it hits the fuel tanks, Jord?” The man shakes his head as if to say, don’t even think about it. In a lull from the violence and noise of the storm, the youth suggests they just ride the combine to their home and return it to the field once the storm is over.

“You know the law as does everyone, Keela. We are not permitted to use County resources for personal use. We cannot use the machine, not even if we had the mayor’s permission.”

“We will die here if we do nothing, dad… mom? I promise to drive the machine back to the field as soon as the wind dies down!”

They discuss the risks, which seem small, that they would be spotted with the machine. In a moment they are aboard and driving to their home as the storm redoubles its strength as if intent on blowing the combine over.

Sometimes in the early morning the storm finally dies down. Keela dresses and goes outside to drive the monster back to the field only to encounter five members of the local Guardia, two inspecting the machine and three coming towards her and the house. Keela’s fear causes her to fall to the ground to be picked up, manacled and thrown in the back of another machine. Soon she is joined by both her mother and father.

There is a trial, of course, let it not be said that these people have no understanding of justice, or that they do not have a proper system to administer such. Images are shown of the combine dwarfing the abode of the Tanners. They are read the law, at which point Mrs. Tanner begs for her daughter to be spared. “She had nothing to do with this, it was Jord and I who made the decision to use the machine to save our lives, please!”

The presiding “judge” sneers as he turns to the three member “jury” and says, “The evidence shows otherwise. The youth was observed and arrested as she went to the machine, thus she is as culpable of theft as her parents. Our guilty verdict applies to all three.”

“God, no! She is only fourteen. Have some mercy!”

“Sentence for theft of County equipment and resources: death by firing squad, to be carried out immediately. This hearing is closed.”

So, under a bright and calm day, near the flag pole where a red and black flag proclaiming a free Denos moves languidly, the three are executed and their bodies hung on poles as a warning to others. They will hang there until the winds of Free Denos tear off their flesh and scatters their bones to disappear in the soil.

By decree, the Tanners’ home and significant properties will be added to the County’s growing number of lands reclaimed from “criminals.” There are no prisons, on Denos.

 

The following is copied from a page on CounterPunch (Copyright © CounterPunch
All rights reserved. counterpunch@counterpunch.org

After the “victory” of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, and the “settlement” of the civil war in El Salvador, and due to other pressing situations, our support group here in Chilliwack, B.C., Canada, called “The Central America Friendship Committee” was disbanded with a huge sigh of relief. Little did we know that the whole “settlement” thing was, as usual, a two-faced negotiation on the part of Washington and the CIA. Unless they are clearly beaten, as in Vietnam, it doesn’t end, it escalates. Nothing was “settled” and things are not only continuing, but getting worse. As you read the following, if you read the following, note the names of the American presidents who presided over the massacres, tortures and killings of children in Central America. Then in the “killing fields” of refugee seekers in the deserts north of the Mexican border. Then take a few moments to ponder why “Nut’n’Yahoo’s” Zionists can slaughter Palestinian children with such impunity. Washington has always been, remains, and will continue to be the face of racism and genocide worldwide until it is destroyed, or it collapses from its own internal corruption. Those who still believe there is a fix are sadly deluded or they haven’t taken a serious look at the latest presidential face stamped on the latest genocides.

Sha’Tara, July 10, 2018
__________________________________________________________________________________________
July 10, 2018

The Discovery of Central American Suffering

by Nick Alexandrov

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U.S. pundits and politicians just discovered, it seems, that Washington’s decisions harm Central American families. For the New York Times, “separating families…is something new and malicious,” reflecting Trump’s “heartlessness” and violating “fundamental American values.” “This, apparently, is how you turn off the idea of America,” Alex Wagner (The Atlantic) added. The Los Angeles Times thinks “the administration’s cold-hearted approach to enforcement has crossed the line into abject inhumanity,” departing– so we’re to believe– from past practice.

These are half-accurate charges: Trump’s policy is malicious, heartless, cold-hearted. But it isn’t new. Both in Central America and along its Mexican border, Washington has helped rip apart families for decades, forcing children to endure a world without their parents, mothers to cope with their children’s sickening ends. Abject inhumanity, in other words, is a U.S. foreign policy hallmark.

Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras– review their histories. You’ll be crushed by evidence revealing which values shape Washington’s conduct, which norms govern its behavior in a region where it enjoys immense influence. And you’ll begin to understand why many had to flee these countries. Start with Guatemala. Ríos Montt, the dictator the U.S. funded, armed, and encouraged, oversaw the Mayan genocide there. In one episode, on April 3, 1982, the Guatemalan army overran the village of Chel, slaughtering its residents and orphaning Pedro Pacheco Bop, whose great-grandfather, parents, and five siblings (aged two to 14) were all murdered, their blood draining into the Chel River where the troops hurled the dead. Tomas Chávez Brito was two years old when the army fell upon his village, Sajsibán, seven months later, torching his home with his mother, sisters, and other family members inside. In the mountains, where Tomas hid for the following year eating plants to survive, one can only imagine how the idea of orphanhood, his new reality, settled in his mind. Margarita Rivera Ceto de Guzmán’s family separation was quicker. Soldiers knifed her in the stomach, killing her unborn child.

Egla Martínez Salazar, addressing this genocide, explains that assaults on Maya households conveyed “the message that Mayas did not live in ‘real’ families, but rather in ‘living arrangements’ that constituted breeding spaces for ‘international communist indoctrination.’” Erasing these spaces required “the mass murder of children,” plus “the forced transfer of surviving Maya children to military and paramilitary families,” tactics Salvadoran forces also adopted in the 1980s. Apart from killing most of the 75,000 slain there from 1980-1992– the stretch when Carter, Reagan, and Bush I funneled $6 billion into the country– “soldiers [also] abducted children in what an international court says was a ‘systematic pattern of forced disappearances.’”

Similar violence-patterns afflicted Nicaragua and Honduras. The Contras flaunted their family-destroying talents in the former, as when some 1,000 of them, on April 3, 1984, assaulted the village of Waslala. A father there, desperate to save his wife and children, sheltered with them in a ditch. The Contras found him, hauled him out. He was “tortured by having his fingertips and then his right hand cut off, and then killed with bayonets,” and then decapitated, Reed Brody recounts. As a final gesture to their mission’s purity, the Contras, into the dead man’s back, cut intersecting gashes– the shape of the cross. Brody tells another story: in “El Achote a band of contras dragged an agrarian reform worker from his home, and in front of his wife, 11 month old son, and three year old son, cut him into pieces with their bayonets. The man’s wife was then shot, but she lived to watch them behead her 11 month old baby.”

It was Battalion 316 that targeted Honduran families. The Baltimore Sun reported that the unit, “trained and supported by the Central Intelligence Agency,” “kidnapped, tortured and killed” hundreds in the 1980s. One example: Nelson Mackay Chavarría “was 37 years old and the father of five” when the Battalion found him. When searchers later discovered his corpse, “his hands and feet were tied with rope” and “black liquid spilled from his mouth”– criolina, “rubbed on cattle to kill ticks and mites.”

In more recent decades, the U.S. government has forged the Mexican border into a family-wrecking zone. President Clinton’s Operation Gatekeeper, for instance, “only made it harder for people to cross the border at relatively safe places and forced them to cross in more dangerous places, such as the Arizona desert,” writes Carolina Bank Muñoz. She stresses that “the policy broke up families, as few families were willing to take such risks by crossing a dangerous border together.” Maggie Morgan and Deborah Anker, citing ACLU work, note that “the risk of dying while crossing in Arizona was 17 times greater in 2009 than only a decade earlier”– and that “the mortality rate almost doubled” from 2009-2012, on Obama’s watch, “with children constituting roughly 10 per cent of fatalities each year.” Todd Miller estimates these “Southwest ‘killing fields’” have taken some 21,000 lives since the early 1990s.

There’s no question Trump’s migrant policies warrant outrage. But his are only the latest from Washington rattling– if not terminating– Central American lives. If we delude ourselves, if we choose to believe his actions depart from some moral norm, we risk satisfaction with superficial policy shifts. A deeper overhaul is needed to ensure Central American suffering ceases.

More articles by:Nick Alexandrov

Nick Alexandrov lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  He can be reached at: nicholas.alexandrov@gmail.com

America, what is going on?

I “apologize” to those who follow this blog for periodically “going political” on you but some things need be shown and said. There is a growing problem in America today, and as a Canadian living within a few miles of the longest “friendly” and undefended border on earth, what happens in America concerns me. It should concern the entire world but many are those who, like the German people in the 1930’s simply choose not to believe what is right before their eyes.  Our problem today is, as America increasingly goes rogue and out of control, do we really want Russia and China to be our “Allied” saviours? Wouldn’t that be jumping from the frying pan into the fire? Food for thought as you read the following. I post the entire blog, there is no “re-blog” on Tom Dispatch, but all the links are there.  I’ve also left the bottom of the blog post advertising the books and all that.

If you care or are concerned, take a few minutes to read, then a few more to ponder the consequences.  We’re not in a good place right now.  I’m 71 years old, so I’m not concerned about myself, but what about the children? What about their future? Where will the spend that time between “now” and eternity?

Tomgram: Nate Terani, Being Demonized in Your Own Country

Who could possibly keep up with the discordant version of musical chairs now being played out in Washington? When it comes to Donald Trump’s White House, the old sports phrase about needing a scorecard to keep track of the players pops to mind (though you would need a new one every day or maybe every few hours). The turnover rate of top White House staffers was already at 43%, a record for any administration in little more than its first year in office, before the latest round of exits even began.

Recently, the president nominated Gina Haspel (“Bloody Gina”) to head the CIA.  She had, in fact, been responsible for running one of the Bush administration’s earliest and most brutal “black sites” and had a significant hand as well in destroying evidence of what CIA torturers had done there and elsewhere. Meanwhile, he tapped the Agency’s previous director, Mike Pompeo, a notorious Tea Party Islamophobe and Iranophobe, to replace Twitter-fired Rex Tillerson as secretary of state. Now, another key post is evidently about to be up for grabs. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster is reportedly almost out the door as the president openly considers a replacement for him, possibly former Bush-era ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton. He’s another major Iranophobe, who has called for launching military operations against that country for years. Like the recent replacement of economic adviser Gary Cohn by conservative CNBC commentator Larry Kudlow, all of the president’s new appointments or possible ones seem to have something in common: each is to the right of and significantly more extreme than the person he or she is replacing. Whether it’s the tearing up of the Iran nuclear deal and a possible future war with that country or yet more plutocratic economic policies, Donald Trump now seems intent on creating an ever more extreme administration.

In the context of that growing extremity, including the potential return of torture, the possible refilling of Guantanamo with new prisoners, the intensification of war across the Greater Middle East with a new focus on Iran, and the entrenchment of particularly extreme forms of Islamophobia, let U.S. Navy veteran Nate Terani take you into his own personal hell as a Muslim-American. It’s a hell that remains largely private at the moment, but for how long? Tom

Donald Trump’s America
Already Hell Enough for This Muslim-American
By Nate Terani

Understand this: I’m an American veteran. I’m also a Muslim-American in a country in which, in these years, that hasn’t exactly been the happiest category to fall into. Now, let me tell you a little story.

Recently, I had an ominous dream. It was noon on a grey, cold January 20th, 2020, and Donald Trump was being sworn in for his second term as president. Massive inaugural crowds cheered him exuberantly as a gentle snow fell upon a sea of MAGA red-hats and TRUMP banners waving in front of the Capitol.

In my dream, however, the Capitol wasn’t quite the same as I remembered it from my days stationed there as a young Navy sailor. It seemed almost war-torn as clouds of dark smoke billowed up on the horizon and the sound of gunfire could be heard somewhere in the distance. In my dream — don’t ask me how — I could also hear the terror-filled voices of people screaming or crying out for help as ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents, clad in black uniforms, stormed local Washington homes and businesses, arresting people and loading them onto large unmarked cargo trucks.

Meanwhile, those inaugural crowds — I have no idea if they were the largest in the history of dreams — were flanked by military Humvees as heavily armed soldiers in unfamiliar camouflage uniforms stood behind the president while he delivered his second inaugural address. I could even hear his words eerily reverberating through the Capitol. “The enemy,” he exclaimed, “has infiltrated our great nation because of weak immigration laws allowed by treasonous politicians!”

At that very moment, he told the exuberant crowd, he was already singlehandedly purging “those terrorists and their enablers from our ranks.” The MAGA banners waved ever more frantically and the crowd roared as he declared, “Law and order are now being restored to our great nation once again!”

I awoke in a cold sweat. Unlike the sort of nightmare I’d normally shake off as a fantasy of slumber, the result perhaps of that late night dose of Ben and Jerry’s I had meant to resist, this one stuck with me and, I’m sorry to say, recurred.

American Fear-scapes

Worse yet, these days I no longer have to drop into some deep, unnerving dream state to experience it. Though few of us are likely to admit it, some version of that dream of mine is, in fact, the secret daily nightmare of millions of my fellow Muslim-Americans. In a moment, when immigrants in this country live in a fear-scape all their own, believe me, so do we. In our living nightmare, an administration that can seem not just ineffective but hapless beyond imagining, plagued by scandal, and stocked with staff members heading for the exits (or being escorted off White House grounds) might nonetheless transform itself into something even more deeply threatening to Americans like us. It might sooner or later consolidate power and, eager to distract the public from its actual plutocratic and other grim policies, turn on us “bigly.” Without dropping into another dream state, I can easily enough imagine how, with the tacit endorsement of Trump’s base, that administration might prepare itself to use a future devastating terror attack, the next Orlando or San Bernardino, to skewer American Muslims or the immigrant community and so pave the way for a true living nightmare.

Such a crisis could take many forms, but imagine, for instance, a “dirty bomb” attack (the use of conventional explosives to spread radioactive nuclear waste materials across a wide area of some urban neighborhood). Just such an attack has certainly been a focus of concern in the U.S. intelligence community for years now. In fact, in 1999, while on active duty as a new member of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the first interagency briefing I attended at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, focused on that very issue.

Should that happen or anything like it, it’s easy enough to imagine how the Trump administration might use it to enhance its own power at our expense. With the public cowering in fear, martial law might be declared. Meanwhile, a Congress that, in the face of the imperial presidency, has already abdicated its constitutional duty to declare war, might grant Donald Trump far greater authority than he already possesses, thanks to the unprecedented post-9/11 powers any president now wields — and the American people (or enough of them, at least) would “rally ’round the chief.”

And then, or so I imagine (and, at least among American Muslims I know, I’m not alone in this), so much worse would begin to unfold and my recurring nightmare would become a nightmarish reality. In the aftermath of such an attack, so much in our world, from the Women’s March to Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, would become distant and forgotten memories. Dissent would be denounced as unpatriotic, perhaps ultimately illegal, and basic human rights might be suspended.

By now, I’m sure you see where I’m going. In my nightmare at least — and I’m talking about the waking one now, the one I live with every day — countless immigrants and American Muslims are in camps awaiting who knows what. It’s not as if there is no precedent for anything like that in America, given the experience of Japanese-Americans rounded up and kept in just such camps during World War II.

In this moment of growing Islamophobia, at a time when a president has a desire to simply ban foreign Muslims and cast American ones as the worst of the worst, it’s just one more step into my fears of the future for me to imagine myself, an American veteran, as well as my family and other members of the Muslim community, sitting inside darkened train cars on our way to internment camps, while we desperately try to convince ourselves that surely the Supreme Court will overturn such an injustice.

And given our world, given the history of racism in this country, it’s not that hard to imagine scores of broken men, women, and children already at our destination as we hurtle down the tracks to join them. Nor is it that hard to imagine the Trump administration dismissing those who protest such treatment as disloyal co-conspirators, and then using militarized police raiders to hunt some of them down, too. I can even imagine mosques being set ablaze and synagogues and churches that attempted to protect citizens fleeing all of this being raided at the government’s orders.

Heading for a Dark Destination

In some dark corner of my mind, given what we know about what we human beings are capable of, I can almost imagine some kind of Muslim-American version of the Holocaust, the ultimate nightmare that immigrants and Muslim-Americans have dreaded since Donald Trump’s election victory in November 2016, but dare not whisper. There’s nothing sadder to say than that such fears do not completely lack historical precedent: the world has, of course, been here before.

If the fate of the millions who perished during World War II, thanks to Adolf Hitler and his minions, doesn’t seem real enough to you, just pay a visit to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. There, you can witness the haunting images of our human brethren who, by virtue of their faith or background, were destroyed, some by their own countrymen.

Now, I know perfectly well that those of you who aren’t Muslim-Americans are likely to find such fantasies at best extreme; at worst, beyond conception. The reason isn’t hard to imagine, because of course Donald Trump isn’t Adolf Hitler; White House adviser Stephen Miller isn’t Joseph Goebbels; White House Chief of Staff John Kelly isn’t Hermann Göring; and former CIA Director and next Secretary of State Mike Pompeo isn’t Heinrich Himmler.  Yes — but Pompeo, a major Islamophobe in an administration filled with them, has insisted that all Muslims are potentially complicit in terrorism and that “people who deeply believe that Islam is the way” are a “threat to America.”  He has also received the “National Security Eagle Award” from a noted anti-Muslim hate group, ACT for America, and has been interviewed more than 20 times by Frank Gaffney, “the country’s most influential Islamophobe,” on his radio show.  And when it comes to Islamophobia (and Iranophobia as well), in this administration Pompeo is hardly alone.

Still, not even bans, insults, and a visible loathing for those of us who don’t look like and pray like the president and his men, not even torchlight parades by Trump-supporting American neo-Nazis, get you easily to anything like an American Holocaust.  But know, when you read this, that there are those of us out here who, in the dark of night, are indeed haunted by such thoughts anyway and by thoughts as well of those in the 1930s who dismissed the fears of the worst to come as so much hyperbole.

Speaking just for myself, I can’t help but believe that, in our 241-year history that includes a bitter civil war, two world wars, and the Great Depression, this could turn out to be the most crucial moment of all. I can’t help but wonder, at least in my bleaker moments, whether there will be any coming back from the dark destination, whatever it turns out to be, that we, as a nation, now seem headed for. And if not, just remember that no one will be able to say that we didn’t know what we were doing, that there were no warnings as people like me were demonized in our own country.

Whatever hell might still come, for this veteran at least, Donald Trump’s America is already hell enough.

Nate Terani is a veteran of the U.S. Navy and served in military intelligence with the Defense Intelligence Agency. He is currently a spokesperson for Common Defense PAC and regional campaign organizer with Veterans Challenge Islamophobia. He is a featured columnist with the Arizona Muslim Voice newspaper. This is his second TomDispatch piece.  Follow him on Twitter at @NateTerani.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power, as well as John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II, 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 2018 Nate Terani

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Send in the Clowns

 

In the midst of the other stuff, like writing rants, poems and a novel (thoroughly enjoying that part) I’ve also been reading many, many blogs and gaining more insight along the way.

This write is, first of all, a thank you to those of you who post that great stuff on your blogs and often also take the time to comment here.

While I’m at it, a sincere thank you for the many “Likes” and the re-blogs. There’s a feel good about getting those, kind of like a hug, or a kiss!

Now then, to some of those blogs I read. There are still quite a few that express, rightfully so, some great and deep concerns about Donald Trump as the president of the United States.

Very briefly, using that insight I mentioned, here’s how I currently see Mr. Trump.

For those of you old enough to have seen a real circus, some of those acts involved a trainer working with lions or other dangerous man-eating predators. It has happened that these predators, for whatever reason, revert to their natural proclivity to eat a human, and turn upon their trainer.

In the wings are clowns, trained to jump into the caged arena, to distract, disrupt, confuse the attacking lion, or lions. That’s where the expression, “Send in the clowns” comes from, not from “Barbra” Streisand’s song.

I see “The Donald” as the clown. He wasn’t actually supposed to get to centre stage, that spot had been earmarked for Hillary Clinton but somehow she blew it and the Clown was sent in.

The problem is that he was never meant to be anything else but a clown. He wasn’t trainer material. He didn’t have the body moves; he didn’t have the language; he didn’t even know the difference between a whip and a tweet. He wasn’t actually good at anything at all except being annoying and brutish. But he liked the idea of being centre stage and instead of blushing all over, apologizing and quickly making an exit stage left, he decided to go on with the show.

Sad, really.

Here are a couple of links to YouTube videos that go a long way to explain what’s currently going on, not just in Washington, but in Canada and in the world; describing in some clear details why things are as they are.

The first, 50 minutes long, is our own Paul Hellyer, once Canadian minister of defence.

The second, a bit long at 2 hours, is Dr. Steven Greer.

If you can take the time, these two “speeches” are worth their weight of wisdom to listen to. Conveniently for those hard of hearing both have reasonably good closed captions.

Paul Hellyer speaks on 9/11, the banking cartel, global warming and Roswell – 50 minutes

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=833&v=YmkTuH8nxG4

Dr. Steven Greer speaks on the Deep Deep State and explains why our democracies are in a shambles today.  – 2 hours.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NpkckISywA