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How the US Creates ‘Sh*thole’ Countries

In two years, the world has become accustomed to being shocked by the words and actions of United States President Donald Trump. In January of this year, he again showed his lack of diplomacy, tack and common decency, when he referred to many poorer countries as “sh*ithole countries”, asking, “Why do we want all these people from sh*thole countries coming here?” Former member of the House of Representatives Cynthia McKinney, in the new book she has edited, How the US Creates ‘Sh*thole’ Countries, (Clarity Press) has gathered a collection of essays, including one of her own, that clearly shows that it is the U.S. that is largely responsible for the poverty and suffering in these very nations.

McKinney

The first series of essays describes U.S. foreign policy, and its true motives. In the essay, The End of Washington’s ‘Wars on the Cheap’, The Saker sums up U.S. foreign policy as follows: “Here’s the template for typical Empire action: find some weak country, subvert it, accuse it of human right violations, slap economic sanctions, trigger riots and intervene militarily in ‘defense’ of ‘democracy’, ‘freedom’ and ‘self-determination’ (or some other combo of equally pious and meaningless concepts).” The hypocrisy of such a policy is obvious. A weak and vulnerable nation is victimized by a far more powerful one. The U.S. has done this countless times in its history, and there appears to be no appetite in the government to change.

This introduction and explanation of U.S. foreign policy is followed by essays on some, but certainly not all, of the countries that have been victimized by the United States, usually following this template. As McKinney says in her essay, Somalia: Is Somalia the U.S. Template for All of Africa, “…while mouthing freedom, democracy, and liberty, the United States has denied these very aspirations to others, especially when it inconvenienced the US or its allies. In Mozambique and Angola, the US stood with Portugal until it was the Portuguese people, themselves, who threw off their government and voted in a socialist government that vowed to free Portugal of its colonies.”

In the essay, How the U.S. Perpetuates the Palestinian Tragedy’, Sami Al-Arian writes:

It might be understandable, if detestable, for Israel and its Zionist defenders to circulate false characterizations of history and myths to advance their political agenda. But it is incomprehensible, indeed reprehensible, for those who claim to advocate the rule of law, believe in the principle of self-determination, and call for freedom and justice to fall for this propaganda or to become its willing accomplices. In following much of American political leaders’ rhetoric or media coverage of the conflict, one is struck by the lack of historical context, the deliberate disregard of empirical facts, and the contempt for established legal constructs and precedents.”

The U.S. leads in these distortions, with its officials proclaiming, each time that Israel bombs Gaza, that “Israel has a right to defend itself”. There is hardly mention of the brutal, illegal occupation and blockade; never a discussion of the fact that Palestine has no army, navy or air force, and Israel’s military is one of the world’s most powerful thanks to the U.S. It is never stated that international law allows an occupied people to resist the occupation in any way possible, including armed struggle. The countless United Nations resolutions condemning Israeli actions in Palestine are ignored by U.S. officials.

Once again, U.S. hypocrisy is on very public display.

The third section of this informative book describes the United States’ mostly-successful efforts to camouflage its vile intentions and international crimes. Christopher Black, in his essay Western Imperialism and the Use of Propaganda”, clearly articulates how this is done:

The primary concern they [U.S. government officials] have, in order to preserve their control, is for the preservation of the new feudal mythology that they have created: that the world is a dangerous place, that they are the protectors, that the danger is omnipresent, eternal, and omnidirectional, comes from without, and comes from within. The mythology is constructed and presented through all media; journals, films, television, radio, music, advertising, books, the internet in all its variety. All available information systems are used to create and maintain scenarios and dramas to convince the people that they, the protectors, are the good and all others are the bad. We are bombarded with this message incessantly.”

Our memories are short, indeed, if we have forgotten both President George W. Bush and his Secretary of State, Colin Powell, telling the world from the United Nations the blatant lie that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, threatening civilization. We are not paying attention if we are unaware of the many innuendos given of the ‘dangers’ of all Muslims. Yes, the government fosters fear, proclaiming subtly and not so subtly that there is danger everywhere, and it is the role of the mighty United States to protect the world, whether or not such protection is wanted or needed.

Lastly, the U.S. Itself can be described as a ‘sh*thole’ country. Its many violations of international law, and crimes against humanity, are summarized by Richard Falk, in his essay The Sh*thole Phenomenon at Home and Abroad:

This kind of nationalist pride covered up and blindsided crimes of the greatest severity that were being committed from the time of the earliest settlements: genocide against native Americans, reliance on the barbarism of slavery to facilitate profitable cotton production and the supposedly genteel life style of the Southern plantations. This unflattering national picture should be enlarged to include the exploitation of the resources and good will of peoples throughout Latin America, who, once freed from Spanish colonial rule, quickly found themselves victimized by American gunboat diplomacy that paved the way for American investors or joined in crushing those bold and brave enough to engage in national resistance against the abuse of their homelands.”

The final essay is the Report of the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights on his Mission to the United States of America, authored by Philip Alston. While Trump decries “sh*thole” countries, the conditions that the U.S. put those countries in are not unknown in the U.S. A few facts from Alston’s report will suffice:

  • The U.S.’s “…immense wealth and expertise stand in shocking contrast with the conditions in which vast numbers of its citizens live. About 40 million live in poverty, 18.5 million in extreme poverty, and 5.3 million live in Third World conditions of absolute poverty. It has the highest youth poverty rate in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the highest infant mortality rates among comparable OECD States. Its citizens live shorter and sicker lives compared to those living in all other rich democracies, eradicable tropical diseases are increasingly prevalent, and it has the world’s highest incarceration rate, one of the lowest levels of voter registrations in among OECD countries and the highest obesity levels in the developed world.”
  • The United States has the highest rate of income inequality among Western countries. The $1.5 trillion in tax cuts in December 2017 overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy and worsened inequality.”
  • For almost five decades the overall policy response has been neglectful at best, but the policies pursued over the past year seem deliberately designed to remove basic protections from the poorest, punish those who are not in employment and make even basic health care into a privilege to be earned rather than a right of citizenship.”

The information in these essays is all rigorously documented with extensive footnotes. The writing is clear and the facts are presented in a concise manner that is highly beneficial for the average reader or academic.

For anyone who questions U.S. policies, at home or abroad, and who has perhaps become more aware of such issues since Trump’s election,

How the US Creates ‘Sh*thole’ Countries is an indispensable read.

Originally published by Consortium News.

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Democrats and the Mid-Term Elections

Well, the mid-term elections are over, but the fallout from them, the constant verbal diarrhea from newscasters, pundits and other self-proclaimed experts, continues.

And what are they saying? For many of them on whatever passes for ‘leftist’ in the U.S. today (there is really no such thing in the two major parties or the so-called ‘mainstream’ news media), the glee is overwhelming. Democrats won control of the House and now, finally, we are told, much needed brakes will be applied to the speeding Donald Trump train wreck-in-the-making.

Ho hum. Is there really any cause for thinking people in the U.S., or anywhere in the world, for that matter, to suddenly think that the U.S. has begun to climb out of its long decline? Does any reasonable person actually think that Democrats controlling the House of Representatives will change anything?

Let’s look at some things that should change.

* War: the U.S. should stop bombing every nation it is now bombing; it should stop supporting Israel’s genocide of the Palestinian people, and Saudi Arabia’s genocide of the Yemeni people. It should immediately withdraw from Afghanistan.

Is this going to happen, now that the Democrats control one house of Congress? Will any of them even speak about these issues? Why do that, when doing so might annoy powerful lobby groups?  Such actions would require knowledge, compassion, an understanding of history, a commitment to the people who they purport to represent. Does any of this sound like the characteristics of U.S. politicians? Hardly!

* Environment: With Trump having no problems whatsoever with polluted water and air, and allowing mining and logging to take place in national parks, it would seem that the Democrats could take aim at these issues. After all, it is their children who must breath this air and drink this water. Oh wait, in the exclusive enclaves in which the members of the oligarch reside, such mundane issues are of no concern. They don’t live near factories, spewing their poisons into the air. The water that they drink, and that fills their swimming pools, is always from the most pristine of sources. So what if their constituents don’t have these same advantages? They simply need to work harder, and then they, too, will be able to join the 1%. Of course, how one is going to work harder than some people in the middle- and poverty-classes currently work, with multiple jobs just to make ends meet, is never quite explained.

* International agreements. Trump has proudly disgraced the United States, and proven again (if any additional proof was necessary) that agreements entered into by the U.S. are meaningless. The Paris Climate Accord was the first that Trump violated. He followed that up with pulling out of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), and by reissuing sanctions against Iran, despite the fact that the entire international community recognizes that Iran has fully complied with the agreement. Even Saudi Arabia and Apartheid Israel, the only two countries on the planet that praised Trump’s decision, don’t deny that Iran is compliant. Perhaps the newly-empowered Democrats in the House might start by demanding that Trump honor this commitment. But no, Iran is the current bugaboo, so that isn’t going to happen, either. Please feel free to review the information stated above about knowledge and an understanding of history, and consider again how these traits are lacking in Congress.

* Taxes. During the first two years of Trumps increasingly disastrous administration, the U.S.’s upper crust, the members of the 1%, which includes the president himself, his wealthy supporters and most of the members of Congress, received a very generous tax cut. Prior to the mid-term elections, there was talk coming from the White House that such a cut for what’s left of the middle-class would be introduced ‘soon’. Of course, ‘soon’ is a relative word, which could mean anything from tomorrow to when hell freezes over. In this context, the latter meaning is the one we can all use.

Will the Democrats tackle this issue? Will they throw a bone to the people who actually vote for them? No, we must be very careful not to do anything that might cause the wealthy to feel some economic pinch; better to let the middle-class carry the burden. Once they are able to make huge donations to the campaign coffers of their own (or others; it hardly matters to whom the money goes, as long as some politician gets it), then, perhaps, they will receive some tax relief.

We must now ask: with the Democrats soon to control the House of Representatives, what, exactly, will they do? Well, they have made their plans clear. They will demand that Trump release his tax returns, something that weighs heavily, this writer is sure, on the minds of people attempting to make ends meet. They will investigate whether or not Trump broke the law by paying hush money to his erstwhile mistress, Stormy Daniels (among others). No doubt citizens across the U.S. have been busy writing their elected officials (this writer absolutely refuses to call them representatives), demanding to know the answer to this question, and telling them that, while they try not to go bankrupt paying for college education, their number one priority, the issue that Congress must tackle, before addressing the crumbling infrastructure, low-performing school, the opioid epidemic, or crippling taxes, is to determine where the funding came for Trump to silence that particular woman.

The election of Donald Trump to the presidency pushed the U.S. through some strange portal, where the bizarre becomes the mundane, truth is fiction and the reality you see before you is denied. The country had long since been hovering at that portal, but Trump dove through it, taking Congress with him. A willing Democratic Party closed its eyes and took the plunge, too.

Within just a few short months, we must all endure the announcements of various Democrats that they have decided to take their level of ‘service’ to the nation to the next level, and seek the presidency in 2020. These dynamic agents of change (?) include former Vice President Joe Biden, an elderly white man who inspires absolutely no one, and none other than Hillary Clinton, she of the long and sullied resume and sufficient baggage to sink a freighter. Various other names are bandied about, and all of them are cut from the same mold: barely different from the Republicans, perhaps a tad PEP (Progressive Except for Palestine), but mostly male and entirely white.

And why should it be different? Those potential candidates live very well in their ivory towers, and the system is rigged so none of the little people can ever even dream of affording a political campaign.

And so the pattern continues: lots of talk, no action, and increasing suffering at home and abroad. Welcome to the ‘land of the free and the home of the brave’.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Candidates, Palestine and Pro-Israel Lobby Money

It is not unusual for this writer to receive solicitations for campaign contributions from Democratic candidates across the country. The fact that he lives in Canada, and is registered in Florida (his last U.S. place of residence), is of no concern to candidates with their hands out. When receiving such emails, or when hearing about other ‘progressive’ candidates, he checks online to learn if they are truly progressive, or are PEP  – Progressive Except for Palestine.

One such candidate, House member Krysten Sinema, was recently elected to represent Arizona in the Senate. In researching her background, this writer found a ‘position paper’ from 2009 that parrots many of the statements he’s heard from other PEP officials. We will look at a few of them in detail. While this ‘position paper’ is several years old, the candidate has worked hard since then to hone her racist, Zionist credentials.

As we look at these statements, let’s keep in the back of our minds that fact that, during the 2017 – 2018 elections cycle, Sinema received $233,667.00 in donations from pro-Israel lobbies. In the two years prior, her take was  a ‘mere’ $61,725.00.

  • “The United States and Israel have been allies for more than 60 years, and this relationship, born of common values, must continue to be strong. Our friendship is rooted in our mutual respect for democratic values, human rights and religious freedom.”

It is a marvel that any thinking person can speak these words, let alone believe them. Democracy, unlike what the U.S. government officials would have us all believe, is far more than periodic voting. But even by that superficial litmus test, both countries fail. In both Israel and the U.S., voter suppression works to maintain the status quo. In both countries, there is one ethnic group that is favored and privileged above all others. In the U.S., it is whites of European descent. In Israel, it is Zionist Jews. In the U.S., people of African descent are more likely to receive harsher prison sentences for the same crimes committed by their white peers; they are far more likely to be shot by white police officers. In Israel, people of Arab or African descent are brutally treated. Palestinians can be arrested without charge and held indefinitely with no access to lawyers, or even family. And like the U.S., in Israel, Palestinians or people of African descent receive far more severe penalties for crimes than their Jewish counterparts.

Israel is continually criticized by the international community for its human rights violations against Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The U.S. vetoes nearly all United Nations resolutions critical of Israel, while it finances its crimes.

The U.S. also supports Saudi Arabia, despite its atrocious human rights record.

Additionally, the U.S. tortures political prisoners at Guantanamo, and in ‘rendition’ sites around the world.

In the U.S., the favored religious status is Christian or Jewish; Muslims need not apply. Mosques surrounded by armed protesters during religious services barely register with the citizenry. One can only imagine how much blood would flow should armed Muslims ever surround a church or synagogue during worship services, and all of it would be from Muslim bodies.

Based on all this, Sinema may be right in saying the nations have shared values.

  • “While I had read about the conflict between Israel and Hamas, it was only in Sderot that I saw first hand the danger in which many Israelis live each day. I will never forget the bomb shelter that was built at the site of a children’s playground after children had been killed by Hamas rockets.”

Is Sinema totally unaware of the danger in which all Palestinians live each day? Is she unaware of the brutality of checkpoints in the West Bank, and the blockade of the Gaza Strip? Is she completely ignorant of the brutal harassment that occurs on a daily basis at the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem? Is she blind to home demolitions, arrests without cause, assaults on and murders of unarmed men, women and children by IDF soldiers and illegal settlers? Does she not  know that since 2000, while 1,242 Israelis have been killed in conflicts with Palestinians, at least 9,510 Palestinians have been killed? Does she not know that this number includes 134 Israeli children and 2,167 Palestinian children? If she doesn’t know, she is too uninformed to be part of the U.S. Congress. If she does know, her racism makes her unfit for government ‘service’.

  • “I believe that Israel has the right to defend herself from her neighbors and from terrorist organizations.” One wonders if the illustrious Sinema also believes that a rapist has the right to defend himself when the woman he is raping fights back. The logic is the same in both situations. Israel brutally occupies Palestine, and according to international law, Palestine has the right to resist the occupation in any way possible. Israel doesn’t ‘defend’ itself from Palestine; it simply increases the brutality of the occupation.
  • “I also believe that the best path to long-term peace for Israel is a two-state solution – one a secure Jewish state of Israel and the other, an independent, demilitarized Palestine.”

Does she not believe in a secure Palestinian state? And why, oh why, would any country, especially one adjacent to a nation that has spent seventy years trying to destroy it, be ‘demilitarized’? Does not Palestine have a right to defend itself from its neighbors and from terrorist organizations, such as the IDF?

  • “…lasting peace will only emerge from direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians themselves.” No, Ms. Sinema, this is not how “lasting peace” will emerge. If Israel is forced by the international community to adhere to international law, there will be peace. This means retreating to the pre-1967 borders, and ending the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

We will take a moment to state, once again, that negotiations can only be successful when each party wants something the other has, that can only be obtained by surrendering something it has. Israel takes whatever it wants from Palestine with complete impunity. Why wouldn’t Israel say it’s willing to negotiate? It can ‘negotiate’ all it wants while it simply steals land from Palestine.

Sinema’s statement goes on, but time, along with this writer’s ability to read such garbage, are both limited. But it is clear that Sinema is reading a script from her pro-Israel owners.

She is certainly not the only one. While she ranks fourth in donations from pro-Israel lobbies during the 2017 – 2018 campaign season, Texas’s own PEP candidate, Beta O’Rourke, ranks number one, with a whopping $390,982.00.

There is a great hue and cry among the self-righteous Congressional hypocrites on both sides of the aisle that Russia, perhaps, attempted to influence the 2016 presidential election. Yet when pro-Israel lobbies spend millions and millions of dollars to elect candidates who will work for Israel’s best interest, these same people are silent. Prior to the 2016 Democratic convention, true progressives (the few that remain in the Democratic Party) attempted to remove the provision that the Democrats recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. In its most un-Democratic way, the Party kept this provision, thus pleasing its Israeli owners.

Until any major party becomes truly progressive, this writer’s donations and votes will go to third-party candidates who believe in human rights and international law. He expects to be donating to, and voting for, third-party candidates for a long time to come.

Originally published by The Palestine News Network.

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The Hypocrisy of the United States, Cuba Edition

One can only marvel at the blatant, outrageous hypocrisy of the United States. This is on clear display in many areas: proclaiming support for self-determination while financing the oppression of the Palestinians; citing international law when it suits its needs, but violating international law, such as in the U.S. withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and stating that ‘all men are created equal’, as U.S. police officers gun down unarmed people of African descent. Multiple examples abound.

The government’s officials do nothing to hide this hypocrisy; rather, they seem to seek opportunities to flaunt it.

The most recent opportunity came when the U.S. called a special meeting of the United Nations to spotlight, it said, Cuba’s political prisoners. According to the U.S., Cuba has imprisoned 130 political prisoners. The U.S. called this a “blatant affront” to basic democratic freedoms.

Over the course of several years, nearly 800 of the U.S.’s political prisoners have been jailed in the U.S.’s Cuban base, Guantanamo Bay. Currently, about 55 are housed there. These prisoners are often jailed for years, without charge or access to family or legal assistance, and are tortured.

One such shocking case was the incarceration and torture of Canadian citizen Omar Khadr, arrested in Afghanistan at the age of 15 after having been badly injured by U.S. soldiers (please note that child soldiers cannot, according to international law, be arrested). After being tortured in Afghanistan, he spent 10 years in the U.S.’s Cuban-based torture chamber (yes, Canada was complicit in these crimes, and compensated Mr. Khadr with $10 million dollars, far less than he should have received).

We will look at a few of the statements the U.S. made prior to and after the U.N. meeting on Cuba. What was said during the meeting is hard to discern, since Cuban diplomats shouted over the U.S. speakers, disrupting them constantly.

The first quotation manifests in just thirty-two words the hypocrisy that is so emblematic of the United States.

  • “Holding the Cuban regime responsible for its human rights violations and supporting the Cuban people’s aspirations to live in freedom are key components of President Trump’s National Security Presidential Memorandum of 2017.”

Trump and the U.S. government are very selective in who they hold “responsible for its human rights violations”, and whose “aspirations to live in freedom” they support. Israel and Saudi Arabia are two of the planet’s most brutal violators of human rights, yet the U.S. supports them completely, with the U.S. providing more foreign aid to Israel than it gives to all other nations combined. The United Nations has issued more resolutions critical of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians than it has of any other nation, and that number would be higher if the U.S. didn’t generally veto them.

As this is being written, Palestinians demonstrating for the right of return, a right guaranteed under international law, are being slaughtered by Israel in the Gaza Strip. More Palestinians are losing their homes in the West Bank so that Israel can build illegal settlements on Palestinian land that only Israelis can live in. Yet the U.S. is proclaiming its support for the people of Cuba to “live in freedom”.

We should also point out the Cubans can leave Cuba at will; they can travel for business, pleasure, education or any other reason, with no restrictions by the government. Palestinians in the West Bank are forbidden by Israel from visiting the Gaza Strip, let alone leave the country altogether, and those in Gaza can’t visit the West Bank. Why doesn’t Trump’s ‘National Security Presidential Memorandum of 2017’ apply to the Palestinians?

  • A State Department statement regarding the Cuba-focused U.N. meeting proclaimed that the 130 political prisoners allegedly held by Cuba are “…”an explicit sign of the repressive nature of the regime and represent a blatant affront to the fundamental freedoms that the United States and many other democratic governments support.”

There are so many things in this statement that demonstrate U.S. hypocrisy. We will attempt to sort them all out.

If having 130 political prisoners is a sign of “the repressive nature” and a “blatant affront to the fundamental freedoms that the United States” supports, what, then, is the incarceration of 55 political prisoners of the U.S? Is 55 too low a number? Is it only when the number reaches, say, 130, that it is “…an explicit sign of the repressive nature of the regime and represent(s) a blatant affront to the fundamental freedoms that the United States and many other democratic governments support”?

And we must remember that that number, 55, is just those in Guantanamo. There are numerous other political prisoners in the U.S. Chelsea Manning, pardoned by President Barack Obama, was imprisoned for exposing U.S. crimes; she was sentenced to 35 years, and spent seven incarcerated, must of in solitary confinement. Edward Snowden fled the U.S. to avoid becoming a political prisoner. His ‘crime’, too, was exposing U.S. crimes.

And what about Mumia Abu Jamal? Convicted of the killing of a police officer in Philadelphia in 1981, a crime for which the evidence of his guilt is limited, at best, he has spent nearly 36 years in prison, much of it in solitary confinement.

And then there is Leonard Peltier, an activist in the American Indian Movement. Since its founding, the U.S. has had nothing but disdain for the ‘Indians’ (indigenous population of the U.S.), and silencing a ‘trouble-maker’ like Peltier, someone who actually advocated for the indigenous population, wasn’t hard to do. He was convicted of killing two FBI agents. During his appeal, the government admitted that it had no evidence connecting him with the crime. The FBI withheld evidence that would have exonerated him. He has been imprisoned for nearly 40 years.

The U.S. is never a fan of people advocating for social change, and will reach its deadly tentacles around the world to prevent any people’s movement from succeeding. Simon Trinidad, also known as Ricardo Palmera, is one such activist. He was a negotiator for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP). During a negotiation session in Ecuador, he was arrested, extradited to the U.S. and charged with drug trafficking. On his fourth trial (the government was unable to get a conviction on the first three), he was found guilty.

Several members of the Black Panther Party, arrested during the 1960s and 1070s, remain incarcerated in U.S. prisons. Their crime was attempting to obtain equal rights for U.S. citizens of African descent, another minority group which the U.S. government holds in contempt.

This is not an exhaustive list; these names, and the unnamed 55 in the Guantanamo Bay torture center, are just a few. The U.S. also uses infamous ‘rendition sites’; it kidnaps political opponents and sends them to different countries around the world to be tortured.

Certainly, there are countries with worse human rights records than the U.S. But there are many, many whose human rights practices are far superior. It is the height of hypocrisy for the U.S. to criticize any other nation for any alleged human rights violations, when it supports Israel and Saudi Arabia, and holds countless U.S. political prisoners in its own jail cells.

It is unlikely that this will change soon. Trump, through his own behaviors and statements, has made racism, misogyny and repression acceptable. Much of his base supports these ugly sentiments, and the Republican Party has accepted this as the new normal. Things on the Democratic Party side aren’t much better, when the government which purports to be a democracy is, in fact, an oligarchy.

It is important for people around the world to oppose the U.S. and support Palestine, Cuba, Iran and other nations victimized by the imperial United States.

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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John McCain: A Hero? Let’s Take a Closer Look

One of the United State’s sacred cows has shed this mortal coil; we will not take the time to speculate on where his next stop might be. But we are all being bombarded with accolades on the legendary, although mythical, ‘greatness’ of the dearly departed Republican senator from Arizona, John McCain.

We will attempt here to take a more unbiased look at McCain, and see 1) where all this hero worship is coming from, and 2), why it is completely undeserved.

McCain seems to have acquired his legendary ‘greatness’ by being a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for five years. His plane was shot down while he was dropping bombs on innocent farmers and their families, in a country that in no way threatened the mighty U.S., and where McCain and the other hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers that were sent to terrorize Vietnam never had any business being. One might say he was a victim of U.S. imperialism, but if so, he was a willing victim. But none of this denotes heroism.

Now let us look behind the myth, at the reality. There are a number of areas worth exploring, but time and space will limit us to just a few.

  • Civil Rights:
    • When Congress was voting to make the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday a national holiday, then member of the House of Representatives McCain joined 89 of his colleagues in opposing it. The bill passed by a vote of 338 to 90. When he was running for president in 2008, he stated that his position had ‘evolved’, and “We can be slow as well to give greatness its due….” But it does appear that he wasn’t slow to give political expediency its due.
    • In 2008, while the U.S. was being threatened with the possibility of a McCain presidency, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rates released its annual rating of all members of Congress. McCain scored 22%; his opponent, Illinois Senator Barack Obama, scored 100%.
  • Gay Rights:
    • The great hero opposed ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’, a highly-flawed law but better than what was previously codified.
    • He opposed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which was introduced to prevent employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.
    • He opposed the Federal Marriage Amendment, and supported an initiative in 2006 to ban same-sex marriage in Arizona (the ban failed).
  • Human Rights:
    • He supported Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, one of the world’s most notorious violators of human rights (at that time), having killed thousands of Chilean civilians and having incarcerated tens of thousands more, all for political reasons.
    • McCain was considered a ‘great friend’ of Israel, a nation that has violated the basic human rights of the Palestinians in the most unspeakable ways for decades. He was described the same way by officials of the Saudi Arabian government, another nation noted for it abominable human rights violations.
    • He opposed efforts to close the U.S.’s Cuban-based torture center, Guantanamo Bay, thereby endorsing the use of torture.
  • Ethics:
    • This man who is being lauded as a hero was a member of the Keating Five, a scandal in which five U.S. senators were accused of intervening on behalf of Charles Keating, Jr., who was the chairman of the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association, which was under investigation by the Federal Home Loan Bank Board. When Lincoln collapsed, over 20,000 bond holders lost all or part of their life savings, and the collapse cost the U.S. government $3.4 billion. Keating’s prior political contributions to McCain totalled at least $112,000, not including elaborate trips for McCain and his family that Keating provided at his palatial estate in the Bahamas, flying them there in his private jet. Although McCain was not charged, he was criticized by the investigating committee for using ‘poor judgment’.
    • McCain supported the illegal sale of weapons to U.S.-funded and U.S.-trained terrorist groups seeking the overthrow of the Nicaraguan government. The Iran-Contra scandal was a major blot (among others) on the administration of Ronald Reagan.
  • Hypocrisy
    • McCain once referred to the Confederate flag as ‘very offensive’, but later called it a ‘symbol of heritage’.
    • He called Jerry Falwell an ‘agent of intolerance’ in 2000, but gave the 2006 commencement address at Falwell’s Liberty University.
    • He first supported an immigration policy that included guest workers and amnesty, but later said that, if elected president, he’d call out the U.S. army to close off the Mexican border.
    • McCain moved from opposing President George Bush’s ‘temporary’ tax cuts for the rich to supporting making them permanent.

We could add McCain’s opposition to health care for all U.S. citizens, and his opposition to net neutrality and a federal minimum wage. And we have him to thank for propelling that national embarssment, Sarah Palin, onto the world stage.

This writer has commented previously on the U.S.’s very successful public relations operation, the one that proclaims the nation to be a beacon of peace and security, a bastion of human rights and the envy of the world. These fairy tales aren’t believed much outside of U.S. borders, but are swallowed, hook, line and sinker, within them. That PR expertise has worked overtime to portray a corrupt, opportunistic official with a history of serial murder and support for the war crimes of others as a ‘hero’.

A quick online search for a definition of ‘hero’ results in this: “a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.”

How much courage does it take to fly over farm fields and drop bombs on defenseless people?

What achievements has McCain accomplished? He has helped prevent citizens from obtaining health care or marrying the person of their choice; he worked to slow the progress of civil rights for people of African descent; he supported nations guilty of the most heinous of war crimes; he enabled the torture of political prisoners.

What ‘noble qualities’ has he demonstrated? He treated himself and his family to lavish vacations in exchange for quashing a federal investigation of his benefactor. He traded in a faithful wife for a younger, more attractive version.

John McCain is dead; his family may have reason to grieve but, from this writer’s perspective, no one else does.

 

Originally published by Counterpunch.

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Filed under Apartheid, BDS, Gaza, Guns, Human Rights, Iran, Militarism, Military, Palestine, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S., U.S. Politics

IRAN THREATENS ISRAELI HEGEMONY IN THE MIDDLE EAST

The United States’ corporate-owned and thereby government-controlled media does not provide much coverage of the situation in Syria. For the U.S. government, an informed populace is a dangerous populace, so the media tells the people who and what to care about: the Olympics Games, of course, are worthy of countless hours of coverage, as is reporting on the investigation into the possibility that Russia worked with the campaign of Donald Trump to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. Russia has been a popular enemy of the U.S. for decades, so this is merely a new chapter in an old but much-liked story. But U.S-caused sufferings in Syria, or Palestine, or Yemen, or Iraq, or Afghanistan, etc., etc., are not for the U.S. citizenry to concern itself with.

For years, the U.S. supported outside agitators to fight the legitimate government of Basher Al-Assad, thereby causing untold suffering for the innocent people of Syria. A year ago, the U.S. intensified its bombing of Syria to punish Assad for using chemical weapons against his own people, a charge that was not proven then, and has been completely debunked since. Even the U.S. Secretary of Defense, the disgraceful Jim Mattis, admitted in January that there was no evidence linking Assad to the use of chemical weapons.

But a lack of U.S. press coverage should not be confused with inaction in Syria. The fighting continues, with Assad’s forces, assisted by Russia and Iran, taking back more of the country from the foreign-supported ‘rebels’. The situation is complex, and we will attempt to make sense of it.

The major players are Syria, Russia, Iran, Lebanon (specifically Hezbollah) and the apartheid Zionist regime of Israel. The U.S. is still a player, but its influence has been reduced. Anywhere that U.S. political and military influence is reduced in the world can only be a good thing.

There is little that happens in the world that Israel doesn’t consider an ‘existential threat’. This includes everything from a sixteen-year-old girl slapping a heavily armed Israeli soldier/terrorist, to Iran’s support for the government of Syria. So Israel requires a safe buffer zone, either annexing lands of other countries (Israel is expert in land theft), or assuring that nations friendly to it control the areas closest to it. Unfortunately for Israel, the number of its friendly nations is constantly shrinking, so in the context of this discussion, only the U.S. and Saudi Arabia fall into that disreputable category.

With Syria growing stronger, and relying more and more on Iran, Israel is once again raising the specter of an ‘existential threat’. “Israeli officialdom sees great risk with Iran building a seaport, airport, permanent military bases or high-precision missile factories, which would enable precise attacks on key Israeli facilities.”[1]

Does not the Iranian government have a responsibility to protect its own citizens? Iran is surrounded by forty U.S. military bases, yet one doesn’t hear members of the Iranian government screaming about existential threats. It, like every other government in the world, the opinions of Israel and the U.S. notwithstanding, is free to form alliances with other countries, trade with them, and establish military partnerships for mutual defense and protection. That Iran wishes to establish a presence in Syria is only different from the U.S. establishing a military presence in countless countries around the world in that Iran will not exploit the people of the host country in doing so.

As the situation is currently progressing, Iran’s influence will extend from Iran, through Iraq and Syria, to Lebanon. This threatens Israeli hegemony in the Middle East, a condition for which the U.S. has paid dearly in billions upon billions of tax dollars, as well as in destroying its mythical reputation as a beacon of peace, freedom and democracy.

Israel is also very concerned about Lebanon, specifically the powerful Hezbollah. Here the ‘existential threat’ is on its northern border, and any conflict between the two nations will have disastrous consequences for both. Add to the current strength of Hezbollah the power of Iran, and the Israeli government has more than adequate reason to think twice before starting a war with either nation.

Russia remains almost neutral; it has diplomatic relations with both Israel and its archenemy, Iran. Therefore, it is seen by some as being able to serve the function of peace broker, working some inexplicable magic to bring stability to the region, and prevent a wider war which would be disastrous for everyone.

Some recent articles in ‘The Crisis’ include puzzling comments that seem to reflect the U.S. perspective of denying self-determination to the people of Syria.

One article states that Russia should broker an agreement between Israel and Iran that would remain in effect “pending a deal on the country’s (Syria’s) future”.[2]

Who, other than the Syrian people, should be charged with making such a deal? Why would this be the responsibility of any outside entity?

The writer of that article also asks this question: “…will the regime make good on its vow to retake the whole country, including the south west?”.  One must ask: why would it not? Foreign-sponsored rebels have caused havoc and suffering throughout Syria for years, taking possession of various part of the country. Syria, with assistance from Russia and Iran, has taken back most of the country. Why would it not “make good on its vow to retake the whole country” from those who have stolen parts of it, killed and terrorized its people, and deprived them of self-government?

Another statement regarding some fantastic deal to be arranged by Russia is equally puzzling: “The best currently anticipated outcome would be a deal whereby Iran and its partners forego building major military infrastructure, including but not only in Syria’s south west, but retain significant influence in the country through other means”.[3] This indicates that Iran will give up something, but get nothing in return; the article doesn’t suggest what apartheid Israel might surrender in exchange for this deal.

On January 9 of this year, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made this most amazing statement:  “We support a free and democratic Lebanon, free of the influence of others. And we know that the Lebanese Hezbollah is influenced by Iran. This influence we think is unhelpful for Lebanon’s long-term future”.[4] This is a puzzling statement from a U.S. politician. Between November 29, 2010 and November 28, 2016, pro-Israel lobbies donated at least $14,169,515.00 to U.S. senators. Between November 29, 2014 and November 28, 2016, those same lobbies contributed $5,863,292.00 to U.S. members of the House of Representatives. Tillerson’s hypocrisy is astounding. One might slightly reword his statement to make it accurate: “We support a free and democratic United States, free of the influence of others. And we know that the U.S. government is influenced by Israel. This influence we think is unhelpful for the U.S.’s long-term future”.

Israel, the Middle East’s major troublemaker, continues to deal with its own internal problems, increasing its official racism by deporting African refugees, maintaining its brutal occupation of Palestine, and now awaiting a decision on whether or not its murderous Prime Minister will be indicted for a variety of crimes, as has been recommended by the authorities that have been investigating him. While a new war would distract the racist Israelis from these issues, the downside of such a war would probably be too costly for Israel to bear.

The best case scenario for the Middle East seems to be the one that is currently happening: decreased influence of the U.S; increasing power and influence of Iran; the Syrian government finally overcoming the outside forces that have been terrorizing the country, and Russia supporting both Syria and Iran. It is hoped that the chaos that plagues Israel, all of its own making, will be sufficient to prevent that nation from igniting the tinderbox that is the Middle East, and that with Iran and Russia growing in power and influence, the entire area can achieve a greater level of peace than it has known in decades.

 

[1] https://www.crisisgroup.org/middle-east-north-africa/eastern-mediterranean/syria/182-israel-hizbollah-and-iran-preventing-another-war-syria

[2] https://www.crisisgroup.org/middle-east-north-africa/eastern-mediterranean/syria/182-israel-hizbollah-and-iran-preventing-another-war-syria

[3] https://www.crisisgroup.org/middle-east-north-africa/eastern-mediterranean/syria/182-israel-hizbollah-and-iran-preventing-another-war-syria

[4] https://www.timesofisrael.com/tillerson-hezbollahs-role-in-lebanese-politics-needs-to-be-recognized/

 

Originally published in the American Herald Tribune.

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US Encircles Iran with 45 Bases, But Is Concerned With Iran’s Activities in Syria

With the imminent defeat of United States-supported terrorist groups in Syria by the Syrian government, with assistance from Russia and the Islamic Republic of Iran, one might reasonably think that the U.S. would finally just go home. After all, U.S. President Donald Trump wants, or so he says, to stop ‘nation building’, and ‘put America first’. When a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee asked what role U.S. soldiers/terrorists would have in Syria, once ISIS was no longer a viable presence in that country, the answer was not what the questioner expected. The State Department’s David Satterfield, acting assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs, responded thusly: “We are deeply concerned with the activities of Iran, with the ability of Iran to enhance those activities through a greater ability to move materiel into Syria. And I would rather leave the discussion at that point.”

This response further obfuscates the already complicated, years-long U.S. interference in Syria. The Syrian government has been fighting a variety of foreign-supported terrorist groups for several years; ISIS has been chief among them. While the U.S. has ostensibly ‘helped’ defeat ISIS is Syria, it has long been proven that ISIS fighters receive training and funding from the U.S., Britain, and other countries. The U.S. is more than willing to support both sides of a conflict, since it is the world’s largest arms dealer; where there is money to be made, the U.S. is there, regardless of how totally immoral the deal might be. So it both supported and, to a lesser degree, fought, ISIS.

But with the genuine assistance of Iran and Russia, most of Syria has returned to Syrian control. It is no surprise that the government of Syria would draw closer to the government of Iran, since Iran was instrumental in defeating foreign terrorists on Syrian soil. This is not something that the U.S. can countenance, since it threatens Israeli hegemony in the Middle East. At Israel’s urging, the U.S. has destabilized several Middle Eastern countries. One is shortsighted indeed (as most member of the U.S. Congress seem to be), if one does not recall Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressing Congress in 2002, and promising that “enormous benefits” would accrue if Iraq’s Saddam Hussein were overthrown. For the U.S., those benefits included the deaths of five thousand U.S. soldiers, and a cost of at least $2.4 trillion. The ‘enormous benefits’ promised by Netanyahu were all for Israel, not for the U.S.

And now the U.S. is “deeply concerned’ about Iranian activities in Syria. No doubt the government of Iran is ‘deeply concerned’ about U.S. activities in Syria, as it should be. The U.S. has no reason related to its national security to have any presence in Syria whatsoever. Yet Israel feels threatened by Iran’s increasing stature and influence throughout the Middle East, and wants the U.S. to stop it. It has been said that Israel is willing to sacrifice as many U.S. soldiers as necessary, and spend as much money from U.S. tax revenues as required, to maintain Israeli hegemony in the Middle East. And U.S. member of Congress, bought and paid for by pro-Israel lobbies, seem more than willing to do Israel’s brutal bidding.

The State Department official mentioned above said that the U.S. is concerned about “the ability of Iran to…move materiel into Syria.” Let’s not forget that the U.S. has over 1,000 military bases around the world, with at least 45 of them surrounding Iran. One expects that Iran is concerned about the ability of the U.S. to move materiel into Syria, and rightly so. Forty-five military basis threaten Iran, while the Islamic Republic threatens no one, but does maintain its international commitments, including assisting its ally, Syria, in defeating foreign terrorists slaughtering innocent people on Syrian soil. Another example of keeping its commitments is its adherence to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that the U.S. continually threatens to violate.

Surprisingly, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee weren’t impressed with Satterfield’s response, with several committee members pointing out that Congress had not authorized such a role for the U.S. military in Syria. Yet such things as the rule of law are unimportant when Israel demands U.S. action, or at any time when U.S. profits or power are at risk of being compromised anywhere on the planet. And while the U.S. gets nothing from Israel in terms of its ‘national security’, or any cooperation when the U.S. requests the most minor concessions from Israel to the Palestinians, such as ceasing internationally-condemned settlement activity as a precondition to worthless, meaningless and totally unnecessary negotiations, Congress members benefit greatly from campaign contributions from pro-Israeli lobbies. So regardless of whether or not Congress authorizes such a role for Congress, which it will probably do eventually anyway in order to provide legal cover for its illegal activities, U.S. soldiers/terrorists will probably remain in Syria until Syria is able to eject them.

It does appear that, any time the U.S. interferes in the Middle East, either by sanctions, support for rebel groups, or invasions, the source for the action can always be traced back to Israel. That rogue, apartheid nation receives billions of dollars from the U.S. annually, which it uses to brutally oppress the Palestinian people, while it then demands that the U.S. waste additional taxpayer money on invading and/or destabilizing Israel’s many perceived enemies. And the lives of U.S. citizens who, for whatever reason, decide to put on a uniform, are unimportant to either Israel or the United States.

One would be naïve indeed if one thought that members of the U.S. government seek a peaceful world. That nation has been at war for over 220 of its 242-year existence, and it is certainly not going to change its operations when the government is dominated by two capitalist, war-mongering parties.

Yet the U.S. threatens Iran at its peril; Iran is not a small, Third-World nation with a small and ineffective military force.  On the contrary, it is a large, prosperous (despite unjust U.S. sanctions) nation with an experienced and powerful military force. It has powerful allies that, themselves, the U.S. must use caution in threatening.

U.S. President Donald Trump is seen by many as the most inexperienced, incompetent and ignorant man ever to inhabit the White House. Most of his closest advisors come close to him in terms of their complete lack of ability to govern. He has surrounded himself with career military men who see the solution to every problem as an invasion. Yet the greatest hope, limited as it is, lies with them, and their knowledge of Iranian capabilities. Their record indicates that they prefer easy targets (Iraq, Yemen), so hopefully they will prevent any direct confrontation with Iran. Avoiding such a confrontation will be in the best interest of not only the entire Middle East, but of the U.S. as well. Should the United States government officials lose sight of that fact, the consequences for the U.S. will be dire indeed.

Originally published by the American Herald Tribune.

 

 

 

 

 

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The U.S. Military and the Rest of the World

The United States, the world’s foremost sponsor of domestic and international terrorism, is embarking on a new initiative to increase its ability to kill. Called the ‘National Defense Strategy’, it was announced by Elbridge A. Colby, the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Force Development, and builds on the so-called National Security Strategy that was announced by President Donald Trump in December.

“The National Defense Strategy seeks to implement the pillars of the National Security Strategy: peace through strength, the affirmation of America’s international role, the U.S. alliance and partnership structure and the necessity to build military advantage to maintain key regional balances of power,” said Colby.

An examination of these four components is instructive.

  • “Peace through strength.” Nowhere in Colby’s pronouncements, or those of Trump, for that matter, are the concepts of justice, human rights, or international law mentioned. That may be because those ideals are of no concern to the mighty U.S. As long as the U.S. is able to use its ‘strength’ to bomb into submission any country that displeases it, there will be peace. Oppression, death, carnage and human suffering are all simply the prices that must be paid for the U.S.’s skewed definition of peace.
  • “The affirmation of America’s international role.” And just what is that role? It seems to be that of a corrupt international police force (perhaps mimicking the U.S. domestic police force), making up the rules as it goes along, acting as judge, jury and executioner. The U.S. has given itself the responsibility of overthrowing democratically elected governments and sponsoring and training terrorists, resulting in the deaths, torture and disappearance of millions of people across the globe.
  • “The U.S. alliance and partnership structure.” The U.S. displays its vaunted alliances from time to time, but anything more than a cursory look at them shows them for the lies that they are. For example, during the criminal U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, U.S. spokespeople talked about the ‘Coalition of the Willing’, proclaiming with great fanfare how it had assembled several countries to send forces to Iraq to overthrow the government there. In reality, over 90% of the soldiers sent on that fool’s errand were from the U.S.
  • “The necessity to build military advantage to maintain key regional balances of power.” There is no balance of power today; the U.S., which spends as much on its military as the next eight countries combined, bombs, destabilizes and sanctions any nations it chooses to, with nearly complete impunity. It is to destroy a regional balance of power that the U.S. threatens Iran; the U.S. seeks to maintain the hegemony of the apartheid regime of Israel in the Middle East, and so Iran’s growing power and influence must be stopped. If the U.S. were truly interested in peace, in the Middle East or anywhere else, it would cease supporting Israel and establish diplomatic relations with Iran.

Additionally, the U.S. has close to 1,000 military bases around the world, at least 40 of which are in close proximity of Iran. Its military advantage is already overwhelming, and threatens the entire world.

Colby also said that the U.S. must counter the threat posed by terrorism, singling out, of course, North Korea and Iran. So the nation that has killed over 20 million people since World War II; that has invaded at least 30 nations since then, some of them multiple times, and that is currently bombing seven countries needs to increase its arsenal to counter terrorism.  It seems obvious that worldwide terrorism would decrease dramatically if the U.S. were to reduce its military expenditures.

And what of North Korea and Iran? During the Korean War, waged by the U.S. from 1950 – 1953, the U.S. caused unspeakable suffering in the North. “Over a period of three years or so, we killed off — what — 20 percent of the population,” said Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay. The U.S. bombed cities, towns and villages throughout the North, with no concern for the civilian population. North Korean hostility towards the United States can only be seen as valid.

U.S. aggression towards Iran has even less justification than its aggression towards North Korea. Iran has not invaded another nation since 1798. Yet the U.S., to please Israel, accuses Iran of terrorist activities.

In George Orwell’s landmark novel 1984, the reader is introduced to the concept of ‘Newspeak’. This is the twisting of language to enable governments to act in ways that are contrary to the will and good of the people.  U.S. government officials have become champions of ‘Newspeak’; they talk of fighting terrorism, when the U.S. is the chief international source of terrorism. They speak of building alliances and partnerships, when those associations are often tenuous at best, or bought through foreign aid, or made only by coercion. They speak of the threat to U.S. ‘national security’, when it is the U.S. that threatens the security of nations around the world.

The U.S. spends over 50% of its discretional budget on the military. Other nations spend a fraction of this amount, and yet they are not constantly being invaded or bombed. One must ask why the U.S. needs to spend so much to protect itself, when other nations need to spend very little on their military forces.

Nearly 13% of the U.S. population lives below the officially-established poverty line, which is ridiculously low. Over 20% of U.S. children live in poverty. In terms of public education, the U.S. ranks in the middle of industrialized nations, putting its students at risk of not being able to compete in an increasingly global market. The so-called ‘safety net’, resources for the poor, is continually shrinking so the military can be fed. University students graduate with huge debt, due to high-interest government loans, while other countries charge a fraction of the amount that U.S. schools charge for tuition, or offer university education free of charge. These problems could all be rectified by redirecting even a portion of the U.S. military budget to address these other issues.

And now the already bloated U.S. military spending budget will be increased. U.S. officials refer to it as the ‘defense’ budget, but the U.S. military has little or nothing to do with defense; it is all offensive, as the millions of worldwide victims can attest. Yet members of Congress, beholden to the ‘defense’ industry lobbyists who so generally support their election and re-election campaigns, will tell their constituents that the U.S. must have this budget to defend them from all the evil that exists in the world. They ignore the fact that much of that evil originates in the United States, and that the military budget only increases it.

International surveys indicate that it is the United States that is seen as the greatest threat to world peace.  A study in 2017 indicated that, globally, 24% of respondents viewed the U.S. in that way.  The next most feared country was Pakistan, with 8%. The U.S. self-perpetuates this fear, and does it intentionally, to keep the international community doing its bidding.

But it cannot control the world forever; China, Russia, India and Iran are growing in military and economic power. The U.S.’s closest ally, Israel, is experiencing international condemnation due to its horrific, ongoing, brutal oppression of the Palestinians. Under Trump’s disjointed leadership, U.S. allies are distancing themselves, and forming closer alliances with different partners.

A world power in decline is always dangerous; as other nations grow in power and influence, and that of the U.S. wanes, the entire world is at some risk. It is hoped that these other nations, which have far more interest in peace than does the U.S., will be able to eclipse the U.S., and exert their influence internationally. Only then will the world’s perpetual state of war have a chance of ending.

 

Originally published by The American Herald Tribune.

 

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Democrats and Republicans: United on Glorifying Authoritarian Systems 

With President Donald Trump fighting against the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), his Republican minions have managed to navigate a somewhat tortuous road. They have to somehow criticize one of the many authoritarian organizations that they generally revere. Ultimately, this has proved not too difficult for them; they simply attack the leadership, while praising the rank-and-file.

Democrats, on the other hand, are able to avoid this conundrum altogether, by maintaining their obvious adoration for the corrupt, invasive bureau.

As the Russia-Trump Campaign probe drags on, providing headlines that few people are genuinely interested in, the worship of authority continues unabated. The U.S. military, the largest and most powerful terrorist organization in the world, one that is responsible for the murders of at least 20,000,000 people over the last fifty years, continues to receive increasing amounts of U.S. taxpayers’ money, to the determent not only of the millions of people victimized by the U.S. military, but also of those very taxpayers. Money that goes to weaponry has to come from somewhere, and in the eyes of those who run the U.S. government, both Republican and Democrat, such frivolities as food for the poor, roads, public education and higher education are expendable, as long as the war machine gets all that its lobbyists want.

And then, of course, we have the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Talk about a rogue organization! This is the arm of the U.S. government that is responsible for overthrowing democratically-elected governments, funding and training foreign terrorists, and torturing U.S. citizens and others at various sites around the world.

Let us not forget the ‘boys in blue’, the U.S.’s domestic terrorist organization, the police force. One might think that ‘officers of the law’ might be expected to adhere to the laws they are purportedly hired to enforce. But this is not the case; after all, they are the police! Let them shoot innocent, unarmed people, usually but not always people of color, with nearly complete impunity. But when five police officers were killed in Dallas, Texas in July of 2016, one newscaster said the crime had cast a pall over the entire nation. Was not a pall cast over the entire nation when Michael Brown, unarmed, was shot and killed by white police officer Darren Wilson, who then left his body to lie in the street for hours? Was not a second pall thrown over the U.S. when, in November, a grand jury decided not to indict Wilson?

And what about when Eric Garner was killed for selling cigarettes? Or when Philando Castile was executed on the spot for the dastardly crime of driving with a burned-out tail light? Or the murders of Alton Sterling, Oscar Grant (unarmed, handcuffed and lying face-down when he was shot by police officer Johannes Mehserle, who spent nearly seven whole months in prison for that murder), and the hundreds of others who have been killed by members of that unholy brotherhood, the U.S. police force? Why did not each of these brutal, senseless murders cast a pall over the entire nation?

In the U.S., murder is a horrendous crime unless committed by someone wearing a uniform of the U.S. government. Whether the murder is perpetrated by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan or Iraq, or by soldiers in the U.S. controlling the drones that cause such unspeakable carnage in Yemen and other countries, the victims are unimportant. Unarmed men, pregnant women, children, including infants – the murders of all of them are excused when done by a man or woman wearing a uniform.

Domestically it is the same; a murder perpetrated by someone in the uniform of the U.S. police force is not a murder at all; it is an example of ‘justified use of force’. Yet if a person not a part of the repressive, out-of-control U.S. police force shoots and kills an unarmed man or woman, he or she is arrested and charged with murder. The loved ones of his or her victim are allowed to make impact statements before sentencing, and, as long as the perpetrator is not wealthy, he or she can expect to spend a significant amount of their remaining life in one of the U.S.’s for-profit prisons.

Has either party condemned any of these killings, whether done domestically or internationally? Have any of the U.S.’s so-called ‘representatives’ in the House or the Senate demanded that police procedures be analyzed or that military expenditures be more carefully scrutinized? Has any Republican or Democrat forcefully denounced U.S. military adventurism around the planet? Hardly!

Yet when five members of the police force were murdered in Dallas, then President Barack Obama, and candidates Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton all weighed on the event. The governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, issued a statement. But whenever confronted with the horror and tragedy of innocent people being killed in the U.S.’s multiple war zones, these luminaries mumble something about ‘collateral damage’, and may add, as an afterthought, that it is ‘unfortunate’.

That U.S. citizens live under a heavily-militarized police state cannot be disputed. That people of color are far more likely to be casualties of this police state is also true. Internationally, although no one is safe from the long and brutal arm of the terrorist U.S. military, today it is Arabs who suffer most from it.  U.S. soldiers kill innocent people both on the battlefield, and from the comfort of offices thousands of miles away from their victims. The CIA arms and trains terrorist groups that cause unspeakable suffering in Syria and other nations. FBI surveillance of U.S. citizens has been ongoing for decades.

For eight years, Obama made some attempts to close the Cuban-based U.S. torture center at Guantanamo Bay; he was unsuccessful, mainly because Congress saw no reason for the U.S. not to continue torturing people. He made no effort, however, to end the war in Afghanistan, now in its seventeenth year. He increased the use of murder by drone, and did nothing to reign in the U.S. police.

And now a man who doesn’t even pay lip service to wanting to stop the U.S.’s crimes, and who blatantly seeks to increase them, is president of the U.S. His possible pre-election crimes are being investigated, yet his racism, sexism and Islamaphobia not only go unchecked, but also seem to have become fashionable. That, combined with the reverence for brutal authoritarian forces, domestic and foreign, is a recipe for more death and suffering around the world. Yet if people look for a change in governance from the Republicans to the Democrats to alleviate this suffering at all, they look in vain.

Originally published on Counterpunch.

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Respect for the Flag: Ignorance or Hypocrisy?

With all that’s currently going on in the world, United States President Donald Trump continues to obsess on football players and the U.S. flag. He is demanding that they show ‘proper’ respect for a piece of cloth that represents a repressive oligarchy. Yet, this is, sadly, nothing new.

In 1807, crew members from the British ship Leopold sought to board the U.S. ship Chesapeake, to seek sailors who had deserted from the British navy. They were refused, so they fired on the Chesapeake, killing four U.S. sailors, and causing severe damage to the ship. This was considered an outrage, and an incident that contributed to the war that started five years later. In 1808, the new captain of the Chesapeake, Stephen Decatur, declared that “… the reputation of the Flag of the United States…” required the Chesapeake to be defined properly by the number of guns it had; there had been some discrepancy previously.

The wounds remained raw; Secretary of the Navy Paul Hamilton, in complaining about U.S. relations with Britain in 1809, outlined several areas, including “…the inhuman and dastardly attack on our Frigate Chesapeake – an outrage which prostrated the flag of our Country….”

Notice the importance of the flag, as early as 1807.

Perhaps we can look at the pledge of allegiance, that statement that is recited by school students from kindergarten through high school all across the country, and dissect it into its component parts.

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

  • ‘I pledge allegiance to the Flag.’ Really? One pledges allegiance to a flag? Although this writer recited it for 12 years, he had no real idea of what he was saying. But today, looking at even just the first six words, it is difficult to describe how ridiculous it sounds. The bald eagle is another symbol of the United States. Should we, perhaps, pledge allegiance to it? “I pledge allegiance to the bald eagle….”
  • ‘And to the republic for which it stands.’ Well, one supposes that one can feel a sense of allegiance to a country; although this writer can understand it, he does not experience it.
  • ‘One Nation under God’. Says who? This would seem to mean that atheists are exempt from making this pledge (lucky them!). Right-wing religious leaders are forever proclaiming that God is about the strike down the mighty U.S. because of such things as marriage equality, or health care for everyone. If Deity was in the business of smacking around countries when they displeased him (and this writer, an actively religious Christian, cannot see how either of those two things would), wouldn’t the U.S have felt that wrath during the time of slavery?
  • ‘Indivisible’. Discounting, of course, the Civil War, the nation has been indivisible from a geographic point of view. But there do seem to be a number of significant divisions: left and right; white and people of color; police and people of color; police and poor people; rich and poor; Muslims and conservatives; liberals (a vanishing breed, indeed) and conservatives; rural residents and their urban counterparts; East Coast and Midwest; elected officials and their constituents, etc.
  • ‘With liberty and justice for all’. How one can utter these six words in the context of the United States completely eludes this writer. Banks are ‘too big to fail’ and their corrupt executives ‘too big to jail’. Unarmed black men, women and children are routinely gunned down by white police officers, with almost complete impunity. Wealthy people accused of crimes hire the lawyers necessary to represent them, and help with plea bargaining, while impoverished people serve years-long jail terms for minor drug offenses. This list could go on.

The NFL protests began during the playing of the national anthem. Perhaps a look at those words, too, might be informative.

O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,

What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,

Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight

O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?

And the rocket’s red glare, the bomb bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,

O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

The convoluted language here makes this almost as difficult to make any sense of, as the musical arrangement makes it to sing. For the convenience of the reader, this writer will re-write it into contemporary English.

“It’s early morning, can you see that thing we praised last night? You know, the flag that we watched in awe. As it got dark, the bombs that were killing people were lighting up the air so while we couldn’t see the people writhing in pain on the ground in mortal agony, we could sure see that flag! Yes, it still waves over our wonderful country!”

Alright, so perhaps there was a bit of editorializing here; the song doesn’t say anything specifically about people dying, but it’s a reasonable inference when bombs are dropping and rockets firing.

So, according to the illustrious U.S. president, when that song is being sung, and that flag is flapping in the breeze, everyone must stand in reverent, worshipful awe.

It has been decades since this writer attended any event where the U.S. national anthem was played. He expects to successfully avoid such circumstances for the rest of his life, a goal made easier by the fact that he hasn’t lived in the U.S. in years. But he must ask: don’t people have any idea what they are saying? Admittedly, this writer didn’t pay any attention during his elementary and high school years, but once that point is passed, shouldn’t people know what they are pledging allegiance to? Perhaps the habit of simply standing, putting hand on heart and then mouthing the vapid and vacuous words is too deeply ingrained; it’s as natural as breathing, and no one questions it.

But it’s high time people did. We can thank Colin Kaepernick for raising this consciousness, even a little bit. He, obviously, thought about the words, and decided not to ‘respect the flag’ (a ludicrous concept, at best) in a very public manner. His actions were sufficient to bring down the wrath of the president of the United States: good move, Mr. Kaepernick!

What will happen now? FOX Sports announced it will no longer broadcast the pre-game anthem, thus preventing the delicate sensibilities of its audience members from being offended by someone sitting or kneeling during it. Trump will, in all probability, continue to rail at the ‘sons of b——-‘ that want to protest racial discrimination in the U.S. And people of color will continue to be marginalized to an even greater degree during the Trump years than they have since prior to the passage of Civil Rights legislation in the 1960s.

Oh yes! The ‘land of the free and the home of the brave’! Indeed.

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