Category Archives: US foreign policy

The Deep State

In an article titled “The Deep State Is the State” posted on counterpunch.org 5-26-17, Ron Jacobs says, “The deep state isn’t some enigmatic entity operating outside the US government. It’s the US state itself. Like all elements of that state, the so-called deep state exists to enforce the economic supremacy of US capitalism. It does so primarily via the secret domestic and international police forces like the FBI, CIA and other intelligence agencies. The operations of these agencies run the gamut from surveillance to propaganda to covert and overt military actions…Some of its better known manifestations include the failed attempt in 1961 to invade revolutionary Cuba (the Bay of Pigs), the use of psychoactive drugs on unsuspecting individuals as part of a mind control study during the ‘50s, ‘60s, and 70s, and numerous attempts to subvert governments considered anti-American. Among the latter actions one can include covert operations against Vietnamese independence forces and the murder of the Congolese president Patrice Lumumba in 1961. The ‘60s also saw the intensification of spying on and disrupting various groups involved in civil rights and antiwar organizing,” including the murder of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, sleeping in his own home, on December 4, 1969.

“The entire government has been owned by big business and the banking industry for more than a century, if not since its inception. That ownership has been dominated by the military-industrial complex” since World War II. The deep state’s role in the current uproar over Russia and Michael Flynn isn’t an attempt to take over the government. It’s an attempt to regain control, since its current leadership represents the factions of the US establishment that were removed from power in November 2016.

Donald Trump isn’t against the deep state. He’s against it being used against himself and his cohorts. In the world of capitalist power, the factions Trump represents are not the same factions represented by the presidents former FBI director Comey served – Bush and Obama…Whoever controls the deep state controls the US. The struggle we’re witnessing between the FBI and the Trump White House is part of a power struggle between US power elites.

When the ruling class is in crisis, as it is now, the job of the left isn’t to choose one side or the other or to accept their narratives. It’s to go to the root of the crisis and organize resistance to the ruling class itself.”

 

 

Chomsky’s assessment of the world right now

A few days ago, Noam Chomsky, longtime political activist and social critic, was interviewed on “Democracy Now,” and asked to sum up the first few months of the Trump regime. He said that “anything that can be of assistance to ordinary people” is being “decimated, while anything that adds to wealth and power or that increases the use of force is being carried forward.” Meanwhile, the two most important issues – climate change and the threat of nuclear war – on which our survival depend are being largely ignored. The media are largely taking the bait of daily Trumpist distractions, including the question of whether the Russians interfered in the 2016 US election. “Half the world is cracking up in laughter,” Chomsky said about this, since “the United States doesn’t just interfere in elections. It overthrows governments it doesn’t like.” Even in Russia, the US government got “their man Yeltsin in.” Chomsky understands that “Democratic Party managers want to try to find some blame for the way they utterly mishandled the election and blew a perfect opportunity to win. But that’s hardly a justification for allowing the Trump and right-wing Republican policies to slide by quietly, many of them not only harmful to the population, but extremely destructive, like the climate change policies.”

Chomsky finds the new hostility toward Russia disheartening, since lessening tensions with that country would be “a step forward. NATO maneuvers are taking place hundreds of yards from the Russian border, and Russian jet planes are buzzing American planes. This could get out of hand very easily. Both sides, meanwhile, are building up their military forces, and the US is establishing an anti-ballistic missile installation near the Russian border, allegedly to protect Europe from nonexistent Iranian missiles, a first strike threat. These are serious issues. People like William Perry, who has a distinguished career and is a nuclear strategist and is no alarmist, are saying that this is one of the worst moments of the Cold War. And we should bear in mind it’s the Russian border. It’s not the Mexican border. There are no Warsaw Pact maneuvers going on in Mexico.”

When asked about Trump’s policies with regard to North Korea, Chomsky noted, that North Korea didn’t seriously pursue a nuclear weapons program till after George W. Bush scuttled an agreement Clinton had negotiated according to which “North Korea would terminate its efforts to develop nuclear weapons, and the U.S. would reduce hostile acts. I mean, you can say it’s the worst regime in history, but they’ve been following a pretty rational tit-for-tat policy. And why are they developing nuclear weapons? I mean, the economy is in bad shape. They could certainly use the resources. Everyone understands that it’s a deterrent.” North Korea is still offering to stop developing nuclear weapons if the US “stops carrying out threatening military maneuvers with South Korea on its border. Not an unreasonable proposal. And it’s worth bearing in mind that North Korea was practically destroyed during the Korean War by some of the most intensive bombing in history. When there were no targets left, the US bombed dams, a war crime that wiped out crops. The North Koreans lived through that, so having nuclear-capable B-52s flying on their border is no joke. Instead of concern about whether somebody talked to the Russians, this is the kind of thing that should be pursued. That’s what anyone hoping for some form of peace and justice should be working for.”

Relations with China are also “an extremely serious issue,” Chomsky said. “China isn’t going to back down on its fundamental demands, concerning Taiwan, for example. And Trump threatening force is extraordinarily dangerous. You can’t play that game in international affairs. We’re too close to destroying ourselves. You take a look at the record through the nuclear age, of near misses. It’s almost miraculous that we’ve survived. As soon as Trump came in, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ Doomsday Clock was moved to two-and-a-half minutes to midnight, both because of the nuclear threat, recognized to be serious, and the threat of environmental catastrophe, which wasn’t considered in the earlier years, but now is. These are, overwhelmingly, the most crucial issues that face us. Everything else fades into insignificance in comparison. They’re literally questions of survival.

There are now three nuclear powers that have refused to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty: China, the United States, and Israel. If tests begin again, it would be an extremely serious danger. It was when the first tests were carried out that the Doomsday Clock went to two minutes to midnight. There’s been an inadequate, but significant, reduction in nuclear weapons since the end of the Cold War, and the New START Treaty is supposed to carry that forward. Russia and the United States have the overwhelming mass of the nuclear weapons. And this would cut down the number, especially of the more threatening ones. Trump has said this a ‘bad deal’ for the United States, suggesting maybe we should pull out of it, which would be a disaster.

Sooner or later, people are going to see through Trump’s con game, and at that point something will have to be done to maintain control. The obvious technique is scapegoating – blame it on immigrants or Muslims. But that can only go so far. The next step would be an alleged terrorist attack, which would be easy to construct or stage. I don’t particularly anticipate it, but it’s a possibility. And this is a very frightened country. For years, this has been probably the most frightened country in the world. It’s also the safest country in the world. It’s easy to terrify people.”

On the question of Iran, Chomsky indicated that for years the US and Israel have insisted that it’s the greatest threat to world peace, even though the US comes first in international Gallup polls. “Nobody else even close, far ahead of any other threat. Pakistan, second, much lower. Iran, hardly mentioned. Why is Iran regarded here as the greatest threat to world peace? The intelligence community provides regular assessments to Congress on the global strategic situation. It’s said for years that Iran has very low military spending, even by the standards of the region, much lower than Saudi Arabia, Israel, others. Its strategy is defensive. So, if they’re developing nuclear weapons, it would be as a deterrent. Why are the United States and Israel so concerned about a deterrent? Because they want to be free to use force.”

When asked for his thoughts “on Syria, Russia, the United States,” Chomsky said, “Syria is a horrible catastrophe. The Assad regime is a moral disgrace. They’re carrying out horrendous acts, the Russians with them.”

“Why the Russians with them?”

“Syria is their one ally in the region. Their one Mediterranean base is in Syria. But it’s kind of like the North Korean case. There have been possible opportunities to terminate the horrors. In 2012, there was an initiative from the Russians, which wasn’t pursued, so we don’t know how serious it was, but it was a proposal for a negotiated settlement, in which Assad would be phased out. The West – France, England, the United States refused to consider it, believing at the time that they could overthrow Assad. Could it have worked? You never know. But it could have been pursued. Meanwhile, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are supporting jihadi groups, which aren’t all that different from ISIS. So you have a horror story on all sides. The Syrian people are being decimated.”

On Israel-Palestine, Chomsky said, “There’s a systematic Israeli program that’s been going on since 1967 to try to take over every part of the West Bank that’s of any value, except for areas of Palestinian population concentration, which can rot on the vine. In 1980, the US joined the world not only in calling the settlements illegal, but in demanding that they be dismantled.”

Amy Goodman: “Now you have David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, who raised money for the settlements. And Jared Kushner in charge of the policy.”

“Yeah, it’s been step by step. Reagan and Clinton weakened it. Obama and Trump let it stand. Meanwhile, the Kushner Foundation and this new ambassador are strong supporters of the Israeli ultra-right, way to the right of Netanyahu. The Beit El, the community they’re pouring their money into, is run by an Orthodox rabbi whose position is that the army should follow the rabbi’s orders. General discussions about this are extremely misleading. What’s said on all sides is that there are two options: either a two-state settlement, in accord with the long-standing international consensus, or else one state, which would be an apartheid state, in which Palestinians wouldn’t have rights, and you could have an anti-apartheid struggle, and Israel would face what’s called the demographic problem – too many non-Jews in a Jewish state. But there’s a third option, the one that’s actually being implemented: construction of a Greater Israel, which won’t have a demographic problem, because they’re excluding the areas of dense Palestinian population and removing Palestinians from the areas they expect to take over. The United States is providing diplomatic, economic and military support for this project, which will leave the Palestinians with essentially nothing while Greater Israel won’t have to face the dread demographic problem.”

On Latin America, Chomsky agreed that after a 10-year period of enormous social progress via socially minded governments, there have been steps backward in the last few years. The popular governments, with the exception of Ecuador, have been thrown out of office, and there’s a deepening crisis in Venezuela. “The left governments failed to use the opportunity available to them to try to create sustainable, viable economies. Almost every one – Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, and others – relied on the rise in commodity prices, which is a temporary phenomenon. Commodity prices rose, mainly because of the growth of China, so there was a rise in the price of oil, of soy, and so forth. But these countries didn’t try to develop a sustainable economy with manufacturing, agriculture and so on during this period. Venezuela, for example, is potentially a rich agricultural country, but they didn’t develop it – they simply relied on oil. On top of that, there was just enormous corruption. It’s painful to see the Workers’ Party in Brazil, which did carry out significant measures, but just couldn’t keep their hands out of the till. They joined the corrupt elite, which is robbing all the time, and discredited themselves. I don’t think the game is over by any means. There were real successes achieved, and I think a lot of those will be sustained. But there’s a regression. In Venezuela, the corruption, the robbery and so on, has been extreme, especially since Chávez’s death.”

On the question of whether fascism could come – or has come – to America, Chomsky said that we could be “in real danger, if a charismatic figure appears who can mobilize fears, anger, racism, a sense of loss of the future that belongs to us. We’re lucky that there never has been an honest, charismatic figure. McCarthy was too much of a thug, Nixon was too crooked, and Trump, I think, is too much of a clown. So, we’ve been lucky. But we may not be lucky forever.”

Noam Chomsky’s latest book, Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power, was just published.

Famine imminent in four African countries

Climate change induced drought is sweeping across Africa, resulting in starvation and disease in Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria and Yemen. 20 million lives are at stake, and UN officials are billions of dollars short of being able to respond. The needed food and water are there, even within the affected countries, but people who have lost their crops and cattle are too poor to buy them, and/or unable to get to where they are because of distance and armed conflict. Yemen is being bombed and blockaded by the US-supported Saudis, determined to force regime change. In northeastern Nigeria, thousands of displaced people lacking clean water to drink and wash with are dying from preventable diseases as the battle grinds on between Islamist militants and the Nigerian military. In South Sudan, both rebel forces and government soldiers are intentionally blocking emergency food and hijacking food trucks, aid officials say. In Somalia, the Shabab militant Islamist group has banned Western aid agencies.

When rivers and other relatively clean water sources start drying up, as they are now in Somalia, people start to get sick from the slimy or cloudy water they’re forced to drink. They flee their villages, hoping to get help in the towns. Camps form, but they don’t have enough water either, and it’s hard to find a latrine or enough water for people to wash their hands. Shockingly fast, they become disease factories.

Water, of course, is less negotiable than food. A human being can survive weeks with nothing to eat. Five days without water leads to death.

Different helping strategies are being emphasized this time. One is simply giving out cash. United Nations agencies and private aid groups in Somalia are scaling up efforts to dole out money through a new electronic card system and by mobile phone. This allows poor people to get a monthly allowance and shop for food and water. It helps the local economy (importing food doesn’t), and people get help fast. The developed countries responsible for climate change owe this help to people who have done little or nothing to contribute to what’s killing them. And many more Africans may soon need it. Sweltering days and poor rains so far this year have also left Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Tanzania parched and on the edge of major food crises.

From a New York Times article, “Drought and War Heighten Threat of Not Just One Famine, but Four” by Jeffrey Gettleman (3-27-17).

 

The death of Fidel Castro

Castro outlived his vigorous, effective years, and was at the center of the Cuban Missile Crisis, but these aren’t reasons to forget his positive contributions to social justice. No world leader is perfect, and Fidel admittedly imprisoned thousands, executed hundreds, and kept Cuba under a tight rein, but this is what it took to counter the evils of capitalism in a capitalist-dominated world and US-dominated hemisphere. Overthrowing the US-supported, Mafia-infested Batista dictatorship was inspired by a desire to benefit the Cuban majority and took tremendous courage. Ditto for opposing US persecution for so many years. Though he ruled longer than any other world leader except Queen Elizabeth II, I don’t think personal power was Fidel’s main objective; preserving the social and economic equality of the revolution was. Little by little, capitalism is creeping back in Cuba, but that doesn’t mean the goals of the revolution were wrong, or that they can’t be achieved — hopefully less violently and more democratically — in more places in the future.

My personal connection to all this, apart from my being a confirmed socialist, is twofold. I first became aware of the Cuban revolution, which took place in 1959, a year after the fact when I asked a friend at the girls’ boarding school I attended what the words “26 julio” inscribed on her pencil case meant. She explained that it was the name of the revolutionary movement that had overthrown Batista. This wasn’t the only thing that made Buella different, and a year later she committed suicide. Bucking the tide isn’t easy.

Second, I was 18 years old, a freshman in college, in October 1962, when the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred. I believe that events that occur in one’s young adulthood can affect your thinking for the rest of your life. The Great Depression marked my parents, who always “saved for a rainy day,” and the Cuban Missile Crisis turned me into the opposite: “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may be dead.” All that hiding under desks in preparation for possible Soviet bombers may have inspired these feelings, too, but the fear was more focused and intense in ’62. My parents were also strongly affected by World War II, as I was by the Vietnam War, which taught me to completely mistrust my own government — a lesson I’ve never unlearned.

Some of the news stories today seem to blame Castro for the Cuban Missile Crisis. No. He accepted the Russian missiles because of the threat the US posed to Cuba (the Bay of Pigs, over 600 attempts on his life, and a ridiculously long economic blockade). The US government can never allow a socialist government to succeed, especially in its own backyard. It also backed death squads in El Salvador and crushed the Nicaraguan revolution via economic blockade and the contras, who bombed newly built schools and hospitals and killed civilians right and left. And Vietnam…

To me, on balance, Castro and Ho Chi Minh are heroes. Viva la Revolución!

Why Clinton’s more dangerous than Trump

When I tell my friends I wouldn’t vote for Hillary in a million years, they warn me that Donald Trump’s worse, and suggest I vote for the “lesser evil.” First, I stopped doing that years ago on the grounds that I’m not responsible for our atrocious good cop/bad cop electoral system. Second, I live in a state that hasn’t gone Republican in many years, and votes for president are counted by state. Third, as John Pilger wrote yesterday on newmatilda.com, Hillary could be way worse than Trump. And she’s a known quantity – she will do the things listed below. The reason Trump’s scary is that he’s an unknown quantity.

Read the following, and see what you think.

John Pilger: Why Hillary Clinton Is More Dangerous Than Donald Trump

I’ve been filming in the Marshall Islands, and whenever I tell people where I’ve been, they ask where it is. If I offer a clue by referring to “Bikini,” they ask if I mean the swimsuit. Few are aware that the bikini swimsuit was named to celebrate the nuclear explosions that destroyed Bikini Island. Sixty-six nuclear devices were exploded by the United States in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958 – the equivalent of 1.6 Hiroshima bombs every day for twelve years.

Bikini is silent today – mutated and contaminated. Palm trees grow in a strange grid formation, nothing moves, and there are no birds. The headstones in the old cemetery are alive with radiation. My shoes registered “unsafe” on a Geiger counter.

Standing on the beach, I watched the emerald green of the Pacific fall away into a vast black hole. This was the crater left by the hydrogen bomb they called “Bravo.” The explosion poisoned people and their environment for hundreds of miles, perhaps forever.

On my return journey, I stopped at Honolulu airport and noticed an American magazine called Women’s Health. On the cover was a smiling woman in a bikini, and the headline: “You, too, can have a bikini body.” A few days earlier, in the Marshall Islands, I’d interviewed women who had very different “bikini bodies;” each had suffered life-threatening cancers. And unlike the smiling woman in the magazine, all of them were impoverished: the victims and guinea pigs of a rapacious superpower more dangerous today than ever.

I relate this experience as a warning and to interrupt a distraction that has consumed so many of us. The founder of modern propaganda, Edward Bernays, described this phenomenon as “the manipulation of the habits and opinions” of democratic societies. He called it an “invisible government.”

How many people are aware that a world war has begun? At present, it is a war of propaganda, of lies and distraction, but this can change instantaneously with the first mistaken order, the first missile.

In 2009, President Obama stood before an adoring crowd in Prague, pledging to make “the world free from nuclear weapons.” People cheered and cried, and a torrent of platitudes flowed from the media. He was subsequently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

It was all fake. He was lying. The Obama administration has built more nuclear weapons, more nuclear warheads, more nuclear delivery systems, and more nuclear factories. Nuclear warhead spending alone has risen higher under Obama than under any American president. The cost over thirty years is more than $1 trillion.

A mini nuclear bomb, the B61 Model 12, is planned. General James Cartwright, former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said of it, “Going smaller [makes using this nuclear] weapon more thinkable.”

In the last 18 months, the greatest build-up of military forces since World War II – led by the United States – is taking place along Russia’s western frontier. Not since Hitler invaded the Soviet Union have foreign troops presented such a demonstrable threat to Russia.

Ukraine – once part of the Soviet Union – has become a CIA theme park. Having orchestrated a coup in Kiev, Washington effectively controls a regime that’s next door and hostile to Russia: a regime literally rotten with Nazis. Prominent parliamentary figures in Ukraine are the political descendants of the notorious OUN and UPA fascists. They openly praise Hitler and call for the persecution and expulsion of the Russian-speaking minority. This is seldom news in the West, or it’s inverted to suppress the truth. In Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia – next door to Russia – the US is deploying combat troops, tanks, and heavy weapons, an extreme provocation of the world’s second nuclear power.

What makes the prospect of nuclear war even more dangerous is a parallel campaign against China. Seldom a day passes when China isn’t elevated to the status of a “threat.” According to Admiral Harry Harris, the US Pacific commander, China is “building a great wall of sand in the South China Sea.” What he’s referring to is China building airstrips in the Spratly Islands, also claimed by the Philippines ever since Washington pressured and bribed the government in Manila and the Pentagon launched a propaganda campaign called “freedom of navigation.” This means freedom for American warships to patrol and dominate the coastal waters of China. Try to imagine the American reaction if Chinese warships did the same off the coast of California.

In my film “The War You Don’t See,” I interviewed journalists in America and Britain like Dan Rather. All of them said that had journalists and broadcasters done their job and questioned the propaganda that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction; and had the lies of George W. Bush and Tony Blair not been amplified and echoed by journalists, the 2003 invasion of Iraq might not have happened, and hundreds of thousands of men, women and children would be alive today.

The propaganda laying the ground for a war against Russia and/or China is no different in principle. To my knowledge, no journalist in the Western “mainstream” asks why China is building airstrips in the South China Sea. The answer ought to be glaringly obvious. The United States is encircling China with a network of bases, with ballistic missiles, battle groups, and nuclear bombers. This lethal arc extends from Australia to the Marianas, Marshalls, and Guam, to the Philippines, Thailand, Okinawa, Korea, and across Eurasia to Afghanistan and India. America is tightening a noose around the neck of China. This isn’t news. Silence by media, war by media.

In 2015, in high secrecy, the US and Australia staged the biggest single air-sea military exercise in recent history, Talisman Sabre. Its aim was to rehearse an Air-Sea Battle Plan, blocking sea lanes to cut off China’s access to oil, gas and other vital raw materials from the Middle East and Africa.

In the circus known as the American presidential campaign, Donald Trump is being presented as a lunatic, a fascist. He’s certainly odious; but he’s also a media hate figure, which should arouse our skepticism. Trump’s views on migration are grotesque, but no more grotesque than those of David Cameron. It isn’t Trump who’s the Great Deporter from the United States, but the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Barack Obama.

According to one liberal commentator, Trump’s “unleashing the dark forces of violence” in the United States. Unleashing them? This is the country where toddlers shoot their mothers and the police wage a murderous war against black Americans. This is the country that’s attacked and sought to overthrow more than 50 governments, many of them democracies, and bombed from Asia to the Middle East, causing the deaths and dispossession of millions of people. No other country has such a record of violence. And most of America’s wars – almost all of them against defenseless countries – have been launched by liberal Democratic presidents: Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, and Obama.

In 1947, a series of National Security Council directives described the paramount aim of American foreign policy as “a world substantially made over in [America’s] own image.” The ideology was messianic Americanism. We were all Americans, or else. Heretics would be converted, subverted, bribed, smeared, or crushed.

Donald Trump’s a symptom of this, but he’s also a maverick. He calls the invasion of Iraq a crime, and doesn’t want to go to war with Russia or China. The danger to the rest of us isn’t Trump, but Hillary Clinton. She’s no maverick – she embodies the resilience and violence of a system whose vaunted “exceptionalism” is totalitarian with an occasional liberal face. As presidential election day draws near, she’ll be hailed as the first female president, regardless of her crimes and lies, just as Barack Obama was lauded as the first black president and liberals swallowed his nonsense about “hope.”

In the 2008 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton threatened to “totally obliterate” Iran with nuclear weapons. As Secretary of State under Obama, she participated in the overthrow of the democratic government of Honduras. Her contribution to the destruction of Libya in 2011 was almost gleeful. When the Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi, was publicly sodomized with a knife – a murder made possible by American logistics – Clinton gloated over his death: “We came, we saw, he died.” One of Clinton’s closest allies is Madeleine Albright, the former Secretary of State, who’s attacked young women for not supporting “Hillary.” This is the same Madeleine Albright who infamously celebrated on TV the death of half a million Iraqi children as “worth it.”

Among Clinton’s biggest backers are the Israel lobby and the arms companies that fuel the violence in the Middle East. She and her husband have received a fortune from Wall Street. And yet, she’s about to be ordained the women’s candidate, opponent of Trump, the official demon. Her supporters include distinguished feminists like Gloria Steinem.

A generation ago, a post-modern cult now known as “identity politics” stopped many intelligent, liberal-minded people from examining the causes and individuals they supported. Self-absorption, a kind of “me-ism”, became the new zeitgeist in privileged western societies, signaling the demise of great collective movements against war, social injustice, inequality, racism, and sexism.

Today, the long sleep may be over. The young are stirring again. The thousands in Britain who supported Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader are part of this awakening, as are those rallying to support Bernie Sanders.

What’s happened to the great tradition of popular direct action, unfettered to parties? Where’s the courage, imagination and commitment required to begin the long journey to a better, just and peaceful world? Where are the dissidents in art, film, the theater, literature? Where are those who will shatter the silence? Or do we wait until the first nuclear missile is fired?