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The Torturers Speak July 24, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Torture, War on Terror.
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Roger’s note: I often post articles and write on the theme of the United States as an imperial power which through economic and military might creates death and misery around the globe.  This, of course, is counter to the narrative that we learned in school and still thrives in popular culture that sees the U.S. as the “leader of the free world,” the world’s greatest champion of freedom and democracy.

Torture as the official policy of the United States government of Cheney/Bush was done away with under the presidency of Barack Obama, but it is poised to come back again under Trump.  This would not have been possible if Cheney, Bush and the rest of the Inquisition regime had been held legally criminally accountable.  Obama’s rationalization that it is better to look ahead rather that backwards is one of the most vacuous and disingenuous statements I have ever heard coming out of the mouth of a politician (and that is saying a lot).  And later he added, as if he was shooting the shit over cocktails, “yeah, we tortured some folks.”  

America the Beautiful. 

 

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The Editorial Board, New York Times, June 23, 2917

It’s hard to watch the videotaped depositions of the two former military psychologists who, working as independent contractors, designed, oversaw and helped carry out the “enhanced interrogation” of detainees held at C.I.A. black sites in the months after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

The men, Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell, strike a professional pose. Dressed in suits and ties, speaking matter-of-factly, they describe the barbaric acts they and others inflicted on the captives, who were swept up indiscriminately and then waterboarded, slammed into walls, locked in coffins and more — all in the hunt for intelligence that few, if any, of them possessed. One died of apparent hypothermia. Many others were ultimately released without charge.

When pushed to confront the horror and uselessness of what they had done, the psychologists fell back on one of the oldest justifications of wartime. “We were soldiers doing what we were instructed to do,” Dr. Jessen said. Perhaps, but they were also soldiers whose contracting business was paid more than $81 million.

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Still image taken from a video deposition of Dr. James Mitchell.

The Times on Tuesday published the depositions, taken earlier this year in the course of a federal lawsuit brought against Dr. Jessen and Dr. Mitchell by two former detainees and the family of a third who died in C.I.A. custody in Afghanistan. The psychologists may be the only two people to face any meaningful legal consequences for their role in one of the darkest periods of recent American history. A federal civil trial is set to start Sept. 5 in Spokane, Wash.

The details of the treatment of dozens of detainees at the hands of American intelligence contractors are by now widely known, yet it is still chilling to watch Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Jessen rationalize their use of techniques that the C.I.A.’s top lawyer at the time called “sadistic and terrifying.”

“I thought he would be uncomfortable,” Dr. Mitchell said of waterboarding, in which torturers simulate the sensation of drowning by pouring water over a cloth covering a person’s face. “It sucks. I don’t know that it’s painful, but it’s distressing.” Dr. Mitchell once said detainees would rather have their legs broken. A 2002 cable described the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah, who officials wrongly believed was a leader of Al Qaeda, and who was subjected to the procedure 83 times over a matter of days. “At the onset of involuntary stomach and leg spasms, subject was again elevated to clear his airway, which was followed by hysterical pleas. Subject was distressed to the level that he was unable to effectively communicate or adequately engage the team.”

Mr. Zubaydah did give interrogators key information about the Sept. 11 plot — not as a result of the waterboarding, but in response to traditional interrogation methods. Yet, thinking he might have more, torturers forged ahead with Mr. Zubaydah and with others, confident that physical abuse would lead to actionable intelligence. Some detainees were handcuffed to a bar on the wall so they could not rest or lie down for days at a time. During his own deposition, Jose Rodriguez, a top C.I.A. official who destroyed videotapes of the interrogations because of what he called their “ugly visuals,” compared the abuse to a gym workout. When Suleiman Salim, one of the plaintiffs suing the psychologists, was asked to describe his experience, he broke down in tears.

Even now, the psychologists claim that their techniques, which have been banned, caused no lasting damage. But Mr. Salim, like many other former detainees, still suffers psychological harm — including nightmares, flashbacks, headaches and sleeplessness.

Dr. Jessen admitted to some discomfort with the program he helped devise. “Jim and I didn’t want to continue doing what we were doing,” he said in his deposition. But the pressure from intelligence officials was intense. “They kept telling me every day a nuclear bomb was going to be exploded in the United States and that because I had told them to stop, I had lost my nerve and it was going to be my fault if I didn’t continue.”

The full story of what happened under the torture program may never be made public. Earlier this month, the Trump administration began returningcopies of a 2014 Senate classified report on torture to Congress, where it may be locked away for good. Meanwhile, President Trump, with no expertise on torture and its sad history, has at times promised to bring back waterboarding and other techniques banned by President Obama.

Many people bear responsibility for the depravity of the torture program, but most will never suffer any legal consequences. The suit against Dr. Jessen and Dr. Mitchell may be the last opportunity for some accountability.

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Obama Gets Paid May 15, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama.
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Roger’s note: the multi-million dollar yacht pictured below belongs to billionaire David Geffen.  It is where the Obamas spent their post presidential vacation in the company of luminaries like Oprah Winfrey, Leonard DiCaprio and Tom Hanks.  In order to recover from this hardship, Barack and Michelle spent a month chilling out in a luxury hotel in Tahiti.  During Obama’s eight years in office, millions of Americans lost their homes and jobs and millions, and millions of immigrants were deported.  No wonder he needed a vacation after all that hard work (and that is not to mention ongoing torture at Bagram, Guantanamo, drone missile massacres, extrajudicial killings,  and illegal wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and Yemen).  Phew.  It’s exhausting just to think about it.  I wonder if they can find a spot on that yacht for me.

Alas, no time for yachting.  One thing Obama just did for me that I guess I should be grateful for: made me stop thinking about Trump for a half hour.  Now back to the maniacal narcissistic neo-Fascist whose ascendency was paved by Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Carter. Reagan, Ford, Nixon … Christopher Columbus.

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by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley

Obama opposed reparations for Black slavery, but gladly pockets payback for his work in ensuring that banks are “too big to jail.” Obama has been on the Lord’s of Capital’s payroll, coming and going, having won the presidency with the largest contributions from Wall Street in history. “The fact that his defenders so casually shrug their shoulders and defend kleptocracy ought to be debated.”

“Obama was and is the latest errand boy for big money but he was hyped as a change agent working for our benefit.”

Barack Obama will be paid $400,000 to speak to a group of finance capitalists. The only thing shocking about the announcement was the reaction from his horrified worshippers. The Obama campaign marketing team should be proud that their salesmanship is so long lived. There were millions of people under the illusion that Obama would represent their interests. He didn’t, of course, and for one very simple reason. He wasn’t hired to work for them. The ruling classes, the 1%, the lords of capital, call them what you will, make the hiring decisions and keep giving out bonuses to the men who do their dirty work.

Of course Obama is getting paid. Wall Street and the banks got their bail outs and then some. They weren’t prosecuted for their crimes which led to loss of jobs and homes. He kept giving and they kept taking and now it is payback time. Obama is just the latest president to get his unjust reward.

The speech at a Cantor Fitzgerald event typifies what former presidents do. So do former prime ministers and presidents of other countries. The capitalists move their capital around the world driving cities into bankruptcy (Detroit) or even nations (Greece) without fear of any hindrance. In return the compliant politicians are well cared for.

“He kept giving and they kept taking and now it is payback time.”

Cantor Fitzgerald describes itself as a “capital markets investment bank.” Its chairman and chief executive supported Jeb Bush in the 2016 Republican campaign and John McCain in 2008. The payout to Obama proves that the big money people ultimately can live with Republicans or Democrats. Why shouldn’t they? They get what they want no matter who is in power.

Barack and Michelle Obama recently signed a $65 million book deal and some are asking why that isn’t enough. That is a good and legitimate question but as is always the case with Obama, the naysayers are shouted down as haters or racists.

White presidents get paid, the first black president should get paid, too. So goes the shallow and pathetic defense. Grow up. Be realistic. Don’t be naïve. If those words were a call for true understanding of how the world works, they might be worthwhile. Instead they are used to defend the indefensible, the fact that the people have no say in their sham political system.

“The payout to Obama proves that the big money people ultimately can live with Republicans or Democrats.”

Of course the critics who clutch their pearls need to wake up. Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign was a thing of marketing beauty, that is to say it was full of lies. All talk of movement politics was a joke. Obama was and is the latest errand boy for big money but he was hyped as a change agent working for our benefit.

The paychecks from book deals and speeches aren’t the only ways that ex-presidents make a fast buck. Bill Clinton’s “foundation” was an influence peddling slush fund which made him very wealthy. Obama is more subtle and probably won’t do anything so obvious. He’ll get big money for his presidential libraries and anything else he desires. But he’ll also be very serious about helping out the lords of capital.

That is why he has returned to public life as propagandist in chief, lecturing us about the evils of fake news. He has to keep rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic that is capitalism and tell us to believe him and not our lying eyes. This pattern exists all over the world. Former UK prime minister Tony Blair has also enriched himself after leaving office. His current task is trying to undo Brexit and the inconvenience it is causing the 1%.

“Bill Clinton’s ‘foundation’ was an influence peddling slush fund which made him very wealthy.”

It is good thing that Obama was so obvious in genuflecting to the people who make everyone else’s life miserable. He may have provided an opportunity to change the level of discourse. The fact that his defenders so casually shrug their shoulders and defend kleptocracy ought to be debated. The notion that elected leaders of a supposed democracy should so openly be on the take must be strongly disputed.

The question should not be whether Obama ought to take money from his bosses. The question is why they are his bosses at all. Obama will not be the last commodified candidate used to get popular support for a rotten system. There are more Obamas in our future. They will help the rich get richer while sleight of hand gives the appearance of working for the needs of the people. Of course that wouldn’t happen if those claiming to be in a state of resistance really meant it. But bringing down the house of finance capital is not a task for the faint of heart or for those confused about how their country and the world really work.

Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.

Trump’s Support and Praise of Despots Is Central to the U.S. Tradition, Not a Deviation From It May 4, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Argentina, Barack Obama, Capitalism, Chile, Foreign Policy, Hillary Clinton, Honduras, Human Rights, Imperialism, Iran, Latin America, Nicaragua, Racism, Saudi Arabia, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: United States foreign policy has never been interested in freedom, democracy or human rights.  Never. Going back, if you will, to Christopher Columbus.  The phrase “American interests” is often used to characterize U.S. foreign policy, and it seems more than obvious that that is what foreign policy should advance.  Now, of course, such things as freedom, democracy and human rights could be considered in America’s interest.  That would be nice, wouldn’t it.  

American interests in reality is a code word for advancing the interests of the military industrial complex.  It has little to do with the interests of American people, above all, American workers; unless you still believe in the trickle down theory.  It has everything to do with: oil and minerals, all other resources and products, and, of course, cheap labor.

So when a new president takes office, his advisers will, if need be, brief/him on what those interests are.  US friendly nations, unfriendly nations, inbetweeners.  So it is not in any way surprising that Trump would be eulogizing American friendly tyrants like Egypt’s Sisi, the Philippines’ Duterte, or Turkey’s Erdogan.  What would really be surprising and bring on fits of cognitive dissonance if Trump were cozying up say to Venezuela’s Maduro or Iran’s Khamanei.

But perhaps where Trump is crossing a line is in his friendly overtures towards France’s our and out neo-Nazi presidential candidate, Marine LePen (shades of his refusal to repudiate support domestically from the KKK).  I didn’t like the term that Baby Bush used: Axis of Evil.  But Trump, LePen and ???  It fits.  And it’s scary.

Read on below, another chapter in Your Tax Dollars at Work (to support violence, repression and human rights violations).

 

May 2 2017, 12:13 p.m.

SINCE AT LEAST the end of World War II, supporting the world’s worst despots has been a central plank of U.S. foreign policy, arguably its defining attribute. The list of U.S.-supported tyrants is too long to count, but the strategic rationale has been consistent: In a world where anti-American sentiment is prevalent, democracy often produces leaders who impede rather than serve U.S. interests.

Imposing or propping up dictators subservient to the U.S. has long been, and continues to be, the preferred means for U.S. policymakers to ensure that those inconvenient popular beliefs are suppressed. None of this is remotely controversial or even debatable. U.S. support for tyrants has largely been conducted out in the open, and has been expressly defended and affirmed for decades by the most mainstream and influential U.S. policy experts and media outlets.

The foreign policy guru most beloved and respected in Washington, Henry Kissinger, built his career on embracing and propping up the most savage tyrants because of their obeisance to U.S. objectives. Among the statesman’s highlights, as Greg Grandin documented, he “pumped up Pakistan’s ISI, and encouraged it to use political Islam to destabilize Afghanistan”; “began the U.S.’s arms-for-petrodollars dependency with Saudi Arabia and pre-revolutionary Iran”; and “supported coups and death squads throughout Latin America.” Kissinger congratulated Argentina’s military junta for its mass killings and aggressively enabled the genocide carried out by one of the 20th century’s worst monsters, the Indonesian dictator and close U.S. ally Suharto.

Jeane Kirkpatrick, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. under President Reagan, was regarded as a top-flight conservative intellectual because of her explicit defense of pro-Western, right-wing dictators, heaping praise on U.S.-supported savage oppressors such as the Shah of Iran and Nicaragua’s military dictator Anastasio Somoza on the ground that “they were positively friendly to the U.S., sending their sons and others to be educated in our universities, voting with us in the United Nations, and regularly supporting American interests and positions even when these entailed personal and political cost.” Unsurprisingly, U.S. foreign policy in the Reagan years, like the decades that preceded and followed them, was defined by economic, military, and diplomatic support for pro-U.S. dictators, death squads, and even terrorists.

Leading U.S. media outlets have long openly celebrated this pro-dictator stance. Upon the 2006 death of Augusto Pinochet — the military dictator imposed on Chile by the U.S. after it overthrew that country’s democratically elected left-wing president — the Washington Post editorial page heaped praise on both Kirkpatrick and Pinochet. While conceding that the Chilean tyrant was “brutal: more than 3,000 people were killed by his government and tens of thousands tortured,” the Post hailed “the free-market policies that produced the Chilean economic miracle,” concluding that like Pinochet, “Kirkpatrick, too, was vilified by the left. Yet by now it should be obvious: She was right.”When a right-wing coup in 2002 temporarily succeeded in removing Venezuela’s elected left-wing President Hugo Chávez, the New York Times editorial page cast it as a victory for democracy: “With yesterday’s resignation of President Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator. Mr. Chávez, a ruinous demagogue, stepped down after the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader.”

[As I documented several years ago: In the same editorial, the Times announced that Chávez’s “removal was a purely Venezuelan affair,” even though it was quickly and predictably thereafter revealed that neocon officials in the Bush administration played a vital role. Eleven years later, upon Chávez’s death, the Times editors admitted that “the Bush administration badly damaged Washington’s reputation throughout Latin America when it unwisely blessed a failed 2002 military coup attempt against Mr. Chávez,” though the paper failed to note that it had not only denied that this happened but had itself celebrated that coup.]

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In 1977, Jimmy Carter attended a state dinner in Tehran for the Shah of Iran, the savage U.S.-supported despot who ruled that country for decades after the CIA overthrew its democratically elected leader. It took place shortly after Carter hosted the Shah at the White House. The U.S. president hailed the Iranian tyrant with a long toast, which began this way:

Your Majesties and distinguished leaders of Iran from all walks of life:

I would like to say just a few words tonight in appreciation for your hospitality and the delightful evening that we’ve already experienced with you. Some have asked why we came to Iran so close behind the delightful visit that we received from the Shah and Empress Farah just a month or so ago. After they left our country, I asked my wife, “With whom would you like to spend New Year’s Eve?” And she said, “Above all others, I think, with the Shah and Empress Farah.” So we arranged the trip accordingly and came to be with you.

As Carter spoke, his praise for the homicidal Iranian despot became more flowery and obsequious: “Iran, because of the great leadership of the Shah, is an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world. This is a great tribute to you, Your Majesty, and to your leadership and to the respect and the admiration and love which your people give to you.” Two years later, those same people whom Carter claimed revered the Shah overthrew him and, to this day, loathe the U.S. because of the decades of support and praise it heaped on their dictator.

U.S. devotion to the world’s worst dictators did not end, or even recede, upon the end of the Cold War. Both the Bush and Obama administrations continually armed, funded, supported, and praised the world’s worst dictators.

In 2009, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton actually said of the murderous Egyptian dictator supported by the U.S.: “I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family.” When Egypt’s defense minister, Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, overthrew that country’s first elected government, Clinton’s successor, John Kerry, hailed him for “restoring democracy,” and as Sisi became more brutal and repressive, the Obama administration lavished him with more weapons and money. The U.S. government did the same for the human-rights abusing dictators in Bahrain.

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The U.S. gave at least tacit approval, if not outright encouragement, to the 2009 military coup against Honduras’s elected left-wing government. The Clinton-led State Department then repeatedly denied abundant evidence that the coup government it was supporting was engaging in an assassination program of critics and anti-government activists. Last year, the Washington Post’s Karen Attiah examined “how [the Clinton] State Department’s role in undemocratic regime changes has contributed to violence and political instability in Honduras and Haiti today,” particularly documenting the various steps Secretary Clinton took to protect the military leaders who engineered the Honduran coup.

And then there is Saudi Arabia, long one of the most repressive regimes on the planet and one of the U.S.’s most cherished allies. U.S. devotion to the Saudi tyrants by itself negates virtually every plank of U.S. propaganda about spreading freedom and democracy, given that one administration after the next has worked tirelessly to maintain and strengthen that regime.

Obama, like Bush before him, repeatedly hosted Saudi despots at the White House. When the monstrous Saudi King died in 2015, Obama terminated his state visit to India in order to fly to Riyadh to pay homage to the close U.S. partner, where he was joined by a bipartisan cast of U.S. political stars. As The Guardian put it: “Obama has been forced to defend his unwillingness to challenge Saudi Arabia’s autocratic rulers as he led a U.S. delegation to shore up relations with its new king, just hours after lecturing India on religious tolerance and women’s rights.”

Upon the Saudi King’s death, Obama said of a despot who killed and imprisoned dissidents: “At home, King Abdullah’s vision was dedicated to the education of his people and to greater engagement with the world.” Obama’s gestures of admiration were mild when compared to those of the U.K. government, which ordered all flags be flown at half-mast to honor the deceased monarch, but Obama was not remotely shy about publicly lavishing the Saudi regime with praise.

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In sum, the post-World War II foreign policy of the U.S. — independent of its massive human rights violations committed over and over around the world — has been predicated on overthrowing democratically elected governments and, even more so, supporting, aligning with, and propping up brutal dictators. This policy has been applied all over the world, on multiple continents and by every administration. It is impossible to understand even the most basic aspects of the U.S. role in the world without knowing that.

ALL OF THIS history is now being erased and whitewashed, replaced with jingoistic fairy tales by the U.S. media and leading political officials. Despite these decades of flagrant pro-dictatorship policies, the U.S. media and leading political officials have spent months manufacturing and disseminating a propagandistic fairy tale that casts Donald Trump’s embrace of dictators as some sort of new, aberrational departure from the noble American tradition.

They have repeatedly claimed that the pre-Trump U.S. was devoted to supporting and spreading democracy around the world, while condemning and opposing tyranny. This is rank revisionism of the worst kind: jingoistic propaganda that should shame anyone endorsing it.

Like U.S. support for dictators, these recent bouts of propaganda are too numerous to comprehensively chronicle. Some of the more influential instances will have to suffice.

In February, the New York Times editorial page — writing under the phrase used by Jeane Kirkpatrick to demonize 1984 Democrats as unpatriotic: “Blame America First” — attacked Trump with this propagandistic garbage: “Since taking office, Mr. Trump has shown little support for America’s traditional roles as a champion of universal values like freedom of the press and tolerance.” Imagine what a shock it would be to the people of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Chile, Bahrain, Iran, Argentina, Brazil, and the countless other countries that lived under a U.S.-supported dictator to hear about “America’s traditional roles as a champion of universal values like freedom of the press and tolerance.”

Perhaps the worst example yet came yesterday in a Washington Post article by its White House bureau chief Philip Rucker, who made this claim: “Every American president since at least the 1970s has used his office to champion human rights and democratic values around the world.” He added: “In an undeniable shift in American foreign policy, Trump is cultivating authoritarian leaders.”

Cultivating authoritarian leaders is everything except a “shift in American foreign policy.” Nonetheless, this propagandistic lie has now become commonplace among über-patriotic journalists eager to tell the world that the U.S. before Trump had been devoted to liberating the oppressed peoples of the world from tyranny. Here’s the New York Times political reporter Maggie Haberman — in a widely shared tweet — endorsing these jingoistic falsehoods from Rucker:

Trump, fundamentally uninterested in spreading small-d democracy in dramatic break w predecessors. @PhilipRuckerhttps://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-keeps-praising-international-strongmen-alarming-human-rights-advocates/2017/05/01/6848d018-2e81-11e7-9dec-764dc781686f_story.html?tid=ss_tw&utm_term=.aec73ffae856 

Photo published for Trump keeps praising international strongmen, alarming human rights advocates

Trump keeps praising international strongmen, alarming human rights advocates

Trump’s affection for autocrats beyond Putin marks a major shift in U.S. foreign policy.

washingtonpost.com

How can someone possibly be a journalist and believe that Trump’s being “uninterested in spreading small-d democracy” is a “dramatic break” from his predecessors? Yet this is now standard fare for the U.S. media, as evidenced by this segment from CNN this morning pronouncing Trump’s praise of rogue leaders to be “a sharp U.S. policy shift.”

CNN took a policy that has been standard U.S. posture for decades and told its viewers that it represented “a sharp U.S. policy shift.”

One would be remiss to omit this blatantly false propaganda from one of the Democrats’ most beloved members of Congress, Rep. Adam Schiff, who — in a predictably viral tweet — yesterday chided Trump for inviting to the White House the mass-murdering ruler of the Philippines and thus defacing noble U.S. traditions:

There was a time when the U.S. condemned extrajudicial killings, not rewarded them with WH visit. That time was 103 days ago. https://twitter.com/politico/status/858673343670751232 

Aside from the fact that the U.S. has spent decades supporting tyrants and despots whose calling card is “extrajudicial killings” — including many who were feted at the White House — the central war on terror approach of the Obama presidency was exactly that. For years, Obama bombed multiple Muslim countries in order to kill people — including his own citizens — who his administration suspected, but never proved, had connections to terrorism. In other words, he killed thousands of people extrajudicially. It takes a special kind of propagandist to claim that this is a new Trumpian innovation.

WHAT’S REALLY GOING on here is self-evident. Nobody remotely rational, nobody with even a fleeting understanding of U.S. history, believes that the U.S. only began supporting and heaping praise on dictators upon Trump’s inauguration. Responding to criticisms, the Post yesterday edited Rucker’s patriotic tribute to the U.S. by adding the italicized words: “Every American president since at least the 1970s has used his office at least occasionally to champion human rights and democratic values around the world.”

But that claim is still false. Can anyone possibly believe that — even when U.S. leaders paid lip service to human rights improvements — there was anything remotely genuine about it? Condemning human rights abuses is an instrument that the U.S. cynically uses to punish adversaries. And officials admit this when being candid, as this extraordinary passage from a 2013 Washington Post article revealed:

Human-rights groups have also accused the U.S. government of holding its tongue about political repression in Ethiopia, another key security partner in East Africa.

“The countries that cooperate with us get at least a free pass,” acknowledged a senior U.S. official who specializes in Africa but spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid retribution. “Whereas other countries that don’t cooperate, we ream them as best we can.”

The Post article went on to note that the Bush administration “took the same approach,” and that while “many U.S. diplomats and human-rights groups had hoped Obama would shift his emphasis in Africa from security to democracy … that has not happened.” In fact, “‘There’s pretty much been no change at all,’ the official said. ‘In the end, it was an almost seamless transition from Bush to Obama.’”

That’s how the U.S. uses human rights advocacy: as a weapon to “ream” uncooperative countries to punish them for their disobedience. For regimes that “cooperate” with U.S. dictates, they get “at least a free pass” to abuse human rights as extensively as they want, if not outright support and funding for doing so.

What’s really infuriating those attacking Trump for doing what the U.S. government has been doing for decades — supporting and praising heinous tyrants — is that he’s denying them the ability to maintain the myths they desperately tell themselves about their own country. Being able to claim that the U.S. is devoted to spreading freedom and democracy in the world is central to their internal monologue. From the Washington Post newsroom to the corridors of the State Department, this is the fairy tale that they tell themselves every day in order to justify their position as global arbiters of the behavior of other countries.

Once that veneer is removed, once that fairy tale is dispensed with, then the harsh reality stands nakedly exposed: What they are defending is nothing more than the illegitimate and arbitrary exercise of imperial power. The loss of this fiction imperils their entire moral framework. They aren’t angry that Trump is hugging dictators, obviously. All the other presidents whom they revere did the same. It goes without saying that a political culture that admires Henry Kissinger has no objection whatsoever to embracing tyrants.

They are furious that Trump isn’t as effective or as willing to pretend that he’s not doing this. That means they can no longer pretend that the violence, the wars, the coercion, the interference, the dictator support that they routinely condone has a moral purpose to it.

The reality is that even the fiction, the pretense, of the U.S. as some sort of defender of human rights and democracy is being wildly overstated. As the above examples (and so many others) demonstrate, U.S. officials, including U.S. presidents, have openly feted and praised despots at least as monstrous as Duterte.

Just as it’s comforting to believe that Trump is the byproduct of a foreign villain rather than an American phenomenon, it’s also comforting to believe that his embrace of despots is some sort of novelty. But, especially for journalists, the fact that it feels good to believe a myth does not justify disseminating it.

Watching the U.S. media tell everyone that Trump’s predecessors were devoted to spreading democracy, and that supporting tyrants is a “dramatic break” from the U.S. tradition, is such an obvious break from reality that it is staggering to see, even for those who already view the U.S. media as principally devoted to spreading patriotic state propaganda about the U.S. government.

 

Obama and Clinton Brought Slavery to Libya April 23, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Libya, slavery, Syria, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: I am not sure I agree that the evidence of Assad atrocities is “dubious,” but it is clear that the US interventions in Iraq, Syria and Libya were violations of international law (i.e. war crimes) and have resulted in monumental humanitarian disasters.  Be it a Democratic or Republican, US interventions justified at humanitarian are always suspect and almost always result in the opposite.  When trying to understand motives for the MIC in the middle east, remember the code name that Baby Bush was going to use for his invasion of Iraq before someone noticed there might be a problem with it: Operation Iraq Liberation (O.I.L.).

“The dismemberment of Libya is one of many crimes that are conveniently shoved down the memory hole.”

by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley

According to international observers, “African migrants are being openly bought and sold in Libya” – yet another consequence of “R2P,” the pernicious doctrine of “Responsibility to Protect.” No one is protecting Black Africans from the bestial forces let loose by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in Libya in 2011. “America’s first black president is responsible for slavery taking place in a once prosperous African country.”

Nearly every day there is a new report of desperate migrants rescued at sea in the Mediterranean. Some are less fortunate and are among the estimated 12,000 who have died there in the last three years alone. Their point of embarkation is Libya, a nation now a haven for human traffickers because of President Barack Obama and his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.

Their deliberate destruction of Libya was a war crime by all standards of international law. That country was just one victim of the American plan to eliminate secular governments in the Middle East. Under the guise of a phony “responsibility to protect” and with cover from organizations such as Human Rights Watch, American propaganda gave an atrocity the appearance of a humanitarian act. Now come reports from media and the International Organization for Migration that African migrants are being openly bought and sold in Libya. This practice would not be taking place if Muammar Gaddafi not been murdered by American backed jihadists in 2011.

Obama’s evil success in Libya set off an endless trail of disasters. Libya is a hot bed of ISIS activity along with Iraq and Syria. It is not a coincidence that all three countries were targets of American regime change. Even the American ambassador in Libya fell victim to his government’s machinations in Benghazi.

“Under the guise of a phony ‘responsibility to protect’ and with cover from organizations such as Human Rights Watch, American propaganda gave an atrocity the appearance of a humanitarian act.”

Obama and Clinton hoped to continue their victory in Syria, but president Assad was stronger than they anticipated. When the Russians proved to be fickle allies who were willing to push Assad under the proverbial bus, Obama and Clinton wouldn’t take yes for an answer. They insisted that Assad had to go and they didn’t care how many Syrians they killed or turned into refugees in the process. Now the bloodshed continues under a new administration.

European countries struggle to contend with the flow of people from Syria and Libya who would be in their homelands were it not for America’s designs on that part of the world. Yet the corporate media say nothing. They may report on the refugee crisis and the migrant crisis without ever stating what is easily provable, that the United States is entirely responsible for the suffering.

There can be no plan for reviving the peace movement that doesn’t include a reckoning of responsibility for the disasters that Obama and Clinton brought to the world. “We came, we saw, he died,” is one of the more memorable Hillary Clinton statements, memorable for all the wrong reasons. Obama knew better than to be so crass, but he privately called Libya a “shit show” as if he were a bystander and not the perpetrator.

While the corporate media make hay out of very dubious evidence of atrocities allegedly committed by the Syrian government, the atrocities caused directly by the American government go unmentioned. Or rather they are reported absent of any context of American responsibility.

“There can be no plan for reviving the peace movement that doesn’t include a reckoning of responsibility for the disasters that Obama and Clinton brought to the world.”

Even press reports of slave trading in Libya follow the same proscribed language. They will say that Gaddafi was an autocrat and a dictator, but omit that the humanitarian ,disaster was carried out by the United States, NATO, and Gulf monarchs. The dismemberment of Libya is one of many crimes that are conveniently shoved down the memory hole.

Now we see the supreme and awful irony. America’s first black president is responsible for slavery taking place in a once prosperous African country and his role is covered up by people who once would have condemned his actions.

Black people defended Muammar Gaddafi if no one else did. American presidents made a show of castigating Gaddafi, calling him crazed, fanatical, dictatorial and mentally ill. Black Americans were unanimous in their support whenever he was attacked, whether militarily or even rhetorically. But that support ended when he fell under Obama’s cross hairs. Barack Obama’s ascendancy to the presidency was a curse on black America’s political heritage.

That curse is unlikely to be lifted anytime soon. There was never a great willingness to point out his wrong doing, and now that the despised Trump is president the selective amnesia grows worse.

The corporate media do not fulfill their most basic obligations. They repeat lies if they are told by people they decide to protect. They hide the truth if it is told by the people they decide to disappear from discourse and from history. But that dissembling should not silence people who put themselves in the anti-war camp. When they read or hear about refugees and migrants dying or being sold as slaves they must state loudly and clearly that Obama and Clinton are the villains in the story.

Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.

IMAGES (1) February 20, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, First Nations, Human Rights, Police, Racism, Republicans, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: I have become addicted to surfing Instagram for interesting images; and I am collecting those I find to be interesting, ironic, funny, poignant and politically biting.  I share some of them with you here.

 

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Through observation and study it has become clear to me that police forces in North American have become bastions of racism, misogyny and homophobia, at the same time as they have become militarised (i.e. armed to the teeth a la S.W.A.T. teams, which now routinely crash into homes like Gangbusters to serve simple warrants).  These police forces are already the front line storm troops used to repress legitimate dissent (e.g. Occupy Movement).  It helps greatly that the members of these forces are ideologically inclined to help stamp out protest movements).

 

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Obama Killed a 16-Year-Old American in Yemen. Trump Just Killed His 8-Year-Old Sister. January 31, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Constitution, Human Rights, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Trump, Uncategorized, War on Terror.
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Roger’s note: As we confront the groundwork for massive atrocities being laid in these first days of the neo-Fascist Trump government, perhaps we need to be reminded that a substantial amount of the groundwork had already been put in place, much of it by the Obama administration.  That the political classes and the mainstream media have no problem with the president of the United States ordering bombings that kill dozens of civilians, including American citizens, it an abomination.  I had read in the New York Times that an American soldier died in these attacks.  That was it.  No mention of the atrocity described in this article.

In 2010, President Obama directed the CIA to assassinate an American citizen in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki, despite the fact that he had never been charged with (let alone convicted of) any crime, and the agency successfully carried out that order a year later with a September 2011 drone strike. While that assassination created widespread debate — the once-again-beloved ACLU sued Obama to restrain him from the assassination on the ground of due process and then, when that suit was dismissed, sued Obama again after the killing was carried out — another drone killing carried out shortly thereafter was perhaps even more significant yet generated relatively little attention.

Two weeks after the killing of Awlaki, a separate CIA drone strike in Yemen killed his 16-year-old American-born son, Abdulrahman, along with the boy’s 17-year-old cousin and several other innocent Yemenis. The U.S. eventually claimed that the boy was not their target but merely “collateral damage.” Abdulrahman’s grief-stricken grandfather, Nasser al-Awlaki, urged the Washington Post “to visit a Facebook memorial page for Abdulrahman,” which explained: “Look at his pictures, his friends, and his hobbies. His Facebook page shows a typical kid.”

Few events pulled the mask off Obama officials like this one. It highlighted how the Obama administration was ravaging Yemen, one of the world’s poorest countries: just weeks after he won the Nobel Prize, Obama used cluster bombs that killed 35 Yemeni women and children. Even Obama-supporting liberal comedians mocked the arguments of the Obama DOJ for why it had the right to execute Americans with no charges: “Due Process Just Means There’s A Process That You Do,” snarked Stephen Colbert. And a firestorm erupted when former Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs offered a sociopathic justification for killing the Colorado-born teenager, apparently blaming him for his own killing by saying he should have “had a more responsible father.” 

The U.S. assault on Yemeni civilians not only continued but radically escalated over the next five years through the end of the Obama presidency, as the U.S. and the U.K. armed, supported, and provide crucial assistance to their close ally Saudi Arabia as it devastated Yemen through a criminally reckless bombing campaign. Yemen now faces mass starvationseemingly exacerbated, deliberately, by the U.S.-U.K.-supported air attacks. Because of the West’s direct responsibility for these atrocities, they have received vanishingly little attention in the responsible countries.

In a hideous symbol of the bipartisan continuity of U.S. barbarism, Nasser al-Awlaki just lost another one of his young grandchildren to U.S. violence. On Sunday, the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, using armed Reaper drones for cover, carried out a commando raid on what it said was a compound harboring officials of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. A statement issued by President Trump lamented the death of an American service member and several others who were wounded, but made no mention of any civilian deaths. U.S. military officials initially denied any civilian deaths, and (therefore) the CNN report on the raid said nothing about any civilians being killed.

But reports from Yemen quickly surfaced that 30 people were killed, including 10 women and children. Among the dead: the 8-year-old granddaughter of Nasser al-Awlaki, Nawar, who was also the daughter of Anwar Awlaki.

 

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As noted by my colleague Jeremy Scahill — who extensively interviewed the grandparents in Yemen for his book and film on Obama’s “Dirty Wars” —  the girl “was shot in the neck and killed,” bleeding to death over the course of two hours. “Why kill children?” the grandfather asked. “This is the new (U.S.) administration — it’s very sad, a big crime.”

The New York Times yesterday reported that military officials had been planning and debating the raid for months under the Obama administration, but Obama officials decided to leave the choice to Trump. The new president personally authorized the attack last week. They claim that the “main target” of the raid “was computer materials inside the house that could contain clues about future terrorist plots.” The paper cited a Yemeni official saying that “at least eight women and seven children, ages 3 to 13, had been killed in the raid,” and that the attack also “severely damaged a school, a health facility and a mosque.”

As my colleague Matthew Cole reported in great detail just weeks ago, Navy SEAL Team 6, for all its public glory, has a long history of “‘revenge ops,’ unjustified killings, mutilations, and other atrocities.” And Trump notoriously vowed during the campaign to target not only terrorists but also their families. All of that demands aggressive, independent inquiries into this operation.

Perhaps most tragic of all is that — just as was true in Iraq — al Qaeda had very little presence in Yemen before the Obama administration began bombing and droning it and killing civilians, thus driving people into the arms of the militant group. As the late, young Yemeni writer Ibrahim Mothana told Congress in 2013:

Drone strikes are causing more and more Yemenis to hate America and join radical militants. … Unfortunately, liberal voices in the United States are largely ignoring, if not condoning, civilian deaths and extrajudicial killings in Yemen.

During George W. Bush’s presidency, the rage would have been tremendous. But today there is little outcry, even though what is happening is in many ways an escalation of Mr. Bush’s policies. …

Defenders of human rights must speak out. America’s counterterrorism policy here is not only making Yemen less safe by strengthening support for AQAP [al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] but it could also ultimately endanger the United States and the entire world.

This is why it is crucial that — as urgent and valid protests erupt against Trump’s abuses — we not permit recent history to be whitewashed, or long-standing U.S. savagery to be deceitfully depicted as new Trumpian aberrations, or the war on terror framework engendering these new assaults to be forgotten. Some current abuses are unique to Trump, but — as I detailed on Saturday — some are the decades-old byproduct of a mindset and system of war and executive powers that all need uprooting. Obscuring these facts, or allowing those responsible to posture as opponents of all this, is not just misleading but counterproductive: Much of this resides on an odious continuum and did not just appear out of nowhere.

Congress voted on border wall in 2006, Hillary, Schumer, Feinstein voted Yes https://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=109&session=2&vote=00262  Bernie voted no http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2006/roll446.xml 

 

It’s genuinely inspiring to see pervasive rage over the banning of visa holders and refugees from countries like Yemen. But it’s also infuriating that the U.S. continues to massacre Yemeni civilians, both directly and through its tyrannical Saudi partners. That does not become less infuriating — Yemeni civilians are not less dead — because these policies and the war theories in which they are rooted began before the inauguration of Donald Trump. It’s not just Trump but this mentality and framework that need vehement opposition.

Urgent: Chelsea Manning is running out of time. We have just days left to get 100,000 signatures calling for President Obama to commute her sentence to time served. December 9, 2016

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Uncategorized, Whistle-blowing.
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Transparency activist Chelsea Manning has already spent more time behind bars than any other whistleblower in U.S. history. [1] She’s been systematically mistreated, subjected to torture, and denied access to desperately needed health care while serving a 35 year sentence in an all-male military prison.

And if we don’t do something right now, Chelsea’s life is literally in danger. Sign this urgent petition calling for Chelsea’s release. The deadline is next week!KT Mcfarland, the incoming administration’s pick for Deputy National Security Advisor, has repeatedly called for Chelsea to be executed. [2] Her situation is about to go from bad to worse.

Chelsea has already attempted to commit suicide twice as a direct result of years of psychological torture she’s endured and the inhumane conditions of her captivity. [3]

The Obama Administration is directly responsible for Chelsea’s unnecessary suffering. Now the President has one last chance to do the right thing, but he’ll only do it if we generate a massive outcry, right now.

Chelsea risked everything to do what she felt was right. Click here to sign the petition calling for President Obama to commute her sentence before he leaves office.

We’ve already got nearly 50,000 signatures on a “WhiteHouse.gov” petition calling supporting Chelsea’s request that President Obama grant her clemency and reduce her sentence to “Time Served.”

Our allies in Washington, DC suggest that this is much more likely than Obama offering a pardon, and if we get enough people to sign, there’s a chance we can get Chelsea free, and possibly save her life in the process.

If we get more than 100,000 signatures by December 14th, President Obama will have to respond. This could be our last chance. Chelsea is depending on us.

Time is running out! Click here to sign the petition now.

I talked to Chelsea on the phone just last week. She is always so humble, brave, and grateful for all of your support.

Please forward this email to everyone you know. If all of us act now, it could make all the difference for Chelsea’s future.

Here’s the link: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/commute-chelsea-mannings-sentence-time-served-1

More soon,

-Evan at Fight for the Future

SOURCES:
[1] Learn more at https://www.freechelsea.com

[2] CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/02/politics/kfile-kt-mcfarland-manning-assange/

[3] The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/04/chelsea-manning-second-suicide-attempt-attorneys-prison-sentence

 

Thank you, Barack Obama November 10, 2016

Posted by rogerhollander in 2016 election, Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Climate Change, Criminal Justice, donald trump, Immigration, Media, Nazi / Fascist, Racism, Surveillance, Surveillance State, Trump, War.
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Roger’s note: the Obama presidency has been lethal to so many social movements, perhaps none more so than the anti-war movement.  Because he is a Democrat, and because the Democrats are the good guys (that’s a joke), he was to be trusted and supported.  Shit, they gave him the Nobel Peace Prize!  Like the Clintons, Obama has been and is little more than a mildly sugar-coated shill for the military industrial complex.  Because of the institutions of “security” and oppression that his presidency has strengthened and emboldened, the cost in life and liberty of the police-state violence against the massive resistance the is bound to erupt against Trump will be that much greater.

Good people have no reason to be thankful for Obama, but the Trump abominations certainly do.

Silencing America As It Prepares For War June 10, 2016

Posted by rogerhollander in 2016 election, Barack Obama, bernie sanders, Capitalism, China, Democracy, donald trump, Foreign Policy, Hillary Clinton, History, Imperialism, Nuclear weapons/power, Russia, Trump, Ukraine, Uncategorized, War.
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Roger’s note: this article exposes a series of myths.  US as promoter of democracy; Obama as peacemaker; Democratic presidents as progressive, and so on.  See if you can identify others.  It is truly frightening that we live in an upsidedown world where illusion poses as truth and the nation that considers itself as the leader of the free world and the beacon of democracy poses the greatest threat ever to humankind.

 

By  on May 30, 2016 International Affairs

America-war-trick

The United States is focussed on a racist Republican presidential candidate, while those in power – and those seeking it – prepare for war, writes John Pilger.

Returning to the United States in an election year, I am struck by the silence. I have covered four presidential campaigns, starting with 1968; I was with Robert Kennedy when he was shot and I saw his assassin, preparing to kill him. It was a baptism in the American way, along with the salivating violence of the Chicago police at the Democratic Party’s rigged convention.

The great counter revolution had begun.

The first to be assassinated that year, Martin Luther King, had dared link the suffering of African-Americans and the people of Vietnam. When Janis Joplin sang, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”, she spoke perhaps unconsciously for millions of America’s victims in faraway places.

“We lost 58,000 young soldiers in Vietnam, and they died defending your freedom. Now don’t you forget it.”

So said a National Parks Service guide as I filmed last week at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. He was addressing a school party of young teenagers in bright orange T-shirts. As if by rote, he inverted the truth about Vietnam into an unchallenged lie.

The millions of Vietnamese who died and were maimed and poisoned and dispossessed by the American invasion have no historical place in young minds, not to mention the estimated 60,000 veterans who took their own lives. A friend of mine, a marine who became a paraplegic in Vietnam, was often asked, “Which side did you fight on?”

A few years ago, I attended a popular exhibition called “The Price of Freedom” at the venerable Smithsonian Institution in Washington. The lines of ordinary people, mostly children shuffling through a Santa’s grotto of revisionism, were dispensed a variety of lies: the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved “a million lives”; Iraq was “liberated [by]air strikes of unprecedented precision”.

The theme was unerringly heroic: only Americans pay the price of freedom.

The 2016 election campaign is remarkable not only for the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, but also for the resilience of an enduring silence about a murderous self-bestowed divinity. A third of the members of the United Nations have felt Washington’s boot, overturning governments, subverting democracy, imposing blockades and boycotts. Most of the presidents responsible have been liberal – Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, Obama.

The breathtaking record of perfidy is so mutated in the public mind, wrote the late Harold Pinter, that it “never happened… nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. It didn’t matter….”

Pinter expressed a mock admiration for what he called “a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.”

US president Barack Obama.
US president Barack Obama.

Take Obama. As he prepares to leave office, the fawning has begun all over again. He is “cool”. One of the more violent presidents, Obama gave full reign to the Pentagon war-making apparatus of his discredited predecessor. He prosecuted more whistleblowers – truth-tellers – than any president. He pronounced Chelsea Manning guilty before she was tried.

Today, Obama runs an unprecedented worldwide campaign of terrorism and murder by drone.

In 2009, Obama promised to help “rid the world of nuclear weapons” and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. No American president has built more nuclear warheads than Obama. He is “modernising” America’s doomsday arsenal, including a new “mini” nuclear weapon, whose size and “smart” technology, says a leading general, ensure its use is “no longer unthinkable”.

James Bradley, the best-selling author of Flags of Our Fathers and son of one of the US marines who raised the flag on Iwo Jima, said, “[One] great myth we’re seeing play out is that of Obama as some kind of peaceful guy who’s trying to get rid of nuclear weapons. He’s the biggest nuclear warrior there is. He’s committed us to a ruinous course of spending a trillion dollars on more nuclear weapons. Somehow, people live in this fantasy that because he gives vague news conferences and speeches and feel-good photo-ops that somehow that’s attached to actual policy. It isn’t.”

On Obama’s watch, a second cold war is under way. The Russian president is a pantomime villain; the Chinese are not yet back to their sinister pig-tailed caricature – when all Chinese were banned from the United States – but the media warriors are working on it.

Neither Hillary Clinton nor Bernie Sanders has mentioned any of this. There is no risk and no danger for the United States and all of us. For them, the greatest military build-up on the borders of Russia since World War Two has not happened. On May 11, Romania went “live” with a Nato “missile defence” base that aims its first-strike American missiles at the heart of Russia, the world’s second nuclear power.

In Asia, the Pentagon is sending ships, planes and Special Forces to the Philippines to threaten China. The US already encircles China with hundreds of military bases that curve in an arc up from Australia, to Asia and across to Afghanistan. Obama calls this a “pivot”.

As a direct consequence, China reportedly has changed its nuclear weapons policy from no-first-use to high alert, and put to sea submarines with nuclear weapons. The escalator is quickening.

It was Hillary Clinton who, as Secretary of State in 2010, elevated the competing territorial claims for rocks and reef in the South China Sea to an international issue; CNN and BBC hysteria followed; China was building airstrips on the disputed islands.

In its mammoth war game with Australia in 2015, Operation Talisman Sabre, the US practiced “choking” the Straits of Malacca through which pass most of China’s oil and trade. This was not news.

Clinton declared that America had a “national interest” in these Asian waters. The Philippines and Vietnam were encouraged and bribed to pursue their claims and old enmities against China. In America, people are being primed to see any Chinese defensive position as offensive, and so the ground is laid for rapid escalation.

A similar strategy of provocation and propaganda is applied to Russia.

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US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. (IMAGE: US Embassy, Flickr)

Clinton, the “women’s candidate”, leaves a trail of bloody coups: in Honduras, in Libya (plus the murder of the Libyan president) and Ukraine. The latter is now a CIA theme park swarming with Nazis and the frontline of a beckoning war with Russia.

It was through Ukraine – literally, borderland – that Hitler’s Nazis invaded the Soviet Union, which lost 27 million people. This epic catastrophe remains a presence in Russia. Clinton’s presidential campaign has received money from all but one of the world’s 10 biggest arms companies. No other candidate comes close.

Sanders, the hope of many young Americans, is not very different from Clinton in his proprietorial view of the world beyond the United States. He backed Bill Clinton’s illegal bombing of Serbia. He supports Obama’s terrorism by drone, the provocation of Russia and the return of special forces (death squads) to Iraq.

He has nothing to say on the drumbeat of threats to China and the accelerating risk of nuclear war. He agrees that Edward Snowden should stand trial and he calls Hugo Chavez – like him, a social democrat – “a dead communist dictator”. He promises to support Clinton if she is nominated.

The election of Trump or Clinton is the old illusion of choice that is no choice: two sides of the same coin. In scapegoating minorities and promising to “make America great again”, Trump is a far right-wing domestic populist; yet the danger of Clinton may be more lethal for the world.

“Only Donald Trump has said anything meaningful and critical of US foreign policy,” wrote Stephen Cohen, emeritus professor of Russian History at Princeton and NYU, one of the few Russia experts in the United States to speak out about the risk of war.

In a radio broadcast, Cohen referred to critical questions Trump alone had raised. Among them: why is the United States “everywhere on the globe”? What is NATO’s true mission? Why does the US always pursue regime change in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Ukraine? Why does Washington treat Russia and Vladimir Putin as an enemy?

The hysteria in the liberal media over Trump serves an illusion of “free and open debate” and “democracy at work”. His views on immigrants and Muslims are grotesque, yet the deporter-in-chief of vulnerable people from America is not Trump but Obama, whose betrayal of people of colour is his legacy: such as the warehousing of a mostly black prison population, now more numerous than Stalin’s gulag.

This presidential campaign may not be about populism but American liberalism, an ideology that sees itself as modern and therefore superior and the one true way. Those on its right wing bear a likeness to 19th century Christian imperialists, with a God-given duty to convert or co-opt or conquer.

In Britain, this is Blairism. The Christian war criminal Tony Blair got away with his secret preparation for the invasion of Iraq largely because the liberal political class and media fell for his “cool Britannia”.

In the Guardian, the applause was deafening; he was called “mystical”. A distraction known as identity politics, imported from the United States, rested easily in his care.

History was declared over, class was abolished and gender promoted as feminism; lots of women became New Labour MPs. They voted on the first day of Parliament to cut the benefits of single parents, mostly women, as instructed. A majority voted for an invasion that produced 700,000 Iraqi widows.

The equivalent in the US are the politically correct warmongers on the New York Times, the Washington Post and network TV who dominate political debate.

I watched a furious debate on CNN about Trump’s infidelities. It was clear, they said, a man like that could not be trusted in the White House.

No issues were raised. Nothing on the 80 per cent of Americans whose income has collapsed to 1970s levels. Nothing on the drift to war. The received wisdom seems to be “hold your nose” and vote for Clinton: anyone but Trump.

That way, you stop the monster and preserve a system gagging for another war.

 

Obama in Charleston July 12, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, History, Race, Racism, Religion.
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Roger’s note: I found this article to be particularly insightful with respect to the underlying and cynical political underpinnings in the rhetoric and strategy of the snake oil salesman who is the president of the United States.

Based as it is in the concept of “grace,” President Obama’s eulogy on June 26, 2015, for the Reverend Clementa Pinckney, pastor of the Emanuel AME Methodist Church, was framed to be moving . But at the same time it was crafted not to rock the ship of state by steering it safely through the troubled political waters of the controversial issues raised by the murders of the Reverend Pinckney and eight of his parishioners. Moving yet politically safe is the keynote of the eulogy.

In this respect the eulogy follows the rhetorical pattern of other speeches Obama has given in the past, most notably the 2008 Philadelphia speech on race. The pattern of these speeches is one in which Obama touches on key issues—poverty, race, gun violence, etc—and then does not propose concrete policy initiatives to deal with the issues, even as a way of educating the public on the specific route to justice we should be taking, no matter what the political obstacles. Instead, he offers us consolation and, of course, his trademark “hope.” That is, he sentimentalizes the issues: “…an open heart,” the president tells us at the end of the eulogy, “That, more than any particular policy or analysis, is what’s called upon right now, I think.” So while earlier in the speech he insists that “To settle for symbolic gestures without following up with the hard work of more lasting change — that’s how we lose our way again,” the eulogy, devoid of any policy recommendations to follow, is no more than a symbolic gesture.

In the case of the murders at Emanuel, the president offers us the consolation and hope of “grace,” which he tells us “according to the Christian tradition [cannot be] earned.” In point of fact, the president is wrong here. It is only a segment of the Christian tradition, the Protestant tradition, in which grace cannot be earned. For the 76.7 million Catholics in the U.S. (a significant number of whom are Black) grace must be earned, through penance. And Catholics, of course, are the first Christians. How significantly different would the eulogy have been had Obama pursued this avenue to grace? For, indeed, there is much actual penance in the form of restorative justice that the United States needs to do.

We should have no doubts that the killings of the Reverend Pinckney and the eight parishioners of the Emanuel AME Methodist Church on June 17, 2015, are part of the ongoing history of lynching of Black people in the U.S. In the present, these wanton killings of Black adults and children have most often been carried out by the police acting in the name of the law: Amadou Diallo, Yvette Smith, Eric Garner, Eleanor Bumpurs, Michael Brown, Tarika Wilson, Walter Scott, Tamir Rice, to name but a few. But they have also been carried out by white vigilantes as in the present case, where Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel L. Simmons, Sr., poeticsimperialismSharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Myra Thompson were lynched alongside Clementa Pinckney. Recently as well, there have been others: James Byrd, Jr., tied to a pickup truck and dragged to death in Texas in 1998 by white racists, comes to mind; and, preceding the recent murders by police in several U.S. cities and by Dylann Roof in Charleston, the lynching of Trayvon Martin by vigilante George Zimmerman on February 26, 2012, stands out. But these few names only represent the multitude of Black lynchings, past and present.

Yet I have not heard any official or mainstream media commentary refer to the AME murders, or any of the killings I’ve referenced, as part of an ongoing history of “lynching?” Nor, while mentioning the history of racial violence in the most general terms, did the president reflect on this specific history in his eulogy. Why not? The reason would seem to be that the U.S. is continually in denial of its own continuing violent history, a denial that acknowledges this history but very generally, almost abstractly, distancing it from us as a way of not coming to grips with it in the present, a denial that works against real reform.

In his eulogy, President Obama referred to slavery as “our original sin.” An implicit effect of Obama’s equating the national “original sin” with slavery is that it reinforces the classic black/white binary. While this binary serves to emphasize a key strain of U.S. history, it simultaneously serves to erase other key components of a continuing history of imperial and colonial violence. In fact, our original sin was not slavery but Native American genocide and the theft of Native land.   This genocidal theft was the very ground of slavery, both literally and figuratively. But the U.S. does not want or cannot afford to admit that it is a settler colony.

In addition to Native genocide and continued colonialism in Indian country under the regime of federal Indian law, in addition to the legacy of slavery and the fact that 150 years after the Civil War Blacks along with Native Americans remain at the bottom of the economic ladder, the U. S. has continued to deny, under the myth of American exceptionalism, which informs all the president’s speeches, its colonial-imperial past and present in Latin America and the Middle East. If we are going to speak in religious terms, as the president chose to do in Charleston, the U.S. has a multitude of “sins” for which to atone both at home and abroad, where it continues to violate international law with undeclared drone warfare that is killing civilians like those who were murdered in church in Charleston.

Perhaps, then, if we followed the Catholic Christian tradition, in which there is also a strong tradition of action for social justice, we might do “penance,” and thereby earn our grace, by fighting for actual policy initiatives: gun control, reparations in the form of economic development for the official theft of labor and land owed the Black and Native communities, the end of deportations for undocumented workers, a living wage, permanent voting rights, equal pay for women, and total LGBTI equality under the Constitution. The implementation of such policies, indeed placing them at the top of the national political agenda, would go a long way to ending the psychological and social conditions that continue to foster lynching in the U.S, conditions that devalue not only Black lives but the lives of other marginalized people of all races, ethnicities, and sexual identities.

This tradition of action for social justice is also a part of the tradition of the Black Protestant Church, which the president references in the eulogy. In that Church this tradition is represented not only by Clementa Pinckney but by such ministers as the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, whom presidential candidate Obama jettisoned in his Philadelphia speech by taking out of context Wright’s just criticism of the United States’ history of violence at home and abroad; that is, by erasing Wright’s taking exception with American exceptionalism.

In the eulogy, Obama develops his meditation on grace by first noting , with admiration bordering on awe, that the families of the fallen forgave the killer at his arraignment hearing: “The alleged killer could have never anticipated the way the families of the fallen would respond when they saw him in court — in the midst of unspeakable grief, with words of forgiveness. He couldn’t imagine that.”

In contrast to Obama’s praise for this act of forgiveness, on the June 24, 2015, Michelangelo Signorile satellite radio show on Serius XM Progress, two days before Obama’s eulogy, Mark Thompson—Black activist, minister, and host of his own show Make It Plain on the same channel—commented skeptically on the time and place of this expression of forgiveness: “What I as a Christian minister can’t understand and what no other Christian minister I know can understand is how you announce forgiveness less than 48 hours after your loved ones have been taken out by Dylann Roof…. it is humanly impossible with all the stages of grief that have been codified and studied ad nauseam…to make that kind of statement credibly that soon.”

Moreover, Thompson pointed out, to make the statement of forgiveness at a “bond hearing” is particularly inappropriate “because that opens the door for legal maneuvering on the part of his counsel.” Thus for Thompson, and he is not alone in this, the time and place of this expression of forgiveness by the bereaved, not forgiveness itself, suggests that the event “was orchestrated, staged and choreographed” in order to suppress potential aggressive protests by the Black community of Charleston, of the kind that had just taken place in Ferguson and Baltimore over the police lynchings of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray (and Thompson made it plain in this interview that he understands these killings, along with those in Charleston and the others I have referenced, as part of the continuing history of lynching): “Nikki Haley,” Thompson remarks, “gets up there and says we’re not like Baltimore…which was insulting to the people of Baltimore, maybe you didn’t have that because people are still in shock, maybe you didn’t have that because you all choreographed, you made a phone call and said to some relatives you all need to come down to this bond hearing and say forgive this man,” though, Thompson notes, “I’m not saying I know that’s what happened but… we just really do not understand how that came to be, the timing of it, highly, highly, highly inappropriate….”

The timing, Thompson suggests, also served to present a comforting , indeed subservient, image of Black people to the nation: “It’s also part of the subjugation of our people…some people cannot feel comfortable in America unless we as Black people are always in this passive and submissive role….” The immediate expression of forgiveness by the families of those murdered at Emmanuel AME , then, is the perfect emotional antidote to the anger of the protestors in Ferguson and Baltimore and in fact to all the acts of Black resistance that are a crucial part of American history and of which the Emmanuel AME and the Black Church as a whole are a part. This act of forgiveness might remind some of us of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s antebellum bestseller Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which presented a sentimental picture of a forgiving Christian Black populace in a U.S. caught up the in the antebellum violence of slavery and of Black and white abolitionist resistance to and rebellion against this “peculiar institution.”

This is exactly the comforting picture that Obama’s eulogy presents with its theme of forgiveness through unearned grace. At the end of the eulogy, Obama sang, in fine voice, quite movingly, Amazing Grace, and once again we might be reminded of the sentimental power of Stowe’s novel, even as we understand its hallucinatory vision of race relations in the United States.

Social critic Jon Stewart got to the heart of our continuing hallucination about the conjuncture of race and violence, when, a day after the Emanuel lynchings, he spoke about them on The Daily Show:

“I honestly have nothing other than just sadness once again that we have to peer into the abyss of the depraved violence that we do to each other and the nexus of a just gaping racial wound that will not heal, yet we pretend doesn’t exist. And I’m confident, though, that by acknowledging it, by staring into that and seeing it for what it is, we still won’t do jack s—. Yeah. That’s us….And we’re going to keep pretending like, ‘I don’t get it. What happened? This one guy lost his mind.’ But we are steeped in that culture in this country and we refuse to recognize it, and I cannot believe how hard people are working to discount it.”

Obama’s eulogy does the hard work of denial by at once “acknowledging” the continuing U.S. history of racist violence against Blacks (though he is careful not to call this continuing violence by the name of “lynching”), by “staring into that and seeing it for what it is,” but in the same breath denying this history by sentimentalizing it and turning policy into morality, most pointedly in the moment when he speaks about gun violence:

“For too long, we’ve been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation…. The vast majority of Americans — the majority of gun owners — want to do something about this. We see that now. (Applause.) And I’m convinced that by acknowledging the pain and loss of others, even as we respect the traditions and ways of life that make up this beloved country — by making the moral choice to change, we express God’s grace.”

This is vintage Obama: the problem of gun violence is at once articulated and solved in a virtual reality where the “vast majority of Americans—the majority of gun owners, expressing “God’s grace” make “the moral choice to change.” No policy needed; the “something” that “the vast majority of Americans…want to do” about gun violence is not specified, precisely because there is no consensus on the issue. It follows that if one does not voice an actual policy on guns, there are no hard choices of the kind, for example, that Australia (another frontier colonial state) made in instituting rigorous gun laws in 1996 after a lone gunman, Martin Bryant, went on a shooting rampage that left 35 people dead and 23 wounded in Tasmania. Indeed, Obama has cited Australia’s response to this massacre favorably in the past. Here, however, within the scope of God’s grace, the U.S. can apparently have its political cake and eat it too “by acknowledging the pain and loss of others, even as we respect the traditions and ways of life that make up this beloved country.” We can, it appears, control guns without disturbing “the traditions and ways of life” of gun owners. This is magical thinking, which clearly ignores the NRA and its vast lobbying power.

If the audience hasn’t been moved by this sentimental appeal, and apparently it has been if the applause the appeal calls forth is any indication, then the president’s invocation of “this beloved country” functions rhetorically to conjure his imaginary consensus.

At worst, one might be tempted to think that Obama’s eulogy was cynical in its turn away from policy, that is, from the major political form of accountability, to a sentimentality that mimics the precipitous act of forgiveness of the bereaved in Charleston. As Mark Thompson points out such acts of forgiveness, if they are to come at all, typically come at the sentencing hearing after the trial has been concluded. But there has been no trial as yet, not simply of the killer but of the country from which the killer emerged, from us: no testimony, no rigorous analysis of the evidence, no accountability, no verdict, no punishment or “penance” if you will.

We can be certain that the killer will be put on trial and a verdict rendered in due time. But it is highly doubtful, given our powers of denial, that the country has the will to face its own day of judgment.

Eric Cheyfitz is Ernest I. White Professor of American Studies and Humane Letters at Cornell University. He is the author of The Poetics of Imperialism.