Just when US-backed and Kurdish-led forces have encircled the Syrian capital of ISIS, Raqqa, a threatened Turkish invasion could undermine the war against the terror group. Even without meddling from the country that hosts NATO’s second-largest army, the United States is facing formidable odds in trying to pacify areas liberated from ISIS. Turkey’s new incursion, directed against the Kurds, could turn Syria into another Middle Eastern quagmire for the US.
Amid an exchange of apocalyptic threats with North Korea, a deepening military involvement in the Middle East, a spat with Russia and worsening relations with the European Union, the administration of President Donald Trump has stretched itself thin in foreign policy. Both friends and enemies are becoming increasingly prone to test Trump, experts say. Chaotic Syria, where it is often difficult to say who exactly is attacking whom and why, is perhaps the best example of that.
“Everybody is testing Trump, everybody is trying to figure out what his real policy is because nobody believes anything he says,” Joshua Landis, a prominent Syria expert at the University of Oklahoma, told WhoWhatWhy. The US president is caught between contradictory goals and promises at home and abroad, Landis and others added, and rival powers are positioning to take advantage of this in order to gain leverage against him.
In April, Syrian President Bashir al-Assad allegedly used chemical weapons against civilians, in what observers interpreted as a test of Trump’s foreign policy resolve. The US president responded with a missile strike against an airfield. Now Turkey is preparing to attack the most reliable Western ally on the ground against ISIS, and many believe that only massive US pressure not to interfere with the storming of Raqqa is holding it back.
Turkish and allied forces already control a pocket of territory in northern Syria, where they have sought to carve out a buffer zone for refugees and rebels fleeing the Assad regime. In addition, Turkey wants to drive a wedge between the Kurdish-controlled territories in the country. An attempt to advance further south was blocked in March by combined American and Russian forces.
With small-scale skirmishes between Turkish-led and Kurdish-led forces an almost daily reality in that area, a new large-scale Turkish attack is expected to freeze the Kurdish front against ISIS.
“Turkey has made a decision to challenge the US in a way it did with Russia when it shot down the Russian plane [in 2015],” Landis said. “In that situation, Turkey quickly backtracked when Russia showed its teeth. But it’s unclear what kind of leverage the US has with Turkey.”
Ankara’s threat of breaking ranks with its NATO allies also comes as part of the rapid collapse of the Western camp’s strategy in Syria.
“I’d say [the situation in Syria is] currently in a stalemate but there is no such a thing as the Western coalition led by the US anymore,” George Voloshin, an expert at Aperio Intelligence, a UK-based strategic intelligence company, told WhoWhatWhy.
“The Trump administration is hostage to inertia…. Support in Europe for the Syrian war has been waning dramatically: the UK government is in a flux over Brexit … and France’s Macron recently admitted that the departure of Assad was no longer a prerequisite [for a solution in Syria].”
On the other hand, neither is the victory of the Syrian government, backed by Russia and Iran, assured. This is partly because the regime, most of it hailing from a minority religious sect, is short of manpower. Another major obstacle is that the government doesn’t control the entire border. Neighboring states such as Turkey can send arms and reinforcements to the rebels.
“When they ramp up, their opponents will ramp up as well,” said Voloshin. “So the Syrian government is trying to consolidate its position around Aleppo and other cities, but it cannot occupy the whole country.”
While well-positioned to play spoiler in the Syrian quagmire, Turkey also has more at stake there than just about any other regional actor involved. Ankara has fought a home-grown Kurdish insurgency for decades, and now, with its policy of support for different radical groups with the goal of toppling the Syrian regime backfiring, it is facing a growing Kurdish statelet on its southern border that it considers an existential threat.
Peace talks between Turkey and the Kurds collapsed in 2015, as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s much-publicized dive into authoritarianism accelerated. While experts say that increasing use of drones by the Turkish army has decimated the PKK — the main Kurdish guerrilla group in Turkey with links to the Kurdish militants in Syria — months of intense urban warfare have left several Turkish cities in ruins. Erdogan’s incessant attempts to meddle in the Syrian civil war meanwhile have brought millions of Syrian refugees into Turkey and have gained him scores of new enemies, including disgruntled former jihadist allies, the Syrian government, and an empowered Kurdish movement.
“The PKK has really suffered a lot inside the Turkish context,” said Ege Seckin, a Turkey expert at the London-based analysis firm IHS.
“But in the south [Syria and Iraq] they still have a very advantageous position owing to their continued support from the US. And they are counting on this in turning their bigger disadvantage in the Turkish arena, but this safe haven which they have managed to carve out is something that is really going to give Turkey a headache for a long time to come.”
The problem for the US in this context is that Turkey can easily make the war against ISIS very costly in order to gain leverage against Trump, says Landis. Even without meddling, pacifying the vast swathes of Syria occupied by ISIS, once the terror group has been driven out of there, could rival in complexity the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“The US is in quicksand there, because the eastern part of Syria, not even the Syrian government knew how to deal with the eastern part of Syria,” said Landis.
For hundreds of years, he added, the conquerors of eastern Syria have been forced to resort to divide and conquer policies in order to keep the disparate Arab, Kurdish and Assyrian tribes competing for sparse resources in the desert area under control. In the absence of a strong unifying national identity and state institutions there, the US administration may not have any better options than to continue this precarious policy of pitting one group against another.
“America is going to be the sultan of eastern Syria, and ultimately will have to use terror as well as patronage, not unlike ISIS,” Landis said.
Turkey, long NATO’s main Middle Eastern anchor, is threatening to make the American strategy of supporting the Kurds in Syria even more precarious. With US opponents such as Iran and Russia dominating much of the battle field, just the cost of resupplying US and allied forces on the ground would go through the roof if Turkey blocked resupply lines through its territory, Landis added. An invasion, or even a string of limited incursions to keep the pressure on the Kurds up, could be even more destructive.
Adds Landis: “All Turkey has to do, is make it impossible for America to win, the Kurds to win — which it can do: it has got the firepower.”
Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Bertramz/Wikimedia Commons
The post Is Turkey about to Test Trump with New Syria Attack? appeared first on WhoWhatWhy.
Turkish president says joint action against the PKK and its Iranian affiliate PJAK was 'always on the agenda'
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The violence that accompanied recent white supremacist protest in Charlottesville, Virginia is merely the opening salvo in a larger conflict between those advocating fascism and those committed to human decency, equality, and democracy. And with white nationalist fascists planning more rallies to come, it’s a foregone conclusion that the violence in Charlottesville will continue. Considering this trajectory, I thought it fitting to promote a dialogue regarding specifically what “the left” in the U.S. stands for, and should seek to accomplish, moving forward.
To be perfectly clear, I abhor violence, and that includes organized violence employed by any group, be it Klan’s men, Nazis, and other fascists on the right, or “Antifa” or “Redneck Revolt” violence on the left. My resistance is principled; it has nothing to do with knee-jerk fear of violence and is not coming from a weak pacifist unfamiliar with the “real world” of violence that we face. As a scholar, I professionally study war and how wars are communicated to the public via political propaganda. My research also examines mounting public opposition to war at a time when most Americans view war as fundamentally immoral and destructive. I am also no stranger to violence in my personal life; I’ve had far more experience with it than most Americans. I hold a black belt in Shorei Ryu Karate, and practiced the discipline for more than a decade and a half, regularly engaging in controlled violence against others. I would probably still be practicing it now, if it were not for numerous back injuries and other bodily damage I wreaked on my own body via martial arts and extreme sports. I am also no stranger to guns. As a youth, I had plenty of experience with target shooting, firing hand guns, rifles, and assault weapons.
My bias here is clear. Although trained in the art of violence, the first thing I learned in the martial arts is that violence is never something one should actively seek out. Rather, it’s a last act of self-defense when your life is in danger and there are no alternatives. If there is one life-lesson I learned in Karate, it is that violence is almost never the answer to one’s problems. If someone is threatening you physically, you walk away (if you can). If someone pulls a weapon and it is possible to escape without engaging them and without risking your life, evasion if far superior to confrontation. But I was also trained to employ various techniques that would severely maim, or even kill others, in cases where my life was in danger. THAT is the only time when violence is warranted. Having said that, I would never condemn individual citizens for using violence to protect their lives in the face of physical assault, and that goes for all protesters who defend themselves or others against fascist attacks. Additionally, it is the law of the land that individuals can carry concealed weapons, so even if I would never carry a gun myself, I can’t legally fault others for carrying them for self-protection.
But saying that I endorse violence as a last-resort and as a means of preserving life is different from endorsing groups that proactively plan to engage in violence, such as Antifa or Redneck Revolt. I can respect the commitment of these groups to protecting the lives of others, but to the extent that members of these groups advocate planned mass violence, they are going beyond simple self-defense. They are actively seeking confrontation with police and far-right protesters. I strongly agree with Antifa and Redneck Revolt that right-wing reactionary movements need to be discredited and defeated. But the means through which that occurs is another question entirely.
Much of the contemporary debate over recent events is complicated by the fact that fascist groups seek to fuse demonstrations – which are legally protected under the First Amendment – with violence against counter-protesters – which is obviously illegal and deplorable. Whatever some on the left think about it, fascists are guaranteed freedom of speech and assembly under the law. But it would also be foolish to expect that fascist rallies aren’t going to devolve into violence and terrorism, considering that fascist belief systems idealize the use of violence as a means of attaining political goals.
Free speech debates aside, we should be perfectly clear: there is a very real danger in the Trump administration’s flirting with fascism via threats to criminalize journalists, his support for physical assault against leftist protesters, and his providing of cover to violent right-wing militants in Charlottesville. Considering Trump’s latent fascist tendencies, the emergence of a full-blown fascist state is something we can no longer afford to ignore.
Trump’s rhetoric in the last week is dangerous. His initial condemnation of violence “on many sides” suggested a willful ignorance to what happened in Charlottesville. One side seeks the extermination of non-whites and the ethnic cleansing of the continent via genocidal violence, and they use violence to try and achieve these goals. The other side, including Antifa and Redneck Revolt, offer a principled stand against fascism, seeking to eliminate the threat of fascist violence. Even if I disagree wholeheartedly with their methods, I can see that their violence is a response to an increasingly militarized far-right in America that has committed itself to coercion, terrorism, and genocide.
In his interaction with reporters, Trump fixated on “the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?” This statement is incredible, revealing Trump’s obvious effort to demonize leftists with the “alt-left” pejorative, while implying that the “alt right” term is too critical of a description for reactionary fascists. In contrast, some intellectuals believe the opposite, that “alt-right” is an Orwellian euphemism meant to soften up the public to the alleged virtues of far-right racism and fascism.
Trump’s not so-subtle signaling to right-wing fascists has provided a green light for more of their violence. While first claiming to deplore right-wing violence, Trump reversed himself in a discussion with reporters, humanizing reactionary protesters: “not all of those people were neo-Nazis…Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch.” This framing revealed willful blindness to a rally that was, at its core, motivated by extreme hate, as seen in the mass chants of “blood and soil” (a reference to historic Nazi rhetoric seeking to create a right to land for “indigenous” whites only), by protesters wielding torches and yelling “Jews will not replace us!”, and engaging in mass violence against counter-protesters. For anyone who hasn’t yet, I strongly encourage you to watch the chilling Vice/HBO mini-documentary on the events in Charlottesville. The video will disavow you of any notion that right-wing protesters were simply freedom loving hooligans who got a little bit out of hand.
Trump further signaled right-wingers to the alleged virtues of their cause when he compared Southern Confederate General Robert E. Lee to George Washington, and lamented the tearing down of “our beautiful statues and monuments” – Trump speak for many statues created during the 20th century to commemorate slavery, segregation, and white supremacy. Trump wondered “where does it stop?” with regard to pulling down the statues, a clear wink to the fascist right he continues to court. Trump is not so ignorant to fail to comprehend the power of race to incite conflict. The race divide in America was the one issue powerful enough to tear the nation apart, provoking a Civil War, and Trump wields it shamelessly in his efforts to stoke greater racial tensions. His comments on the confederacy, and his attempts to provide cover for far-right fascist and Nazi violence must be understood within that context, as a brazen attempt to empower reactionaries via an emerging race war. And his comments are already being interpreted within this context. Following the events in Charlottesville, and Trump’s positive vibes toward the right, numerous white nationalists and fascist groups are stepping forward celebrating Trump’s commitment to their cause.
The stakes involved in this conflict cannot be understated. There are two nightmare scenarios which I can see that threaten to emerge from the events that transpired in Charlottesville. One, is that we see the rise of vigilantism in the streets across many American cities, with the president rationalizing violence on the right. This appears increasingly likely with right-wing reactionaries announcing plans for more marches. There is little indication that this president will stand in their way. His Department of Justice is run by a man – Jeff Sessions – known for his cavorting with the KKK in his youth, whose only reported problem with the group was that they smoked pot. The administration has also cut funding for groups dedicated to spotlighting and fighting white supremacy. Considering Trump’s previous celebration of attacks against left-wing anti-Trump protesters, his recent efforts to spy on those visiting anti-Trump websites, and his covering for fascist groups in Charlottesville, it is highly unlikely that any serious federal investigation of the hate groups involved in Charlottesville will take place.
This should all make Americans deeply uneasy. The Southern Poverty Law Center estimates that there are hundreds of thousands of far-right militia members across the country, and more than 900 individual groups. Reflecting on the rise of armed insurrections by Cliven and Ammon Bundy and their supporters, in addition to the dozens of acts of right-wing terrorism that have occurred in recent years, and considering the events in Charlottesville, it is clear that the far right is willing to use extreme methods to pursue their political goals.
It is within this context that we need to assess the dangers of what groups like Antifa and Redneck Revolt are trying to accomplish. Neither group appears to have much grasp on how their violence is being used as a weapon to justify the country’s reactionary political turn. There is little chance, considering how lop-sided the conflict is, that these groups will prevail. Their decimation is already predetermined. “The left” in the U.S. is a shadow of what it once was, organizationally speaking, with the decline of public intellectualism in higher education and the collapse of unionism. The left is far too fragmented and unorganized to come together in support of a mass violent insurrection that is capable of defeating, or even withstanding a joint attack by far-right militia groups, random white supremacists running through the streets (a la Charlottesville), increasingly militarized local police forces, state national guards (should they be called in to suppress militant leftist groups), the FBI (which has a long history of targeting left-wing groups, even peaceful ones), and the Department of Justice and Trump administration itself.
Antifa and Redneck Revolt will not succeed against this threat. Rather, what will happen if the violence continues is that the U.S. simply deteriorates into vigilantism, as left-wing and right-wing protesters duke it out in the streets in the face of intensifying suppression of leftist groups. Trump has already shown he’s willing to provide cover for these right-wing groups and their causes by emphasizing the danger of the “alt-left.” To put it simply, left-wing militants are making this far too easy for reactionaries on the right set on establishing a fascist America via civil war.
There is a second, even more ominous nightmare scenario that may play out – that the Trump administration may seize on recent and future events to establish emergency rule and martial law. There would be little at that point, short of public resistance, to stop him from a massive suppression campaign against his political critics. Essentially, the United States of America becomes the fascist state of Donald Trump. Detractors will argue that this scenario is unlikely and far-fetched. I sincerely hope they’re right. But I also believe we are quickly reaching the point of escalation in which it’s foolish to not start thinking about worst-case scenarios. It’s scary to think about, but worth pondering a simple question: have we considered that Trump’s legitimization of fascist protesters plays into a larger agenda? What’s to stop the introduction of emergency rule and the suspension of Constitutional rights if the violence between left-wing and reactionary groups continues and even escalates? It’s not much of a stretch to think the “law and order” president will use this as a pretext to justify a power grab. Trump undeniably has an authoritarian personality. He’s never tried to hide it, and it’s grown more severe in his limited time in office. His viciousness in demonizing progressives and “the left” provides little reason to think he will not exploit, in one way or another, the rise of the reactionary right for his own political purposes.
With his approval rating lower at this point in his presidency than any other president in modern history, Trump must understand his chances of re-election are increasingly slim, especially with the rise of mass protest against him. Imposition of emergency rule, in the case of growing domestic terrorism or terrorism on U.S. soil committed by foreign actors, will provide this president all the justification he needs to consolidate his power and crack down on his critics.
To avoid both of these nightmare scenarios, the “alt-left” as Trump calls them, should do all in its power right now to de-escalate this emerging conflict. Left-wing organizations and groups should actively disavow violence, except in cases where individual people are threatened with severe harm and death and they are legally entitled to defend themselves. Pro-active advocacy of planned violence by entire left groups only escalates the dangers of vigilantism in the streets, civil war, or the imposition of emergency rule. The left has one potent weapon at its disposal – mass public revulsion at the Trump administration and far-right Nazism and fascism. A recent NPR/PBS/Maris poll finds that most Americans believe Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville was not “strong enough,” and only a tiny fraction of the public is sympathetic to the “alt-right” and its politics. We should use the weapon of public opinion to cultivate mass pressure on local police forces, states, and Congress to crack down on far-right fascist violence. But mass support for action may quickly evaporate with the ascendance of far-right false equivalence narratives that frame “both sides” as equally responsible for violence. If we choose to forfeit the moral high ground (non-violence in the face of fascism), we are playing into the hands of a political system under Trump that increasingly embraces reactionary, right-wing violence.
There is previous precedent for non-violent resistance. The civil rights movement demonstrated that progressives could win over public opinion in the face of violent repression and right-wing, white supremacist terrorism. There is no reason that this strategy can’t work again. But that will require discipline and sacrifice on the part of the American left, and the public more generally, in the face of reactionary repression. As with the civil rights movement, images broadcast into households of rabid right-wing bigots violently suppressing peaceful progressive activists will mobilize the country to pressure government to intervene on the side of sanity, and against fascism. We can choose to be a nation of democratic principles that embraces equality and the rule of law, or we can escalate the current conflict in favor of greater violence, and war in the streets. The choice is between barbarism and humanity. We can’t have both.
Every four years the federal government issues its National Climate Assessment, a comprehensive study compiled by 13 federal agencies. This year’s report is the most eventful of all time for two primary reasons: (1) the congressionally mandated report is filled with powerful evidence that climate change is already significantly impacting lives. In short, anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change is really for real; (2) the report requires approval by the office of the president of the United States, which is kinda like asking OJ if he did it.
When Forbes magazine, the bastion of capitalism, runs this headline: “Leaked Government Report Points To Dire Impact Of Climate Change On US,” even conservatives take notice that climate change is real. After all, Forbes magazine is an elementary feature on tabletops in every U.S. corporate foyer. If it is missing from a tabletop, it’s only because somebody lifted it.
The referenced Forbes’ article d/d August 8th includes a photo caption of Trump wearing a very long red tie and standing next to Scott Pruitt of EPA fame, speaking at the presidential podium. Trump looks grouchy, mean-spirited, and acerbic. Pruitt appears elfin and about to whimper under the piercing gaze of his big orange overseer. It’s not presidential in the slightest. Which is probably good because it’s the moment when EPA’er Scott Pruitt announces US withdrawal from the Paris accord of 2015.
From that point forward, the United States of America loses its worldwide leadership role. China has already filled the climate change void. Ersatz Communists, assuming a few thousand multi-millionaires are really/truly Communists leaders, now lead the charge against the destructive forces of global warming.
Meanwhile, America must grapple with a National Climate Assessment Report that is law by Congress pending approvement by the president, leading to an astute hedging of one’s bets by an unknown source that leaked the government report to The New York Times, upstaging backstairs cut and paste parties at the West Wing.
Ultimately, as well as truly unfortunately, the climate assessment report usage turns political. After all, politics, not science, rules America’s posture on climate change/global warming. In that regard, and the reason for concern and the subsequent covert release to the NYT, the current National Climate Assessment Report is a political diatribe of horrible judgment (to put it kindly) by climate deniers aka: Congress. Well, in point of fact, it scathingly hits hard at America’s political posturing of climate change/global warming, right between the eyes, POW!
The upshot of the 600-page report is that only a shortsighted dimwit can ignore powerful conclusive evidence of the harmful effects of anthropogenic or human-caused global warming. Here’s part of the Executive Summary, crystal clear:
Thousands of studies conducted by tens of thousands of scientists around the world have documented changes in surface, atmospheric and oceanic temperatures; melting glaciers; disappearing snow cover; shrinking sea ice; rising sea level; and an increase in atmospheric water vapor. … The last few years have also seen record-breaking, climate-related weather extremes, as well as the warmest years on record for the globe.
The key to that bold assessment is natural variability missing from the calculations of current climate change. If natural variability was the cause, nothing could be done. However, it is clear that anthropogenic or human-caused CO2 from cars, planes, factories, livestock farming, cement production, and deforestation is the deadly force. The proof is found in paleoclimatology, or the history of climate change, which shows climate change/global warming happening at lightning speed compared to any time in the past. That’s not natural variability.
Repercussions are far and wide. For the first time ever, climate refugees from rising water limits or drought-stricken land populates the world in large numbers, e.g., refugees overwhelm Europe from the southern coast of the Mediterranean and the Middle East, both areas drying out as fast as or faster than anywhere else on the planet. American taxpayers have already paid, via federal grants, to move climate refugees to higher grounds along the Gulf Coast and some urban areas along Florida’s east coast are raising streets by 2-to-3 feet. Climate change is palpable.
Human-caused climate change today is more pronounced than ever before, yet ignored by America’s Congress. That is strike one against America’s shortsighted politicians. Strike two is in the works as National Parks are soon to be added to that same mix of mean-spirited politics. Along the way, hopefully, the American public gets off its fat lazy butt and strikes back with ferocity, hitting the streets. Thankfully, this has already started in America, people striking back at senseless mean-spirited politics.
America’s National Parks Under Attack
The same political nitwit mentality that denies climate change/global warming is preparing to wreck America’s precious national parks, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon. The National Parks are under fire with drastic cutbacks whilst opening land up to speculators, similar to the Wild West days of the 19th century. Say goodbye to America’s national parks because you may not recognize them in a few years.
The Ralph Nader Radio Hour, August 19th, guest Terry Tempest Williams, naturalist author (The Hour of Land, Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2017) explained how over 300 million citizens and foreign tourists visited 417 national park units, including monuments, trails, historical monuments, and points of interest in 2016. But, according to Ms. Williams, paradoxically the Trump administration has a very rudimentary understanding of hospitality.
According to Ms. Williams, the budget for national parks, which is already underfunded, will be slashed by another 17% by Trump. “What that means is it is underemployed; it’s understaffed; to use the word undernourished is an understatement.” There are 22,000 employees in the national park service and 200,000 volunteers. According to Ms. Williams, the Trump budget plan will let our national parks and park service “bleed to death.”
The National Parks’ budget is about $3B per year, but “that is a pittance compared to what we spend on our military, and yet Trump is cutting it… Not only that they are slashing and burning regulations in order to drill baby drill. We now have 40 of our national parks that are poised for oil and gas development; thirty of those national parks are already pending for oil and gas development; 15 of our national park units already have oil and gas development inside them.”
The National Park Service, in an article by Center for Western Priorities entitled “In Their Own Words,” explains the impact of the proposed crippling cuts of President Trump’s budget. According to the article written by Jesse Prentice-Dunn, Advocacy Director/Center for Western Priorities, Denver: “The proposed budget would increase funding for energy development on public lands while cutting virtually everything else, including the National Park Service.”
“This budget makes clear that the Trump administration’s priority is driving the crown jewel of our public lands, the National Park Service, into the ground while freeing up funds for oil, gas and coal development,” Ibid.
It is well beyond upper levels of insanity and mean-spiritedness when, on the one hand, funding is cut for national parks as public lands open up to oil and gas drilling whilst, on the other hand, preaching “Make America Great Again”… again and again and again and again and again, loud, yelling, screaming, yelping, and screeching like a foaming-at-the-mouth maddened dog, Make America Great Again!
Does somebody with authority have a readily available straitjacket?
Narratives of decline (and fall) have been something of a staple of western consciousness, beginning with Augustine’s City of God (CE 413), the starting point of which is the fall of Rome to the Goths in CE 410, and, depending on one’s viewpoint, reaching something of a literary highpoint with Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (12 volumes, published in 1776), and Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West (1922).
Nowadays cartoon versions of this narrative have become the province of ignoramuses such as Donald Trump, and the leaders of far-right parties in Europe (most notably Nigel Farage and Marine le Pen).
These decline-and-fall narratives are pressed, more often than not, into the service of rightwing ideologies, canvassed much of the time both by someone like Trump whose knowledge of history would not fill the back of an envelope (Trump, after all, seems to believe the escaped slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) is his contemporary, and doing “a good job”!), as well as scholarly types with PhDs from Ivy League universities.
Decline-and-fall narratives are “equal opportunity” in the promiscuity of their appeal. They appeal alike to Rush Limbaugh (Cape Girardeau, Missouri Central High School) and George Will (PhD Princeton), albeit with the requisite inflections and modifications. Limbaugh and Will, from very different backgrounds, have nothing but contempt for each other, even though they underwrite versions of much the same narrative. Who says class does not matter in the great US of A?
The Orange Swindler’s “Make America Great Again” slogan embodies this narrative, but as many have pointed out, it is chockfull of ambiguities and lacunae, depending on the criteria used to define “greatness” – America was great once upon a time but alas is no longer what it was (the bombastic Orange Swindler), America is still great (the pandering Hillary Clinton and other Democrats), America never was great (a host of representatives from black communities and the native American nations, deeply cynical over incantations of “greatness” since their captivity and subjugation was integral to it), and so on.
The appeal of Trump and his slogan has been wide-ranging. The conventional wisdom that Trump’s appeal is confined to less-educated white blue-collar voters has been shown by Mike Davis and others to be too simplistic. Yes, he did appeal to the struggling victims of the relentless growth in precariousness – most notably, those bearing the brunt of growing inequality, a decline in health and education provision, greatly reduced public services, reduced incomes, and the rising unaffordability of decent housing. The Orange Swindler somehow managed to convince these unfortunates that immigrants from Mexico who cleaned swimming pools in Beverley Hills and Filipina childminders in Long Island were responsible for their economic precariousness. Nothing though was said by him about the banksters at Goldman Sachs or JP Morgan Chase.
But while many of the above-mentioned white voters supported Trump and believed his promise to “drain the swamp”, he also appealed to affluent country-club Republicans wanting even greater tax-reductions, the corporatocracy wanting even more deregulation, and evangelical Christians seduced by his ostensible pro-Zionism and his love fests with the preacher men Jerry Falwell Jnr, Pat Robertson, Franklin Graham, and Robert Jefress.
Meanwhile, the “swamp” is being deepened and widened– anyone who believes the “swamp” will be drained by Trump’s coterie of blood-sucking featherweight family “advisers”, cabinet of unqualified billionaires and “mad dog” generals, and consiglieres such as the grotesque Kellyanne Conway and the now-departed Anthony Scaramucci, will probably believe a penguin will win the pole-vault at the next Olympics. In a massive self-inflicted wounding for most of them, about 30% of Americans remain believers in the Trumpian equivalent of pole-vaulting penguins.
Such people will probably find it easy to put their trust in the stratospheric flights of fancy integral to Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again”. Those inclined to think this is just stuff made up by “liberals” like yours truly, need only to talk to people with family members who voted for the Orange Swindler.
Several of my friends say their visits to Trump-loving family members, none of them wealthy, are now kept to a brief minimum just for this reason— such tension-inducing visits involve avoiding a crucial item of conversation, namely, why on earth did you think it was such a good idea to vote for him? The orange bastard wants to take away the little healthcare you have! He is your enemy! The challenge for my peace-keeping friends is finding a way to avoid talking about the orange elephant in the room.
The situation in pre-Brexit Ukania is not much less disastrous or comical. However, the drawing of enmity lines in the UK with regard to its ruling elites is a less easy undertaking than in the US. For now, the ground in the UK is muddier. Brexit, for and against, involves a range of constituencies, whose alignments have something of a regional basis, all with differing interests at stake. As a result, Left and Right alike can be lined-up for or against Brexit.
London and its environs service the UK’s business sector, which depends heavily on labour from overseas. This is an educated and high-wage segment of the UK population, consisting of people with backgrounds conducing to a cosmopolitan outlook. In the Brexit referendum, this part of the UK was predominantly anti-Brexit.
The rest of England, especially its rust-belt in the Midlands and the north, generally was in favour of Brexit. As was Wales, with a substantial rust-belt in its former coal- and steel-producing areas.
Scotland and the north of Ireland were against Brexit.
Scotland, contemplating its prospects as an independent country within the EU, viewed Brexit as a move to chain it even more tightly to the UK’s English-dominated constitutional framework. Once severed from the EU, many Scots feared their country would become wholly captive, if they are not already, to English interests.
The north of Ireland’s peace arrangements since the end of the Troubles have depended crucially on a delicately negotiated framework between the UK and the Republic of Ireland, both for now EU members. Brexit will almost certainly make a version of this framework harder to maintain, especially when the common border between two EU countries (the Republic and the north of Ireland-UK) no longer exists.
But once again, narratives of decline are very much in evidence. Both the Tory right-wing and Farage’s UKIP somehow believe, or purport to believe, that leaving the EU will restore a fantasized “greatness” the UK lost when it got mixed-up with that bunch across the English Channel.
Hence their slogan “Take back Control”. Again, in a situation paralleling the one in Trumplandia, there are countless Brits for whom things were never that great (moreover, these Brits were controlled by forces and individuals within their own country, and not by foreigners)— such as the hundreds of thousands of miners and steelworkers who for generations were the cogs and levers of the Industrial Revolution, but who were thrown on the unemployment scrapheap the moment Thatcher and her repellant crew decided they were no longer to be a part of her country’s future.
The right-wing Brexiteers have another affinity with the décliniste Orange Swindler– just as he implies that letting in too many Mexican pool-cleaners was somehow responsible for America’s “decline”, his British-politician counterparts state in equally unsubtle ways that their country is no longer “great” because too many Polish plumbers and Romanian fruit pickers are being allowed in, thanks to the EU’s free movement of labour policy.
Just as the barker Trump refrains studiously from shouting-out the names of real swamp-dwellers such as the banksters at Goldman Sachs and JPM Chase, his UK counterparts fail to identify the real source of their country’s “loss of control”, namely, the completely free lunches and free rides given to the rapacious global corporations and malfeasant banks such as Barclays and HSBC since the 1970s.
A Tory or New Labour prime minister from Thatcher onwards is much more likely to have a fine dinner at Downing Street with Rupert Murdoch or Richard Branson than a cup of tea with the head of a charity for homeless people, let alone a group of homeless persons.
As my late mother, though somewhat limited in her wisdom, used to say: “you judge people by the company they keep”.
Of course, it’s a great deal easier to lay the blame for the ills besetting the US and UK at the feet of a just-about-managing (JAM) Guatemalan hotel maid or Romanian fruit picker. Or refugees and asylum seekers.
The sad thing is that so many people have fallen for this twaddle.
Anyone– not wealthy– who thinks the interests of ordinary Americans and Brits coincide with those of the plutocratic creeps who run Goldman Sachs and Barclays, or Murdoch and Branson, needs to have their head examined. The real interests of any American or Brit who is, or almost is, a JAM, are much more likely to coincide with those of a Guatemalan hotel maid working in Los Angeles or a Romanian fruit picker working in an orchard in Kent.
The US and UK have been in a crisis of capitalist accumulation since Thatcher and Reagan (and before that of course), but their alleged “decline” is not due to the JAMs subsisting on capitalism’s crumbs.
These crumb-feeders include a sizeable proportion of society’s underdogs: the disabled who can’t work, those who work but still live below the poverty line (these amount to 60% of the UK’s poor), those who have little or no alternative to “contingent” employment (e.g. those living in derelict West Virginian or Yorkshire coal-mining towns where coal is no longer mined), those who subsist on ever-diminishing welfare, the above-mentioned immigrant JAMs, and so forth.
These crumb-feeders struggle while those who benefit inordinately from neoliberalism, primarily the stock-portfolio class, prosper at levels unprecedented since the 1920s.
Contrast the crumb-feeders’ standard diet, where fresh vegetables in the poorer inner-city areas are often unaffordable or unavailable, with the Huffington Post report highlighting the contrast between Theresa May’s cursory15-minute visit to the site of the huge fire that destroyed the high-rise Grenfell Tower in London and the 50-minute arse-licking fest she had at the swanky Savoy hotel, the same day, with multimillionaire banksters who donate to the Conservative Party.
The menu at the Savoy shindig included truffles, slow-roasted salt marsh rump of lamb, mango pie with Italian meringue and exotic jelly, and a tropical fruit sorbet, washed down with a Brook Ridge Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016 and Casa Silva Coleccion Merlot 2014.
For the crumb-feeders, “taking back control” must involve getting rid of an economic system which gives them tidbits while the stock-portfolio class corrals immense wealth. This regaining of “control” will have nothing to do with a confected but still vicious nationalist xenophobia, of the kind sponsored by the malign dolts Trump and Farage, and everything to do with the project of a radical democratic socialism/communism.
A splendid Casa Silva Coleccion Merlot 2014, or “exotic jelly” (whatever that is), for everyone who desires it, and not just Theresa May and her multimillionaire bankster supporters!
If your family has been in North Carolina since the Civil War like mine has, your ancestors might well have detested the Confederacy. If you added up the African-Americans, the Unionists, the anti-Confederate rebels, the anti-war crowd and those who simply hated what the Confederacy did to their home state, they might have outnumbered the hardcore Confederates. The sizable crew of dissidents was just as Southern as Robert E. Lee and might be astonished to see Confederate monuments all over the state today.
In arguing for the new Mandatory Confederate Monuments Act, Republican Rep. Marilyn Avila of Raleigh said, “When you talk about memorials and remembrances, the point of time at which they were erected is extremely relevant.” Avila was right. She simply had no idea when the monuments went up, saying it was “shortly after the War Between the States.” If someone had tried to put up Confederate monuments all over North Carolina shortly after the Civil War, there might have been another war. The unanimous Confederate white South is nothing but a cherished myth – especially in North Carolina.
White North Carolinians erected the vast majority of our Confederate monuments – 82 out of 98 – after 1898, decades after the Civil War ended. More importantly, they built the monuments after the white supremacy campaigns had seized power by force and taken the vote from black North Carolinians. The monuments reflected that moment of white supremacist ascendency as much as they did the Confederate legacy.
Take the Confederate monument on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill, better known as “Silent Sam.” The speaker at its dedication in 1913, industrialist Julian S. Carr, bragged that he had “horse-whipped a negro wench until her skirts hung in shreds, because … she had publicly insulted … a Southern lady.” Carr’s speech heralded the “Anglo-Saxon race in the South” reunited with white supremacy as the glue.
During the actual Civil War, the Confederacy bitterly divided North Carolina, the last Southern state to secede and the one with the highest number of battlefield deaths and the highest desertion rate. At times the conflict in North Carolina literally became “a war within a war.” Thousands of white North Carolinians took up arms against the Confederacy and far more refused to accept its authority. Thousands of black North Carolinians escaped enslavement and served in the Union army.
In 1861, Confederate officials complained that Eastern North Carolina was “infested with Tories and disloyal persons.” When federal troops captured the northeastern North Carolina coast in 1862, a thousand local white men immediately volunteered for the Union armies. Gov. Zebulon Vance called the conflict “a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight” and threatened to “take North Carolina out of the Confederacy.”
The Confederate Conscription Act, which exempted prosperous slaveholders from military service, turned many more Tar Heels against the war. That autumn of 1862, North Carolina’s own internal civil war began to rage. From the coastal swamps to the wilderness of the Blue Ridge, anti-Confederate guerillas, Unionists and runaway slaves battled the Confederacy; parts of North Carolina became virtually ungovernable.
Scores of public meetings in over 40 of the state’s then-86 counties demanded an end to the war. Campaigning for re-election in 1864, Vance declared, “The great popular heart is not now and never has been in this war. It was a revolution of the politicians and not the people.” The notion that the Confederacy represents white North Carolina’s heritage is not historical but instead political.
In the 1890s, white Populists and black Republicans forged an interracial “Fusion” alliance in North Carolina that won both houses of the legislature, two U.S. Senate seats and the governorship. These homegrown Fusionists launched the most daring and democratic experiment in Southern political history.
The interracial Fusion coalition never lost at the polls in an honest election. But in the 1898 election, its enemies turned to violence, intimidation and fraud to steal the election outright. Former Confederate Alfred Waddell declared: “If you find the Negro out voting, tell him to leave the polls, and if he refuses, kill him, shoot him down in his tracks.” White mobs in the streets of Wilmington beat and killed black citizens and overthrew the city government at gunpoint. This coup was the capstone of the 1898 “white supremacy campaign.”
Two years later, the white supremacy campaign again resorted to extralegal measures and elected Gov. Charles B. Aycock. Aycock said afterward, “We have ruled by force, we have ruled by fraud, but we want to rule by law.” They passed a constitutional amendment that took the vote away from black North Carolinians. Afterward they built a one-party, whites-only apartheid regime. This was the Jim Crow social order that persisted for six decades, until the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s gave birth to a better South.
Today, there are about 100 Confederate monuments in North Carolina, five on the Capitol grounds in Raleigh. There are no monuments to the slaves that built our state. There are none for the interracial Reconstruction government of the 1860s, which gave us the North Carolina Constitution we still try to live under and built our first system of free, tax-supported public schools.
Our statehouse displays no statues to celebrate the interracial Fusion movement of the 1890s, which could have led the way into a different kind of South. We have no monuments on our courthouse lawns to the interracial civil rights movement that helped to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which made black Southerners full citizens for the first time. There are no monuments at the Capitol to Abraham Galloway, Charlotte Hawkins Brown, Ella Baker or Julius Chambers.
Only one side of our racial history – the Confederates and the white supremacy movement – gets public monuments in North Carolina. And yet the history that we leave out of our public square speaks lessons far more profound than the message of the Confederacy.
The recent legislation that gives the North Carolina legislature the ultimate say over public “objects of remembrance,” including Confederate memorials, is not about preserving the legacy of the Confederacy. Instead, it will be marked as a monument to racial gerrymandering, racially driven voting laws, a war on the public schools and the authors’ quaking fear of a different kind of North Carolina, one where everyone has an equal and generous chance to blossom with their God-given rights and abilities.
I support people’s right to fly whatever flag they choose, on their own property and their own dime. Commemorations on public property, however, should be broadly inclusive and local communities should have the power to decide what to do with them. It is also high time that other kinds of North Carolinians get some monuments.
My great-great-grandfather, a Unionist drafted by the Confederates, hid in an underground passage by the Neuse River at Maple Cypress. Now the Sons of Confederate Veterans keeps putting a Rebel marker on his grave. In life, the Confederates could not catch him, but in death their descendants have inducted him into their Lost Cause. The first time my father and I found the marker on our ancestor’s grave, Daddy pulled it and gently tossed it into the weeds. A few years later it was back. I yanked up the iron stob and pitched it across the tobacco field and into the woods.
This column originally appeared in the News-Observer.
“We went over there and fought the war and eventually burned down every town in North Korea anyway, some way or another… Over a period of three years or so, we killed off, what, 20 percent of the population?”
— General Curtis LeMay, in “Strategic Air Warfare,” by Richard H. Kohn
The US public wants to know why North Korea is so paranoid, militarily hostile and boastful. And why do the leaders in the capital city Pyongyang point their fingers at the US every time they test another rocket or bomb? Sixty-five years after the US burned down every town in North Korea, the US military is now simultaneously bombing or rocketing seven different non-nuclear countries. The US conducts military exercises with South Korea off the North’s coastline twice a year.
The US regularly tests Minuteman-3 long-range nuclear missiles ¾ from Vandenberg Air Base in California ¾ that can reach and obliterate Pyongyang. Several presidential administrations have called North Korea “evil,” a “state sponsor of terrorism,” and “threatening.” US military officials have called North Korea’s tiny, backward, nearly failed state the “principle threat” to the US security. North Korea may have reason to worry.
North Korea’s rocket tests mostly fail but are nevertheless called “provocative” and “destabilizing” by the State Dept., the Council of Foreign Relations, and the White House. This is regardless of which party is in power. Bill Clinton said in 1994: “If North Korea ever used a nuclear weapon, it would no longer continue to exist.” Likewise today, Defense Secretary Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis used similarly bombastic language discussing North Korea August 8. John Walcott reported for Reuters that Mattis said the North must stop any action that would “lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”
Consider living memory
In Robert Neer’s 2013 book “Napalm,” the author reports that General Lemay wrote, “We burned down just about every city in North and South Korea both … we killed off over a million civilian Koreans…” Eighth Army chemical officer Donald Bode is quoted as saying, on an “average good day” … pilots in the Korean War “dropped 70,000 gallons of napalm: 45,000 from the U.S. Air Force, 10,000-20,000 by its navy, and 4,000-5,000 by marines” ¾ marines who nicknamed the burning jellied gasoline “cooking oil.”
Neer found that a total of 32,357 tons of napalm were used on Korea, “about double that dropped on Japan in 1945.” More bombs were dropped on Korea than in the whole of the Pacific theater during World War II ¾ 635,000 tons, versus 503,000 tons. “Pyongyang, a city of half a million people before 1950, was said to have had only two buildings left intact,” Neer wrote. This is still living memory in North Korea.
Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” says, “Perhaps 2 million Koreans, North and South, were killed in the Korean war, all in the name of opposing ‘the rule of force.’” Bruce Coming’s 2010 history “The Korean War” says, “of more than 4 million casualties … at least 2 million were civilians. … Estimated North Korean casualties numbered 2 million including about 1 million civilians… An estimated 900,000 Chinese soldiers lost their lives in combat.”
After Truman fired Gen. MacArthur in May 1951, the former supreme commander testified to Congress, “The war in Korea has already almost destroyed that nation of 20 million people. I have never seen such devastation. I have seen, I guess, as much blood and disaster as any living man, and it just curdled my stomach, the last time I was there. After I looked at that wreckage and those thousands of women and children … I vomited.”
Dems take finger off the button (for a minute)
Two democratic presidential hopefuls said in 2007 that they’d take the threat of nuclear attack “off the table,” hinting at their discomfort with the idea of the Bomb’s deliberate mass destruction. In April 2006, then New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was asked in a TV interview about her position toward Iran. She said, “I have said publicly no option should be off the table, but I would certainly take nuclear weapons off the table. This [Bush] administration has been very willing to talk about using nuclear weapons in a way we haven’t seen since the dawn of the nuclear age. I think that’s a terrible mistake.”
On August 2, 2007, Barak Obama said to the AP, “I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance,” pausing before he added, “involving civilians,” The New York Times reported. Obama quickly retracted the statement saying, “Let me scratch that,” but his intent was loud and clear ¾ and needs repeating: The long-standing U.S. threat to “keep all options open,” that is its willingness to use nuclear weapons against human beings, must be abolished. H-bombs cannot be used without indiscriminately killing of hundreds of thousands if not millions of civilians, creating deadly radioactive fallout that drifts into non-conflict areas, and causing long-term environmental damage, all in violation of the laws of war, the UN Charter, and the Geneva Conventions.
Clinton’s and Obama’s public put-downs of nuclear weapons attacks are both rare and bold in their implications for the nuclear weapons establishment. More such talk should be encouraged.
At least a dozen former nuclear war planners — Kissinger, Jimmy Carter, Melvin Laird, Generals George Butler, Charles Horner Andrew Goodpaster, and Admirals Stansfield Turner, Noel Gayler, and Hyman Rickover, among others — have denounced nuclear weapons and called for their elimination.
What is it exactly to threaten to destroy an entire country’s people? Is it terrorism? Trump’s fire and fury “the likes of which the world has never seen” would have to be beyond the half million dead in the US Civil War; 18 million overall deaths in World War I and 50 to 80 million dead in World War II; 3 million dead Vietnamese and at least 2 million dead Koreans. As usual, Mr. Trump cannot be taken seriously, or he is frighteningly unhinged.
Even, the late Paul Nitze, Reagan White House presidential adviser, a rightwing Cold War hawk, and a founder of the anti-Soviet Committee on the Present Danger, wrote in the 1999, “I can think of no circumstances under which it would be wise for the United States to use nuclear weapons, even in retaliation for their prior use against us.”
The images—of hundreds of angry young white men bearing tiki torches brightening up the night, marching with discipline bare-faced and proud, chanting “Jews will not replace us!”—are terrifying. The ability of the organizers of the “Unite the Right” demonstration to produce such a spectacle, on the University of Virginia campus, ostensibly to protest the removal of a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee from a city park, was quite amazing. Suddenly “white nationalism” (a term used to embrace both KKK and neo-Nazi factions) is a matter for urgent discussion. And the issue of Confederate statues everywhere has to be addressed more urgently.
The homicidal attack by a neo-Nazi on an antifascist protestor, praised by one of the fascist organizers (predicting more deaths) raises the prospect of bloody street battles. (They will perhaps be called the Statue Battles.)
In this context, the president of the U.S.A. felt obliged to blurt of in a news conference Aug. 15 that there had been “many fine people” at the demonstration to protest the removal of the statue. He implicitly endorsed the cause of the preservation of Confederate monuments, asking rhetorically if the removal of monuments to Lee and Stonewall Jackson will lead to the toppling of those to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. He averred that there were “many sides” at fault for the violence in Charlottesville, implicitly acquitting the nationalists, who were delighted with his words.
The corporate media, which had backed off a bit on its effort to destroy the administration through “Russian collusion” charges, had already shifted to a strategy of attacking Trump’s crazy tweets as evidence for an unhinged personality unfit for his office. Now suddenly every indication of racism in Trump’s past (the Central Park Five ad in 1989, the “birther” slander campaign, the rejection of the integrity of a Mexican-American judge, etc.) is rehashed. He is depicted as a virtual Klan and Nazi sympathizer, or at least a politician courting that base. Magazine covers here and around the world showing him as a Klansman (Time, New Yorker, The Economist, Der Spiegel), are themselves news.
Trump’s appointed advisory councils on manufacturing, strategy and policy, and digital economy board have dissolved themselves. The fricking Joint Chiefs of Staff have taken the rare step of implicitly condemning his remarks. The British Prime Minister had to comment.
You might think: it doesn’t make sense for Trump coddle the “alt-right.” The combined strength of Nazis and Klansmen is surely under 10,000 nationally. There’s no need to cultivate them; indeed to do so could be politically suicidal. Chief of staff John Kelly is surely telling Trump this. And this is why, I think, Steve Bannon is out. He’s been baggage since Saturday Night Live started depicting him as the Grim Reaper in February. He’s been useful, but now will be more useful on the outside making sure the alt-right remains strategically aligned with Trump while understanding his need to say bad things about them sometimes.
But the regime is in deep crisis, much deeper than last week. Republican Senators are aghast. This guy could blow it all with his tweets and unpredictable departures from staff-approved script. The nation turns its lonely eyes to…Pence.
I have not been among those denouncing the Trump administration as “fascist.” This is because I think that term should be applied with care, not just employed as an epithet as it often is. Every spring I teach my students about Japan in the 1930s and early 40s, and raise the question: was the Japanese state fascist? Actually, that’s a complicated question. Surely there was a fascist movement, as Maruyama Masao discussed in his work. Is the U.S. state fascist at present? That’s not complicated. No. At least not yet, and I have great faith in the level of political awareness and energy of our youth (however nauseated I am by the sight of college-age white men marching in hundreds for hate, and fearful I am of the possibility their movement could grow) to prevent the emergence of such a state.
But the fact that the mainstream press and political establishment are so pressuring Trump to distance himself from fascism—saying in essence, “Don’t you realize how outrageous your words were?”—and he’s responding by doubling down, defying everybody including his closest allies to assert his right to express his take on Charlottesville (and then move on)—is troubling.
The problem is not that a fascist regime currently reigns or is imminent but that a solipsistic buffoon unable to amass a stable staff around him (one able to protect him from the consequences of his mouth, including the ramifications of statements that strike most as oddly pro-Nazi) is injecting burning hope into the hearts of those tiki torch bearers.
“I’ve condemned many different groups, but not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch. Those people were also there, because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue Robert E. Lee. So – excuse me – and you take a look at some of the groups and you see, and you’d know it if you were honest reporters, which in many cases you’re not. Many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. So this week, it’s Robert E. Lee, I noticed that Stonewall Jackson’s coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after. You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”
That moment in that press conference probably sealed the buffoon’s political doom, although it has sharpened political contradictions to the delight of Bannon, and of David Duke. Big alt-right event planned for the Boston Common this afternoon. Will be interesting to see how, in this my city of thirty years, this movement re-energized by this toxic man succeeds in expanding on its Charlottesville advances.
There has never been progress by the U.S. military in Afghanistan, unless you are asking the U.S. military contractors or the Afghan drug barons, of whom an extremely large share are our allies in the Afghan government, militias and security forces, there has only been suffering and destruction. American politicians, pundits and generals will speak about “progress” made by the 70,000 American troops put into Afghanistan by President Obama beginning in 2009, along with an additional 30,000 European troops and 100,000 private contractors, however the hard and awful true reality is that the war in Afghanistan has only escalated since 2009, never stabilizing or deescalating; the Taliban has increased in strength by tens of thousands, despite tens of thousands of casualties and prisoners; and American and Afghan casualties have continued to grow every year of the conflict, with U.S. casualties declining only when U.S. forces began to withdraw in mass numbers from parts of Afghanistan in 2011, while Afghan security forces and civilians have experienced record casualties every year since those numbers began to be kept by the UN.
Similarly, any progress in reconstructing or developing Afghanistan has been found to be near existent despite the more than $100 billion spent by the United States on such efforts by the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR). $100 billion, by the way, is more money than was spent on the Marshall Plan when that post-WWII reconstruction plan is put into inflation adjusted dollars. Oft repeated claims, such as millions of Afghan school girls going to school, millions of Afghans having access to improved health care and Afghan life expectancy dramatically increasing, and the construction of an Afghan job building economy have been exposed as nothing more than public relations lies. Often displayed as modern Potemkin Villages to visiting journalists and congressional delegations and utilized to justify continued budgets for the Pentagon and USAID, and, so, to allow for more killing, like America’s reconstruction program in Iraq, the reconstruction program in Afghanistan has proven to be a failure and its supposed achievements shown to be virtually non-existent, as documented by multiple investigations by SIGAR, as well as by investigators and researchers from organizations such as the UN, EU, IMF, World Bank, etc.
Tonight, the American people will hear again the great lie about the progress the American military once made in Afghanistan after “the Afghan Surge”, just as we often hear the lie about how the American military had “won” in Iraq. In Iraq it was a political compromise that brought about a cessation of hostilities for a few short years and it was the collapse of the political balance that had been struck that led to the return to the violence of the last several years. In Afghanistan there has never even been an attempt at such a political solution and all the Afghan people have seen in the last eight years, every year, has been a worsening of the violence.
Americans will also hear tonight how the U.S. military has done great things for the Afghan people. You would be hard pressed to find many Afghans outside of the incredibly corrupt and illegitimate government, a better definition of a kleptocracy you will not find, that the U.S. keeps in power with its soldiers and $35 billion a year, who would agree with the statements of the American politicians, the American generals and the pundits, the latter of which are mostly funded, directly or indirectly, by the military companies. It is important to remember that for three straight elections in Afghanistan the United States government has supported shockingly fraudulent elections, allowing American soldiers to kill and die while presidential and parliamentary elections were brazenly stolen. It is also important to remember that many members of the Afghan government are themselves warlords and drug barons, many of them guilty of some of the worst human rights abuses and war crimes, the same abuses of which the Taliban are guilty, while the current Ghani government, and the previous Karzai government, have allowed egregious crimes to continue against women, including laws that allow men to legally rape their wives.
Whatever President Trump announces tonight about Afghanistan, a decision he teased on Twitter, as if the announcement were a new retail product launch or television show episode, as opposed to the somber and painful reality of war, we can be assured the lies about American progress in Afghanistan will continue, the lies about America’s commitment to human rights and democratic values will continue, the profits of the military companies and drug barons will also continue, and of course the suffering of the Afghan people will surely continue.
Matthew Hoh is a member of the advisory boards of Expose Facts, Veterans For Peace and World Beyond War. In 2009 he resigned his position with the State Department in Afghanistan in protest of the escalation of the Afghan War by the Obama Administration. He previously had been in Iraq with a State Department team and with the U.S. Marines. He is a Senior Fellow with the Center for International Policy.
I was a Fulbright professor of journalism in 1991, posted for a year in the Graduate School of Journalism at China’s prestigious Fudan University in Shanghai.
Over the year I made many friends among the faculty and especially among my graduate students, many of whom had been democracy activists, either in Beijing or in Shanghai, during the events of the Tiananmen occupation and eventual crushing of that movement. during 1989, the year before my arrival.
At the time I was in China, there were very few statues of Mao Zedong, the celebrated leader of the victorious Chinese Communist revolution. Because of the horrors of the Cultural Revolution and earlier anti-rightist campaigns he had orchestrated, his reputation had understandably and deservedly suffered badly.
As a result, while Mao statues had been ubiquitous all over China only a decade earlier, by the time I arrived (20 years after having graduated with a degree in Chinese language and plans to go to China to witness and write about the “glories” of the Cultural Revolution), I found in Shanghai only two remaining statues of the Chairman — one inside the entrance gate to Tongji University, a technical school, and one inside the front gate of Fudan University.
The Tongji statue featured a younger Mao posed in a romantic stance waiving to his people. The Fudan statue had a more forbidding stance: quite tall, featuring the chairman in his formal Mao suit, feet together, and arms clasped behind his back, looking sternly down at the viewer. This statue had been designed to look even bigger and more imposing than it was by the enlargement of the feet and the bottom of the legs (sort of like an R Crumb character), with the body shrinking to a much too small head at the top to give the illusion of height.
I asked a friend, a Fudan professor who had lived through the anti-rightist campaign of the ’50s as well as the Cultural Revolution, why those two statues had been left standing, while all the others seemed to have been eliminated in Shanghai and most of China.
He smiled wanly and said, using a very Chinese turn of phrase, “They left the statues so we would never forget…and so that we would never forget.”
I puzzled over his words for a moment and then I got it. He meant that the Party officials who run the two universities, which had been hotbeds of rebellion in 1989 and of democracy activism in earlier years, wanted their faculties and students both to remember the excesses of Mao’s Cultural Revolution (by then Mao was a very controversial figure among the Chinese people, revered as almost a god by some, and reviled by others), and also to remember what can happen to those who stand against the Chinese state and the absolute authority of the Communist Party.
The monuments to the Confederacy in the US are much the same as those Mao statues in Shanghai: functioning as both historical memorials and as current objects of intimidation.
After the massive suffering and death caused by the Cultural Revolution and other Maoist campaigns during the years after 1949, many people in China didn’t want to be reminded of it all by having to look at monumental edifices glorifying the psychopath responsible for those events. But of course there were many who also thought of Mao as the father of their country and revered him, sometimes, as with the cab drivers who would ride with a red-and-gold framed photo of Mao hanging from their rear-view mirror as a good luck charm, treating his image almost like an image of Buddha or Guanyin.
Just so, after the Civil War and Reconstruction, many people in both the South and North wanted to move on, and to forget the belligerence. But some people wanted to remember the cause by celebrating the leaders of the white rebellion that was Southern secession, and like those Party officials at Tongji and Fudan, they wanted to remind the freed black slaves who was boss: the resurgent whites who had lost the war. Hence a spate of erecting statues of the likes of Gen. Lee and Gen. Jackson.
My own feeling is that statues honoring the generals of the Confederacy, and the CSA’s president Jefferson Davis, are not just an outrage — these guys are all traitors to the United States, and were fighting not for “states’ rights” as often alleged by their defenders, but for the preservation of the vile and absolutely indefensible institution of slavery — but are an insult to any black resident of the city in which they are allowed to continue to stand. (Richmond, BA, with it’s Monument Drive lined with statues of Confederate generals, is toda 57% black.)
As two of Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson’s great great grandsons recently stated in a letter to the mayor of Richmond, VA published also in Slate magazine, the Confederate statues erected in the South are not about glorifying heroes of some virtuous battle, but rather were erected later in the 19th Century and on, after Reconstruction had ended, in an era when white supremacy was resurgent — with the violent help of the Ku Klux Klan, a tsunami of lynchings, and the introduction of segregation and poll taxes — to keep black people in their “place,” terrified, and out of political and economic power.
The two direct Jackson descendants, Jack Christian and Warren Christian, in calling for the removal of Confederate statues including those of their famous/infamous ancestor Gen. Stonewall Jackson, write:
Instead of lauding Jackson’s violence, we choose to celebrate Stonewall’s sister—our great-great-grandaunt—Laura Jackson Arnold. As an adult Laura became a staunch Unionist and abolitionist. Though she and Stonewall were incredibly close through childhood, she never spoke to Stonewall after his decision to support the Confederacy. We choose to stand on the right side of history with Laura Jackson Arnold.
They go on to write:
Confederate monuments like the Jackson statue were never intended as benign symbols. Rather, they were the clearly articulated artwork of white supremacy. Among many examples, we can see this plainly if we look at the dedication of a Confederate statue at the University of North Carolina, in which a speaker proclaimed that the Confederate soldier “saved the very life of the Anglo-Saxon race in the South.” Disturbingly, he went on to recount a tale of performing the “pleasing duty” of “horse whipping” a black woman in front of federal soldiers. All over the South, this grotesque message is conveyed by similar monuments. As importantly, this message is clear to today’s avowed white supremacists.
There is a gross hypocrisy in President Trump’s at least feigned emotional defense of the “beautiful” statues of Lee, Davis, Jackson and other Confederate “heroes,” and of the “good people” whose only goal, he claims, is allegedly defending their “cultural heritage.” This is not about protesting some “PC” attack on the Confederacy, or about fighting to preserve the historical record.
Recall the chest thumping and media gloating we witnessed as statues of Saddam Hussein were torn down by the American victors of the illegal invasion of Iraq? Recall too the US excitement and patriotic enthusiasm of the “USA! USA!” crowd as Russians began tearing down statues of Stalin and even Lenin across the former Soviet Union? There were and still are many Iraqis who liked Saddam and the modern Arab state he created. There are millions of Russians who still revere Lenin for ending the Tsarist state and bringing Russia into the modern world. There are even millions of Russians who revere Stalin for making their country a world power and for defeating the invading Nazi army in World War II. Yet were any Americans decrying the erasing of that history in Iraq or Russia? I’m not saying Lenin’s and Stalin’s statues shouldn’t be torn down — certainly Stalin’s should — but what makes Stalin any different in a qualitative way, from Lee or Jackson or Davis?
My feeling is that we don’t need statues of white supremacist traitors who fought this nation’s bloodiest war in the name of perpetuating slavery in order to help us remember this nation’s history. And if bigots, fascists and white supremacists want to have statuary to remind them about or to celebrate its most sordid chapters, they can put them up on private land and pay the costs for maintaining them. Memorials to such vile men don’t belong in public spaces supported by public tax dollars — especially the tax dollars paid by descendants of the people that the subjects of those statues fought to keep enslaved.
If we have to have them, maybe we could require that they be accompanied by one of their most famous defenders: Donald J. Trump. (I’m thinking of the nude sculptures of a naked Trump with small hands and tiny genitals that were produced by sculptor Joshua Monroe and places strategically around the country during the campaign by an anarchist group.
Bruce Cuming’s The Korean War explains North Korea’s resistance.[i] The history provides reasons and makes it unsurprising. But there’s also a story about that history: about how some histories disappear, and must.
Commentators say sanctions don’t work against North Korea. Nothing works.[ii] They don’t ask why. It’s as if there is no history. And it’s as if there are no people, because people have reasons, partly explained by history. There are no reasons because there are no people. The people disappear.
More than sixty years ago, the US reduced North Korea to rubble, razing all its cities. A third of the population died. US film-maker, Chris Marker, in 1957, remarked: “Extermination passed over this land”. After the US drew a line at the 38th parallel, between 100,000 and 200,000 people were killed by the South Korean government or US occupation forces. South Korea was a brutal dictatorship.[iii]
With hundreds of nukes installed by the US in South Korea, why would North Korea not seek nuclear deterrence?
Kim Il-sung, the grandfather of the current leader, fought the Japanese colonizers for 13 years in extreme conditions. He was a hero of that struggle. Japan had annexed Korea and set up a puppet state. The colonizers finally relinquished control in 1945. But by then the US had interests.
It’s an old story, silenced. According to Adam Smith, in no society can people enjoy well-being without being regarded well by others. The wealth people need varies from society to society. But Smith notes that one good is absolute: the ability to appear in public without shame.
If this capacity is so central to human well-being, why does it not matter that the system providing a good life for 20% does so by creating hell for the majority. The “developed” live well, or think we do, because the public into which we appear doesn’t include the 80%.
We “live well” without shame because those we kill and rob don’t exist – as people.
Frantz Fanon remarked that you can brutally exploit others while considering yourself a liberal humanist as long as your victims aren’t human.[iv] If you convince yourself they are “superior monkeys”, he writes, there is no contradiction between embracing imperialism and declaring commitment to global justice.
It’s not self-conscious. We mostly think out of habit patterns, unacknowledged. It is why Marx said shame is such a revolutionary emotion. We experience shame when we see the truth, when we see the world as it is, not as we need to see it to be comfort.
Fidel Castro referred to sobrantes (left-overs). In the 2000s I attended an annual conference on global development in Havana, Cuba. Castro was there each time, taking notes. When it was over, he’d speak, starting, say, at 10.30pm, concluding at 3.30am.
A colleague asked why I listened since I knew his ideas. Why did any of us listen, for hours, all night long, some standing in order not to nod off? It wasn’t to learn. We knew the message.
It was to not feel crazy.
Listening to the media, and most of the academic left, it can seem that the whole world denies certain histories, Korea’s being just one. I noticed that Castro’s speeches were lengthy because they always included history, and not just Cuba’s. He told histories of resistance.
Such histories provide reasons. People have reasons. He was making the sobrantes people.
His stories created expectations: that the poor matter, that the poor remember, that the march of humanity (against imperialism) exists and will continue. I thought that’s how it is but when most journalists and academics deny US imperialism – won’t even use the word – one can feel crazy.
There’s a thing about truth. Sometimes, when you hear it and give it importance, it creates energy. It becomes possible to act in ways not possible previously, even if intended. Plenty of philosophers have noticed that how we think and how we act are interdependent. Marx was one.
Some ask who can galvanize an anti-imperialist left, without Castro. Yet a person is not what’s needed. Truth is needed. Development folk talk about well-being, meaning happiness, or something similar. They may be the “darkly radiant” of Les Misérables. Victor Hugo decries endless talk about happiness, forgetting truth.
“They have no idea they are to be pitied”, Hugo writes, “Whoever does not weep does not see”.
At the global development conferences, Castro said the march of humanity will continue because “people think and feel”. He draws upon José Martí, who said that without sensitivity, we can’t be educated. Knowledge just doesn’t cut it in this age of information. This point matters.
You have to be sensitive to feel the energy of truth, when you find it, if you find it. And you have to care about pursuing it. It can be hard.
Hugo writes about Jean Valjean’s struggles with conscience: “how many times had that implacable light … dazzled him by force when all he wanted was to be blind”. It would be good to appear in public without shame. But it may not be compatible with our obsession with happiness, and it is certainly not compatible with our desire to be blind. The fear is that they are the same thing.
[ii] Bill Clinton negotiated a freeze on plutonian production for eight years and signed an agreement against ‘hostile intent” but these were undone by Bush and Obama.
[iii] Su-kyoung Hwang, Korea’s Grievous War (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016)
[iv] The Wretched of the Earth (Grove Press, 1963)
I don’t know when the wheel was invented, or who invented it.
However, I have no doubt that it was invented again and again, with many happy inventors sharing the glory.
The same is true for the Israeli-Palestinian Confederation. From time to time it appears in public as a brand-new idea, with another group of inventors proudly presenting it to the public.
This just shows that you cannot suppress a good idea. It appears again and again. During the last few weeks, it has appeared in several articles, presented by new inventors.
Every time it happens, I would take off my hat, if I had one. As Europeans used to do when they met a lady or an old acquaintance.
Actually, the United Nations Partition Plan adopted by the General Assembly on November 29, 1947 (Resolution 181) already proposed a kind of confederation, though without using the term. It said that the two new states that it created – one Arab, one Jewish, with Jerusalem as a separate unit – would be united in an “economic union”.
A few days later, the “war of 1948” broke out. It was a bitter and cruel war, and when it ended in early 1949, nothing of the UN resolution remained. There were still some desultory negotiations, but they petered out.
The war had created “facts on the ground” – Israel controlled vastly more territory than was allotted to it, Jordan and Egypt had taken over what was left. Palestine had ceased to exist, the very name erased from the map, with half the Palestinian people evicted from their homes.
Immediately after the war, I tried to set up a group of young Jews, Muslims and Druze to propagate the setting up of a Palestinian state next to the new State of Israel. This initiative led nowhere. In 1954, when some Palestinians in the West Bank revolted against their Jordanian masters, I published a call for the Israeli government to support the creation of a Palestinian state. It was ignored.
It was three years later that the idea of an Israeli-Palestinian federation first took on a serious form. The 1956 Israeli attack on Egypt, in collusion with France and the UK, aroused the disgust of many Israelis. In the middle of the war, I got a phone call from Nathan Yellin-Mor. He proposed that we do something about it.
Yellin-Mor had been the political leader of Lehi (alias the Stern Gang) the most extreme of the three underground organizations that fought against British rule. I was the owner and editor-in-chief of a popular news magazine.
We set up a group called Semitic Action. As a first step, we decided to compose a document. Not one of those flimsy political programs that are published today and forgotten tomorrow, but a serious plan for the total overhaul of the State of Israel. It took us more than a year.
We were some 20 people, most of them prominent in their field, and met at least once a week for our deliberations. We divided the subjects among us. The subject of peace with the Arabs fell to me.
The basis of the new creed was that we Israelis are a new nation – not outside the Jewish people but a part of it, much like Australia was a new nation within the Anglo-Saxon community. A new nation created by its geo-political situation, climate, culture and traditions.
(This idea itself was not quite new. In the early 1940s, a handful of poets and writers, nicknamed the Canaanites, had proposed something similar, but denied any connection with the world Jewish people and also denied the existence of the Arab nation or nations.)
In our view, the new “Hebrew” nation was a part of the “Semitic Region” and therefore a natural ally of the Arab nations. (We categorically refused to call it “Middle East”, an Eurocentric, imperialist term.)
In a dozen detailed paragraphs we outlined the structure of a federation that would consist of the two sovereign states of Israel and Palestine and be in charge of their joint economic and other interests. Citizens of either of the two states would travel freely in the other one, but not be allowed to settle there.
We foresaw that this federation would in due course become part of a wider confederation of all the countries of the Semitic region in Asia and Africa.
Other chapters dealt with the total separation between state and religion, free immigration, relations with the Jewish communities around the world and a social-democratic economy.
The document, called “The Hebrew Manifesto”, was published before the State of Israel was ten years old.
Christopher Columbus, the man who “discovered” America, was asked how to make an egg stand up. He knocked the end of the egg on the table and lo and behold – it stood.
Since then, the “Egg of Columbus” has become proverbial in many languages, including Hebrew. The idea of a federation in Palestine is such an egg. It combines two principles: that there would be one country between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and that both Israelis and Palestinians would live in their own independent state.
The “Whole of Eretz Israel” and the “Whole of Palestine” are right-wing slogans. The “Two-state Solution” belongs to the Left.
In this debate, “federation” and “confederation” are often used interchangeably. And indeed, no one quite knows the difference.
It is generally agreed that in a federation, the central authority has more powers, while in a “confederation” more powers are vested in the component units. But that is a vague distinction.
The American civil war was fought between the Southern”confederacy” which wanted to retain the rights of the component states in many fields, (with the fields tended by slaves), and the federation of the North, which wanted the central government to retain most of the important powers.
The world is full of federations and confederations. The United States, the Russian Federation, the Confederation Suisse, the United Kingdom, the Bundesrepublik Deutschland (official translation: Federal Republic of Germany) and so on.
There are no two among them which resemble each other completely. States are as different from each other as human beings. Each state is the product of its geography, the special character of its peoples, its history, its wars, loves and hatreds.
Members of a federation do not have to love each other. Last week, in a bizarre way, the American civil war was fought again in a Southern city, at the foot of the statue of a Southern general. Bavarians have no great love for the “Prussians” of the north, Many Scots would love to get rid of the bloody English, as would many Quebecois from Canada. But common interests are strong, and very often they prevail.
When it is not a marriage of love, it is at least a marriage of convenience.
Technical advances and the demands of the modern economy drive the world together into larger and larger units. The much-maligned “globalization” is a global necessity. People who today wave the “Bonnie Blue Flag” or the Swastika are ridiculous.
One day in the future people will pity them as people today pity the Luddites, who smashed the machines at the beginning of the industrial era.
Back to us.
The idea of a federation or confederation of Israel/Palestine may sound simple, but it is not. There are many obstacles.
First of all, there is the vast difference in the living standards of the two peoples. It would necessitate massive help from the rich world for the Palestinians.
The historical hate between the two peoples, not since 1967, not since 1948, but right from the beginning in 1882, must be overcome. This is not the job of politicians, but of writers and poets, historians and philosophers, musicians and dancers.
This looks like a daunting mission, but I am deeply convinced that it is easier than it looks. In Israeli hospitals (doctors and nurses), in universities (professors and students), and, naturally, in joint peace demonstrations, bridges between the two peoples are already in place.
The very fact that the federation idea crops up again and again shows its necessity. The groups of activists who are bringing it up now were not yet born when we first proposed the idea – yet their message sounds new and fresh.
May their cause prosper.
After WWII, the West had one huge ‘problem’ on its hands: all three most populous Muslim countries on Earth – Egypt, Iran and Indonesia – were clearly moving in one similar direction, joining group of patriotic, peaceful and tolerant nations. They were deeply concerned about the welfare of their citizens, and by no means were they willing to allow foreign colonialist powers to plunder their resources, or enslave their people.
In the 1950’s, the world was rapidly changing, and there was suddenly hope that the countries which were oppressed and pillaged for decades and centuries by first the European and then North American geopolitical and business interests, would finally break their shackles and stand proudly on their own feet.
Several Communist countries in Eastern Europe, but also newly liberated China, were actively helping with rapid de-colonizing process in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and other parts of the world.
Those developments were exactly what the West in general and both the U.K. and the U.S. in particular, were not ready or willing to accept. ‘Ancient’ belief in some sort of ‘inherited right’ to colonize, to loot and to control entire non-white world, was deeply engraved in the psyche of the rulers in both Europe and North America.
Peaceful, tolerant and socially oriented Islam was seen as a tremendous threat, at least in London, Washington, and Paris. It had to be stopped, even destroyed – resolutely and by all available means. Only the pre-approved Wahhabism, which was collaborative with the West and from the onset at least partially ‘co-produced’ by the British Empire, was singled-out and allowed to ‘bloom and succeed’.
Iran fell first, in 1953.
Actually, it did not fall; it was brutally destroyed.
According to the logic of the Empire, Iran had to be derailed and ruined, in order to prevent so-called ‘domino effect’.
As written by Irfan Ahmad, an Associate Professor of Political Anthropology at Australian Catholic University, Melbourne and author of “Islamism and Democracy in India”:
“…Major theatre of de-democratization was Iran, whose elected government was overthrown, in 1953, by a US-UK alliance. Mohammad Mosaddeq was Iran’s elected prime minister. He enjoyed the approval of Iran’s parliament for his nationalization program. The US and UK organized a CIA-led coup to oust Mosaddeq – because Iran refused make oil concessions to the West. During World War II, the UK had taken control of Iran to prevent oil from being passed to its ally, the Soviet Union. Through the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, the UK continued to control Iran’s oil after the war. The French-educated Mosaddeq was highly critical of Iran’s draining of resources to the West. Soon after getting elected as prime minister in March 1951, Mosaddeq and his National Front alliance had moved to nationalize Iranian oil and throw out foreign control of oil fields. One such was the Abadan refinery, then the largest in the world. The UK retaliated by imposing economic sanctions, backed by its heavy naval presence in the region. Mosaddeq, however, was undeterred; his popularity only increased among the Iranian people. Faced with Mosaddeq’s resistance, the UK-US alliance staged a coup to over throw Mosaddeq’s government.”
France, the U.K. and Israel attacked it, in 1956, during so-called “Suez Canal Crises”. Although the invasion eventually ended and Canal stayed in the hands of Egypt, the country never fully recovered. There were further Israeli attacks and invasions, and after President Gamal Abdel Nasser passed away in 1970, gross meddling in Egypt’s internal affairs by the Western countries. Gradually, Egypt was turned into an impoverished client state.
In Indonesia, a progressive and religiously tolerant President Ahmed Sukarno was overthrown more than a decade after Mohammad Mosaddeq in Iran. The coup took place in 1965, with direct involvement of the United States. Between 1 and 3 million people were brutally slaughtered.
Sukarno’s main ‘sins’, at least in the eyes of the Western Empire, consisted of strong left wing, patriotic stands, which included nationalization of almost all natural resources. Sukarno was also one of the founding fathers of non-aligned movement.
By the end of the 1960’s, socialism in the Muslim countries had been almost thoroughly demolished. Dark era of collaboration, particularly in the [Persian] Gulf region, arrived.
The 1953 coup in Iran was later replicated in various parts of the world, even as far as Latin America.
For years it is has been no secret that the U.S and the U.K. planned and executed this deadly event.
In its article, CIA admits role in 1953 Iranian coup, published on 19 August 2013, The Guardian reported:
“The CIA has publicly admitted for the first time that it was behind the notorious 1953 coup against Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, in documents that also show how the British government tried to block the release of information about its own involvement in his overthrow.
On the 60th anniversary of an event often invoked by Iranians as evidence of western meddling, the US national security archive at George Washington University published a series of declassified CIA documents.
“The military coup that overthrew Mosaddeq and his National Front cabinet was carried out under CIA direction as an act of US foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest levels of government,” reads a previously excised section of an internal CIA history titled The Battle for Iran.”
Declassified, U.S Department of State “Top Secret” documents from 1952, also clearly demonstrated great appetite of the U.K. to perform the coup in Iran:
“Subject: Proposal to Organize a Coup d’etat in Iran
“The British foreign Office has informed us that it would be disposed to attempt to bring about a coup d’état in Iran, replacing the Mosadeq Government by one which would be more “reliable”, if the American government agreed to cooperate…”
Although the U.S. government was originally hesitant about supporting the U.K. in planning to overthrow Prime Minister Mohammad Mosadeq, it soon changed its mind and allowed the CIA to plot and execute the coup.
What followed was 26 years of perversely brutal rule of Shah Reza Pahlavi, as well as of the British-US control over almost all great natural resources of Iran.
In brief: the West performed an experiment on Iran and on its people: how would the country react to a bloodbath, to overthrowing of its popular leader, to a theft of its resources?
As it did for centuries, the U.K. ‘scored’: it correctly predicted that it would be able to ‘get away with murder’. It managed to convince its offspring, the United States, that huge international crimes pay, as long as they are committed barefaced.
And the US industrialized these crimes, as it earlier did production of automobiles or radio sets. Crimes got mass-produced. One ‘inappropriate’ government after another got overthrown, destroyed; all over the world: Congo, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Chile, Brazil, Indonesia, Vietnam… Crimes were piling up, and still are.
1953 in Iran marked the beginning of a ‘new chapter’ in the world history – a terrible and brutal chapter.
Iranian people and Iranian leadership are well aware of it. The country that suffered so much, the country which lost hundreds of thousands of its sons and daughters to Western imperialism, geopolitical games as well as naked greed, is now standing tall and strong, unwilling to surrender or to even budge.
It wants to go forward, it is going forward, but in its own direction, at its own pace, for the benefit of its people.
Iran is not alone. There is now an entire powerful alliance in place, consisting of countries from all over the world: an alliance of those who are not afraid to confront deadly expansionism and consequent terror. From Bolivia to China, from South Africa to Russia, Syria, Venezuela and the Philippines, people are remembering Iran of 1953, determined to defend their countries and the world against the greatest evil, which is imperialism!
What struck me the most after picking up a copy of the July/August 2017 edition of the Boyle Heights Beat a local newspaper is the image of what seems to be a Latino young man carrying a sign “Don’t be a dick, it is only coffee” in support of a contested coffee shop set up by gentrifying entrepreneurs in the heart of Boyle Heights a predominantly Latin@/Chican@ community in the City of Los Angeles. It is not surprising the distorted view by some lacking historical references (mapping) to past experiences… I was holding the paper in hand when a historical reference came to mind, the annexation of TEXAS. That is how it all started when Mexico’s government allowed Anglo sajones to settle in Texas but under specific conditions: foremost no slavery and son on. At first it was agreed, but as history has proved there was never any intent to respect Mexico’s conditions for settlement. There were some Mexican hacendados with large estates that welcomed the arrival of Anglo Saxons with the hopes their properties would be protected by siding with the guests. The hacendados also envisioned the growth of their estate would grow fat by joining the gringos. That would not be the case. We all know what came after. Most hacendados lost their estates and wealth to the land grabbing opportunists. The colonized notion that with whiteness comes improvement continues to persist to this very day not just in Boyle Heights but in many parts of the world. If improvements do come it’s for them and not the rest.
Second concern to point out, are the contradictions by those who gentrify. I’m sure they are progressive and liberal but with a big difference, that with their settlement in working class communities comes ‘class antagonism, privilege and class differences.’ A professor would often say “Not all liberals/progressives are alike, you want your first home and the liberal is thinking of adding a second story.” A clear and poignant fact is living with contradictions instead of living through the contradictions. Are such contradictions a concern? Or are they ignored and justified in some way or the other? This alone is a key factor that must be reiterated repeatedly. Contradictions don’t get ironed out with a CUMBA YA party! let’s all get along! it is only coffee— approach! Gentrification is a political struggle not a block party! There is no in-between!
I would also assume that many are also not with this whole thing about Trump, yet feel entitled to settle and push into working class African American and Latino neighborhoods. This entitlement is the exercise of a slight micro version of the manifest destination and eminent domain that continues today by a more affluent and privileged class whose majority so happens to be Caucasian. Not to mention the access to capital and finances to establish upscale galleries and business that accompanies gentrification or the anxiety, fear, pressure that comes with the loss of security on the poor and working families forced to relocate. It is revealing to see the City of Los Angeles officials, greedy propertiers, wealthy developers, business owners and real estate hawks who use the greedy act of speculation, on their knees aiding and abetting gentrified areas (urban renewal) in displacing families and workers. There is also the question of perspective, of viewing specific areas of a community as uninhabited zones of existence. Again, this recalls the arrival of the first European settlers in what is now known as America. The first steps on dry land once off the ship was to see Native American land as uninhabited zones of existence open areas for exploitation and settlement. What about the Native Americans?
Third, where is the presence of the local government of Boyle Heights district 14 political representatives and county supervisors. What is there political stand on gentrification? Are they being held accountable? Where is the protection for the working class and families targeted and affected by gentrification?
Fourth, the paper Boyle Heights Beat makes no references to the Boyle heights political council representatives accountability. Very briefly the paper skims through this question by allowing an interviewed person by one of its reporters make the point. Meaning it is indirectly addressed. Why did the editors fail to bring up the direct accountability and safety in the hands of the politicians in its July/August edition is a question?
I would compare gentrification as a neoliberal aesthetic in where the pumping of capital in this case in Boyle Heights, is disguised as a social investment for the community by wealthy individuals and privatizing policies. Another direct way of saying it, is the embedded belief that, what capital generates somehow automatically trickles vertically down to the masses. This top down hierarchical approach compares to the large-scale capital investments syringed into a less prosperous country with the illusion they magically will acquire 1st world economic status. One variable that must be understood is that capitalism is not, I repeat is not rehabilitating nor can it be humanized. The logic of capital dictates all spheres of life and ways of being that put profit over people. Much of the gentrification does not come alone, it is accompanied and encouraged by city officials (and well-informed Latin@ politicos) and misguided and misinformed local minorities who stand to lose not realizing they are aiding a privilege class who could care less what happens to friends, community, cultura and family. They see no harm in gentrification as a means of prosperity and progress as does the young man holding the sign. It is prosperity for us and not for you. Gentrifying needs a few local minorities that stand to profit (urban planning Latino firms located in Boyle Heights) on their side to shield and protect their encroachment into a low income, working class community and neighborhood. Why can’t progress accompany working class family’s vs forcing them out of the community. Any shortage of housing is not their fault it is the responsibility of the city.
Case in point is the gentrification taking place in the north-east side of Los Angeles, Highland Park a predominately Latino working community. One of the main concerns is the rise of liquor licenses applicants for food and bar restaurants on one of the principle mom and pop business corridors in Highland Park; Figueroa Ave. keep in mind, acquiring a liquor license is expensive. The average liquor permit starts at $24,000 dollars and can go up to 300,00 in the City of Los Angeles. The Latino community beginning with the Mexican American experience in the building of this nation has never been friendly. The hostility accounts are many: The bulldozing and forced removal of Mexican Americans from their homes at Chavez Ravine to build Dodger Stadium that we all enjoy today, the deportation of “unwanted” Mexican Americans in the mid-1920s, the forced recruitment into Vietnam, the no dogs and Mexicans allowed signs, the hunt down of immigrants crossing the border (**), Operation Wet Back of the 60s and the Anglo sailor’s attack on Mexican American Zootsuiters.
According to Professor Rodolfo F. Acuña, the construction of freeways in east Los Angeles:
“By 1963 609,000 [were] uprooted 2/3s minority urban land …When plans for freeways were proposed, these sections [east of the Los Angeles River] were considered expendable… …Freeways ultimately displaced ten percent of the area’s inhabitants.”
Not to mention the health hazards that affect a community living near freeways. Historically, the lived experiences between minorities and the City of Los Angeles, and the upper echelons is and continues to be conflicting.
The concerns with gentrification are the loss of the specificity of a community: its history, its contributions, its uniqueness, its culture, home and the sense of place. It makes it less affordable to live by longtime residents and more accessible for those who can pay two, three or four time the rate of a working family. It demonstrates that city employed representatives work faster around wealth, progress and development, and slow around justice and opportunities for working class people. Gentrification, literally grays a neighborhood with an industrial navy battle ship tones that dampens out a community’s specific color palette. If investors and the gentrifying well-meaning crowd can bump out the poor and working people, it is with approval of city officials, politc@s and lobbyist. Nothing comes about if there is a Nay on behalf of the city’s power brokers. Power, Profit and profiteers come before children, families and people. Every gain and protection of a community is never granted democratically it must be fought for. Gentrification is historically rooted in the birth of this nation.
What’s behind gentrification is the normalizing of capital ideology that profit and gain supersede dignity and human rights. City development in gentrifying zones is the accommodation for middle and upper-class whites at the expense of minorities. For scholar and community activist Lydia Avila Hernandez, these historical changes have been disguised as revitalization:
“Historically, the City of Los Angeles’ definition of revitalization has been to destroy in order to create. Developers and the city planned to accomplish the revitalization of the Downtown Business District by bringing back the same professionals that were induced to move to the suburbs in the 1950’s and 60’s. City officials seem to believe profit equals progress. Traditional revitalization tries to bring life back to a community by tapping into a new market, through the promotion of a lifestyle that revolves around exclusivity, consumption and the culture of the white urban professional. Cities across the nation attributed blight to “white flight” from the city-center. Politicians, planners and developers identify progress with the White, professional, middle and upper-class locating in particular neighborhoods. Revitalization is an example of the perceived dependency of progress on the middle class.” 
Conclusion, it is not about ‘who wants to live in a racially segregated city’ as mention in a 2015 New York article titled ‘Viva Gentrification,’ it is the trident arsenal that comes with gentrification: property, privilege, and power. The framing of an L.A weekly report 2016 ‘Here’s a map of L.A Most Gentrified neighborhoods’ puts gentrification as inevitable, despite the dislocation on behalf of the privilege that comes with it. It is only inevitable when nothing is done against the clogged weight of injustices! Gentrification is CUSTOM DESIGNED to do precisely what it is doing today: allow free market values to dictate in favor of those who can and continue the neoliberal assault on grass root organizing and reshape the city’s landscape to the needs of middle and the upper classes.
Political policies that care to consider affordable public housing due to lack of federal, state and city investment is one of the main causes of gentrification. What do we make of a local framing shop in Highland Park that after inquiring to use their space for an art exhibit I was asked to send them images. So, I did. I got no reply until I called the owner’s cell number. The work I presented “was not what his customers would be interested in” said the young bearded Caucasian man. I replied, “are you saying it’s too ethnic.” There was a moment of silence. I got it, Latino art was not welcomed, it was not white or Eurocentric enough.
I would hope that by know given the historical conflict between city and working people in barrios and hoods we would be onto their game of progress and development. I’d hope that by know our local councilmen and council women would stop pimping the community with illusions of job opportunities that come with the destruction of mom and pop businesses and displacement of families. I hope that by know we are onto Latin@s politicos who abuse the cultural similarities and Latino heritage inherited from their immigrant and Latino parents and stop waving the American Dream Doctrine that derives from exploitation in our faces to lure the community in accepting counter-productive political trinkets, like the magician in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel One Hundred Years of Solitude does to the residents of Macondo, with trinkets that spellbound a community with railroads and false illusions of an embellished monster called progress.
The masquerading of kind words to the calculating doctrine of progress is no different than those who feel that to save a forest from a fire it must first be cut down. For advocates who support gentrification and for those who are in a state of limbo(in-between) gentrifying is no different as believing: that to save a community it must first be torn down(destroyed) and gentrified for it to be saved.
Note: Historical experiences should not be wasted in particularly when it relates to justice. For writer Walter Benjamin, history is one of our best reliable retroactive force that should be called upon to question every victory, past and present of the ruling elite.
 Juan Gonzalez, A History of Latinos in America: harvest of Empire. New York: Penguin Books, 2000.
 Please see sociologist Boaventura de Santos on uninhabited zones of existence.
 Angelica Ortiz, Black Friday May 9th Evictions Versus Mexican Heritage Day at Dodger Stadium: May-June 2017, Community Beacon News. www.community/beaconnews.com
 Luis Alvarez, The Power of The Zoot. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2008.
 Gabriel Garcia Marquez: 100 Years of Solitude.
 Walter Benjamin, Illuminations: Essays and Reflections, Theses on The Philosophy of History pg.255, New York: Schocken Books, 1968.
In the late hours of May 19, 2017, the 16’6” bronze sculpture of General Robert E. Lee, Commander of the Confederate army, was removed from Lee Circle, St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans, Louisiana. To avert any violence, minimize media exposure, and to control unruly crowds (should the occasion have arisen), barricades and the cover of twilight and night were employed.
To eradicate a very dark chapter in American history, darkness was employed in New Orleans; this same darkness has just been utilized in Baltimore to remove another Confederate sculpture.
Intended as a memorial monument to honor General Robert E. Lee, the sculpture, created by sculptor Alexander Doyle, was dedicated at Tivoli Circle in 1884 (changed to Lee Circle shortly thereafter), some 19 years after the end of the Civil War (or War Between the States for those still licking-the-wounds-of-defeat).
Sitting on an 8’4” pedestal base, the sculpture is reminiscent of early 2nd century CE Trajan’s Column, Rome, Italy, and the 1871 Place Vendôme column, Paris, France. Other columns in this genre celebrate potentates, tyrannical rulers, and saints.
Two days after the removal of General Lee’s sculpture Mississippi lawmaker Karl Oliver vented his anger in a Facebook posting in which he advocated that Louisiana leaders who supported the decision “Should be LYNCHED.” Even though he later apologized, the stone was cast and his cri de guerre in defense of the preservation of Confederate monuments became a rallying cry for Neo Nazis, the Alt Right, White Supremacists, the KKK, and the disaffected across a nation that has been polarized by the winds that begot us a new political regime. Led by the Twitterer-in-chief, in this new political climate politicians and wannabes compete with each other to discharge vacuous visceral pronouncements through social media, including Facebook, twitter, and blogs. A new platform of expression has emerged, one in which a disgruntled citizenry step into digital rings/screens to slug it out in pugilistic, caustic rhetoric. Unfortunately, truth, sanity, and compassion have given way to violence, acrimony, and vengeance. Equally unfortunate is the fact that restraint and polite discourse have succumbed to in-your-face confrontations. Instead of lucidity, lunacy has taken over, instead of dialogue, defiance has become the norm, and instead of harmony, hate and name calling have become the weapons of choice.
And in Pavlovian fashion, Baltimore, MD, Memphis, TN, Jacksonville, Gainesville, & Orlando, FL, Lexington, KY, and Atlanta, GA, to name but a few, are in the process of removing many of the 718 Confederate memorial sculptures across the south and southwest. Some 300 of these sculptures are located across the state of Georgia. In the last 48 hours an Atlanta Confederate memorial was vandalized, and two days past a bronze sculpture of a Confederate soldier was toppled in Durham, NC. Even the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall has not been spared; it was vandalized on Wednesday of this week.
At this momentous juncture and tragic turn of events in the nation’s history we are faced with the following grave decision/s: To Remove, Or Not To Remove?
Inasmuch as I abhor the institutionalized trade and exploitation of African slaves (frequently preached and justified from the pulpits – with selective biblical texts, of course), and inasmuch as I vehemently reject what the many hate groups holding on to the vestiges of the sordid past represent, I am not quite sure how I feel about the purging of historical monuments and art works created to honor the war dead, those who, even though they followed a misguided cause, were honored by their families and communities in an attempt to bring healing to torn hearts, families, communities, states, and a nation that bled human misery during the darkest epoch of her young life. Aren’t the attempts to expunge public squares, parks, and monuments a form of censorship? And where does this exercise in collective eradication of visual images lead? And, will the removal of symbols of discord be the cathartic and legal antidote to racism, bigotry, hatred, and violence that have plagued the nation since its creation? Will the removal of these many sculptures bring equality, harmony, peace and goodwill on this, our American soil? And finally, will expunging history bring equality and justice?
While I don’t have answers to the aforementioned, examples from the pages of past and recent history are apropos.
Assyrian monarchs honed brutality to an art form and proudly commissioned art works depicting their conquests on monumental stone panels; stolen by the British from Iraq, these ancient Mesopotamian panels grace the expansive exhibit halls and corridors of the British Museum. Should these high relief works that celebrate orgies of killing and beheadings be hauled off to some stone quarry because they celebrate the violence of tyrannical rulers? That the Roman Emperor Commodus was a blood-thirsty, megalomaniac is acknowledged. That Caligula and Nero represent characters of depraved, vile wickedness, sadistic, and narcissistic dispositions is a historical fact. Pray, tell, what good would it do to remove their images and sculptures from museums? And what good would it do to dismantle Nero’s Domus Aurea (Golden Villa)?
Better known as the wild conqueror who “decapitated his way through Asia,” Genghis Khan’s images are depicted in numerous surviving silk screens and manuscripts. And so are images of the English King John, better known as the “lecherous traitor, [the] depraved tyrant, [the] greedy villain” depicted in many an illuminated manuscript. Holbein’s 1540 portrait of King Henry VIII, he of the six wives and beheading fests, hangs in Rome’s Palazzo Barberini. Does that mean that Genghis Khan and King John’s images should be expunged from the silk screens and manuscripts? And should not Henry VIII’s portrait be likewise taken down and placed in some dark corner of the catacombs?
After Christianity became an established faith in Europe and Asia Minor and for a millennium, Christian zealots destroyed prized Greek and Roman art works, especially sculptures. The offense? Nudity was associated with paganism and lustful desires, a cardinal sin. Of the fortunate Hellenic and Hellenistic art works that have survived, the zealots’ hammers lobbed off limbs and genitalia. The most fortunate surviving undamaged sculptures are art works that were buried under debris and recovered from shipwrecks.
In the Byzantine Empire, religious fanaticism and lunacy reared up their ugly hydra heads twice (726-777 & 814-842) in what became known as the Byzantine Iconoclasm. As a result of their misreading of the 3rd commandment’s admonishment not to worship graven images, Christian zealots destroyed tens of thousands of priceless icons, sculptures, paintings, mosaics, and frescoes. Equally abhorrent was the great purging (in Holland and Northern Europe) of tens of thousands of tapestries, prints, paintings, and manuscripts as a result of the Reformation’s shaking off of centuries-old church’s stranglehold on people’s lives.
Perhaps one of history’s worst cultural and historical purges occurred after the 1942 final fall of Andalusian Granada to Isabella and Ferdinand. Under the command of zealot cardinals, especially Cardinal Francisco Jeménez de Cisneros, Andalusian bathhouses, art works, mosques, synagogues, tapestries, illuminated manuscripts, scientific instruments, including the astrolabe, navigational and surgical instruments, were destroyed and publically burned. Treatises on optics, music, poetry, geography, history, astrology, astronomy, horticulture, illustrated manuscripts on medicine and apothecary manuals were devoured by large bonfires — only because they were written in Arabic; translations of Archimedes and Aristotle and much Greek lore in translation were forever lost.
Yet another example of fanatical frenzy occurred soon after the French Revolution began. Zealous revolutionaries claimed the Ile de la Cite’s Notre Dame Cathedral as their very own; they set about decapitating the heads of the many monarchs and saints that graced the beautiful spandrels and pediments on the façade of this rare gem of Gothic architecture. And in Nazi Germany priceless cubist and surreal artworks were destroyed because they were deemed “degenerate art.”
Since 2000, Taliban fanatics have destroyed centuries-old Bamiyan Buddha sculptures; in Mali Moslem fanatics have destroyed ancient mausoleums, burned priceless manuscripts, and defaced the Great Mosque in Timbuktu, a World Culture Heritage site; in Iraq and Syria ISIS and its ilk have been destroying ancient historic sites, including Palmyra. (For more on the latter read Franklin Lamb’s numerous meticulous, eloquent, and elegiac documentation of the destruction of Near Eastern historical sites, especially in Syria.)
When art, in its myriad expressions, is destroyed by the victors, religious zealots, anarchists, or those bent on correcting ancient historic sins, the gratification is short-lived. However, when the remains of the dead are disturbed by the living it calls for a serious censure. Case in point is Israel’s destruction of the 7th century Moslem/Arab/Palestinian cemetery in Jerusalem’s Mamilla district. A cemetery that has served as a Muslim burial place for over 1300 years has been malevolently razed and bulldozed so as to erect the Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance. How does pulverizing the remains of the dead on hallowed ground, a ground that has embraced the remains of thousands of Palestinians lo these many years, dovetail with Tolerance?
Like a caustic and vengeful hydra, intolerance is levitating its ugly head across the world. Saudi Arabia and Israel, America’s closest allies in the Near East, are the most intolerant countries in the region. Intolerance is rearing its ugly face in Eastern Europe, especially Hungary, Ukraine, and Poland; and likewise across the African and Asian continents.
By and large, art, by its very nature is propaganda, propaganda for good or bad. Art elicits emotional and intellectual responses. Art transposes us from the quotidian to the universally shared values that bind us as an extended community better known as humanity. Art is also a reminder that when the dark forces of evil and hatred heave themselves to provoke our base instincts into violent action, art is the curative mirror into which we should look for guidance, reconciliation, and restoration of harmony and good will.
And finally, a question worth posing: Qui Bono from the removal of the hundreds of hundreds of Confederate monuments across the south?
Raouf J. Halaby is a Professor Emeritus of English and Art. He is a sculptor, writer, photographer, and avid gardener, and a soon-to-be apiarist. firstname.lastname@example.org
As Trump’s world collapses around him—abandoned by CEOs, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, several key Republicans in Congress, and some in the conservative news media—it’s time to see him for what he is: a minor business executive who has no business being president of the United States. That judgment has less to do with his decision-making capacity or his lack of governing or overseas experience than with his temperament. He has a reckless disregard for the truth, an inability to empathize, and a demoralizing desire to humiliate anyone, friend or critic, who challenges him. Winning comes first for Trump; the subject matters little compared with showing that he’s in charge and that his view is the only one that counts.
In years to come, Donald Trump will doubtless be the subject of numerous psychological analyses. The experts will try—some have been trying since Day One—to figure out how and why he behaves so differently from any normal leader. But sociology may be just as useful as psychology in Trump’s case: we need look no farther than his business dealings and his background to see that what we witness today is perfectly consistent with Trump’s past. Donald Trump quite simply is doing what comes naturally—being the authoritarian figure who gives orders, expects them to be followed, consults no one, demands absolute loyalty—and in the end increases the wealth of Trump Inc. He surely must be asking himself every day why this model isn’t working just as well in government as in business. “What’s wrong with all these people?” His sense of entitlement is truly extraordinary.
The problem for the rest of us is to figure out how to prevent such a person from committing further destruction. A cornered animal is especially dangerous, as we all know, and Trump is entirely capable of getting the country into a shooting war with North Korea, China, or Iran. But his resignation or impeachment is a very long shot. So is the possibility that his administration will collapse from within due to sudden mass resignations. The Congressional Republican leadership—the one group that holds the key to getting rid of Trump—will continue gnashing its teeth and taking no action.
We the people can and should continue protesting in the streets and by email. But most of all, I think we need to support candidates at every level of politics who will “repeal and replace” this awful proto-fascist with progressives who, unlike Trump, still believe in democracy and social justice.