Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush has been hospitalized, KHOU 11 News reported Wednesday, citing his office chief of staff Jean Becker. Bush, who is 92 years old, is "doing fine," Becker told the CBS affiliate station. No reason was given for Bush's admission to the Methodist Hospital in the Texas Medical Center, but the former U.S. leader has previously been treated for a neck fracture, shortness of breath and fever. He regularly uses a wheelchair and suffers from a form of Parkinson's Disease, according to KHOU. Bush served a term as president from 1989 to 1993 and before that, was vice president to Ronald Reagan from 1981 to 1989.
Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.
Even if Trump keeps the deal, it's entirely possible US sanctions could be imposed again, destroying the deal at the worst time for Iran's economy
Photo by Ninian Reid | CC BY 2.0
It is an extraordinary situation. The ruling class seems by and large quite shocked by the election result. Donald Trump is surely a representative of the class—in that he’s a billionaire for god sake—but, for the majority of the richest and most powerful, not their preferred choice as chief executive of the USA. This is apparent by Trump’s treatment at the hands of the corporate media (that he continues to insult), by the foreign policy establishment, by the intelligence agencies (which he sometimes disparages), by Congressional leaders of both parties who generally regret that he won. The Deep State seems to have its knives drawn for him.
Wall Street would have been comfortable—equally comfortable—with Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton as president. The RNC and DNC—the Central Committees of the official Two Parties—are huge concentrations of bourgeois power. Reince Priebus and Debbie Schulz Wasserman as their chairs were creatures of the status quo. The pundits favored Bush to win the Republican nomination, or maybe Cruz (despite his unpopularity among his peers), or maybe Rubio; Trump was an amusing long shot. And of course they assumed that Clinton would be the Democratic shoo-in. What could go wrong?
Things started to go wrong when the Trump campaign, treated to limitless free media exposure, spiraled out of control. The more outrageous Trump became, the more he attracted, first the Neanderthals, and then the more thoughtful types who thought, “Hm, looks like he could win. He’s awful, but at least he’s better than her.” And there are always plenty of opportunists like Giuliani, Christie and Carson willing to jump on a bandwagon that looks headed to possible victory.
In alarm, prominent Republicans including Mitt Romney expressed open disdain. In August 50 GOP former intelligence officers signed a statement opposing Trump, including CIA and National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden, former Director of National Intelligence and Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, former Dick Cheney security adviser Eric Edelman, former Homeland Security secretaries Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff, and former deputy secretary of state Robert Zoellick. In October 55 retired flag military officers signed a statement declaring Trump “utterly unworthy of being commander-in-chief and president.” House Speaker Paul Ryan, the most powerful figure at the time in the Republican Party, who only endorsed Trump in June, was by one count obliged to distance himself from the candidate eight times by August and declined to campaign for him.
Alas, despite all this confusion and alarm within the ruling class, the Trump genie had been let out of the bottle.
And what of Clinton’s smooth path to power, to be paved by such experienced political operatives as campaign director John Podesta and Wasserman Schulz? Something started going very wrong when Bernie Sanders kept getting massive youthful crowds who were anything but turned off by an elderly Jewish socialist talking about college debt relief. They were so confidant of the pervasiveness of their own tired Cold War thinking among the masses that they assumed no self-avowed socialist could gather any momentum. The fools!
And then there were those Wikileaks emails (allegedly hacked by Russians) showing how the DNC chair had assured her colleagues that they needn’t be “silly,” because Sanders “won’t be president”; how one staffer had raised the prospect of labeling Sanders an atheist in largely evangelical districts; how Podesta had recommended using press contacts to promote Trump as one of the more easily defeatable of the Republican candidates.
This plus the (separate) issue of Hillary’s use of a home server for emails, and alleged violations of security policy and accountability, and Comey’s sudden reopening of the investigation so soon before the election. There was no enthusiasm for Clinton, and especially among the youth, a lot of simmering resentment that the primary process had been rigged. If the Clinton camp smugly expected the Sanders supporters (having been “brought into the political process”) would channel their much-praised “enthusiasm” into a Clinton vs. Trump race, they were optimistic. Many enraged Sanders supporters would never defile themselves with a Clinton vote.
And so, a corrupt process produced a uniquely unpopular president-elect. And now you have a unique convergence of forces all questioning Trump’s legitimacy to rule, but for different reasons.
Rep. John Lewis says he can’t accept Trump because Russia helped him get elected; his vow to boycott the inauguration ceremony has been embraced (so far) by over 40 other members of Congress. Similarly, the Deep State can’t accept him because he wants rapprochement with Russia. Suddenly all the liberal shills on TV are expressing reverence for Lewis’s civil rights legacy and associations with Martin Luther King alongside moral outrage at the charges leveled against Moscow by the Deep State. How strange to see Rachel Maddow and John Brennan in bed together.
There will be tens of thousands of protesters on the cold streets of DC on Friday chanting “He’s not my president!” mostly for the reasons touted endlessly by the DNC: he’s a racist, misogynist, bigot, who lost the popular vote. Some will add to the charges “He’s a Putin puppet,” thus making common cause with the worst war mongers who remain firmly lodged in the power structure and (despite his promises of good relations with Russia) around Trump himself.
The Revolutionary Communist Party on the other hand says we can’t accept Trump because he’s a fascist. Their manifesto calling for mass protests to “reach a crescendo January 20” declares:
“By any definition, Trump is a fascist… [Fascism] is a very serious thing. It has direction and momentum and must be stopped before it becomes too late. Fascism foments and relies on xenophobic nationalism, racism, misogyny, and the aggressive re-institution of oppressive ‘traditional values.’ Fascism feeds on and encourages the threat and use of violence to build a movement and come to power. Fascism, once in power, essentially eliminates traditional democratic rights. Fascism attacks, jails, even executes its opponents, and launches violent mob attacks on ‘minorities.’ In Nazi Germany in the 1930s and ’40s, fascism did all these things. This is where this can go.”
No mention of any supposed Putin-Trump “bromance.” Not that there should be. But the radical left—preoccupied with opposing more imperialist wars in the Middle East—is not much given to analysis of the U.S.-Russian relationship, or reflection on the very real possibility of nuclear war triggered by events in Ukraine, Syria or even the Estonia.
The U.S. possesses 7,100 nuclear warheads, Russia 7,300. (France is thought to have 300, China 260, the UK 215, Pakistan 140, India 110, Israel 80, North Korea 8.) A U.S.-Russian war could destroy civilization, not by blowing up monuments and orchestrating acts of exemplary horror, raping, crucifying and beheading children, but by obliterating whole cities the way the U.S. obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki. No, worse, much, much worse next time than Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
That Trump’s few vague words about friendship with (as opposed to belligerency towards) Russia should set him up for this “Putin’s puppet” charge quietly intimated on the one hand by voices within the Deep State hoping to shame Trump into towing the new Cold war line, and on the other hand by John Lewis-type liberals eager to hop on the Cold War bandwagon to justify their rejection of the president-elect, should disturb any thinking person. It is the patriotic union of all who can be united over the traditional, knee-jerk Russophobia.
How can the progressive anti-Trump movement move forward, if it either embraces this narrative of Russian “interference in the U.S. election” (which is based, after all, on the premise that whoever leaked the damning DNC and Podesta messages showing how the DNC worked to promote Trump’s candidacy, and to curtail Sanders’ support, thereby influenced public opinion against Clinton whereas public opinion should have been mercifully spared the information), or fails to target it as misinformation and war mongering?
If the goal is to so isolate Trump that he is somehow driven from power, one would like the antiwar masses to smash the corrupt system, build a new society and avoid war. One would not like to make common cause with those who hate Trump, not for his fascistic tendencies, but for his challenge to the warmongering neocon/liberal interventionist status quo that wants to maintain a posture of unremitting hostility towards Russia.
Without analyzing these dialectics, how can those who long for revolution—as I do—navigate the post-election political situation, and exploit the crisis to serve the people’s ends?
Photo by Iwan Gabovitch | CC BY 2.0
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more and more and more—
— Lewis Carroll, “The Walrus and the Carpenter” (1871)
Over 75 states possess unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly called drones. We know of fifteen states which possessed armed drones at the end of 2016. They are the US, UK, China, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Africa, and Turkey.
As you read this, ISIS drones are dropping bombs on the Iraqi city of Mosul. ISIS has had surveillance drones at least since 2014. On August 23, 2014, a video was posted to YouTube which showed aerial footage of a Syrian army base. An on screen caption proclaimed “From the drone of the army of the Islamic State.”
Now ISIS has armed drones. The New York Times reported that in October 2016 Kurdish forces in Iraq shot down an ISIS drone “the size of a model airplane.” The drone exploded on examination, killing two Kurdish troops. The Times said this was “believed to be one of the first times the Islamic State has successfully used a drone with explosives to kill troops on the battlefield.”
ISIS has brought a new weapon into the world: the “flying IED” (improvised explosive device). Blake Baiers, writing at RealClear Defense, comments that “ISIS is mimicking the U.S. military’s multi-billion dollar drone program by using off-the-shelf hobby drones and plastic explosives.” The DJI Phantom, one of the commercial drones ISIS uses, is a small quadcopter available on Amazon. These lightweight DIY drones (the DJI Phantom weighs just a little more than two pounds) can only carry a small explosive such as a hand grenade. That’s enough to do a lot of damage. One technique, discussed by T. X. Hammes at War on the Rocks, is called “bringing the detonator.” Even with no more than a small explosive charge, flying a drone into “a fuel truck, an ammunition dump, or the wing of an aircraft can set off a much greater explosion.” Hamas possesses a similar weaponized DIY drone.
Hezbollah has used armed drones in the Syrian conflict. The Hezbollah drones—obtained from Iran—are reusable and drop cluster bombs: apparently Chinese-made MZD-2 submunitions. The “kamikaze” drones used by ISIS and Hamas can be used only once, like Hitler’s V-1 “buzz bomb.” Since these drones can be put together for no more than a couple of thousand bucks it doesn’t matter that they can be used only once. Bullets can’t be used more than once, either.
DIY drones are unlikely to change the course of the war in Iraq and Syria, although they may prolong it, adding to the war’s cost both in treasure and in human lives. Of greater concern, is the potential improvised IED’s have to be used in terrorist attacks against civilians in the US, Europe, and elsewhere. A drone can fly over a security barrier or police cordon which would stop a human suicide bomber.
Can We Control the Spread of Killer Drones?
Some writers have discussed the possibility of a sort of “Geneva Convention for drones” to provide standards for the use of drones in combat and to reduce proliferation. Others, looking to the example provided by the 1997 Landmines Treaty which prohibited the use of anti-personnel mines, call for a treaty which will ban armed drones altogether.
Whether the goal is reduction or elimination, a binding international treaty is not yet even in the negotiating stage. In the meantime, we have the “Joint Declaration for the Export and Subsequent Use of Armed Strike-Enabled Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).” The one-page document was issued by the US State Department on October 28, 2016 and sets out five “principles” meant to regulate drone export:
+ Drones must be used consistently with international law, “including both the law of armed conflict and international human rights law.”
+ The human rights record of a potential transferee is to be taken into account in making the decision whether export will be permitted.
+ Export of drones must be made “in line with existing relevant international arms control and disarmament norms.”
+ Transfers of drones are to be publically recorded (an allusion to the UN Register of Conventional Arms) in order to ensure transparency. (This principle is watered down with an ocean of qualifications. Transparency measures, including recording of transfers, will be “voluntary” and will be pursued “with due regard to national security considerations.”)
+ States will continue to discuss measures to control drone proliferation. The principals to the Joint Declaration will hold their first meeting sometime this year.
The Joint Declaration extends to other nations the policy the US had previously adopted for itself. In February 2015, the Obama Administration announced that it was easing restrictions on the sale of US-manufactured armed drones abroad. Thus, the Joint Declaration attempts to fight the proliferation of killer drones by means of principles first adopted in order to facilitate US armed drone exports. Does anyone else think this is a little incoherent?
Encouragingly, the February 2015 Obama policy did not open the floodgates to the export of armed US drones. Before the Obama Administration promulgated its 2015 policy, only the United Kingdom, had been allowed to purchase armed drones from the US. After adoption of the 2015 policy, the US has exported armed drone tech to only one other nation: Italy. Let’s hope the US maintains this level of self-restraint.
The Joint Declaration’s flaws are many. For starters, does the US itself observe these principles? The US drone assassination program overseas is too notorious to need relating here. In addition, the US has long been arms dealer to the world. The bombs which Saudi Arabia drops on Yemen were supplied by the US. Nor does the Joint Declaration say anything about penalties for violations, how violations will be determined, or who decides whether a violation has occurred.
One deficiency dwarfs all others. Over fifty nations, including the US, signed the Joint Declaration. It’s nice that Luxembourg and the Seychelles signed on, but a bit troubling that the world’s two biggest exporters of military drones, Israel and China, did not. Israel alone has accounted for 60% of the world market for drones since 1985 (data from 2015). Any drone anti-proliferation regime without Israel and China is unlikely to succeed.
Yes, but what about Donald Trump? Trump has said little about drones. We do know that Trump wants drones to patrol the Canadian and Mexican borders. That’s pretty tame by Trump standards. The excitement Trump watchers yearn for returned in December when the Chinese intercepted a US submersible drone in international waters. Outraged over this indignity to our oversized bath toy, Trump tweeted that the Chinese had stolen the drone. The Pentagon thought so, too, and it is hard to disagree. A Chinese ship plucked the drone out of the South China Sea mere moments before it would have been retrieved by a US Naval research ship which was standing just yards off. Later, Trump tweeted that the US should refuse to take the drone back and that the Chinese should “Keep it.” (The Chinese returned the drone—and with a full tank of gas, too.)
Trump told the British Daily Mail that he would continue Obama’s drone strikes on terrorists. Of course he will. Trump has promised to “Bomb the shit out of ISIS.” And their families. Terrorists care about their families, Trump told “Fox and Friends” in December. Kill their families and ISIS will turn from its evil ways. Me, I would have thought this would create still more radicals, but what do I know. In any event, whether the target be ISIS chieftain Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi or al-Baghdadi’s grandma, many of those bombs will be dropped from drones. Fascinating to relate, a voice of sanity comes from Trump’s pick for National Security Adviser, General Michael Flynn. General Flynn has expressed the impeccably left-wing opinion that drone strikes do more harm than good.
On the other hand, bombing the shit out of terrorists conflicts with Trump’s declared preference for capturing, not killing high-level terrorists (and then waterboarding them, a tactic Trump enthusiastically endorses).
Those are Trump’s significant utterances (or tweets) on drone warfare. I have not found any Trump statements on drone proliferation. We do know Trump’s feelings about proliferation of nuclear weapons. Given Trump’s nonchalance towards nuclear proliferation, proliferation of mere drones shouldn’t trouble him a bit.
With so little to go on, anyone is entitled to a guess what position the Trump Administration will take on US drone exports. Here’s mine. Two of the most prominent features of Trump’s Presidential campaign were Trump’s promise to revive American manufacturing and Trump’s animus toward China. Trump threatens a trade war with China. Trump’s Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson doesn’t stop there. During his Senate confirmation hearing, Tillerson hinted at the possibility of an actual shooting war with China over the miserable Spratly Islands.
Trump can unite his two obsessions, China and American manufacturing, by increasing US exports of drones, including armed drones. That could cut into China’s share of the world drone market while simultaneously giving a shot in the arm to US manufacturers, specifically those manufacturers euphemistically labelled “defense” contractors.
An exciting four years lie ahead.
With the establishment of the period when the nation would celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, no one could have anticipated the possibility that one day that period would converge with the date when a “first black president” would be turning over executive power after serving two terms. But in just a few days Barack Hussein Obama will conclude an ironic but historic chapter in the ongoing story of this strange and dangerous place called the United States of America.
The overlap of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the constitutionally mandated turnover of power by the nation’s first black president serves as an analogy for the contradictory politics of race, representation, and power in the first white supremacist nation-state in human history.
Dr. King contributed to the creation of the black mass-movement for democratic and human rights that were presumably granted after the end of the civil war and then denied for another hundred years. Barack Obama, on the other hand, cynically manipulated the perception that his presidency was the natural and logical result of the black movements of the 60s and 70s, while in actuality they represented two different and competing narratives of black existence in the U.S.
For me, nothing symbolizes the gulf between the meaning and politics of Dr. King and Barack Obama more than an incident in Atlanta that I wrote about a few years ago. Valerie Jarrett, Obama’s special advisor and personal friend, paid a visit to Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the church of Dr. Martin Luther King. As members of the King family looked on, Ms. Jarrett received a standing ovation from the assembled congregation when she shared the story of how President Obama was responsible for the killing of an unarmed Osama bin Laden. I share this strange and surreal scene from Ebenezer Church, where the largely African American congregation endorsed the killing of another human being – while in church – because I think it captures the vast historical and moral distance between the two distinct periods. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Dr. King emerged as the symbolic leader of the civil rights wing of the ongoing Black liberation movement and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. On the other hand, Barack Obama launched with his ascendancy to the highest political office in the country and the winning of the Nobel Prize in 2008.
Not only did Dr. King and Barack Obama exist in two distinct but interrelated periods, they represented two distinct moral trajectories. By 1967 King condemned the U.S. as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” He said that he could not morally square calling for non-violent resistance in the U.S. and remain silent in the face of the massive destruction and death being unleashed by the U.S. military against the people of Vietnam.
However – for Obama – U.S. violence presented no such qualms because his loyalties are not with the peoples of the world but with the American empire.
During his 2009 Nobel Prize acceptance speech, the newly elected President Obama presented an argument for the concept of a “just war.” Startling many in the Oslo audience, Obama forcefully asserted in what would become known as the “Obama doctrine” that: “We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations — acting individually or in concert — will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.”
For Obama, like liberal thought in general, there is a hierarchy of humanity where a peoples’ worth is directly related to their value to the empire. If they are the objects to be “saved” from some “dictator” and they reside in a national territory that empire has decided to seize in order to plunder its resources or for other geopolitical objectives, those peoples will occupy a higher status and will be recognized as humans – at least temporarily. But it is another story for the human beings who may be resisting the interests of empire. Those people have been assigned to what Fanon referred to as the “zone of non-being” and are, therefore, killable without any remorse and with impunity – take, for example, the Native Americans, the Vietnamese, Libyan and Syrian nationalists, Palestinians, Eric Garner and Walter Scott, and the list goes on throughout the bloody history of this white supremacist, settler state.
The Obama period is over and hopefully its moral relativity will also pass. However, we know that moral relativity is inevitable in a society that has not come to terms with the contradictions of its defining philosophical tradition: liberalism. Liberalism represents the original sin of hierarchizing human societies and peoples and provides arrogant justifications for committing the most horrific crimes against “others” in the name of humanitarianism. This is the essence of the white supremacist doctrine of American exceptionalism.
While Dr. King condemned the lawless violence, warmongering and colonialism of the U.S. historically and in Vietnam specifically, Obama clearly states that he believes “in American exceptionalism with every fiber of [his] being.”
So on the occasion of the departure of Barack Obama and the acknowledgement of Dr. King’s birthday, let us recommit to a vision – not a dream – but a life-affirming vision of a society and world in which the fundamental human rights and dignity of all peoples is respected.
It is not too late, even with the election of Donald Trump, but it will take courage and clear thinking in order to shake ourselves free from the strange, hypnotic trance that has gripped liberals and progressives of all stripes. Dr. King pointed us in the right direction just before he was assassinated when he reminded us that we were living in revolutionary times. King argued that the U.S. needed to get on the right side of the world revolution and that required a revolution of values in U.S. society. With the U.S. gripped in an unsolvable capitalist economic crisis that has deepened poverty, exacerbated racism and xenophobia, intensified class contradictions and struggle, and produced a Donald Trump, the liberated knowledge and experience of the black liberation movement in the U.S. is actively creating new ways of living and seeing the world that will liberate all of us.
This is the reality of a new world that Dr. King could see from the mountaintop – and that is a world that a visionless, opportunist technocrat like Obama and a moribund liberalism could never imagine.
This article was adapted from The Descent: From Dr. King to Barack Obama that was published in Counterpunch and Black Agenda Report in January 2013
Photo by Marc Nozell | CC BY 2.0
The fervent thousands who streamed in Mobile’s football stadium for a campaign appearance by quirky celebrity candidate Donald Trump in August 2015 surprised even his vain self. That was his first mega rally, and it showed he might actually be running for president rather than staging a self-promotional tour. As thanks for that he made a return to Mobile the final stop on his victory lap around the country last month.
Some adult fans treated his approach shortly before Christmas like kids following the route of Santa’s sleigh from the North Pole: Yesterday he was in Pennsylvania, today Florida, tomorrow Mobile!
A co-worker from a job years ago was following events closely on local news. Soon after Trump One touched down in the city, he reported on Facebook: Our next President in his motorcade to his rally right now.
I replied that you can believe he’s your president if you like, but he and the fellow billionaires he’s packing into the cabinet are going to treat you as a subject.
His response: Honestly all presidents look at us as subjects.
So why, I wondered, are you so devoted to this one?
The answer: He isn’t a career politician…I will give him a shot (like everyone else should). I gave Obama a chance…if Trump turns out to be like the rest of then then I will say “my bad, I fucked up in believing in him”.
The raucous rally featured Trump repeating his stock campaign spiel and the crowd adding its expected chants: Build the Wall! Lock Her Up! Build the Wall! Lock Her Up!
And the warm-up acts gave a glimpse of the new administration. Senator Jeff Sessions entered to cheers. In the 1980s he launched his political career as U.S. attorney in Mobile. He used his prosecutorial powers to hobble black quests for full civil rights, and that has not been forgotten by either side of those struggles here. He will be Trump’s attorney general.
Rev. Franklin Graham, Billy’s son, also returned to Mobile for the festivities. Ten years ago he rented the city auditorium for a soul-saving crusade. Some citizens, remembering that shortly after the 9-11 attacks Graham had damned Islam as “a very evil and wicked religion,” asked the city council to adopt a resolution urging Graham to recant this insult to Muslim residents. The council received the petitioners as heretics and threatened them with arrest for proposing such a thing. At the football stadium Graham credited God with Trump’s victory and invited His presence. Unrepentant about slandering Islam, Graham will be praying on the inaugural program.
Trumpology as Sorcery
The Mobile performances by this pair, plus Trump, and the reactions of the crowd contained all the ominous uncertainties that make forecasts about the course of his administration a perilous exercise. The jumble of notions seething and erupting from him turns predicting his behavior into a form of sorcery.
Among the few things that can be said with any certainty:
Trump is impulsive, petty, belligerent, domineering and vindictive. These traits were on display throughout the election campaign and since.
He is also unscrupulous and greedy. His entire business career testifies to this, with its wake of ruined associates, strategic bankruptcies, evaded taxes, and the gilded surroundings he has provided himself.
The appointees to major posts in his administration share many of these traits without his big dose of erratic vanity. They are attuned to his values but have the skills and discipline to enact those values.
Neither Trump nor his enablers care much about airy concepts like justice, fairness, peace, harmony, compassion, community, solidarity, stewardship, sustainability. They may occasionally make passing or rhetorical reference to such things, but their hearts are not really in it. What they truly care about is power, authority and wealth and the manipulations necessary to achieve power, authority and wealth.
There are scant limits on what might derive from these characteristics. The flailing attempts to bar him from office have failed: vote recounts, electoral college challenges, flagrant conflicts of interest with his businesses, alleged sex scandals and intrigues with foreign governments. He will soon enter the White House, and the consequences of these characteristics will begin.
Some horrified citizens still hope to “normalize” Trump. They have been hoping this since he descended into the lobby of Trump Tower declaring his candidacy and his intention to built a giant, beautiful wall to keep Mexican rapists out of America. Their hopes revived when he denounced soldiers taken captive in war, when he revealed his rank racism in numerous ways, when he outed himself in a video as an avid pussy grabber.
But nothing has normalized him. The imminence of his presidency seems to have stoked his abnormality, judging by his recent press conference and raving Tweets.
The hopes of the normalizers now rest upon the inauguration protests in the streets of DC and all major U.S. cities, along with many smaller ones. Then upon the resistance brewing within congress and some parts of the media.
Suppose this fails, like all the challenges to his election. What is likely to happen then?
War. Not humanity’s closing nuclear act but the new rooster crowing his ascent to the top of the dung heap. A small war suffices for this, and it needn’t even be a victory. Kennedy did it at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba within months of taking office. Ford attacked Cambodia for no necessary reason. Bush the First invaded Panama for purposes not apparent at the time or later, except to show that he was now the boss. His son stood atop the wreckage of the World Trade Center to crow for war still underway in Afghanistan and Iraq. One of Obama’s first presidential acts was to greatly enlarge America’s role in the Afghan war. Expect Trump to discover some pretext for attacking somewhere.
Nuke ‘Em Tutor
Then comes the terminal war – or the harrowing risk of it as the earth’s great powers play geopolitics. While Saturday Night Live takes satiric romps through Trump’s golden showers and his bromance with Putin, Henry Kissinger lurks around Trump Tower. He is the pope of the “realists” who yearn for a structure of major nations presiding over spheres of influence that practice balance of power politics yielding a stable global system – except when it doesn’t and world wars result.
Whether Kissinger or others dangled the shiny idea of a deal with Russia in front of Trump, it matches Henry’s lifelong ambitions. The delusion of America as the world’s sole reigning superpower was an accidental side effect of the Soviet Union’s fracture. Once Russia began to reassemble itself from the fragments and China continued its rise, the U.S. would lose its puffed up solitary status. Then the prospect appears of negotiating balanced spheres of influence among the powers, as Kissinger has dreamed.
The powers would grant each other permission to police their own sphere more or less as they wished, and any conflicts outside these spheres would be choreographed not to get out of control. Kissinger began his academic career as an apostle of limited warfare: studying how the dominant nations could conduct military operations in pursuit of their interests without billowing into conflagrations that consumed everything.
He believed that the doctrines of limited war, properly applied, could even allow the use of nuclear weapons to win local victories while not escalating into nuclear World War III. This is the person seen slipping into Trump Tower to tutor the impulsive looming president who will soon control the whole arsenal.
A deal with the Russians might concede them a sphere of influence, alongside an American one within which Trump could do whatever he pleased, including nuking troublesome provinces. Perhaps that would remain a limited war.
Even if it did, Trump and the Christian jihadists around him could decide at any moment to dispense with all the tricky balancing acts and accelerate the arrival of Armageddon by pushing the big button. If this seems like far fetched paranoia, remember that during heated stretches of the Cold War some high level officials openly argued that nuclear war with the Soviet Union was inevitable, so the wisest strategy was to obliterate them with a surprise first strike.
Pacifying the Homeland
The domestic version of a war announcing the presence of a new head rooster would be a decisive smack down of some opponent. An obvious early candidate for this role is the Water Protectors at the pipeline site beside the Sioux reservation in North Dakota. That pipe is a project of Trump’s pals and donors, and he was an investor in it until very recently. It has become the prime symbol of the old corporate fossil fueled vision of life versus the infant but rapidly growing alternate visions.
Perfect. The Obama administration halted the pipeline by decree where it was trying to cross the Missouri river. Trump could promptly reverse that decision by decree. Then the clashes between the Water Protectors and the local authorities would resume, and Trump would have an opportunity to send in federal forces.
Why wouldn’t the Trumpsters welcome this, even seek it? Despite all their bluster about their historic landslide victory in the election, the informed insiders know it actually wasn’t. The electoral college margin was a modest one, the popular vote was a big defeat, and almost half the potential electorate was so disgusted with the whole scene that they didn’t vote for anybody. This gives Trump’s presidency some features of a coup rather than a democratically legitimate election.
Regimes erected on such shaky foundations are tempted to fortify themselves with deeds designed to squelch challenges. Examples abound. In 1905 the Russian czar, knowing that discontent was flourishing, allowed his imperial guards to gun down thousands of unarmed protesters in the streets of St. Petersburg. That cooled revolutionary fervor for years. The apartheid minority government of South Africa massacred so many unarmed protesters at Sharpeville in 1960 that open resistance shriveled for decades.
The 1890 massacre by the U.S. army at Wounded Knee in South Dakota also largely ended the Indian resistance to confinement on reservations. Why wouldn’t a repeat now have a similar effect on the uprising against the pipeline in North Dakota – and all kindred efforts?
Such a slaughter would win the support of many Trumpeters, who have been promised lucrative jobs and have been told that only the meddling of liberals and their less-than-genuine-American allies has prevented the return of the greatness that once was. When the cheering subsides, doubters not transformed by bloodletting into loyal Trumpsters could be persuaded by actual jobs.
The Toll of Privatized Infrastructure
The Trump policies to magically regenerate jobs lost abroad are more likely to provoke economically stifling reciprocal tariff increases and other nasty aspects of trade wars. But one thing Trump’s crew has proposed that could truly spawn employment is the infrastructure schemes they envision. They speak of highway, bridge, railway, airport, energy and such construction projects totaling trillions of dollars. It sounds a bit like the mega-government plans of the New Deal to build useful things while uplifting the unemployed.
But they don’t intend to finance it directly from the federal budget since they also plan giant tax cuts for themselves and their fellow one percenters. Instead they will rely on public-private partnerships, with corporations financing and performing most of the projects in exchange for tax breaks and other incentives. These would include the opportunity to recover their investments, plus profits, by imposing tolls and other charges for use of the completed highways etc.
That means scads of construction jobs right now, which would please and pacify the Trumpeters, with the price to be paid later for access to facilities that used to be free public services. This will accord with much else in the Trump and resurgent Republican era: If you can pay for it, you’re welcome to as much as you wish of everything; if not, you’re a loser.
By artful deals like this Trump stands a good chance of securing enough fierce loyalty from his movement, as he calls it, to thwart any resistance the remains of the Democratic party and their allies can mount. Then he and his posse may proceed with whatever schemes they concoct. There are no known outer limits on what these might be.
From Resistance to Refusal
Already coalitions of resistance are forming. But this is a slow and chancy effort, whether in congress or in communities across the country. Meanwhile, Trump and cohort can be taking abrupt measures with irreversible effects. They can launch wars, small or large. They can hound citizens into submission by outrages of policy or enforcement. Then resistance will falter
At that point Trumpism will triumph – unless refusal bolsters resistance. Regardless of any orders issuing from the White House, millions of people without proper documents cannot be herded into compounds and deported if deportation agents refuse to do it. Pipeline protesters cannot be attacked unless the officers assigned this task agree to perform it. Wars cannot occur if soldiers refuse to fight. The Trumpites might yearn to privatize the national parks and forests, pocking them with mines and fracking sites, but this can’t happen if the rangers raise a united opposition.
Normally troops and bureaucrats follow orders. In abnormal situations some won’t. Drone “pilots”, sitting at computer consoles in a Nevada airbase and killing people on the opposite side of the world by casually pushing buttons, have resigned in horror over what they were doing. The peaceniks of the Vietnam war era liked to think their agitation in the streets ended that conflict. They were surely an irritant to the war orchestraters, but the signs of revolt stirring in the army’s ranks made ending the war imperative before a full mutiny broke out.
Similar crises are likely under the regime of Trump, perhaps very soon. They might arise from some of his grandiose promises, like mass deportations or completion of contested pipelines no matter what. Or gambits like martial law to “solve” the murder problem in Chicago or to fix the alleged dire conditions in pesky representative John Lewis’ Atlanta district. Or starting a sudden war somewhere.
Resistance would need swift help from refusal. The only effective source of this would have to be ordinary folks down in the ranks of government agencies or contractors and in the uniformed services.
In other words, the refusal would have to originate with the “deplorables” cheering Trump at the football stadium in Mobile or with their children, cousins, neighbors – people like the co-worker on Facebook staking his hopes on Trump while half expecting disappointment, if not a con job. Imagine the independence of mind and the courage of conscience required for any in that stadium crowd to refuse compliance with Trump.
They would have to stand against the opinions of their immediately surrounding community and they would have to defy God, as translated at the Mobile rally and the D.C. inauguration by Rev. Graham.
Yet some are willing, as history illustrates, especially if the refined types who ordinarily dismiss them as moral and mental defectives would welcome and appreciate them instead. To truly Make America Great Again, this would be the way to do it.
Photo by JMEG | CC BY 2.0
Saturday Night Live had a really funny ha-ha joke the other night. Making fun of Trump’s whiny tweet asking “Are we living in Nazi Germany?” the funny ha-ha SNL news guy said brightly: “Of course not! At least Nazi Germany had the guts to take on Russia!”
You see how really ha-ha funny that is? Sure, more than 25 million people died as a result of this display of “guts,” and sure, the Holocaust was greatly accelerated by the invasion, which brought millions of more victims within its evil purview, and yeah, OK, it was an act of naked, insane aggression that had as its explicit aim the murder (directly and by starvation) of 40 to 50 million Jews and Slavs — but Hitler sure gave it to those Russkies, right? Trump could learn from that example, right? See how ha-ha funny that is?
Especially from the funny ha-ha folks at SNL — who paid Trump to be the host of their show while he was conducting the most racist, hateful political campaign in modern American history. They normalized his hatred, they gave him a national platform to show he was an all-right guy with a sense of humor, no big threat, no big deal. They normalized him, lionized him, helped him reach millions of people who pay little attention to the news. Now, of course, they’re “leading the resistance” with “cutting-edge comedy” — Alec Baldwin puckering his lips and fawning on a shirtless Putin — and with really funny ha-ha stuff like saying Trump should totally be more like that gutsy Hitler guy and “take on Russia.”
Meanwhile, Trump and his minions and the Congressional extremists are already rolling back every law and regulation they can lay their hands on in a slavering frenzy to poison the earth, remove all restrictions on corporate rapine, strip millions of health care, roll back decades of hard-fought civil rights advances, double the military budget and build a Berlin Wall on the Mexican border. It’s a full-bore Barbarossa on the wellbeing and common good of the American people (and the world) — but who cares about that? According to the funny ha-ha guys at SNL — and practically the entire Democratic Party and the so-called liberal media — what Trump should really be doing is “taking on Russia.” And if he does that — what? Will none of the other things matter? Will that make him “legitimate” in John Lewis’ eyes?
Of course, Trump’s bashing of Lewis was ignorant and racist and sinister and wrong. But look at the reality. Trump won the presidency because of a years-long, systematic, all-out vote suppression crusade by Republicans, aimed directly at African-American voters. It is not even debatable that hundreds of thousands of African-Americans across the country were locked out of voting by the GOP-passed laws — including in the crucial swing states. But that didn’t make Trump illegitimate in Lewis’s eyes. Trump’s victory was also due to the convoluted, anti-democratic Electoral College system set up in the 18th century to mollify the demands of slave-owners. But that didn’t make Trump illegitimate in Lewis’s eyes. Trump’s sickening racist campaign didn’t make him illegitimate in Lewis’s eyes. Trump’s egregious corruption didn’t make him illegitimate in Lewis’s eyes.
No, the one thing that roused John Lewis to anger and caused him to declare that Trump is illegitimate is the fact that US intelligence services have released reports alleging that Russia may have been involved in hacking emails which, by revealing the truth about collusion and vote-rigging in the Democratic primary, made the Clinton campaign look bad. That’s the only thing that makes Trump illegitimate in Lewis’ eyes. These are, of course, the same intelligence services that hounded Lewis and Martin Luther King Jr. for years; the same ones that supplied the lies for Bush to “take on Saddam” like Hitler did Russia with a war of aggression; the same agencies that were caught lying about hacking the United States Senate a couple of years ago trying to quash a report on CIA atrocities.
But now we must implicitly believe them. We must pick up the sword they have given us, and we must have the “guts” to “take on Russia” — just like Nazi Germany did. We are told this in serious tones by serious people like Obama’s CIA chief John Brennan — the same John Brennan who played a key role in cooking intelligence about Saddam’s non-existent WMD program. He was instrumental in a process that led to the killing of hundreds of thousands of innocent people in a hellish spiral of death and chaos that is still going on today. But we must believe this man now — this proven liar, this dishonest dealer, this warmongering spy. We must believe when he tells us that we have to “take on Russia.”
But of course, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. So in addition to the very serious words of very serious serial liars like John Brennan, we also get the same message — “Take on Russia! Take on Russia! Take on Russia!” — in more easy-peasy palatable forms, through venues like the funny ha-ha crew at Saturday Night Live. Take on Russia — just like the Nazis did! Ha ha! Hee hee! Sure, we helped normalize Trump by putting him our hip cool funny ha-ha TV show — but look at us now, sticking it to the Man, leading the Revolution and, yes, above all, “taking on Russia”!
I don’t like Putin. I didn’t like Putin when George Bush was looking into his soul and embracing him as a partner. I didn’t like Putin when a Kremlin-connected bank gave Bill Clinton $500,000 for a single speech after he helped Russia gain a huge share of the American uranium market. (This was direct payment of “Russian gold”, straight into the pockets of a man whose wife was the head of U.S. foreign policy at the time. Is this not at least as questionable as Trump’s unsuccessful feelers for Russian business deals? And does this direct Russian monetary influence make Clinton’s former presidency “illegitimate” in Lewis’s eyes? I’m guessing not.) I don’t like Putin today. But I don’t think I have ever seen such a full-scale, all-out demonization and “Othering” campaign like the one going on now, not just against Putin and his loathsome regime, but Russia and Russians in general. Not even the run-up to the Iraq War was so blatant and blunt and racist. At least in the public propaganda, the Iraqi people themselves weren’t demonized, but depicted as victims of a tyrant. (Of course, we know what the Dick Cheney-led oil-grabbers REALLY thought of the filthy Arabs sitting on oil that God meant for fat white guys from Wyoming.) But more and more we see the stance, the assumption, that the worthless Russian people deserve whatever’s coming to them for supporting Putin. (Oddly enough, one sees the same take in “liberal” circles about U.S. regions that voted for Trump: “those people” deserve whatever they get, they’re scum, they deserve to die.)
Where is all this headed? Does it begin with funny ha-ha jokes about invading Russia like Hitler did — and end with actually invading Russia like Hitler did? What is it that our newly converted CIA liberals and New McCarthyite progressives really want? War with Russia? On what grounds? Do they really think Russia is going to invade Poland? (It was the other guy who did that, remember — the new hero of the funny ha-ha SNL guys.) Do they want nuclear war over Crimea — while they happily do business with Tibet-gobbling China (whose regime is actually more repressive than Putin’s)? Everything in this broad-ranging anti-Russian campaign sounds and feels like the run-up to the Iraq War (as Patrick Cockburn points out). So is that the ultimate aim — war? Is this what our good liberals and progressives are signing up for? Will they be laughing all the way to the fall-out shelter? “At least we took on Russia, ha ha ha ha!”
Yes, let’s have an investigation of alleged Russian meddling in the election. Let’s throw in the alleged meddling by Ukraine too. We might also look at alleged meddling by Israel, South Korea, Turkey (that perennial back-door meddler and buyer of congressfolk), by Taiwan, Saudi Arabia (which gave millions of dollars to the family foundation of one of the candidates who wasn’t named Trump) and any other nation whose covert operators might have been plying their trade to influence events in 2016 (as they do in every election). I would be very happy if nefarious Trump connections were found. I’d be happy to see him be the first president ousted for treasonous pre-election dealings — especially after presidents like Nixon and Reagan (the treacherous “October Surprise” that the CIA chief turned VP candidate G.H.W. Bush negotiated for him with the Iranians) got away with their treason.
But let’s also, for God’s sake, look at the real reasons why Trump’s presidency is illegitimate. Let’s focus on the real damage he is actually doing and will do. Let’s have genuinely open investigations of any foreign meddling — while we also have a full-blown Church Committee-like probe into America’s incessant and pervasive meddling and rigging of elections all over the world, year in, year out, decade after decade. (Including the mass-murdering “regime change” interventions which could be seen as somewhat worse than hacking the emails of political hacks.)
Of course, I’m falling into an old journalism trope here. I’m saying “Let’s do this, let’s do that” — offering some positive alternatives after a negative analysis — when I know that none of this will be done. The Democrats will continue to believe that they are as pure as the driven snow, and that their CIA-fed demonization campaign against Russia is nothing like Bush’s bad old CIA-fed demonization campaign against Iraq. Their McCarthyism — which sees Kremlin agents behind everything, including anti-fracking campaigns and the Occupy movement and skeptical analyses of CIA reports — is nothing like the bad old McCarthyism that saw Kremlin agents behind everything. Like John Lewis, they will continue to be incensed by an alleged email hacking while sidelining actual, factual, real-life, in-your-face evils like voter suppression and the ravages awaiting from the Exxon-Goldman Sachs-Christian Nationalists Trump has loosed upon the nation.
They won’t look at the evils done in their progressive name by the progressive president they now mourn. They won’t look at Yemen, Libya, Honduras, or how their champion became the greatest arms dealer in the history of the world, or how he deported more than 2 million people (including thousands of children fleeing the coup regime he and Hillary Clinton backed in Honduras). They won’t look at how he saved the gilded wreckers of the economy and let millions of ordinary people lose their homes. They won’t remember the reports in the New York Times where Obama admitted that he allowed ISIS to grow in order to meddle in the electoral process in Iraq and get another government there more to his liking. They won’t remember the NYT story outlining — in hushed, reverent tones — the death squad that Obama personally ran in the White House, meeting weekly with security chiefs to finalize death lists of people to be assassinated that week — without trial, without defense, without warning. They won’t recall Obama’s approval of “signature strikes,” allowing numerous operators “in the field” to kill unknown people — not even named “terrorist suspects” — if they are spotted, by drones, carrying out “suspicious behavior” … like putting shovels in a truck. They won’t recall the brutal neoliberalism of his trade policies, his Stasi-like expansion of the surveillance system, his unprecedented persecution of whistleblowers, his cowardly protection of CIA torturers.
They won’t look at any of this, they won’t remember any of it, they won’t learn a damn thing from it. They will spend the next four years railing about Russia (and, ha ha, trying to get Trump to “take on Russia” like Hitler did, ha ha hee hee) while fighting like hell to get back to the system that gave us all the horrors named above.
Trump’s rise has proven once and for all that that that system is broken. Something different is going to take its place. It could be Trumpism — it could be something even worse. Or it could be something better. It would be nice to think that our Democrats and liberals and progressives and enlightened media types would leap wholeheartedly into an effort to build this better system on the blasted, rotten ruins of the old one, instead of trying frantically to resurrect it in its worst aspects. But, laying aside old tropes, I don’t think they will. There is much that could be done, but I don’t think they’ll do it.
I would be happy to be proved wrong, of course. I find few encouraging signs among the generations now in ascendance — but I do see a fire and an openness to genuine change in some of the younger generations, including my children. If we can hold on until it’s their time, if we can shore up enough fragments against the ruins until they can shape the world, there might be hope. We owe them that.
Photo by www.GlynLowe.com | CC BY 2.0
It should be a scandal that leftists-liberals paint Trump as a special threat, a war mongerer – not Obama who is the first president to be at war everyday of his eight years, who is waging seven wars at present, who dropped three bombs an hour, 24 hours a day, the entire 2016. Here is some of the worst of this anti-Trump hysteria propagated by mouthpieces for liberal Democrats – calling Republicans “fascist” is a favorite left-liberal sport.
It is probably true Trump represents “a regime of grave danger,” an “immoral peril to the future of humanity and the earth itself,” by his denial of global warming. Yet Obama was also clearly a grave peril, one many progressives chose not to see clearly. Obama owns a long pattern of feel-good rhetoric and empty promises followed with no delivery. While many progressives got angry at his hypocrisy, many still were willing to turn the other cheek.
This helps explain why we don’t know that Obama, who says he recognizes the threat to humanity posed by climate change, still invested at least $34 billion to promote fossil fuel projects in other countries. That is three times as much as George W Bush spent in his two terms, almost twice that of Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush and Bill Clinton put together.
Obama financed 70 foreign fossil fuel projects. When completed they will release 164 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year – about the same output as the 95 currently operating coal-fired power plants in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma. He financed two natural gas plants on an island in the Great Barrier Reef, as well as two of the largest coalmines on the planet.
Obama did have his Clean Power Plan for the US, estimated to reduce carbon emissions by 2.5 billion tons over 15 years. But the foreign projects he approved will produce about the same carbon emissions as the Clean Power Plan savings. These foreign emissions increases financed by Obama aren’t counted toward US totals, but the impact on climate change is identical regardless the place of origin.
Moreover, under Obama has reversed the steady drop in U.S. oil production which had continued unchecked since 1971. The U.S. was pumping just 5.1 million barrels per day when Obama took office. By April 2016 it was up to 8.9 million barrels per day. A 74% increase! In 2015, the U.S. pumped the most oil in 43 years. The U.S. is now the world’s No. 1 petroleum producer if we include both crude and natural gas. In oil production itself, the U.S. ranks No. 3, just behind Russia and Saudi Arabia.
If Bush had this record, it would be jumped on to expose him all the more as a tool of the oil companies. Different standard for Democrat Obama. His administration accelerated the destruction of the earth, and many environmental groups and liberal-leftists soft pedaled or even covered it up.
On top of this, in 2010 Project Censored called the US military the biggest polluter on the planet. What measures did Obama take? He exempted it from climate change regulation!
“The Pentagon [which accounts for 80% of US government fuel usage] is also exempt from an executive order by President Obama requiring other federal agencies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.”
Obama proudly said in 2012, quoted in the film This Changes Everything:
“Over the last three years I’ve directed my administration to open up millions of acres for gas and oil exploration across 23 different states. We’re opening up more than 75% of our potential oil resources offshore. We’ve quadrupled the number of operating rigs to a record high. We’ve added enough oil and gas pipelines to encircle the earth and then some. So, we are drilling all over the place, right now.”
Drill, baby, drill!
Yet this is how Obama scammed us in his feel-good farewell speech – though many liberals like how he makes them feel good, and often don’t want to hear about the reality:
“Take the challenge of climate change. In just eight years we’ve halved our dependence on foreign oil, we’ve doubled our renewable energy, we’ve led the world to an agreement that has the promise to save this planet.”
In calling out Obama on his criminal record against the planet we must also call out our left-liberal and environmentalist friends who helped downplay it. And this struggle takes new form today in this broad anti-Trump coalition, which left-liberals will try to use to herald in a new Obama in 2020.