Sept 20, 2022
Dec 2, 2019
Since a few things became clear to me last year, I’ve consistently forecasted a significant worsening in U.S.-China relations and remained adamant that all the happy talk of trade deals and breakthroughs is just a lot of hot air.
What first appeared to be a unique quirk of Donald Trump has morphed into bipartisan consensus in Congress, and clear signs have emerged that the general public has likewise become alarmed at China’s growing global clout.
Due to this, as well as a litany of other factors outlined in prior posts, it’s highly unlikely the current trajectory will reverse course and result in a return to what had been business as usual. Instead, we’re probably headed toward a serious and historically meaningful escalation of tensions between the U.S. and China, with what we’ve seen thus far simply a prelude to the main drama. If I’m correct and the ship has already sailed, we should focus our attention on how we respond to what could quickly become a very dicey scenario filled with heightened emotions and nefarious agendas. There’s a good way to respond and a bad way.
In our individual lives we face various daily challenges, but every now and again something really big hits us, a personal crisis of sorts, and how we respond to these major events determines much of our future. The same thing happens to nation-states, particularly in the current world where virtually all human governance is structured in a highly centralized and statist manner. When such an event hits nation-states the public tends to be easily manipulated into a state of terror and coerced into granting more centralized power to the state, an unfortunate state of affairs that accurately summarizes the reality of 21st century America. With each crisis, the empire has grown stronger, the public weaker, and two decades later we find ourselves in a neo-feudal oligarchy where one half of the public is at the other half’s throat for no good reason. This is what happens when you respond poorly.
Three major crisis events have rocked the U.S. this century, and much of the public has embraced, or at least accepted, the worst possible response in all cases.
Three crises, three horribly destructive responses. This entire century has been an unmitigated march in the direction of stupidity.
What needs to be done is the exact opposite of this. We need to admit a country of 330 million people cannot, and should not, be governed like a gigantic uniform blob.
We need more decentralization/localism and less centralized state power/empire. https://twitter.com/ewarren/status/1201364350436593664 …
My goal is to get elected—but I plan to be the last American president to be elected by the Electoral College. I want my second term to be elected by direct vote.
I’ve become convinced the next major event that will be used to further centralize power and escalate domestic authoritarianism will center around U.S.-China tensions. We haven’t witnessed this “event” yet, but there’s a good chance it’ll occur within the next year or two. Currently, the front runner appears to be a major aggressive move by China into Hong Kong, but it could be anything really. Taiwan, the South China Sea, currency, economic or cyber warfare; the flash points are numerous and growing by the day. Something is going to snap and when it does we better be prepared to not act like mindless imbeciles for the fourth time this century.
When that day arrives, and it’s likely not too far off, certain factions will try to sell you on the monstrous idea that we must become more like China to defeat China. We’ll be told we need more centralization, more authoritarianism, and less freedom and civil liberties or China will win. Such talk is total nonsense and the wise way to respond is to reject the worst aspects of the Chinese system and head the other way.
If you’re horrified by China’s human rights abuses, then push for an end to murderous U.S. wars abroad based on lies. If the Chinese surveillance panopticon concerns you, we should move in the exact opposite direction with less corporate and state surveillance, not more. If China launches a state-sanctioned digital currency system designed to monitor, and if desired, restrict transactions, we should reject this approach and embrace open, decentralized and permissionless systems like Bitcoin. We should fight lack of freedom with more freedom.
The only reason any of us see the U.S. as a giant blob that must be governed uniformly from the top-down is propaganda. There’s no ethical or sensible logic behind such a position.
Given our track record this century, I’m skeptical Americans will respond in a positive and productive way to increased tensions with China, although perhaps I’ll be pleasantly surprised. I hope we can finally face a challenge without cowering in fear and surrendering more freedom in order to feel safe and powerful. I hope we can recognize that empire is not an asset, but a liability. That empire strengthens the state and weakens the public. I hope we can be wise enough not to embrace further authoritarianism to defeat authoritarianism. For once this century, I hope we can respond in a thoughtful and intelligent manner.
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Since 9/11, the cost of Forever War totals $6.4 Trillion and 801,000 killed including 335,000 dead civilians. For What?
Neta C. Crawford, Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at Boston University and a co-director of the Costs of War Project at Brown University calculates the [Cost of 20 Years of War].
One potential barrier for civilians to understanding the total scale and costs of the post-9/11 wars is the changes in the naming of the wars. The US military designates main war zones in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Syria as named operations. The longest war so far, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, has had two names: Operation Enduring Freedom, designated the first phase of war in Afghanistan from October 2001; it was designated Operation Freedom’s Sentinel on 1 January 2015. The war in Iraq was designated Operation Iraqi Freedom from March 2003 to 31 August 2010, when it became Operation New Dawn. When the US began to fight in Syria and Iraq, the war was designated Operation Inherent Resolve. For ease of understanding, the costs are not labeled here by their OCO designation, but by major war zone — namely Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Iraq and later Iraq and Syria.
OCO spending is considered emergency spending. Emergency appropriations for the DOD are not subject to the same detailed Congressional oversight and limits as regular, or “base” budget non-emergency appropriations, for costs that endure whether or not the US is at war.
In FY 2019, the Trump Administration made the practice of shifting emergency OCO appropriations into the base budget overt when it introduced new ways of categorizing the Department of Defense spending related to the Overseas Contingency Operations. Some of the funding that was previously designated for specific military operations has now been moved into a category called “OCO for Enduring Theater Requirements and Related Missions” and another, “OCO for Base Requirements.”
These changes are specifically and explicitly intended to get around Congressionally imposed limits on the base defense budget. The Department of Defense FY2020 request explicitly stated as much: “These base budget requirements are funded in the OCO budget due to limits on budget defense caps enacted in the Budget Control Act of 2011.”
In 2018, there were 4.1 million post-9/11 war veterans, comprising about 21 percent of all veterans and 16 percent of all veterans served by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The post-9/11 war veterans are, in general, less healthy than the veterans of previous wars. Advances in trauma and battlefield medicine, have meant that the veterans of these wars, also called Gulf War era II veterans, have survived to live with more serviceconnected disabilities than veterans of previous wars. These veterans, exposed to different field conditions and who often served multiple deployments, need more and different kinds of medical care than the veterans of previous wars and those costs will only rise.
The American Conservative comments the Costs of Forever War: 335,000 Dead Civilians and $6.4 Trillion.
The amount of money spent on these wars cannot fully convey their sheer wastefulness. Wars are always expensive, and they usually end up being much more expensive than anyone anticipates at the beginning, but when those wars are unnecessary and useless it makes the exorbitant cost that much more sickening. The money and resources expended on almost twenty years of failed wars could have been put to any number of more productive uses. Instead, that vast sum has been poured down the drain. As it is, the U.S. has little or nothing to show for the massive malinvestment that it has made in fighting these wars. These wars have not made the U.S. more secure, they have created more enemies than they destroyed, and they have set fires in their respective regions that will take years to burn out. As staggering as the $6.4 trillion figure is, it doesn’t capture how ruinous these wars have been. The U.S. will continue to pay for these wars long after they are over in more ways than one.
A full reckoning of the costs of our wars has to include the hundreds of thousands dead, millions displaced, and the wreckage of multiple countries. These are the truly senseless losses that could have been avoided. The report details these costs as well:
The report, from Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs at Brown University, also finds that more than 801,000 people have died as a direct result of fighting. Of those, more than 335,000 have been civilians. Another 21 million people have been displaced due to violence.
The death and destruction that our wars inflict on the people living in these countries are rarely mentioned in our foreign policy debates, and these losses are almost never taken into consideration when thinking about the costs of these wars. That encourages U.S. politicians and policymakers to take a very cavalier approach to supporting the use of force in other parts of the world, and it allows them to escape accountability for the harm that these policies cause.
For the last twenty years, there has been no limit on what the U.S. would spend on foreign wars, and Congress and presidents of both parties have reliably thrown more money at the Pentagon to sustain these unwinnable wars. While there might be occasional griping about “waste, fraud, and abuse,” there has been no serious, consistent effort to rein in these wars or the military budget. There has been even less interest in grappling with the horrific human costs of our militarized foreign policy. That has to change, and it starts with demanding that the U.S. end its failed and open-ended wars abroad.
Republicans argue for “Balanced Budgets” except of course when they hold the office of Presidency.
They refuse to fund the wars and military spending they demand.
Drain the Swamp my ass.
Anyone who expected Trump to “drain the swamp” was delusional.
If you disagree, please see “Peak Trump” by David Stockman: Book Review.
Compromise is nothing more than Republicans agreeing for more social spending as long as Democrats agree to more military spending.
There are no controls anywhere to stop the madness.
The answer is easy.
In 1971, Nixon removed closed the gold window ending all deficit spending controls. This enabled Congress to spend at will, and nations in general to abandon all fiscal responsibility.
The result was a whopping $250 trillion in global debt.
The short answer is that it “won’t”. A currency crisis awaits, as noted in the above link.
Meanwhile, spending is more than a bit out of control, and will remain out of control until some sort of currency crisis settles the hash.
“I was not involved in the September 11 attacks in the United States nor did I have knowledge of the attacks. There exists a government within a government within the United States. The United States should try to trace the perpetrators of these attacks within itself… That secret government must be asked as to who carried out the attacks. … The American system is totally in control of the Jews, whose first priority is Israel, not the United States.”
-Osama bin Laden statement, published by BBC
In essence, this article is about a map, a video, a timeline, and a chart. Please, take a few minutes to carefully examine each.
I have asked dozens, if not hundreds, of Americans to please tell me why, exactly, America is at war with Afghanistan, the longest war in American history. Some say, “Because they attacked us.” Most have no answer, whatsoever, but instead ask me, “Why?” I respond by asking them what large oil-producing nation borders Afghanistan in the west. Some guess, “Iraq.” Nobody knows. I then ask what large oil-consuming nation borders Afghanistan on the East. Nobody knows. I tell them the answers are Iran (Israel’s and Saudi Arabia’s arch enemy) and China.
0 miles: Distance from Afghanistan to Iran
0 miles: Distance from Afghanistan to China
7,477 miles: Distance from Afghanistan to Washington, D.C.
Said a different way, the USA invaded and occupies a nation on the other side of the planet that fucking borders Iran and China, then complains about Persian and Chinese aggressive behavior in the Persian Gulf and South China Sea.
It is highly unlikely that you have seen the interviews in this 4 minute and 13-second video, a compilation of FDNY firefighters talking about the explosions inside the WTC on 9-11-2001. Watch it now, before it is memory holed by The Ministry of Truth.
President Donald J. Trump has expressed his desire to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan.
Watch what they do, not what they say.
On September 7, 2019, President Trump revealed in a series of tweets that he had invited “major Taliban leaders” and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to meet with him separately at Camp David on the following day. He wrote that, because a Taliban attack killed several people, including a U.S. soldier, in Kabul on September 5, he had “immediately cancelled the meeting and called off peace negotiations.”
U.S. air operations have escalated considerably under the Trump Administration, as measured by the number of munitions released (see Figure 2). These operations have contributed to a sharp rise in civilian casualties; the U.N. reported that the third quarter of 2019 saw the highest quarterly civilian casualty toll since tracking began in 2009, with over 4,300 civilians killed or injured from July 1 to September 30.
US Army’s new card decks feature Russian, Chinese & Iranian weapons ‘to learn more about adversaries’
Peace, liberty, love, and truth,
The so-called War on Terror launched by the United States government in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks has cost at least 801,000 lives and $6.4 trillion according to a pair of reports published Wednesday by the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs.
“These reports provide a reminder that even if fewer soldiers are dying and the U.S. is spending a little less on the immediate costs of war today, the financial impact is still as bad as, or worse than, it was 10 years ago,” Lutz added. “We will still be paying the bill for these wars on terror into the 22nd century.”
— The Costs of War Project (@CostsOfWar) November 13, 2019
The new Human Cost of Post-9/11 Wars report (pdf) tallies “direct deaths” in major war zones, grouping people by civilians; humanitarian and NGO workers; journalists and media workers; U.S. military members, Department of Defense civilians, and contractors; and members of national military and police forces as well as other allied troops and opposition fighters.
The report sorts direct deaths by six categories: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria/ISIS, Yemen, and “Other.” The civilian death toll across all regions is up to 335,745—or nearly 42% of the total figure. Notably, the report “does not include indirect deaths, namely those caused by loss of access to food, water, and/or infrastructure, war-related disease, etc.”
Indirect deaths “are generally estimated to be four times higher,” Costs of War board member and American University professor David Vine wrote in an op-ed for The Hill Wednesday. “This means that total deaths during the post-2001 U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, and Yemen is likely to reach 3.1 million or more—around 200 times the number of U.S. dead.”
— The Costs of War Project (@CostsOfWar) November 13, 2019
“Don’t we have a responsibility to wrestle with our individual and collective responsibility for the destruction our government has inflicted?” Vine asked in his op-ed. “Our tax dollars and implied consent have made these wars possible. While the United States is obviously not the only actor responsible for the damage done in the post-2001 wars, U.S. leaders bear the bulk of responsibility for launching catastrophic wars that were never inevitable, that were wars of choice.”
Referencing the project’s second new report, United States Budgetary Costs and Obligations of Post-9/11 Wars Through FY2020: $6.4 Trillion (pdf), Vine wrote, “Consider how we could have otherwise spent that incomprehensible sum—to feed the hungry, improve schools, confront global warming, improve our transportation infrastructure, and provide healthcare.”
“At a time when everyone from Donald Trump to Democratic Party candidates for president is calling for an end to these endless wars, we must push our government to use diplomacy—rather than rash withdrawals, as in northern Syria—to end these wars responsibly,” he concluded. “As the new Costs of War report and 3.1 million deaths should remind us, part of our responsibility must be to repair some of the immeasurable damage done and to ensure that wars like these never happen again.”
— The Costs of War Project (@CostsOfWar) November 13, 2019
The project’s $6.4 trillion figure accounts for overseas contingency operations appropriations, interest for borrowing for OCO spending, war-related spending in the Pentagon’s base budget, medical and disability care for post-9/11 veterans (including estimated future obligations through FY2059), and Department of Homeland Security spending for prevention of and response to terrorism.
Costs of War co-director and Boston University professor Neta Crawford co-authored the project’s death toll report and authored the budget report. For the latter, she wrote that “the major trends in the budgetary costs of the post-9/11 wars include: less transparency in reporting costs among most major agencies; greater institutionalization of the costs of war in the DOD base budget, State Department, and DHS; and the growing budgetary burden of veterans’ medical care and disability care.”
Both reports were released as part of the project’s new “20 Years of War” series. Crawford, Lutz, and fellow Costs of War co-director Stephanie Savell were in Washington, D.C. Wednesday to present the reports’ findings at a briefing hosted by the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services.
“The 800,000 figure is very conservative.” Catherine Lutz on the human costs of war in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere, in a briefing in the Senate Armed Services Committee room
— The Costs of War Project (@CostsOfWar) November 13, 2019
“We have already seen that when we go to Washington and circulate our briefings, they get used in the policymaking process,” Lutz said in a news story published by Brown Wednesday. “People cite our data in speeches on the Senate floor, in proposals for legislation. The numbers have made their way into calls to put an end to the joint resolution to authorize the use of military force. They have real impact.”
Lutz pointed out that “if you count all parts of the federal budget that are military-related—including the nuclear weapons budget, the budget for fuel for military vehicles and aircraft, funds for veteran care—it makes up two-thirds of the federal budget, and it’s inching toward three-quarters.”
“I don’t think most people realize that, but it’s important to know,” she added. “Policymakers are concerned that the Pentagon’s increased spending is crowding out other national purposes that aren’t war.”
Jessica Corbett is a staff writer for Common Dreams. Follow her on Twitter: @corbett_jessica.
Now that the flags are back waving from the tops of flagpoles across the country, and the maudlin paeans to the close to 3000 lives lost in the airplane attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, it’s time we gave a thought to the dead who were ignored.
According to very conservative estimates, as reported by the “Costs of War” project of Brown University’s Watson Institute on International and Public Affairs, nearly 250,000 civilians have been killed during the 8 years since September 2001 in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan in wars or attacks that were instigated by the United States.
Those are very conservative figures carefully compiled by organizations like Iraq Body Count, the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies. These numbers are people known to have died in the violence of war, mostly as so-called “collateral damage,” but often deliberately, as when the US bombs a hospital, a wedding or a private housing compound in order to kill some targeted individual considered an “enemy combatant,” unconcerned about the others in the area, often women and children, who are almost certain to die or suffer serious injury as the result of a strike.
The numbers do not include the deaths that also stem from America’s post 9-11wars — things like starvation, deaths from lack of medical care, and especially deaths from diseases like typhus or dysentery caused by lack of access to clean water or adequate sanitation facilities.
It is scandalous that the US government does not publish accurate information about the mayhem and slaughter that its wars have caused, especially because it is precisely because of the US extensive use of airpower, including remotely piloted drones as a means of keeping politically dangerous US military casualties in the so-called “War on Terror” at a minimum that produce so many civilian casualties.
Reporters who want to learn about civilian casualties from these US wars must either take the dangerous step of going to the battle zones without US official backing (what is called embedding with American forces — a set-up that keeps the military in control of access and message), or rely on reports from NGOs that monitor such things.
According to some accounts, civilian deaths caused by America’s permanent war in the Middle East since 2001 could exceed one million. And remember, none of those deaths, occurring in places ruled by dictators, authoritarian governments or armed groups in the case of Pakistan’s border region with Afghanistan, had any involvement in attacks on the US. Their deaths, whether caused directly or indirectly by the US military, can in no way be construed as “retribution” for the attacks of 9-11.
Add to that the other uncomfortable reality that many of the combatant deaths caused by US forces in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, border areas of Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Syria, are of fighters who are not terrorists at all, but rather, like the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces as well as the Pathet Lao in Laos, who fought and ultimately defeated US forces in the decade-long Indochina War of the ’60 and ‘70s, are actually “freedom fighters” who have been defending their countries from a US invasion and occupation.
Of course, if we were to acknowledge that the “War on Terror” launched by the Bush/Cheney administration against Afghanistan and later Iraq — two countries none of whose people had anything to do with the 9-11 attacks — had resulted in so many murdered civilians, it would not just tarnish the reputation of our country, but also those “heroes” in uniform who followed orders and did all the slaughtering.
Folks in Iraq Veterans Against the war and Veterans for Peace will readily explain that the high rates of traumatic stress suffered by returning US veterans of these undeclared and clearly illegal invasions and occupations by the US, like those among returning Vietnam War vets of a prior generation of US war, and the current high rate of suicide among veterans has much to do with the mission, which many troops admit has not had anything to do with “defending America” or “defending freedom,” and everything to do with projecting power and with seeking US global dominance in a world where the US is increasingly being challenged as the “sole power” envisioned by George H.W. Bush’s “New World Order” in the wake of the 1991 US-launched Gulf War against Iraq.
It’s time we as a nation gave some thought to and did some penance for all those civilian deaths and combatant deaths as we remember 9-11.
We might also bow our heads in mourning for the freedoms that we have surrendered to the national security state since that terrible day.
The killing of three people at the Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California captured headlines across America, but the corporate media has sought to suppress or downplay its most important aspect: its politically motivated character.
Nineteen-year-old Santino William Legan opened fire with an AK-47 assault rifle inside the festival late Sunday afternoon. He killed three people—a six-year-old boy, a 13-year-old girl, and a 25-year-old man—and wounded at least 15 others before being shot to death by local police.
The three people he killed were Hispanic or African-American. This was apparently not an accident. Legan’s internet postings indicate he was motivated by racist and white-supremacist views. The most important indication was a piece of text urging, “Read Might is Right by Ragnar Redbeard,” followed by a complaint about “hordes of mestizos” (mixed-race people) allegedly crowding into towns in the Gilroy area.
The book Legan praises is Might is Right or The Survival of the Fittest, a social Darwinist, white supremacist screed first published in 1890, inspired by, among others, the reactionary German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. One passage in the book denounces the Declaration of Independence for the “degrading, self-evident lie” that “all men are created equal.” This is followed by imprecations against blacks, Asians, Jews and the poor, as well as those who live in “noxious” urban centers like London, Liverpool, New York, Chicago and New Orleans—language whose modern equivalent is Donald Trump’s denunciations of “rat-infested,” crime-plagued Baltimore.
Despite this clear evidence of Legan’s political sympathies, local police and the national media claimed that the motive for his attack was a mystery and that it was just one more “senseless killing” of the type which has become commonplace in the United States over the past three decades.
Not a single prominent media pundit or newspaper columnist made the obvious connection between Legan’s mentality and the fascistic hatred of immigrants and minorities promoted by the president of the United States, using mass rallies, comments to the media and tweets directed to a Twitter audience of more than 50 million.
The media cover-up only gained a certain plausibility because the Gilroy attack was one of ten instances of mass shooting across the United States over the past weekend. The casualty toll showed 15 deaths and 52 wounded.
The slaughter continued after the beginning of the workweek. Tuesday morning at a Walmart in Southaven, Mississippi, a suburb of Memphis, Tennessee, a gunman shot two Walmart workers to death and wounded a policeman before he was himself shot and arrested.
The media response to these tragedies has been twofold: using them to disguise the specifically political aspects of the Gilroy, California attacks; and holding them up as proof of the need for stepped-up repressive measures, including not only the usual liberal calls to restrict gun ownership but stepped-up police powers as well.
Particularly noteworthy was an editorial in the Washington Post, owned by billionaire Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, which made no mention of the fascistic beliefs of the gunman and declared that the Gilroy shootings were “an indictment of our gun laws.” The editorial went on to note the heavy security presence of police during the Gilroy attack, and their quick response, shooting Legan to death one minute after he opened fire. The implication was clear: quicker and more massive police repression was in order.
In the two decades since the Columbine massacre made “mass shootings” a recognized category of events in the United States, the World Socialist Web Site has sought to develop a critical understanding of what is typically dismissed as “senseless violence” in America.
As we noted in a recent commentary, the two decades since Columbine coincide with the decomposition of American society under the impact of mounting social inequality and endless imperialist war:
It has also been two decades, more or less, since the declaration of the “war on terror” and the invasions of Afghanistan and later Iraq, two decades since the hijacking of a national election and the repudiation of any concern by the American bourgeoisie for democratic norms, two decades of mounting social inequality and two decades of unrelenting attacks on workers’ conditions of life…
American capitalist society is disintegrating. Mad, individual anti-social acts such as the one that occurred at Columbine will not be halted by the pious wishes, much less the indifference, of the powers that be.
There has been a change in the general category of “mass shootings,” which have increasingly acquired a political character.
Of course, the event that to a certain extent triggered the wave of mass killings, the Columbine murders, had an element of this. It was planned for Hitler’s birthday and the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombings. Now, however, such politically-motivated massacres happen with regularity, including the attack by a fascist gunman against a synagogue in Poway, California in April of this year and the Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh in October 2018.
And as the example of the Gilroy, California attack demonstrates, far from “pious wishes” about an end to such violence, the current American government is deliberately inciting such atrocities. President Trump is pursuing a definite political strategy, politically facilitated by the Democrats, of stoking violence and creating the conditions for ever more authoritarian measures.
The capitalist system as a whole is responsible. The bitter disappointment in Obama, the fascist incitement of Trump, in combination with the economic hardships and endless war, have encouraged or produced a new phenomenon, the openly righty-wing mass shooter.
The author also recommends:
Fascist gunman attacks California synagogue
[29 April 2019]
“No country in the post WWII era has committed so many crimes against humanity, and supported so many genocides, as the United States of America. And in summary, no other part of the world has murdered more people on our planet, than Europe.”
Well, not exactly like that, but in a way, yes. Now, finally, ‘the gloves are off’. The US is openly threatening the historically timid ICC (International Criminal Court) and its judges. And unexpectedly, the ICC is hitting back. It refuses to shut up, to kneel, and to beg for mercy.
Suddenly, even the Western mass media outlets cannot conceal the aggressive mafia-style outbursts of the US government officials. On March 15, Reuters reported:
The United States will withdraw or deny visas to any International Criminal Court personnel investigating possible war crimes by U.S. forces or allies in Afghanistan, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday.
The court, which sits in The Hague, responded that it was an independent and impartial institution and would continue to do its work “undeterred” by Washington’s actions.
The Trump administration threatened in September to ban ICC judges and prosecutors from entering the United States and sanction funds they have there if the court launched a probe of war crimes in Afghanistan.
Washington took the first step on Friday with Pompeo’s announcement.
“I’m announcing a policy of U.S. visa restrictions on those individuals directly responsible for any ICC investigation of U.S. personnel,” Pompeo told a news conference in Washington.
“These visa restrictions may also be used to deter ICC efforts to pursue allied personnel, including Israelis, without allies’ consent.”
And so it goes… Mike Pompeo’s arrogant facial expression appeared above countless reports and it said it all: the world has to listen to the US dictates, or else!
Naturally, there is logic(even if twisted) behind the US threats. This is an extremely dangerous slope!
No country in the post WWII era has committed so many crimes against humanity, and supported so many genocides, as the United States of America. And in summary, no other part of the world has murdered more people on our planet, than Europe. And most North Americans are descendants of the Europeans. The ‘foreign policy’ of the US is directly derived from colonialist policies of the former European powers. Therefore, crimes against humanity committed by the West have never stopped; never stopped for centuries.
This simple fact had been hushed up: never really openly discussed by the mass media outlets, in classrooms, or in the courts of law.
If the ICC begins and is allowed to investigate crimes against humanity committed by the West, the entire twisted concept of the US and Europe being pioneers of freedom and democracy could easily and quickly collapse.
Even criticism by Washington, Paris or London of countries such as Venezuela, China or Russia, for their “human rights violations”, would become absurd and grotesque. Entire concept of ‘regime change’ could clearly be exposed for what it always really was – lawless gangsterism.
The US rulers are well aware of the fact that this is ‘extremely bad timing’ for the Empire to allow challenges from some at least marginally independent international bodies.
They try to break all dissent. Like when in 2018, the US and its close ally Israel left the at least partially rebellious intellectual body of the UN – UNESCO.
The West is clearly losing the ideological war, and it is panicking. And the more it panics, the more aggressive it gets.
One country after another is being defined as ‘undemocratic’ and designated for ‘regime change’. The methods are different. There are soft coups which have succeeded in overthrowing left-leaning governments in Argentina and later in Brazil. And there are hard methods used by the Empire in and against Afghanistan, Syria, Venezuela, Iran, Yemen, big parts of Africa, Nicaragua and North Korea.
The West openly supports genocides in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in West Papua occupied and plundered by Indonesia, in Indian occupied Kashmir, as well as the apartheid perpetrated by Israel.
The ICC is now concentrating on the crimes against humanity committed by the United States in Afghanistan, where at least 100,000 died as a result of the near two decades of NATO occupation. These crimes are real and undisputable. I have been working in Afghanistan, and could testify that the West (and particularly the US and UK) brought this proud country into a despicable state.
But Afghanistan could be just the beginning; a proverbial Pandora box could open from there.
Most likely, if they take place, the trials against the U.S. and its crimes, would not right away prevent the terror the West is spreading all around the world. But they would open discussion, at least in the countries that have been victims of terrible injustice. Such trials would also help to realign the world: definitely towards Russia and China, and back towards socialism in Latin America and most likely in Africa and parts of Asia.
Pompeo’s speech was so extreme that it could be easily defined as counter-productive for the Empire.
Even the mainstream Western press had to react. Even the Western ‘human rights organizations’ felt obliged to protest.
On March 15, AP published an unprecedented report:
Human Rights Watch called it “a thuggish attempt to penalize investigators” at the ICC.
“The Trump administration is trying an end run around accountability,” it said. “Taking action against those who work for the ICC sends a clear message to torturers and murderers alike: Their crimes may continue unchecked.”
Amnesty International described the move as “the latest attack on international justice and international institutions by an administration hellbent on rolling back human rights protections.”
The American Civil Liberties Union, which represents three people before the ICC who say they were tortured in Afghanistan, called the decision “misguided and dangerous” and “an unprecedented attempt to skirt international accountability for well-documented war crimes that haunt our clients to this day.”
A great part of the world is already horrified by the latest attacks of the West against Venezuela, and by attempts to push countries like China, Russia and North Korea towards military conflict.
Such a barefaced shove for impunity will not go well in many parts of the world.
It was always understood that the West has been forcing the planet to accept its ‘exceptionalism’. But it was understood only or predominantly by a well-informed minority of the people.
The latest headlines will be reaching the masses, on all continents.
Mr. Pompeo made one huge tactical mistake. He touched the ‘big topic’ that was always supposed to be ‘understood’ but unpronounced. Now it is out in the open.
The next step could be the acknowledgment that international law does not apply to the West.
Once this undisputable fact is pronounced, what may follow could be an outrage, and finally, refusal to accept the status quo, at least by several countries, and by billions of people worldwide.
It appears that the Empire has gone one step too far. As a result, paradoxically, its impunity could be really in jeopardy.
Andre Vltchek is philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He’s a creator of Vltchek’s World in Word and Images, and a writer that penned a number of books, including China and Ecological Civilization. He writes especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”
9/11 was the “great event” that paved the way for an entirely new era of warfare and totalitarianism, which will provide the foundation for an even more advanced era of warfare and totalitarian control, on the path we’re currently on.
People understandably have a hard time conjuring up the inspiration to focus on it nowadays. It’s hard for activists or people who care about the future to have much inspiration for anything lately, because we’re in a stagnant period of time for that collectively, here at the end of this 2010’s decade. For so many years in a row, it seemed that the efforts of activists were fruitless. We can explain the truth only so many times, a certain number of ways, before we realize most people will choose not to care regardless of how important or true it is.
This is the air that surrounds the still great issue of 9/11, almost 17 years later in 2018. Who is left to wake up now?
The only people left to learn some truth on this issue, or any issue that has been ongoing for years, are the very youngest people: those who have not cemented some opinion of what happened in their minds.
So if you’re young and reading this, please share it with everyone you know. Only the people coming of age now will be open minded enough to understand things like this if you don’t already know. Many people who come from all ages and walks of life understand this, but cynicism is common in people as they age with this knowledge. Spread the word.
1. Understand the strategies played out through the media. How does the mainstream media create this empirical feeling within people, that they are the bastion of factual information and everything must be cited through them? They become “the news” by simply cataloguing facts in a neat and organized way, while excluding the truth or any real opinion from it other than subtle support for the establishment. Yes, the facts are usually correct, but the lie is contained within what is committed.
The NY Times wrote an article about every single 9/11 victim. Because if you have money to pay writers to do that, you can become “the news” and have all the “facts” stripped bare without any context. Of course for seasoned researchers, facts stripped bare can be quite useful.
2. The government claimed the air was safe to breathe after the attacks, and that was a fatal lie that killed a lot of people. It took 100 days for the firefighters in New York City to even completely put out all the fires caused by the attack.
3. The mayor of San Francisco, California, Willie Brown shockingly admitted that airport security warned him not to fly on that particular Monday, the evening before.
4. In 1993, an agenda seemed to be playing out with the intent of justifying a mass surveillance, police state and also civilian disarmament. The first terror attack on the World Trade Center actually happened in 1993, when 6 people were killed in a car bombing.
5. 1.8 million tons of wreckage were produced by the collapsed World Trade Center, and some of the evidence implicating who committed the attack was sent to China. Some very strange decisions were made about what to do with the wreckage material.
6. It has been reported that $750 million and 3.1 million man hours were required to remove the wreckage from the site. More interestingly, a profit was made quietly by officials who sold the material to China, very quickly before anyone could examine whether or not the steel matched the official narrative in how it was destroyed. According to 9/11 Research:
“The bulk of the steel was apparently shipped to China and India. The Chinese firm Baosteel purchased 50,000 tons at a rate of $120 per ton, compared to an average price of $160 paid by local mills in the previous year.
Mayor Bloomberg, a former engineering major, was not concerned about the destruction of the evidence:
If you want to take a look at the construction methods and the design, that’s in this day and age what computers do. Just looking at a piece of metal generally doesn’t tell you anything.
The pace of the steel’s removal was very rapid, even in the first weeks after the attack. By September 29, 130,000 tons of debris — most of it apparently steel — had been removed.”
7. 50,000 people actually had been working at the World Trade Center, and every day 40,000 visited the building, approximately.
8. Ever heard of the 9/11 boatlift? It was when 500,000 people were transported off of Manhattan Island after the city’s transportation was shut down after 9/11.
9. This isn’t really relevant to any kind of truth, but some people lied about the attack in seemingly pointless ways. Former president of the WTC Survivors Network Tania Head faked being a victim of the attack in the south tower, but she actually wasn’t in the country when the attacks occurred apparently.
10. The cousin of president George Bush, Jim Pierce, had a meeting with Mayor Rudolph Giuliani at the WTC that very morning. What happened was, the weekly Tuesday meeting held by the Mayor on the 23rd floor was cancelled a few hours before it was scheduled, and the group held by Pierce was “too large” so his conference happened to be moved across the street.
11. A piece for the tabloid media, one American was reportedly in space on 9/11 and he took this photo from the International Space Station.
(Image credit: thebright)
Abby Martin debunks the notion that Trump is an anti-interventionist president, outlining his first two years of aggressive foreign policy.
Jan 19, 2019
Transcript and links:
“Welcome to Empire Files. I’m your host, Abby Martin. We started this show in 2015. And since then, we’ve maintained the premise that the US empire is not only a huge expanse, but is constantly expanding. Contrary to those who say the US empire is in decline, the war machine has been on a continuous march forward to swallow up new regions and markets, no matter the president.
Two years, into Donald Trump’s reign as CEO of the empire, we wanted to see if the trajectory has continued. At the beginning, I admit I thought Trump was a wild card. I considered the fact that Trump is an extreme narcissist that only cares about himself, not his fellow billionaires. I considered there might be a reason why none of the CEOs the top 100 largest companies in the nation backed Trump for president.
And true to the dizzying effects of having Donald Trump as president, anything was possible––he could go against the grain and start belligerent, major new wars; he could capitulate and be a loyal servant as long as they made him look good; or he could buck the establishment bourgeoisie and pander to a sector of right-wing isolationists and anti-interventionists, who support refocusing US wars on the border, against immigrants, rather than waste resources for so called nation building abroad.
After all, Trump did posture himself as the anti-intervention candidate in the 2016 election. It was a strategy that made sense. Polls show an overwhelming majority of Americans do not support endless wars abroad. The last 17 years of military conflicts have tainted any candidate who advocates more war.
Right-wing online forums were ablaze with theories that Trump was an isolationist who would fight the “deep state” on wasteful wars. But it was obvious to anyone watching that he was talking out of both sides of his mouth. Trump also campaigned on war, most notably threatening a major war with Iran, which would make Iraq look like child’s play. Not only that, but one of his main campaign promises was a major escalation of war and brutality in the Middle East.
His threats exceeded carpet bombing though, he even evoked the genocide of Muslims in the Philippines as a model, and the legend that General Pershing executed civilians with bullets dipped in pigs blood and buried their bodies with pig carcasses.
He essentially campaigned on a massive expansion of the bogus “War On Terror”. Far from “isolationist,” Trump presented himself as more of heartless warmonger who thought human rights law was a barrier that needed to be smashed––that the violence of the war machine was too soft, too restrained.
Candidate Trump didn’t just lament the restraint on American war crimes around the world, but also financial restraints on the military machine. Somehow, Trump argued that the country with the biggest military budget in the history of the world, was actually too small.
Candidate Trump has turned out to be a pretty good predictor of a president Trump. And it should’ve been clear to everyone what kind of President he would be when he hand picked his cabinet, stacking it with the craziest neocon outliers––ones too insane even for the Bush Administration––and more generals than any cabinet since World War 2, who are literal war criminals.
He even bragged about giving the Pentagon maximum power to act, free from annoying checks and balances. And true to his word, he also shattered all records for our already obscene military budget.
Before Trump came in, it was already larger than all these countries combined. But apparently that wasn’t enough, so within his first year Trump kicked in the biggest defense budget in history––close to one trillion dollars.
The increase in military spending alone equates to more than Russia’s entire annual military budget. The new $750 billion war toy chest included another $705 million for Israel, $100 million to deter “Russian aggression” in the Baltics, and another $500 million to arm Ukraine, equipment that seems to keep getting into the hands of neo-nazi militias.
But the most interesting part of the budget is the spending increase for what’s called Overseas Contingency Operations, which includes maintaining troop deployments and US bases, as well as new and expanding outposts. Since 2011, this spending has been capped by a federal statute. But Trump blew the caps off by $80 billion dollars!
This couldn’t have happened without Congress––or the full endorsement of the Democratic Party establishment. There is a bipartisan consensus in Washington to maintain the US empire, along with its 800 military bases.
And it’s not just gifting the military industrial complex with an open faucet of taxpayer dollars, but using US dominance to get them huge weapons contracts with foreign proxies.
Obama oversaw some of the biggest arms deals in US history, selling more than $115 Billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia alone, the most of any US administration.
But Trump has taken the role of CEO of the US empire to new heights, becoming the de facto arms salesman-in-chief.
Trump made it a priority to lift Obama-era restrictions on selling weapons to countries committing human rights abuses, like Bahrain. US diplomats were also instructed to become literal conduits for weapons manufacturers and push arms sales as part of their jobs.
In Trump’s first year, the State Department approved more than $75 billion in overseas weapons sales, topping the previous record of $68 billion in 2012.
It’s only ramped up since. In the first 6 months of 2018, the DOD brokered weapons deals to foreign proxies alone worth $46 billion, more than the $41 billion worth of deals made during all of 2017.
By pumping obscene amounts of cash into the war machine, while gleefully endorsing bombing and torture, Trump makes it clear to his friends that business will be booming for a long time.
It’s paid off for America’s five biggest defense contractors, whose stocks have more than tripled in the last couple years.
We’re told it “costs too much” to have medicare for all, yet money was no object when Trump ordered the DOD to establish a “Space Force” as a sixth branch of the military, projected to cost at least $13 billion dollars in the first five years.
The idea to militarize space was first proposed by the Bush administration, in their PNAC blueprint for the War on Terror. Trump is just another neocon puppet, eager to fulfill their Stormtrooper fantasy.
Not to mention the fact that alongside passing this record military budget, it was paid for with budget cuts to society’s most vulnerable, in particular, hungry children.
But Trump isn’t just making sure kids in the United States go hungry, but children in every country it deems our enemies. Because the US dollar drives the global economy, the empire frequently wields sanctions to bend countries to its will.
Anyone claiming to be anti-war, or even just anti-intervention, must oppose any and all economic sanctions. Make no mistake: sanctions are war. And not in a hyperbolic sense. They are real attacks, that kill real people.
The impact of sanctions is never discussed in the US media. They’re always treated as a kind of “soft” solution, with the assumption that they only affect a society’s corrupt elites. These are assumption nowhere close to the reality.
Sanctions hurt the most vulnerable––and by design. That’s why they intentionally target medicine, clean water, and access to food. The logic of sanctions is, if you kill and starve enough innocent civilians, they will blame their own government, rise up and overthrow them so American force don’t have to waste any blood overthrowing them.
Their genocidal impact cannot be overstated. Looking at Iraq alone, US sanctions in the 90’s, that blockaded medicine from the country, killed 500,000 Iraqi babies. That is the true face of sanctions.
They are not an “alternative to war,” sanctions ARE war in every way. So what has Trump done with the daggers of US sanctions? He’s shown the true face of his foreign policy. Obama implemented hundreds of sanctions during his tenure. But Trump is ramping them up in nearly every region, adding hundreds more in his first two years.
The most destructive application of sanctions has been on Iran, where Trump upended Obama’s historic nuclear deal and added 143 sanctions that have since debilitated their economy.
Then there’s North Korea, where people give Trump credit for peace between the North and South. Amazingly, despite the media’s rhetoric of Trump bowing down for dictators, he has installed 80 new sanctions on the DPRK, compared to the 74 applied by Obama.
In Syria, Trump has authorized a stunning 287 new sanctions, almost double the amount applied under Obama. He’s administered 43 sanctions on Libya so far.
In Russia and Ukraine, Trump has defied the notion he is a puppet of Putin by sanctioning the region 105 times so far, for everything from annexing Crimea, to the alleged meddling in the 2016 election, to the attempted poisoning of Sergei Skripal. Not to mention the 43 “cyber sanctions” put on the figures alleged to have hacked into the DNC.
Next is Venezuela. Even though Obama added 7 sanctions in his term, Trump’s laser focus is set on destroying the country once-and-for-all. He’s already employed 63 new sanctions to strangle Venezuela and undermine any chance for economic recovery.
He imposed many more sanctions on independent, progressive countries like Cuba and Nicaragua.
What do all those countries have in common? It’s not some standard of democracy or human rights––it’s that they are all independent of US domination. They chart their own path and decide what’s done with the wealth of their own country. The biggest thing they have in common, is that none of them pose any threat to us!
It would be bad enough if the Trump administration was only expanding economic warfare on these countries. But they’re taking it much further.
Any corner of the globe we look to, we see that he is indeed expanding the US empire’s influence and operations––he has ratcheted up, with new fire and veracity, covert and overt regime change operations; expansion of military bases, massive increases in bombings and civilian casualties, and belligerent escalations that put us on the brink of catastrophic war on multiple fronts.
As we’ll show in this multi-part series, Trump Expanding the Empire, that whether or not Trump pisses off, offends or even destabilizes powerful sectors of the imperialist state, he has only put war and militarism on the march.
It may be confusing how Trump is still making proclamations about stopping endless wars, but we have to look at his actions, not his rhetoric.
And yes, there is growing opposition to Trump within the halls of power. But not because they think Trump is going to reign back the Empire––but because he’s simply self-absorbed and unpredictable.
With all the praise about the most diverse Congress in history, you can’t find any diversity in opinion when it comes to continuing US imperialism. We can’t let the democrats steer the resistance away from where it needs to be––in the streets, linking our struggles, fighting the expansive US empire.”
In Part II of our series Trump Expanding the Empire, Abby Martin addresses the surprise order from Trump that he was “ending the war” in Syria.
Having drastically escalated the war in Syria and Iraq, find out what’s behind the supposed troop withdrawal and the hidden facts in the policies.
Transcript and Links:
“As we continue our series “How Trump is Expanding the US Empire,” Trump has jolted the establishment by announcing the removal of US troops in Syria.
The US military has 800 bases around the world, with soldiers in 70% of the world’s nations. Obviously, reigning back the US empire anywhere, and removing troops anywhere is a good thing.
So it’s been really atrocious to see the Democratic Party establishment working with most of the GOP and Pentagon to attack this decision from the right, decrying any troop withdrawal as dangerous for so-called national interests.
It’s amplified the claim by liberal pundits, journalists, and Democratic Party leaders like Hillary Clinton, that Trump is some kind of “isolationist” who wants to reign back America’s expansive military machine.
So, what is going on? Is Trump really curtailing the US empire and pushing back against the military industrial complex that has dominated US foreign policy since Eisenhower? No, in fact this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Like in Afghanistan, Trump is simply removing the troops he himself added in Syria since taking office.
While Trump railed against Obama for putting US troops in Syria, he left office with less than 300 US troops there––but through 2017, that number grew to around 2,200 today, approaching 10 times the number under Obama.
But it’s hard to know the true number, since Trump broke with Pentagon policy andactually stopped disclosing troops deployments to Syria and Iraq––how democratic!
And just as Trump started hiding from the public his large troop deployments, he broke with Obama’s policy of only sending Special Operations to Syria, but started sending large units of conventional forces.
And while I was the first to call Obama the drone king, Trump has drastically ramped up US bombing in every region of the world, along with a massive amount of civilian casualties. Not too surprising, considering he campaigned on a new major war to not only “bomb the shit” out of alleged “terrorists,” but their families too.
Trump definitely kept that horrific promise. In 2017, the number of US-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria increased 50%. But they became far more deadly for non combatants. While his airstrikes were a 50% increase from Obama, he increased civilian casualtiesby 215%, killing an estimated 6,000 civilians in a year.
Trump himself takes credit for that spike, bragging about giving the generals more freedoms to unleash their weapons of mass destruction.
And let’s just get this out of the way. The US military is not fighting a war in Syria to “defeat ISIS” just like it’s not fighting an endless war in Afghanistan to “fight terrorism,” just like it’s never fought a war anywhere for “human rights” or “democracy.”
The reasons they say at press conferences are never the reasons they talk about behind closed doors.
In reality, all these wars are about expanding US control. Syria has been a target ever since the won independence from British and French colonialism in 1963––and along with other Pan-Arab victories in the region like Libya, Iraq, Egypt and beyond, they were all on the chopping block for American capitalism.
And let us not forget that Trump’s first foreign policy act was crossing another line Obama was too scared to do, when he launched strikes against the Syrian state from the dining room of Mar-A-Lago. It’s the type of escalation that could lead to a new world war, but was flippantly carried out over chocolate cake.
The US Empire’s proxy in the Middle East, Israel, carried out even more bombing. Trump ushered in a new phase where Israel began targeting Syrian forces––bombing them at least 10 times in the last two years! These airstrikes would likely never happen without approval, assistance or orders from the Pentagon.
Remember, Trump didn’t announce an end to the US operation in Syria. He simply said he’s removing 2,000 troops. Nothing about the continued bombing, which he dramatically escalated in his first year. And even though bombings dropped in intensity in 2018, after there was basically nothing left to bomb, large numbers of airstrikes continue, contradicting the claim the war is over. In the last two weeks of 2018 alone, the Pentagon says they carried out over 1,000 “engagements” in Syria and nearly 500 airstrikes.
Nothing about supporting it’s foreign surrogates, like Turkey, to do all the dying in place of US troops. Trump has been pushing his far-right collaborator Erdogan to purchase vast amounts of US anti-aircraft weapons, no-doubt for proxy aggression against Iran, Russia and Syria.
Not to mention there are over 5,000 private mercenaries in Iraq and Syria already working for the US; Trump has said nothing about removing them.
And even the withdrawal timetable keeps changing. On December 19 Trump ordered a “rapid withdrawal” of US troops from Syria, to be carried out within 30 days. But four days later, he tweeted that the “rapid withdrawal” is now a “slow pull out.” Sarah Sanders also reassured the war-hungry press that US forces would be “ready to re-engage” “at a moment’s notice in Syria.”
He even sent his cretin John Bolton on an apology tour to assure Israel that the US could leave some troops in Syria indefinitely, while building up forces in Jordan, Iraq and Turkey to fight Iran.
Trump bizarrely diverted questions about the changing timeline by criticizing Obama for not bombing Assad. And in one of the most brazen imperialist statements ever made by a US president, Trump admitted that there was nothing for big business tosteal in Syria’s deserts.
It seems like Trump and his friends are only interested in what resources they can pillage and what markets they can open and plunder as a consequence of US invasions. The thing is, Trump isn’t talking at all about withdrawing any troops from Iraq, where he wants to pillage the oil.
If you look at a map of where US troops actually were set up in Syria, it is literally just a few miles from the border of Turkey, Jordan and Iraq, where the US military has bases and large numbers of troops already stationed. So it’s really just a repositioning of US forces.
And when you see that Syria is actually completely surrounded on all sides by hostile US lapdogs, most hosting large US military installations and American troops, the ability for the Empire to withdraw troops but continue aggression is pretty clear.
While Trump’s Syria troop withdrawal got all the attention, what went totally under the radar is that he simultaneously announced the indefinite extension of the criminal occupation of Iraq.
Trump campaigned on opposing the Iraq war “from the beginning”. But the reality is he was actually just for the war being done “the right way.”
But it doesn’t so much matter what Trump said about Iraq before he had any political power. Now that he’s Commander in Chief, what he’s done is all we can go by.
By the 2008 election, public opinion was deafening: the people wanted troops out now. It’s a central reason Obama was elected.
Under Obama, the number of troops precipitously dropped from around 180,000 to just 5,000through the last years of his administration. While Obama did start adding larger troop deployments in 2016 to “fight ISIS”, Trump came in and hit the gas.
By the end of his first year in office, Trump had nearly doubled the number of US troops in Iraq. And they were doing much less “advising and assisting” and much more “killing and dying” on the front lines.
So much so that more US troops have been killed there during two years of Trump, than in the previous 4 years combined. 37 soldiers have lost their lives for Trump’s ISIS mission, but you would never know it by watching the news, as if the war is long over.
Trump essentially cemented a new Iraq war, and doing so means that at any moment it could escalate in size and violence.
US presence there is a powder keg ready to blow. And remember, he coupled this with a ruthless bombing escalation that caused civilian casualties to skyrocket.
In a single series of US airstrikes in 2017, possibly over 500 civilians were killed at once in what became known as the Mosul massacre. It was the single largest death toll inflicted since the war began in 2003. That blood is on Trump’s hands.
Of course, this airstrike was not the only one like it. It’s likely thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed by US bombs ordered by Trump’s cabinet, but they’re not really concerned. Over the summer, the Pentagon stated that “we’ll never know” how many civilians the US killed under Trump’s leadership. And I guess they’ll never care.
For those of us who care about ending the crimes of the Empire, we have to look at these actions in a larger context; that a scale-down of military operations in one area also means a pivot to build-up operations elsewhere.
In Syria and Iraq, all US troops, airpower and mercenaries should be brought home immediately. Not these minor reductions in favor of more bombing and sanctions that Trump is giving us.
While nobody should oppose the fact Trump is removing these troops, we shouldn’t give him credit either; he is the one who ramped up bombing, ramped up troop numbers and ramped up death and destruction in the region.
Trump is a war criminal, and that’s what he will always be, for the death and destruction his aggressive policies have caused, where millions more are now suffering under the boot of US domination.
A real end to these criminal wars will not come from any president, or member of either ruling class party. It will come from the only force in history that has won progressive change: a grassroots movement of millions of people demanding it.“
“Cost to U.S. taxpayers: 7K dead Americans + $5.6 trillion. Cost to MidEast: Unfathomable.”
The United States’ so-called War on Terror has killed about half a million people in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, according to a new estimate from the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute.
“This update just scratches the surface of the human consequences of 17 years of war.”
—Neta C. Crawford, The Costs of War Project
“This new body count signals that, far from diminishing, the war is only intensifying,” Stephanie Savell, co-director of the project, pointed out in a piece for Axios. The overall death toll “is an increase of 113,000 over the last count, issued just two years ago.”
The new report (pdf) estimates that since 2001, between 480,000 and 507,000 people have been killed because of war violence in those three nations—a tally that does not include “the more than 500,000 deaths from the war in Syria, raging since 2011, which the U.S. joined in August 2014,” and “indirect deaths,” or those killed by war’s impact on public health, such as limiting access to food, water, hospitals, and electricity.
The “direct deaths” accounted for in the estimate include U.S. military, contractors, and Defense Department employees; national military and police as well as other allied troops; opposition fighters; civilians; journalists; and aid workers. About half of those killed were civilians—between 244,000 and 266,000 across Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Up to 204,000 of them were Iraqis.
While the U.S. government has repeatedly underestimated the costs of waging war, since the project launched in 2011, its team has aimed to provide a full account of the “human, economic, and political costs” of post-9/11 U.S. military action in the Middle East, “and to foster better informed public policies.”
This latest report comes on the heels of the U.S. midterm elections in which Democrats took control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Looking forward, Savell suggested that “House Democrats will try to advance a national security strategy emphasizing restraint and accountability for the costs of the War on Terror.”
Outlining some expressed goals from a handful of House Democrats, Savell wrote for Axios:
Research shows that governments become more careful when civilian deaths from “collateral damage” are reported on. A wave of Democrats now in control of the House plan to push for just that. Representative Ro Khanna says he wants to hold as many as three days of hearings with Trump’s national security team to “justify, for the American people, what our mission is, what the costs are, what the risks are, and why we’re there.” Representative Adam Smith, poised to become chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, plans to increase oversight of the military, and others led by Representative Barbara Lee hope to end the war in Afghanistan.
Regardless of how Democrats in the House proceed, Neta C. Crawford, a Boston University political science professor who co-directs the Costs of War Project, argued in the report’s conclusion that there is a need to keep the public more informed about the consequences of the seemingly endless wars in the Middle East in order to drive demands for improving U.S. foreign policy.
“This update just scratches the surface of the human consequences of 17 years of war,” Crawford wrote. “Too often, legislators, NGOs, and the news media that try to track the consequences of the wars are inhibited by governments determined to paint a rosy picture of perfect execution and progress.”
“The U.S. has made some effort to increase transparency,” she acknowledged, “but there are a number of areas—the number of civilians killed and injured, and the number of U.S. military and veteran suicides, for instance—where greater transparency would lead to greater accountability and could lead to better policy.”
Responding to the report’s findings, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif drew attention to the human and financial consequences, tweeting: “Cost to U.S. taxpayers: 7K dead Americans + $5.6 trillion. Cost to MidEast: Unfathomable.”
Speaking at the Italian premiere of his new film “Fahrenheit 11/9” in Rome on Saturday, Moore said that democracy is an incredibly fragile thing, especially in today’s political climate.
“Literally, someone like Trump or [Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo] Salvini can get behind the wheel of the car of democracy, and drive it right off the cliff, and that’s what I’m warning against here,” he said, according to the Hollywood Reporter. “We could be in the last days of democracy as we know it, and we need to fight against that as much as possible.”
Change, he said, can occur very quickly in a democracy, referencing Hitler’s rise to power in Germany. “There is no self-correcting mechanism in democracy.”
The filmmaker, known for his unapologetically critical views of US President Donald Trump and former President George W. Bush, went on to state that voter demographics are changing rapidly, with two-thirds of people who are eligible to vote being either women, people of color, or young adults.
“These are the last days of the dying dinosaur, the old white man who has been making the decisions since the beginning of our time.”
Moore rose to fame in 2004 when he released the film “Fahrenheit 9/11,” which takes a critical look at Bush’s presidency, the War on Terror and its coverage in the media. His new film “Fahrenheit 11/9” is aimed at “bringing Trump down” ahead of the November mid-term elections, he told “Real Time with Ball Maher” in June.
While we claim to value freedom, privacy, individuality, equality, diversity, accountability, and government transparency, our actions and those of our government rulers contradict these much-vaunted principles at every turn.
The September 11 terror incidents in 2001 are said to be the biggest-ever deadly attack on US soil. Shamefully, exactly 17 years later, the US president and Pentagon military chiefs are threatening to go to war in Syria – to defend the same ilk of terrorists.
“Shamefully” is perhaps not the most fitting word here. “Consistently” would be more appropriate.
Officially, the spectacular plane-crashing mayhem 17 years ago in New York City was due to 19 Arab hijackers affiliated with the Al Qaeda terror network.
That account of the world-changing event has been hotly disputed, with many respected authors and organizations claiming that evidence shows the US intelligence agencies are implicated in an inside job. The death of some 3,000 American citizens was hence exploited as a pretext for launching a series of US overseas wars, whose hidden agenda was for promoting imperialist objectives.
In any case, the official story is that Al Qaeda operatives hijacked four airliners on the morning of September 11, 2001, and flew them into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York, as well as into the Pentagon building near Washington. The fourth plane crashed in a rural area in Pennsylvania, allegedly after passengers challenged
the terrorist pilots.
The Al Qaeda terror network, with its ideological links to Saudi-sponsored Wahhabism, was declared “enemy number one” by then President George W Bush, who proceeded to launch wars on Afghanistan and Iraq, supposedly to avenge the 911 atrocity perpetrated against
The so-called “war on terror” has since become a much-overused blank check for successive US governments and their NATO allies to launch wars anywhere in the world to “defeat terrorists”. It has been used to justify increasing Western state surveillance powers against its own citizens in the name of counter-terrorism.
To be sure, the official story on 911 and subsequent US and NATO military rampaging around the globe has been challenged by skeptics and critics.
One of the key lines of contesting the official narrative is the documented evolution of the Al Qaeda terror franchise, which grew out of US sponsorship of motley radical Islamist groups in Afghanistan during the 1980s. That covert ploy was to give then occupying Soviet troops “their Vietnam”. American and British military intelligence along with lavish Saudi funding created the Frankenstein Monster of Islamic terrorism that mutated and spread across the Middle East and beyond.
So, the very notion that, post-911, the American creators of the terrorist monster would serve to protect the civilized world from their own creation was always a deeply suspect proposition.
The truth is that the US never stopped colluding with these terror groups since the days of the putative Afghan Vietnam for the Soviet Union.
The 911 incidents may have been some form of “blowback” or, plausibly, it was American intelligence handlers contriving a plot which would give imperialist planners their much-desired “new Pearl Harbor” – a blank check to declare war on the planet for the benefit of advancing US strategic interests.
Granted, the success of that nefarious covert scheme is questionable given the unforeseen huge financial and social costs to American society, as well as from general bedlam undermining global security.
For observers willing to see, it seems indisputable that there is something of a symbiotic relationship between Islamist terror proxies and the US imperialist state. The official “enemy” is a boon for justifying oppressive state powers against citizens; it serves as a pump for bloated budgets to the military-industrial complex at the heart of the American capitalist economy; and this enemy can also serve as target practice for illegal military intervention in foreign countries – US interventions that would otherwise be seen for what they are, as “criminal aggression”.
Further, the terror proxies continue to serve as a cat’s paws for US imperialism, as in the earlier formation in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. Rather than direct large-scale American military involvement, the Al Qaeda brigades are deployed to do Washington’s dirty work. Syria is emerging as the new Afghanistan.
Officially, the Pentagon and US corporate news media scoff at these claims of collusion with terrorists. “We are bombing Syria to defeat terrorists,” so goes the mantra. Substitute any number of countries for “Syria”, as required.
Well, if that’s the case why have senior US military people like Michael Flynn admitted that the former Obama administration deliberately cultivated the terror brigades in Syria? Why have hundreds of millions of dollars gone into forming a non-existent “moderate rebel army” in Syria only for the American weaponry to end up in the hands of terror groups like Nusra Front?
What about credible reports of US military helicopters airlifting Nusra commanders out of harm’s way to other, safer parts of Syria? Similar reports of airlifting, or airdropping weapons, have come out of Afghanistan, where the Pentagon is still “fighting terrorists” – 17 years after 911.
It has taken a painfully long time over the eight years of war in Syria to uncover the full and real extent of criminality by the US and its British and French allies, along with the Saudis, Turks and Israelis.
But now we are coming full circle. President Donald Trump and his officials are warning that they will launch military strikes on Syria if the Syrian army and its Russian and Iranian allies proceed with the offensive to retake Idlib province. The northwest province is the last-remaining stronghold of anti-government militants. These militants are not the illusory “moderate rebels” the Western media have long bamboozled the public with. The militants comprise Nusra Front, Ahrar al Sham, Islamic State, and other self-professed Wahhabi jihadists of the Al Qaeda franchise. The myriad, mercurial names are merely part of the US cynical cover.
Trump – the supposed non-interventionist president – has even discarded the earlier ruse of invoking “chemical weapons” as a pretext for a US military attack on Syria. He and his officials are simply saying that any offensive by the Syrian army to retake all of its territory is an “unacceptable escalation” that will be met with a US military response.
There is no other credible rationale for such military deployment by Washington in Syria. The Western media are as usual riding shotgun with the mendacity, claiming that the Syrian army offensive will trigger a “humanitarian crisis”, rather than reporting the salient fact that the offensive is aimed at eradicating the most vile terror groups from that country.
In Syria, today, 17 years after 911, the real relationship between US authorities and terrorism is on display. The United States of Anarchy.
(ANTIMEDIA) — On September 11, 2001, one of the most tragic events in recent American history took place. Close to 3,000 civilians lost their lives in horrific terror attacks that took place on American soil. Fifteen years later, it is time to ask the question: have our counterterror efforts helped to reduce the amount of terrorism in the world? Or at the very least, have they tried to make the world safer?
According to a report released by Dr. Neta Crawford, professor of political science at Brown University, spending by the United States Departments of Defense, State, Homeland Security, and Veteran Affairs since 9/11 is now close to $5 trillion USD. Before we have the chance to ask how a country that has racked up over $19.3 trillion USD in debt can spend $5 trillion USD on war, the focus of this article is to ask: What has all of this spending achieved?
As Reader Supported News reported at the end of last year, terrorism has increased 6,500 percent since 2002 (they probably should rename it “the war of terror”). In 2014, the outlet noted, it was reported that 74 percent of all terror-related casualties occurred in Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Syria. As stated by Paul Gottinger, a staff reporter for Reader Supported News, out of the aforementioned countries, “only Nigeria did not experience either U.S. air strikes or a military occupation in that year.”
Omitted from that assessment is the fact that the U.S. has been meddling in Nigeria for some time now. Why wouldn’t they? Until recently, Nigeria was Africa’s largest oil producer, as well as the continent’s largest economy until last month.
Hillary Clinton herself refused repeated requests from the CIA to place Boko Haram, the al-Qaeda and ISIS-linked terror group wreaking havoc across Nigeria (statistically they are far more deadly than ISIS), on the U.S. official list of foreign terrorist organizations.
Further, it was Hillary Clinton’s war in Libya that helped catapult Boko Haram into the menace it is today. In 2009, Boko Haram was a small-scale group with very limited weaponry. Following the invasion of Libya and the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan armories were looted, and much of the weaponry was sent over to Syria. However, Boko Haram was able to capitalize on these looted weapons and the instability that rippled throughout Africa following the NATO-led war in Libya. As Peter Weber stated in The Week:
“[Boko Haram’s weaponry] shifted from relatively cheap AK-47s in the early days of its post-2009 embrace of violence to desert-ready combat vehicles and anti-aircraft/ anti-tank guns.”
Boko Haram is just one example of an unforeseen consequence, right? At least we removed a dictator who was going to massacre his own people in Libya, right? Despite one’s thoughts on Gaddafi’s moral compass, he was able to transform Libya into Africa’s most prosperous democracy with the highest standard of living on the continent. Since then, Libya has fallen massively in the U.N. Human Development Index ratings (in 2015 alone, Libya fell 27 places). According to UNICEF, there are two million Libyan children out of school in a country that is now plagued by militants, civil war, and extremism. What are the chances of those children out of school being swayed to join a militant group?
Last year, four former U.S. air force service members wrote a letter to Barack Obama warning him that the single most effective recruitment tool for groups like ISIS was the drone program being implemented across the Muslim world, courtesy of the president himself. In fact, three former U.S. air force drone operators have even backed a lawsuit against the state, brought by a Yemeni man who lost members of his family in a drone strike in 2012.
According to Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick’s “Untold History of the United States”:
“When the U.S. began its Yemeni drone campaign in 2009, Al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula had fewer than 300 militants in Yemen. By mid-2012, that number had jumped to over 1,000.”
Still believe there is no relationship between bombing a country to death and the resulting extremist groups that emerge from the rubble?
It seems as though recent history is just repeating itself over and over — not to mention the cruel and unnecessary havoc unleashed on the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. As Ben Swann, an investigative journalist and outspoken critic of U.S. foreign policy, stated:
“Before the 2003 U.S. invasion, do you know how many suicide attacks there were in Iraq? None. In the country’s history there had never been one. But since the 2003 invasion, there have been 1,892.
“In Iraq, prior to the start of the Iraq war, there were reportedly just over 1.5 million Christians living in that country. And yet shortly after the war started, more than one million of them fled to Syria. That didn’t work out well. Today fewer than half a million Christians remain and yet are being exterminated by groups like ISIS.”
The list of ways in which the $5 trillion USD effort to stamp out terrorism has either caused more terrorism or done nothing remotely towards curbing terrorism is endless. Even College Humor, in their show “Adam Ruins Everything,” put together an informative piece on how the TSA is almost completely useless, having never prevented a single terrorist attack – ever.
Yet how much money has been flowing into these programs – and still is today?
It’s time for a realistic talk about our counterterrorism efforts. One can only assume the U.S. establishment is not genuine in their bid to fight terrorism across the globe given that they have continued policies that merely exacerbate terrorism and have created a world less safe for future generations.
The first step in preventing future terrorism would be to admit that our current strategy isn’t working. Anyone who believes otherwise — or who decides to run for president on the promise they will further expand these failed policies — is not only wasting our time, but will be wasting countless lives in the process.
GR Editor’s Note
Russi-Gate, Novichok, Eastern Ghouta, False Flags?
This carefully research article by Professor Graeme McQueen presents a timely historical viewpoint which is routinely “censored” by the mainstream media as well by the search engines. The danger of World War III is not front-page news.
Kindly consider forwarding Professor McQueen’s article to your friends and colleagues, crosspost it on alternative media and blog sites.
The threat of World War III is real, yet there is no anti-war movement in sight. In the US, Canada and the EU, the peace movement is defunct, ignorant of the broader implications of nuclear war.
This is why, dear readers, we call upon your support and endorsement. There is a real “conspiracy” to trigger war. That’s the truth. Establish community networks, spread the word, organize at the grassroots level.
In the words of Prof. McQueen:
“Our task is clear. We must mobilize both our investigative resources and our communication resources to nullify the efforts of those who specialize in the construction and encouragement of war triggers and who wish to keep the war system robust. We lost over 100 million people to war in the 20th century. Are we really going to let this happen again?”
Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research Editor, March 18, 2018
As we watch Western governments testing their opponents – today Iran, the next day the DPRK, and then Russia and China – we hold our breaths. We are waiting with a sense of dread for the occurrence of a catalytic event that will initiate war. Now is the time to reflect on such catalytic events, to understand them, to prepare for them.
The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand on June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo led to the outbreak of World War I. The Gulf of Tonkin incidents on August 2 and August 4, 1964 enabled what we call the Vietnam War.
Both events were war triggers. A “war trigger”, as I am using the term, is an event that facilitates an outbreak or expansion of hot war–that phase of the war system in which active killing takes place.
War triggers can lead affected populations to cast aside their critical faculties and their willingness to dissent from government narratives. They can also disable moral values and ideological commitments. At the outbreak of World War I the peace movement, the women’s movement and the socialist movement were all shattered.
While there is debate among scholars today about the extent of the frenzy in Europe as World War I began, it is difficult to dismiss sophisticated eyewitnesses such as Rosa Luxemburg (image on the right), who referred to what she saw as:
“mad delirium”; “patriotic street demonstrations”; “singing throngs”; “the coffee shops with their patriotic songs”; “the violent mobs, ready to denounce, ready to persecute women, ready to whip themselves into a delirious frenzy over every wild rumour”; “the atmosphere of ritual murder”. (Luxemburg, 261)
What Luxemburg described was a subjective state produced by a successful war trigger, in which a population becomes extremely lethal as it readies itself to rush at its foe while simultaneously battering anyone in its own ranks that dares to dissent.
Luxemburg herself dared to dissent. This led to two and a half years in a German prison cell. During this time she wrote the Junius Pamphlet, criticizing Europe’s socialist leaders for having been captured by the spirit of war, and pointing to the consequences of their folly:
“the cannon fodder that was loaded upon the trains in August and September is rotting on the battlefields of Belgium and the Vosges…Cities are turned into shambles, whole countries into deserts, villages into cemeteries, whole nations into beggars, churches into stables; popular rights, treaties, alliances, the holiest words and the highest authorities have been torn into scraps”. (Luxemburg, 261-2)
Luxemburg’s anger had a solid basis in what has become known as “the August madness” that struck Europe. For example, on August 3, 1914, when the war had just begun, the following call went out to university students from the most senior officials in the Bavarian universities:
“Students! The muses are silent. The issue is battle, the battle forced on us for German culture, which is threatened by the barbarians from the East, and for German values, which the enemy in the West envies us. And so the furor teutonicus bursts into flame once again. The enthusiasm of the wars of liberation flares, and the holy war begins”. (Keegan, 358)
In response to this hysterical appeal, the German university students volunteered in large numbers. Untrained, they were thrown into battle. In the space of three weeks 36,000 of them were killed.
Germany was not unique, of course, in its vulnerability. Randolph Bourne, in an unfinished essay generally known as “War is the Health of the State”, described what he saw somewhat later in the United States as that country flipped from anti-war to pro-war and joined in the global disaster. He observed that once the executive branch had made the decision to go to war the entire population suddenly changed its mind. “The moment war is declared… the mass of the people, through some spiritual alchemy, become convinced that they have willed and executed the deed themselves.”
Therefore, the people, “with the exception of a few malcontents, proceed to allow themselves to be regimented, coerced, deranged in all the environments of their lives, and turned into a solid manufactory of destruction.”
It is true that war madness of the kind that accompanied WWI has been less common in the years since then, partly because that war turned out to be an unprecedented catastrophe. But I believe it is entirely wrong to think that in today’s era of high technology and digitalized war the arousing of the spirit of war in a population is no longer sought or needed. A highly influential analysis of American Vietnam War strategy, carried out by one Col. Harry Summers, concluded some years ago that a chief cause of the US downfall was the failure of leaders to arouse their population’s emotions. The American people, said Summers, had been forced to fight that war “in cold blood”, which they found intolerable. In fact, this failure to arouse the war spirit was taken by many US analysts to have led to the “Vietnam syndrome” – a reluctance to intervene in the affairs of other countries militarily. This was a timidity unsuitable, they felt, for an imperial power.
One of the purposes of the September 11, 2001 operation, in my view, was precisely to change that situation – to arouse intense feelings of unity, aggression and support for government in order to banish once and for all the Vietnam Syndrome and to launch with great energy the new global conflict formation (the “War on Terror”) so that the 21st century, with the military leading the way, would become another American Century.
Still, war triggers are not all the same, and we need to create categories. We can distinguish three broad types: accidental war triggers, managed war triggers and manufactured war triggers.
An accidental war trigger is an event that triggers hot war in the absence of intention. The pressure of events, random clashes, the everyday quest to satisfy physical needs – all these may, in the absence of warlike intent, produce a war trigger. After the event occurs it may lead, again without conscious plotting, directly to a hot and violent conflict between contending parties.
No doubt many war triggers throughout history fit the category of accidental war trigger. However, the more I have studied recent human wars the less ready I have become to promote the triggering events as accidental.
Years ago when I gave talks on war triggers I used to give the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand as an example of an accidental war trigger. True, I understood that the assassin of the Archduke did not act alone: Gavrilo Princip, the young Serbian nationalist, was certainly not a “lone wolf”; he was one of several armed men stationed along the route of the Archduke’s carriage, and although he was committed to this plan it is also pretty clear that he was deliberately used by a group with high-level connections to carry out the assassination. But I felt that the planners were unlikely to have sought the large-scale conflagration they ended up getting, and I was impressed by the variety of elements in the “Balkan cauldron” that seemed to defy rational planning. Likewise, I was impressed by the numerous systemic factors operative in the wake of this event that led to a major war, ranging from a flourishing arms industry, through genuinely deluded ruling classes and entangling state alliances, to systems such as railways that gave an advantage to the first party to mobilize. All in all, I felt that non-deliberate factors outweighed deliberate factors, so I called this an accidental war trigger.
Recent reading, however, has made me less confident of this position. Especially since encountering Docherty and McGregor’s book, Hidden History: the Secret Origins of the First World War, I am inclined to reclassify the World War I war trigger as a managed trigger.
A managed war trigger is one in which a party of influence consciously acts to increase the chances of hot war, either by deliberately creating conditions where a war trigger is likely to arise, or by seizing an event after the fact and shaping it into a war trigger.
If World War I’s war trigger must be moved from accidental to managed, this increases the number of cases in this already well-stuffed category. The Pearl Harbor attack that caused the US entry into World War II was certainly managed. The factors that would increase the chances of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, thereby overcoming the US population’s resistance to entering this war, were studied and made part of a deliberate program. The Japanese advance on Pearl Harbor was consciously allowed to proceed. The declaration of war on Japan was the immediate fruit of this managed attack.
The Gulf of Tonkin incident also falls into this category. This was no accidental dustup in the Gulf of Tonkin. US leaders had created a systematic program of naval raids on the coast of North Vietnam (the DESOTO raids) intended to stimulate responses. While there is still debate about the degree to which this incident was planned, I am on the side of those who see it as highly deliberate provocation by US leaders, constructed and used to create hot war. The North Vietnamese response to the intrusion of the Maddox and the Turner Joy was remarkably mild, but it was magnified and distorted by US Cold Warriors so that it could be portrayed as “communist aggression” that required violent response.
The success of these last two managed war triggers can be seen in the record of voting in the US Congress. On December 8, 1941 there was only one vote in Congress against the declaration of war on Japan. On August 7, 1964 the House voted unanimously in favour of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, while in the Senate the vote was 88-2.
These voting statistics are sobering. The readiness of the group mind to revert to a pre-rational state—to take aggressive action with dire consequences without seeking any serious confirmation of the facts of the matter—puts humanity in a state of profound risk.
A manufactured war trigger carries the manipulation of populations even further. Here, deliberateness is extreme: it is not simply a matter of increasing the chances that this or that incident will occur, or making a mountain out of a molehill after the event. Here, those desirous of war write the script, choreograph the action, plan the output, and carry out, or subcontract, the actual event. Typically, they will also prepare to demonize and marginalize anyone who dares to challenge the narrative they present to the world.
The War on Terror is a master class in manufactured and managed war triggers. My own studies have concentrated on the two-part operation of the fall of 2001 – the September 11 airplane incidents and the immediately following anthrax letter attacks. These were manufactured war triggers, and they were successful in winning the support of both the US population and its representatives for foreign wars and restrictions on domestic civil rights.
A Washington Post-ABC poll initiated on the evening of 9/11 reportedly found that:
“nearly nine in 10 people supported taking military action against the groups or nations responsible for yesterday’s attacks even if it led to war. Two in three were willing to surrender ‘some of the liberties we have in this country’ to crack down on terrorism”. (MacQueen, 36)
Meanwhile, on September 11 cowed members of Congress fled for their lives on receiving information that a plane was headed toward the Capitol. That evening they assembled on the Capitol steps to sing God Bless America and to begin what was, in effect, their complete capitulation to those who had manufactured this war trigger.
On September 14, 2001 the Authorization for Use of Military Force was passed with a vote of 98-0 in the Senate and 422-1 in the House.
By late October members of Congress had begun to recover somewhat, and the USA Patriot Act, restricting domestic civil rights, met more opposition in the House than had the rush to war, passing by a vote of 357-66. Its fate in Senate, however, was more typical of such cases: 98 to 1.
These outcomes in Congress demonstrate the remarkable success, in the short term, of the manufactured war triggers of the fall of 2001. The effects of such operations, however, are temporary, so the perpetrators have had no choice but to continue managing and manufacturing war triggers to maintain the fraudulent War on Terror. The FBI (and parallel federal police agencies in other Western countries) busily entrap and recruit young people as fodder for the War on Terror, while in other cases False Flag attacks are carried out using wholesale invention. These initiatives have had a mixed success. For example, the official account of the Boston Marathon bombing is widely accepted despite its contradictions and absurdities; but the story of the Syrian chemical weapons attack of 2013 failed to accomplish its apparent aim of greatly expanded direct US military involvement in Syria. Likewise, sceptics of the recent claim of Russian “novichok” use in the UK are already vocal.
We would do well to remember that the on-going production of managed and manufactured war triggers takes great resources and cannot forever remain leak-proof. It carries serious risks for war planners. The successful and definitive exposure of even one of these frauds before the people of the world could affect the balance of power overnight.
Our task is clear. We must mobilize both our investigative resources and our communication resources to nullify the efforts of those who specialize in the construction and encouragement of war triggers and who wish to keep the war system robust. We lost over 100 million people to war in the 20th century. Are we really going to let this happen again?
Graeme MacQueen is a former Director of the Centre for Peace Studies at McMaster University, a member of the 9/11 Consensus Panel, and a past co-editor of the Journal of 9/11 Studies.
Professor McQueen is a frequent contributor to Global Research.
The Junius Pamphlet: The Crisis in the German Social Democracy, in Rosa Luxemburg Speaks, edited by Mary-Alice Waters. New York: Pathfinder Press, 1970.
John Keegan, A History of Warfare. New York: Alfred Knopf, 1993.
Randolph Bourne, “The State (‘War is the Health of the State’)”, 1918.
Col. Harry Summers, On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War. Presidio Press, 1982.
Gerry Docherty and Jim MacGregor, Hidden History: The Secret Origins of the First World War. Edinburgh: Mainstream Publishing, 2013
Robert B. Stinnett, Day of Deceit: The Truth about FDR and Pearl Harbor. New York: Touchstone, 2001.
Graeme MacQueen, The 2001 Anthrax Deception: The Case for a Domestic Conspiracy. Atlanta: Clarity Press, 2014.
4,000,000,029,057. Remember that number. It’s going to come up again later.
But let’s begin with another number entirely: 145,000 — as in, 145,000 uniformed soldiers striding down Washington’s Pennsylvania Avenue. That’s the number of troops who marched down that very street in May 1865 after the United States defeated the Confederate States of America.
Similar legions of rifle-toting troops did the same after World War I ended with the defeat of Germany and its allies in 1918. And Sherman tanks rolling through the urban canyons of midtown Manhattan? That followed the triumph over the Axis in 1945.
That’s what winning used to look like in America — star-spangled, soldier-clogged streets and victory parades.
Enthralled by a martial Bastille Day celebration while visiting French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris in July 2017, President Trump called for just such a parade in Washington. After its estimated cost reportedly ballooned from $10 million to as much as $92 million, the American Legion weighed in.
That veterans association, which boasts 2.4 million members, issued an August statement suggesting that the planned parade should be put on hold “until such time as we can celebrate victory in the War on Terrorism and bring our military home.” Soon after, the president announced that he had canceled the parade and blamed local Washington officials for driving up the costs (even though he was evidently never briefed by the Pentagon on what its price tag might be).
The American Legion focused on the fiscal irresponsibility of Trump’s proposed march, but its postponement should have raised an even more significant question: What would “victory” in the war on terror even look like?
What, in fact, constitutes an American military victory in the world today? Would it in any way resemble the end of the Civil War, or of the war to end all wars, or of the war that made that moniker obsolete?
And here’s another question: Is victory a necessary prerequisite for a military parade?
The easiest of those questions to resolve is the last one, and the American Legion should already know the answer. Members of that veterans group played key roles in a mammoth “We Support Our Boys in Vietnam” parade in New York City in 1967 and in a 1973 parade in that same city honoring veterans of that war.
Then, 10 years after the last U.S. troops snuck out of South Vietnam — abandoning their allies and scrambling aboard helicopters as Saigon fell — the Big Apple would host yet another parade honoring Vietnam veterans, reportedly the largest such celebration in the city’s history. So, quite obviously, winning a war isn’t a prerequisite for a winning parade.
And that’s only one of many lessons the disastrous American War in Vietnam still offers us. More salient perhaps are those that highlight the limits of military might and destructive force on this planet or that focus on the ability of North Vietnam, a “little fourth-rate” country — to quote Henry Kissinger, the national security advisor of that moment — to best a superpower that had previously (with much assistance) defeated Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan at the same time.
The Vietnam War — and Kissinger — provide a useful lens through which to examine the remaining questions about victory and what it means today, but more on that later.
For the moment, just remember: 4,000,000,029,057, Vietnam War, Kissinger.
Peace in Our Time… or Some Time… or No Time
Now, let’s take a moment to consider the ur-conflict of the war on terror, Afghanistan, where the U.S. began battling the Taliban in October 2001.
America’s victory there came with lightning speed. The next year, President George W. Bush announced that the group had been “defeated.” In 2004, the commander-in-chief reported that the Taliban was “no longer in existence.”
Yet, somehow, they were. By 2011, General David Petraeus, then commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, claimed that his troops had “reversed the momentum of the Taliban.” Two years later, then-commander General Joseph Dunford spoke of “the inevitability of our success” there.
Last August, President Trump unveiled his “Strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia.” Its “core pillar” was “a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions”; in other words, the “arbitrary timetables” for withdrawal of the Obama years were out. “We will push onward to victory with power in our hearts,” President Trump decreed. “America’s enemies must never know our plans or believe they can wait us out.”
The president also announced that he was putting that war squarely in the hands of the military. “Micromanagement from Washington, D.C., does not win battles,” he announced. “They are won in the field drawing upon the judgment and expertise of wartime commanders and frontline soldiers acting in real time, with real authority, and with a clear mission to defeat the enemy.”
The man given that authority was General John Nicholson who had, in fact, been running the American war there since 2016. The general was jubilant and within months agreed that the conflict had “turned the corner” (something, by the way, that Obama-era Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta also claimed — in 2012).
Today, almost 17 years after the war began, two years after Nicholson took the reins, one year after Trump articulated his new plan, victory in any traditional sense is nowhere in sight. Despite spending around $900 billion in Afghanistan, as the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction determined earlier this year, “between 2001 and 2017, U.S. government efforts to stabilize insecure and contested areas in Afghanistan mostly failed.” According to a July 30, 2018, report by that same inspector general, the Taliban was by then contesting control of or controlled about 44 percent of that country, while Afghan government control and influence over districts had declined by about 16 percent since Nicholson’s predecessor, General John Campbell, was in command.
And that was before, last month, the Taliban launched a large-scale attack on a provincial capital, Ghazni, a strategically important city, and held it for five days, while taking control of much of the province itself. Finally driven from the city, the Taliban promptly overran a military base in Baghlan Province during its withdrawal. And that was just one day after taking another Afghan military base.
In fact, for the previous two months, the Taliban had overrun government checkpoints and outposts on a near-daily basis. And keep in mind that the Taliban is now only a fraction of the story. The U.S. set out to defeat it and al-Qaeda in 2001. Today, Washington faces exponentially more terror groups in Afghanistan — 21 in all, including an imported franchise from the Iraq War front, ISIS, that grew larger during Nicholson’s tenure.
Given this seemingly dismal state of affairs, you might wonder what happened to Nicholson. Was he cashiered? Fired, Apprentice-style? Quietly ushered out of Afghanistan in disgrace? Hardly. Like the 15 U.S. commanders who preceded him, the four-star general simply rotated out and, at his final press conference from the war zone late last month, was nothing if not upbeat.
“I believe the South Asia Strategy is the right approach. And now we see that approach delivering progress on reconciliation that we had not seen previously,” he announced. “We’ve also seen a clear progression in the Taliban’s public statements, from their 14 February letter to the American people to the recent Eid al-Adha message, where [Taliban leader] Emir Hibatullah acknowledged for the first time that negotiations will, quote, ‘ensure an end to the war,’ end quote.”
In the event that you missed those statements from a chastened Taliban on the threshold of begging for peace, let me quote from the opening of the latter missive, issued late last month:
“This year Eid al-Adha approaches us as our Jihadi struggle against the American occupation is on the threshold of victory due to the help of Allah Almighty. The infidel invading forces have lost all will of combat, their strategy has failed, advanced technology and military equipment rendered useless, [the] sedition and corruption-sowing group defeated, and the arrogant American generals have been compelled to bow to the Jihadic greatness of the Afghan nation.”
And those conciliatory statements of peace and reconciliation touted by Nicholson? The Taliban says that in order to end “this long war” the “lone option is to end the occupation of Afghanistan and nothing more.”
In June, the 17th American nominated to take command of the war, Lieutenant General Scott Miller, appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee where Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) grilled him on what he would do differently in order to bring the conflict to a conclusion. “I cannot guarantee you a timeline or an end date,” was Miller’s confident reply.
Did the senators then send him packing? Hardly. He was, in fact, easily confirmed and starts work this month. Nor is there any chance Congress will use its power of the purse to end the war. The 2019 budget request for U.S. operations in Afghanistan — topping out at $46.3 billion — will certainly be approved.
All of this seeming futility brings us back to the Vietnam War, Kissinger, and that magic number, 4,000,000,029,057 — as well as the question of what an American military victory would look like today. It might surprise you, but it turns out that winning wars is still possible and, perhaps even more surprising, the U.S. military seems to be doing just that.
Let me explain.
In Vietnam, that military aimed to “out-guerrilla the guerrilla.” It never did, and the United States suffered a crushing defeat. Henry Kissinger — who presided over the last years of that conflict as national security advisor and then secretary of state — provided his own concise take on one of the core tenets of asymmetric warfare: “The conventional army loses if it does not win. The guerrilla wins if he does not lose.” Perhaps because that eternally well-regarded but hapless statesman articulated it, that formula was bound — like so much else he touched — to crash and burn.
In this century, the United States has found a way to turn Kissinger’s martial maxim on its head and so rewrite the axioms of armed conflict. This redefinition can be proved by a simple equation:
0 + 1,000,000,000,000 + 17 +17 + 23,744 + 3,000,000,000,000 + 5 + 5,200 + 74 = 4,000,000,029,057
Expressed differently, the United States has not won a major conflict since 1945; has a trillion-dollar national security budget; has had 17 military commanders in the last 17 years in Afghanistan, a country plagued by 23,744 “security incidents” (the most ever recorded) in 2017 alone; has spent around $3 trillion, primarily on that war and the rest of the war on terror, including the ongoing conflict in Iraq, which then-defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld swore, in 2002, would be over in only “five days or five weeks or five months,” but where approximately 5,000 U.S. troops remain today; and yet 74 percent of the American people still express high confidence in the U.S. military.
Let the math and the implications wash over you for a moment. Such a calculus definitively disproves the notion that “the conventional army loses if it does not win.” It also helps answer the question of victory in the war on terror. It turns out that the U.S. military, whose budget and influence in Washington have only grown in these years, now wins simply by not losing — a multi-trillion-dollar conventional army held to the standards of success once applied only to under-armed, under-funded guerilla groups.
Unlike in the Vietnam War years, three presidents and the Pentagon, unbothered by fiscal constraints, substantive congressional opposition, or a significant antiwar movement, have been effectively pursuing this strategy, which requires nothing more than a steady supply of troops, contractors, and other assorted camp followers; an endless parade of Senate-sanctioned commanders; and an annual outlay of hundreds of billions of dollars. By these standards, Donald Trump’s open-ended, timetable-free “Strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia” may prove to be the winningest war plan ever. As he described it:
“From now on, victory will have a clear definition: attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al-Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge.”
Think about that for a moment. Victory’s definition begins with “attacking our enemies” and ends with the prevention of possible terror attacks. Let me reiterate: “victory” is defined as “attacking our enemies.”
Under President Trump’s strategy, it seems, every time the U.S. bombs or shells or shoots at a member of one of those 20-plus terror groups in Afghanistan, the U.S. is winning or, perhaps, has won. And this strategy is not specifically Afghan-centric. It can easily be applied to American warzones in the Middle East and Africa — anywhere, really.
Decades after the end of the Vietnam War, the U.S. military has finally solved the conundrum of how to “out-guerrilla the guerrilla.” And it couldn’t have been simpler. You just adopt the same definition of victory. As a result, a conventional army — at least the U.S. military — now loses only if it stops fighting. So long as unaccountable commanders wage benchmark-free wars without congressional constraint, the United States simply cannot lose.
You can’t argue with the math. Call it the rule of 4,000,000,029,057.
That calculus and that sum also prove, quite clearly, that America’s beleaguered commander-in-chief has gotten a raw deal on his victory parade. With apologies to the American Legion, the U.S. military is now — under the new rules of warfare — triumphant and deserves the type of celebration proposed by President Trump.
After almost two decades of warfare, the armed forces have lowered the bar for victory to the level of their enemy, the Taliban. What was once the mark of failure for a conventional army is now the benchmark for success.
It’s a remarkable feat and deserving, at the very least, of furious flag-waving, ticker tape, and all the age-old trappings of victory.
Seventeen years of sacrificing young people to a counter-productive effort is far too long.
(FEE) — On September 11 of this year, those who weren’t yet born at the time of the 9/11 attacks will finally be old enough to fight in the war on terror. In 2012, U.S. Marines killed Osama bin Laden, the man responsible for the 9/11 attacks, yet American soldiers are still losing their lives overseas in the name of preventing terrorism against the United States—despite the fact that there hasn’t been another major attack on U.S. soil.
Now a new generation is set to join the conflict, even though the presence of our brave troops has actually increased the power and influence of terrorist groups—the very threat they meant to eradicate. It is time to rethink what has become the longest war in American history. We need to prevent the War on Terror from continuing forever so my generation doesn’t have to pay an even higher price.
Defenders of the War on Terror argue that America cannot afford to leave because it would risk greater instability in the Middle East and terrorist attacks on American soil. Former CIA Director General Petraeus was evidently not bothered by the idea that the United States would be at war for decades because he argued that a sustained commitment is necessary for ending the war in Afghanistan. Rather than ending it, he supported putting 3,000 to 5,000 more troops abroad and continuing the war for a few more decades.
However, adding more troops does not help the U.S. achieve its goals. On the contrary, as Cato Institute policy analysts Erik Goepner and Trevor Thrall reported, terrorist attacks in countries with U.S. military presence rose by 1900 percent between the mid-80s and early aughts. Contrary to common opinion, young Afghans do not become violent because they are poor—they become violent when they are dishonored, which explains why violence continues in Afghanistan. MercyCorps, a human rights organization, found in two separate studies that, even when youths had successful jobs, they were just as likely to become politically violent as their peers who were unemployed. One of the main drivers of political violence is anger at the West and the U.S. government.
Even if sending troops overseas did successfully combat terrorism, even our strongest waves of forces could not keep the Taliban out. The only forces that were able to keep the terrorist group temporarily at bay were nearly 100,000 strong, and even General Petraeus admits those forces did not keep the Taliban away for long. Thousands of the best and brightest of the next generation were sent overseas when they could have been the next Steve Jobs.
Although special forces have moved into more countries to counter new threats, new terrorist groups continue to proliferate, increasing tenfold since the beginning of the War on Terror. Any effective strategy would have yielded better results: after 17 years of American involvement in Afghanistan, we’ve spent $2 billion, 2,403 soldiers are dead, and terrorism has only increased in the places where America intervened.
What General Petraeus proposed—decades of fighting and 3,000 to 5,000 additional troops in Afghanistan—is counterproductive to American interests. Our policy should be aimed at attempting to reduce some of the harm it has already caused the next generation. Millennials and Generation Z already have to figure out how to manage the crippling national debt set to reach $187,362 per taxpayer by 2022, and the challenges of providing care for the 14 to 20 percent of veterans affected by PTSD.
U.S. military intervention does not tend to make the Middle East more stable, nor does it keep Americans safe from the results of that instability. To date, U.S. military presence has done the complete opposite. The Trump administration’s 2017 decision to send additional troops to Afghanistan is directly counter to promoting the “general welfare” of the people of the United States, even though that’s their stated goal. The next generation will already be disproportionately affected by the War on Terror without the added concern of sending new troops to fight our parents’ war.
Mexico’s next president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a former Mexico City mayor and outspoken critic of the political establishment – has a significant uphill battle once he is inaugurated as President on December 01: deadly violence in the country is intensifying and has hit an all-time high.
Mexico posted its highest homicides on record, with a new government report Sunday showing murders in the country rose by 16 percent in the first half of 2018.
The Interior Department said there were 15,973 homicides in the first half of the year, compared to 13,751 killings in the same period of 2017.
According to the AP, the record-breaking homicides have surpassed the violence seen during the dark years of Mexico’s drug war in 2011, along with exceeding all government data since records began in 1997.
At these crisis levels, the department’s homicide rate for the country stands around 22 per 100,000 population for year-end estimates — near the level of Columbia 24.2 and Guatemala 26.0.
Security analyst Alejandro Hope told the AP, “the figures are horrible, but there are some signs that are halfway encouraging.”
For example, the growth in homicides could be slowing; murders were up only about 4 percent compared to the second half of 2017. “The curve may be flattening out,” Hope noted, though he warned his forecast could be incorrect.
Hope noted that the northern border state of Baja California exhibited the largest surge in homicide rates, while other states saw declines.
“Baja California, home to the border city of Tijuana, saw 1,463 homicides in the first half of the year, a 44 percent increase over the same period of 2017. Authorities have attributed the spate of killings to battles between the Jalisco and Sinaloa drug cartels for control of trafficking routes in Baja California. The state is now Mexico’s second most violent, with a homicide rate for the first six months of the year equivalent to 71 murders per 100,000 inhabitants,” said AP.
By comparison, El Salvador and Venezuela are among the deadliest countries in the world — have homicide rates of around 54 to 60 per 100,000.
Thanks to the Jalisco drug cartel, Mexico’s most dangerous state is Colima, on the central Pacific coast, which experienced a 27-percent increase in killings and now has a shocking homicide rate of about 80 per 100,000
Guanajuato, a central Mexican state, saw a 122 percent increase in homicides, which now has a rate of about 40 per 100,000. Government officials have reported that much of violent crime is linked to gangs of fuel thieves who drill taps into government pipelines.
Here are Mexico’s eight most violent states by annual homicide rate, based on federal data. Over the past few years, killings rebounded in Baja California and Chihuahua states:
Mexico is on pace to top the record-setting violence of 2017. The 15,973 murders over the first six months of 2018 exceed the 13,503 reported over the same period last year.
Drug trafficking routes overlaid with homicide rates (2015) — notice a pattern?
Earlier this year, the US State Department published a new multi-tiered travel advisory system to warn U.S. citizens of traveling to Mexico. Travel advisories range from Level 1 (“exercise normal precautions”) to Level 4 (“do not travel”).
According to the Igarapé Institute, a Brazilian-based think tank that focuses on emerging security and development issues, the murder epidemic is not just limited to Mexico, but across all of Latin America.
The Institute stated the current situation is incredibly complex and results from decades of corruption, drug trafficking, organized crime, contraband, illegal mining, land rights, and in some cases, violence by state military forces.
Seymour Hersh states that the “deadliest words” in US media today are, “I think.” With media cycles constantly fluctuating and changing format and delivery based on website clicks it’s hard to keep up and find good reporting. For example, Hersh points to a lack of coverage or deep analysis regarding the war in Yemen and Trump’s removal of Sudan from the travel ban list, as crucial stories in need of further investigating.
Hersh also refers to America’s “continuing special force operations and the never ending political divides” across several continents that don’t get enough play because of our current state of news coverage. Aside from “today’s newspapers that cannot afford to keep correspondents in the field,” for Hersh, the news of today seems “unstructured and chaotic,” and is pieced together much like the country as “partisan and strident.”
Author of My Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and Its Aftermath (1970), and Pulitzer Prize recipient and best-selling author Seymour Hersh is “a survivor from the golden age of journalism.” Hersh, the author of numerous groundbreaking articles and nearly a dozen books, most recently, The Killing of Osama bin Laden (2017) and Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib, (2004) has just come out with his story and a revealing look at one of the top-rated investigative journalists in US history. Reporter: A Memoir, (Alfred A. Knopf, 2018)outlines Hersh’s early life, his rise in journalism, and sketches an illustration for the state of journalism in a changing world.
I spoke with Seymour Hersh on June 12, 2018, by phone from New York City, for nearly an hour in his Washington D.C. office and he shared with me great insights and stories about his career and his latest book. I started by asking Hersh to comment on how he was “a survivor from the golden age of journalism,” wanting to find out what was entailed in this “golden age.”
Hersh indicated that, “there was a period then when we could dominate the news. In other words, the newspapers were believed more than anybody else in the government, and that’s what I called a “golden age.” Hersh added it was a period that lasted for three or four years.
“There were a couple of years when the state couldn’t control what we were doing,” remarked Hersh. “They couldn’t do it.” Hersh’s message in Reporter is that good investigative journalism tells the story, and essentially does not set out to make the United States look good. “That is not the function of a good newspaper,” explained Hersh.
Hersh also explained to me how Trump is a “circuit breaker,” and is redirecting the nation’s foreign policy orthodoxy. Furthermore, his poll numbers increase in the face of constant attacks as he dangerously controls the agenda, partly because journalists got too far away from telling the story, or sat on stories, and instead settled on mediocrity, as they lost resources, over the past several years.
Hersh told me his thoughts on entering the memoir project to write Reporter. I tried to discover if he had learned anything about himself and if he enjoyed the process. Hersh told me that he never thought he would. He had a book deal on Dick Cheney. A book that he was starting to have people review and edit and there were some issues with it. First, Cheney is still alive and second, Hersh started this project in the Obama years when the administration was prosecuting people left and right or had the potential to.
The publishers were absolutely nervous about Hersh’s work-in-progress on Cheney. And so Knopf the publisher, who had financed his research for three years said, “Do a memoir.” Hersh remarked in self-deprecating fashion that the big thing he learned was that his “memory was absolutely useless.” He thought, at first, he would just go back and reread everything he wrote, but commented on the concern he had – of not being able to find his early work with the UPI in South Dakota in 1972 and 1973.
I asked Hersh to talk about his formative years and to discuss the impact of Chicago on his writing style and his worldview. Hersh grew up and worked in his father’s business in the black ghetto in the 1950s. In the 1930s it had been the area where James T. Farrell, a wonderful Chicago writer, wrote the Studs Lonigan Trilogy. Chicago was also a place where people like Studs Terkel used to talk about the South Side.
Hersh also admired Saul Bellow and Philip Roth commenting on how he “was influenced by the realistic style of fiction, because it was so gritty.” But it’s not as if Hersh was tuned in at the age of 20 to a writing style per se, the plain fact was simply: he could always flat out write.
Chicago was also where Hersh would later work as a police reporter covering for City News. “Cops basically ran the city with the mob, and if some guy was found downtown in a mob-controlled area, such as the nightclub on Rush Street—with 14 bullets in him, it was reported to be a traffic accident, you didn’t take on the police,” said Hersh.
It’s not that Hersh didn’t try to resist this tyranny. He once overheard a cop talking about killing a black guy as a suspect. The cop told the suspect “beat it, just get out of here,” and then shot him in the back, later claiming that he tried to escape from a bust. Hersh called his editor with the intent to break the story and was told it was his word against the cop’s. The editor, more or less replied to Hersh, we have to get you out of that police station or you’ll be out of the business [emphasis mine].
In Reporter, Hersh explains how the Civil Rights Movement and his close friendship with I.F. Stone shaped his approach to covering the war in Vietnam and his subsequent topics of study and investigative reporting. Hersh spoke about his work for the AP, where he was assigned to be a civil rights reporter. Hersh had “enormous respect for Martin Luther King, because he would walk through these neighborhoods in Southwest Chicago and be greeted with the worst abuses.” Not only were things thrown at King, recalls Hersh, but the language directed at him was awful, coming from a white area under threat of African encroachment.
Another area of interest and inspiration for Hersh was found in the Bertrand Russell tribunal, which had a lot of very interesting things to say about the war in Vietnam, with firsthand accounts of soldiers who had committed atrocities, but Hersh also paid attention to the various publications and church groups. “There were church groups in fact who did very good work on the atrocities in Vietnam, even long before Mỹ Lai,” said Hersh.
Hersh continued to explain, how later as a war reporter, he also got to know officers who had a lot of integrity, and who didn’t like the fact that “some got promoted by body count.” The more people an officer killed, the more the officer would get promoted. Hersh remarked that this was “a horrible unwritten rule.” It was also during Vietnam that Hersh realized that “the guys running the war didn’t tell the truth.”
When it came to I.F. Stone, Hersh stated, “The bottom line is, he taught me you have to really work hard, you have to read things and you have to do a lot of re-reading to understand events in order to put them in perspective.” I.F. Stone was a “golden age” journalist that saw Hersh as someone who had potential to look at the story, not in terms of it “hurting America, but if it were true, and that’s the way I reported,” remarked Hersh, “I didn’t worry about hurting America,” he added, “and that wasn’t my function. My function was to tell the story about how bad the war was and why I thought it was bad.”
A lot of readers are familiar with Mỹ Lai 4, but before that was Hersh’s first book, Chemical and Biological Warfare, where he gathered war crime research from Quakers all the way up to senior people in Washington and also those at Harvard. Hersh recalled Seymour Melman, who was putting out great writings like, In the Name of America, trying to alert the American people to what was going on in our names and if we only knew.
“I read that stuff carefully,” said Hersh. “I thought when I first got to the Mỹ Lai story that it was about some kid that just lost his mind and with a tank fired a rocket into a house or just blew a part of a village and killed 75 people or so. And as I got into it more and more I discovered it involved the deliberate murder of 550 including things like rape, throwing babies in the air and catching them with bayonets. It was really just awful stuff.”
Leading up to Reporter, Hersh has written extensively on not just Vietnam, but Henry Kissinger, American mid-east foreign policy, The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib, and many other pieces in several publications throughout his career, as well as books. Then, with the emergence of the Obama Administration, which many people held tremendous optimism for – he found it more difficult to cover his presidency than others in the past.
Hersh said, “more difficult is a mild way of putting it, it was much harder because [Obama] was a very attractive man and he wasn’t [perceived uneducable] like George Bush, but he also beat Hillary, who a lot of people did not really like very much.” All of this made Obama criticism more difficult in Hersh’s view, even though he didn’t do much coverage of the Obama Administration, he did write pertinent and explosive stories.
“There’s a sad truth,” remarked Hersh, “a sad truth is all presidents lie.” The story that caused the most problems for Hersh was the Bin Laden story in 2013 after he explained with inside sources that Osama bin Laden was being held as a prisoner and Pakistan had facilitated the United States capture, retrieval, and murder of him. “My God, was that a time of trauma, there was a lot of anger at me for doing that,” lamented Hersh. “I was pretty much attacked from one end of the city to the other.”
I closed my discussion with Hersh by bringing up the topic of Syria. I wanted to discuss the article, “Whose sarin” from the December 2013 edition of the London Review of Books, where he challenged the widespread perception that Bashar Al Assad had used nerve gas against his own people.
Hersh wrote the piece to explain his evidence that the United States had “omitted important intelligence and that [Obama] presented assumptions as facts.” Hersh emphasized that the White House pretended there was only one suspect, Assad, when they were two, the Turks and the Saudis, both believed to be possibly responsible. Hersh commented on how the Saudis were likely working through Lebanon, while the Turks were working through the border of the Idlib province. In effect, large quantities of precursor chemicals were smuggled into Syria and the US government had knowledge of it. The overall point was, after the gas attack, how was anyone sure?
Everyone in the US media was ready to blame the Syrians, when in fact the American government knew for two months that there was a second group that could have been responsible. Hersh indicated that, “it was a grave disservice of the Obama Whitehouse to not tell the world that we had evidence.”
Hersh has never stated that Assad is a great leader but he does find the hatred for Assad in the US to be irrational and acute. He also finds it borderline hypocritical while he alluded to Vietnam:
“I know a country that used barrel bombs. They dropped them all by helicopters. And they were considered to be very pernicious and a violation of the Geneva Accord. I know a country that used barrel bombs for seven years, (particularly in the provinces between Saigon and reaching to the west of Cambodia) in a war in which the President of the country was never in danger. If Assad loses this war to ISIS or whomever, he’s going to end up like Mussolini, executed and strung up by his neck with his wife and children next to him on a pole somewhere in downtown Damascus.”
Hersh basically asserted that the US corporate media coverage of Syria is not independent from state pressure, it overcompensates, and it’s shocking that Assad is seen as such a horrible person without a comparison to Saudi Arabia.
Hersh also explained what it was like to first interview Assad and recalled when in 2003 Assad asked him, “do you mind if I give a long answer?” In other words, he was shy about it, or anxious in Hersh’s estimation. Hersh, and others, do see a problem with Assad – “he isn’t doing enough on human rights.” But he’s somebody who will protect the Sunnis in his country. That doesn’t mean he’s a peacenik, “but it’s a war for survival,” remarked Hersh, “it’s a brutal civil war.”
“And is he a great leader? No.”
Doug Henwood for The Nation said it best regarding Reporter: “Reading Seymour Hersh’s memoir. It is great. He is great.” In closing, Reporter is another outstanding book by Seymour Hersh and reads very fast, insightful and entertaining. Hersh’s career is obviously prolific and his latest work covers an extraordinary amount of territory, making such a conversation with him about it somewhat difficult. (In the index Richard Nixon gets nearly an entire column of references.) Considering the age of Trump and what Noam Chomsky calls the “Me First Doctrine,” the most frightening portion of the book was the chapter that discussed Bush 43’s War on Terror, which reminded me that war can be used to reelect a president.