Sunday, May 8, 2016

(Why Did They Cut the Domestic Spending So Radically? To Pay for the Continuing Spectacles)  The F U Voters  (Lesser Evilism Uncloaked)  What is TTIP? Six Reasons Why the Answer Should Scare You  (Why Sy Hersh and Others Have Disappeared from View)  Happy Mother's Day!

Corporate control on both sides of the Atlantic will be solidified should the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership be passed. Any doubt about that was removed when Greenpeace Netherlands released 13 chapters of the TTIP text, although the secrecy of the text and that only corporate representatives have regular access to negotiators had already made intentions clear.

Words to the wise.

"Don't get in the way of real money."


The "news" is managed.


We know that.

But . . . we really are having a hard time getting over this one.

(P.S. - This will take some time to absorb. Go get a tall, cool drink.)

The strange bedfellows publicly aligned against Donald Trump for President include, of course, Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party establishment.  But they also include the leading neoconservative voices who Hillary, Kerry, Biden and others echoed in pushing America into attacking Iraq, a war that created IS, killed over a million people, violated the Nuremberg convention, and may yet be lost.  To the promoters of militarism and empire, the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) crowd, Hillary fits the bill oh so much better than Trump.
Then there are the Koch Brothers, the family and cabal that has been both the bane of and a fundraising boon to Democrats and the professional progressives.   What remains of the labor movement, the mainstream environmental movement, and the Democrats’ well-kept and immaculately groomed professional Progressive movement have feasted on the Kochs, made them (until now) the scariest force on the Right.  Now they are suddenly aligned with the Kochs, because the family has signaled clearly that they would rather live with the Wall Street militarist Hillary, than succumb in any way to the nest-robbing Republican Donald Trump.
Speaking of the Progressive movement, add its 500-pound fundraising, mobilizing and Democrat Party front group "MoveOn" to the top of the list of those mobilizing against Trump among the Democrats. As always, "MoveOn" needs a cause and a reason for being
that will fill ToxicSludgeIsGoodForYoutheir coffers and feed their need for petition signers, and Trump is now that guy. "MoveOn"’s contributors signaled support for Bernie, so the clicktivists at "MoveOn" have been making noise as part of the "Feel the Bern" movement.

But with it clear now that the SuperDelegates have rigged a victory for Hillary, they have pivoted to opposing Trump.  #Duh! Of course they have! Trump provides everyone who understands anything about fascism a great reason for voting for Hillary or anyone not named Trump. The Democratic progressives have been salivating for a fight with The Donald, and now they get him.
Bernie Sanders, of course, will ride the horse at the front of the Progressive’s charge against Trump. Before he announced his run, he clearly had decided to become a True Blue Democrat, no longer an Independent, if for no other reason than not wanting to face the vile bile and hatred Ralph Nader has endured for the capital crime of running for President as a Green in 2000.

Nader did not give us Bush, but the Democrats prefer to "think" he did and it is a belief they promote because it is essential to their fear-based strategy for winning elections and suppressing the sort of Left third party that Sanders could have instigated had he not thrown his lot (in) with the Dems.
Bernie is still doing his fire dance with his "Feel The Bern" movement, many of whom somehow still fail to realize he was a bait-and-switch guy from the beginning, offering deep reform but always planning to deliver his army into the hands of Hillary in Philadelphia when the Democrats' establishment, in the form of the SuperDelegates, remind him what they really think of his brand of Democratic Socialism.

Yes, he will win more primaries, and no, it will not matter in the end. The John Nichols crowd, the pundits-cum-cheerleaders of the progressive wing of the Democrats, will do their best to sell the notion of Bernie making a difference by representing reform and the future of the Party. But Nichols and his type of progressive Dem pundit have become a self-parody, although those steeped in the True Blue Echo Chamber will never realize this.
The Hillary-By-Default coalition includes a growing list of Republican oligarchs led by the Bush family, so embarrassed and run over by The Donald. Indeed, given this zoo of strange bedfellows, who the hell will pull the lever for Trump? Who is left outside of this growing  Left to Middle to Right to Corporate Libertarian movement against The Donald?  Lots of people.
How has Trump done what he has done so far?  It hasn’t been by mobilizing an intellectual elite, appealing to reason or by spending massive amounts of money that he has demolished and taken control of the Republican Party.  Yes, he has surely mobilized the racist vote, but the Republicans have always had that.  Here is his secret:  Donald Trump, more than anyone yet, has revealed the extent to which most Americans hate politics, even more than most Americans hate Donald and Hillary, and they do.
Donald is riding the “Fuck You!” movement. He is the choice of millions and millions who are simply so sick of the political establishment – what I call (but they don’t) the Bipartisan Oligarchy – that they just want a grenade to roll under its tent.  They want to frag both political parties, as in alienated angry US soldier fragging (killing) their gung-ho young officers to express their feelings about service in Vietnam. (Better Google that, youngsters.)
Let’s call them Trump’s FU Voters.  They are huge in number, hate politicians with a passion, don’t give a rat’s ass about the Koch Brothers or "MoveOn," might not even like The Donald, but see him as a statement of rage and discontent, as (a) way of giving the finger, a huge middle finger,  to all the hacks and flacks and whores and pimps of both the Republicans and Democrats who have delivered America into the hands of the 1%, the professional political class who are perceived as the enemy.
The FU vote is yuuuge, and getting yuuuger.  Things are shit-canning across America and the world in so many ways, and here comes this brash jerk of a sexist celebrity billionaire with the sexy model wife, a contradictory emotional angry guy who has never ever held office or been in the military or done anything you are supposed to do to be dogcatcher, much less President, and they are ready to vote for him, to say “screw you” to everyone.  Do not discount Trump’s strongest weapon, the FU Voter, slouching toward Bethlehem to be born, just before Christmas, 2016, like some new Hollywood release.

Read it all here.

Yes, it's been more than a little bit confusing if you think you're just reading or listening to the news every day concerning one more political electoral season.

It's really not just another of those.

Desperation certainly is understandable, especially on ecological grounds, as the global warming jet(stream) taxis on to the takeoff run[a]way. A carbon-fueled environmental catastrophe brought to us by the extreme global capitalism of the last seven decades is already underway and that made it difficult to completely dismiss a major party presidential candidate who opposed fracking and said that climate change was the nation’s “top security threat.”
It has at times been interesting, enjoyable, and instructive to see the Sanders campaign shed light on contradictions in the Democratic Party. It’s been useful, for example, to see Paul Krugman, Paul Starr, Tom Hayden, John Lewis, Gloria Steinem, and other purported progressive heroes exposed as power-serving shills for the right-wing fanatic Hillary Clinton. It’s been educationally helpful for radicals to note elite Democrats being forced to make vicious and idiotic arguments against (a) candidate (Sanders) who has run in accord with majority progressive policy sentiments on numerous basic policy issues.
It would, of course, be a big deal – a significant progressive victory with many-sided positive implications – to win single-payer national health insurance (Improved Medicare for All) in the U.S.
. . . Okay, so it all seemed to make a certain amount of progressive sense for many seasoned lefties. I get that. What now – now that Bernie is laying off staffers, saying that he’s going to the Democratic Convention to fight over the party’s irrelevant platform (NOT the party nomination), and going on CBS’s “Face the Nation” (last Sunday) to say (as promised from day one of the Sanders “insurgency”) that “of course the [unmentionably arch-capitalist and imperialist] Democratic Party needs to be unified” (under Neocon Hillary)? It’s time for seasoned Left Liberal Sandernistas to eat some humble pie. They should say “hey, we had our shot” and then step aside for more militant and radical activists who are more immune to election madness and to what I call Mad Candidate Disease come to the fore.
I’ll never forget the moment on March 12, 2011 in Madison, Wisconsin, when one of that state’s “progressive” Democrat senators got up in front of at least 30,000 angry marchers and told them to take down their protest posters and pick up their (doomed) "Scott Walker Recall Election" clipboards. A leading Marxist activist in my vicinity could be heard saying, “he means ‘thanks a lot, you can all go home now. We’ll take it from here.’”
We all know how well that worked out for the great people’s revolution. Now it’s (time for) progressive electoralists to sit back and let others pick up the ball. They don’t necessarily have to quit or leave the team, but it’s time – if I might use a sports analogy – for them to “grab some bench” and to reflect on how to shift their approach for the new radical times. It’s time (for) them to be taken off the starting team and become comfortable with a different, supportive, and second-string role:  back up those who have shown their ability to resist the deadly siren song of U.S. electoral politics.
The people’s and workers’ struggle needs a more serious and radical starting lineup and game plan. The 2015-16 squad went about as far as people can go playing by the reigning major league and party system rules. It was fairly impressive. They took some good swings up at the plate. But, well, guess what? It wasn’t even in the revolutionary ballpark. The ruling class sent them back to the bench with their bat in their hands, as usual.
Enough with the bourgeois electoral-ism for now, please. “If voting made any difference,” the great American left anarchist Emma Goldman once said, “they’d make it illegal.” Elections, candidates, and parties come and go, though now the quadrennial extravaganza seems to last forever (it kind of does, actually, especially on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News). Their outcomes are largely beyond our control. What is not outside our sphere of influence is the ability to build genuinely radical and lasting through-thick-and-thin peoples’ and workers’ power organizations to build a serious movement for what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called near the end of his life “the real issue to be faced”:  “the radical reconstruction of society itself.”
It’s long past time for Democratic Party-linked and electoral politics-addicted activists and NGOs to be discredited as social movement leaders. The People for Bernie PAC and its allies in the top-down activist community – Progressive Democrats of America, Democratic Socialists of America,, and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (the Bill Moyers-heralded citizen action group that invited Bernie to come as a Democrat to the first-in-the-nation presidential Caucus when it should have been pouring all its energies into blocking a hideous eco-cidal project [the recently approved "Bakken Pipeline"] in their state) – want to run grassroots activism between elections. They have called for a two-day so-called People’s Summit to be held in Chicago sometime between the California primary in early June and the Democratic National Convention’s Hillary coronation in late July.
This is very much to be shunned. A perceptive report by the Left journalist and commentator Arun Gupta is titled “Democracy Sleepwalking." It tells the depressing story of how the establishment U.S. Democratic Party-affiliated progressive Liberal Left – the AFL-CIO, "MoveOn," NOW, NAACP, SEIU, Greenpeace, Sierra Club, Common Cause, Public Citizen, Codepink, Jobs with Justice, People for the American Way (“many of which will throw their weight behind [Hillary Clinton and rest of] the Democratic Party in this year’s election”) – recently staged a restrained series of so-called "Democracy Awakening" protests in Washington. The purpose of the event was to buttress Sanders’ calls for campaign finance reform, enhanced voter rights, increased voter registration, and a constitutional amendment to end the dominance of private money in public elections.
. . . “It seemed churlish,” Gupta writes, “to point out that Clinton is the most consistent Republican in the race, protector of Wall Street, enthusiastic war-monger, enemy of workers, and supporter of free-trade deals, austerity, and the war on terror.”
This is the same kind of dismal fake-progressivism and Democratic Party-captive Astroturfery we can expect at “the People’s Summit” next June. As currently planned, the gathering will be an exercise in upper-middle-class- and NGO-coordinated Astroturf:  fake-grassroots movement-building captive to the partisan and electoral agenda of the Democratic Party, which means subordinated to the arch-neoliberal and militaristic Clinton machine and the corporatist, populism-manipulating DNC. It will be absurdly over-focused on the irrelevant Democratic Party platform, not actual rank-and-file movement-building.
. . . The practical imperative for any social-democratic progressive worth his or her salt to oppose their nation’s giant military-industrial complex and global Empire arises from some very basic facts. The progressive domestic programs that candidate Sanders claimed to passionately want are fiscally pre-empted by the giant Pentagon budget, which eats up 54% of federal discretionary spending.

The Pentagon System is a vast, wealth-concentrating state-capitalist racket for high-tech “defense” firms (Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, et al.). It provides the protection, chaos, and punishment muscle behind the U.S.-run neoliberal global-capitalist order – the world profits system that is destroying lives, communities, and livable ecology at home and abroad. It’s a global system, something that makes the “narrow nationalism” (Yates) of Sanders’ campaign ill-suited to serious socialist struggle.
In a recent interview with Chris Hedges (an early and consistent Left critic of Sanders), Seattle’s Socialist Alternative city council member Kshama Sawant “call[s] on Bernie to convene a conference of activists, organizers, his campaign supporters, to discuss building a new left party for the 99 percent, free of corporate money and independent of the Democrats and the Republicans. We may have to do this. We cannot fold up and go home if Bernie does not do it.”
In the meantime, whatever positive contribution Sanders has made to the radical education project is coming to a close in accord with his original sheepdog promise. Let’s thank him and ask him now to go home. He played his role and it was interesting to see that the dosage necessary to sustain U.S. progressives' dysfunctional addiction to the major party quadrennial extravaganza (“that’s politics”) (t)his primary season had to be increased like no time in historical memory:  a candidate who let himself be called a democratic socialist!
There’s radical meaning and potential contained in and advanced by that stimulating development. Now let us get actually serious about capitalism, imperialism, inequality, eco-cide, and socialism and begin before it’s too late to act on the urgent, posthumously published wisdom of the martyred Dr. King’s admonition on “the real issue to be faced.” Surely the debasing spectacle of the 2016 presidential selection – shaping up as “a contest between the two most hated people in America" – should be an apt teachable moment for serious radicals who advocate a revolutionary politics more concerned with who’s sitting in the streets than who’s sitting in the White House.

The two most hated people in America?

Surely not.

Our leaders.

People Power Over Corporate Power = Canceled Pipeline Projects

This Town Ran an Illegal Debtor's Prison for Years. Now It Has to Pay Back the People It Jailed.

President-Elect or Not, Trump Is Going to Trial This Year in Trump University Fraud Case

Anonymous Whistleblower Says "Panama Papers Are, If Nothing Else, A Glaring Symptom of our Society's Progressively Diseased and Decaying Moral Fabric."

US Defense Giants Expect $50Bln Aircraft Sales to Israel, Arab States

Jeremy Scahill Outlines How Obama Made Assassination Formal US Policy

From the "Independent, UK" perspective:

What is TTIP? And Reasons Why the Answer Should Scare You

Have you heard about TTIP? If your answer is no, don’t get too worried; you’re not meant to have.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is a series of trade negotiations being carried out mostly in secret between the EU and US. As a bi-lateral trade agreement, TTIP is about reducing the regulatory barriers to trade for big business, things like food safety law, environmental legislation, banking regulations and the sovereign powers of individual nations. It is, as John Hilary, Executive Director of campaign group War on Want, said:  “An assault on European and US societies by transnational corporations.”

Since before TTIP negotiations began last February, the process has been secretive and undemocratic. This secrecy is on-going, with nearly all information on negotiations coming from leaked documents and Freedom of Information requests.

But worryingly, the covert nature of the talks may well be the least of our problems. Here are six other reasons why we should be scared of TTIP, very scared indeed:


Public services, especially the NHS, are in the firing line. One of the main aims of TTIP is to open up Europe’s public health, education and water services to US companies. This could essentially mean the privatisation of the NHS.

The European Commission has claimed that public services will be kept out of TTIP. However, according to the Huffington Post, the UK Trade Minister Lord Livingston has admitted that talks about the NHS were still on the table.

UK:  Day of Dissent in London tackles TTIP

Food and environmental safety

TTIP’s ‘regulatory convergence’ agenda will seek to bring EU standards on food safety and the environment closer to those of the US. But US regulations are much less strict, with 70 per cent of all processed foods sold in US supermarkets now containing genetically modified ingredients. By contrast, the EU allows virtually no GM foods.

The US also has far laxer restrictions on the use of pesticides. It also uses growth hormones in its beef which are restricted in Europe due to links to cancer. US farmers have tried to have these restrictions lifted repeatedly in the past through the World Trade Organisation and it is likely that they will use TTIP to do so again.

The same goes for the environment, where the EU’s REACH regulations are far tougher on potentially toxic substances. In Europe a company has to prove a substance is safe before it can be used; in the US the opposite is true:  any substance can be used until it is proven unsafe. As an example, the EU currently bans 1,200 substances from use in cosmetics; the US just 12.

Banking regulations

TTIP cuts both ways. The UK, under the influence of the all-powerful City of London, is thought to be seeking a loosening of US banking regulations. America’s financial rules are tougher than ours. They were put into place after the financial crisis to directly curb the powers of bankers and avoid a similar crisis happening again. TTIP, it is feared, will remove those restrictions, effectively handing all those powers back to the bankers.


Remember ACTA (the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement)? It was thrown out by a massive majority in the European Parliament in 2012 after a huge public backlash against what was rightly seen as an attack on individual privacy where internet service providers would be required to monitor people’s online activity.  Well, it’s feared that TTIP could be bringing back ACTA’s central elements, proving that if the democratic approach doesn’t work, there’s always the back door. An easing of data privacy laws and a restriction of public access to pharmaceutical companies’ clinical trials are also thought to be on the cards.


The EU has admitted that TTIP will probably cause unemployment as jobs switch to the US, where labour standards and trade union rights are lower. It has even advised EU members to draw on European support funds to compensate for the expected unemployment.

Examples from other similar bi-lateral trade agreements around the world support the case for job losses. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the US, Canada and Mexico caused the loss of one million US jobs over 12 years, instead of the hundreds of thousands of extra that were promised.


TTIP’s biggest threat to society is its inherent assault on democracy. One of the main aims of TTIP is the introduction of Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS), which allow companies to sue governments if those governments’ policies cause a loss of profits.

In effect it means unelected transnational corporations can dictate the policies of democratically-elected governments.

ISDSs are already in place in other bi-lateral trade agreements around the world and have led to such injustices as in Germany where Swedish energy company Vattenfall is suing the German government for billions of dollars over its decision to phase out nuclear power plants in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan. Here we see a public health policy put into place by a democratically-elected government being threatened by an energy giant because of a potential loss of profit. Nothing could be more cynically anti-democratic.

There are around 500 similar cases of businesses versus nations going on around the world at the moment and they are all taking place before ‘arbitration tribunals’ made up of corporate lawyers appointed on an ad hoc basis, which according to "War on Want"’s John Hilary, are “little more than kangaroo courts” with “a vested interest in ruling in favour of business.”

So I don’t know about you, but I’m scared. I would vote against TTIP, except… hang on a minute… I can’t. Like you, I have no say whatsoever in whether TTIP goes through or not. All I can do is tell as many people about it as possible, as I hope, will you. We may be forced to accept an attack on democracy but we can at least fight against the conspiracy of silence.

I'm not sure about the average man or woman on the street, but it has become increasingly harder for regular mediumly-well-informed citizens to believe that Obama was just an ignorant, well-intentioned blow-hard about stopping the illegal Bush-Cheney (or Cheney-Bush) warmaking, financial chicanery on Wall Street, and just plain old non-enforcement of the laws of the USA! USA! USA!

But maybe it was not that hard for some keen observers.

It's amazing that Seymour (Sy) Hersh is still alive.

And still trying to keep citizens informed about the history of the events afflicting them every day.

Scary stuff. Knowing that history is being reported through so many sources who should have been informing their readers much more about what was really going on. I know we here at Pottersville2 reported all the anomalies that were obvious the first day after the "killing" of Osama bin Laden.

Funny how that story became one of triumph about the planned murder of an old, sick man.

Don't read any more if you've already heard enough.

It may be dangerous to your health. Or at least that's one theory of why it's still not being talked about publicly.

(And after reading the following essay, try to stop yourself from thinking that it's all just been an unending children's game of "War" to the soldiers and their "leaders" stuck in the mud and responsible for so much of the blood spilled.)

Point of No Return:  Obama's Legacy in the Middle East

By Seymour Hersh, "Harper's Magazine"
07 May 16
t's now evident, fifteen years after the 9/11 attacks, that Obama’s foreign policy has maintained many of the core elements of the global war on terror initiated by his predecessor — assassinations, drone attacks, heavy reliance on special forces, covert operations, and, in the case of Afghanistan, the continued use of American ground forces in combat. And, as in the years of Bush and Cheney, there has been no progress, let alone victory, in the fight against terrorism. The Islamic State has succeeded Al Qaeda as the United States’ most feared terrorist enemy, one that now reaches deep into Africa and sends shockwaves into Western Europe and America. Obama still views Russia, a nation with the same international terrorist enemies as Washington, as an evil empire that must be confronted rather than as an ally.

Since 9/11 I have had access to some of the thinking inside the White House on the war on terror. I learned early in the Obama presidency that he was prepared to walk away from first principles. His first public act as president took place on January 22, 2009, two days after his inauguration, when he announced that he was returning the nation to the “moral high ground” by signing an executive order calling for the closing, “as soon as practical,” of Guantánamo. As of this writing, that has yet to happen, and more than ninety prisoners continue to fester there, with no due process and no accountability, to America’s shame.

Obama had described Afghanistan as “the right war” during his campaign and talked about the need for more troops on the ground there. Many of his supporters were not listening, or chose not to hear. I was told that within three weeks of taking office he informed his senior advisers at a secret National Security Council meeting of his plan to send an additional 17,000 American troops to join the more than 30,000 already stationed there. This outcome was not the product of an interagency staff decision, but a unilateral action taken by Obama and retired Marine Corps general James Jones, the national security adviser at the time. Obama and Jones were said to believe that the focus of American foreign policy needed to be on Pakistan, a nuclear power supporting and harboring the Taliban troops that had become the main opponent in Afghanistan after Al Qaeda’s retreat.
There was much hubris and — as usual in new administrations — not much consideration of what had gone before. Furthermore, I was told by someone in a position to know that Jones had explained at one meeting, in essence, that “Afghanistan is not in our national security interest, but we don’t want to betray the good men who went there before. We will not abandon Afghanistan, but we will not let it get worse.”

Obama would spend much of his first year discussing what to do about Afghanistan. The debate was not about whether to expand the war there but how many troops to commit to what would become America’s longest and least successful war. The president, who would spend the rest of his time in office cracking down on press leaks and internal dissent, stood aside as a group of American generals staged what amounted to a public debate over the number of troops needed to “win” the Afghan war. At one point, a highly classified internal request from Army general Stanley McChrystal, an expert on special operations and commander of U.S. forces in the Afghan war, was leaked to the "Washington Post" within a week of its delivery to the White House, with no significant protest or sanction from Obama. McChrystal had asked permission to deploy as many as 80,000 more troops.

Obama eventually committed a first tranche of 30,000 additional American soldiers. It was a decision marketed as a compromise between a reluctant president and a gung-ho Pentagon. There was at least one senior member of Congress who had reason to suspect that Obama, despite his resentment of the military’s public posturing, had wanted these higher troop numbers all along.

By 2009, David Obey, a Democratic lawmaker from Wisconsin, was chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, one of two committees responsible for funding all government programs, including secret military and intelligence activities. Elected to Congress in 1969, at the height of the anti–Vietnam War protests, Obey was an outspoken liberal. He had dared to take on George Bush and Dick Cheney over aspects of their war on terror that — as Obey and others in Congress believed — were not being shared with, and perhaps were not even financed by, Congress, as stipulated by the Constitution.

Obey got nowhere with his protests, but his efforts in early 2005 — including a little-noted speech on the House floor and the solicitation of a rush of unfulfilled promises from the Bush White House to provide greater communication — were remarkable simply for having taken place. He told me at the time that “disquieting” actions had been taken in secret and “Congress [had] failed in its oversight abilities.”

Obey stunned his colleagues in 2010 by announcing his retirement. He and I had talked on and off during the Bush years — he would listen but say little. Six or so months after he left the Congress he was more forthcoming. He told me of a presidential meeting he and a few other congressional leaders had attended at the White House in March 2009. The issue was Afghanistan, and Obama wanted them to know he was going to make a significant troop commitment to the war there. “He said he was being told by a lot of people that he ought to expand the war and then asked all of us, one by one, what we thought.

The only word of caution came from [Vice President] Joe Biden, who raised a question about the cost. When it came to me, I said, ‘Mr. President, you could have the best policy in the world but you need to have the tools to carry it out — and the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan are pretty lousy tools. If you did a surge in Afghanistan you will have to face the fact that it would crowd out large portions of your domestic program — except perhaps health care.’” (A later in-house estimate put the cost of the war, if forty thousand additional troops were committed, at $1 trillion over the next ten years, as much as the president’s health care proposal.)
At the end of the meeting, according to Obey, he had a private chat with the president and asked him whether he had ever spent time listening to the broadcasts of President Lyndon Johnson’s telephone conversations, in particular his discussions about expanding America’s commitment to the war in South Vietnam.

Johnson had taped more than nine thousand of his telephone calls while in office. They created a sensation in Washington upon their public release in 2003 — just as President Bush was expanding America’s war in Iraq. Obama said he had. “I then asked Obama if he recalled listening to the conversation with Richard Russell when they both talked about how upping the American effort in Vietnam wouldn’t help,” Obey said. “My point was that Johnson and Russell were making a decision to go ahead when they were telling themselves privately that it would not work.”

Senator Russell was a segregationist and arch-conservative from Georgia, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and a longtime Johnson confidant. The conversation in question took place in May 1964, fourteen months before Johnson would make a major commitment of American troops to the war. It remains one of the most riveting and instructive of the presidential recordings. Both men agreed that any American escalation would lead to a major war with China, with untold consequences. “I’ll tell you,” Russell told Johnson, “it’ll be the most expensive adventure this country ever went into.” Johnson answered, “It just makes the chills run up my back. . . . I haven’t the nerve to do it, but I don’t see any other way out of it.”

Obey then asked a third question:  “Who’s your George Ball?” Ball, a high-ranking member of the State Department in the Kennedy years, was renowned as the only senior official in the government to argue again and again — at great personal cost — against Kennedy’s decision to escalate the American presence in South Vietnam. Obama did not answer. “Either the president chose not to answer, or he didn’t have one,” Obey told me. “But I didn’t hear anyone tell the president that he ought to put on the brakes in Afghanistan.”

In a review of my interviews about Obama’s early decision to raise the ante in Afghanistan, one fact stood out:  Obama’s faith in the world of special operations and in Stanley McChrystal, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan who worked closely with Dick Cheney from 2003 to 2008 as head of the Joint Special Operations Command.

JSOC’s forces include elite Navy SEALs and the Army’s Delta Force, and they have won fame in countless books and movies since 9/11 for their nighttime operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan and the jihadists in Iraq. It was a JSOC SEAL team that killed bin Laden at his redoubt in Pakistan in early 2011. There is no ambivalence about the skills and determination of those special operators who took part in Obama’s renewed nighttime war against the Taliban in 2009 and thereafter. But, as I was told at the time, there is another side to the elite units.

“You’ve got really good guys who are strongly motivated, and individual initiative is the game,” a former senior military official said. “But JSOC’s individualism also breeds a group of childish men who take advantage of their operational freedom to act immaturely. ‘We’re special and the rules don’t apply.’ This is why the regular army has always tried to limit the size of the special forces. McChrystal was not paid to be thoughtful. He was paid to let his troops do what they want with all the toys to play with they want.”

This former senior official, who has been involved in war planning since 9/11, was pessimistic at the time about Obama’s reliance on special operations. “The intersection between the high-mindedness of Obama and the ruthlessness of Dick Cheney is so great that there is a vacuum in the planning. And no one knows what will happen. My own belief is that over time we’re going to do the Afghanization of the war” — trying, as in Iraq, to finance and train an Afghan Army capable of standing up to the Taliban — “and the same thing will happen to them as happened to our South Vietnamese Army allies. In the end, the Taliban, disciplined and motivated, will take the country back.”

McChrystal was cashiered in June 2010, after he and his aides were quoted in "Rolling Stone" making a series of derogatory remarks about the president and others in the White House. According to one of McChrystal’s advisors, he thought an early face-to-face meeting with the president was inconsequential and trivial — little more than a “10-minute photo op.” By then, there was much concern about a major aspect of McChrystal’s approach to the war, which was to find and kill the Taliban.

I was visited that June by a senior official of the International Committee of the Red Cross whose humanitarian mission is to monitor, in secret, the conditions of civilians and prisoners of war in an effort to ensure compliance with the 1949 Geneva Conventions. The ICRC was even granted limited access to the prison at Guantánamo, among other facilities in the war on terror, with the understanding that its findings were not to be made public. The official who sought me out did not want to discuss the prison system in Afghanistan, about which there have been many public revelations. His issue was the Obama administration’s overall conduct of the war.

He had come to Washington in the hope of seeing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other senior State Department officials, but had been shunted aside. His message was blunt:  McChrystal’s men were killing the wrong people. “Our inspectors are the only visitors from a secular institution who are tolerated by the Taliban leadership, and you Americans are killing those who support our activity,” he said. “You are killing those Taliban who are not jihadists — who don’t want to die and don’t give a shit about bombing Times Square. They have no grudge against America.” The indiscriminate targeting of all who are Taliban, he said, “is reaching a point of no return, and the more radical and extreme elements are picking up momentum.”

At one point, he said, there had been a heated internal debate among the Taliban leadership about the use of chemical weapons in an attack on Kabul, the Afghan capital, and the moderates won. The ICRC wouldn’t say how it learned of that debate, but the official added, “The guys who prevented that use have been smoked out” — assassinated by JSOC operators — “by the Americans. The moderates are going down.”

A longtime consultant to the special operations community depicted the mindless killing in Afghanistan as a “symptom of the weakness in the U.S. policy for combatting terrorism:  It’s all about tactics and nobody, Republican or Democrat, has advanced a strategic vision. The special-ops guys are simply carrying out orders, like a dog eager to get off the leash and run in the woods — and not think about where it is going. We’ve had an abject failure of military and political leadership.”

The American-led coalition unilaterally declared an end to the Afghan war at the close of 2014. And, as widely predicted, the Afghan National Army, supported at an annual cost of billions by the Obama administration, continues to be riddled with corruption and lacks leadership and motivation. Obama again decided last year to send over more troops, under the guise of advisers, and, inevitably, they have been drawn into combat. They kill and are killed in the name of democracy — a word that has dwindling appeal and little relevance for many Afghans.

Did any of the dozens of analyses put forward as the president reviewed the options in 2009 and in 2015 estimate the number of innocent lives that would be lost as a consequence of the American surge? Were those presidential advisers skeptical of the capability and motivation of an upgraded and modernized Afghan army able to find a place at the White House planning table? Is there an American soldier who wants to be the last to die in Afghanistan?

It is not too early to dwell on Obama’s legacy, a deepening concern for any president as the end of his tenure approaches. It would be easy to say it will be mixed — on the plus side there was the health-care bill and America’s recovery from the economic shambles left by the Bush administration. He faced an unbridgeable congressional impasse caused by an increasingly radical Republican opposition. But Obama, whatever his private thoughts, still speaks of American exceptionalism and still believes, or acts as if he does, that the war on terror, a war against an ideology, can be won with American bombers, drone attacks, and special forces. There is no evidence yet for that belief.

Don't miss the Comments.

Seymour Hersh’s The Killing of Osama bin Laden, a pocket-size collection of stories written for the "London Review" and printed during the second Obama administration, arrives at an awkward moment for the expatriate journalist who not so long ago was esteemed as the finest investigative reporter in the United States. Hersh now publishes abroad because his talent, though undiminished, no longer fits into the publication plans of the nation’s newspaper and magazine publishers. He has, it appears, failed to adapt to the times. His revelations about deceit and brute force in the conduct of foreign affairs that delighted his editors when he raised a torch over Dick Cheney lost its shine when he reported on President’s Obama’s not-so-different Cold War liberalism.
The moment of Hersh’s fall from grace can be pinpointed to a meeting in the office of "New Yorker" editor David Remnick in 2011. Hersh wanted to write a story challenging the official account of the recent Navy Seals raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where the notorious terrorist chief Osama bin Laden was gunned down in his hostage compound run by the Pakistani military. There was no firefight at the compound, no burial at sea. His sources agreed on these points, among many others.
Remnick said to go ahead but to write it, but not for the magazine. He wanted a short piece for the magazine’s web site. Hersh was thunderstruck. He was like the reporter at the fabled small-town paper who rushed to tell his city editor he’d just found a murder victim in the newpaper’s lobby. Only to have the city editor respond, “Let the wires cover it.”
“David said, ‘Do a blog,’” Hersh recalled. “I said, I don’t want to do a blog.’ It’s about money. I get paid a lot more for writing a piece for the "New Yorker" [magazine] … I’m old and cranky. ["New York" magazine, May 11, 2015.]
But of course it was about more than money. It was also about respect and credibility, the coin of his livelihood as a journalist.
“I know enough people in the Seals,” Hersh told Goodman. “I talked to people within days who described to me that [bin Laden] was nothing but a hit. It was an absolute assassination.” The Seals’ motive for being candid on this point and others, as Hersh explains it in the new Verso edition of the story, was a matter of soldierly honor, which they felt had been compromised by administration descriptions of a firefight that never happened.

With differing motives but with the same emphasis on playing to television audiences, it suited both the administration and the individual Seals who pulled the triggers to describe the killing of bin Laden as an act of self-defense. Even the disposition of the nephritic terrorist’s six-foot-four body, or what was left of it, was faked — no burial at sea but a dumping of body parts out of a helicopter over the Hindu Kush. Hersh asked in vain for records of the official version of the burial at sea from the U.S.S. Carl Vinson and was told that the sea logs had been sealed and all hands warned to keep their mouths shut.
. . . The ISI, it turned out, was full of grievances. The Pakistanis had had been given assurances that their fingerprints would be kept off the bin Laden operation. Pakistani officials who were taking payoffs from the CIS had told the Americans that they were holding bin Laden hostage in the first instance because the Saudis wanted him protected, and they also paid large sums of laundered cash to guarantee it. Meanwhile, the Pakistanis were keeping Al Qaeda and the Taliban out of Pakistan by threatening to turn bin Laden over to the Americans if they renewed their attacks. These were admissions against interest, as the lawyers say.
As it turned out, Obama blew up the promises to the Pakistanis within hours after the bin Laden attack, and relations between the two countries turned sour for at least four years.
Perhaps the US official most troubled by Obama’s burning of the exposed Pakistani officials was then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates. “The bottom line is Obama changed his mind because the boys got to him,” meaning, supporters of the self-defense version. “And Gates was enraged about that. He thought, ‘You do not double cross the two guys (Pakistani generals) who control the bomb. That’s the real story.”
Hersh was not so succinct in his printed story, and he was not as clear about his sourcing as he was years later with Amy Goodman. And if he used anonymous sources, it is hardly a surprise. A figure like the "Washington Post"’s David Ignatius, to take only one example, does not quote his sources in the intelligence world but it is no secret that he is an accurate recorder of views of the CIA or that they are in themselves newsworthy. The Obama administration actually shut down open avenues for sourcing in the claim of the sea burial, with few complaints from anyone but Hersh.
What is puzzling about the bin Laden affair is that the fictions about it, apart from the Seals’ concerns, were so unnecessary. It seems safe to say that few but the most scrupulous Americans would have raised a protest against events even if they occurred as Hersh described them, including the rapid and unmerciful dispatch of the nation’s "bête noire."
In any case, the idea that Hersh relied on a single source, a charge repeated often by his leading critics in the digital press, is absurd, as any careful reading of his work and later comments makes clear. Little wonder that he has taken a tone of surprise that he would be expected to document his sources as meticulously as a junior reporter on a country paper. In short, that he would not be trusted as he once had been. Would not his record of undisputed accuracy in other stories of world-class difficulty like My Lai and Abu Ghraib earn him the freedom to summarize?
The conclusive evidence that Hersh had lost that courtesy came not from the front — the legion of online Obama supporters for whom, like John Ford’s editor in the Old West, the legend was always preferable to the facts – but from the rear. The August 8, 2011 edition of "The New Yorker" contained a long story by Nicholas Schmidle on the bin Laden affair which, in the words of Gabriel Sherman, “hewed closely to the White House’s line.” Hersh’s old partner Remnick had slammed the door behind him.

Read it all here.

And note, if you will, the likelihood that we've hardly even scratched the surface of what the real story in both Pakistan and Afghanistan was. Paul Craig Roberts has tried to fill in the ragged cracks based on his past government service and current access to sources involved.

But few people in important positions are listening (and acting on it) in the U.S.

Instead, we are buried deep off the track in a political sideshow.

Unless the informed citizenry decide starting now that it's time to arise and shuck off those neoliberal/con chains.

May 5, 2016

Somnolent Europe, Russia, and China

Can the world wake up?
Paul Craig Roberts

On September 19, 2000, going on 16 years ago, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of the London "Telegraph" reported:

“Declassified American government documents show that the US intelligence community ran a campaign in the Fifties and Sixties to build momentum for a united Europe. It funded and directed the European federalist movement.

“The documents confirm suspicions voiced at the time that America was working aggressively behind the scenes to push Britain into a European state. One memorandum, dated July 26, 1950, gives instructions for a campaign to promote a fully fledged European parliament. It is signed by Gen. William J. Donovan, head of the American wartime Office of Strategic Services, precursor of the CIA.”

The documents show that the European Union was a creature of the CIA.

As I have previously written, Washington believes that it is easier to control one government,
the EU, than to control many separate European governments. As Washington has a long term investment in orchestrating the European Union, Washington is totally opposed to any country exiting the arrangement. That is why President Obama recently went to London to tell his lapdog, the British Prime Minister, that there could be no British exit.

Like other European nations, the British people were never allowed to vote on whether they were in favor of their country ceasing to exist and them becoming Europeans. British history would become the history of a bygone people like the Romans and Babylonians.

The oppressive nature of unaccountable EU laws and regulations and the EU requirement to accept massive numbers of third world immigrants have created a popular demand for a British vote on whether to remain a sovereign country or to dissolve and submit to Brussels and its dictatorial edicts. The vote is scheduled for June 23.

Washington’s position is that the British people must not be permitted to decide against the EU, because such a decision is not in Washington’s interest.

The prime minister’s job is to scare the British people with alleged dire consequences of “going it alone.” The claim is that “little England” cannot stand alone. The British people are being told that isolation will spell their end, and their country will become a backwater bypassed by progress. Everything great will happen elsewhere, and they will be left out.

If the fear campaign does not succeed and the British vote to exit the EU, the open question is
whether Washington will permit the British government to accept the democratic outcome.

Alternatively, the British government will deceive the British people, as it routinely does, and declare that Britain has negotiated concessions from Brussels that dispose of the problems that concern the British people.

Washington’s position shows that Washington is a firm believer that only Washington’s interests are important. If other peoples wish to retain national sovereignty, they are simply being selfish. Moreover, they are out of compliance with Washington, which means they can be declared a “threat to American national security.” The British people are not to be permitted to make decisions that do not comply with Washington’s interest. My prediction is that the British people will either be deceived or overridden.

It is Washington’s self-centeredness, the self-absorption, the extraordinary hubris and arrogance, that explains the orchestrated “Russian threat.” Russia has not presented herself to the West as a military threat. Yet, Washington is confronting Russia with a US/NATO naval buildup in the Black Sea (, a naval, troop and tank buildup in the Baltics and Poland (, missile bases on Russia’s borders, and plans to incorporate the former Russian provinces of Georgia and Ukraine in US defense pacts against Russia.

When Washington, its generals and European vassals declare Russia to be a threat, they mean that Russia has an independent foreign policy and acts in her own interest rather than in Washington’s interest. Russia is a threat, because Russia demonstrated the capability of blocking Washington’s intended invasion of Syria and bombing of Iran. Russia blunted one purpose of Washington’s coup in the Ukraine by peacefully and democratically reuniting with Crimea, the site of Russia’s Black Sea naval base and a Russian province for several centuries.

Perhaps you have wondered how it was possible for small countries such as Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yeman, and Venezuela to be threats to the US superpower. On its face Washington’s claim is absurd. Do US presidents, Pentagon officials, national security advisors, and chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff really regard countries of so little capability as military threats to the United States and NATO countries?

No, they do not. The countries were declared threats, because they have, or had prior to their destruction, independent foreign and economic policies. Their policy independence means that they do not or did not accept US hegemony. They were attacked in order to bring them under US hegemony.

In Washington’s view, any country with an independent policy is outside Washington’s umbrella and, therefore, is a threat.

Venezuela became, in the words of US President Obama, an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States,” necessitating a “national emergency” to contain the “Venezuelan threat” when the Venezuelan government put the interests of the Venezuelan people above those of American corporations.

Russia became a threat when the Russian government demonstrated the ability to block Washington’s intended military attacks on Syria and Iran and when Washington’s coup in the Ukraine failed to deliver to Washington the Russian Black Sea naval base.

Clearly Venezuela cannot possibly pose a military threat to the US, so Venezuela cannot possibly pose an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security of the US.” Venezuela is a “threat” because the Venezuelan government does not comply with Washington’s orders.

It is absolutely certain that Russia has made no threats whatsoever against the Baltics, Poland, Romania, Europe, or the United States. It is absolutely certain that Russia has not invaded the Ukraine. How do we know? If Russia had invaded Ukraine, the Ukraine would no longer be there.

It would again be a Russian province where until about 20 years ago Ukraine resided for centuries, for longer than the US has existed. Indeed, the Ukraine belongs in Russia more than Hawaii and the deracinated and conquered southern states belong in the US.

Yet, these fantastic lies from the highest ranks of the US government, from NATO, from Washington’s British lackeys, from the bought-and-paid-for Western media, and from the bought-and-paid-for EU are repeated endlessly as if they are God’s revealed truth.

Syria still exists because it is under Russian protection. That is the only reason Syria still exists, and it is also another reason that Washington wants Russia out of the way.

Do Russia and China realize their extreme danger? I don’t think even Iran realizes its ongoing danger despite its close call.

If Russia and China realize their danger, would the Russian government permit one-fifth of its media to be foreign owned? Does Russia understand that “foreign owned” means CIA owned? If not, why not? If so, why does the Russian government permit its own destabilization at the hands of Washington’s intelligence service acting through foreign-owned media?

China is even more careless. There are 7,000 US-funded NGOs (non-governmental organizations) operating in China ( Only last month did the Chinese government finally move, very belatedly, to put some restrictions on these foreign agents who are working to destabilize China. The members of these treasonous organizations have not been arrested. They have merely been put under police watch, an almost useless restriction as Washington can provide endless money with which to bribe the Chinese police.

Why do Russia and China think that their police are less susceptible to bribes than Mexico’s or American police? Despite the multi-decade “war on drugs,” the drug flow from Mexico to the US is unimpeded. Indeed, the police forces of both countries have a huge interest in the “war on drugs” as the war brings them riches in the form of bribes. Indeed, as the crucified reporter for the San Jose Mercury newspaper proved many years ago, the CIA itself is in the drug-running business.

In the United States truth-tellers are persecuted and imprisoned, or they are dismissed as “conspiracy theorists,” “anti-semites,” and “domestic extremists.” The entire Western World consists of a dystopia far worse than the one described by George Orwell in his famous book, 1984.

That Russia and China permit Washington to operate in their media, in their universities, in their financial systems, and in “do-good” NGOs that infiltrate every aspect of their societies demonstrates that both governments have no interest in their survival as independent states. They are too scared of being called “authoritarian” by the Western presstitute media to protect their own independence.

My prediction is that Russia and China will soon be confronted with an unwelcome decision:  accept American hegemony or go to war.
NOTE:  The Saker’s take on Russian media openness to Western anti-Russian propaganda: 

And as a final meditation?

Afghanistan:  Bombing the Land of the Snow Leopard

Happy Mother's Day!


TONY @oakroyd said...

Followed the Hersh link onto Counterpoint. That's a good piece. I believe in Hersh. The risks he has taken over the years outweigh the rewards.

Cirze said...

I've always thought his head was in the right place, and he's tried for 40 years to be an ethical journalist and to inform his fellow citizens.

Too bad this is not the time for ethical journalists to be appreciated.

TONY @oakroyd said...

Ethical indeed. A journo/historian without deference or obsequiousness to the rich and powerful. #JFK