Why Hillary Clinton Spells Democratic Party Defeat

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It is clear that the rig-the-vote wing of the Democratic Party, from Deborah Wasserman Schultz to the “liberal” commentators and regular pundits on MSNBC, PBS, and the most of the other mainstream media, is seriously weakening the party’s chances in November. Wasserman Schultz’s effort to brownout Bernie from the media through extremely limited debate exposure and her attempt, ultimately backfiring, to prevent his access to party voting data, together with the party establishment’s corrupt “super-delegates” system, are all part of a concerted attempt to kill his candidacy and the opportunity to bring about the most significant change in American politics since FDR. In doing so and in light of the party’s ownership by big capital, they have rendered the party name “Democrat” all but meaningless, as they stand against the tide of progressive domestic reforms that Bernie, and before him FDR and LBJ, represents.

Wall Street’s and the Democratic Party’s old guard preference, Hillary Clinton has high negative ratings both nationally as well as within the party itself. She rates 51% “unfavorable” nationally as of February 7, 2016, worse than the 32% negative opinion registered in September 2011 and the 45% registered a year ago. CBS News found last October that 14% of Democratic voters declared they wouldn’t vote for her, with another 27% expressing strong “reservations” about her, and those numbers are likely to increase with her nasty attacks on Sanders. In other words, her bid to seek the highest office in the land has only increased the public’s dislike for her over time. She registers particularly strong distaste among voters in key swing states, such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado, Florida, Virginia, and Iowa, that the Democratic Party has to win secure a presidential victory. The key attribute attached to her that attracts so much negative attention is her lack of “honesty” and “trustworthiness.”

If she were to be the Democratic nominee, through the stealing of the nomination by loyalist super-delegates or by other means, the Republicans would launch a fury of attack ads reminding the public of her past lies and questionable official behavior. They will retell her fabrication about having to flee sniper fire at a Bosnian airport in 1996 as first lady, her shady Whitewater business deals while first lady in the Arkansas governor’s mansion, the remarkable claim that she and Bill were “dead broke” when they left the White House (their now net worth is $111 million), her use of a private email account for highly classified documents while secretary of state, presumably to discard those deemed embarrassing, her mishandling of the Benghazi assault on the US embassy, killing the ambassador, her Wall St. connections and huge speaker fees from financial houses, lies she told about her family tree and her own first name honoring the first man, together with his Sherpa guide, to scale Mt. Everest, unfortunately having been born 6 years before the feat, and other fibs, misdeeds, and issue flip-flops while in public office– enough to boost the Republican nominee and discourage Democrats from voting.

It is obvious that Bernie’s powerful popular showing in Iowa and New Hampshire, with record turnouts, is the result of a groundswell of new voters that he has brought into the party, similar to what Jeremy Corbyn has done for the Labour Party in Britain, a leader also suffering under intrigues within the ranks. The more that the Hillary campaign, with Bill and Chelsea in tow, attacks Bernie, the more she alienates his supporters, especially the younger new voters, the slimmer the chances of a Democratic presidential win. This in turn will likely result in a stronger grip over the congressional seats by the Republicans, as weak turnout for the Democrats will spell Republican victories in the House and Senate. Bernie’s win, on the other hand, is dependent on very strong turnouts by Democratic voters. There’s good reason to think his strong showing so far will continue into the upcoming primaries and caucuses – and into the November election. A big turnout will likely sweep many Democrats into office, including the swing states noted above, and rebalance both houses in the Democrats’ favor.

The conclusion is that if Hillary and the party establishment wish to win the Fall election, it is incumbent on them to honor the one person-one vote basis of selecting the party leadership. This is in the interest of the Democrats, but most of all in the interest of the American people, who clearly are clamoring for radical change. The only question is whether this hoped for change will be seized by a right wing or a left wing leader. Hillary’s candidacy tips the power balance to the right. Bernie is here to restore the New Deal/Great Society, save the party, and protect the legitimacy of the political system, as FDR did, from the rapacious aspirations of the right wing and the hawkish foreign policy orientation of Mrs. Clinton and her White House boss that enormously contributed to the creation of ISIS. It is time for the Democratic establishment to step aside, open the forum, stop the winning-by-any-means shenanigans, and let the people decide.

Gerald Sussman is a Professor in the Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning at Portland State University. He is the author of Branding Democracy: US Regime Change in Post-Soviet Eastern Europe.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/02/12/why-hillary-clinton-spells-democratic-party-defeat/

Why Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve the Black Vote

From the crime bill to welfare reform, policies Bill Clinton enacted—and Hillary Clinton supported—decimated black America.

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Hillary Clinton loves black people. And black people love Hillary—or so it seems. Black politicians have lined up in droves to endorse her, eager to prove their loyalty to the Clintons in the hopes that their faithfulness will be remembered and rewarded. Black pastors are opening their church doors, and the Clintons are making themselves comfortably at home once again, engaging effortlessly in all the usual rituals associated with “courting the black vote,” a pursuit that typically begins and ends with Democratic politicians making black people feel liked and taken seriously. Doing something concrete to improve the conditions under which most black people live is generally not required.

Hillary is looking to gain momentum on the campaign trail as the primaries move out of Iowa and New Hampshire and into states like South Carolina, where large pockets of black voters can be found. According to some polls, she leads Bernie Sanders by as much as 60 percent among African Americans. It seems that we—black people—are her winning card, one that Hillary is eager to play.

And it seems we’re eager to get played. Again.

The love affair between black folks and the Clintons has been going on for a long time. It began back in 1992, when Bill Clinton was running for president. He threw on some shades and played the saxophone on The Arsenio Hall Show. It seems silly in retrospect, but many of us fell for that. At a time when a popular slogan was “It’s a black thing, you wouldn’t understand,” Bill Clinton seemed to get us. When Toni Morrison dubbed him our first black president, we nodded our heads. We had our boy in the White House. Or at least we thought we did.

Black voters have been remarkably loyal to the Clintons for more than 25 years. It’s true that we eventually lined up behind Barack Obama in 2008, but it’s a measure of the Clinton allure that Hillary led Obama among black voters until he started winning caucuses and primaries. Now Hillary is running again. This time she’s facing a democratic socialist who promises a political revolution that will bring universal healthcare, a living wage, an end to rampant Wall Street greed, and the dismantling of the vast prison state—many of the same goals that Martin Luther King Jr. championed at the end of his life. Even so, black folks are sticking with the Clinton brand.

What have the Clintons done to earn such devotion? Did they take extreme political risks to defend the rights of African Americans? Did they courageously stand up to right-wing demagoguery about black communities? Did they help usher in a new era of hope and prosperity for neighborhoods devastated by deindustrialization, globalization, and the disappearance of work?

No. Quite the opposite.

When Bill Clinton ran for president in 1992, urban black communities across America were suffering from economic collapse. Hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs had vanished as factories moved overseas in search of cheaper labor, a new plantation. Globalization and deindustrialization affected workers of all colors but hit African Americans particularly hard. Unemployment rates among young black men had quadrupled as the rate of industrial employment plummeted. Crime rates spiked in inner-city communities that had been dependent on factory jobs, while hopelessness, despair, and crack addiction swept neighborhoods that had once been solidly working-class. Millions of black folks—many of whom had fled Jim Crow segregation in the South with the hope of obtaining decent work in Northern factories—were suddenly trapped in racially segregated, jobless ghettos.

On the campaign trail, Bill Clinton made the economy his top priority and argued persuasively that conservatives were using race to divide the nation and divert attention from the failed economy. In practice, however, he capitulated entirely to the right-wing backlash against the civil-rights movement and embraced former president Ronald Reagan’s agenda on race, crime, welfare, and taxes—ultimately doing more harm to black communities than Reagan ever did.

We should have seen it coming. Back then, Clinton was the standard-bearer for the New Democrats, a group that firmly believed the only way to win back the millions of white voters in the South who had defected to the Republican Party was to adopt the right-wing narrative that black communities ought to be disciplined with harsh punishment rather than coddled with welfare. Reagan had won the presidency by dog-whistling to poor and working-class whites with coded racial appeals: railing against “welfare queens” and criminal “predators” and condemning “big government.” Clinton aimed to win them back, vowing that he would never permit any Republican to be perceived as tougher on crime than he.

Just weeks before the critical New Hampshire primary, Clinton proved his toughness by flying back to Arkansas to oversee the execution of Ricky Ray Rector, a mentally impaired black man who had so little conception of what was about to happen to him that he asked for the dessert from his last meal to be saved for him for later. After the execution, Clinton remarked, “I can be nicked a lot, but no one can say I’m soft on crime.”

Clinton mastered the art of sending mixed cultural messages, appealing to African Americans by belting out “Lift Every Voice and Sing” in black churches, while at the same time signaling to poor and working-class whites that he was willing to be tougher on black communities than Republicans had been.

Clinton was praised for his no-nonsense, pragmatic approach to racial politics. He won the election and appointed a racially diverse cabinet that “looked like America.” He won re-election four years later, and the American economy rebounded. Democrats cheered. The Democratic Party had been saved. The Clintons won. Guess who lost?

Bill Clinton presided over the largest increase in federal and state prison inmates of any president in American history. Clinton did not declare the War on Crime or the War on Drugs—those wars were declared before Reagan was elected and long before crack hit the streets—but he escalated it beyond what many conservatives had imagined possible. He supported the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity for crack versus powder cocaine, which produced staggering racial injustice in sentencing and boosted funding for drug-law enforcement.

Clinton championed the idea of a federal “three strikes” law in his 1994 State of the Union address and, months later, signed a $30 billion crime bill that created dozens of new federal capital crimes, mandated life sentences for some three-time offenders, and authorized more than $16 billion for state prison grants and the expansion of police forces. The legislation was hailed by mainstream-media outlets as a victory for the Democrats, who “were able to wrest the crime issue from the Republicans and make it their own.”

When Clinton left office in 2001, the United States had the highest rate of incarceration in the world. Human Rights Watch reported that in seven states, African Americans constituted 80 to 90 percent of all drug offenders sent to prison, even though they were no more likely than whites to use or sell illegal drugs. Prison admissions for drug offenses reached a level in 2000 for African Americans more than 26 times the level in 1983. All of the presidents since 1980 have contributed to mass incarceration, but as Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson recently observed, “President Clinton’s tenure was the worst.”

Some might argue that it’s unfair to judge Hillary Clinton for the policies her husband championed years ago. But Hillary wasn’t picking out china while she was first lady. She bravely broke the mold and redefined that job in ways no woman ever had before. She not only campaigned for Bill; she also wielded power and significant influence once he was elected, lobbying for legislation and other measures. That record, and her statements from that era, should be scrutinized. In her support for the 1994 crime bill, for example, she used racially coded rhetoric to cast black children as animals. “They are not just gangs of kids anymore,” she said. “They are often the kinds of kids that are called ‘super-predators.’ No conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel.”

Both Clintons now express regret over the crime bill, and Hillary says she supports criminal-justice reforms to undo some of the damage that was done by her husband’s administration. But on the campaign trail, she continues to invoke the economy and country that Bill Clinton left behind as a legacy she would continue. So what exactly did the Clinton economy look like for black Americans? Taking a hard look at this recent past is about more than just a choice between two candidates. It’s about whether the Democratic Party can finally reckon with what its policies have done to African-American communities, and whether it can redeem itself and rightly earn the loyalty of black voters.

An oft-repeated myth about the Clinton administration is that although it was overly tough on crime back in the 1990s, at least its policies were good for the economy and for black unemployment rates. The truth is more troubling. As unemployment rates sank to historically low levels for white Americans in the 1990s, the jobless rate among black men in their 20s who didn’t have a college degree rose to its highest level ever. This increase in joblessness was propelled by the skyrocketing incarceration rate.

Why is this not common knowledge? Because government statistics like poverty and unemployment rates do not include incarcerated people. As Harvard sociologist Bruce Western explains: “Much of the optimism about declines in racial inequality and the power of the US model of economic growth is misplaced once we account for the invisible poor, behind the walls of America’s prisons and jails.” When Clinton left office in 2001, the true jobless rate for young, non-college-educated black men (including those behind bars) was 42 percent. This figure was never reported. Instead, the media claimed that unemployment rates for African Americans had fallen to record lows, neglecting to mention that this miracle was possible only because incarceration rates were now at record highs. Young black men weren’t looking for work at high rates during the Clinton era because they were now behind bars—out of sight, out of mind, and no longer counted in poverty and unemployment statistics.

To make matters worse, the federal safety net for poor families was torn to shreds by the Clinton administration in its effort to “end welfare as we know it.” In his 1996 State of the Union address, given during his re-election campaign, Clinton declared that “the era of big government is over” and immediately sought to prove it by dismantling the federal welfare system known as Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC). The welfare-reform legislation that he signed—which Hillary Clinton ardently supported then and characterized as a success as recently as 2008—replaced the federal safety net with a block grant to the states, imposed a five-year lifetime limit on welfare assistance, added work requirements, barred undocumented immigrants from licensed professions, and slashed overall public welfare funding by $54 billion (some was later restored).

Experts and pundits disagree about the true impact of welfare reform, but one thing seems clear: Extreme poverty doubled to 1.5 million in the decade and a half after the law was passed. What is extreme poverty? US households are considered to be in extreme poverty if they are surviving on cash incomes of no more than $2 per person per day in any given month. We tend to think of extreme poverty existing in Third World countries, but here in the United States, shocking numbers of people are struggling to survive on less money per month than many families spend in one evening dining out. Currently, the United States, the richest nation on the planet, has one of the highest child-poverty rates in the developed world.

Despite claims that radical changes in crime and welfare policy were driven by a desire to end big government and save taxpayer dollars, the reality is that the Clinton administration didn’t reduce the amount of money devoted to the management of the urban poor; it changed what the funds would be used for. Billions of dollars were slashed from public-housing and child-welfare budgets and transferred to the mass-incarceration machine. By 1996, the penal budget was twice the amount that had been allocated to food stamps. During Clinton’s tenure, funding for public housing was slashed by $17 billion (a reduction of 61 percent), while funding for corrections was boosted by $19 billion (an increase of 171 percent), according to sociologist Loïc Wacquant “effectively making the construction of prisons the nation’s main housing program for the urban poor.”

Bill Clinton championed discriminatory laws against formerly incarcerated people that have kept millions of Americans locked in a cycle of poverty and desperation. The Clinton administration eliminated Pell grants for prisoners seeking higher education to prepare for their release, supported laws denying federal financial aid to students with drug convictions, and signed legislation imposing a lifetime ban on welfare and food stamps for anyone convicted of a felony drug offense—an exceptionally harsh provision given the racially biased drug war that was raging in inner cities.

Perhaps most alarming, Clinton also made it easier for public-housing agencies to deny shelter to anyone with any sort of criminal history (even an arrest without conviction) and championed the “one strike and you’re out” initiative, which meant that families could be evicted from public housing because one member (or a guest) had committed even a minor offense. People released from prison with no money, no job, and nowhere to go could no longer return home to their loved ones living in federally assisted housing without placing the entire family at risk of eviction. Purging “the criminal element” from public housing played well on the evening news, but no provisions were made for people and families as they were forced out on the street. By the end of Clinton’s presidency, more than half of working-age African-American men in many large urban areas were saddled with criminal records and subject to legalized discrimination in employment, housing, access to education, and basic public benefits—relegated to a permanent second-class status eerily reminiscent of Jim Crow.

It is difficult to overstate the damage that’s been done. Generations have been lost to the prison system; countless families have been torn apart or rendered homeless; and a school-to-prison pipeline has been born that shuttles young people from their decrepit, underfunded schools to brand-new high-tech prisons.

It didn’t have to be like this. As a nation, we had a choice. Rather than spending billions of dollars constructing a vast new penal system, those billions could have been spent putting young people to work in inner-city communities and investing in their schools so they might have some hope of making the transition from an industrial to a service-based economy. Constructive interventions would have been good not only for African Americans trapped in ghettos, but for blue-collar workers of all colors. At the very least, Democrats could have fought to prevent the further destruction of black communities rather than ratcheting up the wars declared on them.

Of course, it can be said that it’s unfair to criticize the Clintons for punishing black people so harshly, given that many black people were on board with the “get tough” movement too. It is absolutely true that black communities back then were in a state of crisis, and that many black activists and politicians were desperate to get violent offenders off the streets. What is often missed, however, is that most of those black activists and politicians weren’t asking only for toughness. They were also demanding investment in their schools, better housing, jobs programs for young people, economic-stimulus packages, drug treatment on demand, and better access to healthcare. In the end, they wound up with police and prisons. To say that this was what black people wanted is misleading at best.

To be fair, the Clintons now feel bad about how their politics and policies have worked out for black people. Bill says that he “overshot the mark” with his crime policies; and Hillary has put forth a plan to ban racial profiling, eliminate the sentencing disparities between crack and cocaine, and abolish private prisons, among other measures.

But what about a larger agenda that would not just reverse some of the policies adopted during the Clinton era, but would rebuild the communities decimated by them? If you listen closely here, you’ll notice that Hillary Clinton is still singing the same old tune in a slightly different key. She is arguing that we ought not be seduced by Bernie’s rhetoric because we must be “pragmatic,” “face political realities,” and not get tempted to believe that we can fight for economic justice and win. When politicians start telling you that it is “unrealistic” to support candidates who want to build a movement for greater equality, fair wages, universal healthcare, and an end to corporate control of our political system, it’s probably best to leave the room.

This is not an endorsement for Bernie Sanders, who after all voted for the 1994 crime bill. I also tend to agree with Ta-Nehisi Coates that the way the Sanders campaign handled the question of reparations is one of many signs that Bernie doesn’t quite get what’s at stake in serious dialogues about racial justice. He was wrong to dismiss reparations as “divisive,” as though centuries of slavery, segregation, discrimination, ghettoization, and stigmatization aren’t worthy of any specific acknowledgement or remedy.

But recognizing that Bernie, like Hillary, has blurred vision when it comes to race is not the same thing as saying their views are equally problematic. Sanders opposed the 1996 welfare-reform law. He also opposed bank deregulation and the Iraq War, both of which Hillary supported, and both of which have proved disastrous. In short, there is such a thing as a lesser evil, and Hillary is not it.

The biggest problem with Bernie, in the end, is that he’s running as a Democrat—as a member of a political party that not only capitulated to right-wing demagoguery but is now owned and controlled by a relatively small number of millionaires and billionaires. Yes, Sanders has raised millions from small donors, but should he become president, he would also become part of what he has otherwise derided as “the establishment.” Even if Bernie’s racial-justice views evolve, I hold little hope that a political revolution will occur within the Democratic Party without a sustained outside movement forcing truly transformational change. I am inclined to believe that it would be easier to build a new party than to save the Democratic Party from itself.

Of course, the idea of building a new political party terrifies most progressives, who understandably fear that it would open the door for a right-wing extremist to get elected. So we play the game of lesser evils. This game has gone on for decades. W.E.B. Du Bois, the eminent scholar and co-founder of the NAACP, shocked many when he refused to play along with this game in the 1956 election, defending his refusal to vote on the grounds that “there is but one evil party with two names, and it will be elected despite all I do or say.” While the true losers and winners of this game are highly predictable, the game of lesser evils makes for great entertainment and can now be viewed 24 hours a day on cable-news networks. Hillary believes that she can win this game in 2016 because this time she’s got us, the black vote, in her back pocket—her lucky card.

She may be surprised to discover that the younger generation no longer wants to play her game. Or maybe not. Maybe we’ll all continue to play along and pretend that we don’t know how it will turn out in the end. Hopefully, one day, we’ll muster the courage to join together in a revolutionary movement with people of all colors who believe that basic human rights and economic, racial, and gender justice are not unreasonable, pie-in-the-sky goals. After decades of getting played, the sleeping giant just might wake up, stretch its limbs, and tell both parties: Game over. Move aside. It’s time to reshuffle this deck.

 

http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/why-hillary-clinton-doesnt-deserve-black-vote?akid=13966.265072.p80thZ&rd=1&src=newsletter1050560&t=8

Stock market panic risks new financial crisis

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By Andre Damon
12 February 2016

Global stock markets formally entered a bear market Wednesday, as the MSCI All-Country World Index fell by 1.3 percent, with the index down 20 percent from its high last May. Yesterday, after further losses in Asia, European markets closed down, with the German DAX falling by nearly 5 percent, the Spanish IBEX down by nearly 5 percent, and the US DOW off by 250 points.

The selloff accelerated in early trading Friday, with the Japanese Nikkei falling by more than 5 percent at the opening bell.

The stock sell-off both reflected and helped catalyze a broader crisis of confidence in financial markets, amid a rapid deceleration of the global economy, a sell-off in emerging market debt, a downward spiral in commodities prices, and the seeming perplexity of central banks as to how to deal with a renewed outbreak of panic eight years after the 2008 financial crisis.

The global selloff continued in the US after congressional testimony by Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen, who made no explicit statement that the Federal Reserve would change its plans to continue raising the benchmark federal funds rate over the next year.

Yellen did, however, say that the Federal Reserve would not rule out cutting interest rates below zero if economic conditions continued to deteriorate. If this were to happen, the Fed would follow the Bank of Japan, which late last month announced a surprise interest rate cut, and Sweden, which Thursday cut its benchmark interest rate further into negative territory.

These moves, coupled with a generalized flight to safety, have led to a massive jump in the proportion of bonds with a negative yield. According to figures from JPMorgan, the share of government bonds with a negative yield, once only considered a theoretical possibility, have reached 25 percent. All told, negatively-yielding assets have hit $5.5 trillion worldwide.

The deepening sell-off, and the seeming inability of central banks to formulate any coherent response to the panic, have triggered a general crisis of confidence, not only in the health of the financial system, but in the ability of central banks and governments to offset the crisis through radically expansionary monetary policy: their panacea for every economic ill since 2008.

A Citigroup executive summed up the sentiment in a comment to Reuters: “One of the new themes in markets is that (quantitative easing) has damaged the banks and that therefore it exacerbates the risk-off environment.”

In other words, the panicked sell-off expresses growing fears in financial markets that the vast quantities of cash pumped into the financial system since 2008 have done nothing to improve its underlying health, and may have sown the seeds for a crash on an even greater scale.

This time, however, with central banks having expended so much of their “ammunition” on seeking to keep financial assets afloat for years, there are increasing fears that they will be powerless to respond to a new financial panic.

In particular, the explosive growth in negative-yielding financial assets means that banks, whose core business involves borrowing long-term and lending short-term, will be put under even further financial stress if central banks continue to lower interest rates.

These fears have hammered the banking sector. The S&P 500 financials index has dropped by 18 percent since the start of the year, making banking by far the worst-affected sector, facing an even more rapid selloff rate than that of the beleaguered energy and transport industries.

And that is saying something. The energy and materials sectors have seen share value declines of over 31 percent over the past year, with “companies going Chapter 11 or trading at 50 cents on the dollar,” one portfolio manager told Bloomberg.

Meanwhile the global shipping and transport sector is facing business conditions that, in the words of Nils Andersen, the CEO of Maersk, the largest transportation company in the world, are “worse than in 2008.” The company’s share value, which was down by more than 50 percent in the past year, fell a further 8 percent Wednesday.

Meanwhile the prospects that US economic growth would somehow offset the slump in global output receded further this week, as US corporations posted sharply reduced earnings and outlooks. Earnings for S&P 500 companies fell 4.5 percent in the fourth quarter, and are expected to fall 6.3 percent this quarter. “The general feeling is that the U.S. economy is nearing a peak and there is not much left as far as trends to be talked about,” one hedge fund manager told Reuters.

The fall-off in real economic activity can be expected to further dampen oil prices, which have hit 13-year lows of $27 per barrel, and has triggered a further round of sell-offs in commodity related stocks, with “investors … liquidating because they need the cash,” as one chief investment officer told Reuters.

Eight years since the 2008 financial crash, it is clear that the capitalist governments and central banks have been unable to address any of its underlying causes. Instead, they have poured cash into financial markets, triggering a feedback loop of speculation and parasitism in the form of mergers and consolidations, which have sharply cut back production and led to mass layoffs.

The end result has been only a further acceleration of the growth of social inequality, with the fantastic enrichment of the parasitic financial oligarchy financed by the wholesale destruction of productive activity and the vast impoverishment of the working class.

In other words, the conditions that gave rise to the 2008 financial crisis have been reproduced once again in even sharper form, and risk a similar outcome.

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/02/12/econ-f12.html

Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace dramatized in a new television series

By Joanne Laurier
11 February 2016

Leo Tolstoy’s titanic novel War and Peace has received a new adaptation by the BBC and is now airing globally. Directed by British filmmaker Tom Harper, the serialized television production stars American actor Paul Dano and British actors Lily James, James Norton, Jim Broadbent and Stephen Rea in leading roles as part of a large, predominantly UK cast.

Tolstoy, one of the greatest of the great Russian fiction writers of the 19th century, was born in 1828, three years after the Decembrist Revolt in which a group of officers rose up in one of the first open struggles against tsarism. He died November 20, 1910, five years after the 1905 Revolution in Russia and seven years before the October Revolution. Tolstoy’s other great works includeAnna Karenina (1877) and Resurrection (1899).

His epic War and Peace, first published in its entirety in 1869, is set during the period of the Napoleonic wars (1803-1815) and the French invasion of Russia. It follows the members of several Russian aristocratic families as they seek to survive the confusing, frenzied, bloody times.

The eight-hour miniseries opens in 1805 in St. Petersburg, as Napoleon’s victories and his army’s conquest of significant portions of western Europe are having an increasing impact on Russian life. Many of the central characters are introduced at an upper crust social gathering. Among them is Pierre Bezukhov (Dano), awkward but amiable, and initially a supporter of the French leader: “Napoleon’s a great man! He stood above the revolution, he put an end to its abuses and kept all that was good about it! You see good in revolution, sir? The equality of all citizens, freedom of speech, liberty, equality, fraternity, these are ideas we could learn from in Russia.”

Pierre looks on with disgust at the room’s “overfed aristocrats.” The illegitimate son of a wealthy count, he will soon become the object of intrigue for the sinister Prince Vassily Kuragin (Rea), who makes an unsuccessful attempt to suppress the will that names Pierre the inheritor of his father’s vast estate.

Paul Dano and James Norton in War and Peace

Another guest at the party is Pierre’s friend Andrei Bolkonsky (Norton), the intelligent and ambitious son of retired military commander Prince Nikolai Bolkonsky (Broadbent). Also present are the Rostovs, a noble, but down-on-their-luck Moscow family that includes a vivacious daughter Natasha (James), a quiet niece Sonya (Aisling Loftus) and a son Nikolai (Jack Lowden), who has just joined the army commanded by the veteran General Kutuzov (Brian Cox) (“He’s about the only man in Russia who knows what the war’s about and that includes our glorious Emperor.”). Nikolai’s parents (Greta Scacchi and Adrian Edmondson) are depending on their son to reverse the family fortunes.

Russia is in alliance with the Austrian Empire at this point (in the Third Coalition against Napoleon) and a restless, unhappy Andrei (“I can’t bear this life”)––whose young wife is pregnant––and Nikolai set off for the front. Meanwhile, Kuragin maneuvers Pierre into marrying his morally loose but beautiful daughter Helene (Tuppence Middleton). Her incestuous relationship with her dissolute brother Anatole (Callum Turner) is one indication of her manipulative, deceitful character.

Thus the stage is set for the various personal and political stratagems, unions and disunions, as the epoch of war heads toward its denouement following Napoleon’s fateful invasion of Russia in 1812 and the declaration of war by a reluctant Tsar Alexander I (Ben Lloyd-Hughes). On the eve of the invasion, Napoleon (Mathieu Kassovitz) brags that he has 600,000 men while the Russian army has only one-third that number and lies in shambles.

The mini-series

War and Peace has been adapted by Andrew Davies, best known for his reworking for television of such classics as Pride and Prejudice (1995), Vanity Fair (1998) and Sense and Sensibility (2008). He also wrote the popular British political thriller serial House of Cards (1990). His work on the current production results in a credible condensation of Tolstoy’s massive, complex story, some 1,400 pages and more than half a million words long.

Visually graceful and aided by numerous accomplished performances, this large-scale, high-quality production is, on the whole, a gripping experience.

Lily James as Natasha Rostova

The series paints a picture of a Russian aristocracy in which petty and selfish motives predominate. Andrei Bolkonsky goes off to war primarily to escape a vapid, stuffy life. Nikolai Rostov has other motives: his gambling debts have nearly bankrupted his family. He considers it more honorable to turn soldier than remain in the clutches of a nasty, egotistical mother and kindly, but ineffectual, father. In the end, under pressure from his parents, Nikolai breaks his engagement to the impecunious Sonya in favor of a more advantageous liaison.

Andrei Bolkonsky’s sister, the modest Marya (Jessie Buckley), shows her spiteful landlord coloring when she deals with the serfs on the family estate who refuse to help the household escape from the invading French army. Bellows one angry peasant: “The French will set us free and give us land! What have you ever done for us?”

Unfortunately, the production seems to side with Marya and her self-centered concerns. She is soon rescued from the legitimate wrath of the peasants by the timely appearance of Nikolai and his regiment. It is the one major scene that points to the fact that this parasitical social layer lives off the exploitation and enslavement of the peasantry.

Pierre, the moral conscience of War and Peace, tries to be honest when he sadly admits that “my life is one mistake after another … I wanted to change the world for the better, help my fellow men and look at me a fat, drunken aristocrat who makes a bungle out of everything.” To make amends for what he considers his mistakes, Pierre becomes obsessed with assassinating Napoleon.

In a relatively modest way, the mini-series does provide some sense of the great events that shaped the Tolstoy novel—namely, the aftermath of the world-altering French revolution. The depiction of the Battle of Borodino in September 1812, the bloodiest single day of the Napoleonic wars, with some 70,000 Russian and French casualties, is one of the series’ strongest sequences. Here, at least for a moment, the aristocratic lifestyle is left behind and we see something of the horror of war: men cut in half, doctors sawing off legs, the misery of the wounded and dying. And later there are the horrific consequences for Moscow’s population.

Pierre Bezukhov (Dano) as French prisoner

A duality exists in Tolstoy’s work between sharp condemnations of the aristocratic life and his acceptance of the inevitability of that life. In his remarkable 1908 tribute to the novelist, Leon Trotsky observed that, despite everything, Tolstoy continued to place in the center of his artistic attention “the one and the same wealthy and well-born Russian landlord” as though outside this universe “there were nothing of importance or of beauty.”

The mini-series tends to adopt the same standpoint, which is far less defensible given the subsequent course of Russian and world history. Trotsky noted that at the end of the novel, Tolstoy showed Pierre Bezukhov, “the restless seeker of truth,” as “a smug family man,” and “Natasha Rostova, so touching in her semi-childlike sensitivity,” as “a shallow breeding female, untidy diapers in hand.” The present series does the same, only more so. The final scene grates with its complacency and suggestion that contented family life offers some consolation for the massive destruction and loss of life.

That being said, Davies is genuinely skilled at choosing and adapting enduring, classic works. True, his genre of intelligent costume drama is not the be-all and end-all of artistic effort. One might even say that stylish adaptations like War and Peace have a certain soothing effect on an audience (with the exception of the battle scenes). If we were currently flooded with challenging artistic evauations of the status quo, it is unlikely that such series would receive quite the attention they do. However, given the actual state of cultural affairs, this version of the Tolstoy epic attracts attention for its general intelligence and pleasing aesthetic qualities.

Andrei Bolkonsky (Norton) with his unit

To their credit, the makers of the miniseries have tried to capture certain crucial features of the novel. A naturalness and elegance underscore and heighten the emotional intensity. As in Tolstoy’s narrative, there is truthfulness, a lack of pretension and artificiality: the viewer is engaging with real people, who have real, complex lives and feelings.

In dozens of essays the leading Russian Marxists, Plekhanov, Lenin, Trotsky and others, pointed to the great contrast between the immortality of Tolstoy’s artistic achievement and the poverty of his philosophical and social ideas. The novelist was a pacifist, a believer in “non-resistance to evil,” a conservative anarchist, “a moralist and mystic,” in Trotsky’s phrase, and “a foe of politics and revolution.”

Nonetheless, as an indefatigable social critic, an enemy of cruelty and oppression, Tolstoy played an enormous role in undermining the tsarist regime and the entire Russian social order. Reactionary forces in the former Soviet Union have not forgiven him to this day.

In an obituary, Trotsky magnificently paid tribute to the great writer: “Truth in and of itself possesses a terrible, explosive power: once proclaimed, it irresistibly gives rise to revolutionary con­clusions in the consciousness of the masses. Everything that Tolstoy stated publicly… seeped into the minds of the laboring masses … And the word became deed. Although not a revolutionary, Tolstoy nurtured the revolutionary element with his words of genius. In the book about the great storm of 1905 an honorable chapter will be ded­icated to Tolstoy.”

It would be misleading to suggest that Tolstoy’s fierce indictment of Russia’s institutions is sufficiently present in the War and Peace mini-series. However, its honest presentation inevitably communicates elements of the social critique, and also may lead the viewer to investigate Tolstoy’s work further. That would be all to the good.

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/02/11/wrpe-f11.html

Torture, murder and Donald Trump

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By Patrick Martin
11 February 2016

Only four days after his public defense of torture and “a hell of a lot worse” in US military-intelligence interrogations, billionaire Donald Trump added assassination to his foreign policy arsenal as well. Speaking Wednesday on the “CBS This Morning” program, Trump said that his solution to the US conflict with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program would be to eliminate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

“I would get China to make that guy disappear in one form or another very quickly,” Trump told interviewer Norah O’Donnell. When she followed up by asking if that meant having Kim Jong-un assassinated, Trump replied, “Well, I’ve heard of worse things, frankly. I mean, this guy’s a bad dude.”

Trump was responding to the declaration by US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday that Pyongyang had made progress in developing both nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, and could conceivably reach parts of the United States with a nuclear warhead.

The billionaire demagogue, fresh off a victory in the New Hampshire primary Tuesday that confirmed his status as the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, said the US government could engineer Kim’s removal through China. Beijing has “absolute control” over North Korea, he said, and “I would force the Chinese to do it—economically.”

“I wouldn’t leave it up to them. I would say, ‘You gotta do it. You gotta do it,’” Trump said.

If China refuses, he said he would repeat the demand and “do it a little more forcefully.”

Trump was escalating the thuggish, gangster language that has been the hallmark of his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. At last Saturday’s debate in New Hampshire, he declared his support for waterboarding, adding, “I would bring back waterboarding and I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.”

At a campaign rally the next day, Trump used a vulgar term for Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, one of his major rivals for the nomination, because Cruz expressed some reservations about waterboarding, suggesting that its use should be infrequent rather than widespread.

The candidate took the same tack in a series of appearances on Sunday network television interview programs. On CNN, NBC and ABC he was asked about his comments on waterboarding, and each instance he reiterated his support for torture, although he declined to spell out what methods of interrogation would be “a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.”

On CNN, interviewer Jake Tapper pointed out that US law bans treatment of prisoners that causes “serious and nontransitory mental harm,” like waterboarding, then asked Trump, “How would you bring it back, if it is currently a war crime under US law?”

Trump responded, “I would go through a process and get it declassified, frankly.” He portrayed this form of torture as necessary retribution for the methods of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, even if it was ineffective in extracting information. “They laugh at us when they hear that we’re not going to approve waterboarding,” he said, “and then they will have a James Foley and others where they cut off their heads. And, you know, you can say what you want. I have no doubt that it does work in terms of information and other things, and maybe not always, but nothing works always. But I have no doubt that it works. But, more importantly, when they’re chopping off the heads of people, and innocent people in most cases, beyond waterboarding is fine with me.”

On NBC’s “Meet the Press” program, interviewer Chuck Todd asked Trump what was worse than waterboarding, but Trump declined to define it.

Todd suggested, referring to ISIS, “They want to be barbaric. We’re not barbaric.” Trump disagreed, declaring, “OK. They can do it, but we can’t?” Then he added, “You can do waterboarding and you can go a step beyond waterboarding. It wouldn’t bother me even a little bit.”

On the ABC program “This Week,” interviewer George Stephanopoulos asked directly, “As president, you would authorize torture?” Trump replied, “I would absolutely authorize something beyond waterboarding. And believe me, it will be effective. If we need information, George, you have our enemy cutting heads off of Christians and plenty of others, by the hundreds, by the thousands.”

This exchange followed:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do we win by being more like them?

TRUMP: Yes. I’m sorry. You have to do it that way. And I’m not sure everybody agrees with me. I guess a lot of people don’t. We are living in a time that’s as evil as any time that there has ever been. You know, when I was a young man, I studied Medieval times. That’s what they did, they chopped off heads. That’s what we have …

STEPHANOPOULOS: So we’re going to chop off heads?

TRUMP: We’re going to do things beyond waterboarding perhaps, if that happens to come.

Stephanopoulos was the only interviewer to pose the torture question to another candidate, in this case Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican. Rubio declared that there shouldn’t be public discussion of specific interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, to avoid alerting suspected terrorists. But he made it clear he had no differences with Trump on resuming waterboarding and other forms of torture-interrogation.

With that, the corporate-controlled media has turned the page, more or less dropping the subject. The question was not raised during the saturation coverage of the New Hampshire primary Tuesday. Network television news broadcasts on Wednesday did not mention Trump’s call to assassinate Kim Jong-un or his campaign for torture.

Significantly, neither Democratic candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders or former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, criticized Trump for his embrace of torture and murder. Clinton, of course, has her own record of endorsing barbarism, with her notorious comment during the US-NATO war against Libya, referring laughingly to the torture and murder of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, “We came. We saw. He died.”

Clinton was part of the Obama administration during the initial campaign of drone missile assassinations, including the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki in 2011 and his teenage son two weeks afterward. She was in the cabinet when Obama made his decision to block any prosecution of CIA officials for torture, when he suppressed evidence of torture, including graphic photos, and while the CIA fought a protracted battle against the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture.

 

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/02/11/trum-f11.html

Socialist viewpoint: The political role of the Bernie Sanders campaign

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11 February 2016

Tuesday’s landslide victory for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic New Hampshire primary has intensified the crisis of the Hillary Clinton campaign and raised the possibility of Sanders pulling ahead in the Democratic Party primary process as a whole.

The details of Tuesday’s vote provide more evidence of the widespread support for the Sanders campaign, particularly among younger and lower-income voters. According to exit polls, Sanders was backed by 83 percent of voters under 30, by 67 percent of those with no college degree, and by 72 percent of voters with incomes under $30,000 a year. A third of voters said that income inequality was the most important issue in the election, and these backed Sanders by 71 percent. The only demographics that went to Clinton were voters over the age of 65 (54 percent) and voters with incomes over $200,000 (53 percent).

One further statistic points to the essential political role of the Sanders campaign: Forty percent of voters in the Democratic primary identified themselves as “independent/undeclared” (that is, not registered as a Democrat), and these backed Sanders by 72 percent. The Vermont senator has repeatedly said the principal aim of his “political revolution” is to bring voters back into the fold of the Democratic Party.

The growing support for Sanders is an initial political reflection of deep tensions in the United States, which have been artificially suppressed for decades, as social inequality rose to levels not seen since before the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Particularly since the 2008 financial crash, the American ruling class has engaged in a restructuring of class relations that has seen trillions funneled to the banks while the vast majority of the population faced falling wages, attacks on health care and pensions, mass unemployment and rising indebtedness. Young people, who back Sanders by a wide margin, have known nothing but economic crisis, war and attacks on democratic rights. An eighteen-year-old new voter would have been four years old when the “war on terror” began and 11 at the onset of the global financial crisis.

The growth in support for Sanders is a delayed reaction to these objective conditions. In a country where socialist ideas have been suppressed for decades, it turns out that millions of people have essentially, if as yet vaguely defined, anti-capitalist views. The politics of identity, based on race, gender, sexual preference—the obsession of upper-middle class layers—has very little broader impact, as revealed in the failure of Clinton to win over women voters by trumpeting her bid to become the first female president (along with claims that Sanders backers are sexist).

However, to say that the support for Sanders is an expression of deep social anger is very different from saying that the Sanders campaign itself articulates and represents this anger. Sanders does not speak for the working class, but for a section of the ruling class and political establishment that views the growth of social opposition with fear and is seeking some way of containing it. The ruling class sees as the greatest danger the emergence of an independent movement of the working class that challenges its economic and political power. Sanders’ task is to block such a development by channeling popular opposition back behind the Democratic Party.

Anyone who is under the illusion that Sanders is not completely conscious of his assigned role should study his Tuesday night victory speech. Hailing an increase in voter turnout in the primary, Sanders declared, “That is what will happen all over this country. Let us never forget, Democrats and progressives win when voter turnout is high.” He added that it was necessary to “remember—and this is a message not just to our opponents, but to those who support me as well —that we need to come together in a few months and unite this party” behind whomever is nominated (emphasis added).

Sanders is seeking to “bring new people into the political process” to strengthen the credibility of the Democratic Party, which has suffered severely under Obama, the supposed “candidate of change.” In 2012, Obama became the first president since Franklin D. Roosevelt to be reelected with fewer votes in his second election than in his first. This was due to a sharp fall in voter turnout, which the World Socialist Web Site noted at the time was an expression of “an electorate that is disillusioned and increasingly alienated from the entire two-party political system.”

In terms of his actual program, the most essential issue is not Sanders’ promises of a $15 minimum wage and free tuition at public colleges and universities—which President Sanders would quickly drop because they would cut into corporate profits—but his support for imperialist war. Throughout the campaign, Sanders has said very little about foreign policy, but what he has said is aimed at assuring the ruling class and the military that he poses no danger.

In Sanders’ speech Tuesday night, perhaps the loudest applause from the audience came when he referred to his vote against the Iraq war in 2003. However, this was followed immediately with the pledge that “we must, and will destroy ISIS”—that is, prosecute the war in Iraq and Syria.

These comments are made as the Obama administration, whose foreign policy Sanders has repeatedly defended, is preparing an enormous escalation of the war in Syria, aimed above all at the removal of the regime of Bashar al-Assad. The conflict in Syria threatens to spark war with nuclear-armed Russia, the target of relentless threats by the US and the European powers, including a vast militarization of Eastern Europe.

Sanders opposes none of this. If he were called upon by the ruling class, he would use his “progressive” credentials to buttress support for war. Those “feeling the Bern” today would experience bombs tomorrow. Sanders would justify breaking his empty promises of social reform by pointing to the financial requirements of war.

The Vermont senator’s political affiliation is not a secondary question. He is fulfilling a task that has been assigned to political figures—functioning either within the Democratic Party or nominally outside of it—many times before. This has included the presidential campaigns of William Jennings Bryan in the early 20th century (as the “populist” candidate of the Democratic Party), Robert La Folette in the 1920s (for the Farmer-Labor Party, which later became a wing of the Democratic Party), and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s former vice president Henry Wallace in 1948 (for the Progressive Party, backed by the Stalinist Communist Party). More modern examples include the likes of Jesse Jackson and Dennis Kucinich within the Democratic Party, as well as the various Green Party campaigns directed at pressuring the Democratic Party from the outside.

Sanders aims not to create a “revolution,” as he asserts in his campaign speeches, but to prevent one. If he is elected, he will rapidly and brazenly repudiate all of his promises. His actions will mirror those of Syriza in Greece (elected on the basis of opposition to austerity in January 2015, now implementing an even more brutal austerity program dictated by the banks) and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK (the “left” Labour Party leader elected last year, who played the essential role in facilitating the Conservative government’s decision to take the country into war against Syria).

Organizations that argue that Sanders, under pressure, can be pushed to the left are themselves moving to the right, utilizing his campaign as another mechanism for integrating themselves into the capitalist state.

There are many signs that class tensions in the United States are beginning to erupt to the surface, from the militant opposition of autoworkers to last year’s sellout contracts, to the sickouts of teachers and students in Detroit and the mass anger over the poisoning of Flint, Michigan residents by lead-contaminated water. The conspiracies of the ruling class to expand war abroad will come into conflict with the deep antiwar sentiment that exists in the American working class.

However, a political path forward for the working class can be forged only through a struggle to establish its political independence on the basis of a socialist and internationalist program. This requires an uncompromising exposure of the politics of Sanders and all those who, in the name of “getting close to the masses,” adapt to him and cover up his role.

Joseph Kishore

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/02/11/pers-f11.html

Major Investigation Reveals Disturbing Connection Between U.S. Intelligence and Al Qaeda Since 9/11

Seasoned journalist Andrew Cockburn’s major report in Harper’s should have gotten a lot more attention than it did.

Over the past year and a half, the United States and other military coalition members have launched nearly 10,000 strikes in Iraq and Syria.

Zooming out, the United States military has spent nearly the entire 21st century engaged in an amorphous war on terrorism, in which the whole world is a potential battlefield, from Yemen to Somalia to the now-expanding war in Afghanistan. Lurking beneath the surface of the seemingly endless series of military campaigns is the contradictory U.S. historical legacy of direct support for some of the very extremist combatants the war on terror is allegedly predicated on fighting.

A recent in-depth investigation published in Harper’s by journalist Andrew Cockburn finds that the U.S. is “teaming up with Al Qaeda, again,” suggesting that this sinister legacy is alive and well and raising disturbing questions about the logic underlying over 15 years of continuous war.

Cockburn is not the first to point out the United States’ role in backing such forces, and some prominent voices are even openly calling for the U.S. to embrace Al Qaeda. But what his account does offer is a devastating illustration of the historical symmetries, from Afghanistan in the 1980s to Syria in the 21st century, underlying what he calls the U.S. government’s “cold-blooded” calculations.

Cockburn writes:

In the wake of 9/11, the story of U.S. support for militant Islamists against the Soviets became something of a touchy subject. Former CIA and intelligence officials like to suggest that the agency simply played the roles of financier and quartermaster. In this version of events, the dirty work — the actual management of the campaign and the dealings with rebel groups — was left to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). It was Pakistan’s fault that at least 70 percent of total U.S. aid went to the fundamentalists, even if the CIA demanded audited accounts on a regular basis.

Fast-forwarding to more recent history, Cockburn notes that U.S. officials have been eager to blame transgressions on allies:

[I]n 2014, in a speech at Harvard, Vice President Joe Biden confirmed that we were arming extremists once again, although he was careful to pin the blame on America’s allies in the region, whom he denounced as “our largest problem in Syria.” In response to a student’s question, he volunteered that our allies “were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad. Except that the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra and Al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.”

But Cockburn cites specific examples in which U.S. involvement was far more direct.

In the spring and summer of last year, a coalition of Syrian rebel groups calling itself Jaish al-Fatah — the Army of Conquest — swept through the northwestern province of Idlib, posing a serious threat to the Assad regime. Leading the charge was Al Qaeda’s Syrian branch, known locally as Jabhat al-Nusra (the Nusra Front). The other major component of the coalition was Ahrar al-Sham, a group that had formed early in the anti-Assad uprising and looked for inspiration to none other than Abdullah Azzam. Following the victory, Nusra massacred twenty members of the Druze faith, considered heretical by fundamentalists, and forced the remaining Druze to convert to Sunni Islam. (The Christian population of the area had wisely fled.) Ahrar al-Sham meanwhile posted videos of the public floggings it administered to those caught skipping Friday prayers.

This potent alliance of jihadi militias had been formed under the auspices of the rebellion’s major backers: Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar. But it also enjoyed the endorsement of two other major players. At the beginning of the year, Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri had ordered his followers to cooperate with other groups. In March, according to several sources, a U.S.-Turkish-Saudi “coordination room” in southern Turkey had also ordered the rebel groups it was supplying to cooperate with Jaish al-Fatah. The groups, in other words, would be embedded within the Al Qaeda coalition.

A few months before the Idlib offensive, a member of one CIA-backed group had explained the true nature of its relationship to the Al Qaeda franchise. Nusra, he told the New York Times, allowed militias vetted by the United States to appear independent, so that they would continue to receive American supplies. When I asked a former White House official involved in Syria policy if this was not a de facto alliance, he put it this way: “I would not say that Al Qaeda is our ally, but a turnover of weapons is probably unavoidable. I’m fatalistic about that. It’s going to happen.”

And in another example, Cockburn writes:

The determination of Turkey (a NATO ally) and Qatar (the host of the biggest American base in the Middle East) to support extreme jihadi groups became starkly evident in late 2013. On December 6, armed fighters from Ahrar al-Sham and other militias raided warehouses at Bab al-Hawa, on the Turkish border, and seized supplies belonging to the Free Syrian Army. As it happened, a meeting of an international coordination group on Syria, the so-called London Eleven, was scheduled for the following week. Delegates from the United States, Europe, and the Middle East were bent on issuing a stern condemnation of the offending jihadi group.

The Turks and Qataris, however, adamantly refused to sign on. As one of the participants told me later, “All the countries in the room [understood] that Turkey’s opposition to listing Ahrar al-Sham was because they were providing support to them.” The Qatari representative insisted that it was counterproductive to condemn such groups as terrorist. If the other countries did so, he made clear, Qatar would stop cooperating on Syria. “Basically, they were saying that if you name terrorists, we’re going to pick up our ball and go home,” the source told me. The U.S. delegate said that the Islamic Front, an umbrella organization, would be welcome at the negotiating table — but Ahrar al-Sham, which happened to be its leading member, would not. The diplomats mulled over their communiqué, traded concessions, adjusted language. The final version contained no condemnation, or even mention, of Ahrar al-Sham.

Cockburn’s piece underscores the seemingly obvious point that there is a contradiction between the U.S. government’s supposed war on terror and its backing of such forces.

The Syrian war alone has killed nearly a quarter of a million people. According to a report released by the United Nations this summer, one out of every 122 people on the planet has been forcibly displaced by war and persecution. Meanwhile, many from within the region have argued that, in the wake of the Arab Spring, the U.S. and allies like Saudi Arabia played a profoundly counter-revolutionary force against grassroots movements seeking real, democratic alternatives to authoritarian regimes.

In the past year and a half, ISIS has expanded to over 20 countries. The Global Terrorism Index, produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace, estimates that global terrorist incidents have significantly increased since the U.S. war on terror began.

As Iraqi-American activist Dahlia Wasfi told AlterNet over the phone, “The people who live in these countries that the U.S. has determined will be the battlefield—those are the people who are suffering.”

If the dealings Cockburn highlights in his report stem from well-thought-out and calculated policies, they are extremely dangerous. If they are merely the product of incoherence, we are already seeing who pays the price.

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, Sarah co-edited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.

 

http://www.alternet.org/world/major-investigation-reveals-disturbing-connection-between-us-intelligence-and-al-qaeda-911?akid=13961.265072.7_FAge&rd=1&src=newsletter1050408&t=12