Noam Chomsky: How Obama Has Ushered in ‘a New Era of International Terrorism’

Chomsky and Emran Feroz talk Obama’s political legacy in the Middle East, the deal with Iran and the refugee crisis.

Noam Chomsky.
Photo Credit: screenshot via Democracy Now!

The following is a recent interview with Noam Chomsky on the Middle East and the Obama Administration’s policies towards Syria, Egypt and Iran, and the rise of right-wing extremism and nationalism in Europe.

Emran Feroz: Barack Obama’s presidency is coming to an end. With reference to the political situation in the Middle East, what remains of his historical speech in Cairo and what of his Middle East policy in general?

Noam Chomsky: At the time I felt that the speech was pretty vacuous. I didn’t expect anything from it, so I wasn’t disappointed. One positive aspect of his policy is that there have been no major acts of aggression like the vicious invasion of Iraq, which in my opinion was the worst crime this century. And I suppose you could describe the negotiation of the agreement with Iran as positive too. But it could have been done much earlier. Still, better an agreement with Iran than no agreement.

Obama’s major legacy in the Middle East is the US drone campaign, which is ushering in a new era of international terrorism. I predict that its impact will be wide reaching. Drone technology will not only expand, it will also become a useful tool for all kinds of different terrorist groups in the near future. In the case of the Arab Spring, Obama – and his allies – supported the established dictators as long as it was possible. Moreover, they also tried to shore up the old systems even after the revolutions had started.

EF: We are still witnessing these brutal dictatorships, in Egypt particularly, but also in Syria. Has the Arab Spring been a total failure?

NC: That’s hard to say. Some progress has been made, but there is still much to be done. There have been significant changes which could have formed the basis for something. In Egypt, for example, the labour movement, which is an important and leading part of the Arab Spring, did make some substantial gains. I don’t think the Sisi dictatorship is capable of dealing with Egypt’s mammoth problems. I suspect this is just another stage of many as the country edges towards democratisation and freedom. Syria is a different story. The country appears bent on self-destruction. Anything that might be done to mitigate the situation simply leads to another disaster.

EF: To what extent is the US administration responsible for Syria’s implosion?

NC: It’s hard to say. The Assad regime is absolutely monstrous and responsible for a large majority of the atrocities. IS is another monstrosity. The al-Qaida affiliated al-Nusra Front is not much better than IS, while some of the other major groups are closely linked to it. The Kurdish groups have succeeded in defending their own territory and establishing a more or less decent system within. And then there are various other groups – local militias and parts of the original reform movement and some other more democratic elements.

To what extent they still exert any influence is debatable. The veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk claims they no longer exist. Others say they are a substantial force. It’s a patchwork of many different groups. At the moment, there are some small signs of progress that might possibly lead to a ceasefire or some kind of negotiated agreement. We can be sure that this will be pretty ugly. But it’s still better than suicide.

EF: You already mentioned the deal with Iran. Many people say it’s one of the biggest successes of the Obama administration, while others say it will lead to the nuclearisation of the Arab Sunni states. Why do you think it is a success?

NC: I think the deal was a success, but I also think there is a problem with how the issue has been presented. It would have been a major step had those involved accepted Iranian, Arab and, in fact, global opinion and moved towards establishing a nuclear-weapons-free-zone in the region. Indeed that is what Obama promised. The deal is a small step in the right direction. We – and that includes the US intelligence agencies – don’t know whether Iran was planning to develop nuclear weapons. I think we can be fairly confident that it was planning to develop nuclear capability. On the other hand, any nation with nuclear power or technology can be said to possess this capability. Considering, however, the restrictive conditions in which it was reached, the agreement was a step forward.

EF: On the subject of success, to what extent can we say there’s been any in Israel and Palestine?

NC: We’ve seen zero success there. If we put aside words and look at actions, the Obama administration has been the most supportive administration of Israeli expansion so far. While the rest of the world condemns the illegal settlements, the US is still supporting the Israeli government in this point. There is still military, diplomatic, economic and even ideological support for continuing the settlement programme. Obama’s most remarkable move, one of the few that actually received some public attention, was his veto of the UN security council resolution in February 2011 which literally endorsed official US policy. The resolution called for limiting settlement expansion while the Obama veto claimed it was a drawback to peace. In fact, we’re currently seeing negotiations with Netanyahu over increasing extensive US aid, which basically feeds settlement expansion. Gaza has just been subjected to brutal and savage attacks by Israel with US support.

EF: We’re seeing a rise in nationalism and right-wing extremism in Europe at the moment. First and foremost the hatred is being directed at the refugees fleeing the chaos in the Middle East. With the rise of Donald Trump, a similar picture seems to be developing in the United States. Do you think that the fear-mongers are winning?

NC: It’s very interesting to look at the so-called refugee crisis. In Austria, for example, a neo-Nazi is on the verge of political victory. Austria has taken in a very small number of refugees. One of the most forthcoming countries in Europe, I suppose, is Sweden, which has taken in some 160,000 refugees. Sweden is a rich country with a population of 10 million, so now refugees make up about 1.5 per cent of the population. But this is still a very small number compared to a poor country like Lebanon, which has no role in generating refugees. But refugees currently make up 40 percent of its population; 25 percent of those are Syrians. Jordan has also taken in a huge number of refugees, while most European countries have apparently absorbed very few.

But where are the refugees coming from? Most of them come from the Middle East, but some are also coming from Africa. Europe has a long history in Africa. For centuries, Africa suffered devastation and destruction, which is still one of the reasons why people are fleeing from Africa to Europe. In the Middle East, there are many causes for the crisis, but one major and overwhelming cause is the American and British invasion of Iraq, which virtually destroyed the country. Iraqis are still fleeing, at the moment mostly from a sectarian conflict that barely existed before the invasion. Look more closely and it is clear that there are countries that have generated refugees throughout their history – and they include the US, Britain and a number of European countries.

Interview conducted by Emran Feroz

Emran Feroz is the founder of the Drone Memorial.

 

Alternet

 

Is Trump the Manchurian Candidate?

Themes in the 1950s classic don’t seem so far-fetched in 2016 America

Richard Condon’s iconic 1959 book uncannily anticipated the Trump-Putin bromance

Is Trump the Manchurian Candidate? Themes in the 1950s classic don't seem so far-fetched in 2016 America
Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey in “The Manchurian Candidate;” Donald Trump (Credit: MGM/AP/Richard Shiro/Salon)

Last week, Robby Mook, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, said we should ask “real questions” about whether Donald Trump “is just a puppet for the Kremlin.” By that time, Audible.com was already giving away free audiobooks of “The Manchurian Candidate,” Richard Condon’s 1959 book (transformed into a classic thriller starring Angela Lansbury and Frank Sinatra in 1962 and a worse remake with Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep in 2004) about communists controlling an American presidential candidate.

Hmm. Trump’s advocacy of dismantling NATO over unpaid bills, his continuous and effusive praise of former KGB chief Vladimir Putin (amply reciprocated), his bizarre request of Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails, his coming perilously close to supporting Russia’s annexing of Crimea, and his campaign’s redaction of the Republican platform plank in support of arming Ukraine against Russia can’t help but raise suspicions of a hard quid pro quo between the Trump campaign and Russian government. Donald Trump Jr. has said outright that Russians finance much of Trump’s empire, which is also hugely in debt to the Bank of China, while his father continues to hide what we might learn from his income tax returns.

Then there’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort’s lobbying for Russian oligarchs and the deposed Russian-allied Ukrainian president (all former big-time communists), while Trump foreign policy adviser Ret. Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn takes money from — and appears on — RT, the English-language cable-news network that beams Russian propaganda around the world.

To be clear, I’m not a Trump-style conspiracy theorist. I’m not suggesting that Trump has somehow been secretly brainwashed by communists; he isn’t “programmed” to do anything but run his mouth and demagogue the election. Hair wash, yes. Brain wash, no. (Or as Eugene McCarthy said, after George Romney’s 1967 claim that the military “brainwashed” him in Vietnam, “a light rinse would have been sufficient.”)

But some “Manchurian Candidate” themes resonate powerfully in this year’s campaign. Condon exposed the cynicism behind right-wing politics for the Cold War Eisenhower years and chillingly his book’s narrative applies today. By articulating how “brainwashing” symbolizes the mass process of humiliation and repetition that the American working-class experiences at the hands of cynical right-wing leaders, the book and film anticipate a time when the radical right subverts American democracy.

Condon’s page-turner features the right-wing mastermind Eleanor Iselin, a red-baiting Republican senator’s wife who works hand in glove with the Kremlin. During the Korean War, Russian and Chinese scientists brainwash a group of American POWs so that they provide Eleanor with an assassin, her son Raymond Shaw, to unwittingly murder his mother’s enemies while in a hypnotic state and eventually turn the White House over to an alliance of right-wingers and communists.

Before Trump’s candidacy, President Ronald Reagan’s sale of arms to Iran and President Richard Nixon’s and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s idolization of Mao, the book called attention to a worldwide power elite that, regardless of surface ideology, work in cahoots. Like Trump today, members of this elite see ideology solely as a means of gaining power. It’s no accident that Trump has changed his political party at least six times.

“The Manchurian Candidate” uncannily anticipated the Trump-Putin bromance. Explaining the affinity between McCarthyite Republicans and Kremlin operatives, Condon, with his signature iconoclasm, wrote that red-baiters and reds alike share “the conviction that the Republic was a humbug, the electorate rabble, and anyone strong who knew how to maneuver could have all the power and glory that the richest and most naïve democracy in the world could bestow.” Six decades later Trump and Putin thrive by convincing resentful voters to embrace fact-free realities. “Paranoiacs make the great leaders,” Condon wrote. “Resenters make their best instruments.”

Fringe conservatives are more prone than impassioned liberals to becoming “Manchurian candidates” because liberals do not think the government of the republic is a “humbug.” The right, distrusting of government, does not see the dangers of toying with it. After all, McCarthyism ultimately undermined U.S. national security by forcing the most capable diplomats out of the State Department on trumped-up charges, leaving no one to check the folly of the Vietnam War.

Like the brainwashing of soldiers in “The Manchurian Candidate,” Trump and the right hold the media and electorate captive through verbal humiliation and repetition. It is not Trump who has been brainwashed. He is not the Manchurian candidate. The American people are.

The communists humiliate Raymond to such a degree that he can only find peace in totalitarian control. Similarly, Trump’s economically and culturally humiliated working-class heroes believe in a leader who believes in nothing.

As a former Hollywood Disney publicist who promoted “Dumbo,” “Fantasia” and many other golden-age Dream Factory products, Condon saw the dangers of Hollywood PR applied to politics. For instance, Eleanor picks 57 as the number of communists in the State Department because “Heinz 57” made that number resonate. The notion that someone could perform a total “brainwashing” as depicted by Condon has long been debunked by experts, but the phrase evokes the malign influence of mass PR first identified in the 1950s.

Despite its dystopian theme, Condon’s novel offered a resolution that the film versions left out: reprogramming the assassin.

In the 1959 book, Raymond is programmed to kill the 1960 Republican presidential nominee so that his stepfather, vice presidential nominee Senator Johnny Iselin, can blame the Soviets, be elected president and then rule together with the Soviets.

In the novel, Raymond’s comrade, Major Ben Marco (the Sinatra character), not only discovers his brainwashing and recovers his sanity. He believes his own memory loss reflects the crisis that America is in. To thwart the conspiracy, Marco reprograms Raymond to shoot his mother, stepfather and self.

Can we Americans reprogram ourselves to a better end?

Anthropoid: A film looks at 1942 assassination of Nazi chief Reinhard Heydrich

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By Fred Mazelis
26 August 2016

Anthropoid deals with a historically important event—the assassination of the leading Nazi, Reinhard Heydrich, in the Czech capital over which he presided as the “Butcher of Prague” during the German occupation of the country in the Second World War.

Heydrich, a main architect of the Holocaust, chaired the Wannsee Conference near Berlin, where the plans for the extermination of European Jewry were adopted. He helped organize the Kristallnacht pogrom throughout Germany in November 1938, before moving on to his post in Prague.

The assassination of Heydrich was followed by the infamous Nazi reprisal attacks and mass executions in the Czech villages of Lidice and Lekazy, totally destroying them and resulting in the deaths of at least 15,000 people.

The new film, directed by Sean Ellis, is a straightforward account of the operation, organized by the Czech government-in-exile in London, that ended with the attack on Heydrich on May 27, 1942. He died a week later from his wounds. Unfortunately, the movie uses suspense and violence not as part of a serious examination of the events, but more as a substitute for such an effort.

Anthopoid

After brief titles recounting the Munich Agreement of September 1938, which allowed German annexation of part of Czechoslovakia and was followed by partition of the country and its occupation by the Nazi regime, the movie opens with the December 1941 parachuting into the country of the Czech resistance fighters who were to carry out the attack some five months later.

One of the paratroopers has been slightly injured, and the film follows the pair as they successfully avoid being turned over to the Germans and make their way to Prague. There they present themselves to the remaining leaders of the gravely weakened Czech resistance, and face the task of convincing these men that they are not spies and agents of the Nazis who have been sent to finish the job of wiping out organized opposition.

Finding shelter in a safe house run by a Mrs. Moravecs, the men sent from London then engage in discussion and debate within the resistance over the merits and tactical advisability of “Operation Anthropoid,” the assassination plot that has been hatched abroad.

Some of these early scenes are effective. The Czech capital provides an evocative backdrop, and an atmosphere of dread and suspense is conveyed by the spare dialogue, as the plans are discussed under the noses of the Nazi occupiers. The two paratroopers, Czech Jan Kubis (Jamie Dornan) and Slovak Josef Gabcik (Cillian Murphy), do a credible enough job with the material they have been given, and Toby Jones as the local resistance leader is strong in his impassive depiction of a man who has already seen too much barbarism but has no choice but to fight on.

This only goes so far, however. There is little characterization of the partisans beyond their patriotic dedication. A romantic angle is introduced, in the form of the two young women (Charlotte Le Bon and Anna Geislerova) who meet the partisans and wind up playing a supporting role in the plans, but this fairly conventional plot device does not lead any deeper.

Hand-held cameras serve the purpose of communicating terror and dislocation, but this is no substitute for broader context and an examination of both the occupation and the resistance.

The last 30 minutes of Anthropoid are designed to deliver a final jolt of excitement, but they end up instead providing the most graphic demonstration of the weakness of the film. The closing titles explain that the resistance fighters, holed up in an Orthodox cathedral in the capital, successfully held out for 30 minutes against a ruthless German assault involving many times their number and far more powerful weaponry. The filmmakers have concluded that the best way to communicate this is to depict a 30-minute firefight on screen. Once again, and most crudely in this case, this literal representation only demonstrates the relative paucity of history and thought in this project.

Anthropoid is not the first film to depict the assassination of Heydrich. In fact, two films, by very well-known German refugee directors, were rushed into production within months of the operation. Douglas Sirk’s Hitler’s Madman and the better known Hangmen Also Die!, by Fritz Lang, were both released in 1943, in the middle of the war.

The Fritz Lang film, from a story by Bertolt Brecht and with music by the famous Hanns Eisler, is one of the famous German-born filmmaker’s weaker efforts. It is an unabashed propaganda piece, in which everything is portrayed in terms of the “good” Czechs and “evil” Germans. The movie also meshed with the Stalinist efforts to portray the war in terms of a Popular Front alliance between the Soviet Union and the capitalist democracies against fascism. Brecht and Eisler, both then in Hollywood as refugees from the Nazis, were later forced to leave the US during the McCarthyite witch-hunt.

Hangmen Also Die! is indeed crude and, having been made even before all the details of the assassination were revealed, is not a faithful depiction of the events. It does contain ideas, however, and has little need for the violence thatAnthropoid delivers in great quantity.

The paucity of ideas is related to conventional and complacent assumptions about the war itself: that is was that between “good” and “evil,” between the Western democracies and fascism. The problem with this explanation is that it evades the issue of where fascism came from, that it was the foul product of the decay of capitalism itself. There is no mention in Anthropoid, for instance, of the role played by the Czech Communist Party during this period, when it withstood far more effectively than others the attempts of the Nazis to infiltrate and destroy the resistance movements.

No doubt in line with the attention drawn by the new film to the events of 74 years ago, a call has emerged in the Czech Republic to accord the assassins of Heydrich the respect they deserve. According to a report in the Guardian, campaigners have called for the remains of Jan Kubis and Josef Gabcik to be exhumed from unmarked graves and reinterred with a proper burial.

By itself this would do little to explain the Holocaust and the struggle against Nazi barbarism. In fact, the crimes of Stalinism in Czechoslovakia are being used to obscure the significance of this history. A proposal to make a Prague cemetery a national memorial to “victims of Nazism and communism” avoids the necessary accounting with the source of Hitler and of the Second World War.

Anthropoid is also timely for reasons perhaps not intended by the filmmakers. Today Europe, and not only Europe, is once again the scene of the rise of ultra-nationalist and fascistic movements, testimony to the fact that the defeat of Hitler’s Third Reich did not resolve the contradictions of capitalism out of which it emerged. There are also contemporary occupations, not identical to those of the Nazis, but evoking parallels. Today it is the United States that is the occupying power in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, facing the rage of the population and with the blood of millions on its hands.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/08/26/anth-a26.html

Hillary and the War Party

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You haven’t heard much from the Democrats lately about foreign policy or global agendas – indeed virtually nothing at the Philadelphia convention and little worthy of mention along the campaign trail. Hillary Clinton’s many liberal (and sadly, progressive) supporters routinely steer away from anything related to foreign policy, talk, talk, talking instead about the candidate’s “experience”, with obligatory nods toward her enlightened social programs.   There is only the ritual demonization of that fearsome dictator, Vladimir Putin, reputedly on the verge of invading some hapless European country.   Even Bernie Sanders’ sorry endorsement of his erstwhile enemy, not long ago denounced as a tool of Wall Street, had nothing to say about global issues.   But no one should be fooled: a Clinton presidency, which seems more likely by the day, can be expected to stoke a resurgent U.S. imperialism, bringing new cycles of militarism and war. The silence is illusory: Clintonites, now as before, are truly obsessed with international politics.

A triumphant Hillary, more “rational” and “savvy” than the looney and unpredictable Donald Trump, could well have a freer path to emboldened superpower moves not only in Europe but the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Pacific. While the candidate has not revealed much lately, she is on record as vowing to “stand up” to Russia and China, face off against Russian “aggression”, escalate the war on terror, and militarily annihilate Iran the moment it steps out of line (or is determined by “U.S. intelligence” to have stepped out of line) in its nuclear agreement with global powers.   Under Clinton, the Democrats might well be better positioned to recharge their historical legacy as War Party. One of the great political myths (and there are many) is that American liberals are inclined toward a less belligerent foreign policy than Republicans, are less militaristic and more favorable toward “diplomacy”. References to Woodrow Wilson in World War I and Mexico, Harry Truman in Korea, JFK and LBJ in Indochina, Bill Clinton in the Balkans, and of course Barack Obama in Afghanistan (eight years of futile warfare), Libya (also “Hillary’s War”), and scattered operations across the Middle East and North Africa should be enough to dispel such nonsense. (As for FDR and World War II, I have written extensively that the Pearl Harbor attacks were deliberately provoked by U.S. actions in the Pacific – but that is a more complicated story.)

In something of a political twist, the “deranged” Trump candidacy – with its almost daily flow of bizarre utterances and proposals – actually serves Clinton’s neoliberal/neocon mission nicely, providing a foil to her outwardly more sane persona. Trump, of course, is far too irrational, too narcissistic, too unstable to assume the role of Commander-in-Chief. Who knows what might happen once his shaky hands get near the “nuclear trigger”? Worse yet, here is a bona fide challenger for the White House who has reportedly cozied up to that imperialist dictator, that great enemy of national sovereignty, Putin!   No need for any discussion or debate here. It follows that Hillary will be more reliable (even if more “untrustworthy”), more in command – clearly the best option to manage imperial affairs. Why else would all those neocons and Republican super-hawks be so happy to sign on to the Clintonite project.   The alliance of Hillary and foreign-policy hard-liners has, however, scarcely dampened the enthusiasm of her phalanx of liberal and progressive boosters, who endlessly talk, talk, talk about her amazing “pragmatism”, her ability to “get things done”. (That she can “get things done” in the realm of foreign policy is beyond question.)

A new Clinton presidency can be expected to further boost the U.S./NATO drive to strangle and isolate Russia, which means aggravated “crises” in Ukraine and worrisome encounters with a rival military power in a region saturated with (tactical, “usable”) nuclear weapons.   Regime change in Syria?   Hillary has indeed strongly pushed for that self-defeating act of war, combined with an illegal and provocative no-fly zone — having learned nothing from the extreme chaos and violence she did so much to unleash in Libya as Secretary of State. There are currently no visible signs she would exit the protracted and criminal war in Afghanistan, a rich source of blowback (alongside Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Israel). Increased aerial bombardments against ISIS in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and elsewhere? More deployments of American troops on the ground?   Such ventures, with potentially others on the horizon, amount to elaborate recipes for more blowback, followed by more anti-terror hysteria, followed by more interventions. Uncompromising economic, diplomatic, and military support of Israeli atrocities in Palestine?   Aggressive pursuit of the seriously mistaken “Asian Pivot”, strategy, a revitalized effort to subvert Chinese economic and military power – one of Clinton’s own special crusades? No wonder the Paul Wolfowitzes and Robert Kagans are delighted to join the Hillary camp.

No wonder, too, that billionaire super-hawk Haim Saban has pledged to spend whatever is needed to get the Clintons back into the White House, convinced her presidency will do anything to maintain Palestinian colonial subjugation. Meeting with Saban in July, Hillary again promised to “oppose any effort to delegitimate Israel, including at the United Nations or through the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.” She backs legislative efforts begun in several states to silence and blacklist people working on behalf of Palestinian rights. For this her celebrated “pragmatism” could work quite effectively.

Democratic elites say little publicly about these and other imperial priorities, preferring familiar homilies such as “bringing jobs back” (not going to happen) and “healing the country” (not going to happen).   Silence appears to function exquisitely in a political culture where open and vigorous debate on foreign-policy is largely taboo and elite discourse rarely surpasses the level of banal platitudes.   And Hillary’s worshipful liberal and progressive backers routinely follow the script (or non-script) while fear-mongering about how a Trump presidency will destroy the country (now that the Sanders threat has vanished).

Amidst the turmoil Trump has oddly surfaced to the left of Clinton on several key global issues: cooperating instead of fighting with the Russians, keeping alive a sharp criticism of the Iraq war and the sustained regional chaos and blowback it generated, ramping down enthusiasm for more wars in the Middle East, junking “free trade” agreements, willingness to rethink the outmoded NATO alliance. If Trump, however haphazardly, manages to grasp the historical dynamics of blowback, the Clinton camp remains either indifferent or clueless, still ready for new armed ventures – cynically marketed, as in the Balkans, Iraq, and Libya, on the moral imperative of defeating some unspeakable evil, usually a “new Hitler” waging a “new genocide”. Who needs to be reminded that Hillary’s domestic promises, such as they are, will become null and void once urgent global “crises” take precedence?   The Pentagon, after all, always comes first.

Trump is of course no great bargain, a combative warrior looking to slay dragons lurking about in a dark, menacing world – something of a high-level Rambo figure – and this he happily and repeatedly advertises. Like the mythic Rambo, he is also an uncontrollable maverick, eccentric, prone to hare-brained “solutions” — much to the dismay of even Republican officialdom. And he is emphatically and unapologetically Islamophobic.   At the other extreme, Clinton emerges in the media as the most “rational” and “even-tempered” of candidates, ideally suited to carry out the necessary imperial agendas. A tiresome mainstream narrative is that Hillary is “one of the best prepared and most knowledgeable candidates ever to seek the presidency.” And she is smart, very smart – whatever her flaws.   All the better to follow in the long history of Democrats proficient at showing the world who is boss.  The media, for its part, adores these Democrats, another reason Trump appears to have diminished chances of winning. Further, the well-funded and tightly-organized Clinton machine can count on somewhat large majorities of women, blacks, and Hispanics, not only for the march to the White House but, more ominously, to go along with the War Party’s imperial spectacle of the day. Most anything – war, regime change, bombing raids, drone strikes, treaty violations, JFK-style “standoffs” – can escape political scrutiny if carried out by “humanitarian”, peace-loving Democrats.  Bill Clinton’s war to fight “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” in the Balkans, cover for just another U.S./NATO geopolitical maneuver, constitutes the perfect template here.

There is a special logic to the Clintonites’ explosive mixture of neoliberalism and militarism. They, like all corporate Democrats, are fully aligned with some of the most powerful interests in the world: Wall Street, the war economy, fossil fuels, Big Pharma, the Israel Lobby. They also have intimate ties to reactionary global forces – the neofascist regime in Ukraine, Israel, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf states. Against this corporatist and imperialist backdrop, the “deluded” and “unhinged” Trump becomes far too unreliable for entrance to the Oval Office; he could too easily bungle the job of managing U.S. global supremacy. In March 121 members of the Republican “national security community”, including the warmongers Wolfowitz, Robert Kagan, and Brent Scowcroft, signed a public letter condemning Trump for not being sufficiently dedicated to American (also Israeli?) interests. Trump compounded his predicament by stubbornly refusing to pay homage to the “experts” – the same foreign-policy geniuses who helped orchestrate the Iraq debacle. A more recent (and more urgent) letter with roughly the same message has made its way into the public sphere.   Predictably, Trump’s “unreliability” to oversee American global objectives has been an ongoing motif at CNN, theNew York Times, the Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal.

Returning to the political carneval that was the Democratic convention, amidst all the non-stop flag-waving and shouts of “USA!” Hillary made what she thought would be an inspiring reference to Jackie Kennedy, speaking on the eve of her husband’s (1961) ascent to the White House. Jackie was reported as saying “that what worried President Kennedy during that very dangerous time was that a war might be started – not by men with self-control and restraint, but by little men, the ones moved by fear and pride.”   We can surmise that JFK was one of those “big men” governed by “restraint”.   History shows, however, that Jackie’s esteemed husband was architect of probably the worst episode of international barbarism in U.S. history – the Vietnam War, with its unfathomable death and destruction – coming at a time of the Big Man’s botched CIA-led invasion of Cuba and followed closely by the Cuban Missile Crisis, where the Big Man’s “restraint” brought the world frighteningly close to nuclear catastrophe. As for “fear” and “pride” – nothing permeates JFK’s biography of that period more than those two psychological obsessions.

Could it be that Hillary Clinton, however unwittingly, was at this epic moment – her breakthrough nomination – revealing nothing so much as her own deeply-imperialist mind-set?

Carl Boggs is the author of The Hollywood War Machine, with Tom Pollard (second edition, forthcoming), and Drugs, Power, and Politics, both published by Paradigm.   

Hillary and the War Party

Russian Threat Is Good for Business, U.S. Defense Contractors Tell Investors

Posted on Aug 19, 2016

As the media and politicians work to cast Russia as a great threat to Americans, the arms industry is pressuring NATO member states to spend at least 2 percent of their gross domestic products on weapons and defense systems.

Lee Fang reports at The Intercept:

Retired Army Gen. Richard Cody, a vice president at L-3 Communications, the seventh largest U.S. defense contractor, explained to shareholders in December that the industry was faced with a historic opportunity. Following the end of the Cold War, Cody said, peace had “pretty much broken out all over the world,” with Russia in decline and NATO nations celebrating. “The Wall came down,” he said, and “all defense budgets went south.”

Now, Cody argued, Russia “is resurgent” around the world, putting pressure on U.S. allies. “Nations that belong to NATO are supposed to spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense,” he said, according to a transcript of his remarks. “We know that uptick is coming and so we postured ourselves for it.”

Speaking to investors at a conference hosted by Credit Suisse in June, Stuart Bradie, the chief executive of KBR, a military contractor, discussed “opportunities in Europe,” highlighting the increase in defense spending by NATO countries in response to “what’s happening with Russia and the Ukraine.”

The National Defense Industrial Association, a lobby group for the industry, has called on Congress to make it easier for U.S. contractors to sell arms abroad to allies in response to the threat from Russia. Recent articles in National Defense, NDIA’s magazine, discuss the need for NATO allies to boost maritime military spending, spending on Arctic systems, and missile defense, to counter Russia.

Many experts are unconvinced that Russia poses a direct military threat. The Soviet Union’s military once stood at over 4 million soldiers, but today Russia has less than 1 million. NATO’s combined military budget vastly outranks Russia’s — with the U.S. alone outspending Russia on its military by $609 billion to less than $85 billion.

And yet,  the Aerospace Industries Association, a lobby group for Lockheed Martin, Textron, Raytheon, and other defense contractors, argued in February that the Pentagon is not spending enough to counter “Russian aggression on NATO’s doorstep.”

Continue reading.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/us_defense_contractors_tell_investors_russian_threat_is_good_for_20160819

The Illusion of Freedom By Chris Hedges

Posted on Aug 18, 2016

By Chris Hedges

  A Donald Trump campaign rally. In the 2016 presidential contest, a frustrated white working class has been receptive to anti-democracy messages. (Carlos Osorio / AP)

The seizure of political and economic power by corporations is unassailable. Who funds and manages our elections? Who writes our legislation and laws? Who determines our defense policies and vast military expenditures? Who is in charge of the Department of the Interior? The Department of Homeland Security? Our intelligence agencies? The Department of Agriculture? The Food and Drug Administration? The Department of Labor? The Federal Reserve? The mass media? Our systems of entertainment? Our prisons and schools? Who determines our trade and environmental policies? Who imposes austerity on the public while enabling the looting of the U.S. Treasury and the tax boycott by Wall Street? Who criminalizes dissent?

A disenfranchised white working class vents its lust for fascism at Trump campaign rallies. Naive liberals, who think they can mount effective resistance within the embrace of the Democratic Party, rally around the presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders, who knows that the military-industrial complex is sacrosanct. Both the working class and the liberals will be sold out. Our rights and opinions do not matter. We have surrendered to our own form of wehrwirtschaft. We do not count within the political process.

This truth, emotionally difficult to accept, violates our conception of ourselves as a free, democratic people. It shatters our vision of ourselves as a nation embodying superior virtues and endowed with the responsibility to serve as a beacon of light to the world. It takes from us the “right” to impose our fictitious virtues on others by violence. It forces us into a new political radicalism. This truth reveals, incontrovertibly, that if real change is to be achieved, if our voices are to be heard, corporate systems of power have to be destroyed. This realization engenders an existential and political crisis. The inability to confront this crisis, to accept this truth, leaves us appealing to centers of power that will never respond and ensures we are crippled by self-delusion.

The longer fantasy is substituted for reality, the faster we sleepwalk toward oblivion. There is no guarantee we will wake up. Magical thinking has gripped societies in the past. Those civilizations believed that fate, history, superior virtues or a divine force guaranteed their eternal triumph. As they collapsed, they constructed repressive dystopias. They imposed censorship and forced the unreal to be accepted as real. Those who did not conform were disappeared linguistically and then literally.

The vast disconnect between the official narrative of reality and reality itself creates an Alice-in-Wonderland experience. Propaganda is so pervasive, and truth is so rarely heard, that people do not trust their own senses. We are currently being assaulted by political campaigning that resembles the constant crusading by fascists and communists in past totalitarian societies. This campaigning, devoid of substance and subservient to the mirage of a free society, is anti-politics.

No vote we cast will alter the configurations of the corporate state. The wars will go on. Our national resources will continue to be diverted to militarism. The corporate fleecing of the country will get worse. Poor people of color will still be gunned down by militarized police in our streets. The eradication of our civil liberties will accelerate. The economic misery inflicted on over half the population will expand. Our environment will be ruthlessly exploited by fossil fuel and animal agriculture corporations and we will careen toward ecological collapse. We are “free” only as long as we play our assigned parts. Once we call out power for what it is, once we assert our rights and resist, the chimera of freedom will vanish. The iron fist of the most sophisticated security and surveillance apparatus in human history will assert itself with a terrifying fury.

The powerful web of interlocking corporate entities is beyond our control. Our priorities are not corporate priorities. The corporate state, whose sole aim is exploitation and imperial expansion for increased profit, sinks money into research and development of weapons and state surveillance systems while it starves technologies that address global warming and renewable energy. Universities are awash in defense money but cannot find funds for environmental studies. Our bridges, roads and levees are crumbling from neglect. Our schools are overcrowded, decaying and being transformed into for-profit vocational centers. Our elderly and poor are abandoned and impoverished. Young men and women are crippled by unemployment or underemployment and debt peonage. Our for-profit health care drives the sick into bankruptcy. Our wages are being suppressed and the power of government to regulate corporations is dramatically diminished by a triad of new trade agreements—the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trade in Services Agreement. Government utilities and services, with the implementation of the Trade in Services Agreement, will see whole departments and services, from education to the Postal Service, dismantled and privatized. Our manufacturing jobs, sent overseas, are not coming back. And a corporate media ignores the decay to perpetuate the fiction of a functioning democracy, a reviving economy and a glorious empire.

The essential component of totalitarian propaganda is artifice. The ruling elites, like celebrities, use propaganda to create false personae and a false sense of intimacy with the public.

The emotional power of this narrative is paramount. Issues do not matter. Competency and honesty do not matter. Past political stances or positions do not matter. What is important is how we are made to feel. Those who are skilled at deception succeed. Those who have not mastered the art of deception become “unreal.” Politics in totalitarian societies are entertainment. Reality, because it is complicated, messy and confusing, is banished from the world of mass entertainment. Clichés, stereotypes and uplifting messages that are comforting and self-congratulatory, along with elaborate spectacles, replace fact-based discourse.

“Entertainment was an expression of democracy, throwing off the chains of alleged cultural repression,” Neal Gabler wrote in “Life: The Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality.” “So too was consumption, throwing off the chains of the old production-oriented culture and allowing anyone to buy his way into his fantasy. And, in the end, both entertainment and consumption often provided the same intoxication: the sheer, endless pleasure of emancipation from reason, from responsibility, from tradition, from class and from all the other bonds that restrained the self.”

The more communities break down and poverty expands, the more anxious and frightened people will retreat into self-delusion. Those who speak the truth—whether about climate change or our system of inverted totalitarianism—will be branded as seditious and unpatriotic. They will be hated for destroying the illusion. This, as Gabler noted, is the danger of a society dominated by entertainment. Such a society, he wrote, “… took dead aim at the intellectuals’ most cherished values. That theme was the triumph of the senses over the mind, of emotion over reason, of chaos over order, or the id over the superego. … Entertainment was Plato’s worst nightmare. It deposed the rational and enthroned the sensational and in so doing deposed the intellectual minority and enthroned the unrefined majority.”

Despair, powerlessness and hopelessness diminish the emotional and intellectual resilience needed to confront reality. Those cast aside cling to the entertaining forms of self-delusion offered by the ruling elites. This segment of the population is easily mobilized to “purge” the nation of dissenters and human “contaminants.” Totalitarian systems, including our own, never lack for willing executioners.

Many people, maybe even most people, will not wake up. Those rebels who rise up to try to wrest back power from despotic forces will endure not only the violence of the state, but the hatred and vigilante violence meted out by the self-deluded victims of exploitation. The systems of propaganda will relentlessly demonize those who resist, along with Muslims, undocumented workers, environmentalists, African-Americans, homosexuals, feminists, intellectuals and artists. The utopia will arrive, the state systems of propaganda will assure its followers, once those who obstruct or poison it are removed. Donald Trump is following this script.

The German psychoanalyst and sociologist Erich Fromm in his book “Escape From Freedom” explained the yearning of those who are rendered insignificant to “surrender their freedom.” Totalitarian systems, he pointed out, function like messianic religious cults.

“The frightened individual,” Fromm wrote, “seeks for somebody or something to tie his self to; he cannot bear to be his own individual self any longer, and he tries frantically to get rid of it and to feel security again by the elimination of this burden: the self.”

This is the world we live in. The totalitarian systems of the past used different symbols, different iconography and different fears. They rose up out of a different historical context. But they too demonized the weak and persecuted the strong. They too promised the dispossessed that by subsuming their selves into that of demagogues, or parties or other organizations that promised unrivaled power, they would become powerful. It never works. The growing frustration, the ongoing powerlessness, the mounting repression, leads these betrayed individuals to lash out violently, first at the weak and the demonized, and then at those among them who lack sufficient ideological purity. There is, in the end, an orgy of self-immolation. The death instinct, as Sigmund Freud understood, has a seductive allure.

History may not repeat itself. But it echoes itself. Human nature, after all, is constant. We will react no differently from those who went before us. This should not dissuade us from resisting, but the struggle will be long and difficult. Before it is over there will be blood in the streets.

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_illusion_of_freedom_20151227