Did America Ever Really Work?

Slavery, Segregation, and Stagnation

Rather than looking at America through the lens of the present — “oh my god, what did he do today!! “— I want to ask the question: has American society ever worked?

By “worked”, you can think that I mean two economic criteria. First, according to its own standards of life, liberty, and happiness. Second, a little more formally, whether its economy has ever really been capable of delivering rising living standards broadly.

I think this is an interesting question, because most of us believe in the myth of a golden age past. The American Dream, we suppose, is something that came and went. But if we look at history carefully, I think we will see that it never really existed at all.

We can divide American economic history into three periods.

The first, which we sadly don’t need to say much about, is slavery. Obviously, society wasn’t working in the senses above during this period. Whatever gains there were were largely realized at the expense of great and immoral human suffering.

The second was segregation. Segregation was of course immoral as well, in the most basic terms of equality. Economically, it was a way to preserve many of the toxic economic “benefits” of slavery, while making repression palatable and righteous. It created a low cost labor pool, abrogated those costly things called human rights, and so on.

The third period, which we are in now, is stagnation. Note the interesting fact. Segregation ended in 1964. Stagnation began in 1971. That is when wages flatlined.

There was no intervening middle era, no golden age so to speak of. The American economy went directly from segregation to stagnation.

That tells us a few interesting things.

First, it implies that the social contract of America never really worked at all. That it depended on the exploitation (aka, the coercion, if you like) of entire groups to produce benefits for others. That is not a working society in the modern sense, only in the pre modern, the feudal, one.

Second, it implies that the roots of stagnation are deeper than we think. Stagnation has many factors that caused it to continue. The implosion of unions, the evisceration of public sector employment, a tilted playing against labour and towards capital, and so on. But the cause of stagnation cannot be all those, because they simply did not exist yet. The true cause of stagnation is simpler: without a group of people to exploit, the American economy simply began to fail, because it was predicated still on that exploitation to begin with. Except now, it is more or less everyone being exploited, in perhaps softer and less visible ways.

Now, you might object here. All this goes against what you have been taught, if you subscribe to orthodox American history, doesn’t it? So think about carefully. Go ahead and see if you can poke any holes in it. Slavery, then segregation, then stagnation. No intervening grace period. If you clear your mind of ideology, and think clearly about a working society, what does it tell you?

Third, all the above tells us the American Dream never was at all. It’s a truism to say that the American Dream came with hidden costs. Pollution, NIMBYism, and so on. But there’s a deeper truth there. Costs are only one side of the equation. What about benefits? The simple fact all the above tells us is the American economy was never able to generate enough real social benefits to be broadly shared, without exploitation, forced labour, and so on. Remember, it fell it into stagnation as soon as segregation ended, and that implies that it was dysfunctional in terms of its fundamental ability to create value to begin with.

So what going directly from segregation to stagnation tells us, in the end, is this. The faces, the people, the groups involved, changed — but the pattern didn’t. The economy remained predicated, founded on exploitation, only now it was less able to do so effectively, less viciously, less visibly. Hence, stagnation. Today, the economy is still a predatory machine — only it is so for everyone, not just specific ethnic or racial groups. That is the true historic price of the toxic legacy of hate America carries.

I’m often accused of saying “we’re doomed!”. And yet I never do, do I? So the conclusion of all the above isn’t that. Rather, it’s this.

If we are able to see clearly that the American economy, the social contract, was never functional in a genuine substantive sense at all, then perhaps now we can have a more truer discussion about how to make it so. Instead of harkening back to a mythical Golden Age that never existed at all, which is what I call Vox’n’Fox thinking converges to.

Now we can ask the wiser question. What makes societies “work”? What didn’t America develop, by going straight from segregation to stagnation?

We don’t have to look very far or think very hard. What makes Canada, Sweden, etc, work, in the sense that produce shared, enduring prosperity, is public goods. They developed those in the 1950s and 60s. America went straight from segregation to stagnation because it never had public healthcare, transport, higher education, and so on. It simply started exploiting people in a different way — but faces changed, but the pattern didn’t.

Today, it still doesn’t have public goods. And it’s because it failed to develop at precisely the time it should have that it remains stuck today — stuck in the trap of exploitation, which it never really broke to begin with.

To think clearly is to see what has been with an open mind. America is not the historic success that we, educated into the annals of exceptionalism. think. That does not mean that we should feel guilty, ashamed, bad, weak. It simply means that have the opportunity to make it one. There are two choices ahead of us. The third period, stagnation, can go on, into collapse. Or there can be a fourth period, of renewal.

May 2017


Trump’s firing of Comey: A breakdown of constitutional government

15 May 2017

The political crisis brought to a head by President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey is rapidly intensifying, with calls for Trump’s impeachment and threats by the White House to go even further in attacking democratic rights and constitutional norms.

Trump provoked further recriminations from within the political establishment with his tweeted threat Friday, warning that Comey should be careful what he says to the media and to Congress about his private discussions with the president, because tapes of their conversations might exist. This led to immediate responses from both Democrats and Republicans that any tapes could be subpoenaed as part of the ongoing investigations into the conduct of the 2016 elections.

There were unconfirmed press reports of an impending purge within the White House staff, with Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, chief strategist Stephen Bannon and press spokesman Sean Spicer all potential targets. As more than one media commentator noted, this would leave the White House staff under the direction of “Ivanka and Jared,” the president’s daughter and son-in-law, making even more extreme the personalist and quasi-dictatorial character of the Trump administration.

Trump fueled such speculation by suggesting that daily White House press briefings might be canceled, to be replaced by infrequent press conferences by the president himself. He refused to allow any White House spokespeople to appear on the Sunday television interview programs after the networks rejected demands that they refrain from asking questions about the Comey firing and its aftermath.

The Washington Post published an editorial Sunday warning that Trump’s conduct “threatened the independence of federal law enforcement and sullied key institutions of U.S. democracy,” adding that “The president injected himself into an investigation where he has absolutely no right to interfere.” While demanding that congressional and FBI investigations into alleged Russian interference in the US election be stepped up, the newspaper published an op-ed column by Harvard Professor Laurence Tribe calling for Trump’s impeachment.

Even more extraordinary were the remarks of retired Gen. James Clapper, the director of national intelligence under President Obama. Interviewed Sunday morning on the CNN program “State of the Union,” Clapper had the following exchange with host Jake Tapper after Tapper asked for his response to the firing of Comey:

Clapper: I think, in many ways, our institutions are under assault, both externally—and that’s the big news here, is the Russian interference in our election system. And I think as well our institutions are under assault internally.

Tapper: Internally from the president?

Clapper: Exactly.

Clapper is no friend of democracy or accountability. By rights, he should be serving a prison sentence for perjury, having denied under oath, during congressional testimony in 2013, that there was widespread US government spying on the communications of Americans. A few weeks later, the revelations of Edward Snowden exposed him as a liar.

If the retired general, who until January 20 stood at the head of 17 agencies with more than 100,000 spies, analysts and agents, now declares that Trump, the nominal commander-in-chief, is a threat to the institutions of the American state, that is a sign of a state machine at war with itself. This is only one step removed from advocating that the military-intelligence apparatus step in to “preserve order,” the pretext invariably given in country after country for coups and military takeovers.

No one should believe that “it can’t happen here.” Both sides in the conflict within the ruling elite are turning to the military as the final arbiter. Trump himself has filled his cabinet with former and currently serving generals in an effort to strengthen his ties with the military. He has repeatedly addressed military audiences while offering his top commanders free rein to order more aggressive battlefield tactics and troop buildups, and promising police similar leeway within the United States.

The Democratic Party is incapable of raising a single democratic principle in opposition to Trump. It has chosen to oppose the president on the basis of the completely reactionary and bogus claim that he owes his presidency to alleged Russian intervention into the 2016 campaign. Its media supporters have followed suit: two New York Times columnists (Nicholas Kristof and Tim Egan) yesterday suggested that Trump may be guilty of treason, while a third (Thomas Friedman) appealed openly to the military last month to carry out a palace coup.

The world is confronting a crisis of historic dimensions in the center of global capitalism. Decades of social and political reaction, unending war and the artificial suppression of class conflict are coming to a head. Wealth and power have been concentrated to an extraordinary degree in the hands of a narrow oligarchy, while the vast majority of the population is driven into increasingly desperate economic straits and deprived of any political influence.

The dysfunctionality of American society is everywhere in evidence. Crumbling roads, bridges, water and sewer systems, deepening poverty and social misery, collapsing schools, the slashing of social spending and private pensions are in their totality the consequence of the subordination of all rational consideration of the public interest to a manic drive for profit.

Social anger among working people—who see the government shutting them out from any access to decent health care, poisoning the water supply in cities such as Flint to enrich speculators and their bribed politicians—is reaching the boiling point. Both parties and all of the official institutions—Congress, the Supreme Court, the media—are discredited. What is unfolding is a breakdown of the entire framework of constitutional government.

If Trump is a rogue president who accepts no legal or constitutional limits on his actions, he only mirrors the conduct of the corporate CEOs, bankers and hedge fund moguls who crashed the world economy in 2008 with impunity, and now reap untold profits while working people suffer the consequences.

There is no way out of this crisis through the existing political framework. If Trump is replaced through the machinations of the Democrats or its allies in the military-intelligence apparatus, the result will be a further turn to the right, an acceleration of militarism and reaction, and potentially a US nuclear war with Russia. Trump himself can prevail only through the mobilization of ultra-right and fascistic elements, both within the military and outside it, with the most ominous consequences for the social interests and democratic rights of working people.

The only way to resolve the political crisis on a progressive and democratic basis is through the political mobilization of the working class. Only the working class, fighting on the basis of a socialist program, independently and in opposition to the two parties of big business and their stooges in the trade unions, can open a new road forward.

Patrick Martin


One of eight people in US is food insecure

New report documents pervasive hunger in America

By Shelley Connor
6 May 2017

A report released by Feeding America on May 4 reveals that one out of every eight people, and one out of every six children, did not consistently have access to food in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available. While there has been an overall decline over the past several years in food insecurity rates, hunger and poverty levels have not declined to pre-recession levels, the report states.

Moreover, the gap between income and the money needed to buy adequate food for the millions of people classified as food insecure is growing. And the existing government food programs, increasingly starved of funding, are scandalously inadequate to meet the immense social need.

The report is a further exposure of the government/media narrative that the US has recovered from the Great Recession and, as former President Barack Obama said at the end of 2015, “things are pretty great in America.” Obama, of course, was speaking for his real constituency—Wall Street and the wealthy, who monopolized an even greater share of the national wealth thanks to his right-wing policies.

Donald Trump is taking off where Obama left off, plundering the economy and enriching the financial aristocracy even more shamelessly. With profits, stock prices and the personal fortunes of the rich at record levels, the ongoing hunger crisis stands as an unanswerable indictment of the capitalist system.

Using United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) data, Feeding America, a nonprofit that operates food banks, mapped food insecurity throughout each county and congressional district in the United States. The compiled statistics offer a sobering insight into the living standards of large sections of working class and lower-middle class Americans:

* In 2009, the year after the Wall Street crash, some 50 million US residents were food insecure. While that number fell to 42 million in 2015, the budget shortfall for food insecure individuals averaged $527 a year. This represents an increase of 13 percent, adjusted for inflation, since 2008.

* Children are more vulnerable to hunger than the general population. On average, 21 percent of children across all US counties are food insecure, compared to 14 percent of the general population. Some 41 percent of the children in Issaquena County, Mississippi are food insecure, and in 14 counties, over 100,000 children cannot expect consistent meals.

* Twenty six percent of food insecure individuals nationwide are unlikely to qualify for government nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, better known as food stamps), Women Infants and Children (WIC) and free or reduced-price school meals. In 76 US counties, the majority of food insecure individuals are likely to be ineligible for government assistance. In Douglas County, Colorado, near Denver, about two-thirds of the county’s 28,280 food insecure individuals are unlikely to qualify for government nutrition aid.

One in four food insecure individuals report that they applied for government assistance and were denied.

This is no mystery given that in many states a family of four has to earn less than $31,980 a year to qualify for food stamps. In other words, the family has to be living in the most dire poverty.

* Millions of people with jobs are living in hunger. Some 57 percent of food insecure people earn more than the (absurdly low) federal poverty level.

* Eighty-nine percent of the counties with the highest rates of food insecurity are located in the South.

* Rural counties make up 63 percent of all US counties, but account for 76 percent of the counties facing the highest rates of food insecurity.

However, while urban counties have lower rates of food insecurity, many have huge numbers of people living with hunger. Los Angeles County has a relatively “low” rate of food insecurity at 12 percent, but it is home to 1.2 million food insecure individuals, including 480,000 children. The counties with the highest number of food insecure people are New York, Los Angeles, Harris (Houston), Cook (Chicago), Maricopa (Phoenix), Dallas, San Diego, Wayne (Detroit), Tarrant (Fort Worth) and Philadelphia.

Diana Aviv, CEO of Feeding America, characterized the report as “grim news.” She continued: “It is disheartening to realize that millions of hardworking, low-income Americans are finding it increasingly difficult to feed themselves and their families at a time that our economy is showing many signs of improvement…”

Widespread and entrenched hunger in the richest country in the world is not the result of cosmic forces or an act of God. It is the product of deliberate policies carried out by both parties, acting in the interests of the ruling corporate-financial elite. The SNAP program was cut repeatedly under the Obama administration, including the $8.7 billion reduction Obama signed into law in February of 2104, stripping more than 500,000 people of food stamp benefits.

One day after Feeding America issued its report, Trump signed into law a bipartisan budget measure extending funding of the federal government through the end of the 2017 fiscal year, September 30, which includes a further $2.4 billion cut in food stamps. The same measure allocates an additional $15 billion for the military over the next five months plus $1.5 billion more to further militarize the United States’ southern border. The Democrats hailed the measure as a victory for the people and defeat for Trump.

The $16.5 billion combined allocation for war abroad and the war on immigrants at home would go a long way in covering what Feeding America calls the annual “food budget shortfall” for America’s food insecure population—estimated at $22.3 billion.

If that full amount were deducted from the net worth ($81 billion) of America’s richest billionaire, Bill Gates, the computer mogul would still be left with nearly $60 billion. Speculator George Soros, the 19th richest American, could cover the hunger deficit and still have a cool $3 billion to spare.

A social system that condemns millions to hunger in order to sustain the meaningless and corrupt lifestyles of a new aristocracy is doomed. It deserves to perish.


Hundreds of thousands to participate in worldwide “March for Science”

By Bryan Dyne
22 April 2017

Hundreds of thousands of scientists, researchers, workers and youth are poised to participate in today’s “March for Science.” The main rally will take place in Washington, DC, with sister demonstrations and marches taking place in more than 600 locations across the world, involving people in at least 130 countries and encompassing six continents. It is slated to be the world’s largest pro-science demonstration to date.

The initial impulse for the march arose when the Trump administration deleted all references to climate change from the official White House web site minutes after Trump’s inauguration. Scientists across the United States saw this as the opening salvo in a much broader attack on science generally, leading to the creation of the March for Science Facebook group calling for a demonstration in Washington, DC, mirroring the protests against the Trump administration before, during and in the weeks following Trump’s first days as president.

More broadly, the March for Science reflects the general anti-Trump sentiment in the majority of the US and world’s population. The fact that the Facebook group has attracted more than 830,000 members shows just how many people, both scientists and non-scientists from all corners of the globe, are seeking an avenue to oppose the Trump administration and its reactionary policies.

One measure of this is the fact that the march has been endorsed by virtually every US organization with an orientation towards science and several international scientific institutions, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, The Planetary Society, the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. The notable exceptions are endorsements from the official scientific agencies of various governments, such as ESA or NASA, though no doubt individuals from these organizations support and will be participating in the marches.

The event is being led by three honorary co-chairs, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, Bill Nye “the Science Guy” and Dr. Lydia Villa-Komaroff, all of whom have been involved on some level as advocates for science in the political arena. Dr. Hanna-Attisha fought to expose lead poisoning in Flint, Bill Nye has repeatedly spoken out against climate change deniers and Dr. Villa-Komaroff pioneered the field of biotechnology.

Despite this, however, and despite the anti-Trump origins of the March for Science, the organizers have taken great pains to avoid any discussions of the anti-science policies of various Trump administration officials, from EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, to Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to Trump himself. No mention has been made of the policies that allow for the destruction of the environment, attacks on public education or various forms of censorship that scientists in the US and internationally often face, much less the increasing danger of nuclear war and the existential threat that this poses to all life on Earth.

These limitations are summed up in the declaration that attacks on science “are not a partisan issue.” While the mission statement for the March for Science correctly notes that science has been attacked by both Republicans and Democrats, it does not fully explain the inherently political nature of this question.

This is particularly striking when one considers that one of the three honorary co-chairs for the event is Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, director of the Flint Hurley Medical Center’s pediatric residency program, and the person who first revealed the doubling and tripling of lead in the blood of Flint children since April 2014. The science behind lead poisoning has been understood for decades, particularly the potentially deadly effect it has, especially on children.

This has become an intensely political issue for the residents of Flint, who are outraged over the fact that this problem was known to city and state officials but ignored by state appointed Emergency Manager Darnell Earley to slash city operating costs in order to pay city debts to Wall Street banks. Dr. Hanna-Attisha herself was attacked by city and state officials for tampering with the data even as residents were becoming ill and dying.

The forces that suppressed the lead poisoning data in Flint can trace their political heritage to those that have denied the dangers of nuclear winter for nearly four decades, those that attacked the theory of evolution during the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925, and even as far back as the reactionary methods used to suppress Copernicus’ idea that the Earth revolves around the Sun. In every one of these cases, the scientists threatened material and political interests and were forcefully attacked.

The challenge for those participating in today’s march is not merely the “celebration of science,” but of connecting the attacks on science to the broader attacks on all progressive aspects of modern society by capitalism, a social and economic system in which all human activity is subordinated to the profit motive. As such, scientists and their supporters must connect the defense of science to the struggle of the most progressive social force in society, the working class, against the corporate elite.


Separating fact from fake news

Danny Katch, author of Socialism…Seriously: A Brief Guide to Human Liberation, considers how the left can analyze the world in the Trumpian era of “alternative facts.”

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer

ALL GOVERNMENTS lie, as the independent journalist I.F. Stone once said. But not all governments lie as proudly as those led by Donald Trump.

This guy started his presidency issuing an easily disprovable falsehood about the size of the crowd at his inauguration, a typically Trumpish blend of silly and creepy, like a dictator declaring that from this day forward the sky is officially orange (or climate change is a hoax). He lies so often that a whole category of his lies are denials of previous lies.

Corporate-owned media outlets generally obey the unwritten rule that the spokespeople for government sources should be treated as credible–regardless of how many times they’ve been caught lying–but the new president’s obvious disdain for the truth pushed many of them to adopt a more Stone-like stance of skepticism.

But Trump only needed to lob some missiles and bombs in enemy lands to restore the press back to its natural state of blind trust in authority. The Pentagon announced that it dropped the “Mother of All Bombs” in eastern Afghanistan, and there was little mainstream questioning of the government’s claim that this monstrosity with a mile-wide blast radius managed to only kill bad guys.

Clearly the left has to take a different approach, and treat the word of the U.S. government as we would that of any individual with a similarly long history of murder and mendacity.

But if we don’t trust the government–and, by extension, many of the mainstream news reports that simply repeat government talking points–then how do we get our information?

The left doesn’t have the resources to replicate all of the bureaus and investigative reporting of media corporations. Progressive media like Democracy Now! and Truthout (or even your humble correspondents at SocialistWorker.org) can sometimes deliver important scoops, but radicals have no choice but to rely on larger outlets for much of our information.

The defining difference between the left and the corporate media is not that we have different facts–because we often don’t–but that we have different frameworks for interpreting and drawing conclusions from those facts. That’s important to keep in mind at a time when “alternative facts” are becoming a growing problem on the left as well as the right.

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OUR STARTING point at SocialistWorker.org is that, as mentioned, we don’t trust “our” government.

But we should be consistent like I.F. Stone and be suspicious of all governments–especially those like the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, which has tortured and murdered hundreds of thousands of people and lied about its crimes with a boldness that would make Sean Spicer bow down in admiration.

This is unfortunately not a universal method across the left. Like the closed circuit of right-wing websites passing the same fabrications back and forth about disease-spreading immigrants and “black-on-black crime,” there are a growing number of websites recycling dubious speculations about “false flag” operations in Syria designed to discredit the Assad government.

These conspiracy theories not only suck a few people down the “truther” rabbit hole, but they also create a deliberately muddled atmosphere on the left that can make new activists think they need to read detailed studies of the property of sarin gas just to have an opinion on something that couldn’t be more clear: the Assad government is monstrous.

SocialistWorker.org has drawn that conclusion not because the U.S. government says so, but because millions of Syrians have said so–including those who have been killed, jailed and exiled in the process.

That gets to the next element of our framework for evaluating facts and understanding the world. We may not trust governments, but we listen closely to ordinary people, particularly when they are organized in large-scale protest movements.

Protesters can lie, of course, and protest movements are subject to manipulation, whether by foreign agents or homegrown opportunists. But our starting assumption when hundreds of thousands or millions of people take to the streets is that they are not mere puppets of a foreign power.

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HERE’S THE thing about government lies: They’re usually not very effective–and in reality, they don’t need to be.

When the cops kill another unarmed African American and claim he was charging at all five of them with a pair of scissors, they don’t get away with it because we all believe them–certainly not those of us who live in the neighborhood. They get away with it because cops are allowed to murder unarmed Black people. The lie is just a formality.

Or take the lies that the Bush administration told about Iraq having “weapons of mass destruction,” which some now cite as “precedent” for the U.S. lying about Assad using chemical weapons.

There are two false assumptions that have developed in recent years about the big WMD lie.

The first is that most people were tricked by the lie into supporting the war. In fact, the U.S. population was pretty much split down the middle, and the protests against the Iraq invasion before it happened were some of the largest in U.S. history. Like killer cops, the Bush administration went to war with Iraq not because they were able to fool us, but because they had the power to disregard popular will.

The second myth is that the WMD lie was essential for the war. In fact, it wasn’t necessarily the belief in WMDs that led people to support the invasion, but the other way around. Just as people who want to drill for more oil find a way to not believe in climate change, people who wanted the invasion to happen convinced themselves that Saddam Hussein had his finger on the button of an arsenal of WMDs.

As for our side, while we certainly didn’t believe the Bush’s lies–especially when they were contradicted by the person charged with inspecting Iraq for WMDs–many of us wouldn’t have been surprised to learn that Iraq did indeed hide chemical or biological weapons. After all, the U.S. had considered Saddam Hussein an ally until he became an enemy.

Our opposition to the war wasn’t based on believing that Iraq didn’t have WMDs, but on the anti-imperialist understanding that the United States isn’t a force that would protect the world from those weapons.

Similarly today, opposing the U.S. waging war on the Syrian government doesn’t require us to believe the Assad regime didn’t carry out the recent poison gas attack (which it almost certainly did)–any more than protesting the Ferguson police murder of Mike Brown required us to know that Brown hadn’t first robbed cigarillos from a convenience store (which he almost certainly didn’t.)

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THE LEFT that needs to grow into a force that can challenge Donald Trump has to be one that doesn’t create its own alternative facts to fit into our alternative politics. On the contrary, we have to do our best to gather and interpret new information from all available sources in order to keep up our understanding of a constantly changing world.

This dynamism is another element of our political framework, and it’s admittedly more complicated than simply trusting what the leaders of protest movements say more than governments. Assessing the changes in inter-imperial rivalries and the competing political tendencies inside opposition movements is not an exact science, and it requires a willingness to debate and change one’s mind.

But there’s a basic outline for understanding the U.S. role in the Middle East that’s clear. For years after the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. goal was regime change to install puppet governments across the region. Those plans were laid to waste, first by the failed occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan and then by the 2011 Arab Spring rebellions, which turned “regime change” into a revolutionary demand that the U.S. government instinctively opposed.

That’s why the Obama administration was very cautious about backing rebels in Syria even as Assad turned the country into a killing field that sprouted both ISIS and a mass exodus of refugees to the surrounding region and some to Europe. And it’s why Trump came into office talking even more openly about working with and not against the Syrian regime.

Yes, the U.S. government has lied to go to war, and it will undoubtedly do so in the future. But we can assume that it isn’t lying about Assad’s sarin attack, not because Trump of all people is a trustworthy president, but because he didn’t want to go to war against Syria.

(Of course, reports like this New York Times article make it unclear if the Trump administration is even competent enough to know whether or not it’s lying.)

Fifteen years ago, the 9/11 conspiracy cult did damage, not good, to the antiwar cause, and more than a few decent leftists were sucked into the abyss of all-night Internet sleuthing and “you must be in on it, too” paranoia.

Their problem wasn’t that they were wrong that the U.S. government was probably hiding details about 9/11–like the involvement of Saudi Arabia. The problem was the illusion that if only they could uncover the “truth” and bring the conspiracy to light, we could get back to the normal decency of American capitalism and empire.

Today, it’s critical that the left exposes Trump’s lies, rather than counter them with our own. Otherwise, instead of winning millions of new people to our side, we’ll just add to the general cynicism that you can’t trust anything you read anywhere.