What Happened to Russiagate?

Posted on Apr 18, 2017

By Robert Parry / Consortiumnews

Democrats, liberals and some progressives might be feeling a little perplexed over what has happened to Russiagate, the story that pounded Donald Trump every day since his election last November—until April 4, that is.

On April 4, Trump fully capitulated to the neoconservative bash-Russia narrative amid dubious claims about a chemical attack in Syria. On April 6, Trump fired off 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase; he also restored the neocon demand for “regime change” in Syria; and he alleged that Russia was possibly complicit in the supposed chemical attack.

Since Trump took those actions—in accordance with the neocon desires for more “regime change” in the Middle East and a costly New Cold War with Russia—Russiagate has almost vanished from the news.

I did find a little story in the lower right-hand corner of page A12 of Saturday’s New York Times about a still-eager Democratic congressman, Mike Quigley of Illinois, who spent a couple of days in Cyprus which attracted his interest because it is a known site for Russian money-laundering, but he seemed to leave more baffled than when he arrived.

“The more I learn, the more complex, layered and textured I see the Russia issue is—and that reinforces the need for professional full-time investigators,” Quigley said, suggesting that the investigation’s failure to strike oil is not that the holes are dry but that he needs better drill bits.Yet, given all the hype and hullabaloo over Russiagate, the folks who were led to believe that the vague and amorphous allegations were “bigger than Watergate” might now be feeling a little used. It appears they may have been sucked into a conspiracy frenzy in which the Establishment exploited their enthusiasm over the “scandal” in a clever maneuver to bludgeon an out-of-step new President back into line.

If that’s indeed the case, perhaps the most significant success of the Russiagate ploy was the ouster of Trump’s original National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who was seen as a key proponent of a New Détente with Russia, and his replacement by General H.R. McMaster, a protégé of neocon favorite, retired Gen. David Petraeus.

McMaster was viewed as the key player in arranging the April 6 missile strike on Syria and in preparing a questionable “intelligence assessment” on April 11 to justify the rush to judgment. Although McMaster’s four-page white paper has been accepted as gospel by the mainstream U.S. news media, its many weaknesses have been noted by actual experts, such as MIT national security and technology professor Theodore Postol.

How Washington Works

But the way Official Washington works is that Trump was made to look weak when he argued for a more cooperative and peaceful relationship with Russia. Hillary Clinton dubbed him Vladimir Putin’s “puppet” and “Saturday Night Live” portrayed Trump as in thrall to a bare-chested Putin. More significantly, front-page stories every morning and cable news segments every night created the impression of a compromised U.S. President in Putin’s pocket.

Conversely, Trump was made to look strong when he fired off missiles against a Syrian airbase and talked tough about Russian guilt. Neocon commentator Charles Krauthammer praised Trump’s shift as demonstrating that “America is back.”

Trump further enhanced his image for toughness when his military dropped the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB), nicknamed the “mother of all bombs,” on some caves in Afghanistan. While the number of casualties inflicted by the blast was unclear, Trump benefited from the admiring TV and op-ed commentaries about him finally acting “presidential.”

But the real test of political courage is to go against the grain in a way that may be unpopular in the short term but is in the best interests of the United States and the world community in the longer term.

In that sense, Trump seeking peaceful cooperation with Russia—even amid the intense anti-Russian propaganda of the past several years—required actual courage, while launching missiles and dropping bombs might win praise but actually make the U.S. position in the world weaker.

Trump, however, saw his fledgling presidency crumbling under the daily barrage of Russiagate, even though there was no evidence that his campaign colluded with Russia to interfere with the U.S. election and there wasn’t even clear evidence that Russia was behind the disclosure of Democratic emails, via WikiLeaks, during the campaign.

Still, the combined assault from the Democrats, the neocons and the mainstream media forced Trump to surrender his campaign goal of achieving a more positive relationship with Russia and greater big-power collaboration in the fight against terrorism.

For Trump, the incessant chatter about Russiagate was like a dripping water torture. The thin-skinned Trump fumed at his staff and twittered messages aimed at changing the narrative, such as accusing President Obama of “wiretapping” Trump Tower. But nothing worked.

However, once Trump waved the white flag by placing his foreign policy under the preferred banner of the neoconservatives, the Russiagate pressure stopped. The op-ed pages suddenly were hailing his “decisiveness.” If you were a neocon, you might say about Russiagate: Mission accomplished!

Russiagate’s Achievements

Besides whipping Trump into becoming a more compliant politician, Russiagate could claim some other notable achievements. For instance, it spared the national Democrats from having to confront their own failures in Campaign 2016 by diverting responsibility for the calamity of Trump’s election.

Instead of Democratic leaders taking responsibility for picking a dreadful candidate, ignoring the nation’s anti-establishment mood, and failing to offer any kind of inspiring message, the national Democrats could palm off the blame on “Russia! Russia! Russia!”

Thus, rather than looking in the mirror and trying to figure out how to correct their deep-seated problems, the national Democrats could instead focus on a quixotic tilting at Trump’s impeachment.

Many on the Left joined in this fantasy because they have been so long without a Movement that the huge post-inaugural “pussy hat” marches were a temptation that they couldn’t resist. Russiagate became the fuel to keep the “Movement” bandwagon rolling. #Resistance!

It didn’t matter that the “scandal”—the belief that Russia somehow conspired with Trump to rig the U.S. presidential election—amounted to a bunch of informational dots that didn’t connect.

Russiagate also taught the American “left” to learn to love McCarthyism since “proof” of guilt pretty much amounted to having had contact with a Russian—and anyone who questioned the dubious factual basis of the “scandal” was dismissed as a “Russian propagandist” or a “Moscow stooge” or a purveyor of “fake news.”

Another Russiagate winner was the mainstream news media which got a lot of mileage—and loads of new subscription money—by pushing the convoluted conspiracy. The New York Times positioned itself as the great protector of “truth” and The Washington Post adopted a melodramatic new slogan: “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”

On Thanksgiving Day, the Post ran a front-page article touting an anonymous Internet group called PropOrNot that identified some 200 Internet news sites, including Consortiumnews.com and other major sources of independent journalism, as guilty of “Russian propaganda.” Facts weren’t needed; the accused had no chance for rebuttal; the accusers even got to hide in the shadows; the smear was the thing.

The Post and the Times also conflated news outlets that dared to express skepticism toward claims from the U.S. State Department with some entrepreneurial sites that trafficked in intentionally made-up stories or “fake news” to make money.

To the Post and Times, there appeared to be no difference between questioning the official U.S. narrative on, say, the Ukraine crisis and knowingly fabricating pretend news articles to get lots of clicks. Behind the smokescreen of Russiagate, the mainstream U.S. news media took the position that there was only one side to a story, what Official Washington chose to believe.

While it’s likely that there will be some revival of Russiagate to avoid the appearance of a completely manufactured scandal, the conspiracy theory’s more significant near-term consequence could be that it has taught Donald Trump a dangerous lesson.

If he finds himself in a tight spot, the way out is to start bombing some “enemy” halfway around the world. The next time, however, the target might not be so willing to turn the other cheek. If, say, Trump launches a preemptive strike against North Korea, the result could be a retaliatory nuclear attack against South Korea or Japan.

Or, if the neocons push ahead with their ultimate “regime change” strategy of staging a “color revolution” in Moscow to overthrow Putin, the outcome might be—not the pliable new leader that the neocons would want—but an unstable Russian nationalist who might see a nuclear attack on the U.S. as the only way to protect the honor of Mother Russia.

For all his faults, Trump did offer a more temperate approach toward U.S.-Russian relations, which also could have tamped down spending for nuclear and other strategic weapons and freed up some of that money for infrastructure and other needs at home. But that was before Russiagate.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, “America’s Stolen Narrative,” either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

The socialist history they hide from us

Socialism was put at the center of U.S. politics by the campaign of Bernie Sanders, which confirmed again what people who protest for a living wage or stand up against police racism have been saying for years: The capitalist system isn’t working, and we need an alternative.

At this summer’s Socialism 2016 conference in Chicago, Sharon Smith and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor were the main speakers at an evening plenary session on “The Fight for a Socialist Future.” Here, we publish the speech by Sharon Smith, author of Subterranean Fire: A History of Working-Class Radicalism in the United States and Women and Socialism: Class, Race and Capital, edited for publication, in which she talks about the hidden history of socialist organizing in the U.S. and the lessons that history holds for today. SW also featured Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s speech here.

Members of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers on the picket line in 1915

Members of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers on the picket line in 1915

I HAVE a message for all those naysayers who are absolutely certain that the U.S. could never go socialist because the working class is too–fill in the blank here–a) bought off; b) materialistic; c) apathetic; d) self-absorbed; e) pro-capitalist; f) consumeristic; g) reactionary; h) ignorant; or i) stupid to ever join a socialist movement.

To all those naysayers, I feel compelled to say, “We told you so.” And the supporting evidence for this statement can be summed up in two words: Sanders supporters.

Yes, the millions of youth who have flocked to Bernie Sanders and declared themselves to be socialists–that is, committed to confronting the colossal degree of inequality that capitalism produces–have proven that America could indeed go socialist if today’s younger generation has anything to say about it.

This generation–which is saddled with debt and faces living standards lower than their parents, with a future of a series of low-paying jobs–has demonstrated to all that this country, just like all others in the world, is divided into classes, in which the vast majority of people suffer because of capitalism: A system that is driven only by the insatiable quest for profits on the part of a tiny capitalist class, without the slightest regard for human need or for the workers who produce their profits.

But the young socialists of today want to fight all forms of inequality and oppression. Large majorities are against the continued oppression of women and LGBTQ people and against racism. They mobilized in large numbers in support of Black Lives Matter and against the oppression of LGBTQ people, including after the horrific murder at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando just a couple of weeks ago.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the youth of today are giving us exactly the kind of hope for the future that has been missing for quite a long time in the socialist movement. This last year is the first time in many decades that a self-described socialist presidential candidate has won mass support in this country–and that is an enormous tipping point for our side.

Having said that, I want to emphasize that we older folks also have an indispensable role to play in the fight for socialism because a socialist organization acts as the collective memory of the working class. Knowing our history allows us to gain from the experience of those who have fought before us–so we can learn from the victories as well as the defeats of the past.

Without that knowledge of history, we will find ourselves reinventing the wheel every time we begin a new struggle, repeating past mistakes and having to learn old lessons all over again, suffering unnecessary defeats instead of advancing the fight for socialism.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

KARL MARX and Frederick Engels wrote in the Communist Manifesto, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle”–meaning that class struggle on a massive scale ultimately creates the conditions for socialist revolution.

But the truth is that a ruling class offensive against the working class has been going on for 40 years now–and make no mistake, it’s a bipartisan project, with the aim of lowering working-class living standards and destroying working-class organizations. While the mainstream media tells us that it’s great progress when the Democrats and Republicans work together, exactly the opposite is true: Bipartisanship means that their side is completely united against our side, which is never good news for us.

The one-sided class war of the last 40 years means that today’s generation of young radicals knows only a lifetime of declining living standards, defeat and setback, with very few victories in between.

There has never been such an extended period of working-class retreat and defeat in the history of U.S. capitalism as what we have experienced these last 40 years–this is true. But we need to understand that, as terrible as it has been to go through it, the last 40 years is the exception rather than the rule.

Capitalism created two objectively antagonistic classes in society, the exploiters and the exploited, the capitalists and the working class. Unfortunately, many people even on the left have written off the potential of the working class to fight for socialism because it hasn’t happened in so long. This makes our history even more important to learn and understand.

The working class in this country actually has a long-standing tradition of radicalism. Anarchists, socialists and other radicals played a leading role in nearly every major strike in our history until the radical movement was destroyed by McCarthyism. During the anti-communist witch hunt in the 1950s, Communist Party members Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were executed just to make an example out of them, and literally thousands of radicals and union militants, from Hollywood actors to the United Auto Workers, were persecuted, prosecuted, fired from their jobs, blacklisted and sent to prison for their beliefs.

This was a conscious assault on the part of the U.S. ruling class that succeeded at physically removing the radical tradition from inside the working class. Since that time, through no fault of its own, the socialist movement has been exiled to the margins of the class that it champions. Until now, that is.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THE HISTORY of the socialist movement and the class struggle in the U.S. is barely mentioned in history classes at school–not because the teachers refuse to teach it, but because their lesson plans are scripted from on high by those who have an interest in maintaining the capitalist system. They don’t want us to know about it in case it gives us any ideas about doing something similar.

In reality, the U.S. working class possesses a tradition that has, at certain key points, led the world working class in its heroism and combativity. The U.S. working class movement launched the struggle for the eight-hour workday back in the 1880s, and Chicago was the site of the very first May Day. That holiday is named after the Haymarket Martyrs and celebrated in countries all over the world every May 1. The U.S. is one of the few places where May Day is not celebrated.

The U.S. is also the home of the New York City garment workers’ struggle of 1909 involving 20,000 women workers, all of them immigrants who spoke a dozen different languages and yet managed to unite and strike against sweatshop conditions. That struggle launched the first International Women’s Day, celebrated as a socialist holiday the world over–again, seemingly, everywhere but here.

Most people don’t know it, but hundreds of thousands of working-class people built a grassroots antiwar movement against the First World War in this country–in spite of the fact that the government passed a law called the Espionage Act making it a crime to speak out against the war.

Groups of workers and poor farmers organized and passed declarations like this one by the Oklahoma Socialists society in December 1914: “If war is declared, the Socialists of Oklahoma shall refuse to enlist; but if forced to enter military service to murder fellow workers, we shall choose to die fighting the enemies of humanity in our ranks rather than to perish fighting our fellow workers.”

The U.S. is also the home of the sit-down strikes of the 1930s that built the industrial unions. This was not only the highest point of working-class struggle in U.S. history with the strike wave that built the CIO unions, but it also brought together thousands and thousands of Black and white workers, who stood shoulder to shoulder against a common enemy, on picket lines and in sit-down strikes, on demonstrations to free the Scottsboro Boys–nine young Black men put on death row in Alabama on trumped-up rape charges.

In other words, in the 1930s, thousands of white workers consciously came over to the fight against racism for the first time in U.S. history.

And far from taking a backseat to men in the class struggle during the 1930s, women workers built unions in their own right, and played a leading role in some of the most important strikes that took place.

During the Flint sit-down strike of 1937, when the mostly male workforce occupied the plant to demand a union, socialist women organized the Flint Women’s Emergency Brigade, which was far from a typical women’s auxiliary that limited itself to cooking food for the strikers. On the contrary, the women armed themselves with objects that looked remarkably like baseball bats to fight–and beat–the police and National Guard. That is the power of the class struggle when it reaches massive proportions.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THE 1930s was also an era of political radicalization inside the working class. And workers who were in the forefront of the class struggle began to break with the Democratic Party–seeing through Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s posturing as the spokesman for the downtrodden, when in reality he stood solidly on the side of saving capitalism during the Great Depression.

Instead, those workers leading key industrial struggles called for a working-class party of their own. The United Auto Workers (UAW) convention of 1935 actually voted down a resolution supporting Roosevelt for president, and instead voted overwhelmingly to launch a national farm-labor party as a left-wing alternative. They only backed down after the CIO leadership threatened to take away their strike funds if they didn’t support Roosevelt.

In fact, at any given time prior to the McCarthy witch hunts, thousands and sometimes hundreds of thousands of working-class people belonged to a radical political party.

The Socialist Party in the early 1900s reached a membership of 120,000, and their candidate for president, the revolutionary socialist Eugene Debs, got almost a million votes when he ran for president on the Socialist Party ticket in 1912.

It has also been estimated that roughly 1 million workers passed in and out of the Communist Party in the 1930s and ’40s. The party reached 80,000 members at its height, with a membership that was 9 percent Black. And remember that this was still a time when Jim Crow segregation and lynching were the order of the day, showing the possibility for building a multiracial movement in the U.S. today.

In the late 1960s and early ’70s, the U.S. was the home of a wildcat strike wave that built rank-and-file workers movements like the Miners for Democracy, the Teamsters for a Decent Contract and the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement, known as DRUM.

DRUM and other movements like it were significant because they were organizations of Black workers that took on not only the racism of the auto companies, but racism inside the UAW. And they drew in a sizeable number of white workers who walked out of their factories in solidarity with Black workers, in a fight explicitly against racism.

In the 1960s, not only was the U.S. the home of the women’s liberation movement and the Black Power movement that inspired people all over the world to fight against oppression, but the U.S. also gave birth to the gay liberation movement, after the Stonewall Rebellion that also touched off gay liberation movements around the world.

In more recent history, on May 1, 2006, May Day or International Workers’ Day, was celebrated on U.S. soil with mass working-class demonstrations appropriately led by immigrants, who have always played a key role in the U.S. radical working-class tradition. The movement’s most powerful slogan, “a day without immigrants,” showed that its strategy of social struggle was tied explicitly to the power of workers to withhold their labor.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

WHETHER OR not you plan to hold your nose and vote for Hillary Clinton, or plan to vote for Jill Stein of the Green Party, or just abstain from the whole voting process this year, we all actually have a more important choice to make at this point.

The German revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg put the choice that we face as that between “socialism or barbarism,” because we’ll either end up with one or the other.

And I’d say we’re getting pretty close to barbarism when refugees are drowning by the hundreds at a time to escape civil war, and then getting stopped and detained once they reach Europe; when UNICEF just predicted that 69 million children will die of starvation and disease by 2030, and half of these children who will die are from Sub-Saharan Africa; when prisons are teeming with poor people and people of color, and yet General Motors executives knowingly killed at least 125 people with faulty airbags then tried to cover it up–yet no one has yet suggested that any of them spend even a minute in jail.

And if you think things can’t get any worse, I guarantee you that it can. History tells us that.

But the same conditions that fuel the potential for the growth of the right also create the potential for the growth of the left. This is the only way to understand the massive support for both Donald Trump and also for Bernie Sanders.

The question is not now and never has been if but when workers in the U.S. will begin to fight back once again–and not if but when it will become possible to build a political party based on the principles of socialism.

We also need to recognize that the working class today is composed of many races, sexualities and gender identities, and is capable of propelling issues of racism and other forms of oppression to the center of the class struggle in ways that would have been unimaginable in the past.

I want to end by saying to those of us here who have survived all or part of the last 40 years: Thank you for not wavering from your belief in the power of the working class to change society. And to those of you who are new to the socialist movement, who are unjaded and full of optimism, and will undoubtedly carry on the struggle: Thank you for giving us hope for the future of all humanity.

https://socialistworker.org/2016/08/15/the-socialist-history-they-hide-from-us

Ted Cruz & the new McCarthyism: Inside a dangerous response to the atrocity in Paris

For many politicians and pundits, the Charlie Hebdo tragedy is cause to stoke the fires of terror — and worse

  • Ted Cruz & the new McCarthyism: Inside a dangerous response to the atrocity in Paris
  • Joseph McCarthy, Ted Cruz (Credit: AP/Bill Allen/Reuters/Joe Mitchell)

Here are a few sentences I should not have to write but apparently must, all the same: Taking the life of another human being is an absolutely terrible thing for a person to do. By definition, murder is a crime — perhaps the most heinous one there is. No one should be physically threatened, much less killed, for sharing an opinion. Everyone should have the right to say, write, draw or otherwise express whatever sentiment they’d like without fear of violent reprisal. And anyone who thinks it’s not only appropriate, but righteous, to use violence or the threat of violence in order to silence those they disagree with is as profoundly wrong as they could be.

Some more things that should go without saying: The massacre of 10 journalists (and two law enforcement officers) at the offices of the Paris-based satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo that was carried out this week by Islamic extremists was an obscenity, a crime whose evil could never be adequately expressed with words. No matter how blasphemous, callous, insulting and bigoted the political cartoons produced by Charlie Hebdo over the years may have been, there is nothing — absolutely, positively and undoubtedly nothing — that could ever justify or excuse such fanatical sadism. The men who organized and perpetrated this slaughter were villains of the highest order, opponents of many of humanity’s greatest intellectual breakthroughs and moral achievements.

You can probably tell already, but I resent feeling that the above two paragraphs are necessary. But because I also happen to believe that many of the cartoons produced by Charlie Hebdo were mean-spirited, lazy, unfunny and sometimes baldly racist; because I do not believe that it is necessary for me to promote these cartoons in order to oppose their creators’ murder; and because some of the more influential members of the media and the government are trying to make lockstep support for Charlie Hebdo’s work a new litmus test of one’s belief in human freedom and dignity, they are. Indeed, for far too many people, it is seemingly impossible to hate the cartoon but love its creator. It’s a mindset that reminds me of nothing so much as McCarthyism — and as Matt Yglesias explained the other day in a thoughtful and sensitive post, it really sucks.



When I think of the people insinuating, or outright claiming, that one cannot claim to be a true opponent of radical, eliminationist Islam unless one showers Charlie Hebdo with unqualified praise, there are a few folks — mostly former supporters of the Iraq War — that most immediately come to mind. My colleague Heather Digby Parton has quite skillfully dismantled Jonathan Chait’s latest piece of preening bravado already, but he’s hardly the only person of influence who’s responded to the attack by whipping himself into a frenzy of empty bombast and portending (or is it promoting?) a coming apocalyptic struggle. The New York Times’ Roger Cohen tweeted in response to the news that the “entire free world” must avenge the killers’ victims “ruthlessly.” Ayaan Hirsi Ali predictably agreed and wrote that “the West” must respond to the massacre by ceasing to “appease leaders of Muslim organizations in our societies.”

Even some journalists who present and think of themselves as on the liberal side of the debate over radical Islam could not help but frame the killings as just one small part of a larger, epochal struggle. “The … massacre seems to be the most direct attack on Western ideals by jihadists yet,” wrote the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg. The attacks of September 11, 2001 were grand and nightmarish, he grants. But he argues that “satire and the right to blaspheme are directly responsible for modernity.” The New Yorker’s George Packer, meanwhile, described the attack as “only the latest blows delivered by an ideology that has sought to achieve power through terror for decades,” an ideology that is engaged in “a war against … everything decent in a democratic society.” (Ironically, Packer and Goldberg also both urge us not to alienate non-extremist Muslims by using the kind of clash-of-civilizations language they otherwise engage in.)

Considering this is the rhetoric coming from the folks paid to ruminate and write, you can probably imagine the stuff coming from Congress. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz — who, others have noticed, bears a striking resemblance to “Tail-Gunner Joe” — proclaimed in a press statement that the murders were “a reminder of the global threat we face.” On Facebook, he said that they should be considered “an attack on us all.” For his part, Secretary of State John Kerry tried to thread the needle, claiming that the Charlie Hebdo atrocity was an element of “a larger confrontation” that was “not between civilizations, but between civilization itself and those who are opposed to a civilized world.” And to no one’s surprise, multiple Republican senators argued that what happened in Paris was proof that the NSA not only should not be reformed, but should be granted more sweeping powers instead.

As Yglesias notes in the column I praised earlier, it’s depressingly easy for someone who criticizes this kind of black-and-white, saber-rattling bluster to find themselves in the awkward position of having to assure that they’re not arguing that violent jihadism is not so bad. If one person claims that a threat is all-consuming while another person claims it to be “merely” dire, it’s almost certain that some if not many in the audience will conclude — through either willful obtuseness or simple faulty logic — that their difference of opinion is due to different values. This is the very same intellectual blindspot that McCarthy exploited decades ago in order to portray anyone to the left of Robert Taft— or anyone who was ambivalent about the country’s embrace of a permanent national security state — as either sympathetic to the Soviet Union or dedicated communists themselves. And it’s the same kind of Manichean worldview that, much more recently, helped return U.S. troops to the streets of Baghdad.

Like I said at the beginning of this piece, what a small group of masked men with AK-47s did in Paris this week was a horror, an atrocity, a tragedy and a crime. The pain the victims’ loved ones must be feeling right now is beyond my comprehension. When I try to imagine how the helpless journalists who were murdered on Wednesday must have felt — or when I come across the already iconic photo taken before one of the gunmen killedAhmed Merabet, a police officer who was himself Muslim — it’s a struggle not to retch. And when I think about how, in my country, the debate over terrorism still demands some of us, if we want a fair hearing, to prove we’re as opposed to slaughter as anyone else, I struggle further still.

 

Elias Isquith is a staff writer at Salon, focusing on politics. Follow him on Twitter at @eliasisquith, and email him at eisquith@salon.com.

 

http://www.salon.com/2015/01/10/ted_cruz_the_new_mccarthyism_inside_a_dangerous_response_to_the_atrocity_in_paris/?source=newsletter

The witch-hunting of Steven Salaita and the new McCarthyism

http://www.trbimg.com/img-540f6523/turbine/chi-steven-salaita-illinois-protest-20140909

23 September 2014

The political victimization of Steven Salaita, whose appointment as a tenured professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) was revoked because he tweeted outraged protests against the slaughter of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, is a chilling attack on core democratic rights, including freedom of speech and academic freedom.

The university administration and the University of Illinois Board of Trustees have justified the witch-hunt against Salaita in the name of “democracy,” “civility” and “pluralism.” This not only expresses the hypocrisy that pervades these institutions, it reflects the evisceration of all democratic principles and mechanisms within American capitalist society as a whole.

The termination of Salaita’s appointment as a tenured professor of American Indian Studies at UIUC came after he had given up his position at Virginia Tech and moved with his wife, who also left her job, and young child to Illinois. The pretext for his removal was a series of tweets he had sent in the midst of the one-sided Israeli war on the Palestinian population of Gaza.

A campaign initiated by the political right and the Zionist lobby to twist what Salaita said in these tweets in order to smear him as an anti-Semite was embraced by the university administration and some ostensibly liberal representatives of academia. The most frequently cited tweet, written by Salaita on July 19 as Israel escalated its murderous violence against Gaza, stated, “Zionists: transforming ‘antisemitism’ from something horrible into something honorable since 1948.”

The tweet was ripped out of its context of a series of statements, including the clarifications that it was the Zionists who had distorted the meaning of the term “anti-semitism” by equating it with something as “honorable” as “deplor[ing] colonization, land theft and child murder,” and that this outlook served to “cheapen anti-Semitism by likening it to principled stands against state violence.”

He further wrote: “My stand is fundamentally one of acknowledging and countering the horror of antisemitism.” In others tweets, he added that he supported Gaza because “I believe that Jewish and Arab children are equal in the eyes of God” and that he found himself “in solidarity with many Jews and in disagreement with many Arabs.”

Only a grotesque and willful distortion could attribute to Salaita support for anti-Semitism based on these messages. This, of course, is precisely the specialty of the American right and the Zionist lobby, which proceeded to do just that.

The right-wing web site the Daily Caller gave prominence to these slanders, while the Simon Wiesenthal Center—for which there is no greater crime than demanding equal rights for Palestinians and Israelis—demanded that the university rescind Salaita’s appointment, describing him as “nothing more than a baseless anti-Semite.”

That this noxious political alliance of right-wing ideologues and rabid Zionist anti-Palestinians found powerful backing has been established with the exposure of emails from prominent wealthy donors to the university threatening to withhold funding if the administration failed to carry through the politically motivated victimization of Salaita.

Whatever Salaita tweeted had no bearing on his appointment as a professor, and its distortion and use to deny him employment was a vicious attack on his democratic right to free speech, as well as a direct assault on academic freedom. As Salaita correctly responded, the university’s action was based on “a highly subjective and sprawling standard that can be used to attack faculty who espouse unpopular or unconventional views.”

The university proceeded to act on just such a perverse “standard” and then defended it as a blow for “civility” and even “democracy.”

Following a September 11 vote by the Illinois Board of Trustees to uphold the decision to victimize Salaita, the board’s chairman, Christopher Kennedy, insisted that anyone “with an open mind” would be convinced “we did the right thing, ethically and procedurally.”

Kennedy, the son of the assassinated senator and Democratic presidential candidate Robert Kennedy, is a political appointee of Illinois’ Democratic Governor Pat Quinn. He has acted as a fundraiser for Barack Obama and other Democratic candidates.

Referring to the opinions Salaita expressed in his tweets, Kennedy declared: “There can be no place for that in our democracy, and therefore, there will be no place for it in our university.”

If constitutionally protected speech criticizing the policies and actions of Washington’s key Middle East ally, Israel, can have no place “in our democracy” or “in our university,” what other views can be outlawed and suppressed? Why not opposition to imperialist war, or criticism and questioning of the “war on terrorism” pretexts being used to drag the American people into another predatory military intervention in the Middle East based on lies?

The proscription of views as having no place “in our democracy” has a long and ignoble history in the United States, reaching its apogee during the McCarthyite anti-communist witch hunts of the 1950s, which half a century later still cast a dark shadow over American political and intellectual life.

The revival of these anti-democratic methods today in cases like that of Steven Salaita is deeply rooted in the degeneration of American capitalism, expressed most sharply in the poisonous combination of unrestrained militarist violence abroad and unprecedented social inequality and monopolization of wealth at home.

This is why the new McCarthyism enjoys the support not only of the political right and Zionism, but also ostensibly liberal Democrats like Kennedy and other supporters of a president who has arrogated himself to the “right” to order the assassination of US citizens, while overseeing a massive illegal spying operation that sweeps up virtually all electronic communications of citizens of the US and countries all over the world.

The defense of fundamental democratic rights today is inseparable from the development of a struggle against war and the independent mobilization of the working class in defense of its social and political rights. As part of this struggle, the demand must be raised for an end to the victimization of Steven Salaita and a halt to all attacks on academic and intellectual freedom, which are bound up with the preparations for police state rule.

Bill Van Auken