Archive | February 26th, 2020

Heaven Protect Us From Men Who Live the Illusion of Danger: Pete Buttigieg and the US Military

by MATTHEW HOH

Photograph Source: Alan Light – CC BY 2.0

“America deserves a Commander-in-Chief who knows what that sacrifice means and who will honor the sacred promise we make to our veterans.”

– Pete Buttigieg

#CIAPete has been trending on social media this past month as stories and commentaries have emerged telling and re-telling Pete Buttigieg’s role as a naval intelligence officer in Afghanistan, his duties in his assignment in Kabul as a member of the Afghan Threat Finance Cell, and his relationship to CIA colleagues. This would be all rather amusing and just another dust speck of non-sense in the vast universe of inanity that is the US presidential race, if it were not for Buttigieg’s own use of his time in uniform and in Afghanistan as a cudgel to silence others from both an informed and moral perspective on issues of foreign policy and war.

Buttigieg worked alongside CIA officers in a multi-agency organization in Kabul, hence the hashtag #CIAPete. According to his own autobiography he didn’t spend much time working on intelligence and fighting the Taliban, but rather worked as a driver, chauffeuring other officers during an admitted eight hour work day in Kabul. As someone who did three deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, I know very few military officers who experienced 8 hour work days in either country, nearly all officers I knew, including myself, worked 12-18 hour days – and there were plenty of times, especially during my second deployment, that 20 hour days were common. That Buttigieg was a driver in Afghanistan is more telling than anything else about Buttigieg’s time in Afghanistan, more so since he speaks so assuredly and confidently of his time in Afghanistan as he runs for president and uses that experience to pronounce himself as personally informed about matters of war and peace. We’ve seen this all very often over the last twenty years in the US: men and women, because they wore matching shirts and pants and took part in murderous and strategically incompetent invasions, occupations and wars, are given a deference that is religious in its severity and authority. As Buttigieg uses this para-clerical status to his advantage, his words and pronouncements are taken as a battle-scarred wisdom that others who have not worn a uniform are not just foolish for questioning, but are heretical. Take, for example, these words from CNN about Buttigieg and his military service:

“His six years as an intelligence officer in the Navy Reserves, along with a six-month deployment to Afghanistan, makes a gold-plated resume not only shine brighter, but with an air of validation….

It’s a chapter of his life that he invokes at nearly every campaign stop, a piece of his biography that has become nearly as central to his presidential candidacy as his Midwestern roots or his time as mayor. He mentions his credentials to distinguish himself from not only most Democratic rivals, but also President Donald Trump…

“Look, it’s not like I killed (Osama) Bin Laden, right?” Buttigieg said. “I don’t want to overstate what my role was, but it certainly is something that was dangerous.”

A man who has lived the illusion of danger is a dangerous man. Someone who posits that illusion as a fact and as a real occurrence, as Buttigieg does, is one certainly to be wary of. These wars were begun by men and women who have never known danger, but who postulated of going to the dark side and quipped bring em on, and these wars have been sustained by an insipid and specious assuredness of the necessity of war and violence by a generation of politicians, cable news hosts and editorial boards. We are a nation that has killed and ruined millions abroad and we celebrate those killings in a religious ritualization of the military that has infested our schools, stadiums, boardrooms, churches and both political parties. In Buttigieg we now have this personified. See his war photos, a boy playing dress up in camouflage and rifle, and you have America in that image, and perhaps it is right and fitting that that image, that illusion, should become president.

Buttigieg received a direct commission into the Navy. Those who are directly commissioned into the military do not attend the service academies, do not complete ROTC training while at college, or do not attend Officer Candidate School. Rather they attend a ten day direct commission officer indoctrination course where they learn how to wear the uniform, are taught the rank structure, practice saluting, etc. The purpose of such a direct commissioning program is for the US military to bring in specialists needed in times of crisis or emergency, such as doctors, chaplains and lawyers. I knew a couple of direct commission naval officers that were public and media relations people. The direct commissioning program is also a way for the politically well connected to become military officers without enduring the selection and hardship involved in officer training. The most famous of such a political cast is Hunter Biden, who lasted a month as a Navy officer before his drug test results were returned positive for illegal narcotics usage. I knew several direct commission officers who were such dilettantes, men who certainly understood the political prestige and potency of the US military uniform, especially a pretty one, like the Navy’s, but who saw no value in earning their rank.

According to the released documents of Buttigieg’s naval service, he fits the mold of political actor in military costume. His only time on active duty, as determined by a review of his military records, besides his time in Afghanistan, which I will discuss, was in that two week long direct commissioning course. There is no record, and here I will offer the possibility that his record in incomplete, of his attendance at any form of military schools or his participation whether as a mobilized active duty officer or a drilling reservist. His record contains only one DD-214, which is the record of active duty service for military members. In addition to his time in Afghanistan, his DD-214 lists 1 month and 23 days of active service, but only 12 days of that are accounted for in a fitness report (a performance evaluation), and that was for his time at the direct commission course. Otherwise, there is no record of any other time when Buttigieg actually would have been working or performing as a naval officer. Again, the records may be incomplete, and they also may be incorrect. Looking at his records I noticed he had fitness reports that overlapped in time, an administrative error that should not have occurred. Anyone who is competent, and who wants to make sure they are promoted, would have any and all periods of active duty or reserve duty recorded and filed with the Navy’s Bureau of Personnel. Now Buttigieg had a political benefactor, possibly someone he met working on the Obama campaign in 2008, so I am quite sure Buttigieg wouldn’t have cared for such things or thought such administrative requirements applied to him.

I cannot overemphasize the importance of a DD-214 as it is the record of service for which military members and veterans depend upon to detail all manner of events and qualifications such as time in service, record of promotion, combat experience, schools attended, awards received, etc. Buttigieg’s one DD-214 has two glaring and empty fields: PMOS and schools. These fields are empty, not redacted. Personal information is redacted elsewhere in his record, the fields being empty in this case means there is no information to enter.

PMOS stands for Primary Military Occupational Speciality. It is the job for which the military has trained you. In the Marine Corps, I had a MOS of 1302, combat engineer officer. There are as many occupational specialities as you can think of in the military, everything from infantryman to cook to veterinarian. God knows what specialities Trump’s new space force will have. PMOS contains the word primary, because as men and women spend time in the military, through training, education and assignment they can also receive a secondary MOS. For example, a fighter pilot can become a test pilot or an astronaut, or a soldier who learns a language can become a foreign area analyst. Buttigieg has no record of a PMOS or of having attended any military schools. He describes himself as an intelligence officer, but according to his documentation, he had no assigned MOS. Buttigieg was assigned to a reserve intelligence unit, for which there is no record of him actually ever participating with them, all his fitness reports denote he was on inactive duty during those time periods (there are anecdotal interviews with members of the reserve unit that attest to Buttigieg attending weekend drill, although how often and for how long is not known).

Buttigieg’s assignment to an intelligence unit seemingly had more to do with geographically proximity than anything else. If he had received a direct commission in the Marines, a practice I don’t think the Marines actually take part in, and lived in Phoenix, he would have been assigned to a bulk fuel reserve unit, because that is the reserve unit in the Phoenix area. In Indiana, for Buttigieg, the nearest naval reserve unit may have been the naval reserve intelligence unit located at Fort Sheridan, IL and so that was to where he was assigned and as to why he was an “intelligence officer”. Fortunately, for Buttigieg and his campaign, he was assigned to an intelligence unit and not to a bulk fuel unit, as that plays so much better for the national audience, although I admire bulk fuel personnel over intelligence personnel any time – bulk fuel never let me down, intel often did.

As mentioned, there is no record of Buttigieg attending any military schools or receiving any specialized training. This is why he has no MOS, because in order to receive a MOS you have to attend the appropriate school (in some situations one may acquire a secondary MOS through on the job training). In the more than four years between the time he was appointed into the Navy and when he went to Afghanistan, Buttigieg obviously didn’t find it necessary or worthwhile to gain a MOS or attend a school that would give him the training and education needed to actually perform as a naval officer during that four year period. Again, there are no official records of his time with the reserve unit. It’s likely he did spend some weekends there as a reservist, but there is no record of him taking part in longer periods of mobilization, or even a two week long annual training: in short nothing that would qualify him to speak with such certainty and command from behind the presidential campaign podium about issues of war or peace, terrorism or drones, or sacrifice or loss.

Buttigieg did go to Afghanistan in 2014 for a roughly six month deployment. The job description on his official orders to Afghanistan describes him as a liaison officer to the joint interagency task forceAnyone who has been a part of these wars or the military will tell you such a title is essentially meaningless, that such a title often carries no real duties or tasks, and that the description of the job found in Buttigieg’s released and redacted military records is simply boilerplate and administrative verbiage. Similarly, that Buttigieg was assigned to the Afghan Threat Finance Cell (ATFC) is simply just an administrative assignment, one of hundreds or thousands each year the Naval Reserve Command makes throughout Africa and the Greater Middle East. As noted above, in his autobiography and in many interviews, Buttigieg admits working in Afghanistan as a driver for other officers. That an egoist and self promoter like Buttigieg would admit being a driver rather than hyping a James Bond spy or Audie Murphy war experience reveals a fundamental reality about Buttigieg’s time at war along with a confusing and concerning question: why was an officer performing driver duties daily? With an 8 hour day as Buttigieg describes, and the amount of time such trips always take in Afghanistan and Iraq – even if you are just going one mile down the road such an event might take three hours of preparation and waiting – Buttigieg would have had little time in his day for any other duties, particularly the time intensive work that often accompanies those doing intelligence analysis. I’ve also never known officers to drive in an official capacity. This may have been because the unit was short of personnel, in one interview I reviewed, Buttigieg explains his driving was because he was one of the few who had been trained with a rifle. However, without a MOS, and without having had any training, Buttigieg may have had very little to do in Kabul beside drive and guard vehicles while other men and women did the intelligence work. It’s entirely possible too Buttigieg had only a secret clearance, rather than the top secret clearance that would have been required to do the sort of work done in an intelligence unit or by the ATFC.

Certainly here I am judging Buttigieg without much to go on, making assumptions on a man’s character and performance when I have nothing but redacted forms and his own political opportunism to go by, along with the words in his book and interviews. I offer my hesitation of my criticisms and conjectures of Buttigieg with a good degree of sincerity, because over the last ten years I found myself unfairly and inaccurately criticized and mis-characterized over my own experiences at war and in my career. His role as a driver could have just been the result of bad timing, lots of men and women in the military end up filling less than desired positions, because they had the unfortunate luck of showing up at the wrong time – so, it’s possible that Buttigieg showed up in Kabul when they were short a driver and he was told to do it. Still, for the 22 years I was in and have been around the military, this is the first I have ever heard of an officer being assigned as a driver and, again, his lack of military training and education would severely limit his usefulness to his assigned unit in Kabul. It should also be noted, because although Buttigieg speaks often to the danger that he partook in in Afghanistan, there is no record of his having seen any combat while he was there.

Swift-boating hangs over my head while I type this, but the swift-boating of John Kerry was perpetuated by a political group in spite of a trove of records attesting to Kerry’s time in the Navy. Rather, here I am a politically unconnected veteran, tired and angry of the wars and the lies, writing against a man running for president who speaks often of his time in the Navy, but has astonishingly little record to show of it; his campaign frequently denies requests for more information or explanation of his time in the Navy. Buttigieg doesn’t speak against the wars or even in terms of reining them in, however he does praise Israeli military forces as they shoot dead and maim thousands of unarmed people across a heavily fortified border and he suggests sending the US military into Mexico. He may have lived an illusion of danger, but there is no doubt he would be a dangerous president.

When Alex Rubinstein of The Grayzone published his piece discussing Buttigieg’s assignment to the ATFC and his potential relationship to the CIA, I was asked by more than one friend about it. First, for all the social media commentary about the ATFC being super-spooky, unknown and shadowy, it is an organization that has a wikipedia page and one who’s origins began not with David Petraeus in 2008, although it’s not a surprise that such a vainglorious mouthpiece like Petraeus would take credit for it, but rather in similar terrorist threat finance operations and investigations by interagency task forces, led by the Treasury Department, during the first term of George W. Bush’s administration. These cells and tracking operations were themselves built upon and modeled after previous pre-9/11 US government efforts. Secondly, any success ATFC has been credited with, along with any anti-corruption successes of the American government in Afghanistan, is nothing compared to the lack of success in defeating corruption in Afghanistan, a corruption that is almost entirely a consequence and result of the US occupation of the last 18 plus years. Without the billions in cash flown into Afghanistan from the US, without this money and the accompanying foreign soldiers, mercenaries and weapons to keep the Kabul government in place, and without the complete willingness and complicity of the US government and military to go along with a predatory kleptocracy in Kabul, composed of drug lords and war criminals, such anti-corruption work would not be necessary.

The intersection of the US government and the Afghan drug lords, men who compose large and influential elements within the Afghan government and military, is nothing new to anyone who understands how the US has aligned with criminal and drug interests for close to two centuries now. Beginning with the infamous China Trade in the first half of the 19th century, which spawned some of the wealthiest and politically active dynastic families in the US, through the use of European mafia and drug gangs post WWII, through the wars in SE Asia, US government, intelligence and military involvement with organized crime and drugs has been the overwhelming rule, rather than the exception.

The ATFC is run in conjunction with the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The DEA has had a large presence in Afghanistan that began in the years after the US invasion in 2001. Afghanistan, which produced narcotics only in amounts suitable for internal use prior to the 1980s, became a global source of opium after the CIA introduced it from Pakistan and India in the 1980s. The purpose in this introduction was to help finance the proxy US war against the Soviet Union and Afghan communist government. It is appropriate to note the British introduced opium crops to India and Pakistan as a way to support their Empire’s wars and military, and the French utilized opium crops in the 1940s and 50s in Vietnam to finance their war against Vietnamese independence. When the US entered Afghanistan in 2001, the Taliban had cut the opium crop cultivation to near zero levels. Ever since then, despite more than $8 billion in dedicated funding for anti-narcotics efforts and an unquantifiable amount of bombast and pledges, including denunciations of an axis of evil between Muslim terrorists and narcotics kingpins, recited as an article of faith by DEA, ATFC and JTIAF men and women I have met in DC, Kabul and Kandahar, drug production in Afghanistan has risen each year, breaking records, near-annually, for cultivation and production of illicit opium crops and products. Where prior to the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 Afghanistan provide statistically none of the world’s heroin and other opiates, now Afghanistan provides 80-90% of it. That the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, the mass rise in Afghanistan’s opium production, and the opiate crisis in the US, which killed 200 people each day in 2017, has coincided seems to be lost on US members of Congress and the media. I imagine this would be a good question for one of these presidential debates…

It’s not to say that the ATFC and their assigned commando and drone strike forces have done nothing in Afghanistan. As will be discussed below, a lot of dead civilians can be connected to its work. Additionally, there are a number of dead drug lords in Afghanistan who ran afoul of the drug lords in the Afghan government that were on the US payroll or were US proxies and were then obligingly killed by the US. Much of the activity of the ATFC, as it was realized, was to rub out the competition for the drug lords that were part of the Afghan government and Afghan military. Like my criticisms of Buttigieg’s duties in Afghanistan, I say all this with a heaviness of mind and heart, because I had a friend, Mike Weston, dead ten years now, who was a Marine officer with me and then later died in Afghanistan as a DEA agent doing this kind of fatal, illusory work: the helicopter he was in crashed as he and his teammates were being sent to knock off the competition of one of our Afghan government or military partners.

The work of the ATFC is not limited to protecting the Afghan drug lords that are our friends, it also protects US friends in the Persian Gulf who provide much of the financing for the insurgency that has killed almost 3,600 US, Canadian, Australian and European soldiers, killed roughly an equal amount of contractors (who due to the privatization of war were performing roles that soldiers would have done in previous wars), wounded tens of thousands, and crippled and maimed hundreds of thousands with war’s invisible wounds: post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and moral injury. This says nothing of course about the millions of dead, mutilated, harmed, traumatized and displaced Afghans, who due to US policy have known nothing but war in their country since the 1970s.

When I worked on the wars, both in Washington, DC, and then in Afghanistan, it was known the Taliban had four major sources of funding. They did get some money from taxing the drug trade, but, as discussed, those who profited the most from the ever growing drug trade, and controlled it, were Afghan government and military men, and associates. The second source of funds for the Taliban was from the massive US development program through which they siphoned off funds, extorted winners of contracts, or taxed those who earned money from working with US forces. For example, when I was in Afghanistan, in the province I was in, it was known the man who was in charge of the schools for the provincial government had a brother who was a Taliban commander a couple of provinces over. When the teachers didn’t get paid, everything there was done in cash, it was not a surprise to learn where that money had gone. Pakistan, particularly through its intelligence service, was a third source of funding for the Taliban, as it had been since the Taliban’s creation and rise in the 1990s.

The fourth, and, if I recall correctly from the classified information I had access to, the largest source of funding for the Taliban was from supporters in the Gulf States, those friends of the US in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Although the understanding of this by the US government was partially revealed in Chelsea Manning’s heroic Wikileaks release, the idea US allies were funding to a large degree the men that were killing American boys and girls in Afghanistan has been something both the US government and the non-adversarial corporate media has been loath to discuss. The same is true for Iraq, where the bulk of the funding for the majority of the insurgents that killed the great majority of US soldiers in the Iraq occupation came not from Iran, but from US allies in the Gulf. Those supporters of Sunni insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq have funded similar insurgents and militias in Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, including units of al Qaeda and the Islamic State. Rather than bring about and expose such information, acting on the evidence of the Gulf State monarchies support for the Taliban and other Sunni militant groups, the ATFC, like the rest of the USG, hides and covers such information to keep US weapons sales to those states viable and to avoid any embarrassment to US politicians and generals, even as the war, and its dead and suffering, is continually funded. The ATFC, lacking in any intellectual or moral honesty, is the organization Buttigieg worked with in Kabul.

There is something very macabre to see in the Wikipedia profile of ATFC; a Wikipedia page undoubtedly managed and edited by a US public relations officer or contractor in Kabul. Per Wikipedia, 28 targets (human beings to you and me) were successfully placed on the Joint Prioritized Effects List (JPEL). The JPEL is a centralized kill list that assigns bombs, drones and commando raids to a list of people to be assassinated. When I was familiar with the JPEL in Afghanistan in 2009 there were thousands of people on that list, and a very large portion of them were innocent – so many that several of my colleagues and I went to ISAF headquarters in Kabul to speak about the process of getting people removed from the list. For anyone who understands that the truest things about war can be found in Catch-22 and MASH, books I wonder if Buttigieg has ever read, it will not be a surprise that while it was relatively easy to add someone to the JPEL, effectively granting them, and family and neighbors around them, a death sentence by a bomb, missile or gunshot to the head, it was bureaucratically near-impossible to remove names from the list. Leaked DOD assessments show 90% of those killed in our drone strikes have been innocents and I would suggest similar numbers are true for our commando raids. Various estimates have suggested, including from conversations I had while still being associated with such bloody work, that half of our commando missions targeted the wrong people, buildings and villages, and even when US forces struck the correct person (correct here meaning someone who had legitimate ties to an insurgent group and not just someone randomly or intentionally mislabeled as Taliban by a paid informant) wives, children, parents, siblings and neighbors were often executed alongside them.

So while 28 people were placed onto the JPEL by ATFC, a small amount compared to the thousands that have been on that list, it is still 28 people. A sizable number of that 28 would have been innocent, again, based on everything we know about US military and intelligence operations throughout the Greater Middle East and Africa. Among those who were actual Taliban, men who are fighting us primarily because we are occupying them, how many people were executed alongside and around them simply because they were relatives or neighbors?

To the man or woman declaring such a thing as killing 28 targets as an accomplishment in Wikipedia, such understanding of those 28 as people is non-existent. For these types of men and women, like Buttigieg, who live through and promote a war, while not fully participating it, are the men and women that allow these wars to continue. They are the ones that write and publish the narratives, who offer the continual and never-ending hagiographies, and who speak of having lived danger when they have never heard a shot fired. It is these men and women whose understanding of the killing and dying doesn’t exist in their own personal experiences, but lives simply in what they have read about or been told.

One of the most insightful quotes about war and the US presidency is attributed to Dwight Eisenhower by his daughter, Susan. Later in his time in office, Eisenhower, while looking at his chair in the Oval Office, stated: God help this country when someone sits in this chair who doesn’t know the military as well as I do.

Eisenhower said this not because of a need for a commander in chief to understand strategy and tactics or to have the experience in operations or logistics that he did, but rather to understand the generals and admirals lie, that they always lie. Going through his interviews and his book I came across photo after photo of Buttigieg smiling, hands clasped or arms around the back of one general after another, with a sense of admiration and wonder like the kid in that old Coca Cola commercial with Mean Joe Greene. Nothing Buttigieg has said about his Navy experience, and certainly nothing in his military records, would lead me to believe he would ever stand up to the generals and admirals, let alone know when they are lying. The military has always been a political tool for Buttigieg and I don’t know why it would ever not be. The generals and admirals are men and women useful to him for the visages and popularity they provide, they are not something to be truly understood or controlled, and certainly not anything to contradict or oppose.

Buttigieg may be perfectly correct for this country, a Hollywood nation where gun owners live lives of violent fantasy, a wealthy nation underwritten by racism, poverty and jail, and a Christian nation that kills much much more than it saves, both at home and abroad. A man with no substance or experience, but with a uniform and photographs to sell a narrative, perhaps that is what we deserve. May heaven protect us, although that is something we may not deserve – ask any of those who are living through the hell of this third world war the US has started and sustained from Western Africa to Central Asia.

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How the US Intelligence Community is Interfering in the 2020 Elections

by JEFFERSON MORLEY

Photograph Source: akemi mitsueda – CC BY 2.0

President Trump’s ongoing purge of the intelligence community, along with Bernie Sanders’ surge in the Democratic presidential race, has triggered an unprecedented intervention of U.S. intelligence agencies in the U.S. presidential election on factually dubious grounds.

Former CIA director John Brennan sees a “full-blown national security crisis” in President Trump’s latest moves against the intelligence community. Brennan charges, “Trump is abetting a Russian covert operation to keep him in office for Moscow’s interests, not America’s.” But congressional representatives, both Democratic and Republican, who heard a briefing by the intelligence community about the 2020 election earlier this month say the case for Russian interference is “overstated.”

On February 21, it was leaked to the Washington Post that “U.S. officials,” meaning members of the intelligence community, had confidentially briefed Sanders about alleged Russian efforts to help his 2020 presidential campaign.

Special prosecutor Robert Mueller documented how the Russians intervened on Trump’s behalf in 2016, while finding no evidence of criminal conspiracy. Mueller did not investigate the Russians’ efforts on behalf of Sanders, but the Computational Propaganda Research Project at Oxford University did. In a study of social media generated by the Russia-based Internet Research Agency (IRA), the Oxford analysts found that the IRA initially generated propaganda designed to boost all rivals to Hillary Clinton in 2015. As Trump advanced, they focused almost entirely on motivating Trump supporters and demobilizing black voters. In short, the Russians helped Trump hundreds of thousand times more than they boosted Sanders.

The leak to the Post, on the eve of the Nevada caucuses, gave the opposite impression: that help for Trump and Sanders was somehow comparable. The insinuation could only have been politically motivated.

What’s driving the U.S. intelligence community intervention in presidential politics is not just fear of Trump, but fear of losing control of the presidency. From 1947 to 2017, the CIA and other secret agencies sometimes clashed with presidents, especially Presidents Kennedy, Nixon and Carter. But since the end of the Cold War, under Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama, the secret agencies had no such problem.

Under Trump, the intelligence community has seen a vast loss of influence. Trump is contemptuous of the CIA’s daily briefing. As demonstrated by his pressure campaign on Ukraine, his foreign policies are mostly transactional. Trump is not guided by the policy process or even any consistent doctrine, other than advancing his political and business interests. He’s not someone who is interested in doing business with the intelligence community.

The intelligence community fears the rise of Sanders for a different reason. The socialist senator rejects the national security ideology that guided the intelligence community in the Cold War and the war on terror. Sanders’ position is increasingly attractive, especially to young voters, and thus increasingly threatening to the former spy chiefs who yearn for a return to the pre-Trump status quo. A Sanders presidency, like a second term for Trump, would thwart that dream. Sanders is not interested in national security business as usual either.

In the face of Trump’s lawless behavior, and Sanders’ rise, the intelligence community is inserting itself into presidential politics in a way unseen since former CIA director George H.W. Bush occupied the Oval Office. Key to this intervention is the intelligence community’s self-image as a disinterested party in the 2020 election.

Former House Intelligence Committee chair Jane Harman says Trump’s ongoing purge of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence is a threat to those who “speak truth to power.” As the pseudonymous former CIA officer “Alex Finley” tweeted Monday, the “‘Deep state’ is actually the group that wants to defend rule of law (and thus gets in the way of those screaming ‘DEEP STATE’ and corrupting for their own gain).”

Self-image, however, is not the same as reality. When it comes to Trump’s corruption, Brennan and Co. have ample evidence to support their case. But the CIA is simply not credible as a “defender of the rule of law.” The Reagan-Bush Iran-contra conspiracy, the Bush-Cheney torture regime, and the Bush-Obama mass surveillance program demonstrate that the law is a malleable thing for intelligence community leaders. A more realistic take on the 2020 election is that the U.S. intelligence community is not a conspiracy but a self-interested political faction that is seeking to defend its power and policy preferences. The national security faction is not large electorally. It benefits from the official secrecy around its activities. It is assisted by generally sympathetic coverage from major news organizations.

The problem for Brennan and Co. is that “national security” has lost its power to mobilize public opinion. On both the right and the left, the pronouncements of the intelligence community no longer command popular assent.

Trump’s acquittal by the Senate in his impeachment trial was one sign. The national security arguments driving the House-passed articles of impeachment were the weakest link in a case that persuaded only one Republican senator to vote for Trump’s removal. Sanders’ success is another sign.

In the era of endless war, Democratic voters have become skeptical of national security claims—from Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction, to the notion that torture “works,” to “progress” in Afghanistan, to the supreme importance of Ukraine—because they have so often turned out to be more self-serving than true.

The prospect of a Trump gaining control of the U.S. intelligence community is scary. So is the intervention of the U.S. intelligence community in presidential politics.

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Don’t Worry, Centrists. Bernie Isn’t Radical

by TED RALL

Watching panicky corporate-owned Democrats twist on the devil’s fork of Bernie Sanders’ “political revolution” is almost as much fun as it must have been for my mom and her fellow villagers to watch Vichy collaborators and Nazi sympathizers being executed by the resistance at the end of World War II. (That, Chris Matthews, is how you do a Nazi-to-2020 metaphor.)

Centrist/moderate/Third Way Dems are afraid of Bernie, not because he would lose to Trump or inverse-coattail down-ballot candidates, but because they would lose their longstanding minority control of the party apparatus. After the convention in Milwaukee, for example, the nominee gets to choose the new DNC chairman. Sanders will not keep Tom Perez.

Electability, however, is the moderates’ supposed chief concern. And enough moderate Democratic voters are buying it to make it A Thing.

Don’t worry, centrists. The data is clear. As it they did throughout 2016, head-to-head matching polls show Bernie defeating Trump by a comfortable margin.

More to the point, you can’t trust corporate media outlets that describe Sanders’ policy agenda as radical or extreme. I wish he were! He’s a classic liberal Democrat, not as ambitious as FDR or LBJ, more like Humphrey or Mondale.

And that’s just on domestic economic issues. On foreign policy, Bernie Sanders is no progressive. In fact, he is to the right of where the Republican Party was before Ronald Reagan.

He acknowledges it was a mistake but he voted for George W. Bush’s 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. He voted several times in favor of funding the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. He favors military interventions like those against Syria and Libya, albeit in a limited fashion. He is less critical of Israel than most progressives. He is OK with drone assassinations.

Sanders is basically George W. Bush plus deadlines minus the invasion of Iraq. No real “socialist” shares his views. Socialists, democratic or otherwise, are anti-interventionist. So why are centrists so freaked out?

The answer, obviously, is his domestic platform. But even that is relatively moderate if you take a hard look at it.

Bernie Sanders wants to raise the federal hourly minimum wage to $15. That movement goes back at least to a strike by fast-food workers in 2012. Seven big states and several major cities including New York and San Francisco, have already instituted $15.

Over the last eight years, of course, inflation has eaten away at the value of those $15. Meanwhile, corporate profits have risen. And it would be at least another year until a President Sanders could theoretically sign a bill. At the official, ridiculously understated-from-reality inflation rate, $15 in 2012 will be equivalent to $17 in 2021. If the inflation rate were still calculated the same way as a few decades ago, the minimum wage would be at least $25 in order to be worth the same as it was in 1970. If it were up to me, I’d start the discussion at $50.

Looking at it from a historical vantage point, Bernie’s proposal is too little, too late for workers. It isn’t radical and it won’t tank the economy—New York and San Francisco are proof of that.

Sanders wants to forgive all $1.6 trillion of student loan debt and make college tuition and fees free at public four-year colleges and universities. Let’s take those two ideas one at a time.

Financial aid budget cuts, soaring tuition and high interest rates have made student loan debt explode. In 1999 it totaled $90 billion—adjusted for inflation, 8.7% of the current total. In 1986 it was$10 billion—and that’s after the Reagan Revolution replaced almost all student grants with loans.

Restoring student debt to 1999 levels would require forgiving 91.3% of today’s total. Bernie wants 100%. Not a huge difference. And it would stimulate the economy by freeing up you g adults to buy houses and cars. But the banks sure would miss “their” profits.

Bernie’s tuition plan only covers 70% of college students; those in private institutions would receive nothing. Tuition and fees only account for 39% of expenses for the average public college student living on campus. So Bernie would pick up the tab for 27.3% of total expenses for American college students at four-year schools.

Actually, it’s not even that much. Kids whose parents earn a total of $125,000 a year would get nothing. That eliminates 12% of students. Total cost to taxpayers would be $48 billion a year. A sizable sum to be sure, but less impressive/scary than you might think. Here’s another way to think about it: it’s the same as occupying 2.3 Afghanistans at once. We can easily afford to get closer to “richer” countries that offer completely free college—tuition, fees, housing, books, everything—economic dynamos like Turkey, Uruguay, Slovenia, Morocco, Malaysia, Brazil and Kenya.

Medicare For All is as close as the senator from Vermont comes to pushing a radical agenda. But that’s only by narrow American standards. Compared to other countries, MFA would be a relatively modest affair. It wouldn’t come close to what the rest of the world expects government to supply in terms of healthcare. Like, I just got a mysterious surprise bill for $1,800. Description: “lab test.” What lab test? It was June. I don’t remember. And I’m insured.

First, the cost: $34 trillion over 10 years. But Americans would have a net savings because healthcare costs here are even higher than that: $36 trillion over 10 years. Net savings: $2 trillion over 10 years. What Sanders does not talk about, and would need to be addressed, is how to deal with the insurance company employees who would be laid off. Job retraining would be needed for them as well as previously displaced workers.

Denmark, Britain and Germany are among the countries that have systems more or less similar to MFA. No one is suggesting that their governments are “radical.”

Finally, there’s the Green New Deal. Sanders wants to abolish fossil fuels in the U.S. within 10 years. He’d spend trillions to accomplish that. But consider the alternative: mass extinction. Not doing it is the wild-and-crazy option.

To recap: love, hate or be indifferent to Bernie Sanders, that’s up to you. But moderates shouldn’t fear him because he’s a radical. Radicals shouldn’t love him because he’s one of us.

He’s really not.

Posted in USAComments Off on Don’t Worry, Centrists. Bernie Isn’t Radical

Assange’s Extradition Hearing Reveals Trump’s War on Free Press Is Targeting WikiLeaks Publisher

by: NOZOMI HAYASE

On Monday, WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange’s one-week extradition hearing began at Woolwich Crown Court in SouthEast London. The judge heard the opening arguments for the prosecution and defense. The prosecution began, accusing the journalist who exposed the US government’s war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan of espionage charges that would carry 175 years in jail.

The US-based investigative journalist Kevin Gosztola, who was at the media annex during the proceeding, reported that U.S. Government barrister, James Lewis QC, said that prosecutors “are not criminalizing the publication of classified materials but rather the publication of names of informants or dissidents who help the US and allies in military operations.”

Gosztola noted that James Lewis QC “listed off specific documents that Assange is accused of releasing which allegedly contained names of ‘human sources’ that were endangered.” When asked by the judge if the offense of publishing would extend to a newspaper, the Prosecution replied, “1989 Official Secrets Act would cover [that]” and “If a journalist or newspaper publishes secret information likely to cause harm in the categories, it commits an offense.”

Updating the media on the hearing, the WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson reminded the crowd that this is “journalism on trial” and stated that the US argument is repeating the same old line they used 10 years ago, while dismissing the importance of the harm the US was doing, as revealed WikiLeaks by in their 2010-2011 publications. Hrafnsson rejected the US government’s claims that WikiLeaks publications put lives at risk, stating that during the 2013 Manning Trial, the US government could not prove any harm, and had to admit that no physical harm had occurred to a single individual due to WikiLeaks revelations.

Assange’s defense lawyer Edward Fitzgerald QC argued that this prosecution is politically motivated and so the UK can’t extradite Assange, since their treaty with the US strictly forbids extradition for a political offense.

The defense for Assange provided a background that led to this prosecution of his client. He noted that “President Trump came into power with a new approach to freedom of speech…. Effectively declaring war on investigative journalists.” He said that “President Trump met with FBI Director James Comey and agreed that they should be ‘putting a head on a pike’ as a message to journalists over leaks, and ‘putting journalists in jail”.

Edward Fitzgerald QC indicated Assange has become a target of Trump’s “war on leakers and journalists.”  He stated that his client was “the obvious symbol of all that Trump condemned. He had brought American war crimes to the attention of the world.”

Then, examples of egregious government “abuse of power” and the “abuse of the rule of law” were presented to the court as key defenses. These include the breach of client and attorney confidentiality. Assange’s conversations with lawyers were spied on by a Spanish security firm hired by the US while he was living under political asylum inside the London Ecuadorian Embassy. His grant of asylum was explicitly to protect him from the risk of extradition to the US; a risk related to his publishing activities with WikiLeaks.

A further breach of legal privilege occurred after the Ecuadorian government illegally breached his asylum and evicted Assange, having the UK police arrest him within the embassy. The US authorities were then permitted, by the embassy, to seize his legally privileged materials.

On the first day of the hearing, the unprecedented scale of the assault on the journalist was revealed. Extreme measures employed in the targeting Assange included plans to try to kidnap or poison Assange while he was in the embassy.

As another example of abuse of process, Fitzgerald QC brought up Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher’s alleged pardon offer, made to Mr Assange in August 2017. The opening summary of defense case states:

“Mr Rohrabacher visited Julian Assnage and discussed a preemptive pardon in exchange for personal assistance to President Trump in the enquiry then ongoing concerning Russian involvement in the hacking and leaking of the Democratic National Committee emails… ” [3.7]

Fitzgerald QC continued: “We say that this whole pardon incident shows that, just as the prosecution was initiated in December 2017 for political purposes, so too the Trump administration had been prepared to use the threat of prosecution as a means of extortion to obtain personal political advantage from Mr Assange.” [3.9]

From the US government spying on the embassy, to the alleged extortion, Julian Assange’s lawyer argued, this extradition case “is not about criminal justice, it’s about the manipulation of the system to ensure the United States could make an example of Assange.”

As the extradition hearing began, hundreds of supporters gathered outside the courthouse, chanting for freedom of the WikiLeaks founder. Major human rights organizations and press freedom groups, including Amnesty International and The Committee to Protect Journalists, have now come out strongly against Assange’s extradition to the US.

After the first day of monitoring the hearing, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) UK bureau director Rebecca Vincent noted, “Nothing we heard today was surprising, and has reinforced our position. We believe he has been targeted for his contributions to public interest reporting.”

Posted in USA, Human Rights, UKComments Off on Assange’s Extradition Hearing Reveals Trump’s War on Free Press Is Targeting WikiLeaks Publisher

Zionist puppet Geagea received cancer treatment he has no more than a year left for life

By: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

Swiss website: ”Geagea received treatment last week in a hospital specializing in cancer, and his doctors say that he has no more than a year left for life”.

The journalist at the Swiss “proche et moyen orient” website, Richard Labivier, revealed that the leader of the Lebanese Forces Party, Zionist puppet Samir Geagea, spent three days during the past week in the hospital “Gustave Rossi”, a regional center for the treatment of cancer patients located in “Val de Marne” in the city of The French “Phil Guev”.

According to several sources, Lapiviar has suffered for several years as a result of developing an advanced stage of cancer in his pulmonary and urinary system, and has great difficulties in feeding.

The sources indicated that it was the fifth time that Zionist puppet Geagea had visited Phil Geoff for treatment. He had been diagnosed with the disease about two years ago, and his doctors say that what remains for him is no more than a year.

Posted in LebanonComments Off on Zionist puppet Geagea received cancer treatment he has no more than a year left for life

Disturbing health conditions for five sick prisoners in the occupation Nazi Camp

By: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

Damon

Nazi Occupied Palestine: The Prisoners and Editors Affairs Authority reported today, Wednesday, that five sick prisoners held in several Nazi Camps suffer from disturbing health conditions, due to the deliberate policy of the Camp administration against them to ignore their diseases and not to deal with them seriously.

In its report, the commission revealed a number of cases, including the detainee Jamal Abu Iram from the town of Yatta, Hebron District, who is being held in Ofer Prison, where he complains of discs that cause him several pains.

Abu ‘Aram suffered a stroke in his left hand, and he needs medical attention for his health.  

While the health condition of the prisoner Ahmad Abu Rumaila (28 years) from Hebron decreased, after his arrest, he became suffering from a bladder stone, and from severe pain in the kidneys, and the administration of Ofer Nazi Camp provides painkillers without his treatment.

While the prisoner Haitham Jaber (45 years), from the town of Haris Salfit District, complains of an enlarged pituitary gland, and he was diagnosed during 2016 after his condition deteriorated and he complained of severe pain in the head.

Despite the pain of the prisoner, Jaber, the administration of the Negev Nazi Camp is satisfied with conducting tests without providing any therapeutic doses for his condition.  
 
As for the prisoner Fadl Karaki (31 years), from Hebron, who is being held in the Negev Nazi detention camp, he suffers from difficult psychological problems, and the prison administration provides him with strong painkillers that keep him almost asleep at a time of wasting and weak.

Also, the prisoner Rabie Farakh (32 years) from the town of Pharaoh, Tulkarem district, who is being held in Raymond prison, is facing bad health conditions, as he suffers from severe stomach pains, problems in the kidneys and his left ear, and he was transferred for medical examinations, but he did not benefit anything, and he was provided Analgesics without treatment.

Repression forces stormed a section in the Nazi Camp Raymond

Difficult and difficult conditions for prisoners of children in Damoon Nazi Camp,

Prisoner Miqdad Al-Hayeh … a body exhausted from the bullets of the Nazi occupation

Prisoners of Palestine: Prisons are ready for the explosion as a result of pressure on the prisoners

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The Palestinian Prisoners Center for Studies confirmed that the prison administration started from the beginning of this year to tighten its penalties against the prisoners, and is moving towards implementing the recommendations of the Nazi Ardan committee, in contrast to the agreement with the prisoners that took place last year and this may lead to an explosion of conditions in Prisons as a result of pressure on prisoners.

The researcher, Riyad Al-Ashqar, stated that the Nazi Minister of Internal Security of the “Gilad Erdan” formed a committee in the last months of the year 2018, known as the “Erdan Committee”, which recommended at the time to impose many penalties on the prisoners and tighten the screws on them in various prisons.

He added that the Aran Commission began implementing its recommendations and tightening the screws on the prisoners by placing jamming devices in the Negev and Raymond Camps sections, and setting up surveillance cameras in the prisoners ’sections, which led the prisoners to implement massive protests during the past year and dozens entered into a hunger strike, and the prisoners suspended their steps after an agreement with the administration It is necessary to retract those sanctions and restore the conditions to what they were in order to avoid the explosion of conditions in prisons.

Al-Ashqar indicated that the prison administration has broken its promise, and since the beginning of this year it has returned to implementing a number of measures consistent with the recommendations of the Ardan Committee to restrict the prisoners, the most recent of which was to inform the prisoners of Raymond prison of a set of new penalties that will be applied next month, which is to reduce the number of stations Television from ten to seven, reducing the number of loaves of bread from five to four for one prisoner, withdrawing the slabs used for cooking, which the prisoners depend on for cooking food, and canceling (40) items of purchases in “Kantina”.

She had implemented a number of punitive measures against prisoners in Ofer Camp, including the withdrawal of food items, cleaning materials from “Kantina”, reducing expenses for food and meat, and serving only boiled eggs, and prohibiting prisoners from using colored covers and limiting them to only one color.

And Al-Ashqar indicated that the prisoners will not accept these arbitrary measures against them, and that they are in the process of implementing an integrated protest program in case the administration insists on starting to implement these sanctions, which will make the prisons on a hot plate possible to explode at any moment.

Repression forces stormed a section in the Raymond Nazi Camp “

Difficult and difficult conditions for prisoners of children in Damoon Nazi Camp

Prisoner Miqdad Al-Hayeh … a body exhausted from the bullets of the Nazi occupation

“Muhammad Al-Naeem” .. The Nazi occupation crucifies “humanity” on the tusks of its bulldozers

Health confirms that Palestine is free from the Coruna virus

Armed clash between resistance and Nazi occupation in Qabatiya

New details about the death of the head of the Karkar operation

Masked men saturate an Nazi army officer, hiding in a truck

Palestine is affected by a new air depression

Germany: 11 dead, including two in shootings

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human RightsComments Off on Disturbing health conditions for five sick prisoners in the occupation Nazi Camp

The Democrats’ Quandary: In a Struggle Between Oligarchy and Democracy, Something Must Give

by MICHAEL HUDSON

Photograph Source: VasenkaPhotography – CC BY 2.0

To hear the candidates debate, you would think that their fight was over who could best beat Trump. But when Trump’s billionaire twin Mike Bloomberg throws a quarter-billion dollars into an ad campaign to bypass the candidates actually running for votes in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, it’s obvious that what really is at issue is the future of the Democrat Party. Bloomberg is banking on a brokered convention held by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in which money votes. (If “corporations are people,” so is money in today’s political world.)

Until Nevada, all the presidential candidates except for Bernie Sanders were playing for a brokered convention. The party’s candidates seemed likely to be chosen by the Donor Class, the One Percent and its proxies, not the voting class (the 99 Percent). If, as Mayor Bloomberg has assumed, the DNC will sell the presidency to the highest bidder, this poses the great question: Can the myth that the Democrats represent the working/middle class survive? Or, will the Donor Class trump the voting class?

This could be thought of as “election interference” – not from Russia but from the DNC on behalf of its Donor Class. That scenario would make the Democrats’ slogan for 2020 “No Hope or Change.” That is, no from today’s economic trends that are sweeping wealth up to the One Percent.

All this sounds like Rome at the end of the Republic in the 1st century BC. The way Rome’s constitution was set up, candidates for the position of consul had to pay their way through a series of offices. The process started by going deeply into debt to get elected to the position of aedile, in charge of staging public games and entertainments. Rome’s neoliberal fiscal policy did not tax or spend, and there was little public administrative bureaucracy, so all such spending had to be made out of the pockets of the oligarchy. That was a way of keeping decisions about how to spend out of the hands of democratic politics. Julius Caesar and others borrowed from the richest Bloomberg of their day, Crassus, to pay for staging games that would demonstrate their public spirit to voters (and also demonstrate their financial liability to their backers among Rome’s One Percent). Keeping election financing private enabled the leading oligarchs to select who would be able to run as viable candidates. That was Rome’s version of Citizens United.

But in the wake of Sanders’ landslide victory in Nevada, a brokered convention would mean the end of the Democrat Party pretense to represent the 99 Percent. The American voting system would be seen to be as oligarchic as that of Rome on the eve of the infighting that ended with Augustus becoming Emperor in 27 BC.

Today’s pro-One Percent media – CNN, MSNBC and The New York Times have been busy spreading their venom against Sanders. On Sunday, February 23, CNN ran a slot, “Bloomberg needs to take down Sanders, immediately.”[1] Given Sanders’ heavy national lead, CNN warned, the race suddenly is almost beyond the vote-fixers’ ability to fiddle with the election returns. That means that challengers to Sanders should focus their attack on him; they will have a chance to deal with Bloomberg later (by which CNN means, when it is too late to stop him).

The party’s Clinton-Obama recipients of Donor Class largesse pretend to believe that Sanders is not electable against Donald Trump. This tactic seeks to attack him at his strongest point. Recent polls show that he is the only candidate who actually would defeat Trump – as they showed that he would have done in 2016.

The DNC knew that, but preferred to lose to Trump than to win with Bernie. Will history repeat itself? Or to put it another way, will this year’s July convention become a replay of Chicago in 1968?

A quandary, not a problem

Last year I was asked to write a scenario for what might happen with a renewed DNC theft of the election’s nomination process. To be technical, I realize, it’s not called theft when it’s legal. In the aftermath of suits over the 2016 power grab, the courts ruled that the Democrat Party is indeed controlled by the DNC members, not by the voters. When it comes to party machinations and decision-making, voters are subsidiary to the superdelegates in their proverbial smoke-filled room (now replaced by dollar-filled foundation contracts).

I could not come up with a solution that does not involve dismantling and restructuring the existing party system. We have passed beyond the point of having a solvable “problem” with the Democratic National Committee (DNC). That is what a quandary is. A problem has a solution – by definition. A quandary does not have a solution. There is no way out. The conflict of interest between the Donor Class and the Voting Class has become too large to contain within a single party. It must split.

A second-ballot super-delegate scenario would mean that we are once again in for a second Trump term. That option was supported by five of the six presidential contenders on stage in Nevada on Wednesday, February 20. When Chuck Todd asked whether Michael Bloomberg, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar would support the candidate who received the most votes in the primaries (now obviously Bernie Sanders), or throw the nomination to the super-delegates held over from the Obama-Clinton neoliberals (75 of whom already are said to have pledged their support to Bloomberg), each advocated “letting the process play out.” That was a euphemism for leaving the choice to the Tony-Blair style leadership that have made the Democrats the servants’ entrance to the Republican Party. Like the British Labour Party behind Blair and Gordon Brown, its role is to block any left-wing alternative to the Republican program on behalf of the One Percent.

This problem would not exist if the United States had a European-style parliamentary system that would enable a third party to obtain space on the ballots in all 50 states. If this were Europe, the new party of Bernie Sanders, AOC et al. would exceed 50 percent of the votes, leaving the Wall Street democrats with about the same 8 percent share that similar neoliberal democratic parties have in Europe (e.g., Germany’s hapless neoliberalized Social Democrats), that is, Klobocop territory as voters moved to the left. The “voting Democrats,” the 99 Percent, would win a majority leaving the Old Neoliberal Democrats in the dust.

The DNC’s role is to prevent any such challenge. The United States has an effective political duopoly, as both parties have created such burdensome third-party access to the ballot box in state after state that Bernie Sanders decided long ago that he had little alternative but to run as a Democrat.

The problem is that the Democrat Party does not seem to be reformable. That means that voters still may simply abandon it – but that will simply re-elect the Democrats’ de facto 2020 candidate, Donald Trump. The only hope would be to shrink the party into a shell, enabling the old guard to go way so that the party could be rebuilt from the ground up.

But the two parties have created a legal duopoly reinforced with so many technical barriers that a repeat of Ross Perot’s third party (not to mention the old Socialist Party, or the Whigs in 1854) would take more than one election cycle to put in place. For the time being, we may expect another few months of dirty political tricks to rival those of 2016 as Obama appointee Tom Perez is simply the most recent version of Florida fixer Debbie Schultz-Wasserman (who gave a new meaning to the Wasserman Test).

So we are in for another four years of Donald Trump. But by 2024, how tightly will the U.S. economy find itself tied in knots?

The Democrats’ Vocabulary of Deception: How I would explain Bernie’s Program

Every economy is a mixed economy. But to hear Michael Bloomberg and his fellow rivals to Bernie Sanders explain the coming presidential election, one would think that an economy must be either capitalist or, as Bloomberg put it, Communist. There is no middle ground, no recognition that capitalist economies have a government sector, which typically is called the “socialist” sector – Social Security, Medicare, public schooling, roads, anti-monopoly regulation, and public infrastructure as an alternative to privatized monopolies extracting economic rent.

What Mr. Bloomberg means by insisting that it’s either capitalism or communism is an absence of government social spending and regulation. In practice this means oligarchic financial control, because every economy is planned by some sector. The key is, who will do the planning? If government refrains from taking the lead in shaping markets, then Wall Street takes over – or the City in London, Frankfurt in Germany, and the Bourse in France.

Most of all, the aim of the One Percent is to distract attention from the fact that the economy is polarizing – and is doing so at an accelerating rate. National income statistics are rigged to show that “the economy” is expanding. The pretense is that everyone is getting richer and living better, not more strapped. But the reality is that all the growth in GDP has accrued to the wealthiest 5 Percent since the Obama Recession began in 2008. Obama bailed out the banks instead of the 10 million victimized junk-mortgage holders. The 95 Percent’s share of GDP has shrunk.

The GDP statistics do not show is that “capital gains” – the market price of stocks, bonds and real estate owned mainly by the One to Five Percent – has soared, thanks to Obama’s $4.6 trillion Quantitative Easing pumped into the financial markets instead of into the “real” economy in which wage-earners produce goods and services.

How does one “stay the course” in an economy that is polarizing? Staying the course means continuing the existing trends that are concentrating more and more wealth in the hands of the One Percent, that is, the Donor Class – while loading down the 99 Percent with more debt, paid to the One Percent (euphemized as the economy’s “savers”). All “saving” is at the top of the pyramid. The 99 Percent can’t afford to save much after paying their monthly “nut” to the One Percent.

If this economic polarization is impoverishing most of the population while sucking wealth and income and political power up to the One Percent, then to be a centrist is to be the candidate of oligarchy. It means not challenging the economy’s structure.

Language is being crafted to confuse voters into imagining that their interest is the same as that of the Donor Class of rentiers, creditors and financialized corporate businesses and rent-extracting monopolies. The aim is to divert attention from voters’ their own economic interest as wage-earners, debtors and consumers. It is to confuse voters not to recognize that without structural reform, today’s “business as usual” leaves the One Percent in control.

So to call oneself a “centrist” is simply a euphemism for acting as a lobbyist for siphoning up income and wealth to the One Percent. In an economy that is polarizing, the choice is either to favor them instead of the 99 Percent.

That certainly is not the same thing as stability. Centrism sustains the polarizing dynamic of financialization, private equity, and the Biden-sponsored bankruptcy “reform” written by his backers of the credit-card companies and other financial entities incorporated in his state of Delaware. He was the senator for the that state’s Credit Card industry, much as former Democratic VP candidate Joe Lieberman was the senator from Connecticut’s Insurance Industry.

A related centrist demand is that of Buttigieg’s and Biden’s aim to balance the federal budget. This turns out to be a euphemism for cutting back Social Security, Medicare and relate social spending (“socialism”) to pay for America’s increasing militarization, subsidies and tax cuts for the One Percent. Sanders rightly calls this “socialism for the rich.” The usual word for this is oligarchy. That seems to be a missing word in today’s mainstream vocabulary.

The alternative to democracy is oligarchy. As Aristotle noted already in the 4th century BC, oligarchies turn themselves into hereditary aristocracies. This is the path to serfdom. To the vested financial interests, Hayek’s “road to serfdom” means a government strong enough to tax wealth and keep basic essential infrastructure in the public domain, providing its services to the population at subsidized prices instead of letting its services be monopolized.

Confusion over the word “socialism” may be cleared up by recognizing that every economy is mixed, and every economy is planned – by someone. If not the government in the public interest, then by Wall Street and other financial centers in their interest. They fought against an expanding government sector in every economy today, calling it socialism – without acknowledging that the alternative, as Rosa Luxemburg put it, is barbarism.

I think that Sanders is using the red-letter word “socialism” and calling himself a “democratic socialist” to throw down the ideological gauntlet and plug himself into the long and powerful tradition of socialist politics. Paul Krugman would like him to call himself a social democrat. But the European parties of this name have discredited this label as being centrist and neoliberal. Sanders wants to emphasize that a quantum leap, a phase change is in order.

If he can be criticized for waving a needlessly red flag, it is his repeated statement that his program is designed for the “working class.” What he means are wage-earners and this includes the middle class. Even those who make over $100,000 a year are still wage earners, and typically are being squeezed by a predatory financial sector, a predatory medical insurance sector, drug companies and other monopolies.

The danger in this terminology is that most workers like to think of themselves as middle class, because that is what they would like to rise into. That is especially he case for workers who own their own home (even if mortgage represents most of the value, so that most of the home’s rental value is paid to banks, not to themselves as part of the “landlord class”), and have an education (even if most of their added income is paid out as student debt service), and their own car to get to work (involving automobile debt).

The fact is that even $100,000 executives have difficulty living within the limits of their paycheck, after paying their monthly nut of home mortgage or rent, medical care, student loan debt, credit-card debt and automobile debt, not to mention 15% FICA paycheck withholding and state and local tax withholding.

Of course, Sanders’ terminology is much more readily accepted by wage-earners as the voters whom Hillary called “Deplorables” and Obama called “the mob with pitchforks,” from whom he was protecting his Wall Street donors whom he invited to the White House in 2009. But I think there is a much more appropriate term: the 99 Percent, made popular by Occupy Wall Street. That is Bernie’s natural constituency. It serves to throw down the gauntlet between democracy and oligarchy, and between socialism and barbarism, by juxtaposing the 99 Percent to the One Percent.

The Democratic presidential debate on February 25 will set the stage for Super Tuesday’s “beauty contest” to gauge what voters want. The degree of Sanders’ win will help determine whether the byzantine Democrat party apparatus that actually will be able to decide on the Party’s candidate. The expected strong Sanders win is will make the choice stark: either to accept who the voters choose – namely, Bernie Sanders – or to pick a candidate whom voters already have rejected, and is certain to lose to Donald Trump in November.

If that occurs, the Democrat Party will evaporate as its old Clinton-Obama guard is no longer able to protect its donor class on Wall Street and corporate America. Too many Sanders voters would stay home or vote for the Greens. That would enable the Republicans to maintain control of the Senate and perhaps even grab back the House of Representatives.

But it would be dangerous to assume that the DNC will be reasonable. Once again, Roman history provides a “business as usual” scenario. The liberal German politician Theodor Mommsen published his History of Rome in 1854-56, warning against letting an aristocracy block reform by controlling the upper house of government (Rome’s Senate, or Britain House of Lords). The leading families who overthrew the last king in 509 BC created a Senate chronically prone to being stifled by its leaders’ “narrowness of mind and short-sightedness that are the proper and inalienable privileges of all genuine patricianism.”[2]

These qualities also are the distinguishing features of the DNC. If Sanders wants to prevail, he had better win big.

Notes.

1)  Joe Lockhart, CNN opinion. For the MSNBC travesty see from February 23, https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/02/23/msnbc-full-blown-freakout-mode-bernie-sanders-cements-status-democratic-frontrunner, by Jake Johnson. 

2) Mommsen, History of Rome, 1911: 268. 

Posted in USA, CampaignsComments Off on The Democrats’ Quandary: In a Struggle Between Oligarchy and Democracy, Something Must Give

Tycoon Battle-Bots Battle Bernie

by JENNIFER MATSUI

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

We should welcome Bloomberg’s candidacy. It’s proof that the term plutocracy as it applies to the US isn’t just hyperbole but now an uncontested fact. The DNC’s willingness to bend their own rules to allow anyone into the candidate fold who can pay their way in – even an open sewer oligarch whose racism and sexism rivals Trump’s – just confirms our worst fears and vindicates the cynics: Elections are no more than rigged matches between tycoon Battle-Bots both engaged in a struggle to liberate billionaires from taxes, Wall Street from its regulators, and most urgently, the DNC from Bernie Sanders.

This most recent, history-repeating Democratic Primary fiasco is no exception, save for the fact its un-democratic agenda is no longer an embarrassing leak from a trove of emails, but an openly stated threat to the party’s frontrunner: You are not welcome here. This stage is reserved exclusively for the Very Important Plutocrat who bought the arena, and his now sidelined ‘centrist’ stooges all united to shore up delegates for him. Sanders’ modest (to a fault) incrementally implemented policies are framed as the Unabomber manifesto by his own party’s candidates because of Sweden/ISIS . . . same thing.

Expect a senior advisory role for Pete Buttigieg should Bloomberg add the presidency to his already vast portfolio, Amy Klobuchar to make latte runs, and Joe Biden to massage his new Master’s feet when they are tired after a long day of stomping on the Bill of Rights. It’s easy to sacrifice ideals you don’t have (universal healthcare) for the real interests you serve (pharmaceutical and insurance giants). And of course, Israel. After wiping the floor with Bloomberg on the Nevada debate stage, Elizabeth Warren might find use for that sharp tongue of hers. White House silver doesn’t polish itself.

Long before Bloomberg threw his top hat into the ring, he was seeding his eventual campaign trail with donations to “progressive” organizations, who would in turn remain silent during the destruction of their own stated agendas. (Principles are worth more dead than alive, so you might want to abandon your own to pay for their overhead.)

You have to wonder if Bloomberg’s entry into the Democratic primaries is not so much the spontaneous decision of a bored billionaire, but a bipartisan loyalist to the plutocratic cause, well-primed in advance to serve at Her Majesty’s request. Now that Bernie Sanders is poised to secure his party’s nomination despite the DNC’s best efforts to derail his campaign, Nancy Pelosi has resorted to Plan B and launched a Trump clone into the race. When the party elite hires ‘muscle’ to shake down their enemies, it’s no longer some bat-wielding goon from the outer boroughs, but a golf-club swinging real estate tycoon from Manhattan. It proved successful for the Republicans in 2016. It remains to be seen how it will work for their friends waving to them from the other end of the swamp.

Whoever takes on Trump had better be a foul-mouthed, openly racist sack of garbage with ties to Jeffrey Epstein. Otherwise, we’ll all end up with universal healthcare. The stakes are very high, at least for the one-percent whose mostly untaxed wealth will be taxed slightly or not at all depending on which FOJ (friend of Jeffrey) wins.

Whatever regime we ‘choose’ to live under, war spending will remain impervious to the sort of budget cuts that could curb its appetite for global destruction. Exit Tulsi Gabbard . . . and any talk EVER of (redacted) during televised debates. Enter Michael Bloomberg with a war chest big enough to sink the SS Sanders, and any hope of the electorate ever wresting power from the unhinged, swamp-dwelling, golf-club-swinging psychopaths who make up the establishment candidate fold. If the Pentagon readily expends billions of dollars daily to blow up Bedouins, then it’s no stretch to imagine the money Bloomberg is willing to forfeit to sink a dinghy that is somehow chugging ahead of him in the polls.

If cynics feel vindicated by the arrival of ‘The Frisker’ to take on his fake nemesis ‘The Grabber’ in yet another masked Gladiator slap-fest between political allies, then alarmists should feel emboldened enough to announce that the sky is falling. At this stage, they should have no fear of being maligned and scorned for stating the obvious: The sky really is falling. It’s flooding the markets with freshly printed money, while raining locusts on farmers in Kenya, and spreading airborne plague everywhere else. It’s bearing down on ninety-nine percent of the human and wildlife population with the force of a dominatrix as she thrashes her billionaire client in his wine cave. Look up and you’ll see foreclosed homes, trailer parks and tent cities swirling above you as tornados unleashed by Wall Street convey them off the edge of the horizon to make room for another convention center/luxury housing complex.

November’s outcome, rigged by the DNC to secure their own party’s defeat is no longer a doomsday prognostication, but the nearly fulfilled prophecy of the ruling class. Death Match 2020 could spell doom for the Sanders campaign while offering salvation to those who want to abandon all hope and vacate planet earth before it officially expires.

Posted in USA, CampaignsComments Off on Tycoon Battle-Bots Battle Bernie

New Deal for Nature: Paying the Emperor to Fence the Wind

by STEPHEN CORRY

Petroglyphs, Klamath River Basin. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

The conservation industry says 2020 is its “super year.”[1] It wants to set aside thirty percent of the globe for wildlife, and divert billions of dollars away from reducing climate change and into “natural climate solutions.”[2] This would be a disaster for people and planet. Conservation was founded in the racist ideology of 1860s USA but it committed thirty years ago to becoming people-friendly. It hasn’t happened. There will be more promises now, if only to placate critics and funders like the U.S. and German governments, and the European Commission, which are paying for conservation’s land theft, murder and torture.[3] More promises will be meaningless. No more public money should go for “Protected Areas” until the conservation bodies recognize their crimes, get rid of those responsible, and hand stolen lands back, with compensation. Conservation NGOs must also stop cozying up to mining, logging, oil, and plantation companies.

The latest idea to be heavily promoted by big conservation NGOs is doubling the world’s so-called “Protected Areas” (PAs) so that they cover thirty percent of the globe’s lands and oceans. This is now their main rallying cry and response to two of the world’s biggest problems – climate chaos and loss of biodiversity. It sounds good: It’s easy to grasp and has numbers that are supposed to be measurable, and advertisers do love numbers.

What better answer to climate change and biodiversity loss than to ban human “interference” over huge areas? If, that is, you think “everybody” is guilty of causing both crises and that everything’s solved by keeping them away. The idea’s been around for years, but now governments and industries are promoting it to the tune of billions of dollars,[4] so it’ll be difficult to oppose. But it’s actually dangerous nonsense which would have exactly the reverse effect to what we’re told, and if we want to save our world, it must be stopped.

Let’s be clear that cutting destructive pollution globally is vital for the climate, and that stopping industrial exploitation of unspoiled areas is essential for the flora and fauna, and the physical and mental health of inhabitants and visitors. None of that is disputed, but these are not the arguments advanced for asserting the right of this “New Deal for Nature” to more taxpayers’ cash. It’s a marketing gimmick designed to funnel even more money to those who have for decades demonstrated their failure to mitigate either climate change or biodiversity loss.

Let’s assume they did succeed in putting so much territory “out of bounds.” As with the emperor in his new suit, it’s childishly obvious that this wouldn’t necessarily bring any reduction to climate chaos: That’s simply because it wouldn’t affect what happens in the remaining seventy percent of the world – where most pollution originates. If just as much pollution carries on outside, then it doesn’t matter what’s going on inside PAs, because they too depend on the world’s climate, and you can’t fence the wind. Without reducing industrial emissions globally, leaving existing forest intact or planting lots of trees just won’t be enough to solve the problem. Wreck the atmosphere – even from a tiny proportion of the Earth – and you wreck it everywhere.

Not for the first time, the “experts” are promoting a policy which a child can see is senseless, but if they tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.

What about the second claim, that more PAs are needed to ensure the protection of biodiversity? Everyone rightly wants more of that: The more diverse an ecosystem, the more likely it is to adapt and survive. “Biodiversity” means the enormous variety of life, and life forms are interconnected: They depend on each other. Where the flora and fauna is reduced to just a few species, there’s a domino effect that cuts the number still further.[5]

However obvious, it merits restating: To mix metaphors, when the domino becomes a snowball effect then ecosystems become deserts, even when visibly green. Oil palm plantations carved out of tropical forests are a famous example of lots of trees being planted in an area where biodiversity has been slashed to just a few species. Such plantations are effectively “green deserts.”

Putting the propaganda aside, it’s impossible to determine scientifically how effective PAs are for enhancing biodiversity. For example, a line drawn around a highly biodiverse area, which is then declared a national park, proves nothing about the park: The biodiversity was there in the first place. There is, however, considerable agreement about one thing, and it’s not that PAs are the solution at all.

It turns out that the most diversity is not found in areas where all human interference is banned, but actually the reverse – it’s found in places where tribal, indigenous, and other local, communities have stayed put and carried on doing what they’ve always been doing. It’s simply not true that everyone shares responsibility for biodiversity loss. Studies show that community-managed forests have less deforestation than inside PAs, and that “nature” is doing better in areas managed by indigenous peoples than elsewhere.[6] In places as different as Australia, Brazil, and Canada more diversity is found in indigenous territories than in PAs.[7] It seems clear that biological and human diversity are interlinked.

This is a key point which conservation NGOs haven’t wanted the public to know as they clamor for yet more cash: Areas managed by local people, especially if they’re indigenous, are much better than PAs imposed by outsiders. One study concluded, albeit limply, the “notion that indigenous reserves are less effective than parks… must be re-examined.”[8] You can say that again! They are already reckoned to contain no less than eighty percent of global species diversity. That’s the very reason conservationists want to take control of them. Indigenous peoples are now being victimized precisely because of their expertise in environmental stewardship.

Even where PAs are hyped as being about preserving iconic species, the evidence is mixed. For example, the former head of a conservation NGO thinks there could be more Indian tigers outside protected areas than inside. No one knows, but what’s certain is that when the British colonizers imprisoned the Waliangulu tribal elephant hunters in 1950s Kenya, elephant numbers did skyrocket, but only to plummet when the next drought hit and the herds proved too numerous for the environment. Thousands died of starvation, restoring a balance that the Waliangulu had achieved for generations or millennia. In South Africa, an average of nearly 600 elephants were culled every year from 1967 to 1996 (without publicity, to avoid upsetting conservation donors).[9] Banning traditional indigenous hunting generally harms biodiversity.

Protecting “nature” by fencing it off from the locals simply hasn’t worked. It doesn’t help that many PAs aren’t really protected at all. They include industrial exploitation – mining, logging, plantations, trophy hunting concessions, or extensive, usually high-end, tourist infrastructure – but that’s the reality. The locals are thrown out as the land is grabbed by one or other industry, partnering with one or other big conservation NGO.

Like it or not, many PAs are as much about stealing the land from local people to make someone else a profit as they are about conservation. The famous Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana is the second largest “game reserve” in the world but it’s also leased to mining exploration. There’s a diamond mine, with its roads and heavy machinery, where a tiny handful of the Bushmen who have lived there for generations are occasionally given menial jobs. (The government kicked them out until forced to backtrack by the high court.) As in almost all African PAs, wealthy tourists enjoy luxury accommodation inside the reserve. The man responsible for both the tourism and mine was the former president, General Ian Khama, a much-feted conservationist who was on the board of Conservation International.

This land theft is a problem for us all, and not only because the indigenous people are generally much better conservationists than “us”: Not surprisingly, the locals object when their land and self-sufficiency are looted for someone else’s gain, and their need for food, and sometimes their anger, translates into defying hunting bans (making them “poachers” for trying to feed their families), as well as taking action to recover their ancestral territory. For example, pastoralists whose herds are banned from private “conservancies” in East Africa are cutting the fences and going back in. They can be armed and violent clashes are increasing. Some researchers fear increasing bloodshed is inevitable[10] and the increasing militarization of conservation will just make things worse. Yet this is the model touted as the future of PAs, one supposedly enacted with the support of local communities (which is often a lie). They’re supported by the American NGO, The Nature Conservancy, and are largely profit-making investments aimed at wealthy companies and tourists. They’re now taking over huge areas of East Africa and beyond.

Just as Africans extricated themselves (at least, partly!) from European rule in the last century, they are unlikely to accede quietly to what is seen as more colonization, this time by conservationists. Unless things change, PAs in Africa will become real, not metaphorical, battlegrounds. Serious environmentalists know that you can’t have a PA for long if it’s surrounded by an angry population, yet conservation groups seem incapable of changing their practice. They exhort industry to become sustainable, while promoting their own model, which palpably isn’t.

WWF, for example, routinely violates human rights, the law and its own policies. It’s already spent millions of dollars illegally pushing for a new park in Congo, Messok Dja. The money comes from WWF itself and its accomplices, including a logging, oil palm, and luxury tourist company, as well as the Wildlife Conservation Society, the U.S. government, the EU, and the UN. As with the creation of almost all African PAs, the first step has been to kick out and terrorize the local Baka (so-called Pygmies) who’ve probably lived there for thousands of years, and who have adapted and sustainably managed their biodiverse-rich environment. Now they are kept out of their ancestral lands and terrorized, beaten and arrested if they return to seek traditional foods or plant medicines.

This is what the thirty percent of the globe taken for the New Deal for Nature will look like – a third of the globe stolen for profit. It’s a new colonialism, the world’s biggest land grab, supposedly “green” and supposedly to save the world – a really big lie. As Odette, a Baka woman from Congo, says of such imposed conservation projects which don’t work, “We’ve had enough of this talk of ‘boundaries’ in the forest. The forest is ours.”[11]

The last couple of generations has amply demonstrated that meetings of corporate heads, NGOs, politicians, and celebrities are not going to solve the crises of climate and biodiversity. Those attending are amongst the major contributors to the problems, and least willing to accept any change which might threaten their position. They argue over statements that no one actually applies, or even intends to, and which are replete with clauses ensuring “business as usual.” The meetings and declarations attract an enormous media circus, but are akin to the emperor’s workshop, with hundreds of tailors busily cutting suits of such rarefied material that they don’t cover his nakedness.

The real answers to the crises of climate and biodiversity lie in an inversion of the current approach, and a rejection of the New Deal for Nature and its failure to understand the relationship between indigenous peoples and nature. If we really want to save our world, then we have to start with the rich cutting their massive overconsumption. The wealthiest ten percent cause about half the world’s total pollution,[12] so they must work hardest to cut it. Both military conflict and the growth of information technology must be seen as the major polluters they are. The first is barely mentioned in climate activism, and the plan for the second is the exact opposite of what’s needed, with yet more energy-hungry “artificial intelligence” lined up to monitor our lives for the benefit of industry and state control.[13] If we’re going to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, we must also reduce dependence on “smart” tech, and we must accept the fact that real solutions aren’t found in marketing gimmicks like “net zero,” offsetting, carbon markets, or “pricing nature.” Real solutions are found with the local peoples that have successfully been creating and managing the world’s biodiversity since prehistory.

Humanity as a whole isn’t responsible for these problems, one particular sector is, and it’s same one coming up with the New Deal for Nature. Those promoting it want to dictate how the rest of the world should live, but they’re acting primarily for themselves. Banning human activity from yet more so-called “Protected Areas” is another manifestation of the hubris that got us into this mess in the first place. Local people – those who retain some self-sufficiency, common sense, and connection with their environment – remain the strongest backbone of humanity, even today. They have better answers than the conservation technocrats and other global elites who lack their perspective. Kicking even more of them out at best reduces them to landless poverty and at worst destroys them and the environment. It would be disastrous for everyone.

We should be respecting land rights and encouraging indigenous peoples and other local communities to remain where they are – if they wish – to carry on managing their lands in their own ways, and we must, above all, stop the theft of their territories for conservation. Those who want to, should be maintaining their self-sufficiency, not forced into global markets that profit the polluters more than anyone. We must “give” them back previously stolen lands, to manage themselves. We must listen to them rather than destroying them, as we are now.

Whether this happens remains to be seen. The few voices pointing out that the emperor has no clothes at all, are up against a deafening scream from conservation propagandists and mainstream media, baying that the New Deal for Nature is the perfect solution. Whose voice will prevail depends on people’s gullibility and ability to challenge both their own prejudices and powerful vested interests. It’s a real battle, and the outcome will determine how much more nature is stolen from this beautiful world we have helped create.

1) WWF Ecological. “2020: let’s put nature top of everybody’s to-do list.” Ecological.panda.org. April 20, 2018. (accessed 13/02/2020) 

2) Tollefson, Jeff. “Global deal for nature’ fleshed out with specific conservation goals.” Nature, April 19, 2019. (accessed 13/02/2020) 

3) Baker, Katie & Tom Warren. “The US Government Spent Millions Funding WWF-Backed Forces Accused Of Torture and Murder.” Buzzfeed News, September 24, 2019. (accessed 13/02/2020); Baker, Katie & Tom Warren. “WWF Says Indigenous People Want This Park. An Internal Report Says Some Fear Forest Ranger “Repression.” Buzzfeed News, March 8, 2019. (accessed 13/02/2020) 

4) The estimate for the total global ecosystem services in 2011 is $125 trillion/yr

Costanza, Robert, Rudolf De Groot, Paul Sutton, Sander Van der Ploeg, Sharolyn J. Anderson, Ida Kubiszewski, Stephen Farber, and R. Kerry Turner. “Changes in the global value of ecosystem services.” Global environmental change 26 (2014): 152-158. (accessed 13/02/2020) 

5) Carrington, Damian. “What is biodiversity and why does it matter to us?” The Guardian, March 12, 2018. (accessed 13/02/2020) 

6) Porter-Bolland, Luciana, Edward A. Ellis, Manuel R. Guariguata, Isabel Ruiz-Mallén, Simoneta Negrete-Yankelevich, and Victoria Reyes-García. “Community managed forests and forest protected areas: An assessment of their conservation effectiveness across the tropics.” Forest ecology and management 268 (2012): 6-17 

7) The study measured vertebrate animal diversity only.

Schuster et al, 2019, Vertebrate biodiversity on indigenous-managed lands in Australia, Brazil, and Canada equals that in protected areas, Environmental Science & Policy Volume 101, November 2019, Pages 1-6 

8) Woods Hole Research Center. “Satellites Show Amazon Parks, Indigenous Reserves Stop Forest Clearing.” ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/01/060126200147.htm (accessed February 13, 2020). 

9) Dickson, Paul, and William M. Adams. “Science and uncertainty in South Africa’s elephant culling debate.” Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy 27, no. 1 (2009): 110-123. 

10) Letiwa, Paul. “Herders protest as wildlife conservancies drive them out.” The Daily Nation, August 18, 2019. (accessed February 13, 2020). 

11) Survival International. “We’ve had enough of this talk of ‘boundaries’ in the forest.” YouTube video, 01:00. 4 Jan 2019. (accessed February 13, 2020). 

12) Gore, Timothy. Extreme Carbon Inequality. London: Oxfam. Dec 2, 2015. (The report can be found in Spanish and French at https://www.oxfam.org/en/research/extreme-carbon-inequality) (accessed February 13, 2020). 

13) See: Lu, Donna. “Creating an AI can be five times worse for the planet than a car.” New Scientist, June 6, 2019. (accessed February 13, 2020).

Berners-Lee, Mike and Duncan Clark. “What’s the carbon footprint of … email?” The Guardian, Oct 21, 2010. (accessed February 13, 2020). 

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The Non-Intervention Principle

by SHELDON RICHMAN

Photograph Source: VasenkaPhotography – CC BY 2.0

Anyone old enough to think about “America’s” role in the world ought to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. For example, one ought to be able to argue firmly against U.S. intervention in other countries without feeling obliged to downplay or deny the real crimes that the tyrant du jour has committed. Unfortunately, not everyone agrees.

I can see the temptation here. Many people believe that all one needs to do to establish a case for intervention is to portray the target as egregiously bad. Consequently, a noninterventionist may think that the easiest way to rebut the interventionist is to deny the claim that the target is as bad as “they say.” But this is a lousy, shortsighted, and ultimately self-defeating move. For one thing, it implies that intervention would be acceptable if the target were that bad. Unsurprisingly, it’s better to stick to principle.

The principle of foreign nonintervention has nothing to do with the record of the foreign government in question. It is perfectly coherent to identify Ruler as a brutal dictator and to oppose a U.S. government action aimed at regime-change and nation-building. Thus the noninterventionist has no need to blunt the move toward intervention by misstating or obscuring facts to make the targeted ruler appear less bad than he really is. If someone is puzzled by the statement “The ruler is as horrible as you say, but that is no justification for intervention,” it’s the noninterventionist’s job to straighten that person out because he clearly misunderstands the nature of noninterventionism.

The world is full of egregiously bad rulers — as distinguished from merely garden-variety bad ones — but when the matter turns to U.S. foreign and military policy, the appropriate question is, “So what?” As I say, the case for nonintervention doesn’t rest on the target’s record. So noninterventionists should have no trouble identifying Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro (among many others) as egregiously bad guys while also opposing U.S. government action against them.

Noninterventionists should also be able to state, assuming of course it is true, that a particular bad ruler is not as bad in every respect as the interventionists say without being smeared as an apologist for that ruler. For example, we can note that Assad, although a brutal dictator, has protected religious minorities, such as Christians, from the fanatical Sunni Muslims, such as al Qaeda and the late Islamic State. (Assad himself is a member of a religious minority, the Alawites, which is in the Shia branch of Islam.) Acknowledging Assad’s record of protecting minorities does not make one a fan, much less a tool, of the Syrian ruler. Similarly, one ought to be able to point out that U.S. sanctions are partly responsible for Venezuela’s problems without being accused of defending or overlooking Maduro’s authoritarian state socialism, which by nature will always harm the very people it is perhaps intended to benefit.

Thus the case for nonintervention is independent of Assad’s policy toward minorities and the consequences of U.S. sanctions against Venezuela. (Those sanctions should end.) Nonintervention stands on its own merits.

I find it necessary to discuss what ought to be obvious because recently I’ve seen people committing these fallacies: a few noninterventionists have appeared to suggest that a potential target of U.S. intervention, Maduro, isn’t really so bad, while some interventionists have accused noninterventionists of being soft on some demonstrably horrible rulers.

Another fallacy I’ve encountered is the equation of noninterventionism with nationalism, specifically with a belief that national borders are sacrosanct. The fallacy here is in thinking that the libertarian case for nonintervention rests on a reverence for national boundaries. Nothing could be further from the truth. Noninterventionism and open (i.e., essentially abolished) borders go hand in hand.

So why the iron rule against nonintervention if borders are not sacrosanct? Albert Jay Nock and Murray Rothbard both answered this question: as long as we live in a world of states, to minimize the harm, we are obliged to keep the state we labor under on, as Nock put it, as short a leash as possible. This is true in domestic policy, but it is even more urgent in foreign affairs since presidents have frightening and acutely lethal autonomy in that realm. We should need no reminder that when the U.S. government intervenes in a foreign conflict, it makes things worse — much worse — especially for noncombatants. So nonintervention is motivated not only by a wish to keep the state as small as possible, but also to minimize bloodshed by abstaining from exacerbating other people’s conflicts. Bluntly put, we must keep states from clashing. It’s got nothing to do with a reverence for borders.

In the harsh light of 21st-century American foreign policy, we can see that the cause of nonintervention has never been more urgent. Let’s not burden it with irrelevant considerations.

(For a statement of libertarian noninterventionism, see my “Libertarianism Means Noninterventionism.”)

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