How is it that Trump is designated to be in a position of judging the perpetrators of violence? The U.S. government is regularly bombing a number of countries. Just last week, Trump threatened North Korea with nuclear destruction in unusually blunt language -- "fire and fury" rather than the typical Obama administration veiled nuclear attack code lingo "all options are on the table".
You'd be hard pressed to find a "news" story about them. That's the concern with the effects of "violence" when it emanates from the U.S. government.
But the threats and use of violence are not new, nor is the hypocrisy. As he was ordering the ongoing bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, President Bill Clinton took time out of his schedule to address the shooting at Columbine High School: “We must do more to reach out to our children and teach them to express their anger and to resolve their conflicts with words, not weapons.”
Such outbreaks of domestic political violence are used not as openings for introspection about longstanding violence in U.S. society, but for rallying cries to uphold alleged virtues of the nation. The recent attacks are "repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans" Trump claims.
Since we live "under law and under the Constitution...responding to hate with love, division with unity, and violence with an unwavering resolve for justice. No matter the color of our skin, we all live under the same laws, we all salute the same great flag, and we are all made by the same almighty God."
The words Trump uttered seemed to echo Saint Augustine. Charles Avila in Ownership: Early Christian Teaching, outlines Augustine's beliefs: "The Creator, who alone is Absolute Owner, did not make us human beings so many 'islands,' without any relation to each other, but one human family, 'made from one mud' and sustained 'on one earth.'...We enjoy the same natural conditions: 'born under one law, living by one light, breathing one air and dying one death.'"
Nor is this new, either. during the presidency of Bill Clinton, he ordered up an "Initiative on Race". It's largely forgotten because its primary goal wasn't actually improving relations between different ethnic groups. Its goal was noted in its title: "One America in the 21st Century”. Not “Finally Overcoming Racism.” Not “Towards an America of Equality.”
National cohesion is the driving concern here. How can we make these differing ethnicities get along well enough to ensure that this stays one nation is a question elites must ask themselves. See my piece at the time: "'One America' -- To what Ends?"
There's a tightrope being walked here. There's a functionality to the "debate" between "both sides". The system requires a great deal of tension to keep people in their partisan boxes. The main thing that each political faction has going for it is the hatred towards the other.
The Democratic Party has to offer people something more than Russia-bashing, and that something seems to be opposition to a war that the party of Jefferson was on the losing side of.
Many were aghast at Trump's remarks about Washington and Jefferson: "So this week, it is Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?"
As historian Gerald Horne has argued, the U.S. Revolutionary War was largely a war to ensure the continuation of slavery. Part of the "genius" of the U.S. was the "unification" of many non-black and non-native people as "white", including southern and eastern Europeans and some Arabs. So you have a large immigration pool to forge the nation.
Nor of course is slavery the only crime. It's perhaps focused on to at least some extent in our current political discourse because it's the main aspect of the imperial project that created, rather than destroyed, a major domestic constituency that was a victim of it. Native Americans are not a major domestic constituency because, unlike black folks in the U.S., their ancestors were not chained and brought to U.S. shores as slaves, but were driven out, killed en mass or made to die or be confined and marginalized.
And that project predated the formal creation of the United States. Kent A. MacDougall notes in "Empire—American as Apple Pie" in Monthly Review that "George Washington called the nascent nation 'a rising empire.' John Adams said it was 'destined' to overspread all North America. And Thomas Jefferson viewed it as 'the nest from which all America, North and South, is to be peopled.'"
Trump's statements, understated as they were, about current U.S. government violence were roundly condemned by most of the political class. CNN's "chief national security correspondent" Jim Sciutto called them "relativistic" -- when they were they are the exact opposite. What's relativistic is condemning the actions of others while approving of similar actions by one's "own side". Of course, Trump is relativistic when he condemns the violence from "many sides" in Charlottesville.
So we have two relativistic dead ends: Trump "vs" the rest of the establishment. One victim for the time being is people's brain cells who have to endure and try to parse through the constant machinations.
Comments like those about U.S. violence or the history of Washington give Trump a legitimacy of sorts. The establishment media effectively keep the microphone away from anyone else who would note such defining facts, while giving reams of coverage to Trump. He effectively becomes the leading "dissident" while also being the head inquisitor. This discourse effectively immunizes the establishment from meaningful change or even dialogue.
Both sides limit who they mean by “lives.” They effectively exclude the victims of the U.S.’s highest officials. When most people use #BlackLivesMatter, they seem to be saying that all black U.S. lives matter when taken unlawfully by the government. And when most people who use #AllLivesMatter use it, they seem to be saying all U.S. lives matter when taken at the hands of police authorities — not just black U.S. lives. But the formulation effectively excludes the lives of millions of people who U.S. officials have deemed expendable for reasons of state.
I recall the first time I saw, or at least comprehended, a Confederate memorial, with Lee or some other general atop a horse. I thought the solution would be not to remove them, but to build around them. A tree should hover above with strange fruit hanging down for example. I'd be delighted if such a thing were to catch on now.
And perhaps we need more -- not fewer -- monuments to the Civil War, to all wars. If done right, they would actually be monuments for peace. Consider these images that confront the reality below the "great men" atop their horses:
At the United Nations headquarters in New York, 122 countries have approved a global treaty to ban the use of nuclear weapons, despite the United States leading the opposition to the treaty.
Each State Party undertakes never under any circumstances to: (a) Develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices;...
On March 11, 2004, just a few days before a critical election, a series of nearly simultaneous bombs exploded on four commuter trains in Madrid, killing over 190 people. Before the bombing, the Socialist Party (PSOE) was about five points behind in the polls, but it ended up winning by five points. The party promised that if it won the election, Spain would get out of Iraq in six months. That happened after only five. I can find no evidence of any Middle East–related terrorism in Spain since, though there apparently have been thwarted plots.
This history may offer a critical lesson to Britain now, just days away from an election following a series of attacks near London Bridge. Incumbent Prime Minister Theresa May has backed virtually every war that Britain has participated in. In contrast, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had criticized virtually every war.
The situation in Spain was heightened by the incumbent government of José María Aznar (now a director at Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation), which blamed the Basque group ETA for the attack. This move certainly crystallized public disgust with the government. But why did the government lie about ETA’s involvement in the first place? It assessed—probably correctly—that the Spanish people would be furious that so much blood had been shed in Madrid in retaliation for Spain’s involvement in the invasion of Iraq, which was already deeply unpopular.
Contrast the path that Spain took with that of France, which had originally criticized the invasion of Iraq. Since then, France has become more interventionist, particularly in Syria—a former French colony. It has also become far more of a target of terrorism in the name of Islam in recent years.
It’s noteworthy that the interrelation between the 2004 Madrid attacks and the election has been either ignored or totally misrepresented. Last year, following the massacre in Orlando by Omar Mateen, in a discussion about how that attack might affect the US election, Dina Temple-Raston, NPR’s “counterterrorism correspondent” exactly reversed the apparent lesson of Madrid. She claimed that after the Madrid attack “the more conservative party won.” NPR refused to offer an on-air correction for this brazen falsehood.
Of course, the election of a Corbyn government doesn’t guarantee an end to terrorist attacks in Britain. For one, it’s not clear that Corbyn will adhere to a pro-peace, non-interventionist stance. Recently, he has seemed to distance himself from prior positions, like withdrawal from NATO. While the Socialist Party in Spain pledged to withdraw from Iraq, the Labour Manifesto contains no such explicit pledge.
Theresa May, however, has supported interventionist policies that helped create the conditions for radicalization. Specifically, while May was home secretary, the UK allowed extremists from the Libya Islamic Fighting Group (of which the Manchester bomber was a member) to freely travel to Libya to take out Muammar Gaddafi (see John Pilger at Consortium News, Paul Mason at The Guardian, and Max Blumenthal at Alternet). This is a point that Corbyn has raised in less specific but notable terms: “Many experts have pointed to the connections between wars our government has supported or fought in other countries and terrorism here at home.” He’s also added: “We do need to have some difficult conversations, starting with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states that have funded and fueled extremist ideology.”
The segment, of course, avoided issues that Brzezinski has been criticized for, see "How Jimmy Carter and I Started the Mujahideen." Though even the New York Times obit noted: "But in at least one respect — his rigid hatred of the Soviet Union — he had stood to the right of many Republicans, including Mr. Kissinger and President Richard M. Nixon. And during his four years under Mr. Carter, beginning in 1977, thwarting Soviet expansionism at any cost guided much of American foreign policy, for better or worse. He supported billions in military aid for Islamic militants fighting invading Soviet troops in Afghanistan."
The shadow cast by such policies quite arguably lead to the 9/11 attacks and a great deal of other pain and suffering in the Mideast and beyond.
Joe Scarborough claimed: "Mr. President, I was talking to Mika's daughters this weekend and trying to explain the impact that you all had on the world and talking about the Middle East. You hear about the Middle East peace. But you know, President Carter's peace efforts between Israel and Egypt prevented a ground war in the Middle East for 40 years."
And it's quite arguable that Camp David actually set the stage for all those things. As the late Eqbal Ahmad stated in 1990 (at an event I attended):
There has been nothing (that I have seen) in the media about what compels Saddam Hussein's extraordinary ambitions. ... What has suddenly in 1990 compelled his ambition, that requires 350,000 American troops to control? What did it?No one has named the Camp David Accords. And Saddam Hussein's ambitions are directly attributable to the Camp David Accords. I won't go into details of it — just in two sentences, remember the following. Since the decline of the Ottoman Empire (in other words, since the beginning of the 19th Century) Egypt has played the role of the regional influential in the Arab World. Politically, culturally, even militarily, Egypt has led the Arab World (and ideologically). The Camp David Accords' supreme achievement was to isolate Egypt from its Arab milieu.When Anwar Sadat signed that piece of paper, his hope had been that this would lead to the return of Egyptian territory to Egypt. Occupied territories, one (which he did get). And two, a modicum of justice for the Palestinians. So that, over time his isolation will be ameliorated. And that minimum that was promised to Sadat in the Camp David Accords was not honored. In fact, the maximum was dishonored.To remind you of one reality alone, Carter, and Saunders, and William B. Quandt — the three American negotiators from top to the bottom (with Carter at the top, Saunders in the middle, and Quandt at the bottom) — have testified and recorded in their books that in the last three days of the Camp David negotiations, the negotiations had broken down on one issue. And the issue was Sadat's insistence that there should be written in the Camp David Accords that Israel will put up no more settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. And Begin would say, "I am willing to agree on it informally, but won't do it in writing." And Carter weighs in and says, "You must understand Begin's difficult position. I give you guarantee that there will be no settlements. ...Now, obviously, Camp David meant moral, ideological, political isolation of Egypt from its Arab milieu. There would be a political vacuum in the Middle East after Camp David. And smaller players — like Syria and Iraq — would love, would aim at, would have the ambition, to fill that vacuum.
Similarly, the late Patrick Seale wrote in 2011 in "The future of the (de)stabilizing Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty":
All these factors deflated Arab Nationalism and ultimately opened the way for Saudi dominance of much of the region. This helped lead to the collapse of the three other major secular states in the region: Iraq, Syria and Libya. Egypt itself has been relegated to the role of puppet police state and may descend further given the current dynamics.By removing Egypt — the strongest and most populous of the Arab countries — from the Arab line-up, the treaty ruled out any possibility of an Arab coalition that might have contained Israel or restrained its freedom of action. As Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan remarked at the time: "If a wheel is removed, the car will not run again."
Western commentators routinely describe the treaty as a "pillar of regional stability," a "keystone of Middle East diplomacy," a "centerpiece of America’s diplomacy" in the Arab and Muslim world. This is certainly how Israel and its American friends have seen it.
But for most Arabs, it has been a disaster. Far from providing stability, it exposed them to Israeli power. Far from bringing peace, the treaty ensured an absence of peace, since a dominant Israel saw no need to compose or compromise with Syria or the Palestinians.
Instead, the treaty opened the way for Israeli invasions, occupations and massacres in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, for strikes against Iraqi and Syrian nuclear sites, for brazen threats against Iran, for the 44-year occupation of the West Bank and the cruel blockade of Gaza, and for the pursuit of a "Greater Israel" agenda by fanatical Jewish settlers and religious nationalists.
In turn, Arab dictators, invoking the challenge they faced from an aggressive and expansionist Israel, were able to justify the need to maintain tight control over their populations by means of harsh security measures.
May 30, 2017
The New York
the Events in Khan Sheikhoun on April 4, 2017:
NONE of the Cited Forensic Evidence Supports the Claims
Theodore A. Postol
Professor Emeritus of Science, Technology, and National Security Policy
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
On April 26, 2017 the New York Times released a video titled How Syria and Russia Spun a Chemical Strike. This video provides extensive forensic evidence that the New York Times used to develop its conclusions about an alleged nerve agent attack in Khan Sheikhoun on April 4, 2017. In this report, I show that NONE of the forensic evidence in the New York Times video and a follow-on Times news article supports the conclusions reported by the New York Times.
The forensic evidence and analytical claims in all of these reports can be traced back to a single source, an organization called Bellingcat. This organization represents itself as “specializing in analyzing information posted online.” As will be shown in what follows, not a single claim made by Bellingcat is supported by the forensic evidence it used to reach its conclusions.
The particular evidence of concern in this report are claims made by Bellingcat about three sites that were attacked by air on April 4, 2017 in Khan Sheikhoun with general-purpose bombs. Bellingcat’s claims about forensic evidence of an alleged sarin release in Khan Sheikhoun on April 4, 2017 are addressed in my previous report, The Human Rights Watch Report of May 1,2017 Cites Evidence that Disaffirms Its Own Conclusions About the Alleged Nerve Agent Attack at Khan Sheikhoun in Syria on April 4,2017, issued on May 8, 2017. This earlier report shows that Bellingcat’s claims of forensic proof for the sarin release site is based on evidence that does not exist.
This report shows that NONE of the bomb-damage areas identified by Bellingcat and shown in the New York Times video show any indication of bomb damage from 500 to 1000 pound bombs. That is, the data from a composite panoramic view that is the foundation of the Bellingcat and New York Times analyses is clearly and unambiguously inconsistent with the claims of bomb damage from before and after satellite photographs used in the same analyses. In fact NONE of the forensic data claimed by Bellingcat and the New York Times as evidence of general-purpose bomb damage on April 4 supports the conclusions that are said to have been derived from the forensic data. In all, when these false claims about information provided in the forensic data are brought together with the claims about a sarin release site, the conclusion is inescapable that all of the evidence referred to by Bellingcat in the New York Times contains no forensic proof to support their narrative.
Thus, the narratives put forward by the New York Times, and the closely related Human Rights Watch report of May 1, are all based on forensic evidence and conclusions that are unambiguously false.
The specific problems with the forensic analysis produced by Bellingcat are as follows:
If that does turn out to be an apt analogy, it's hardly surprising that this is happening in many respects.
The crimes of Watergate came out of the Vietnam War, though this is poorly understood. The Watergate “plumbers“ were originally set up to plug the leaks about the Vietnam War.
And so, with the rise of the imperial presidency, it was hardly surprising that someone like Nixon would use the mechanisms of Empire -- the capacity for secrecy, for surveillance and for violence -- for his own political purposes. Indeed, Hoover, atop the FBI, had been doing so for decades.
The late Watergate historian Stanley Kutler writes in his book Abuse of Power that Nixon railed to his aides about papers regarding the Vietnam War that he thought were at the then liberal Brookings Institution.
“I want it implemented…. God damn it, get in and get those files. Blow the safe and get it.”
The documents Nixon apparently wanted to get hold of allegedly showed that Johnson curtailed the bombing of Vietnam in 1968 to boost the Democrats’ election prospects of winning the election that year.
A great irony now is that the establishment Democrats are going after Trump in a number of personal ways, but collude in others, and indeed stiffen up his use of violence. When Trump uses military violence in Yemen or Syria, he is lauded by presumed liberals like Van Jones and Fareed Zakaria as presidential.
The secrecy and the surveillance are sold to the public as necessary for their own protection, but the opposite is true. The little known Katharine Gun case highlights how the actual target of surveillance is frequently not "terrorism", but the threat of peace.
So, the Trump administration's ridiculous claims about the reasons for the Comey firing are fairly similar to the lying pretexts that U.S. officialdom used to justify the Iraq invasion. Empire is compatible with democracy only with a series of dehumanizing triple standards. It's fine there, just don't do it here.
In terms of Trump's own crimes, he is quite impeachable on the domestic emoluments clause, but the establishment Democrats seem quite uninterested in pursuing that.
They have focused on his apparent ties to Russia. There may well be something there, Trump is a corrupt figure and it's well within his capacities to engage in massive, if at times possibly buffoonish, coverup. But it is incredibly dangerous that the establishment Democrats seem intent on risking escalations with the other major nuclear power on the planet so they can beat Trump over the head.
Hard time sleeping in Berlin...
With Comey firing, my mind is going to how nefarious foreign policy instruments eventually get turned against political opponents. But the political culture cares not for the fp dimension bc the victims are non people.
Nixons "plumbers" originally stopped leaks re Vietnam War. ... Katharine Gun exposed how the target of surveillance is not "terrorism", but threat of peace in Iraq. ...
Greenwald wrote: "In fact, the idea of collecting everything was something pioneered by Gen. Alexander when he was deployed in Baghdad during the Iraq war. What we really have now is a communications strategy that was developed for an enemy population in a time of war that has now been imported onto American soil and aimed at our own population. I think that’s an expression of just how radical it is.”
God knows the result of the massive surveillance in Iraq. Hard to know, but I suspect any political actor not going along with US was targeted in one way or another.
Comey firing ridiculous pretexts remind me of fairly typical ridiculous US fp pretexts -- but they are generally accepted in that arena. Empire is compatible with democracy only with a series of dehumanizing triple standards.