More CrossTalk™

Hafsa Kara-Mustapha in CounterPunch today criticizes me at length in "Cross Talk, Semantics and the Downright Spineless" about our appearance on a panel on RT's program CrossTalk™ and my piece "Stated Goals vs Actual Goals: CrossTalk Lives Up to Its Name."

I won't rebut point for point what she writes, because I think it will continue to fuel the CrossTalk™ that began on the program -- she continues to alternate between talking about people "capable of questioning U.S. policy motives" on the one hand and then on the other referring to U.S. government policy as "blunders" and having "obvious flaws" -- tepid crits from my point of view. 

But, I should point out she claims: "It was only at the very end that Husseini gathered some courage to finally state that the U.S.’ policy was specifically designed to fuel conflict and encourage failed states."

I think that's a simplification of what I was saying, but the fact is that in the first segment of the program, at 6:30, I stated about U.S. government policy: "If you can't have subservient state -- and I think that's a difficult thing to do in countries like Libya, like Syria, like even Iraq under the circumstances -- then a failed state is a relatively positive outcome. That you have the Saudi ally/client, whatever you want to call it, being ever more dominant in the Middle East. You have Israel having evermore carte blanche in the Middle East. You have the alliance between Iran, Syria and Hezbollah being hit at its weakest point." [video

I can understand her not having quite heard this given the CrossTalk™ on the program, I found it difficult to communicate under the circumstances as well, but she really should be able to have figured it out by watching the program after the fact. She'd then be free to respond to the substance. 

I should note that my piece after the program didn't just complain about the program, I posited a theory about why some associated with RT would not -- as one might expect -- be prone to criting the Machiavellian nature of U.S. policy: It would mean the U.S. government isn't really getting schooled by Putin. 

I've gotten a number of emails from folks about the substance of my remarks and hope to write a longer piece on that. 

Broadcasting Unaccountability

Radio headers, sometimes called "billboards" are critical -- they frame the issues, typically at the top of the hour, before a full blown segment.

But they are often not even transcribed, thus programs, including those from NPR and Democracy Now, become less accountable. This means in some respects, there's no record of the most powerful thing these outlets broadcast. 

Two examples:

Wednesday morning (Oct. 28) -- before officer Ben Fields was fired -- NPR Morning Edition said at top of the hour about the video: "It seems to show a white officer slamming a black student to the floor." "Seems." A segment was aired later in the hour without the word "seems" -- and is available and transcribed online, but I'm unable to find the header online in any form, even on Nexis. 

Similarly, with Democracy Now, on Monday's program (Oct. 26), at the top of the show, before a strong program featuring Charles Glass, host Amy Goodman talked about "international leaders meet in Vienna to find a solution to the conflict" in Syria. As if that's what the government representatives are clearly doing regarding Syria: trying to "find a solution to the conflict" -- when there's substantial evidence they've avoided that and have instead been pursuing their various geostrategic and political agendas. The segment with Glass is transcribed, the header isn't, though it is in video form, since Democracy Now does post entire programs, unlike NPR's Morning Edition. 

You'd think in this age, it would be a minimum requirement: if you're going to broadcast something on hundreds of stations, it should be stored and transcribed online. 

Stated Goals vs Actual Goals: "CrossTalk" Lives Up to Its Name

Last week, I was on RT's show "CrossTalk" about Syria and ended up spending most of the show trying to make a point I didn't think I'd have to on that media outlet. 

Here's the video: 

RT of course used to be know as Russia Today and is often regarded as extremely critical of U.S. government policy. But, I found out, not really that critical. 

As the show got going, the thrust of the conversation was that U.S. policy in the Mideast was "irrational". So, I made the point that one shouldn't exclude the possibility that U.S. government policy wasn't actually irrational, but rather that its stated goals -- democracy, stability, fighting terrorism -- were actually different from its actual goals. It might therefore appear to be irrational because its actions wouldn't "make sense" if you took it at its word, but they would have a Machiavellian logic to them. 

I thought it a fairly obvious point, but the other folks kept going back to either standard pro-Putin talking points or to their "irrational" depiction of U.S. policy, so I'd make that point again. The host, Peter Lavelle, at one point seemed -- there was a lot of CrossTalk, so can't be sure -- to say I didn't have a basic understand of foreign policy, which was actually the charge I was leveling at him. "Governments lie" as I.F. Stone was fond of reminding students

At first I thought that they were just being foolish by not seeing the point I was making -- they're supposed to be critics of U.S. government policy. Then I wondered if the notion of parsing through a government's stated goals vs its actual goals might be threatening to folks who take their queues from the establishment of any country. 

Meanwhile, the U.S. establishment is rather nimble at questioning the motives of official enemies, so contrast how Putin is written about in the U.S.: "Putin’s goals in Syria clear to all but Obama," "Moscow’s many stated reasons for fighting in Ukraine are either false or incoherent. Its actual goals, unfortunately, preclude a tidy and quick resolution ever taking hold," "Russia's real Syria goal explained by top experts". In this environment, when Putin's goals are regularly scrutinized -- sometimes in contorted manner -- and U.S. establishment goals are barely scrutinized at all, many end up drawing conclusions like "Putin outwits the United States, again" -- a questionable conclusion that perhaps some at RT have a stake in promulgating as well. 

The deeper issue is that we have these media outlets of various nationalities -- RT for Russia, France 24 for France, CNN for the U.S. establishment, Fox for the U.S. establishment rightwing, MSNBC for U.S. establishment corporate liberals, Al-Jazeera for Qatar, Al-Arabia for Saudi Arabia, CCTV for China, etc. 

They all foster shallowness and a ultimately prize hacks over real journalists. 

We desperately need a global, real network dedicated to real facts and meaningful dialogue between various viewpoints. 

Addendum: "More CrossTalk™"

The Need for Real Strategic Voting

In the aftermath of the Canadian election, The Real News brought on Dimitri Lascaris as part of their panel to discuss the election.

I know Dimitri as a expert on Greece, but he's a partner at a Canadian corporate law firm and ran for a seat in the Canadian election with the Green Party.

He summarized the quandary of running as a third party quite well:

Well you know, I did knock on a lot the doors. I had a lot of interactions with voters through a variety of methods, including canvasing, but also online debates, other campaign events, and I was pummeled in the sentiment that we had to do whatever it takes to get rid of the Harper government. I would say that you know, some 60-65 percent of the people I spoke to were intensely hostile to the Harper government and that was their singular objective, and the strategic voting argument had a great deal of appeal to them. You know, if I had a dollar for every time I heard "I want to vote Green, but I want to beat Harper more" I would be richer than Bill Gates. I mean, it was something that was a constant refrain in the campaign, and you know, I think it's reflected in the results. The Liberal candidate won handily in her riding, the incumbent Ministry of Science Ed Holder after two terms has been soundly defeated.

The NDP candidate was a distant third, and I did not manage to improve substantially on our party's last result in the 2011 elections with 2.7 percent. I'm currently standing at about 3 percent with about 82 percent of the votes counted. so it was really the only way to describe it was a toxic environment for which a small party to operate in, this environment in which you have a "first-past-the-post" system and intense hostility to the conservative incumbent government, and everybody looking to the most viable option to defeat that government.

Indeed, people can agree with a third party 100 percent, but unless they break out of the constraints of voting for the lesser evil that seems most likely to win, they will not even seriously consider casting a vote for them. 

Unfortunately, most third parties simply come up with platitudes like "voting for the lesser evil is still evil" or such. 

What's needed is a real concept of strategic voting beyond simply voting for the establishment party you least distaste. 
Unfortunately, most discussions by progressives, mirrored by discussions among conservatives, debate simply working within or outside either of the establishment parties without a real strategy. 

Both these positions are wrong. The people saying you have to work with the Democratic party are entering a situation where they have no leverage -- they will end up backing whoever the nominee is and have little leverage over that person. 

And the people saying you have to only back third parties have no meaningful strategy for winning and are going to end up being simply marginal, again.

The ironic solution, in my view, is for disenchanted Democrats to team up with disenchanted Republicans so the bases have a chance at actually breaking down the two party system and actual victory -- and, regardless, some leverage over the party apparatus. 

And it's in the U.S. -- with an extreme form of "first-past-the-post" electoral system -- that the establishment parties are most vulnerable with the VotePact strategy since the Democratic and Republican parties mirror each other and collude with each other so deeply. 

How "Progressive Media" Go Wrong: The Case of Jeffrey Sterling

Just helped organize a news conference with Holly Sterling, the wife of jailed CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling and a number of press freedom advocates and whistleblowers. 

Just prior to the news conference this morning, Democracy Now was good enough to have Norman Solomon (my boss) and Holly Sterling on the program.

The problem is how Democracy Now introed -- and therefore, framed -- the segment: "Sterling is serving a three-and-a-half-year sentence for leaking classified information to New York Times reporter James Risen about a failed U.S. effort to undermine Iran’s nuclear program. Risen later exposed how the risky operation could have actually aided the Iranian nuclear program."

That is a very benign way to describe what Operation Merlin (the program in question) was about. 

There's real evidence that the intention of the operation was not to forestall Iran’s nuclear weapons capabilities, but rather, the program may have been to give Iran — and Iraq — nuclear weapons information that could then be used as a pretext to attack those countries for having such information.

I had some suspicions along these lines, and had been cautioning people from accepting the keystone kop narrative without definitive evidence, but David Swanson is the person who really moved the ball on this. His piece “In Convicting Jeff Sterling, CIA Revealed More Than It Accused Him of Revealing,” which analyzes a secret cable that was made public in the course of the Sterling trial. Swanson writes: “During the course of Sterling’s trial, the CIA itself made public a bigger story than the one it pinned on Sterling. The CIA revealed, unintentionally no doubt, that just after the nuclear weapons plans had been dropped off for the Iranians, the CIA had proposed to the same asset that he next approach the Iraqi government for the same purpose.”

Swanson wrote back in January: “CIA on Trial in Virginia for Planting Nuke Evidence in Iran,” which states: “The stated motivation for Operation Merlin is patent nonsense that cannot be explained by any level of incompetence or bureaucratic dysfunction or group think.

“Here’s another explanation of both Operation Merlin and of the defensiveness of the prosecution and its witnesses … at the prosecution of Jeffrey Sterling which is thus far failing to prosecute Jeffrey Sterling. This was an effort to plant nuke plans on Iran.” (I featured David and former CIA analyst Ray McGovern -- and noted some interesting insights from Marcy Wheeler in "Operation Merlin: Did CIA Seek to “Plant a Nuclear Gun” on Iran and Iraq?"

Maintaining the Fiction that Torture Didn't Produce "Useful" Information

The establishment myths that perpetuate hollow "liberal-conservative" "debates" that perpetuate the war making of the establishment are maintained by reports like this headline from today's "Democracy Now": 

In more news from the campaign trail, Republican presidential candidate and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina has endorsed the use of waterboarding in order to "get information that was necessary." A 2014 Senate report said waterboarding is tantamount to torture and that it has produced little useful intelligence. In her interview with Yahoo News, Fiorina attempted to discredit the report, calling it "disingenuous" and saying that it "undermined the morale of a whole lot of people who dedicated their lives to keeping the country safe."

The truth is that torture did work, but not the way its defenders claim. It worked to produce justifications for policies the establishment wanted, like the Iraq war. This is actually tacitly acknowledged in the report -- or one should say, it's buried in it. Footnote 857 of the report is about Ibn Shaykh al-Libi, who was captured in Afghanistan shortly after the U.S. invasion and was interrogated by the FBI. He told them all he knew, but then the CIA rendered him to the brutal Mubarak regime in Egypt, in effect outsourcing their torture. From the footnote:
"Ibn Shaykh al-Libi reported while in [censored: 'Egyptian'] custody that Iraq was supporting al-Qa'ida and providing assistance with chemical and biological weapons. Some of this information was cited by Secretary Powell in his speech at the United Nations, and was used as a justification for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Ibn Shaykh al-Libi recanted the claim after he was rendered to CIA custody on February [censored], 2003, claiming that he had been tortured by the [censored, likely 'Egyptians'], and only told them what he assessed they wanted to hear. For more more details, see Volume III." Of course, Volume III -- like most of the Senate report -- has not been made public.

Sanders' Incapacity to Seriously Talk War Deforms Dialogue

Yesterday, presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke to a self professed "conservative Christian" group. We live in a time of perpetual war and Sanders -- who sometimes touts his 2002 vote against authorizing the invasion of Iraq -- couldn't bring himself to raise the subject of war with people who profess to be followers of the Prince of Peace.

Sanders spoke at Liberty University, founded by Jerry Falwell on Monday, arguing that despite their differences, they both should work on economic inequality. [video and transcript*] And it was certainly important for someone to talk to people at Liberty University about the idolatry of money. 

But NPR accurately reported that Sanders' reception "was pretty muted except for this one moment. It was after the speech, and the school's vice president was conducting a short Q and A with Sanders using questions that the students had submitted. And he asked a question about abortion. And in short, the question was, how can Sanders advocate for the economic needs of vulnerable children while not supporting the rights of the unborn.

"And when the question was read out loud, the students started cheering, and there was this big standing ovation. It was by the far the biggest applause line of the whole event, and that was for the question. Sanders pivoted on the answer to talk about the Republican budget. And given his support for abortion rights, there wasn't really any way that the students were going to be satisfied with his answer."

Sanders not engaging in a more meaningful way on this allows a continuation of mutually assured stagnation. Liberals who defend abortion rights and those who oppose abortion rights can feel mutually superior to each other while continuing the status quo. 

Sanders received kudos from all round for speaking to an audience that he disagrees with on many issues. But the fact that Sanders is unwilling or unable or simply insufficiently interested in issues of war and peace to raise it in this setting totally deforms our national dialogue. 

No one is more interested in meaningful dialogue between left and right than I am. I founded a website and voting strategy on the premise that there's an anti-establishment center: -- and that a solution to our current predicament would be for disenchanted Democrats and disenchanted Republicans who know and trust each other to have a real dialogue and pair up and vote for the third party or independent candidate(s) of their choice, thus siphoning votes in twos from the establishment parties. 

And, as someone who has spent a fair amount of time with self described Christian conservatives over the course of my life, I think there's a way -- with a lot of work and dialogue -- to make a real change.  

But that dialogue is constricted and twisted when the stated policy position of the "progressive" in the dialogue is not meaningfully pro peace and seeks a more dominant Saudi Arabia in the Mideast. See here and here

I'm critical of people who are sufficiently certain in their own world view that they assert and seek to use the power of the state to coerce women into not having abortions they feel they need or want because they know that a fetus should be afforded personhood. 

But how can we have a meaningful discussion about the preciousness of life while our country regularly bombs people thousands of miles away? How can we pretend to care about human life when death is an instrument of our foreign policy? This largely comes about because in a deep way, Iraqis and Afghans and Yemenis and Palestinian and many others are simply not afforded the status of real personhood by our body politic. 

There are of course people who espouse a "seemless garment" -- who are anti war, anti abortion rights and anti death penalty. They are almost universally ignored by most everyone else. 

I honestly don't know if a fetus is a human being and I am skeptical of anyone who claims with all certainty that they do. But I do know the people in Iraq and Syria and Afghanistan and Palestine and other victims of U.S. foreign policy -- which sets the violent standard around the world -- are human beings. 

In Sanders' world view, which so far seems remarkably uncaring to people who are not U.S. citizens and is therefore quite xenophobic, they are not afforded meaningful consideration in his policy pronouncements because they don't carry a nice blue U.S. passport. 

This is in contrast to the newly victorious Jeremy Corbyn, who speaks in quite clear terms against wars -- past, current and likely future wars: "Let us be a force for change in the world, a force for humanity in the world, a force for peace in the world and a force that recognizes we cannot go on like this with grotesque levels of global insecurity, grotesque threats to our environment all around the world without the rich and powerful governments stepping up to the plate to make sure our world becomes safer and better. And those people don’t end up in poverty, in refugee camps, wasting their lives away when they could be contributing so much to the good of all of us on this planet. We are one world, let that message go out today."

Most of the attendees at Liberty University likely don't comprehend the humanity of the people in the Mideast because they proclaim their Islamic faith. Or most of them do. Or their humanity is portrayed as one in need of the faith the attendees of Liberty University profess. But of course, the bulk of "Christian conservatives" are quite Zionist in their outlook. That is, their presumed affinity for Christian communities in the Mideast, be they in Palestine or Syria or where ever, is insufficient for them to overcome the imperial impulses of "Christian Zionism." This is in part because they haven't had a meaningful dialogue with enough people from the region. 

It was interesting to see the proclamations by the Liberty University MC for the event, David Nasser (an Iranian American Muslim convert who now proclaims his Christianity) against racism in the Q and A with Sanders, while he acts and is treated rather subserviently by Jerry Falwell Jr. -- the son of the great founder who himself is presumed to be a great man. 

One would think that in terms of foreign policy, the one thing that a liberal like Sanders and those on the Christian right would agree on would be that the Saudi regime, which has fostered Wahhabism, should not be what we rely on to make the region better. But there Sanders was, using his standard talking point about the Saudis stepping up before that audience.  

The imperial assumptions from liberal and conservatives are therefore silently accepted and therefore re-enforced, even as those all around applaud the great dialogue they are having. 

* A non-correction: at one point in his speech, the transcript from the Washington Post incorrectly has Sanders saying: "And that vision is so beautifully and clearly stated in Matthew 7:12, and it states, 'So in everything, do to others what you would have them to do to you, for this sums up the war and the prophets.' That is the golden rule. Do unto others, what you would have them do to you. That is the golden rule, and it is not very complicated." In fact, what Sanders quoted Matthew, which states that "this sums up the law and the prophets."

But, indeed, it is not very complicated. Now, if only Sanders and self-professed Christians would work toward applying it to our global policies.  

NPR Gives Gehry a Blowjob -- an Awful, Awful Blowjob

It's rare that with just looking at two examples the sheer awfulness of our current "culture" can be illustrated in two different fields at once. But NPR rose to the challenge this morning. 

NPR "special correspondent" Susan Stamberg interviewed architect Frank Gehry and provided him with what can most objectively and analytically be called an audio blowjob. NPR told us the buildings of the "world's most famous architect" resemble "towering waves at sea." His work, Stamberg said is "Wait for it -- lovable, thrilling, audacious, glowing." His personality is that of "a mensch wrapped around an iron will." Stamberg -- perhaps thinking her skills were not sufficient to the task at hand -- was helped on-air by Gehry's biographer, so she could better ask questions like "what did you learn about yourself from this book?" The bibliographer actually ends up sucking up to Gehry by reading his own words back to him about how he's never really satisfied with his work -- because he hasn't yet achieved perfection. The great man agreed. It was an awful, awful seven minute blowjob. Cultural conservatives would truly be within their rights to take to the Senate floor about this. 

Rather than further crit this monstrosity, let me elucidate by contrasting it with a remarkable 1957 interview, in which a baby-faced Mike Wallace interviews an elderly but very vibrant Frank Lloyd Wright -- probably the actually most famous architect, who would likely regard Gehry's work as a series of stunts. In contrast, this interview is both contentious and eventually admiring. Wallace challenges Wright, compelling him to really articulate his beliefs and how they differ from the general society. Thus, it's both timely and perennial. Years later however, Wallace would comment Wright “was master, I was student.” Here's the full transcript and video -- and a few excerpts:  

WALLACE: You obviously hold some fairly unconventional, even unpopular, ideas Mr. Wright. ...
WRIGHT: I'm not aware of it, if so.


WALLACE: I understand that you attend no church. 

WRIGHT: I attend the greatest of all churches. 

WALLACE: Which is? 

WRIGHT: And I put a capital N on Nature, and call it my church.  


WALLACE: You once said, "If I had another fifteen years to work, I could rebuild this entire country, I could change the nation" Now, would you tell me why should you, one man, want to change the way of life of more than one hundred and seventy million people? 

WRIGHT: ...I think they should have a right to look to their architects for what they should build. ... I'd like to have a free architecture, I'd like to have architecture that belonged where you see it standing, and as a grace to the landscape instead of a disgrace. ...


WALLACE: Is Salvador Dali a great public relations specialist? 

WRIGHT: Probably. 

WALLACE: Are you? 

WRIGHT: I don't think so. Because I've never cared very much which way the public was going, and what was the matter with it. 


WALLACE: What is your reaction when I tell you that the nation's teenagers bought eleven million Elvis Presley records last year. Which group of youth do you think will inherit this country fifteen years from now, the Elvis Presley fans or the Frank Lloyd Wright fans? 

WRIGHT: The Frank Lloyd Wright fans. Undoubtedly. Why? Because they're on the side of Nature, and the other fans are on the side of an artificiality that is doomed. Do you believe it? I do. 


WALLACE: How do you square such a mile-high skyscraper with your theories on decentralization?

WRIGHT: ... Everybody would have room, peace, comfort, and every establishment would be appropriate to every man. It's an ideal that I think that goes with democracy, isn't it?


WALLACE: What do you think of the American Legion, Mr. Wright? 

WRIGHT: I never think of it, if I can help it. ... One war always has in it, in its intestines, another, and another has another.... And if you are not for war, why are you for warriors?


WALLACE: Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine, section October 18th 1953, said as follows: "Some quarters have denounced Wright as an impractical visionary and a pompous windbag." 


WALLACE: How do you feel about such criticism, Mr. Wright? 

WRIGHT: Doesn't affect me particularly. 

WALLACE: Doesn't bother you? 

WRIGHT: Not a bit. You always have to consider the source from which these things come. Now if somebody I deeply respected had said such a thing I would be worried. I would hurt -- feel hurt. But as a piece in a newspaper, blowing into the gutters of the street the next day, I don't think it counts much. 


WALLACE: Let's turn to your political views. After a visit to Soviet Russia, back in 1936, '37, you wrote the following in a publication called Soviet Russia Today. You wrote, "I saw something in the glimpse I had of the Russian people themselves which makes me smile in anticipation"

WRIGHT: ... Do you ever disassociate government and people? ... I find that government can be a kind of gangsterism and is in Russia. And is likely to be here if we don't take care of ourselves pretty carefully. 


WALLACE: In one of your books; Frank Lloyd Wright on Architecture, you wrote, "We can escape literature nowhere, and its entire fabric is drenched with sex, newspapers recklessly steer sex everywhere. Every magazine has its nauseating ritual of the girl cover, the he-and-she novel is omnipresent."


WALLACE: What's wrong with sex, Mr. Wright?

WRIGHT: Nothing. 

WALLACE: Then, why do you write what you say? 

WRIGHT: It would be wrong with you, rather than sex. 

Indeed, there's nothing at all wrong with sex -- including blowjobs -- they just shouldn't be administered by National Public Radio. 

Lousy Food, Small Servings -- Sanders Foreign Policy: Backing Saudi Intervention

There's an old joke about two elderly men at a Catskill resort. One complains: "The food here is horrible." The other vigorously agrees: "Yeah, I know -- and the portions are so damn small!" 

Several writers have noted Bernie Sanders' scant comments about foreign policy -- small portions. 

But another problem is the little that he has articulated in terms of foreign policy -- the foreign policy issue that he's been most passionate about really -- is extremely regressive and incredibly dangerous. That issue is the role of Saudi Arabia. Sanders has actually pushed for the repressive regime to engage in more intervention in the Mideast. 

In discussing ISIS, Sanders invariably has talked about Saudi Arabia as the solution rather than a large part of the problem. It's couched in language that seems somewhat critical, but the upshot is we need more Saudi influence and intervention in the region. In effect, more and bigger proxy wars, which have already taken the lives of hundreds of thousands in Syria and could even further rip apart Iraq, Libya and other countries. 

He's said this repeatedly -- and prominently. In February with Wolf Blitzer on CNN: "This war is a battle for the soul of Islam and it's going to have to be the Muslim countries who are stepping up. These are billionaire families all over that region. They've got to get their hands dirty. They've got to get their troops on the ground. They've got to win that war with our support. We cannot be leading the effort."

What? Why should a U.S. progressive be calling for more intervention by the Saudi monarchy? Really, we want Saudi troops in Syria and Iraq and Libya and who knows where else? You'd think that perhaps someone like Sanders would say that we have to break our decades-long backing of the corrupt Saudi regime -- but no, he wants to dramatically accelerate it. 

Even worse, after the Saudis started bombing Yemen with U.S. government backing earlier this year, killing thousands and leading to what the UN is now calling a "humanitarian catastrophe," and suffering that is "almost incomprehensible," Sanders continued. In another interview, again with Wolf Blitzer in May, Sanders did correctly note that as a result of the Iraq invasion, "we’ve destabilized the region, we’ve given rise to Al-Qaeda, ISIS." But then he actually called for more intervention: "What we need now, and this is not easy stuff, I think the President is trying, you need to bring together an international coalition, Wolf, led by the Muslim countries themselves! Saudi Arabia is the third largest military budget in the world, they’re going to have to get their hands dirty in this fight. We should be supporting, but at the end of the day this is [a] fight over what Islam is about, the soul of Islam, we should support those countries taking on ISIS."

Progressives in the U.S. are supposed to look toward the Saudi monarchy to save the soul of Islam? The Saudis have pushed the teachings of the Wahhabi sect and have been deforming Islam for decades. This actually helped give rise to ISIS and Al Qaeda. It's a little like Bernie Sanders saying that the Koch Brothers need to get more involved in U.S. politics, they need to "get their hands dirty."

But if your point is to build up the next stage of the U.S. government's horrific role in the Mideast, it kind of makes sense. The U.S. government helped ensure the Saudis would dominate the Arabian Peninsula from the formation of the nation state of Saudi Arabia -- a nation named after a family. In return, the Saudis had the U.S. take the lead in extracting oil there and favored investing funds from their oil wealth largely in the West over building up the region, what the activist scholar Eqbal Ahmed called separating the material wealth of the Mideast from the mass of the people of the region. Saudi Arabia buys U.S. weapons to further solidify the "relationship" and to ensure its military dominance. 

The Saudis and other Gulf monarchies deformed the Arab uprisings, which transformed oppressive but basically secular and minimally populist regimes into failed states, giving rise to groups like ISIS and allowing Saudi Arabia to largely call the shots in the region. What has happened in the Mideast since the ouster of Mubarak and the so-called Arab uprisings is that the Saudis have been strengthened. Both the Tunisian and Yemeni dictators fled to Saudi Arabia. Mubarak himself was urged not to resign by the Saudis, and the Saudis are now the main backers of the military regime in Cairo. 

Why is Sanders doing this? Is there a domestic constituency called "Americans for Saudi Domination of the Arab World"? Well, yes and no. It would obviously play well in the general public to say: "We've got to stop backing dictatorships like the Saudis. They behead people, they are tyrannical. They have a system of male guardianship. Why the hell are they an ally?" 

But Sanders is unwilling to break with the U.S.-Saudi alliance that has done such damage to both the Arab people and the American people. Now, we have a full-fledged Israeli-Saudi alliance and it must be music to the ears of pro-Israeli journalists like Wolf Blitzer for Sanders to be calling for U.S. backing of further Saudi domination. 

Some have argued that Sanders' candidacy is very valuable -- that win or lose, he's putting the issue of income inequality front and center. But if the candidacy is to be lauded for raising issues of economic inequality, educate the public and galvanize around that, it's fair to ask how the candidacy is also deforming public discussion on other crucial issues. If the position of the most prominent "progressive" on the national stage is for more Saudi intervention, what does that do to public understanding of the Mideast and dialogue between people in the U.S. and in Muslim countries? 

If the U.S. further subcontracts the Mideast to the Saudi regime, the setbacks and disappointments for peace and justice in the Mideast during the Obama years will be small potatoes in comparison. If the Mideast continues to deform, largely because of U.S. policies backing Saudi Arabia, as well as Israel, all the other things Sanders is talking about regarding economic inequality are arguably out the window. He himself has noted that "wars drain investment at home." Or does Sanders think it's all good if he can set up a scheme whereby the Saudis pay the bills and use their own troops for Mideast wars that the U.S. government backs? Martin Luther King in his "Beyond Vietnam" speech referred to the wars taking funds from the war on poverty as a "demonic destructive suction tube." But he also referred to just looking at the funding as a "facile" connection, listing several other, deeper, reasons based on other moral grounds for opposing war. But Sanders rarely touches on those other reasons. It's as though we've learned nothing about blowback since 9/11. 

Contrast Sanders' call for an escalation in Saudi Arabia's proxy wars with what insurgent Jeremy Corbyn -- whose campaign to lead the Labor Party in the UK has caught fire -- is saying. He's been challenging the British establishment about arming the Saudis: "Will the Minister assure me that the anti-corruption laws will apply to arms deals and to British arms exports? Will they involve forensic examination of any supposed corruption that has gone on between arms sales and regimes in other parts of the world rather than suspending Serious Fraud Office inquiries, as in the case of an investigation into the Al-Yamamah arms contract with Saudi Arabia?" See a section on Corbyn's website on Saudi Arabia and video of his remarks at the House of Parliament just last month, with Corbyn relentlessly raising questions of human rights violations by the Saudi regime. 

Instead of adopting Corbyn's human rights perspective, Sanders has used Saudi Arabia's massive military spending to argue that it should further dominate the region. Unexamined is how it got that way. Unexamined is the $60 billion arms deal between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia that Obama signed off on in 2010. The BBC reports, Saudi "Prince Turki al-Faisal called for 'a unified military force, a clear chain of command' at a high level regional security conference in Riyadh, the Saudi capital." 

So Sanders and Saudi planners seem to be working toward the same ends, as though war by an autocratic state in a critical region can be expected to breed good outcomes. Sanders doesn't seem to take money from Lockheed Martin -- though he's backed their F-35, slated to be based in Vermont -- but his stance on Saudi Arabia must bring a smile to the faces of bigwigs there. 

The Black Lives Matter movement has moved Sanders to "say the names" of Sandra Bland and others who are victims of police violence. Those striving for peace and justice around the world need to do the same regarding Sanders and U.S. foreign policy.